Monthly Archives: October 2010

Cyborgs and avatars against Prop 23 in California?!

I’m not quite sure what to make of this ad, especially the hilarity at the end… but I suppose it might have some sway over the masses who poured big bucks into Cameron’s coffers for his fantastical treatment of the white man’s burden of environmental problems on a fictional planet. Maybe doing that gave him enough cachet to pontificate about real life environmental issues. Maybe he can buy more cachet by spending some of the avatar bucks on campaigns like this. Whatever.

What do you think?

On beauty, popularity, and what young girls may blog about

Earlier today, I posted a link on Facebook, urging people to vote for my young blogospheric friend Christie Wilcox, who blogs about science at Observations of a Nerd, and is in the final round of a student blogging competition for a $10,000 scholarship, where she needs all the votes she can get because the runaway leader of the online poll right now is someone who blogs about “beauty”, but really about make-up! Seriously!! How can that be so much more popular than science?!

A friend then commented saying one of their nieces blogs about make-up, and surely there is a niche for everyone, right? I agree, there should be room for everyone (and in the blogosphere, indeed, there is!), and I suppose there is a bigger market for make-up than for science, especially for girls. At least that’s what the vote on this scholarship indicates right now in a sad popularity contest (but do vote for Christie, as she could put the money to good use). Nevertheless, as a father of young girls, and a mentor to mostly female graduate students in my lab, I can’t help but feel that surely there are worthier things for them to write about! If you really want to write about beauty, think about what that really means – and it ain’t make-up!

So, for my daughters, my students, my blogger friend seeking votes in this popularity contest, and for my friend’s niece who blogs about make-up: allow me to share some inspiration from Katie Makkai, articulating what it means to be bound by the word “Pretty” (and, oh, unlike many commenters on this video on YouTube, I have opted to share the unedited “profane” version – so be warned ye who may take offense at a “dirty” word):

Teaching an endangered bird its ancestral migratory pathways: a real life “Fly Away Home”

Here’s an inspiring tale of a crazy/passionate/bizarre/creative/extreme effort to save an endangered species – the Northern Bald Ibis: teaching captive-hatched young ones of the species their ancestral migratory pathways by having them follow human foster parents flying in microlight aircraft! Crazy, right? Or reconciliation ecology at its most inspiring?

Of course, this reminds me of one of our favorite family feel-good movies of all time, the wonderful Fly Away Home. If you haven’t seen it yet – and why not??!! – here’s a trailer:

That film is among my top comfort movies, especially in the company of my daughters.

And, having brought that up, how can I not also share this song, from the loveliest flying sequence in the movie, towards the end when the geese follow their “mama” down to their winter home:


So you Want to Get a PhD in the Humanities – really?!

While I feel for my humanities colleagues who may be particularly vulnerable these days, much of this applies to the sciences as well. I hope the eager student who just walked out of my office (minutes before Hank Delcore pointed me to this video) having asked me about graduate school options – and had me douse him with some cold water of reality too – will see this as he considers his options. Why does it seem like it takes a particularly tenacious kind of masochistic idealism to go the Ph.D. route these days? Surely it wasn’t always thus? Although I don’t think I was much different from the little girl in the video. Well, except for the golden hair in pigtails. And the desire to study the evolution of life (all of it) rather than Death.

Race to Nowhere | Changing lives one film at a time

This seems to be the season for documentaries on the education system in the US, what ails it, and how we might fix it. You’ve probably heard of “Waiting for Superman“, the blockbuster of the fall in this genre, getting all the rave reviews (and some brickbats too), and probably showing at some multiplex near you right now! Race to Nowhere actually came out in 2009, and also got good reviews, but didn’t make anywhere near as much of a splash as Waiting for Superman is making currently.

I haven’t seen either film yet, but will get a chance to see Race to Nowhere on our campus tonight. It is being shown by my colleague Dr. Lara Triona (from Psychology) at 7 PM in the Industrial Tech Building, room 101 (on E. Barstow Ave. at Campus Dr.), at 2255 East Barstow Avenue, Fresno, CA. Go here for more information and to RSVP.

Why must more species go extinct so we can harvest “green” solar energy?

[vimeo w=500&h=283]

Raw unedited interview with ecologist Jim Andre, Director, Granite Mountains Desert Research Center at University of California, on the dangers posed to the Mohave Desert ecosystem from Large Solar Development. Focusing on the Ivanpah Valley. ©2010 Robert Lundahl, Freshwater Bay Pictures, LLC.

Solar Gold is funded by people, not corporations. Contribute here:​Solar-Gold

Hat-tip to Chris Clarke who continues to fight the fight to save the Mojave from these “green” energy projects where even many big environmental organizations have failed to really stand up on behalf of biological diversity against those who would destroy what little remains in novel ways that are even more insidious for being garbed in green.