We can all do something

Yesterday was Morris’s Prairie Pioneer Days parade, one of those small town events where local people cruise slowly down main street to praise small town virtues, like, you know, royalty.

Or local businesses.

(The restaurant Mi Mexico had the best float, I think: gorgeous costumes, people dancing, great music. Mostly what we had was some guy in a pickup truck with a sign glued to the side.)

UMM was represented.

I had joined with some of our students who were marching to advertise a climate action event. This was their float.

I know, it was a little green wagon that they pulled down the street. We were surrounded by the local Chevy dealership, our regional Republican assholes (Jeff Backer and Torrey Westrom) and these guys:

It was kind of creepy, actually, that while we were waiting in the pre-parade lineup, these guys were sitting in their truck, staring at us, looking like they wanted to teach us a lesson or two. We ignored them, and just had a grand time going down the street handing out candy to kids and giving them flyers about our plans.

And what where those plans? I think a lot of young people are inspired by Greta Thunberg, who has said “Our house is on fire – let’s act like it.” They’re planning a Global Climate Strike, with our own implementation here, with a West Central MN Climate Strike. They want us to go on a general strike, just shutting down all that we can (especially classes) on 19-20 September.

I can do that. I will do that. Will you?

Do it for the youth.

The 43rd Midwest Philosophy Colloquium Race and Gender in Analytic Philosophy! Here on campus! Tonight!

I’m sure that title gets your heart racing. The first lecture in the series is tonight at 7. It’s by Jeanine Weekes Schroer, who will be talking about “Race, Grace and Intractable Moral Problems”. Sounds fun, I think I’ll be going, although lately I’ve been leaning towards favoring utilitarian spider philosophy: if it disturbs your web, bite it, fill it with venom, and suck it dry. Maybe I need to pay more attention to human-centered philosophical solutions, though.

(Although…writing a book that takes a spider-centered approach to philosophy would probably be a best seller in the Intellectual Dork Web community (better than lobsters, anyhow) and would also exemplify its own philosophy by biting, envenoming, and sucking the wallets — and souls — of its devotees dry. Tempting.)

Nuts to the Nuttings

I really was considering going to the Nuttings’ creationist seminar in Minneapolis this week, but I decided not to. I’m sure it will be totally pants, but then I discovered that a student, Elliott Jungers, will be presenting his senior seminar in Science 1020 at 5pm today on “Pax6 mutation in the model organism Astyanax mexicanus“, and a colleague in geology, Keith Brugger, will be presenting a faculty seminar in HFA at 5pm Thursday, titled “Small Science to Global Climate Models: or Why Anyone Would be Interested in Colorado’s Weather 20,000 Years Ago”. All are open to the public.

Why should I drive 3 hours to hear garbage people lie and talk garbage science when I can stay right here and listen to good stuff? In fact, I bet there are better talks going on at the Twin Cities campus all of the days that the Nuttings are babbling.

Have you been wondering what’s happening in the city of Morris, Minnesota?

I’m sure it haunts your dreams, but you’ve been starving for news about Morris because, well, they’re just now discovering this internet thingie. For years we’ve been getting by with the standard modes of communication: you know, A) stopping in the grocery aisle to gossip, or B) two cars stopping in the middle of the road, rolling down both drivers’ side windows, and chatting, or C) the church coffee social. But all that is changing! The City of Morris now has an official Facebook page and Twitter feed and are on Instagram! There’s not much there yet because they were just recently set up by some of the kids down to the university, dontcha know.

Anyway, you can now see footage of the construction of our new water treatment plant.

We’re very excited. It’s been hard getting by with our coffee solidifying in the cup and having to hack mineral deposits out of our pots.

It’s not on the social media pages yet (get to work, kids!), but you can also read the local paper and learn that our local theater is getting a second screen! This is fantastic news. We peeked in the other night and it’s all shiny and modern-looking.

Keep on eye on those pages! You don’t want to miss any of the thrills.

Oh! And before I forget, the Stevens County Fair will be livening up the town in a couple of weeks! I don’t know, I moved here because it’s peaceful and quiet, and all this modern hub-bub is a bit discombobulating.

Morris just became a little more civilized

We now have a coffeeshop that is open on Sundays!

My plans to see Morris become a happier place are advancing. I have a list.

  • Coffeeshop with longer hours open every day

  • A regional airport

  • Henry Kissinger chokes on his own blood and dies

  • A good bagel place

  • A deep water seaport to the Pacific Ocean

  • For the entire Trump family and their cronies to be arrested and convicted for corruption and fraud, and to spend the rest of their lives in jail or in poverty, whichever makes them more miserable

  • World Peace

See? I’m not asking much.

Hey, look! It’s a tenure-track biology job!

The University of Minnesota, Morris biology discipline has been approved to fill a tenure track line in biology. Here’s the description:

The University of Minnesota, Morris Division of Science and Mathematics seeks an individual committed to excellence in undergraduate education, to fill a tenure-track position in biology beginning August 20, 2018.

Required/Preferred Qualifications:

Required: Applicants must hold or expect to receive a Ph.D. in molecular biology or related field by August 20, 2018. Experience and evidence of excellence in teaching and mentoring undergraduate biology students is required (graduate TA experience is acceptable.)

Preferred: Preference will be given to applicants who are able to develop and teach upper-level elective courses in their area of expertise and which complement those offered by the current biology faculty. Applicants with expertise in quantitative approaches to molecular-scale data are strongly encouraged to apply.

About the Job

Duties/Responsibilities: Teaching undergraduate biology courses including introductory biology, molecular biology with lab, electives in the applicant’s areas of expertise, and other courses that support the biology program; advising undergraduates; conducting research that could involve undergraduates and potentially in collaboration with our data sciences faculty; and sharing in the governance and advancement of the biology program, the division, and the campus.

This tenure-track position carries all of the privileges and responsibilities of University of Minnesota faculty appointments. A sound retirement plan, excellent fringe benefits and a collegial atmosphere are among the benefits that accompany the position. Appointment will be at the Assistant Professor level for those having the Ph.D. in hand and at the Instructor level for those whose Ph.D. is pending. The standard teaching load is twenty credit hours per year.

As a small university, note the teaching requirements: we need someone to help teach molecular biology, so wet lab experience is important. Molecular biology is an awfully broad category, though, so also note the buried detail: “Applicants with expertise in quantitative approaches to molecular-scale data are strongly encouraged to apply.” The magic word there is “quantitative”. We’re looking for someone who applies quantitative analysis to their work. We’re wide open to a lot of different approaches. Are you a bioinformatics person who is analyzing the evolution of specific genes? Lovely. Are you a systematist studying plant taxa with quantitative techniques? Go for it. Looking at biomechanics? We don’t do that here, but it would be cool to have it. We just hired a big data guy in computer science and statistics, so being able to work with that field is a big plus. Help us add a deeper mathematical element to undergraduate education.

Why should you apply here? We’re on the western prairies of Minnesota (no, we’re not located in Minneapolis/St Paul, so don’t think we’re a big city place) and kind of remote — if you like small town life, it’s a great place to be. Our university strongly emphasizes a quality education, personalized and supportive, so if teaching is your bag, we want to hear from you.

Shorter summary: we are looking for a biologist who likes math and teaching. Come join us!

If I ever get this cranky, just shoot me

crankyclintYou may recall Ted Storck from his greatest hits here in Morris: he’s the guy who donated the chimes that annoyed everyone for years, who wrote bitter letters to the local newspaper when asked to turn them down, who complained when a vandal cut the wires (OK, that was wrong to do, but he also accused me of having done it), who, when the chimes were finally silenced by the city council, whined about how he should never do anything nice for the community, before stomping off to his retirement in Arizona.

I thought we were done with crotchety ol’ Ted — the chimes are gone, he’s moved away — but no! He’s taken to writing cranky letters to the local newspaper, about things that have annoyed him. And the paper is publishing them! Ah, Morris.

[Read more…]

#1! #1! #1!

In this list of every state, ranked by how miserable its winters are, guess who the winner is!

Although I’m suspicious that we beat both Dakotas. I think I’d rather live in Minnesota than either of those places.

I came up with a balancing idea, though: if you suffer through winter in your state, you get to reward yourself by retiring to the complementary state on the list — just look at (51 – your state ranking). That’s the karmic redress you must someday pay. I’m looking forward to my twilight years in Hawaii; Hawaiians might not be as thrilled with the deal they’re getting.

Away in the darkness

There has been a bit of silence here because my mad wife decided she wanted to go camping. In Minnesota. In the middle of January. I know winter camping is a thing, it’s just not my thing, but I went along. So we headed off to Glacier Lakes State Park yesterday, where she’d reserved a snug little cabin for the evening.

Strangely, the DNR link above advertises the place with lots of pictures of beautiful meadows and sparkling lakes and groves of wild flowers. For some reason, they don’t tell you what it’s like in January. It’s like this.

IMG_0295

Skies like spilled milk. The lakes are sheets of ice, covered with snow. The trees are barren and skeletal. Which isn’t unlovely, in its own way, but it’s not how I picture camping (which is more gray, with constant drizzling rain, and bears.)

It wasn’t bad. We settled in, we later went to bed, and we turned off the lights, and discovered something else about the experience.

Total darkness and silence. We were far from anywhere, there were no other campers, the heavy cloud cover meant the moon and stars weren’t shining through at all. I held my hand up to my face, and saw nothing. I waited an hour, for my eyes to adjust…still nothing. There was no wind, and no animals were crazy enough to be out and about, so there was no sound, either. So this is what a sensory deprivation tank might be like.

It turns out I do not cope well with sensory deprivation. I was lying there awake all night, my brain churning away trying to find something outside itself to latch on to, and refusing to go to sleep until it heard a little noise or got a faint glimmering of something. I don’t know whether it was claustrophobia or agoraphobia, but something about being swaddled in dark emptiness was unsettling.

So next time my wife demands that I share her madness, I’m bringing a metronome and a night light. I’m kind of wrecked for the day now, too, and am suddenly noticing more acutely the tick of the clock here at home, the occasional distant swish of a car driving through the snow, and all the clutter in our house.