Here is a true and accurate description of a thesis defense. Just in case you’re contemplating grad school.
It is also true that the snakes are mostly toothless, but they can still kill you. Maybe.
It’s going to be a l o n g semester. 8am is rough; I provided hot water and tea, and we had a mid-class break so anybody could run out for coffee or just slap themselves awake. Then, to ease them in, we talked about an easy topic. We talked about Italy! I would love to visit Italy someday — it’s number one on my list of desirable travel destinations that haven’t visited yet. I also saw an opportunity to get all liberal artsy and talk history and philosophy and art, as well as science, because these are all related.
Here’s my cryptic whiteboard at the first half of the class. Can you guess what we talked about, and how it was at all relevant to developmental biology?
The students weren’t particularly responsive — I think they were regarding this as something like a dental appointment. But it is the first day, and I’m going to be hammering on them that they need to be alert and interactive and contribute, so they’ll warm to it eventually. Or they won’t, and it’ll be a really long semester.
I’m on my way to my ridiculously early class, on the first day of a new semester, and what do I see? Some students have written a message in a snowbank.
You kids. You still have something to be optimistic about? I have to try and remember what it’s like to be 19 again.
I just finalized the schedule for my third course this term (Biological Communications, an independent study/writing course) and contacted the four students taking it from me. I’m prepared for my first lecture at 8am tomorrow, mostly ready for my second, and I have the student assignments all laid out and ready to go. I think I know what I’m doing.
Deep breaths. Deep breaths.
From this remarkable collection of photos of the Selma-to-Montgomery march:
Here are the people marching for dignity and respect and equality.
Here are some of the white hecklers lined up alongside that march, jeering at the people fighting for social justice.
Nothing has changed from 1965 to 2017, except that the hecklers are now mocking those goals online.
Be like the marchers in Selma. Don’t be like the hecklers.
The other day, when I was doing some online shopping, an ad popped up for a clip-on microscope for my phone. I thought, “I’m a professional microscopist! I should have a microscope I can carry around in my pocket!” and on a whim, I ordered it. It was only $8, so what the hey.
My dream has not yet been accomplished, I’m sad to report.
First sign of trouble: It claims 60-100x magnification, and looking inside, there’s a cheap plasticky looking lens set well back inside — it’s got maybe a 30mm focal length. Nope, that’s not going to work. I haven’t even tried it yet and I’m doubtful.
Next step is to attach it to your phone, which is really, really easy, using a big clip to clamp it to the camera lens. Except that the clamp is not very solid, and your phone is going to be hanging off to the side. It won’t stay clamped for long. You also just have to eyeball the positioning, since there’s nothing to lock it in alignment with the phone camera lens. Aligning it is a constant struggle. The clamp can’t even hold the phone in place, it certainly won’t hold it in alignment. If you’re lucky enough to get a picture, be prepared for uncontrollable wobbly vignetting.
The next problem: there are a couple of crude, hard to work knobs on the side. One is for magnification: forget it. Set it to the lowest mag, “60x”, and just leave it there. The other is the focus knob, which is also clumsy and hard to turn. Now imagine juggling a loosely held phone clipped to the side of this thing, you’re trying to hold it steady because any wobble will shift the camera lens away from the “microscope”, and you’ll understand that this is a frustrating exercise in imppossibly precise coordination.
So I got it together, pulled out a couple of prepared, stained slides of chick embryo sections, about the easiest targets possible, and tried to take a picture. Nooooope. I briefly saw a few images wander by, afflicted with ghastly spherical and chromatic aberration, but if I moved a finger to click a picture, they’d wander off again. I thought briefly about making it work with a couple of ringstands and some clamps, but realized that the agglomeration would be bigger than my dissecting scope and produce crappier pictures, so there was no point.
Caveat emptor. You get what you pay for. Sometimes less than what you pay for.
Christianity has a martyr complex. They always think they’re being persecuted, when they’re not — so you hear constantly about Romans throwing them to lions, but never about how Christianity coopted the Roman imperial bureaucracies, and eventually the emperor himself, to rule over the Western world. They claim that Hitler was an atheist, ignoring the fact that he banned Darwin, not the Bible, had the support of the German Catholic church, and encouraged faith in his people. So I knew exactly where this cartoon would have to go, if it were at all honest.
Let’s face it, though: the success of the Christian religion has partly rested on its eager willingness to aid and abet authority, unlike, for example, Judaism. Mainstream Christianity has been an enabler, not a critic, of secular authority, no matter how oppressive it may be. There have been exceptions — liberation theology, for instance — but then the Church turns to oppose and oppress them.