Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Do you ever have a day when you just love your job and feel excited about it? I'm having one of those today, although I'm sure that by tomorrow I'll be back to my usual humdrum neutral feelings. I just came back from a very interesting seminar and it has me all agog with good, warm-fuzzy feelings. In a nutshell, the researcher was discussing an experiment studying the effects of elevated carbon dioxide and/or ozone on trees and their associated fungi. As an aside, he mentioned some other neat things like changes in insect populations on the trees due to the environmental effects, and changes in fungi associated with neighboring species of trees. I love ecological stuff and really should have pursued a career in that field. I enjoy the work I do now, but it involves agricultural crops which are less interesting to me. My grad research was on forest trees which I loved, but couldn't find any jobs in that area when I graduated. Sometimes I think my true calling is in ecology or ethnobotany. Who knows, maybe one day I'll change career paths.

Last night I watched a cool program on the National Geographic Channel about animal behavior. Back in the 60s, behaviorists believed that humans were the only animals capable of creativity, and that the ability to be creative was one of the major behaviors separating us from animals. A female researcher who was studying dolphins disproved that belief (which in itself was fucking awesome - I'm sure she heard a lot of patronizing bullshit in her day). Each day she'd reward a dolphin for a new behavior. For 12 days, the dolphin would exhibit a different behavior each day - all of which the researcher had seen before. On the 13th, 14th & 15th days, the dolphin repeated these behaviors, but got no rewards and became visibly agitated and almost despondant. Over and over again she offered the behaviors which had gained rewards in the past. On the 16th day, an exciting thing happened: the dolphin presented several new behaviors that had never previously been witnessed and was rewarded for each one. It was groundbreaking research. I can't even imagine how exciting it would be to be involved in something like that.


The other night hubby flipped to The Swan. If you haven't heard of it, it's a show that involves plastic surgery and is leading up to a beauty pageant. Each week, two "ugly ducklings" are selected, undergo plastic surgery, fitness training, and counselling, and after 6 weeks, are presented as "swans". One "swan" is selected to advance on to the pageant, and the other is excused. In this week's episode, one contestant had saggy breasts and excess skin on her belly from pregnancies, as well as a "witch nose". The show frequently referred to these flaws and they loved to mention the nose. The other contestant was 15-20 years older, had also had children, and was "showing her age". The older contestant declined some of the plastic surgery offered to her, much to the chagrin of the doctor and host of the show. In the end, she lost to the former witch nose woman.

Hubby and I were disgusted by the show, but it was a train wreck we couldn't tear away from. We both figured the woman who went with less surgery would lose since they made such a big deal of it. I personally gave kudos for her to not being talked into a bunch more potentially dangerous surgery. We also were surprised at the amount of fitness training the two women endured - the first woman definitely had a tummy tuck (and the other may have as well) and were working out with personal trainers shortly after the surgeries. Aren't there health risks involved? How rapidly does a body heal from such surgery and does all that working out slow healing, or even re-open wounds?

I also was thouroughly disgusted with how the breasts and belly skin were focused on. That body nourished life and was reduced to something spent and ugly. What the fuck is up with that? Talk about an illustration of how women are judged every day and how we are (de)valued by our appearance.

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