Wednesday, July 29, 2009

On why this is my favorite travel pic

and this is not.

The difference in these two pics is the presence of my breasts. I think I look like a normal, healthy person in the first pic, but a grotesque caricature in the latter. Bug loving mama, a very dear female scientist who happens to be pregnant as I write this, wrote an insightful post on what it means to be a woman and a professional in this day and age. Her post has caused me to reflect on my own ideas about being a professional woman. I decided to post my response to her post. Yes, it can be read alone, but is better read in the context of the original post.

Daktari said...

I find this post very interesting. First, I tend to agree with you (i.e., professional equal masculine [attire]). And when I begin to examine why I agree with that, like you, what I find is very telling and more than a bit disturbing about ME.

We are quite the same, pregnant you and non-pregnant I. Where you have a pregnant belly, I have extraordinarily large breasts. And where you want to be taken seriously as a scientist who happens to be pregnant, I wish to be taken seriously as a scientist who happens to have large breasts. Unfortunately, we both know that a pregnant belly and big boobs trigger negative biases and stereotypes in both men and women on both a professional and a personal level. You are pregnant, therefore you aren't serious about your work. I have big boobs. Obviously, I've gotten where I am by capitalizing on my tits. Or worse, I must be a bubble-headed bimbo. Like you, my physical condition announces itself before I have an opportunity to demonstrate my competence, my seriousness, or my professionalism. So in virtually any interaction with a new acquaintance, I believe myself to be operating from a position of weakness (having to identify and diffuse each new person's biases and stereotypes). I do so predominantly by downplaying (to the best of my ability) my physical attributes (hiding them, if you will), seldom dressing in feminine attire, and by ignoring any reference to them (and trust me, you'd be surprised how many people are willing to say "Wow, those are some tits!"), and finally, by overwhelming people from the get-go with my intelligence, competence, and professionalism.

It's a lot to ask of every single interaction I have with every single person I meet. And it is one reason that people who only know me via the internet think that I am something of an intellectual snob. Because they haven't met me, they don't understand my need to diffuse a potentially embarrassing situation before it happens by overwhelming them with my competence.

It is sad but it is my life. Be thankful that pregnancy is only temporary. Unless and until I have money for a breast reduction, this is my life permanently.
Perhaps what is most sad is that I don't feel like a normal person. I haven't felt like a normal person since puberty. I wish more than anything that I could change that. Because that women in that top photo looks pretty and fun and interesting to me. And that woman in the second photo looks like boobs with legs.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

One for the "Yeah, Right" category

Seems like all we've done is stand by water. Here's a few of the god-forsaken places we've had to stand and sometimes catch moths.

Life is hard on the road and research is a bitch.

(Mono Lake)

(Jenny Lake)

(Grand Prismatic Spring)

(San Francisco Bay)

(Alpine lake on Tioga Pass)

(Lake Mary)

(One of the Mammoth Lakes -- name now forgotten until looked up)as Josh has now informed me is Horseshoe Lake.

Feeling sorry for me yet?

Friday, July 17, 2009

A taste of today

Today we went from June Lake, to Mono Lake (pronounced Moan-o, not like the teenage malady), to Tioga Pass to Yosemite to San Francisco. It was quite a day and exceedingly hard to capture in a concise blog post.

So thoroughly would I fail to do so, I will leave you with this little taste of our day.

Bridalveil Falls.

Simply spectacular.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Camping hazards

Here's a little tip from your friend D. Leave the damn marmots alone.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A fond farewell to a trustworthy friend

Hikers understand the value of great boots. They are the most important piece of equipment you have. My fondness for my hiking boots is well documented. I love my boots so much that I went out and bought a spare pair for when the first one's wore out.

I bought those first ones in 2003 before my first trip to Yellowstone. They will have to be retired after this trip. This is why.

And that little bobble cost me this.

My own fault for not thoroughly checking over my equipment before beginning such a hike.

It's not as bad as it looks.

A challenge to remember

Today, my nephew and I hiked 10 miles. Might not sound like much but it was no ordinary ten miles. It was ten miles out of the Golden Trout Wilderness. From the Ramshaw Meadow to the Trail Pass Hiker Trailhead. It was a reversal of our trip in a mere four days earlier.

Pfffft, I hear you say. 10 miles doesn't sound like much.

What I did today was the single most challenging hike of my life. It was an accomplishment of which I am very proud. We did it. We crossed Bitch Pass and Mulkey Meadow and Trail Pass and Horseshoe Meadow, and we did it all by ourselves.

For those who don't know the saga, we met the packers on Thursday morning and dropped off tent, sleeping bags and pads, and our food and relaxed for a day in Lone Pine, California. Early Friday morning, we arrived at the trailhead. Elevation 10,000 feet. That's about 9,342 feet higher than where I spend most of my time. It took nearly an hour to drive up the 6,000 feet from Lone Pine to the trailhead. Yes, an hour. Yes, we were in the shadow of Mt. Whitney. I should have suspected something was up. Anything that near to the highest peak in the lower forty-eight has to be challenging. Somewhere on the way up, my lungs shrunk. My stamina must have gotten left in the hotel room with most of the food we had to abandon (bear country, you know). Walking across the parking lot felt like an aerobic workout. Air that thin makes the muscles burn and ache a lot faster. We were not acclimated.

And yet, off we set. My two new companions quickly became one when I was informed that my primary contact, a graduate student from Northern Arizona University intended to run in. Yes, you heard that right. She intended to run into Ramshaw Meadow. She is in training for the New York Marathon. She is insane. She is also so skinny that it defies description. And this is how we came to set off with Sue, the assistant botanist for the Golden Trout Wilderness. Fantastic hiking companion. She never failed to be supportive when I thought my lungs would burst. More on her later. Our first ascent was 1000 feet over 1.5 miles. About half way up, I said the words I always dread.

I may be in over my head here, folks.

Sue wouldn't hear of it. She led us over boulder scrambles, switchbacks, sagebrush-thick meadow margins, sedge-and-wildflower meadows, creeks, sinks, rivers, and passes. Five and a half hours after we started, we entered camp. I have never been so happy to see my things waiting on me out there. I knew the minute we sat down that I was NOT going to be able to make my return trip on Sunday. We had pushed too hard. We had pushed well past my limits. Five and a half hours was too fast for an out-of-shape flatlander like me. No way my legs would be ready by Sunday. So before the evening was out, I was doing the math in my head on how long our food would hold out. We had enough.

I spent four glorious days in the backcountry, exploring meadows, bouldering, watching a black bear graze in our meadow, sighting mountain bluebirds, trying to take pictures of golden trout, chasing lizards, exploring old movie sets, studying one of the most wonderful Abronia I have ever seen, and enjoying the company of three of the most interesting people imaginable and a very playful yellow lab. Most of all, I let my legs heal. This morning, it was time to leave.

Sue and Calder and Remy saw us off. Meredith, unfortunately, had left earlier to do work much further up the meadow.

The south fork of the Kern River. Our campsite.

A self-portrait after summiting Bitch Pass. Calder named it Bitch Pass. I think it is technically called Mulkey Pass, but I am inclined to let Calder have her way.

After summiting Trail Pass. This after meeting a trail packer packing heat with her daughter on the trail and who described what lie ahead as "Oh God, you've got a slow-burn incline and a bunch of gnarly switchbacks up there". I was not detered. We made it. Without vomiting or having a heart attack--both conditions had crossed my mind as possibities at various points along the path, I might add.

On our way down from the summit. The way up took 1 hour and 25 minutes. The way down took about 20.

This is the mountain through which Trail Pass passes. We did that and another just like it. We found our way out of the wilderness. Armed with nothing more than a map. We did it with 30 pounds of water and supplies strapped to our backs. We did it in one day, by ourselves, and no one can ever take that away from us.

We treated ourselves to steak dinners tonight. I think we earned it. Oh, and as you might have guessed, I sprang for a new cord for the computer to download pics.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

1136 miles and counting

So we were a little late leaving town. Like nearly a full day late. Ok, I chalk this up to having to put my car in the shop after having gotten rear-ended over the weekend, and the fact that the ONLY thing I asked anyone at school to do to help me prepare for this trip did not get done and I had to spend 2 hours when I was ready to leave town to do it. And I just have to mention that this anyone who said they would take care of that project was badgering me with phone calls and requests for help with her issues while I was trying to get out the door. So instead of leaving at 3 pm (my original worst-case scenario), we left home at 7 pm. We pulled out of St. Louis at 9:50 pm. That was AFTER convincing the people at REI to actually fit Lee for hiking boots when we arrived at the store only 10 minutes before they closed. While he tried shoes, I picked up hiking socks, stuff sacks, aluminum cookware, and waterproof matches. I'm kicking myself for having forgotten the water purifying pills (a worst-case backup for the filter), and long underwear. And that was also AFTER eating at St. Louis Bread Company, which we also convinced to feed us after we arrived 10 minutes before their closing. All I can say is REI is probably the best place I have ever shopped when it comes to quality service.

We only made it as far as Springfield, MO the first night. (A mere 313 miles from home.) Really disappointing. But I had been up since 5:30 am that morning. It was all I could do. In any event, we made up some time today. I drove from 9:50 am. until 1 am. We only stopped for gas, an oil change (1 hr) and dinner (1 hour). Which is how I came to be in Albuquerque tonight. I had hoped to be in Flagstaff, AZ, but that's how it goes.

Lesson #1 from the road. Never count on someone else to do what they say they will do, especially when that someone has a history of dropping the ball.

Lesson #2 from the road. Never listen when someone at the rental car agency tells you to "not worry about oil changes".

Lesson #3. Sleep is a necessity, not a luxury.

Lesson #4. When you are running late, in a hurry, and virtually panicked about the time you have to drive to California, THAT's when you'll forget the cord to download pictures from your camera.

So sorry folks, there will be no pictures from the road. You will all have to wait.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

How the Supreme Court got it right at the same time they got it wrong

The Supreme Court upheld the main tenants but narrowed the scope of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a vote of 8 to 1. The lone dissent came from the Supreme's only African American member, Justice Clarence Thomas. Oh, the irony.

While sidestepping the constitutional issue of the meat of the Act, in the majority opinion, the Court hinted that the Act may soon find itself on the chopping block (and you can count on the Republican party to spearhead efforts to chip away at the Act for years to come). But the Act is still needed. Racial inequality is an American reality. A President Obama has not heralded the emergence of post-racial America, yet the Court in all its insulated, isolated wisdom exhibited a collective queasiness about continuing to support what they seem to see as race-based politics.

Are they right? Are we past the point where the majority group attempts to disenfranchise the minority?

Hardly. Consider this. And this. This. Or perhaps even this. Can't forget this. But perhaps most disturbing of all is this:

The Pew Center on the States' Make Voting Work project estimates that while 39.8 percent of the general U.S. population of voting age cast ballots in 2006 elections, only 20.4 percent of the military population of voting age did so. That disparity exists despite surveys that show a very high interest in elections and voting among members of the military.

"Interestingly, of those military personnel that said they did not vote in 2004, 30 percent did not because their ballots never arrived or arrived too late to their duty stations and 28 percent did not know how to get an absentee ballot, found the process too complicated, or were unable to register," according to a Pew report.
From the Pew Center on the States and

Voter disenfranchisement is rampant in America. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was intended to prevent the disenfranchisement of black Southern voters. And yes, it has changed the landscape of this country, both from a racial and a cultural standpoint. But it is not only still needed to protect voters from a return to the abuses of the past, but it is equally important that Congress broaded its scope to include other forms of legal, but morally questionable, partisan disenfranchisement.

Homeless veterans, overseas active military, the elderly, homeowners in foreclosure, newly registered voters, voters who have moved, voters who had their Social Security Number or Driver's License number entered incorrectly into state databases...all of us deserve to have our votes counted. We deserve better than to have partisan Secretaries of State purge us from the rolls of registered voters, from having partisan poll watchers challenge our votes, from having to submit provisional ballots, which may or may not be counted.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is not only still needed, it needs to cover more citizens at risk.

IMO, the primary voter fraud of the election of 2008 was the systematic disenfranchisement of legally registered and eligible voters--an act perpetrated by local and state government employees against their constituents.

Really really really bad legal advice

Found this browsing over on the DOJ website. A jury today found former Memphis police officer Arthur Sease IV guilty of civil rights, robbery, narcotics and firearms violations. Apparently, Mr. Sease and his co-conspirators used their position as police officers to rob drug dealers in Memphis and then to re-sell the drugs for their own profit.

Mr. Sease's five co-conspirators all decided to plead guilty. Their sentences are as follows:
"Andrew Hunt was sentenced in February 2009 to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty in September 2006 to a federal civil rights conspiracy, robbery affecting interstate commerce and drug distribution.

Former Memphis police officer Antoine Owens pleaded guilty in August 2007 and received a sentence of 63 months incarceration and three years of supervised release in March 2009.

Alexander Johnson, another former Memphis police officer, pleaded guilty in April 2007 and was sentenced to 30 months in prison and two years of supervised release in March 2009.

Laterrica Woods, a civilian who helped Sease and Hunt with one of their robberies, also pleaded guilty to a civil rights conspiracy in September 2007 and was sentenced to 36 months imprisonment and three years of supervised release in April 2009.

Harold McCall, also a former Memphis police officer, pleaded guilty to a civil rights conspiracy in a related case in May 2007 and received a sentence of three years probation including one year of home confinement in June 2009."

Mr. Sease decided to place his fate in the hands of a jury. Today, he received his sentence: life + 255 years.
"The sentence is extraordinary in that it is one of the longest ever imposed for civil rights violations which did not involve a victim’s death," said My Harrison, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Memphis Field Office. "We will vigorously investigate abuses of authority to defend the fundamental right to ethical behavior by government employees."
I'd fire the lawyer.

When Travel Plans Fall Apart

Today at 6:44 pm, I got a call from someone associated with my upcoming trip up Mt. Whitney. Those of you who know me know how I have looked forward to this part of my field work. I've spent months dreaming about the opportunity, and weeks planning the details, getting the permits, and learning as much as I can about the equipment I'd need. I have purchased:

a $250 custom backpack
a $300 down sleeping back and backpacking sleeping pad
a $35 backpacking stove
a $50 set of backpacking cookware
$ 48 worth of cooking fuel and a pair of Smartwool hiking socks I bought just today

I have spent countless hours planning meals, learning about bear cannisters and water purification, Sure, it was a bobble when my first field assistant backed out and I had to recruit my nephew at the last minute. But I was able to borrow a backpack and sleeping bag for him and as of last night, I was back on schedule. The only thing I didn't worry about was my companions. I had arranged to meet with another group of researchers working on the same population of plants. While I lack any significant backcountry wilderness experience (and have no multi-day backpacking experience), the group I was going with has been making this trek for the past 3 years. They were renting pack animals and had offered to allow the animals to shoulder the heaviest of my field equipment. It was great. I wouldn't have to worry about getting lost, and would have a wealth of experience to draw upon if I had questions or got in trouble.

That was, until today. At 6:44 pm, while strolling through Lowe's plant department, I got a phone call from the folks making the trip. They want to leave a day early. I can't get there a day early. I had planned 3.5 days to travel and that would allow me enough time to drive safely and sanely, pick up my backcountry/research permits, rent a bear canister, get my things in order and meet up with the group. I can't do that in 2.5 days. The drive is more than 1500 mi and I am the only driver. I can't leave before some equipment arrives on Monday, so I doubt I would even be on the road before 3 pm. I had been toying with the idea of leaving at 6 am on Tuesday morning and putting in two hard days driving to arrive, at the latest, by noon on Thursday.

I told the person who called that while I thought I could make it, I wasn't sure. Now after looking at a map, judging my driving endurance based on the last two trips I made earlier this summer, I realize it simply isn't possible for me to drive 1500 miles in 48 hours. I simply can't make it to the Forest Service Office in Lone Pine by 4 pm on Wednesday. I couldn't take off up the hill without my research permit or my backcountry camping permit. Even if I could make it by some miracle, what kind of shape would I be in to begin a hike after that kind of marathon driving?

No, it just can't be done responsibly. Nor can I, with no backcountry experience and no multi-day backpacking experience, traveling with a kid who has never camped out anywhere but his backyard, responsibly tackle a 10-mile, possibly ill-marked wilderness trek through bear country alone. The Forest Service doesn't require a bear canister as a money-making scheme.

If the group doesn't wait, I'm going to have to scratch this portion of my research, which would suck, and eat the entire cost of the purchases I made--roughly $700.

Man, when my travel plans fall apart, they sure do fall apart. Trust me. I am trying not to cuss right now.