Thursday, February 19, 2004

The Colorado potato beetles are gone from my work area now. Reliable sources tell me that they were taken away and then fed some heavily pesticide-laced potato leaves as part of a toxicity experiment. They will skriiiitcchhh and scraaaaaaattttccchh in my office no more. As always: Be careful what you wish for.

Cathy and I seem to make amazing breakthroughs while drinking coffee, something we make time to do together in the midst of almost every afternoon that I spend in East Lansing. (She drinks latte; as I mentioned in passing last time, I prefer my espresso shots blended into a dark roast brew. What the hey; I tolerate caffeine much better than I do lactose.) That's why the project took a great leap forward in our favorite Grand River java joint this afternoon. I foresee a weekend of reading many, many journal articles. And drinking more coffee. Lock up your biscotti; I'm on a roll now.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

I'm sitting in my mega-cube in Natural Sciences, waiting for Acrobat to finish indexing some downloaded journal articles. My cube is in a large shared area; at present, I'm sharing the area not only with some equally sporadically present humans, but with the 36 plastic containers on the cube next to mine, each of them full of horribly active Colorado potato beetles.

I haven't put in an image link because, while photos of CPBs are easy to find on the web, they usually appear on pages cluttered up other photographs and technical pest-management advice. In other words, if you want to see some, they're easy to find via your favorite image search. One of the nefarious characteristics of CPBs is that they're so godawful adorable. I mean, these things are just cute as a bug. Chrysomelid beetles in general are pretty much the lookers of the coleopteran world (IMO, they tie with scarabs). But you really, really don't want CPBs in your potato field. And they're tough petits batards. I'm told they're difficult to kill even with a gadget called a "propane flamer". That's the only thing that's keeping me from wishing I had a propane flamer right here.

And you really don't want them in the next cubicle either. Crawling, scrabbling, mating, chewing on leaves, going scriiiiitch ... skraaaaaatch.... against the plastic walls of their little boxes. You're trying to do a library search. Skraaaaaattchhhh. You're trying to concentrate on a journal article. Skraaaaak. You step out for coffee, a nice espresso shot in a dark roast fair trade, the pride of Grand River Avenue, and when you come back, as the caffeine jitters are kicking in .... skraaaaaaaaaaaaakkkkk.

Hey, youse bugs. Shut up!

Only in an entomology department. My bugs are better-behaved than your bugs. At least their formic acid spray is silent but deadly.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

As usual, I didn't see the latest blip of pop culture to take on a life of its own. I haven't watched a Super Bowl in a good fifteen years. So, I have no idea whether, at half-time, Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson were miming sexual violence, or engaging in consensual exhibitionism, or even whether they were having any fun at it. If it was supposed to be a "family show", I'm somewhat perplexed as to why anyone thought that the idea of having a woman "naked by the end of this song" was age-appropriate for the Nickelodeon crowd. To repeat: I didn't see the incident, so I can't comment on the smarminess level of its context.

But, fer Zarquon's sake, people, it was only a breast. Approximately half of the population is genetically programmed to develop the full-featured version. The other half is in permanent possession of the vestigial, subcompact version. Breasts are part of the normal complement of human body parts. There's nothing weird or dirty about them. I seem to recall that babies see these things all the time (unless they were born in the 1950s, when babies were nursed from bottles and women's breasts were reduced to fashion accessories, usually shoehorned into undergarments resembling Cadillac bumper bullets).

You might think someone's kid saw a simulated murder on TV, for all the fuss. Or even a real live war. (Oh, right. Never mind.)

Congressional investigations? Oh, come on. Then again, this is a society in which the Attorney General ordered a piece of classical statuary covered up because one of its marble-rendered mammaries was visible; a society in which sex toys are illegal in some states but guns are just fine in all 50; a society in which same-sex civil marriage is considered a threat to families while unemployment and poorly funded public education are considered tolerable; a society that likes to style its leaders as the alpha males of the entire planet and then tried to kick one out of office for obtaining multiple matings.

As for me: I celebrated Valentine's Day by attending a performance of The Vagina Monologues with my husband. Both of us enjoyed the show, which I think approaches the strange destinies of anatomy with both grace and humor. I was reminded of a wonderful quote by Marlene Dietrich: "In America, sex is an obsession; in other parts of the world, it is a fact."