Archive for October, 2008

Totally off subject

October 31, 2008


For more from this guy, check out the Mario Brothers theme and the Sesame Street theme. Just so you know, this guy is quite a flautist. Check out his Peter and the Wolf.

He is certainly putting his conservatory degree to good use here.


Goodbye, Nibbler

October 15, 2008
Nibbler 2007-2008. He was a good little laptop.

Nibbler 2007-2008. He was a good little laptop.

My backpack was stolen from my car yesterday in Boston. I threw it in the car before heading off for coffee with a friend. Apparently I forgot to lock the car as I walked off. While driving home later, I reached over to get a snack and realized it wasn’t there.


My laptop was in the backpack. That’s really not as bad as it seems (other than the cost of replacing it). The laptop (who was affectionately known as Nibbler) was not my main computer but rather the one I used when not working in my office. Though I took a few notes in the library yesterday, the result was that I didn’t really lose any major files as far as my dissertation and qualifying exams go. I feel really really bad, though, that some of the photographs my son has been taking were only stored on the laptop. I don’t back up the laptop and I had erased most of the pictures from the memory card to make room for a job I have to do Friday night. So those photos are lost.

What really hurts is that my spiral notebook that I take dissertation notes in when I don’t feel like typing was in that backpack. I usually transcribe written notes into a file on my computer every few weeks but hadn’t done it in a while. I’m not sure how much I lost in that respect. I was terribly depressed all night about it, thinking about how I was going to have to re-read books and articles and take notes again. During my run this morning, I realized that another 2 or 3 weeks added onto an interminably long project isn’t really going to matter. But I continue to feel just a little down about it because there may have been some terribly brilliant insight written on one of the pages!

For all you PhD’ers out there–back up your laptops, lock your cars and doors, and never let your spiral notebook out of your sight! And perhaps it’s not a good idea to name your computers because it hurts worse when they’re gone.

Birds Do It…

October 10, 2008

…but I don’t think bees or educated fleas do it. Sing duets, that is.

In fact, scientists study this phenomenon. With birds, dueting is believed to be either in response to agonistic acts such as territorial disputes or cooperative acts such as bonding and mating. Patricia Arrowood studied canary-winged parakeets to determine to what extent dueting is important in forming pairs. Though these parakeets exhibit cooperative dueting, Arrowood could not confirm that it is necessary to bonding; it appears duets are more critical to defense for those birds.

David Logue recently learned that black-bellied wrens perform duets in a variety of situations, such as territorial conflicts and nest building. He notes that males use duetting to locate their mates during territorial conflicts. Females respond to males with specific duet codes that do not change over time or with new mates.

Besides the agonistic response and cooperative aspects of dueting, other aspects of bird duets that have been studied include the study of geographical dialects (Wright and Dorin). But the use of duets in both war and peace, to borrow from a recent article in Science News suggests that the fundamental question of the role of duets remains the high priority.

An interesting tidbit I learned is from a spectrogram by Arrowood that shows the vocalizations of dueting pair of canary-winged parakeets. The two voices blend together and could easily be mistaken for one–an interesting survival technique. (The spectrograms can be seen on page 169 in Animal Vocal Communication: A New Approach).

While demonstrating a biological imperative for dueting is not important for my purposes, I like to consider what makes it a compelling art form from as many angles as possible.



Arrowood, Patricia Cates. “Pairing and dueting in Canary-Winged Parakeets, Brotogeris v. versicolurus P.L.S. Muller (AVES: PSITTACIDAE) (BONDING, VOCAL COMMUNICATION)”. Ph.D. diss., University of California, Davis, 1986

Logue, David M. “Duet structure and the adaptive significance of coordinated singing in the black-bellied wren”. Ph.D. diss., Colorado State University, 2004.

Milius, Susan. “Birds Duet to Fight and Seek.” Science News. Web edition, September 5, 2008.

Owings, Donald Henry and Eugene S. Morton. Animal Vocal Communication: A New Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Wright, Timothy F. and Melinda Dorin. “Pair Duets in the Yellow-Naped Amazon (Psittaciformes: Amazona auropalliata): Responses to Playbacks of Different Dialects.” Ethology 107, no. 2 (December 20, 2001): 111-124.

New Kind of PhD

October 9, 2008
A new doctoral program in socks

A new doctoral program in socks

So how do I get one?