23 March 2007

The 1908 Debate

Oz "Ozzy" Loon (née Osprey) was kind enough to give me her opinions on the apparent laziness of the current cohort of undergrads at U of A, who can’t seem to get through a day without napping. Her comments can be seen in their entirety here. I agree with her on a number of points, namely the entire second paragraph. Though, I would like to add that tree planters consistently do more than 10 hours manual labour in a day. Also, and I could be mistaken, but I think certain branches of the military get more done before 6am than most people do all day.

However, I think her first point is neither here nor there. Chances are that in 1908, people who actually worked on farms and did 10 hours of manual labour a day didn’t get through high school, let alone attend University. People who worked on farms were needed to work on the farm, and didn’t generally attend schools at a higher level. I realize that Edmonton was probably very rural at that time, and I’m sure that there were exceptions to this. I think in 1908 at least it would be rare for children from working farms to attend University. In general, a post-secondary education didn’t become a common place thing until the mid-to-late 1900s; it certainly wasn’t common when my mom reached University age. I imagine that the students in 1908 were probably children of merchants or academics, from families with money where intellectual pursuits weren’t seen as a waste of time. And while they didn’t have TV, they may have had electricity. Calgary got electricity in 1889, and I certainly hope it didn’t take 19 years to make it 300km further north.

I didn't look very hard, but here's a picture from Edmonton, 1908.

20 March 2007


I was in the U of A clinic this morning for my weekly hypochondriacal visit and there was a new show on the TV. Like everywhere now a days (Tim Horton’s, dentists, airport lounges), the clinic has TVs mounted from the ceiling for our viewing pleasure. Instead of showing their menu in slow motion a la Tim’s, or CTV NewsNet a la Terminal 3, it shows different slide shows of health-related facts and advice. I’ve become quite familiar with them and have my favourites. I find the one on relationship violence to be kind of weak and repetitive. However, I always look forward to the witty treatise on relaxation, “Stress Busting Rx.” Today they had a new show entitled “Nap Map.” In which they showed photographs of various benches and couches around campus and their locations (e.g., Pedway to Fine Arts) along with asterisks that I can only assume were a sleepability rating of some kind. One of the areas was a hallway in V Wing. The caption said something like, “no benches, but the hallway is plenty wide,” and I’m sure that statement had unnecessary exclamation marks. One problem with that (besides the obvious sanitation issue) is that V Wing no longer exists and I don’t think we should be encouraging students to sleep on the field of mud that stands in its stead. These images were interspersed with helpful hints, things like: only nap in well-lit and busy areas, hug your backpack while you sleep, and 15-20 minute naps are best. One of the hints was to carry an alarm with you so that you don’t sleep through classes or tests. The then hint continued with an “or” statement: or tape a note to yourself with the time you want to be woken. Seriously? If you see a note on a sleeping student are you going to read it and come back later to wake him up? Are you even going to read it? Chances are if there was some idiot sleeping on the floor of the V Wing hallway (say, 8 months ago, before it was rubble) with a note on his chest saying “Wake me up at 2:15pm,” people would kick him as they went by and he’d probably miss his class due to a concussion.

As absurd as this is, it bothers me that Health Services is encouraging students to take naps on campus during the school day. It’s great that we live in a society where students can doze off at a moment’s notice in public places with little fear of molestation or thievery. However, is this not a classic example of treating the symptom and not the illness? If people are so exhausted that they can’t get through the day without collapsing on a dirty vinyl couch in some random hallway for 20 minutes, than there are other things we need to worry about. Shouldn’t we be educating them on healthy sleep habits? (This is moot because they actually have that show at the clinic, and it teaches us that we should buy the best bed we can afford, and that beds are for sex and sleep and nothing else. It’s my second favourite show at the clinic).

There’s something else about all this that bothers me, and I can’t quite place my arthritic (or so I think) finger on it. Maybe it’s this image it gives me of the laziest fucking generation every to languidly crawl across the earth, or the fact that we’re happily encouraging this epidemic of torpor. I wasn’t alive in 1908, but I doubt the first cohort of U of A undergrads slept on the floor of hallways between classes. Or maybe they did and I’m being overly harsh because I dislike undergrads. When it comes to academia, I’m a Puritan; they should get off the floors and benches and sleep in class like the rest of us.

19 March 2007

The remedy for such a situation

I’m drawing a blank as to what I should work on next. I know there are many, many things I could work on, but I can’t think of any of them. The only remedy for such a situation is to do nothing until the answer comes to me.

I had another invertebrate-themed dream a few nights ago. In this one, President Bartlett (the fictional President from The West Wing) was helping me out in the lab. And in my dream it wasn’t the actor, it was the President, and I called him “Sir.” I gave him an easy sample to pick, because when the Leader of the Free World volunteers to help you in the lab you don’t give him some assy 6-hour sample, you know?

I’ve read a number of books lately and haven’t felt compelled to write reviews of them like I used to. They were all very good books, and I enjoyed them immensely, which makes my way of reviewing them particularly difficult. High on the list (and I mean that everyone should read these) are: Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner and The Girls by Lori Lanses.

Freakonomics makes you look at everything from a different prospective, and it’s ridiculously interesting for a book about math. One cool experience I had while reading the book: there was one part where he used a multiple regression and had to explain it for the broad audience of the book and I skipped the explanation because I already know what that is. The cumulative 20 months of stats training I’ve had in my post-secondary career has finally paid off!

The Girls was about conjoined twins. They were joined at the head. It was an amazing work of fiction. One thing I thought about a lot while reading the book was how those girls were never alone. The most solitude they ever had was when the other was asleep. The author had the potential to make it unnecessarily sentimental, and there was a while there I was worried about how it was going to end. I hate when good books have bad endings. However, I wasn’t disappointed and it had an unexpected (in a good way) ending.

Before I go, I want to send a shout out to Monica Estevez for tomorrow is her birthday. Happy Birthday Monica! I’m posting an awesome picture of you below, you look very bad ass.

15 March 2007

Best figure to appear in a journal article. Ever.

Sheldon and Kerr. 1972. The population density of monsters in Loch Ness. Limnology and Oceanography. 17(5): 796-798.

I mean, the Y-axis label is "Individual Monster Weight," how bitchin' is that?!