Posts Tagged ‘memetics’

How to snare the nimble marmoset

30 January 2009

My favorite monkey?  First I was thinking Hanuman Langur:

Thomas Schoch - GNU/CC

Thomas Schoch - GNU/CC

but I thought a little longer and decided, Emperor Tamarin.  I’m pretty happy with my decision.  So now this is a monkey meme or whatever.  What’s your favorite monkey?

Symbionts abroad…

10 November 2008

Domesticated animals in the field-

Summer in southern China, August 2008



From top to bottom:

Homo sapiens and Bubalus bubalis – on the last, muddy stretch a very long journey we came upon a mired dump-truck loaded with cinderblocks–a boy and his buffalo chilled in a rice field as the sun set–we went no where for a very long time.

Capra aegagrus hircu: “Guizhou black” breed?

Equus caballus

Homo sapiens, Bubalus bubalis and Canis lupus familiaris – this was a particularly awesome posse.

Equus asinus – not visible: In ancient times there were no donkeys in Guizhou Province. Somebody brought a donkey from somewhere and tied it to a tree at the foot of a mountain. A tiger saw the donkey, and thought that it must be a fearsome monster. It hid behind a tree and spied on the donkey .When the donkey brayed ,the tiger was frightened, thinking that the donkey was about to devour it. After a while ,seeing that the donkey had not moved, the tiger approached it and teased it. The donkey became angry, and kicked the tiger. The tiger thought to itself:”Is that all it is capable of?” It then jumped on the donkey and ate it.”

Bos taurus

Bubalus bubalis and concrete shrinethe Anhui buffalos are considerably bulkier than their Guizhou cousins.

Homo sapiens – older kids would invariably turn away when I tried to take their picture, but I got lucky with this young boy.

For even more photos of water buffalo try: on Bubalus.

Maybe I should go into Proctology…

20 December 2007

given my apparent inordinate fondness for colons. Despite my (clearly fictitious) loathing of auto-metabloggery, I’m going to jump on the whole first sentence of each month meme-wagon ‘coz well…I suppose I like self analysis as much as the next typer. So here are the first lines (or so) from the first microecos post of each month in 2007:

J’s a squirrel?


We’re still stalling on phugoid fliers, not to mention most beautiful bird #5.


To all in the Davis CA vicinity: Sunwise Co-op (my home) is having an Open-house/Naomh Pádraig memorial fest beginning mid-morning and (hopefully) extending past mid-night.


Forget about vertebrates: the salamanders that I could not find in Amador County were heavily outweighed by the arthropods that I did.


I wasn’t even aware that I actually knew any dirty limericks, but when I saw this PLoS One paper one popped from the depths of my subconscious like a roach emerging from beneath a rock:


Apologies for all of the accumulated leaf litter around here.


Perhaps some important linking source has expired?


A few days ago, in the post about vampire bat breath, I pondered: Oh those stable istopists what will they drop into the mass spec next??


Boneyard #5 is up at The Ethical Palaeontologist (oh, fine. I plugged that extra vowel in).


Something about the cover of Carl Zimmer’s new book looks a tad familiar…


Waiting in the lobby of the Austin Hilton, I glanced at my feet.


Web 2.0: boon or deathtrap for middling talent?

Well, I suppose we known the answer to that last question at least…

Hopeless Monstrosity: The PZ mutating genre meme

3 November 2007

Why work on an application with a rapidly approaching deadline when you can blog? And for that matter, why compose a thoughtful piece about lunar spawning in corals, Ming dynasty clams, or “salamander” sex casts…when I can just ape my way through the magic of memetics? Remember it’s a cultural studies blog now:

So, sure we’ll take pick up Brian’s gauntlet and jump onto the rapidly propagating “Mutating Genre Meme”

Here’s the rules:

There are a set of questions below that are all of the form, “The best [subgenre] in [genre] is…”. Copy the questions, and before answering them, you may modify them in a limited way, carrying out no more than two of these operations:* You can leave them exactly as is.

* You can delete any one question.

* You can mutate either the genre, medium, or subgenre of any one question. For instance, you could change “The best time travel novel in SF/Fantasy is…” to “The best time travel novel in Westerns is…”, or “The best time travel movie in SF/Fantasy is…”, or “The best romance novel in SF/Fantasy is…”.

* You can add a completely new question of your choice to the end of the list, as long as it is still in the form “The best [subgenre] in [genre] is…”.

* You must have at least one question in your set, or you’ve gone extinct, and you must be able to answer it yourself, or you’re not viable.

Then answer your possibly mutant set of questions. Please do include a link back to the blog you got them from, to simplify tracing the ancestry, and include these instructions.

Finally, pass it along to any number of your fellow bloggers. Remember, though, your success as a Darwinian replicator is going to be measured by the propagation of your variants, which is going to be a function of both the interest your well-honed questions generate and the number of successful attempts at reproducing them.


My great-great-great-great-grandparent is Pharyngula.
My great-great-great-grandparent is Metamagician and the Hellfire Club.
My great-great-grandparent is Flying Trilobite
My great-grandparent is A Blog Around the Clock
My grandparent is The Primate Diaries
My parent is Laelaps

As per Goldschmidt I’ve played a just bit fast and loose with the rules…

The best 80s song based on a time travel short story in SF/Fantasy is:
Sound of Thunder by Duran Duran

(based on A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury).

The best scary movie in the documentary genre is:
Jesus Camp

The best sexy song in Ethiopian soul is:
Ené nègn bay manèsh (Who is that saying ‘it’s me’?)” by Girma Bèyènè

The best novel in post-apocalyptic fiction is either:
In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan


Fiskadoro by Denis Johnson

(probably the Brautigan but I’ll have to re-read both)

The best little ice-age landscape in Northern Renaissance painting is:
Hunters in the Snow by Pieter Brueg(h)el

All this spectacular mutating has rendered me an infertile cretin, utterly incapable of passing my novelties on into the meme pool, barring some fortutious lateral action. Oh well, perhaps I’ll totally tweak the cladogram at least…

See you at the side show!


31 October 2007

Here’s a scary hallowing story for you: continued atmospheric CO2 elevation> increased soil acidification> nutrient-stressed plants> MAN EATING FLORA!!!

Don’t worry, Triffids are fictional. For now.

Thanks to Kevin Z from The Other 95% for the memetic inspiration, to Oberlin cult personality Curtis for turning me onto the Triffids and a Happy Halloween to all!  Proper blogging will resume when the @$!!% NSF application is done.

When Animal Memes Attack!

29 September 2007

The last time I got tagged with a meme…well Decimating Birds: Episode V is coming any day now. I swear.

Now Brian has tagged me with the “Cool Animal Meme” that’s been racing around the interwebs like a Chinchilla on crystal meth. So…here it goes (I’ve broken things down by vert and invert so I could squeeze a bit more in):

An Interesting Animal I Had


Interesting is certainly one way to describe Clyde. He has acres of personality and makes some of the strangest noises I’ve ever heard come from a dog. Here are three videos of Clyde interacting with a log in Tomales Bay (which he liked), a hawk feather, and a snake skin shed (both of which he did not like).


A couple of springs ago I brought in a mantis egg case from the garden and put in on our window sill. I watched it carefully for a couple of weeks then promptly forgot about it. A couple of months later, while enjoying a cup of coffee, I glanced over at the sill and saw this:

I set most of the hatchlings free, but kept one which survived until about Christmas. My manticulture experiments this year didn’t fare so well, I accidentally left the container open and the mantis fled. Oh, well there’s always next year…

An Interesting Animal I Ate

Okay, this is going to sound weird. Bobcat.  Let me explain (not that it will help)…

When I was a kid my dad hit a bobcat on the way home. Always one to seize an opportunity, my father threw the cat in in the back of the pickup with the idea of salvaging the pelt (which is still around some place). We also got a fair amount of venison this way. My dad also cooked up some of the bobcat meat because, you know, why not?

I don’t remember what it tasted like, but my dad sent me to my mom’s house with a little tupperware of cooked bobcat meat. This of course, totally freaked out my mother (which was surely my father’s intention) but my mom’s pot dealing/gourmet chef landlord raved “It tastes like filet mignon!”


I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I’ve never intentionally eaten a terrestrial arthropod. We did have an “invertabrate dinner” at the end of my invertebrate biology course but all of the goodies were of the marine and/or molluscan persuasion. I can’t say I’m terribly fond of land snail, but fried conch is delicious.

Probably the tastiest invertebrate eats I’ve had was in El Rocío, Andalucía. After rolling into the dusty Spanish town we parked next to a hitching post and walked down the dirt roads till we found a little tapas bar, complete with horses hitched outside. We ordered up a round chipirones: whole baby squid with garlic and lemon. You had to pick the tiny beaks out of your teeth. Washed down with a cold bottle of Alhambra..yum!

With the prospect of doing field work in Southern China, I imagine my interesting animals I have eaten list is set to grow considerably.

An Interesting Animal In The Museum


Photo by Sam and/or Sophie from here.

This one’s easy. This juvenile blue whale from the Göteburg Naturhistoriska Museum is surely the most pimped out whale mount on the planet. I tweaked the photo a bit to try to expose the interior a little better, here is how the museum website describes it:

The great blue whale which was preparated in 1865, is exhibited beside its own skeleton and other whales and seals in “Valsalen”. This 15 meter long baby whale is the only stuffed blue whale in the world! Its jaws can be opened, and once a year you can inspect its inside with its wooden floor, flowered tapestry and mahogany benches.

I guess we had good timing because when we visited the whale was open and we climbed on inside, Jonah-style. Being inside a large animal is rather surreal, but I have to say, with the handsome wooden benches and the upholstered walls, the inside of a whale is far cozier than either the Bible or Pinocchio would have you believe.


Explorit’s giant cave cockroaches (Blaberus giganteus) are pretty fun to share with kids and especially parents. They are much more lively than the hissing cockroaches (though I like them too). They secrete a mild vinegary chemical predator deterrent and are freaking huge.

An Interesting Thing I Did With Or To An Animal

My first ever field biology project at eight or nine, was to tie colored thread to the wrists of toads to try and track their movement and figure out how many individuals were living in our yard. I have no recollection of the results although I do remember recapturing several.


I’ve done some interesting things to the cave roaches. They have wings but they can’t really fly. However, they can flutter their wings to glide to the ground when tossed in the air. They can also use them to flip back over when they are put on their back. I know, it seems mean, but think about what most people do to cockroaches.

An Interesting Animal In Its Natural Habitat

Well, I don’t really remember this, but when my parents were first bringing me home from the hospital it was a rainy, bleak day. On the way home they spotted a sodden Golden Eagle walking alongside the road. In true hippie fashion they promptly gave me an ‘indian name’: ‘Walking Eagle.’ Here’s the tattoo I have that commemorates that moment:




A few years ago, when I was working as an intern at Fossil Butte National Monument in Wyoming I had my most memorable Eagle encounter. I was prospecting for Eocene mammal fossils in the Wasatch Formation. As I came over the crest of Cundick Ridge I came face to beak with an Eagle roosting on a rock. I was probably several meters away but it felt like I could have reached out and touched it.

My heart skipped a beat as I stood there awestruck and paralyzed in the presence of this gigantic bird.  After what felt like minutes, but must have been a split second, the eagle casually leapt off the rock into empty space, unfurled its wings, beat them twice and sailed off. It was out of sight in a few moments, replaced by a few stray fluffs of down slowly tumbling down the cliff.


Again, it’s tough to pick just one.  Finding adult ant lions with kids this spring was pretty awesome.  And lately I’ve become obsessed with scorpion hunting.  Most recently I got a big kick out of seeing an octopus while exploring tidepools in Cambria.  None of the photos turned out really well but this was the best of the lot (its the brownish thing center left).

In that eerie way that often happens with exciting animal encounters, I somehow anticipated the whole thing.  As I watched hermit crabs and bat stars I had this ‘octopodial’ feeling. But I certainly didn’t expect to see one of these cryptic masters of disguise, even though I knew that they were probably around.

I was leaning over to examine a chunk of blueschist or something, when I heard a  sudden squirt and turned to see a fist-sized cephalopod inching away.  It morphed from a deep red, to brown, to almost black then back to brown.  I got a short video, you can hear the excitement in my annoying nasal drone:

I still wish I had picked it up, damn it.

Okay, I spent waay too much time on this.  It seems like everyone and their mom has already picked up this meme.  But I’d be nice to see what Carel has to say after he gets back from his blogging vacation.

Oh yeah and Jessica of the brand new blog Inorganics should give it a shot, although I’m predicting some overlap!

Why I’m a Geologist

3 September 2007

It’s like friggin Rio around here. The geologically minded have their own blog carnival now: The Accretionary Wedge. Issue no. 1 is now up at Clastic Detritus. The first issue has geo-bloggers musing over how/why they became geologists.

Though woefully late to the fore, I can’t resist, after all I have a bachelor’s degree…in geology! Just consider this the extraordinarily shallow, heavily-bioturbated, veneer of biogenic ooze atop the accretionary wedge.

Right. So without further ado, “Why am I a geologist?”

[all pictures copyright Jessica Oster except above and very bottom]


I am a nonconformist.


I am prone to erratic behavior.


I could blow my top at any moment.


I have a deep appreciation for the entrenched wisdom,


but I love the breakthroughs.

Most of all,


I just love the sense of scale.