Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Surely God would not have created
such a being as man to exist only for a day!
No, no, man was made for immortality.

{Abraham Lincoln}

Saturday, February 20, 2010


I'm having the issues any college kid has. What on earth am I doing with my life and am I cut out for it? I know what I love. But I'm not crazy about research. Or grad school. So with the advice of a wise priest, I'm allowing my passions to be refined. Oh, my passions have a core to them, but they're always changing as I change.

I don't want to become this fantastic researcher who writes scholarly articles and has 1,345 years of schooling and training under my belt. I don't want that. And I'm learning that that's okay.

New refinement? I want to become an African safari guide.

This thought came to me in class after weeks and weeks of thinking thoughts of, OOF what am I going to do with myself?!? And immediately what came to me was peace. I want this. And I want the path that will take me there. Phew.

So I started researching. Well what do you need to do to get there? How do I get myself this ambition that I want?

It's not easy.

Intense knowledge (involving research and reading on your own time - they don't really teach you) of African animals, their behavior, and ecosystems.

The utmost first aid training.

Pass the safari guide certification exam.

Hopefully get hired in Africa, despite the fact that they most commonly hire natives. [Which makes sense - can I ethically take a job from a native?? Maybe I'll just let them decide.]

Among other things - I won't rattle off the whole list.

But after sighing a big ol' discouraged sigh, I had to stop and think to myself. Do I want it to be easy? What was I expecting? This is a crazy awesome ambition. It takes work. It takes sweat. It might take my blood. So I've been trying ever since to believe in myself. I want this to be more than a pipe dream.

It brought me back to the most inspiring talk I've ever heard. I've probably mentioned it before, but I'll refresh in case you haven't. It's titled "Story" by Donald Miller. He talks about making good stories of our lives. Living good stories through wanting the right things and having hard ambitions that you pursue with all that you are. When you come across something that stands in your way, kick it down, master it, and keep moving on toward your goal. Want much, and go get 'em.

If you're ambitious (which would definitely prove worth it), you can download it here.

One of my favorite parts is the benediction Don offers at the end from Robert McKee, a screenwriter and speaker on writing great stories. It is as follows.

Write everyday.

Line by line.
Page by page.
Hour by hour.

Do this despite fear, for above all else, beyond imagination and skill,
what the world asks of you is courage.
Courage to risk rejection, ridicule, and failure.

As you follow the quest of stories told with meaning and beauty,
Study thoughtfully,
But write boldly.

Then like the hero of the fable, your dance will dazzle the world.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Environmental Injustice

It seems that justice issues seem to follow you everywhere you go.

I'm in a biological conservation class. And it's pretty depressing. Oh, the dire straights that is our world today and that is the future we see ahead of us. My professor, Dr. Treves, tells us to hold onto the success stories of conservation instead of letting ourselves fall depressed to the things we're studying.

Let me tell ya, it's difficult.

In our Tuesday lecture, it got harder.

Actually, I almost started crying right there in White 4281 lecture hall. I had to choke back a scream and thank the Lord for the dim lights hiding my red face.

I'm embarrassed for us. It seem our injustice knows no bounds.

It's even environmental.

Ok. I'll explain. Sorry to make you wait.

I'm sure you've heard of the greenhouse effect. I'll let you read up on it (or not, your choice) - but the jist of it is that greenhouse gases (CO₂, methane, etc) keep in heat. Solar radiation comes to the earth and is converted to infrared radiation. Greenhouse gases let through solar radiation, but not infrared. So ↑ greenhouse gases ↑ infrared radiation remaining in our atmosphere ↑ heat. You get me?

This leads to climate change. Intense climate change like we're experiencing = not good. This doesn't just mean things are getting warmer, necessarily. Things are just ... changing. Some places are warmer, some are colder, some are dryer, some are wetter ... it's complex.

When it comes to injustice, it spans to the environmental, too.

A professor at in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies here at UW-Madison, Jonathan Patz, did a study on who's emitting the most greenhouse gases and who's suffering the consequences.

Get this. The places that are emitting the most greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (let's be honest - it's the US) aren't reaping the consequences. Actually, it's an inverse relationship. People in the nations using the fewest carbon compounds are experiencing the most climate-change-related deaths.

These images ruined my life.

This is a map showing who emits how much CO₂ greenhouse gas. The redder the color, the more CO₂ we give off. This isn't something you'd put on your fridge.

And this one is estimated climate-change-related deaths in the same year. Again, the redder the color, the more deaths. Yup. The opposite.

Unfortunately, I must admit that I don't really know what a climate-change-related death looks like. I don't know what that means. This is where my post falls short. But I am sooooo interested in this topic and it freaking breaks my heart. I'm gonna have to pay a visit to good ol' Dr. Patz to pick his brain. So I'll get back to you on this incredibly incomplete post.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Awkward Questions About Jesus

I found a hilarious video of kids asking a priest questions about Jesus.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

James "Rhio" O'Connor

I recently came across the James O'Connor Scholarship. All applicants are to post their essay somewhere online, so I'm choosing to post it here! Enjoy - it's definitely a hefty, but interesting topic.

The story of James “Rhio” O’Connor is an inspiring one, to say in the least. When diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a cancer that infects the protective lining of many of the body’s internal organs, he did not degrade physically and emotionally as expected. Instead, James practiced his battle cry and put it to use by changing his diet, implementing mind-body medicine, and committing himself to the research of his own disease. He prolonged his death by understanding his enemy and devoting himself to fighting it with every breath. The strength we saw in James was remarkable, and it beckons us to ask ourselves what we would do if faced with the same life or death challenges. It’s hard to determine my own actions after hearing a dire prognosis, and I can only offer what I hope I would do. The following is an outline of the steps I would hope to have the strength to take.

First, I would take a trip. This is what Jame’s doctor suggested he do first, but I’d take a different approach than what was intended by the doctor. In his case, it was for spending time with his wife before entering hospice care. For me, the goal would be to clear my head and start fresh on the battle I would be facing. At home, I know I would be overwhelmed not only with the responses to my diagnosis of my family and friends, but also the temptation to keep going with life’s responsibilities. Taking a trip would take me out of that context to focus whole-heartedly on what kind of battle I would want to face and to be reenergized and empowered to face cancer head-on.

In these times, and after finishing this perspective-clearing essay even, relationships would be the most important to me. I would spend ridiculous amounts of time with my friends and family, not to prepare for death but to enrich my life. I know that alone I would fall prey to discouragement and depression. The support system I have in the people I love would be essential to my strength. Simply spending time with them would build my morale and prove to strengthen our relationships, which is a worthy ambition. I don’t think anyone on their death bed had wished they would’ve spent more time at work or going to school. When it comes down to it, people care about family. I hope a brush with death like this (but not a submission to it) would set my heart on the people I love.

This is based on what I’m learning lately - that no matter how bad or hard life can get, if you have good people in your life whom you care for deeply and who deeply care for you, life is rich. I feel that if my life weren’t turning out as I had hoped, but I had deep relationships with family and friends, I would still be content. Essentially, people are what matter. So upon a chronic diagnosis, I would fill my life more and more with people.

I think what I would do treatment-wise is research doctors. I’m a zoology major, so I know a thing or two about how the body works, but I know I would have little interest in committing most of myself to research. I give all due respect to James and his pursuits, and I wish I had research ambitions like he did. Knowing my own personality, I am aware of my own potential to obsess over something. If I were to begin research beyond a healthy level, I would simply go overboard. I would instead find a gusty, risk-taking, innovative doctor. I would want to stay alive as long as possible, just as James did, and I feel that requires a doctor who’s willing to take the risks that others aren’t.

I’m a Grey’s Anatomy fan, and this last point reminds me of a case Dr. Derek Shepherd had in one of the recent episodes. He had a patient who came in with a tumor surrounding his spinal cord, an equation that automatically equals inoperable. But this patient had been researching Dr. Shepherd for quite some time and decided that Dr. Shepherd’s heart and his talent in surgery would give the best chances for success in operating. This patient asked Dr. Shepherd to operate on an inoperable tumor. After much thought, Dr. Shepherd agreed to be as brave as his patient. It turned out well in the end - the patient lived spinal tumor-free. I understand that this is a hollywood-influenced dramatization of a very unlikely result. But I would not want to put figures and percentages on the risks I’m taking and instead decide what kind of life I would still want to lead - a life with as little cancer in my body as possible, a life as normal as possible, a life of mobility and ability.

This essay’s a difficult one to write. We pity those who have cancer, who have to face death all too frequently. But at the same time, we remove ourselves from their picture. We’re happy that the same thing isn’t happening to us and we refuse to begin thinking about the what-ifs. When forced with the task of contemplating what you would do, it becomes more real, more of a possibility. God forbid, if I am ever faced with a situation like James O’Connor, my hope is that I would hold true to the brave ideals of rejecting your prognosis and deciding that you want something better. My hope is that I would find perspective and that the people in my life would rightfully become my primary passion and my empowerment. My hope is that I would fight harder and harder every successive day, and that I would be brave enough to take the risks I feel necessary.

word count: 983

Friday, February 12, 2010


So my posts have been pretty surface-level lately. I have plenty of deep things to write about, but as for now, I'm in the biology library (just discovered it!) studying for my Animal Behavior of Primates exam on Tuesday. It goes to show how much of a nerd I am because I'm having the time of my life studying for this exam. Monkeys are so cool! Will you help me study by receiving some awesome primate facts?

Prosimians are considered to be primates but are the precursor to monkeys - their ancestor. They live nocturnally in mainland Africa (as to not compete with day dwelling monkeys and apes who are bigger than them!) but have free reign on Madagascar. Here, the aye aye (shown below) is the "black cat" - if you cross one, bad luck!

The slender loris is a slooooow moving prosimian. This is how they go undetected by prey - they move so slow that no one even knows it's there. If predator or prey catch on, it freezes and become completely immobile and silent. They even have an special network of blood vessels in their wrists and hands that prevents their limbs from falling asleep (I hate the prickleys!).

Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs hibernate for up to eight months by keeping fat in their tails.

The indri got its name because the word "indri" means "there it is" in the language of Madagascar. The first European explorers took what their native guide said when first sighting the prosimian as its name.

The Tarsier is thought to be the link between prosimians and anthropoids (the rest of the primates) because it has traits of both. They have HUGE eyeballs which are larger and weigh more than its brain. Their eyeballs have little mobility, so they turn their heads like owls to see things. They also contribute nicely to this video. Never fails for a laugh. Har har.

The Capuchin is the smartest South American monkey. Most African monkeys are considered to be more intelligent than those of South America, but the Capuchin holds its own in this arena. Because of this, it's used in many movies and is considered the "organ grinder" monkey. If you see a monkey like this in a film set in Africa, you'll now know it's misplaced!

I think the Cotton Top Tamarin looks like James Earl Jones.

Some old world monkeys (of Africa and Asia) have ischial callosities. They're basically sex skins on their butts that follow the menstrual cycle. Well that's a nice color cue for when it's mating time ... These skins also swell, which is ... unappealing.

Rafiki is a mandrill : )

Blood typing and our "Rh factor" were discovered through the rhesus macaque. "Rh" actually stands for rhesus. Research that led to the polio vaccine was also done with rhesus macaques.

The vervet is thought to be the source of HIV, or at least how it was passed on to humans. Among them is a disease called SIV [Simian (meaning monkey) Immunodeficiency Virus] that was passed from them to chimps and then to us. But the difference is, SIV isn't fatal to these monkeys, unlike our case.

Orangutan means "old man of the forest" in Malay. Thus, how they got their name.

Gorillai means "tribe of hairy women." And this is how the gorilla got its name - European explorers thought a group of gorillas was just a bunch of really hairy women. Gosh, people are smart. LoL!

Gorillas have a sagittal crest on the crown of their skull. This is the result of their crazy strong jaw muscles - the muscles push the bone up into a crest. This creates more places for the muscle to hold, so it can gain even more power.

Primates are found in South America, Africa and Madagascar, as well as Asia. But the Amazon contains more monkey diversity than Africa and Asia combined. So if these monkey facts peaked your interest, head to the Amazon and see for yourself!

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Results Are In!

I heard back from some people, and here's some more soul! Enjoy - I sure am!

: )

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Baby, you got soul.

I love hearing new beautiful things. The latest beauty is Fay Wolf. It's silly, really, because I heard her song, "Yours," on Grey's Anatomy. I stopped listening to the dialogue because this song is so captivating to me. I love artists with soooooul, and she's definitely got it.

Overwhelmed yet? Well, I'm not! Shoot some more at me if you know of more soul-filled singers. Must. Have. More!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

I'm having a really good day today.
Thank you, Indie Coffee. : )

Friday, February 5, 2010


I love LoL cats. I really do. If you don't know what they are, you will by the end of this post. And hey, you'll probably love them as much as I do. People take pictures of cats and caption them to fit the gesture or facial expression the cats making. This makes the picture 100 times more funny. LoL cats make you LoL. Pretty simple.

The poster child for LoL cats is the "Can I has cheezburger?" cat.

Here are some of my other favorites. LoL away. : )

No matter how your day was going, isn't it so much better now?

LoLoLoLoL ...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I've been inspired to be more raw. I think when we're raw, when we're real about how we are, we realize that we can relate to people more than we thought.

My friend, Beth, just started her own blog. I know her, I would say, pretty well. She's just a really interesting person; and she's told me many of her stories. Her blog is so raw. You immediately know how interesting she is and how abnormal her life is. But you can still relate to her worries.

So ... here I go. Raw.

I've been on the verge of falling apart lately. In class. With friends. It's because I'm terrified for life. I already feel like I'm not measuring up to this crazy ambitious life that's been set before me. But the thing is, I may not be. I know that God uses ordinary people. I'm not that smart, really I'm not, but I'm convinced that I'm called. I think drive and passion can get you further than intelligence (though it is also important). And we all have to remember that God is the one who is able and He is the one who's empowered.

Everyone I talk to about my future advocates research. I'm just ... not into it. I'm a zoologist who doesn't like zoos or research. Ok? I'm looking into research opportunities for this summer and to be honest, I don't really care about the response of fat cells to this and/or that, or the invasive species of Lake Superior. But should I? Even if I can't care, should I grin and bear it for what I think will get me proper credentials? Cuz I don't know what else there is.

Who do wildlife conservation organizations hire? Researchers. Or attorneys. Baha.

I just want to be someone who cares. I don't want to go to grad school because I should. I want to go to grad school because I want to. But as of now, I have little desire to. That's the thing ...

When I walk by a lab, or a classroom full of people, I think competition. It starts to wear on you when you feel like you're competing for your dreams. Especially when it feels like you're the one who's losing. All those people in there are doing better than I am ... crap.

In bible study this week, my friend Emily said something that I needed to hear. We were talking about just being you, and how much you miss out on when you're not.

Imagine that all different kinds of animals are together. Lions, giraffes, dogs, alligators, panda bears, birds ... and a peacock. The peacock is so unique. But if the peacock sees other animals and realizes that it's not like any other creature, it may start to wish it were like the others. How tragic to have a peacock rolling around in sand in order to be more like a lion, or pulling out its long feathers to be more like other, smaller birds.

Basically, be who you are, and I'll try to be who I am, too.