April 2012

Monthly Archive

Poem a Day April 30, 2012

Posted by on 30 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: education, poetry, Poetry Month, science, Uncategorized



This is my last installment of poems about science terminology, and this word choice might seem peculiar. We don’t often think about the “dispositions” as they are called in modern education circles. However, to be a scientist requires many skills, perhaps most importantly a particular work ethic and an open-ness to discovery. The scientists I know personally are curious about almost everything in their lives, and explore many seemingly disparate things. I decided to end this series of poems with this point: Science isn’t magic. It’s truly a labor of love, and it’s generally very hard work. But to those who “do” science, it is worth it.

Me? I really enjoy science, not enough to spend my whole life “doing” lab work, but I understand. It’s the way I feel about teaching.

I hope that, whatever you pursue as employment, that you are able to follow your passions. I hope that, no matter what obstacles you face, you will be able to overcome them. I hope that, in your life you will experience the thrill of doing something very difficult successfully.

Today in the Garden

Posted by on 29 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: garden, Gardens and Life, good things, Uncategorized

I spent about an hour puttering about, weeding some of the planters, deep weeding the end of the bed near the front door, planting tomatoes in pots for the windowsill (will transplant to the main garden later).

I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked, but I did as much as my legs would let me today. I only have one actual paid day scheduled for the coming week, so need to stay ambulatory in case I get a call tomorrow! So far, it has been a lovely, quiet day. Just what we all needed.

Before and after for the garden bed.



A picture of the planter that will have alpine plants, with the edelweiss I bought last weekend finally in place.


The tomato pots, planted and on the window sill.


Poem a Day April 29, 2012 (bonus poem!)

Posted by on 29 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: friends, good things, NaPoWriMo, poetry, Poetry Month, Uncategorized

birthday (for Krista)

the moment
of recognition
the spark
of connection
the recognition
in the moment
of connection
to the spark

we all began somewhere — the day we met our parents, our friends, our community
today is the anniversary of some event for every person in the world
that shared connection, the experience of beginnings
today is the anniversary of the birth of my oldest and longest-term friend
what do you celebrate today?

Poem a Day April 29, 2012

Posted by on 29 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: NaPoWriMo, poetry, Poetry Month, science, Uncategorized

axion (from Sue’s list of interesting science babblets)

  says the scientist
is it this
 and not that
could be something
call it
for now
  and we’ll sort it out later

sitting in silence
waiting for discovery

I love getting words from scientists! I decided to not explore the “workings” of the particle, on the assumption that my understanding of the math wouldn’t be good enough. I love, however, the illustration of how a hypothesis works: an idea that can be tested, maybe not with current technology, but at some point. Axion is a fun concept. If I remember my high school physics correctly, quarks and neutrinos were once purely hypothetical, and yet we have since captured their tracks on film. It’s pretty cool!

Sue’s definition:

axion – a hypothetical particle with very small mass and zero spin (so not a neutrino, which has spin 1/2 and is a fermion; the axion would be a boson). Has not been observed; could contribute to dark matter if it exists.

Poem a Day April 28, 2012

Posted by on 28 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: NaPoWriMo, poetry, Poetry Month, science, Uncategorized

caecilian (inspired by a different BBC article)

don’t believe your eyes
the world around
has changed
we remain as we have been
secure in our place
a masquerade
and thriving
or nearly so

Here is a page dedicated to Caecilians, a pdf of a powerpoint-style slideshow from Texas A&M, and a link to the search I ran for images under the genus name Gymnophiona.

Poem a Day April 27, 2012 (bonus poem!)

Posted by on 27 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: NaPoWriMo, poetry, Poetry Month, science, Uncategorized

allele (suggested by Tabitha)

genes encoding
simple traits
complex traits
interesting phenotypes
thrilling combinations
stir and mix


I like using “official” sources for the terms that I am only vaguely familiar with (if I am trying to grasp the full function of the word of the day). Here are three sources I believe to be reliable that describe allele:

Poem a Day April 27, 2012

Posted by on 27 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: Gardens and Life, NaPoWriMo, poetry, Poetry Month, science, Uncategorized


life growing rampant
essence of survival

Weeds are nature’s way of letting humans know who’s boss. [Helpful hint: not humans!]

If soil is capable of sustaining life, seeds (or rhizomes) take hold and grow. They don’t ask permission, they don’t try to hide, and they don’t assess situations for the perfect moment. They are exuberant, they are determined, they succeed.

In nature, in science, and in life sometimes we need to look not for the orderly expected. Rather, we can learn a great deal by examining the unexpected and disorderly. What made that place right for that individual? What qualities do those individuals, or does that group, have that promote success?

Weeds is a science term of simple and familiar but epic proportion. The idea that sometimes there is life where you didn’t expect it (and often didn’t want it) is profound. Who decides what lives or dies? True, we can yank weeds out — but how many times a growing season do we do this, only to find that the weed has been replaced?

Over time, if you watch a patch of weeds and don’t molest it, an amazing transformation occurs as the smaller colonizer and restoring plants are replaced by those that feed the wildlife or provide shade and habitat. The beauty of less-showy flowers and the symmetry, even elegance, of the foliage are not apparent unless you slow down and sit with the plant for a while.

Weeds: Nature’s Way.

Arbor Day!

Posted by on 27 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: climate, environment, garden, Gardens and Life, good things, Green Living, Making a Difference, Uncategorized

I will get outside and take some pictures of the trees later, but for now, here is a link to the Arbor Day Foundation, which supports planting trees (year ’round) and working to make our personal environment better.

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Poem A Day April 26, 2012

Posted by on 26 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: health, NaPoWriMo, poetry, Poetry Month, science, Uncategorized


standing-straight in the sun
seeking the warmth
finding the light
you made your own strength

sitting-low in the office
huddled over the desk
flourescents flickering
your weakness company profits

We are surprisingly fragile creatures, we humans. As any engineer knows, the more complex the design the more likely something will fail — something important. For humans, changing the availability of a single hormone or, in this case, prohormone, can wreak havoc among the many interrelated systems. Vitamin D is not a true vitamin because the body can make it when the skin is exposed to direct sunlight. It helps control many systems in the body, most well known perhaps is the ability to help the body absorb and use calcium as in making bones. It also appears to regulate how the liver and kidneys function, how well the heart beats, some neurological functions and immune system responses (inflammatory diseases in particular).

Cholecalciferol is made then transformed in the body in three steps: first skin converts UVB into a preliminary form, then the liver creates an intermediate form and finally the kidneys excrete the usable hormone. Without the final form, the body cannot use the cholecalciferol to regulate and support the many functions, and people get ill (and even die). It used to be that rickets was a sign that the body needed more Vitamin D (as well as C and Calcium), but with supplementation of cereals and milk children generally get enough to appear physically healthy. However, a host of other ailments can appear in both children and adults, partially or fully hidden until a major health crisis occurs.

Vitamin D can be made by most people with a few minutes’ exposure to sunlight. It can be stored in fatty tissues once made and gradually used by the body during times that the sun is not available. At one time, when most people worked out of doors throughout the year they probably got enough just from their normal activities. It can be obtained in the diet, through careful food choices as well as with supplements (pills). Again, in times past when people in colder climates relied on particularly fatty fish and animal foods they likely were getting most of what they required. Most people probably think they are getting enough Vitamin D in their diet, but additional factors can interfere with the body’s ability to make and use this essential hormone. A simple blood test for Vitamin D deficiency can help identify if a person needs more Vitamin D in their diet — or sunlight (within reason, skin cancer is still a real issue!).

Here are a few of the websites that talk about the purpose of this hormone and its structures.

From Colorado State, a page on the Endocrine System

Medline’s entry on Vitamin D, sponsored by National Institutes of Health

The nonprofit organization, The Vitamin D Council has a wealth of knowledge and summaries of peer-reviewed research available. The page About Vitamin D is a good place to start.

And here is Medscape’s entry on Rickets. This was eye-opening to me.

A dog picture

Posted by on 26 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: education, fun, Gardens and Life, Uncategorized


This is the puppy I sketched during one of the art classes on Monday. The legs are too long, and I didn’t finish the sketch, but it’s not too bad for my first dog in 25 years…

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