Thursday, October 30, 2008

339. Ancient Gekko Mosaic Artwork: Because Vic's Been Hanging Around Herpetologists and Evolutionary Vertebrate Morphologists All Quarter Long!

About a year ago, I was messing around with Photoshop in concern of a single cartoon image of a "gekko" I drew. How Biologically Incorrect it is! I am not even sure how gekkos look like. I drew the image from memory of what a lizard-like creature might look like. But nevertheless, in the process of experimentation, I learned some new Photoshop techniques--particularly in layering and color changes. It's funny to think this Gekko Mosaic was in my computer for so long, yet I had no emotional incentive to place it on the internet. Now that my time has largely revolved around an Evolutionary Vertebrate Morphology course, such that all members of the lab (s) study herpetology (reptiles and amphibians) and vertebrate paleontology (from fish to mammals, I suppose), suddenly there is incentive to place this dormant set of artwork on the internet. My quarter has revolved around the intellectual indulgence of the Lovers of Gekkos, alive and dead, who have also end up being the most conceptual and inspirational thinkers I have ever met!

I suppose this also symbolizes my ReInauguration of being Immersed with my Fellow Biologists--to which I originated as a CCS Biology major back in the early 2000s. Biology, ecology, and evolution in other UC schools have been left to the molecules and the machines. The concept of "field science" has largely become "moot." People now study ecology and evolution soley through molecules--which seems to be the central theme of UCLA Biology. Even perhaps UCR Biology. I remember my friend, Yasmin, mourning, "What ever happened to the concept of a 'whole organism'?" And I added, "A 'whole organism' relative to its environment?" People think they are studying at "these scales" through molecules?! Ummm....

But UCSB field biological sciences has remained embedded in the notion that you actually go out in the field, get dirty, collect specimens, have crazy experiences that make you cus, come back, analyze data, tell crazy stories that made you cus in the first place, and then life is good. That is a satisfying lifestyle of a biologist at UCSB--which appears to be deteriorating elsewhere.

The other day I was chatting with Chris, a fellow graduate student, in attempt to becoming re-oriented at UCSB. It's funny to think I knew quite a few professors, but I hardly knew any graduate students. Especially in the Ecology and Evolution Department. And in terms of "knowing" professors, I was in a very different mental state as an undergraduate. I took their words as the Bible of Biology (and I have my "As" to demonstrate my religiousness to knowing that they knew)... And now?!!... You can see my eyes squinting with skepticism in every single lecture I attend... "Oh... ANOTHER MODEL. This theory is based on ANOTHER model. Great. Model. Model. Model. Why did you ask this question? And not this question? How do you know these methods are valid? And consistent? So, where is some REAL data?"

So, the situation was, I had actually been "frightened" and "shy" around certain professors as an undergrad (it took me a few years to re-label my old advisors Dr. Kuris and Dr. Tiffney as "Armand" and "Bruce") and I really had to find a way to crack this shell in concern of a current professor I was taking a course from. So I spoke to Chris and he eased my anxieties as I asked questions about Professor Personalities.

Amidst this discussion, I had the opportunity to meet one of Armand's (Kuris) graduate students. Chris had apparently purchased some wax worms and crickets for his reptiles/amphibians and the two graduate students quickly immersed themselves in a Worm Consumption challenge.

I was simultaneously stunned and elated at the same time! The experience of my peers impulsively munching what is ordinarily considered Lizard Chow and Frog Zap was Unexpectingly Predictable. I had been removed from My People--UCSB biogeeks, geobums, and the like--for so long, like five years, that I was in shocking ecstasy to re-witness the behavioral practices of My Kind.

I think Chris and the other graduate student mentioned the wax worms didn't taste like much of anything. Chris also mentiond that such "worm-eating" endeavors wouldn't happen at Bren. I feel that Bren is a superb academic home on campus in terms of the interdisciplinary properties of my research, but sub-culturally, the Corporate Formality is psychologically disconnecting--neurologically severaging (as I am wearing a casual t-shirt and shorts, lounging in the fifth-floor East Asian library, ploughing away at my computer).

After that moment--that turning point, that Informal Inauguration to the UCSB ecology / evolution graduate community, I truly knew I was back Home. My true Academic Home. I was back where I belonged. It's just one more piece of evidence to demonstrate that "If I Am Weird, then I Found A Pack of Weirdness to Blend in With." Weirdness (in the essence of thinking-and-doing-outside-the-box) needs to band together to remain safe. Otherwise, it's a lonely, lonely world out there. Five years of being "alone" (institutionally, at least) had not been the most cheery set of experiences to endure.

So, now it is most respectually the time to place the Gekko Mosaic on the Biologically Incorrect Blog, because now it has multiple layers of meaning. When before... it was just another mindless photoshop exercise... without any Biological Umph to its existence.

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