Sunday, May 6, 2018


Jenette Goldstein played the infamous role as the badass lady space marine named "Vasquez" in the 1986 Aliens movie. 
   Well guys, dreams DO come true! Earlier last year, I caught an interview clip on YouTube with one of my childhood heroines, Jenette Goldstein. I listened intently to what she was saying since she was the physical incarnation of female ass-kickery in a movie where only Sigourney Weaver could outshine her. Goldstein's character, Vasquez, may be best remembered in Aliens as the buff lady marine doing pull-ups shortly after waking up from hypersleep. (How many women do you know who can crank out pull-ups like that?) Her character was fearless and macho, and she was just exactly the person you wanted on your team when fighting vicious, double-jawed creatures from another planet. 
   During the interview, Jenette mentioned that she had opened a bra store in Los Angeles "for the busty lady." I was more than excited to hear this. Not only could I potentially meet Vasquez herself, but I could probably find some great new bras! As luck would have it, I was flying to L.A. later that year on my way to a meeting in Hawaii. I had a two-hour layover at LAX, and I decided to press my luck at the chance of actually meeting Jenette. As soon as I could get off my plane, I literally ran outside to grab a taxi. A nice Russian man took me to the closest Jenette Bra store. I knew it was probably stupid to risk missing my flight to Hawaii, but I NEVER go to L.A., and my return flight from Hawaii was at night when the bra store would be closed. So it was now or never! The taxi driver agreed to wait for me outside the bra store since I could only stay about five minutes. Sadly, Jenette was not there when I arrived. I had printed out the photo above for her to sign, and I had also brought a pre-addressed and stamped manilla envelope to leave there in case I missed her. 
   So I told the nice girls at the store how big of a fan I was of Jenette's, and I left the photo and envelope behind. When I got home about a week later, I checked my mail eagerly! No photo. I checked the next day, and the next, and the next. After two weeks had gone by, I was starting to feel terrible. I really thought if I had provided a photo and a self-addressed, stamped envelope, I was sure to receive an autographed picture from my hero. 
   The weeks turned into a month, and then another month, and then I gave up completely. Maybe my note to her wasn't friendly enough? Maybe it seemed like I was demanding something from a complete stranger? I wasn't sure, but I was really disappointed. 
   And then today, EIGHT months after I visited the bra store, the manilla envelope I had stamped and addressed was sitting in my mailbox!  I was grinning madly when I opened it. She had not only signed the photo, but she also included two more photos of herself in movie stills. I was so happy! I went out bought a frame immediately and hung the autographed picture on my wall. 
   THANK YOU, Jenette Goldstein!!  Your photo is truly one of my most prized possessions. I also watched Aliens again tonight, for the millionth time, just to pay more attention to your character. You were flawless and believable, and just exactly who I'd want on my team during a fight for my life. The next time I come to L.A., I hope I can spend more time shopping for bras. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Vulcan Female

"Vulcan Female" by AngelDeeDee on DeviantArt

   AngelDeeDee stated in the comments on her DeviantArt site that she had been "requested" to do some photo manipulation on the above image. She added the Vulcan ears. I am not sure who made the original piece, but I would love to give them appropriate credit. 

   I think this image alone is frame-worthy. I might try to make an oil portrait out of it. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Why it's (probably) okay to keep using the phrase "colonizing Mars" (or, how Liberal Arts majors don't OWN the word "colony!")

   I follow a lot of interesting people on Twitter. People like Elon Musk, Anne Rice, Guillermo del Toro, and Propane Jane. I enjoy these people. I rely on Twitter for blazing-fast news, and I use it as an entertainment resource. Twitter tells me what movies to see, what books to read, and who to vote for. Twitter makes me laugh, and sometimes, Twitter makes me cry. 
I recently noticed a post on Twitter by "Afro-futurism" author Nnedi Okorafor concerning the use of the phrase "colonizing Mars." She posted a picture of herself with a lady (Danielle Wood) who had apparently given a talk on why we should not use the word "colonizing" with respect to space exploration. I had not heard this argument before, so I asked Nnedi on Twitter, "Can you please explain why this word isn't appropriate?" She typed "Lol" and posted a laughing emoji face along with a well-known Maxine Waters GIF to indicate that I was wasting her time.

That day, Twitter made me MAD!

I am nearly finished with my Ph.D. in plant science (I'm all-but-dissertation), and I teach full-time at a university. In one of my most recent research grant applications, I actually used the phrase "colonizing Mars." (That grant was funded, by the way.) I am studying dwarf crops and how their fruits are affected by different LED spectra. My intent is to breed future dwarf crops and help create new plant cultivars that will be useful to Mars, um, colonists.

Although I was put off by Nnedi's mocking response to my sincere question, I decided to pursue an answer elsewhere.

I polled all of my undergraduate students in two of the anatomy and physiology classes I teach, and, after describing my Twitter incident, I asked the following two questions: 1) Is it okay to use the word "colony?" and 2) Were you aware of this controversy?
Out of the 84 responses I received, only one student claimed to know that there was an issue with this word. 

I spoke with Dr. Stanley Lombardo, a Professor of English at Arkansas Tech University who teaches a science fiction and fantasy class (among many others.) "Colonialism is capitalism gone wild," he explained. All European powers wanted "a piece" of Africa because it was rich in natural resources. Dr. Lombardo mentioned that the Belgium and French colonists "were particularly brutal," and the Belgians actually had quotas for cutting the hands off of natives.

This was really news to me. I've spent the better part of the last decade walking through vineyards and orchards to assess fruit, studying quantitative trait loci, and taking statistics courses.

A co-worker of mine, chemistry Professor Dr. Charles Mebi, was born in Cameroon, Africa. He speaks three languages because of the influence of both the French and the British colonies that once controlled Cameroon. "[The word] colony implies that someone OWNS it," he told me. "Colonization involves exploitation, of the resources and the people." I asked him if the phrase "Mars colony" was offensive to him. "No," he said. "But if someone goes to Mars and sets up a colony, is anyone else allowed to go there?"

Another co-worker of mine, Dr. Ivan Still, is a biology Professor from England. He looked moderately disgusted when I asked his opinion of this topic. "Colonization is what people do. It's the history of the entire world," he said. "The history of humanity from the time it began...IN Africa. It is unfortunate that humanity's nature has also been to exploit (and this word has a distinctly negative meaning) whatever may be there, be it animal, vegetable or mineral."

So, is it okay to use the phrase "colonizing Mars," or not?

"I would go ahead and use the word colony and colonization because we won't be displacing any natives that we know of," said Dr. Lombardo.

Adam Eubanks, a police detective/sergeant from Tennessee, said, "In my humble opinion, if they're living on another planet - with the intent to stay - they're colonists."

One of my students wrote,"My family on my Mom's side is heavily Native American, but they aren't offended by the word 'colony.' It's a word and nothing else."

Another student responded, "In the beginning of America, the U.S. was built of 13 colonies. We originate from them. People kill other people, but we do not ban the word 'people' because they do bad things. If we banned every word that had bad things related to it, we would have no words to use."

A third student wrote, "I would think people would discuss the ACTUAL science-related how-to of getting people to other planets before fighting about correct terminology for relocated humans on Mars."

Yet another student replied, "It's one thing to go to another country and colonize the people who are already there, but there is no one on Mars..."

In the biology field, where I live and breathe, a "colony" is a technical term. It has a clear meaning, and it is free of political baggage and negative connotations. 

"Scientists use this word all the time when they talk about a colony of bacteria," said one of my students. 

Dr. Charles Gagen, a Professor of Fisheries Science at Arkansas Tech, had a similar response. He teaches an ecology course to undergraduates, and he said, "We use the terms extinction and recolonization in ecology all the time."

In botany (a class I teach), one of the commonly discussed green algae examples is the fascinating globular Volvox with its very distinctive daughter colonies.

Volvox, a hollow ball of cells with daughter colonies inside

And finally, one of my favorite responses to this apparent controversy was posted on Twitter by Noah Stephens: "I think we should be emotionally-mature enough to recognize colonizing Mars has nothing to do with colonizing Namibia."

Monday, March 19, 2018

Women In Science

Just a great picture of women doing science!
From left to right, Katrina Martens, technician, Rachel Sa, technician, Jessica Abbott, grad student, Kristin Aquilino, grad student, and Natalie Caulk, technician. These ladies were taking seagrass samples out in Bodega Bay of California in 2011.
Photo courtesy of Pamela Reynolds and the UC Davis Bodega Marine lab

Friday, March 9, 2018

New Arkansas Wine Trail Maps

Hey Arkansas natives and visitors, come find your wines! 
These maps are free for distribution. 
I serve on the Arkansas Association of Grape Growers' board, and I was asked to make a new wine trail map for the state. I hired a very talented local art student, Aaron Gilkey, to design the maps.       Don't they look great? 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Beautiful Astronaut Art by James Vaughan

James Vaughan Made This

   I belong to a group called "Space Hipsters" on Facebook, and the talented artist James Vaughan frequently posts his work there. I was struck by this devastatingly beautiful astronaut he created.

                              Thank you, Mr. Vaughan.