Can’t Get No Dissatisfaction

Probably every person in history has been concerned with the future. The Temple of Apollo at Delphi had two phrases carved over the doorway.

“Know thyself” and “Everything in moderation”

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Be careful when you creep into nature…

Lest nature creep also into you.

It was my last class at the Horticulture Society this evening. The lecture felt especially dense, and I was jotting notes through most of it. The following are the fruits of my labors:
Historical Botany in Philadelphia

Poor people can’t afford nature, make beautiful google maps, there’s one mile between Oregon and AT&T subway stops (Pattison), Philadelphia deer take the train, Tinicum, Phamily Trees, digitizing maps gathers historiographic “storage” data, Mammalian biology in Philadelphia, hog farms in the 1940s, Wild rice zyzanium, what’s the species name of rice?, Why did they use that weird wheat and not corn or rice or wheat?, wheat + corn = economic veins in the country, Police are like cowboys, Perry Castaneda Texas Library Map Collection USGS 1888, 1910 Athaneum map, The gov. works in the interest of the rich, Smith and Windmill island dredged in the 1890s, MOYAMENSING, 1926 Liberty Bell, Sea Wall for the Navy Yard (1904), Philadelphia Woodershed, Piedmont – Bartram Oak – Coastal Plane- hybrid contact zone (according to Bartram), artisanal pools powered by pressure of larger river flow, I need to understand plant genetics better- better grasp of advancement through time/space, FDR is 330 acres, very multiuse, rare plant/habitat, tidal area, map of underground Philadelphia, Fairmount Park Commission?, Fairmount Wooderworks, 1909, water reservation is “settling” filtered, affected disease history?, “To know the names of the plants…” [wizardry], liriodendron tulipferum [img of tulip poplar] from Michaux’s Sylva, “stands that came in on their own”, spice bush is ratty, NY Public Library Digital Gallery, Teach About the Things I Love, what do people want to know?, White Pine = Ships’ Mast Tree, Joseph Rockwroth?, Soil erosion control is a really old idea, Plant corridors are recorded by economics (White Pines coming from Germany), Walking is such satisfaction, I love people who have loves, Project for Public Spaces, the cold air follows the light, heat, they press upon each other, unless the heat never leaves

One of my favorite classes of the semester. I hope to take a follow up at some point.

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A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing

On Saturday, I was doodling on the sidewalk when I met a man named Steve. He was interested to see what I’d drawn, not the first person that morning, but he stuck around and chatted for a bit, then asked if I’d like to get coffee. He worked IT for a finance company in Center City, we talked God and politics in a civil way. It was clearly established that we both had significant others, and so a friendship was formed. Later that night, I asked if he had a particular church service in mind for the morning, and if not, if he’d like to accompany me to St. Malachy’s. He proposed we visit Epic Church in Center City, and I was duly impressed by the free donuts and orange juice. Service was enjoyable- theatrically funny and surprisingly honest. This wouldn’t become my regular congregation, but it may warrant another visit in the future.

Afterward, we went to a Japanese fusion place for lunch and to continue the discussion of God. We discussed vocabulary, history, limitations of truth, and the dual nature of Iron Maiden lyrics. Eventually, we settled on an ecstatic mutual agreement that God is love, and the spirit is any expression of that in human form, however awful and dirty it may seem. He described his favorite encounter with God:

Steve, Brent, and Ellis are in the truck driving to a bar for a few beers. Ellis is an alcoholic, drinking himself to death and causing anguish to Brent, who loves him dearly. As they’re driving away from Ellis’ house, he changes he mind. He doesn’t want to come out for a few beers, he’d rather stay at home and drink a liter of vodka by himself. He asks them to pull over so he can walk home. He gets out of the car. Brent agonizes with his hands over his face, then also gets out of the car and proceeds to beat Ellis until he’s bloody on the ground. The cops show up, threatening to arrest Brent. Ellis, bloodied and battered, steps between the cops, “Please, no, this man is my brother.”

And that’s love.

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Peregrine and Bare It

As an early reader of fantasy novel, I wanted to be a falconer. Peregrine falconer to be precise. It’s the fastest animal on the planet and beautiful. I’d be cool with eating sparrows. Though I don’t know which came first etymologically, peregrine means “one who journeys to foreign lands,” “traveler,” “pilgrim.”

My parents divorced when I was five, and the routine of traveling between them was a comfortable norm. It was a better sort of nomadism than the kids who get yanked from school to school, and my dad’s home has been a constant place of refuge. One night in high school, my little brother asked for a broken guitar string, gave himself a home-made tattoo, two letters on each ankle:

“DE” “PA”

Because when he was growing up, he could never get his feet in the same place. He’s still lost. I’m less lost, but when have the young people ever known where they are? I’m proud of him, sad we’re estranged, but have no doubt of our love. Geography isn’t much of a barrier to family.

I fell in love recently. He’s studying math and physics at Ithaca, some two-hundred miles away. Sometimes I think of him as more an idea than a human, but we’ll be trying to negate that distance for the indefinite future. It’s a comfortable thrill. He hugs well. I never knew the importance of communicating by touch. It’s a subtle language and almost entirely improv. He’s way smarter than me, patient and understanding. He’s a worthy adversary for punning. Also he’s 6′ 6″ and carries me around, which not gonna lie, makes my girly-self all sorts of swoon. My mom is happy for me.

Perhaps this is not the best post for an ostensibly professional blog, but I’ve given up on professionalism for the time being. My current plan of action post-undergrad is a really long walk and reading some of the books I haven’t yet had time for. I’m excited for what I’ll do with freedom.

“When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.”

-W. B. Yeats

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Rumi gives me faith in God.

I understand why we were meant to never take the name in vain. What does “God” mean anymore? My vocabulary is charged with Christian theology, a Baptist school upbringing and a catholic sense of aesthetic. It’s easy to disprove any particular religion. People tell stories, rituals get made up because they’re comfortable in that time and place. Evil spirits are found in every culture that sits around a campfire. I’m not at the point of selfless jubilation, but I do feel that sunlight reflect through me a little more fierce.

The physical universe, with all its math and impossible chance, has somehow, inexplicably created me, capable of laughter and loving and ignoring my chemistry homework. No, there doesn’t need to be a God for that to happen, but it’s just so stupidly absurd that why not treat it a little more reverentially? Contemporary atheism has a tendency to dismiss organized religion as promoting ignorance and intolerance. Institutions are inherently flawed. They’re dehumanizing, but it’s nice to meet the humans inside every once in a while. Go to churches for the lesson in architecture, history, literature, anthropology. Do it for the lesson on being a good person, and then don’t give them money or vote for who they recommend. What else is happening on a Sunday morning? It’s a good reminder to party gently Saturday night.

Also, dance and sing and hold hands during prayer. Catholics don’t find God in the hips so much, but there’s plenty of ways to be grateful. I’ve been tremendously blessed no matter what else is out there.

I’m looking for signs, so I find them.
It’s just a matter of choosing.
“What do I want to see?”

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How long until these are literally wiped off the map? :P

Flying around the Florida Keys on Google maps this evening, several realizations:

-There are fewer Keys than I thought
-The future is already here
-This will be great for targeting my next adventure-job
-the Gulf of Mexico is mostly pretty shallow
This is the best use of twitter I’ve ever seen

Also, that the Keys are made of limestone.
How have they stayed above water since the Pleistocene?

I consider tonight a success.

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I can’t afford the future.

Over the weekend, I volunteered at the AAAS convention in Boston and had a ton of fun. Free alcohol and a gathering of luminaries makes for great conversation, though it occasionally seemed like every science is a dismal science.

On the last day of my trip, my host took me to Toscanini’s Ice Cream at MIT’s campus. It’s every Food Scientist’s dream- DIY ice cream confectionary. My sample flavors included “Wort” (barley mash) and Goat Cheese Brownie, but I finally settled on the recommended Amaretto Almond (so good) and proceeded to check out.

The cash register was an iPad, and the credit card swipe was a USB attachment smaller than a flashdrive. I felt like such a country bumpkin. Boston is a little bit further into the future than Philadelphia. Everyone was toting an iScreen- convention app, sign ins, note taking, paper references, endless Facebooking, etc…. There was one point on the bus where only one person beside myself was not engaging in their portal to the world wide web.

I’m vehemently opposed to the internet-everywhere devices and disappointed to find myself a Luddite so young. It’s not the devices themselves, but that they are so intoxicating.

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Anno Disoriented

Dividing history in the last two-thousand years wasn’t very forward looking. I like the abbreviation “m.y.a.” when scientists talk.

My sense of time has variable scales.

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Here is the ghost
Of a summer that lived for us,
Here is a promise
Of summer to be.
-William Ernest Henley

College is SO satisfying these days. Two courses on animal behavior and anatomy, calculus and orgo. for making me feel like a real scientist, and comics journalism to remind me why working hard is worth it. Lab goes well- just finished 16m of of skeletal density analysis for Robert’s Reef (which I discovered Tuesday is the first of six…) and submitted my abstract for the 42nd Annual Benthic Ecology Meeting! Last week, I applied for a Diamond Research Scholar grant, and within the next two, will apply for a CARAS Travel grant (get money!). Pending acceptance of the first, I’ve got to submit a further application for summer research funding, but I’m not terrifically worried about this.

Outside of academics, life and the weather have been especially lovely. January was warm and humid, tempered only by snowfall or blustery conditions. Bio-Life howls on the second floor during intense winds, but it just adds another layer of charm. Great show at The Advocate last weekend- Harry and Leon, Maddie and Rand, John, Jacob, singing and dancing.

I saw Reservoir Dogs for the first time on Monday. It’s been a long time since a movie’s blown me away. Combine this experience with my first analysis of comics Journalism, and you get a week full of critical media examination. It’s been unsettling and tons of fun. Last night, I read between the stacks of Paley’s graphic media section for two hours. If only I had a story to tell.

“We always deceive ourselves twice about the people we love —
first to their advantage, then to their disadvantage.”
-Albert Camus

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Why the Long Island?

Wrapping up my two week travel stint, I went to see La Rondine at The Met with Michael. The Lincoln Center is starkly beautiful, and the weather surprisingly warm- not a term I’d normally use for a January evening. After some confusion as to the entrance for orchestra seats, we were led into the main hall. 50′ high golden curtains. Crystal chandeliers that rise before the performance. An imposing space, especially for one so underdressed as myself.

The Met provides personal screens for the libretto translation, as the opera is sung in Italian. I was glad for it- there was quite a bit of bawdy humor to be gained by the text. Unfortunately, I missed 90% of the detail and could not sing back a single theme from the piece. I hope next time to follow the music and actors instead. (The personal screens were polarized so that their lights were only visible to the person immediately in front of them.)

Michael reminds me of Jeff- he’s hilarious, math/physics major, involved in music, makes me aspire to better myself. Also he showed me Scroobius Pip, who creates catchy and thought provoking music/spoken word. It’s shameful that I’m a scared little girl, but I cannot deal with relationship anxiety and handle my coursework at the same time.

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