Friday, October 31, 2014

How to Research Paper Introduction

I've been reading a lot of ecological research papers for school this semester, and in addition to such papers becoming easier to understand, a few patterns are beginning to show themselves. Here's how to write an introduction for a research paper:

1. Find a topic in science

2. Based on that topic, write these two sentences with as few changes as possible: "Many studies have revealed this. Very few studies, however, have looked at this aspect of this."
     E.g. "Many studies have shown that people tend to sleep in beds. Very few studies, however, have looked at how bed type affects lifespan."

With an introduction like this and a lot of hard work, the data will essentially research themselves.

Rush Job

I had the invigorating experience today of remembering that a two-page essay is due tomorrow morning, and since I had a very limited amount of hours in which to complete said essay, I didn't have time for my usual mental meandering and taking a lengthy break after writing the first paragraph.

As they say, though, practice makes better, and I've been writing short essays quite regularly over the past few semesters. I found myself able to plow through the writing relatively quickly with the only side affect being that I can't think of anything creative to write about now. One might ask: why bother making a blog entry at all, then? Probably just to stay in practice.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Origins of Goodbye

'Goodbye' is apparently a contracted form of the phrase 'God be with you'. As this historical contraction happened, 'God' was replaced with 'good' in part because of the influence of other common phrases such as 'good morning' and 'good day'.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Atlanta Limerick

There once was a town named Atlanta
Where people ate subs and drank Fanta
The weather changed weekly
And MARTA ran bleakly
Past parks full of fauna and planta

Monday, October 27, 2014

Scientific Writing

I came upon this sentence in the methods section of a research paper assigned for ecology class:

"We then manually generated high water flow in the vicinity of the probe to check that it had not been inadvertently buried in sediment or covered."

Now, I can't be sure, but I imagine that what's meant is that a research splashed the water a bit with their hand to make sure that probe was still taking readings correctly. Once one breaks through the vocabulary used in research papers, nuggets like this make reading such papers much more interesting.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

TF2 Vocabulary

In my ongoing description of Team Fortress 2 culture, I'd like to explain some common TF2 vocabulary for those of us who have never been 360-MLG-noscoped. These are my understandings of words and phrases central to TF2 conversation:

crocket: an elision of 'critical rocket'; refers to a glowing rocket fired from a soldier's rocket launcher
     that will deal extra damage and pretty much kill any player it hits.
     In a sentence: *sigh* "just got hit by a crocket."
F2P: stands for 'free to play'; used to refer to players that have not spent any real money on TF2.
gibus [class]: a derogatory term used to describe players wearing the gibus hat; in TF2, skill is often
     judged by what hats a player wears, and the 'Ghostly Gibus' is one of the easiest hats to gain and is
     thus seen as an indication of a lack of skill.
     In a sentence: "Look at all those gibus snipers."
git gud: slang for 'get good'; a response to any complaint, implying that the complainer is unskilled.
     Player 1: "Stop spawn camping"
     Player 2: "git gud"
gg: stands for 'good game'; is usually said at the end of a game by good-willed players.
m8: slang for 'mate'; a standard term of address
noscope: to noscope is to shoot someone with a sniper rifle without using the sniper rifle's scope.
     Noscoping is a sign of skill.
op: stands for 'overpowered'; refers to weapons and tactics that are considered too powerful.                      Antonym is 'up'.
     In a sentence: "Sticky spam is so op"
P2P: stands for 'pay to play'; used to refer to players that have spent real money on TF2.
Rage [class]: TF2 is a class-based game, and when a player is getting defeated as one class, they may
     switch to another class in great anger. For example, a player constantly getting backstabbed by
     spies may 'go rage pyro' (the pyro class is good against spies).
     In a sentence: "Lol, that guy just went rage demo."
rekt: slang for 'wrecked'; to be rekt is to be fantastically killed or defeated by another
     In a sentence: "Get rekt, m8."
spam: firing an excessive amount of projectiles, e.g. sticky spam or pistol spam
spawn camping: the act of standing outside a team's base and killing players as soon as they come out      the door.
sticky: slang for the sticky bombs launched by the demoman's secondary weapon.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pineapple Beauty

For a philosophy assignment today, I had to find something I consider to be beautiful and describe why. Here's the assignment as I turned it in:

This pineapple is beautiful for a number of reasons-- it's symmetrical and the leafy top part is roughly the same height as the fruity bottom part. The orange-yellow of the fruit contrasts nicely with the green of the leaves and the spikiness of the leaves complements the spikes on the fruit's diamond-patterned skin. This pineapple is also beautiful for what it represents-- encased among the prickles is a delicious food, a subtle fruit that brings tropical paradise to mind.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Art of Tryhard

Multiplayer games, if they're big enough, develop social divisions and different names for different sorts of players. Team Fortress 2, my current multiplayer game of choice, is most notable for the struggle between unusual-wearing-P2Ps and gibus-scrub-F2Ps, but that's too complex an issue to cover now.

With that said, what is a Tryhard? A Tryhard is defined by their actions, always pursuing the objective and playing in the most efficient way possible. More casual players will joke around with the new conga dance or the variety of taunts in TF2, but a Tryhard is just there to ruin your fun.

In short, a Tryhard views TF2 as a sport instead of a game. This is legitimate because TF2 is an esport, but it creates an interesting (read: bitter) dynamic between Tryhards and others who are just there for the lols. I know that when I go Tryhard, I never have more than one lol.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Convenient Pockets

A small convenience store has opened one floor below the Emory cafeteria, and I assumed that it was going to be nothing but inconvenient.

"Surely it only takes real money as payment," I thought.
The store accepts the campus dining currency that I already have an excess of.

"Surely it's closed evenings and weekends."
The store is open seven days a week until 11 PM.

"Surely they don't stock Hot Pockets."
They stock Hot Pockets.

Long story short, whoever's in charge of campus dining has made some good decisions, in my opinion. I write this all directly after eating a Hot Pocket.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Morte Darthur

Morte Darthur is a moving tragedy about the downfall of King Arthur's Round Table. It's a powerful piece of literature because of the sincerity of its characters and the cruel doom that forces the three pillars of the Round Table - Arthur, Lancelot, and Gawain - to wage war against one another. Nobody escapes unscathed. Here is part of the passage that follows Arthur's death:

"Yet some men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead, but had by the will of our Lord Jesu into another place. And men say that he shall come again and he shall win the Holy Cross. Yet I will not say that it shall be so, but rather I will say, Here in this world he changed his life. And many men say that there is written upon his tomb this verse: Hic iacet Arthurus, rex quondam, rexque futurus."

This famous Latin epitaph means, "Here lies Arthur, who was once king and king will be again."

Science Facts: Armadillos

When nine-banded armadillos reproduce, one egg is split in the womb to produce four identical quadruplet armadillos. Armadillos are among the only animals that can come down with leprosy and they are often hit by cars because they jump up in the air as a defense mechanism.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Desk Art

Keeping a messy desk is a lot like flower arranging-- an art of ratios and balance working to make an aesthetically pleasing whole. The desk I work with is roughly a golden rectangle, the shape of  Ancient Greek temples.

My printer is to the left and back, rising with a pile of books to balance the focus of my laptop in the center right. The far right corner contains a small pile of opened amazon packages to even things out in the absence of a computer. Working from back to front, a general slope focuses the desk outwards, falling from the highest point, my desk lamp, to my lab goggles in front. To bring unity to the whole, receipts from the cafeteria cover everything, clustering at low points to produce the final light gradient.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Science Facts: Cordyceps

Cordyceps is a genus of parasitic fungi that often attacks insects in interesting ways. When an ant, for example, is infected with Cordyceps, the fungus will affect its brain and drive it to climb to a high place, such as a stalk of grass, and hold on. Eventually, the fungus will burst out of the ant's head and deposit its spores into the air.

Here's a link to a YouTube video of a Planet Earth segment on this Cordyceps

The Second Shepherds' Play

The Second Shepherd's Play is one of many mystery plays produced by various guilds in medieval England. Mystery plays tell Biblical stories in a way the common people can understand, and in the Second Shepherd's Play, a bumbling thief steals a sheep from the shepherds outside Bethlehem at the Nativity.

Mak, the thief, lulls the shepherds (Coll, Gib, and Daw) to sleep and, after stealing and hiding the sheep (a hanging offense), returns to the shepherds and pretends to have been asleep the whole time.

"COLL: Now God turn all to good,
       If it be his will.

[They wake up MAK who pretends to have been asleep]

GIB: Rise, Mak, for shame!
       Thou lies right lang.
MAK: Now Christ's holy name
       Be us amang!
       What is this? For Saint Jame,
       I may not well gang.
       I trow I be the same
       Ah, my neck has lain wrang.
[One of them twists his neck.]

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Using Big Words

Why do people use big words? On the 'good' end of the spectrum, words can be used for precision-- the sentence "I climbed a volcano" is easier to say and understand than "I climbed one of those mountains that has lava in it."

In my opinion, a more 'neutral' way of using complicated words is as jargon-- language that is understandable only to a certain set of people. This language can make outsiders feel isolated, but it may grant some sense of unity to the people who know it. For example, gamers have a sort of shared language and are brought together by in-jokes about critical hits and combos.

There is, of course, a use of 'big words' that I consider bad. Using big words to make oneself sound more important or knowledgeable is, in my opinion, useless at best and counterproductive at worst. For example, take a sentence from my assigned philosophy reading: "We simply query the reasonableness of this norm." Why use 'query' when 'question' would serve the same purpose and sound less pretentious? It's not more precise-- 'query' is almost a direct synonym with 'question.' It's not jargon either-- from what I've seen, the word 'question' is commonly used in academic papers. What went through the mind of the author as they wrote that sentence? I suppose we'll never know.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Internet Video Ads

There's short ads and long ads
And text ads and song ads
And ads that will leave if you pay
It's almost amazing when internet videos
Start without ads right away

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Return of Niche Jokes With Benjamin

Why was the baker unable to rotate?
He had just formed a pie bond.

What did the sheep say when he bought a computer game for full price and then got all his wool shaved off?
"I got fleeced and then I got all my wool shaved off."

Why was Mark worried when the ecologists began a population study?
They were doing a capture-mark-recapture experiment.

Travel By Greyhound

There's something about traveling by Greyhound bus-- in a way, the people feel more genuine. There seems to be a sort of shared understanding among passengers, the feeling that "I'm on the bus and you're on the bus and it's not that great but we'll get there eventually."

There's the generosity-- one man was sharing out his french fries, and when I was done with my Wendy's drink, I gave it to another guy so he could have a cup to spit in.

There are plain families; a father waving goodbye to a wife and baby daughter, and a tough-looking guy being berated by his mother who was dropping him off.

I think it comes down to this: people traveling on a Greyhound have nothing to prove. There's no point in trying to impress with fine clothes or advanced technology-- you're on a Greyhound. There's no point in acting street-smart or savvy-- you're not at home, and nobody else on the bus is either. 

It's with this spirit that Greyhound travelers stand in clumps outside gas station convenience stores, smoking cigarettes and eating bags of chips. You're coming from somewhere and going to somewhere else, but nothing is going to make that bus go faster-- you might as well share those fries.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Origins of Ramen

'Ramen' comes from the combination of Chinese 'la,' which means 'to pull,' and 'mian,' which means 'noodles.' This is apparently the same root as 'chow mein,' that is, 'fried noodles.'

Movie Music

Here are five of my favorite musical pieces from movies. YouTube links are included for each song.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
I knew this tune before ever seeing the movie, and there's certainly a reason it's so iconic. This song captures the adventurous spirit of gunslingers looking for treasure under the bleak sun.

The Last Samurai
This great theme is simple yet stirring, occasionally rising from the muddy pool of chords this movie wallows through. Advance the video to 2:00 to get to the good part. Great samurai movie.

Star Wars: the Phantom Menace
When I first saw Phantom Menace, I didn't know it was supposed to be a terrible movie and thus thoroughly enjoyed it. The song I've chosen is "Duel of the Fates," which plays during the climactic lightsaber fight, one of my favorite scenes in any sci-fi movie.

Chariots of Fire
There is, of course, the obvious running theme, which is great, but I've always enjoyed the contrast between electronic music and hymns in Chariots of Fire. It's either a comparison between Abrahams' and Liddel's worldviews, or I've been taking too many humanities classes. The hymn in the link is "Jerusalem," an unofficial national anthem of England, I'm told.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
There's no way The Lord of the Rings wouldn't make it on this list. I've chosen the Gondor theme, a brass-based piece that captures the fading nobility of a proud people.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Cost Efficiency

During my training at the herbarium I work at, I was shown the way to mix the special plant glue with water. "Why do we do that?" I asked, expecting some carefully calculated formula.
"This glue costs twenty dollars a bottle, and diluting makes it last longer" came the reply.

In the same way, old newspapers are used for pressing plants-- an elementary school procedure that apparently still works at university. When I ran out of mounting weights today, I secured plants with any objects close at hand-- paintbrushes, bottles of glue, a pair of pruning shears, and a screwdriver, among other things.

There certainly is expensive, specialized equipment that is used in the herbarium, but it's nice to see that simple, cost-effective solutions are used whenever possible.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Passive Voice

"Avoid the passive voice!" they say,
"Let not it touch your lips!"
Say not, "These chips were ate by who?"
But say, "Who ate these chips?"

Do not say, "Mistakes were made."
Announce, "'Twas Jim who did it!"
For active voice subject demands
And boy, look at Jim fidget

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Science Facts: Handedness

Two molecules can have the same atoms bound in the same order but have different arrangements in space. This aspect is often called handedness because human hands are mirror images but not superimposable.

Handedness is the difference between alpha glucose and beta glucose, the monosaccharides that make up starch and cellulose, respectively. Handedness is why people can't eat trees.

Screenshot of the Day: Prison Architect

Here comes the bus

Prison Architect is a simulation game in the same vein as the Tycoon and Sim series. Prison is a strange premise for such a game, but the game itself works well-- players keep a penitentiary up and running with power, water, food, laundry, lots of other things, and, of course, lots of security guards and locked doors.

While I would prefer a less grim setting, Prison Architect has all the aspects I like in simulations-- easy-to-use interfaces, intelligently working AI, and people carrying things from place to place in the well-oiled machine I create. Of the sim games I've played, Prison Architect is most similar to School Tycoon (haha, jokes). Really, though, I found myself having to build a cafeteria and hire enough janitors in both games before the prison and school buses arrived, respectively. The big difference is that I built holding cells in one and classrooms in the other.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Spice of Life

Over the past three hours, I've written about the population dynamics of the nine-banded armadillo, the activity of ketones in decarboxylation reactions, and the role of women in medieval literature. One of the things that keeps me interested in my schoolwork is the variety of topics that are covered each day. This is probably why I distrust summer classes-- I imagine that taking one or two classes intensively would be very difficult for me compared to the salad or stew of subjects I currently enjoy.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ode to Chemistry Problems

How does the glycoald'hyde form?
Let me count the ways
Is't an oxidation or is it
The carb' which stays?

From whence do come th'electrons sweet?
Which form the hydroxide?
Is't from the tart'ric acid
Or is't from the peroxide?

How wonderful the catalyst!
How lowers th'activation!
And better yet, yon cat remains
Throughout the whole equation

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Origins of Muscle

'Muscle' comes from the Latin word 'musculus,' which comes from Latin 'mus,' which means mouse. Apparently muscles look like mice under the skin.