Thursday, November 29, 2007


It's the end of the semester and paleoprof's a grumpy bear. I'm thinking Beer might help. Certainly couldn't hurt.

How to piss me off Pt 2

1) Miss my test (do we see a pattern?)
2) Tell me you'll be in my office in a couple of days for a makeup
3) Miss the makeup
4) Come to me in class and tell me all of this then stare at me as if I'm supposed to ...... do.... something.

I swear it was all I could do to not break the meter stick over her head.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Weekly Fossil

Found a better name, that Friday thing was just too much pressure.
So here we have the gastropod Turitella. Turitella is a very handy gastropod. First under the right circumstances they align themsleves, telling you the direction the current they were living in was moving. (these don't seem to be aligned but there might be something subtle that would need to be pulled out using some advanced techniques.) Second they're frequently eaten by crabs which leaves a characteristic pattern of both successful and unsuccessful attacks that can be easily recognized. It's not often you know exactly what killed your critter but with these sometimes you can tell. Also note the internal mold in the lower left where the shell has filled with sediment and that sediment has turned to rock. These are often all that's left since the shell is very prone to dissolution.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Speaking of Thanksgiving songs

What are the holidays without embarrassing family stories. When my sister was in first grade she attended the same school at which my mom taught. Each class took turns doing the "morning program" where the class would crowd into the office and do a little "broadcast" over the PA system. Apparently my sister's class had the morning program sometime around Thanksgiving. My mom is in her classroom happily listening to her daughter's class doing the morning program when she hears the announcement that Elizabeth is going to sing a Thanksgiving song. At this point mom gets a little curious (actually I think horrified is a better word) because she knows darn well that my sister doesn't KNOW any Thanksgiving songs. Undeterred by this minor detail my sister grabs the mic and starts improvising a Thanksgiving song. Apparently, once she got on a roll she just went with it. Mom doesn't remember how it all ended but it had to be good. To this day my sister 1) still remembers the Thanksgiving song and 2) has taught it to her children.
Writing this has helped me understand that there is a larger dynamic at work here. My mom, despite being a teacher, goes out of her way to avoid limelight. My sister seeks it out. The results are the stuff of family legend.

Just in case

you didn't get the headline from the last post here it is!!

and happy Thanksgiving!!!

Update: Apparently this is the Bruce Springsteen version. I'm at mom's and on a dialup connection so finding and embedding the original is proving problematic. Still you'll get the idea.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Love to eat tuRRRRRRkeeeeyyyyy

In honor of the season from the Jurassic we have Archaeopteryx, one of the earliest birds we know of. It is, however, a very "good" bird which means there are undoubtedly more "primitive" (hate that terminology) birds out there we haven't found yet. It gets a little tricky because at a point it gets a bit difficult to tell a bird from a dinosaur. Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago calls the dinosaurs the "non-avian" dinosaurs, implying that there are avian dinosaurs out there. Interesting.

Enjoy your turkey!

Monday, November 19, 2007

How to piss me off

1) Miss my test
2) E-mail me some vague "I have a family emergency" excuse
3) E-mail it from an account that, when I respond, just bounces the mail back to me
4) Act like it's my fault for not getting back to you.

the cold icy hand of death. . .

Friday Fossil

Hey, it's my blog it can be any day I want. Seriously, I've got to start dong the Friday fossil on Friday. Problem is I'm not usually in my office on Friday. I could have the Monday fossil but that's not really the same is it. So without further ado:
The trilobite Olenellus, index fossil for the lower Cambrian. If you find one of these bad boys you know you're in the Lower Cambrian (about 550 million years ago)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

...and the winner is

we have a TIE!!!!!
What?!? you didn't really think I was going to choose did you??

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Totally worthwhile consumer site for the day

Stainless steel water bottles
They'll last forever. And yes I know metals have to be mined and are still resource (in particular petroleum) intensive but it's (probably) better than a plastic bottle that you throw away. That and it's just cool man.


Cutest child in the world (pt. 2)

So here we have my nephew Ethan. He just turned 5 he's all about knights and pirates and vikings. Next, astronauts I figure I should start working on something he could actually be when he grows up. Tomorrow: the results (ya'll see this coming right?)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cutest child in the world (pt 1)

Today we have my niece Grace. At the ripe old age of two she is already expert at wrapping men around her finger. This includes her dad, both grandpa's and of course uncle Paleoprof. She is WAY smarter than me and fortunately looks more like her mom than her uncle. (I, on the other hand, look exactly like one of my uncles)

Stay tuned tomorrow we'll have part two of the cutest child in the world contest. (how EVER will we survive the wait)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Oh my

Got this from Profgrrrrl.

William Shakespeare

The tempter or the Paleoprof, who sins most?

Which work of Shakespeare was the original quote from?

Get your own quotes:


Ok I'm a little sick and have a conference coming up. It's not a great conference it's ok I guess but it's not a set the world on fire sort of thing. Do I:
a) work through it suck and up and go
b) beg out now
c) wait and see how I feel tomorrow

AND should I go ahead and get coverage for my classes and take a couple sick days if I don't go?

decisions decisions

Uncommon Valor

Happy Birthday to all my brother and sister Marines out there. To those guarding the streets of Heaven fear not we'll be along soon enough to regroup and take that Mother***er

Semper fi

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Friday Fossil (Thursday edition)

Amyelon the root of the root portion of the tree Cordaites. Yes, in Paleobotany we have different Latin binomial names for different parts of the same plant. Welcome to my messed up little world.

Plate Tectonics

So why have I been obsessing about Plate Tectonics? I'm a paleontologist in particular I'm an invertebrate paleontologist/paleoecologist. This means that I straddle the fences between Geology and Biology and Ecology. That's a lot of fences but it means that I get to be something of a Natural Historian rather than just a Geologist or whatever. But all my degrees all came from Geology departments and I am at heart a Geologist. Plate Tectonics is the unifying theory of Geology it's what makes everything else make sense. Sort of like Evolution is the unifying theory for Biology and Paleontology, nothing makes sense without it. So I view it as vitally important that I teach PT and teach it well. The problem is that it's complex. It's not hard but it's BIG, and so students have problems with it.
As I think about this I realize that while I view it as a unifying theory I don't teach it as such. Maybe I need to back up and think about how to show students how PT takes a bunch of isolated observations and makes sense of them. This would be really good reinforcement for the concepts we talk about when we discuss the method as well.


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Hokeyday maybe meeza stay

Apparently today is talk like Jar Jar Binks day.
I taught a bit more before I cut them loose on the lab today. It seemed to help. They still didn't get it but it was better. We'll see if their quiz grades are any better. I'm considering breaking Plate tectonics down into two labs but I think that's a cop out, they should be able to get it in one.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

.. can I go home now?

Ok I worked long and hard on the lab got it done and they just did not get it. They didn't get it because they didn't actually bother to read it. I got lots of questions that were clearly covered in the paragraph above the question, but they didn't bother to read it.
there's gonna be some changes made...
(New sheriff.... go to the mattresses.... I'm not gonna hit you, like he** I'm not ..... choose your favorite catchphrase)

Monday, November 5, 2007

The lab that will not happen....

So I have been trying for three weeks now to write a lab on Plate Tectonics. PT is a very important concept around here but for some reason all the labs I've seen on it are just terrible. The problem is that there is not really that much you can do to understand it, you just sort or learn it and move on. But since I'm re writing all the labs for a class I'm teaching this semester PT is included. I've got some pretty good ideas about some activities for the students but I swear every time I sit down to do this, something comes up. Be it here or at home. I got here early this morning with the intention of working on it ... no dice, this afternoon a string of students with questions about a quiz they have tomorrow. (the drop date is past, the panic is setting in). So I'm going to go home and have one last stab at this. We'll see if it works.

Daylight Savings Time

Doing the Daylight Savings Time is Over Happy Dance
(actually I got up the at the same time I usually do I just got here an hour early)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Friday Fossil (Saturday Edition)

The planktonic foraminifera Hantkenina alabamensis.

Photo by Jere Lips

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I am a bad bad boy

Ok I feel really bad for him his family and anyone who has to deal with this mess. It's a terrible terrible loss. But the irony is just a little too much for me.