Friday, March 26, 2010


Yup, I jumped right on the new template bandwagon. Props to the folks who developed these and still let us customize the snot out of our blogs. ^^ Cheers!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fun in class

I like science, as a whole. Just thought I'd throw that out there in case it hasn't been figured out yet ;)

Having said that, it's awfully hard to pay attention to folks talking shop in a branch other than what you happen to specialize in or hold a great interest for...

sigh. No wonder it's hard to get specialists from different fields to collaborate on something--it's incredibly easy to stick with your own little slice of something to the exclusion of all else. I guess hydrology isn't my field of choice.

One presentation down, four to go. Good thing I only have this class once a week.

Monday, March 15, 2010

happy spring!

Wow, what a great ritual! ^^

Due to scheduling limitations, we celebrated Ostara a week before equinox this year, and it turned out to be great. There were all kinds of new people, the potluck had many wonderful dishes to share, and the ritual itself went smoothly as could be wished for.

I really hope our first-timers become regulars and good friends--some lovely discussions were had, and I'd like to get to know everyone better as time goes on. We've also had a good input of fresh ideas, which should liven things up a bit! Outdoor rituals are what we're aiming for now that the snow is gone; a park somewhere that's easy for everyone to get to would be ideal. Plus it's always good to add new skills to our small group and learn from each other. I'm definitely trying out P.'s farl recipe when I get a chance! Comment if you'd like to try it too--they were soft and warm and wonderful with a bit of real butter and jam. Very comforting and homey.

Perhaps I'll try them out while I'm back in WI for the last bit of spring break. The weather's taken a chilly turn, though it was sunny and warm for our ritual. Even though we held it indoors, it was nice to have the windows down on the way up and back!

Like last year, I led the Ostara rite; it was simple enough to update the old ritual for easier reading and a bit of polish. I've also found a new prayer (browsing on Wikipedia of course) that fits my Germanic/Norse focus nicely.

Hail to Day!
Hail the sons of Day,
and Night and her daughter now.
Look on us here
with loving eyes
that waiting we victory win.

Hail to the Gods!
Ye Goddesses, hail,
and all the generous Earth.
Give to us wisdom
and goodly speech
and healing hands, life-long.

This prayer hails from the Poetic Edda; it's found in the Codex Regius. Google the first few lines to find the Wiki page, and there's also some good links on that page for more information.
I like it--it's a good all-purpose prayer, and it's nice to say when the sun is shining and I feel its strength flowing to all the light touches. Sowilo! ^^

speaking of which, I should get back to meditating regularly. Might as well start while I'm on vacation and have relatively little on my plate.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mushroom madness

Wow. You know you're a nerd when going to the local mycology club meeting creates such excitement that you want to join right off the bat! ^^

I happen to be this manner of nerd; aside from my addictions to fantasy, myth, and pen-and-paper RPGs, my love of discovery leads me to the study of science. As an undergraduate at college, I find that my major--Environmental Science--suits me particularly well. I get to study a wide range of topics, including soil science, the atmosphere, hydrology, arboriculture (tree care), organic farming, and many others, and take them all together to find out what I can do best to help out our Mother Earth.

This spring semester, I was lucky enough to secure a small grant for undergraduate research. The topic? Collecting fungal sporocarps (mushrooms) in an oak savanna from both burned and non-burned areas, extracting DNA from them, replicating a small portion of that DNA, digest it with an enzyme, and then sort the fragments with an agar gel. Here's a picture of some bands on a gel:

The leftmost column is the "ladder", which shows bands of DNA at various sizes. The gel will allow small fragments to travel the furthest, while larger ones are trapped in the gel matrix early on; the ladder runs from biggest at top to smallest at bottom. The columns to the right of the ladder are examples of bands from different DNA samples. One can compare the bands to those in the ladder and infer their size, which means you can identify different DNA sources by their characteristic bands in the gel. This is what I'm doing with those mushrooms.

To supplement the gel method, I'm also learning to identify the mushrooms morphologically (by physical features, such as size, color, shape, etc). Good thing we took so many pictures! I'll load a couple in a later post, as some of them are quite striking.

In any case, I've become very interested in mycology, or the study of mushrooms, to the point where I'm considering incorporating them into my studies at grad school (once I pick some to apply to and actually start applying...). In order to get my foot in the mycological door, I searched around online for professors who focus on mushrooms. With one thing and another Google search, I found that there are other silly folks like me around who actually get together in the name of mushrooms! There's even a North American Mycological Association--who knew.

So after class and my usual Monday night gym time, I went over to where the local group was meeting and--suprise!--the room is loaded with people. Our guest speaker was talking about ethnomycology, or how indigenous peoples incorporate mushrooms into their lives; uses religious, culinary, medical, and even economical were discussed. I even got a free issue of Fungi magazine :)

Now that you're convinced I've gone off the deep end (or have been experimenting with 'magic mushrooms') think about this: almost every plant around has a symbiotic relationship with fungi. These mycorrhizal fungi grow with plant roots, and provide the lion's share of water and nutrients in exchange for sugars made by the plant. So next time you see a mushroom sprouting by a tree, take a second to thank it for helping that tree survive!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Well, the time is soon coming for our Protogrove's Ostara rite, and it looks like I get to lead again. (I wrote the ritual for last year, so I just dusted that off, polished it up, and we're ready to go for this year). As the local Norse-centered member, it's kind of fun to be the local "expert"; not that I actually am, but it is my area of focus and I can at least tell you where to look for more information.

As it is, I've managed to head over to my local Pagan supply shop and pick up some new candles and incense. This has also led to some de-cluttering of my altar... like finally removing all that broken glass. ahem. Safety hazards aside, the melting snow and sunny days are heightening my hopes for a good Spring and growing luck and good things for this coming year. It feels like troubles are melting with the snow... now that would make for an interesting ritual.

Idea: create a snowman or sculpture representing something you wish to be rid of. Make sure to build it out in a sunny area where it will melt faster!
Attach or place within a list of things or symbolic items (like cigarettes, poker chips, etc.) that one wishes to be rid of in the coming months.
While the sculpture melts, record your active progress in a journal. See what you're doing to resolve the issue, and compare it with how fast the melting occurs. It might not be possible for you to stop doing whatever bad habit by the time the snow melts, but it's a good start!

Note to self: need some chocolate eggs for ritual. Can't forget those! :)