Friday, September 21, 2007

The defense is over! Wow, what an experience. There were points in which I didn't have a good answer for the opponent's questions, but, overall, it was a good discussion. I'm glad to have it behind me. Now comes the party. Juhu!

p.s. there will be no post tomorrow. Surprise.
It is about 3 hrs before my defense and man am I nervous. Ines says that my eyes look bad...large, dark rings, like a raccoon. But what can you expect? This is a stressful experience. I suppose if it were easy to get a doctorate, everyone would do it. I try to talk myself down "c'mon how hard can a two or three hour discussion be? Besides you spent three years thinking about these problems." Unfortunately, reasoning with myself seldom helps at this point. I'm gonna be nervous no matter how confident I am or how confident I can talk myself into being. The only real solution to such a problem is go through with the event itself. And so I will in about 3 hours.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

There is no place like Nebraska. Though this was a recruiting motto for the University of Nebraska, it could apply equally well to this wacky story. A state senator in Nebraska is sueing God. After reading the article, it is still not very clear to me as to why he is sueing God...something about language use in some other case. Actually, the point does not need to be clear. All I needed to know was that it was Ernie Chambers. I'm from Nebraska, I already know he's crazy. This guy only wears t-shirts, has a show on public TV in which he rants about societal injustice, and made enough enemies in the senate to have a law passed to implement term limits (because they wanted to stop him from continually being re-elected). When I lived in Nebraska, I never had anything against the guy. In fact, I thought it was probably a good thing to have an angry black man to stand up against all those honkies in the Nebraska state legislature. Maybe he would keep some balance. However, after being through more than one of these ridiculous episodes (he plays the race card a lot...that gets tiresome), he has lost all credibility to me. Is he really changing anything or helping anyone by sueing God (who I imagine won't appear in court)? No. At least the incident is not only sad and pointless, it's also a bit humorous. We Americans love to blame our problems on other people and sueing is the way to do it. And when you can't find a mortal being to blame, why not pin your bad luck on the big kahuna?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

There is a certain amount of narcissism involved in maintaining a blog (i.e. please read about me and my opinions!). Thus, I will not feel too guilty or self-involved posting this link. It is the university’s press release announcing my thesis defense. The page is all in Finnish with the exception of my thesis abstract. I must say, when I see announcements about my impending thesis defense, I start to get both excited and nervous for the actual event itself. The reality of it all is slowly seeping in.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

From the cartoon, you may be able to guess what I did today. That’s right, I started to clean my desk in preparation for moving out next week. In the region above and around my desk, a considerable amount of entropy has accumulated over the last few years. ..scattered papers, folders with meaningless labels, equipment borrowed from other people 2 years ago, specimens unsystematically piled together, etc. The most interesting part of this activity is seeing how my work haphazardly proceeded the last couple years. By haphazard, I mean that my work was never clearly directional; I didn’t start with a clear plan about which questions I wanted to answer and what my ultimate goal was. To some degree I regret this, because it may have been more productive to have one well-construed project to pursue. It would have given me some boundaries. Instead, I had the freedom to pursue any zany idea that popped into my head (which I often did), regardless of whether or not it was good. The zeal of youth, which is fading, was party to blame for this. As I went through some of this stuff on my desk, I saw the manifestations of this zealousness, i.e. various ideas scribbled on scraps of papers. I could see and realize how much time I spent on ideas that simply didn’t result in anything tangible (besides my indecipherable paper scribblings). But that is how science goes. There is not usually a straight, clear path to any goal, and the failed, underdeveloped, and outlandish ideas are probably always gonna outweigh the genuinely good ideas.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A museum dedicated entirely to parasites? Yep, one exists in Japan. Check it out. I would go there just so I could buy stuff in their shop. Particularly exciting is the keychain with a seal nematode inside (Anisakis). Cool.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The intellectual showdown we've all been waiting humans vs baby chimps. Who performs better in simple tasks? Some researchers recently set about to find out. Turns out the humans outperformed the chimps (hurray for our species!). What I find amusing though is the thought that they were probably kids in this study who couldn't figure out these various tests. How would that make their parents feel? Would they tell their son or daughter later in life that, when you were 2 years old, you couldn't outsmart a monkey? I'm glad I wasn't subjected to such a tough comparison early in life.