A Blog about Everything

Friday, September 26, 2008

What I learned from a PBS special on baboon stress

As I was aimlessly clicking through the TV channels two nights ago, I happened upon an intersting PBS show titled "Stress: Portrait of a Killer". A study has been done on primate stress responses, in particular baboons and British government workers. It seems that those of lower social rank have more stress hormones in their blood. People who feel they have little control of their work situations and baboons that were at the bottom of the pecking order experienced elevated blood pressure and accelerated cardiovascular disease. The result that interested me the most was that this type of chronic stress also resulted in increased abdominal fat depositon. Now this would explain my lack of results from doing abdominal exercises. It's not the pizza, ice cream, ect that I've consumed over the years. It's all from job stress.

The link to the web page for the show is:http://www.pbs.org/stress

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Dinosaur joins the 21st Century

So I finally broke down and bought an MP3 player. Not an iPod, mind you, but something that costs much less. A product that is called a "Sony Walkman" but bears little resemblance to the item of the same name that I owned back in the 1980's. For one thing, the controls are much tinier. Almost invisible for someone of my advanced age. On the plus side, the sound quality is much better. My ears are holding up better than my eyes.

I thought I would never need any of this new-fangled stuff. I've been around long enough that I've purchased some music multiple times on multiple formats-vinyl records, 8-tracks (sorry to admit that), cassette tapes , and CDs. I didn't want to start with anything new. Why the change? Simply put, it's now officially autumn and that means cooler weather and frequent work outs in the gym. The gym where the overhead music system plays the group Creed almost constantly. I heard Creed all last winter. If I have to hear it again this year, I'm going to go crazy. Or crazier.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Scenes from my not-so-new job

This post was inspired by Laurie http://www.ichthyologistbright.blogspot.com/

who wrote about "Delta in Distress" and "Scenes from my new job". This is also a continuation of yesterday's post about the extinction of freshwater fishes. My career is being an aquatic biologist. I spent x years in graduate school and incurred 2000x dollars of debt to launch this career. It's been 10 years since I quit being a "student biologist" and became a "professional biologist". I've been at my current job for 5.5 of those years. Some days are better than others, like any job. Some days there seems to be hope that maybe what I'm doing will improve the aquatic environment. But problems are widespread and numerous.

Tile drains dump field run-off directly into waterways. Rumor has it that some of the older farm homes dispose of all their waste water (including sewage) this way too.

Who knows what was in this 55 gallon drum that was dumped into the river. I try to ignore it as I go about my business of collecting macroinvertebrates (one way we can assess the health of an aquatic ecosystem).

Stream-side trees and shrubs are good for aquatic ecosystem health. Mowing right up to the edge? Not so good. This was not a golf course.

Riverside land ends up in the river. Erosion produces sediment that smothers aquatic life and eventually ends up in the Gulf of Mexico.

Despite all the problems, some relatively sensitive fish species are holding their own in many places. Here I am holding a rock bass that we electroshocked out of the Tippecanoe River, considered to be a priority for conservation by The Nature Conservancy. The fish was released alive immediately afterward.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

North American Freshwater Fishes Fading into Extinction

Today's reason to be depressed
Just when I was feeling better yesterday (after my dentist appointment and after realizing a black hole hadn't destroyed the earth yet), this was sent out to the Indiana Chapter of the American Fisheries Society email list:

North American Freshwater Fishes Fading into Extinction

GAINESVILLE, Florida, September 9, 2008 (ENS) - Fishes that once were abundant in North American streams, rivers and lakes are now disappearing, with nearly 40 percent of all species in jeopardy, according to the most detailed assessment of the conservation status of freshwater fishes in the last 20 years.
The report shows that 61 fishes are presumed extinct, and 280 species are classed as endangered. In addition 190 are considered threatened, and 230 fishes are listed as vulnerable to extinction.
The new report, published in the journal "Fisheries," was conducted by a team of scientists from the United States, Canada and Mexico, led by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey. The team examined the status of continental freshwater fishes and those that migrate between rivers and oceans.

Link to full story: http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/sep2008/2008-09-09-02.asp

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Today's reason to be depressed

Anyone paying attention at all to the news will never lack ample reasons to be depressed. Wars, homicide, natural disasters, environmental degradation,...the list goes on and on. But this morning's news yielded a unexpected reason. It seems that the earth is in danger of being destroyed by a black hole if an experiment in Switzerland does not go as planned. The Europan Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) will put on-line the Large Hadron Collider, the most powerful atom-smasher ever built. The plan is to collide and shatter protons, thus yielding information about anti-matter and conditions that existed an instant after the Big Bang. Critics say this will create a micro black hole that will that will eventually consume the planet. Opponents to the project have filed suit in the US District Court and the European Court of Human Rights. Because the project starts tomorrow, I'm not sure how successful they will be trusting the legal system to terminate it.

Do I still have to go the dentist tomorrow?

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Car Shopping

It seems that a bout of car shopping is in my future. This thrills me about as much as hearing my dentist mentioning a root canal. My vehicle is at the point where expensive repairs are going to be frequent and inevitable. I've had this vehicle for almost seven years. It's been said that one should never love something that doesn't love you back, but when you've been through so much together, it's hard not to get attached.

Typical winter morning in Traverse City Michigan. Days like this were fun with four-wheel drive. In an entire winter living there, I only got stuck once, when I drove off the road in a blinding snowstorm and into a low spot that was lined with ice.

Enough room to haul three days' worth of camping gear AND four years' worth of non-sorted macroinvertebrate samples back from Michigan when I returned for a short vacation and a visit to The Reservation for some work to be done on a contractual basis.

Years of hauling bikes, cross-country skis, a snowboard, and diving gear. Additonal cargo: garden supplies; papers, cans, and bottles to recycling: and stuff from Lowe's that my husband just had to buy THAT VERY DAY.

Making a decision that involves large amounts of money and dealing with car salesman is never easy or pleasant. Do I go for another four cylinder engine? This one was economical and adequate for the Midwest, but barely made it up Look Out Mountain in Tennessee. What about Escape hybrids? Are they worth the extra cost? Do they come in any color other than barf green?

I only hope I make as good a choice as I did last time. I knew I had a winner when my normally reasonable Unitarian friend looked at me, slightly horrified at the sight of a dreaded SUV and said "what would Jesus drive?'.