September 2004

Monthly Archive

Grammar wars…

Posted by on 23 Sep 2004 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Today in my class “The Professional Biologist”, we were discussing grammar and its use or lack thereof.  It is no big secret that I do not have good grammar but I don’t think I ever got into a thirty minute debate over it. 

The class started out with the following joke:

A panda walks into a bar.  He sits down, orders food, then eats it.  After he is finished, he stands up, pulls an UZI from his pocket and shoots bullets into every wall.  Then the panda leaves.  The bartender, who is noticeably upset, runs outside after the panda.  The bartender asks the panda what the hell that was all about.  The panda tells the bar tender that he looked up panda in the dictionary that day.  The dictionary definition says: panda – a bearlike animal that eats, shoots and leaves. 

We all had a big laugh.  The point was the use of a comma in that sentence makes a big difference in its meaning.  So…

As biologists, we have to write many sentences using amounts.  Fifty grams was measured and tested for…  When writing about an amount of something, the amount is always considered singular, even if it is fifty grams.  Fifty grams were measured and tested, is grammatically incorrect. This sparked a rather lively debate.  Nicollette was confused and wanted clarification.  Doug said, “You don’t say I have fifty pounds of chickens in my freezer.  You say I have fifty pounds of chicken in my freezer.”

Nicollette shot back, “Well if I have live chickens in my yard and their total weight is fifty pounds, then I would say I have fifty pounds of chickens, not just fifty pounds of chicken.”

We went through hogs, dogs, kittens, gorillas, atoms – you name it.  I don’t know who won.  I suspect they are still fighting about it. 

We had another debate about word pairs.  Word pairs like effect and affect, which and that, mitosis and cellular division, etc…  They were really getting angry about this.  Taylor said that most of us only have a seventh grade level of grammar and how exactly are we supposed to improve on it when no one agrees as to what the rules are?  That did it.  We talked about being educated, joining the elite, paying attention to what we say, reading books about grammar.  It was basically a Taylor bashing session.

All I know is that I am supposed to go around saying These data are and Fifty pounds was to keep my usage correct.

The conspiracy of hoops….

Posted by on 20 Sep 2004 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

I have said it more than once, Grad school is a hideous experience.  You  have this rather long series of hoops to jump through and sometimes you have to build your own equipment just to reach them from scratch.  My current hoop is at the top of Mt. Everest soaked in gasoline and set on fire.  My husband pointed out to me that there is less oxygen at the top of Mt. Everest so that at least there was less fire.  Well maybe that is the whole point!!!  A grad student will not think of this very essential detail  beause he is so busy building the ladder up to the hoop.  When they finally get to the hoop it would be frozen solid and they would be stuck up there with no flame thrower.  So they climb back down the ladder get the flame thrower, climb back (probably having to repair a few thousand rungs on the way) and find that the flame thrower does not work,  Why?  Well because a very essential element of the fire triangle is missing!!!  So then they have to climb back down the ladder.  At the bottom they will proceed to run around everywhere asking other gradute students how they got through this hoop (OH! So Sorry that’s classified, if we tell you our next hoop will be twice as hard as it is now).  Ok.  So as it is with every hoop you go begging your major professor for guidance.  You have this hour long conversation in which NOTHING is accomplished, and finally you are pulling your hair out wanting to wring his neck and go, “You’re my advisor so advise me!!”  After ten such conversations over the period of months, you either a)give up and try to get by on your own OR b)have ten more conversations….

Now because I came down my ladder before actually reaching the hoop the first time (because you see my loving husband advised me about the hazards of this hoop) they decided in their infinite wisdom that I was not going to get off so easily.  When I got to the bottom all the pick axes in town had been replaced with the following: Jennie we have scheduled a meeting for today at Noon in the conference room.  Be there.

Great.  Just great!  Of course I get this message at 11:30am on the same day, so whatever I had planned is irrelevant.  I show up at the meeting and they tell me that my major professor can no longer be my major professor.  WHAT?!?  He is dean of graduate studies they tell me, and it’s a conflict of interest.  I tell them that I was grandfathered in before he became said dean and…

You can just imagine how the rest of the meeting went.  But wait, there’s more!!!

Not only did I lose my major professor, but another member of my committee moved to another school.  So I have NO comittee, NO major professor, do not pass GO, do not collect two hundred dollars… 

Back at hoop one.  But at least I got my pick axe.

Plants do not have math

Posted by on 12 Sep 2004 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

I do not post as often as my husband Joe does.  I really don’t have time and well it doesn’t appeal to me as much.  However sitting here doing Physics for the 12th straight hour today has got me a little loopy.  (I was a little loopy to begin with but that is neither here nor there)  Physics is math – plain and simple – no ifs, ands or buts.  I do not do math.  Plants do not have math.  (They actually do when you are talking about tugor pressure, but no one cares about that except physiologists)  I am an ecologist.  The plants I work with do not have math.  They certainly do not have any motion in any direction and they are vectorless.  I really do not care that velocity and speed are different.  For me they continue to be the same thing, how fast one is going.  This whole bs about direction is absurd.  You can’t be going 35m/h without going in some direction.  However scientists being what they are, which is off their gourds, love to put things in little bitty categories.  I admit that ecologists have their categories, but at least those categories make some semblance of sense.  Forest vs. Prairie vs. Wetland.  Simple.  No direction what so ever.  Latitude and longitude maybe but no direction that goes into the board or out of the board (that z direction thing).  Then there is the whole order of magnitude problems.  Ok. Look people when my husband thinks that a problem is bull shit I am in serious trouble.  He understands vectors.  He is in California right now with his fellow geeks doing geeky things I do not even pretend to understand.  His brother called today and asked to talk to him.  I told Jon that Joe was off in San Jose being a geek.  Jon didn’t ask for clarification he knew what I was talking about.  Jon also understands vectors.  I asked him about these order of magnitude problems and Jon said that they were difficult.  Difficult?  Oh yeah, difficult.  Thanks Jon, like I didn’t know that already.  Sigh.  Now that I have vented I better get back to motion in any direction.  Sigh…