Author Archives: esjael

Stew Departs

Hello all, and welcome back from the CWR hiatus!

It is with great sadness that I must now bow out as an author at CWR, especially after such an embarrassingly short run.  While there’s no shortage of topics to cover, it turns out that I simply cannot balance the blog with my graduate studies and teaching responsibilities this coming Fall.

As passionate as I am about science in general, and, in particular, how it interfaces with the culture we live in, I’m currently constrained to devoting most of my critical thinking to these adorable beasts:

totesadorbsturt

The Northern Map Turtle

Fun fact: there are roughly 300 known species of turtle in the world today, and nearly half of them are threatened and endangered.  That’s pretty terrible, especially since these hearty guys have been around since before the friggin’ dinosaurs.  Even more troubling is the fact that it’s basically 100% our fault.  The species I’m working with is threatened in much of its existing range in North America, so I’m both excited and apprehensive about our continued efforts on this project.  So rest assured, I’m leaving for the best reasons.

I’ve followed this blog from its inception, and will continue to do so.  I’m proud to have contributed to it, and look forward to continuing on with you, dear readers, as one of your number.  Please do continue to stop by, and comment frequently!

Cheers.

Advertisements

When Patriots Inflate

Surprise!  There’s not going to be a lot of football in this post.  But I’ll work it in where I can.

I grew up within a thirty minute drive of one of the most deployed military bases in the U.S., so it’s safe to say that I’ve been exposed to just about every brand of hyper-patriotism in existence.  Every house on every street sported an American flag, and Memorial Day was actually more than just “Giant BBQ Day,” because everyone knew/loved somebody who was literally putting their life on the line for their country.  Because of this, there’s almost a sense of urgency to the way people there go about loving their country.  Basically, your friends and family may die for the USA at any point, so you need to love your country to pieces, because otherwise questions about the necessity of their sacrifice will eat you alive from the inside.

And you know what?  I get it.  I really do.  I know people who’ve lost parents, siblings, and spouses in the military.  It’s heartbreaking.  However, emotions only ever get in the way of rationality, and when you take all of that away, I can only reasonably come to the conclusion that patriotism–or at least, the inflated emphasis on it that I encounter daily–is straight up dumb.  I really could go on and on about this, but for now, I’ll sum up my problems with patriotism in a few points.

1. It’s Practically Nationalism.

In most cases I’ve encountered, the two are inseparable.  There’s a reason why synonyms of nationalism include both “flag-waving” and “jingoism.”  Sure, you can argue that the two are distinct; patriotism, at its core, is devoted love of your country, and doesn’t necessarily have to lead to all of the negative “us vs. them” bulls**t we so often see.  I’m not about to go the route of the “slippery slope” argument, but seriously, that’s a fine line to tread.

Most American patriots I know will throw around phrases like “the greatest country on earth” or “the city on a hill.”  It’s sickening, but we put up with it because, in our case, there either aren’t any major negative consequences (yet) or they’re so far removed from us as to be a non-issue (unless you happen to live in a country where we currently have boots on the ground).  It could be worse.  It could be ethnic nationalism, or religious nationalism. The fact is, inflated patriotism generates a pretty prime climate for that sort of nonsense to proliferate.  This would be forgivable if it actually did us any good otherwise, but… Continue reading

Stew’s on Academic Leave

Hello all,

To the handful of you that actually visit the site on Thursdays, I offer my apologies.  I’m a bit swamped between preparing for my MS defense and getting my ducks in a row for the upcoming field season, so I won’t be contributing much to the blog over the next week or two.  But rest assured, Evan, Kat, and Gordon will continue generating fantastic stuff on the other days of the week.

I leave you with this turtle.

northernmapturtle

-Stew

Florida’s War on Context

Florida, one of the crazier states in the Union, has taken climate change denial to a whole new level.

Apparently, Florida’s Governor Rick Scott is responsible for an off-the-books ban on the terms “climate change” and “global warming” (among others) at the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

I mentioned “others” because, according to some, DEP employees have also been pressured to avoid using the term “sustainability.”

That’s the last I’ll say about that one, because, if it’s true, the stupidity of it could very well give me a brain aneurysm. Continue reading

Frankenstein’s (Healthy) Babies

In case you hadn’t heard, the UK just approved the creation of what people are calling “three-parent babies.”  Now, where I come from, this has inevitably spawned a sermon or two about “playing god,” as well as a few horror fans imagining a new era full of bizarre roles for Benedict Cumberbatch to play.

The Guardian does a fantastic job of laying what is actually going on here, so there’s little I can do from here beyond expanding a few facts and gracing you with my own opinions.

To start, here’s the gist of the situation: the procedure that has been approved would involve replacing the mitochondrial DNA of a fertilized egg with DNA from an anonymous, female donor.  This procedure would be used in cases where the biological mother has passed on defective mitochondrial DNA, which can lead to some pretty atrocious diseases in the child. Continue reading

Expanding the Golden Rule (Are We Taking Animals “Foie Gras-ted?”)

I don’t eat liver.  Doesn’t matter what animal it came from, it is literally the body’s filter, and I’m not putting that in my mouth.  Unsurprisingly, a large portion of humanity does not share my distaste for consuming fleshy contaminant processors.  Take foie gras, for example.  It’s a special kind of gross, prepared organ, which Wikipedia describes as “the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened.”  Thing is, “specially fattened” is a euphemism for “force fed with a metal tube.”

This was brought to my attention recently, as a student from my school was recently arrested for secretly recording video from inside a foie gras farm, and, allegedly, stealing some ducks.  She’s facing up to seven years in prison for this.

Now, I am a meat eater.  I love meat, hell, I evolved to eat meat, as did the rest of you (assuming all of our dear readers are human).  That being said, I don’t like meaty foods that require inhumane treatment of the animal that material’s coming from.  It’s why I don’t touch veal.  I think an animal should get to live its life like an animal, with its own kind, moving around, eating, sleeping, having sex… If the meal in question requires that an animal be pumped full of chemicals and locked in a box to restrict its movement to keep it tender, I will have none of that.

In general, the issue of “animal rights” is a tricky one, for a variety of reasons.  Mainly, because our use of animals is almost ubiquitous across every area of our lives.  We eat their meat, we ride on their backs, we drink their milk, we feed them to our other animal friends…  It’s hard to step back and reconsider something so inextricably incorporated into our lives.  And of course, there are other things that make the topic a sour one for many…

Go home, PETA.

Go home, PETA.

Continue reading

Je suis Miyazaki?

While the tragic terrorist attack on the offices of French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo may be a month behind us, that doesn’t mean that a lot of people aren’t still talking about it.  Most recently, one of those people is (quite surprisingly, given his reclusive reputation) famed animator and all around wonderful human being Hayao Miyazaki.

Now if you don’t already know who this guy is, you are a deprived human being.  Go watch Spirited Away, seriously.  The guy is responsible for some of the most beautiful, creative, and thought-provoking animated films of our age.  He also has some great stuff to say about the state of animation in his home country of Japan.

But anyway, Charlie Hebdo.  In case you’ve been living under a rock, a quick summary:  the aforementioned French satirical paper often featured crude, insulting cartoons mocking various religions, and recently contained a few choice ‘toons about the prophet Muhammad, which then sparked a brutal terrorist attack in which 12 of its staff were killed.  Since then, sales of the periodical have skyrocketed, and many have marched in support of Charlie Hebdo under the banner of “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”).  All in all, the victims have been seen as martyrs for “free speech.”

And what does Miyazaki have to say about all of this?  Well, basically, that the Charlie Hebdo comics were a “mistake.”

Clearly, this will not sit well with many.  But hey, let’s let the man explain.

“For me, I think it’s a mistake to make caricatures of what different cultures worship […] It’s a good idea to stop doing that.”

[via Kotaku‘s translation from Yahoo! News].”

So basically… He wants people to be respectful of the dearly held beliefs of others.

Continue reading