Friday, July 30, 2010

Wanted feline

Cat causes car wreck and then vanishes

"Oregon State Police have taken the unusual step of issuing a missing cat alert for a feline that caused a car crash, escaped from a smashed SUV and vanished."

Rubber boa

Charina bottae. Found this fellow during yesterday's morning hike. She* was the exact same color as the banana slug I'd just stepped over and it made me do a double-take. I wish I'd brought my good camera with me (every time I leave it at home, I find something cool to photograph. Why don't I ever learn my lesson?) They aren't rare around here, but you don't see them very often out on the surface, especially during the day.

I love rubber boas. When I was a kid there were a couple of resident ones that lived near our barn. I could usually find them under a certain peice of old plywood, and you could tell the individuals by the unique scarring pattern around their tails. Scars that they get from furious mommy mice. The snakes fend off the parents, who think they're attacking the snake's head, while it gets busy eating all the babies in the nest.

They're odd little snakes. Very docile and slow moving. Easy for a kid to catch and handle. I'm told that they can musk you, but I think it would take some very rough handling for that to happen. They have a blunt tail that looks like their head (or is it that their head looks like their tail?) When I picked her* up, she immediately hid her head and stuck out her tail.

*I don't actually know how to sex a rubber boa.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday morning rant: women in science

"A New View of Why Women Shun Science Careers"

A "new view", huh? What bullshit.

Better writers than I have talked about this crap before, so I'll just vent for a moment.

This article could easily have stopped in its first paragraph, where it asks a trite journalistic rhetorical question: Golly gee, Tom-the-dude-science-journalist asks, "Why are women so underrepresented in the fields of science and technology? Do they simply have less innate ability in these areas... or are they held back by ingrained sexism?"

The answer is b. The end. Now let's move on and try to actually do something about... wait, what? You still want to talk about this? Ok, fine.

First off, Tom-the-dude who wrote this article: women don't "shun" science. We're gently but forcibly pushed away from having an interest in it. It takes years of work to dampen our enthusiasm, but it works very well.

My parents are not scientists, but are very interested in science and the natural world. It was their enthusiastic support that convinced me I could follow my interests and go into science in the first place. Growing up, their birthday gifts to were things like entomology books, star maps, and microscopes.

One year for Christmas, however, my uncle sent me a barbie doll.

I didn't think much of it at the time. I wrinkled my nose, sent him a nice thank you card, and shoved her in a drawer somewhere, buried underneath my plastic dinosaur models, never to be seen again until years later when she got trucked off to Goodwill.

Now, in his defense, he lived far away and hadn't gotten to know his niece very well. But. But. Of all of my relatives, he's the one that actually has a real, live, science-related job. He's also interested in the natural world, hiking, hunting, photography. He has a huge science fiction book collection. He's introverted, slightly socially awkward, with a sharp and sarcastic sense of humor.

In other words, we're very much alike. Like, scary alike. He could have been a mentor-from-afar to a young, budding scientist. And yet, when it came time to pick out a gift, the first thing that came to mind, a gift that society told him was default, was a fucking barbie doll.

I'll tell you why this female isn't going to follow up her undergrad in biology and chemistry with a career in STEM-something-or-other, and it's not because I'm "not fired up" about science (fuck you, ignorant and condescending commenter), it's not because I lack some innate ability (fuck you, Lawrence Summers), and it's not because I think I wouldn't be able to care for people or some shit if I went into research (fuck you, article author). I mean, even if this were a valid line of inquiry, do they really think women are too stupid to understand that science research helps people? Is that a cognitive leap that only men can make, or what?

I'm science faculty at a university right now. It's a sausage fest. Even though women outnumbered men in my undergrad science classes, and were roughly equal in the few post grad classes in toxicology I took, the faculty is dominated by dudes. Dudes who get paid more just because they're dudes. Dudes whose opinions, publications, and thoughts get preferential treatment because they're dudes.

You don't have to be smacked on the ass and told to get coffee to feel the sting of sexism. The tiny but constant ego-eroding reminders that you're slightly less of a person for being female, that your opinions are just a teeny bit less important (and require you to do research and provide citations whereas your male colleagues get taken at their word), that it's a teeny bit more important you look good at work (even though there's no official dress code), every well-meaning compliment ("you look nice today! You should wear makeup more often!"), and every time your boss needs a babysitter and automatically only asks the women in the office. This is the death of a thousand cuts.

I'm leaving my job in a week (unrelated to the content of this rant - I'm moving - this job is a pretty good one overall). This would be a good time for me to go back and get a masters degree, but I won't. I have plenty of other areas of interest outside of STEM that I could turn into a fulfilling career. The thought of dealing with this shit in academia for another however-many-years, and then dealing with it in a STEM job after that... let's just say I'm not 'fired up' about it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

More rodeo photos: cowdog addition

I know only three things about this dog that I saw at the rodeo last week:

1) His name is Jake The Cowdog

2) He isn't afraid of anything

3) He is generally awesome in every way

Friday, July 23, 2010

Photos from the Philomath Rodeo 2010

You know, after bull riding, steer wrestling has got to be the most ridiculous sport in rodeo. At least with most of the others - bronc riding, roping, team penning, etc - you get (basically) what is performed on working ranches. Even break-away roping is just a contrived and insultingly 'girly' form of calf roping.

Steer wrestling, though? Let's jump off a horse running at full gallop, grab a 400+ lb steer and try to wrestle it to the ground. Yeah. Wikipedia tells me it originated in a wild west show. That sounds about right.

I'm certainly don't think that wrestling with a steer for competition or entertainment is wrong, it (like bull riding) just invokes eye-rolling from me from time to time.

Frankly, there is something entertaining about watching a big, tough cowboy being bested by a cow.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Rocky is such a sensitive soul

Besides having a general anxiousness about life that seems to be typical of many German shepherds, Rocky is very sensitive about his art.

He only howls to the fiddle, and seems to prefer old-time songs to Celtic or other folk music. He's very shy about it. If someone walks into the room after he starts, or he sees you looking directly at him, he'll stop and look so abashed we generally laugh at him, which probably doesn't help his self esteem at all.

While taking this video, I had to look away and pretend to be putting away the dishes for him to continue.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hay, Heat, Hernias

Where I live, the activity that involves driving out into a hay field in the middle of the summer heat to pick up, by hand, square hay bales and load them onto a truck or trailer, is called bucking hay (or, more precisely, "buckin' hay").

Question: what is this activity called for you? The other popular term I'm familiar with is "haulin' hay".

And if you are able to answer that question, that implies you're familiar with this activity. If that's the case, I salute you, comrade-in-arms! The unrelenting afternoon sun (can't stack dewy hay!); the dripping sweat; the billions of particles of dust and straw that stick to your skin and collect in crevices and undergarments; the million small cuts on your arms because it was too hot to wear long sleeves; having the point driven home that horses were created by nature mainly for the purpose of turning large amounts of dried grass into poop... there's nothing quite like it, is there?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Warning: graphic pit bull images below

Emma is a mean, scary pit bull.

One day soon I plan on doing a real portrait session with her.

Native plant of the week

Tellima grandiflora or fringe cup. It's a cute, funny little green flower that mostly goes unnoticed in the shade of the forests. It's native only in the Pacific Northwest. Pojar tells me it's edible and that some native Americans made tea from it's leaves and flowers.

These photos are under a CC license and others are welcome to use them for non-commercial projects. I've also marked on my Flickr map exactly where these specimens were photographed.

Friday, July 2, 2010


If I allowed it, Zelda would spend all day patrolling the fence line staring at the fascinating hoofed creatures on the other side.