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review 2016-03-28 07:58
Review | Zoology by Ben Dolnick
Zoology - Ben Dolnick

Zoology is the story of Henry Elinsky, a college flunk-out who takes a job at the Central Park Zoo and discovers that becoming an adult takes a lot more than just a weekly paycheck.

~from back cover (paperback edition)




Henry Elinsky doesn't just drop out of college, he flunks out altogether. Awkward living sitch with the parents follows until his older brother suggests Henry move in to his spare bedroom. Well, that doesn't go over super well with the live-in girlfriend of Henry's brother, but she tries to go along with it ... at least at first. After moving in with his brother, Henry takes a job at Central Park Zoo in New York City. At night, he pursues his real passion, performing as a jazz saxophonist. All in all, it's pretty much a coming-of-age kind of story about life's crap giving you a crash course in learning how to grow the f up. 


Henry also meets and crushes on a girl, Margaret, but ... I don't know, to me it felt like Henry got friendzoned pretty quick. Poor Henry. Except, by story's end I didn't like him all that much... but still, sucks to be shot down. It's not that Henry was a bad guy necessarily, I just generally didn't find him all that likeable. He wasn't even written as a likeable slacker type. He's just sort of ... there. Letting life move around him without participating too much. And when it came to Margaret, there were times when his creepy clinger behavior was seriously off-putting. He read into EVERY behavior, like when you give someone a compliment or go on one coffee date and they go and tell everyone you two are totally in a long-term relationship / engaged / already have baby names picked out. I just wanted to shake Henry and tell him to find his chill already. 


One thing I was surprised and disappointed with -- given the title of this novel, the zoo isn't actually mentioned all that much. Most of the plot happens on Henry's off time! The zoo takes a bigger role in the plot near the end when an incident there gets out of hand, but mostly it's just a periodic backdrop. I did like the scenes at the zoo, I just wish there had been more of them. 


Jonathan Safran Foer (author of Everything Is Illuminated / Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) gives a cover blurb on the paperback edition. I'm a fan of Foer's works so that did play some part in me picking this book up (as it's meant to -- well done, publishers.) I can see why Foer endorsed this book. Dolnick's writing has a feel that is pretty similar to the tone of Foer's works. Also, I noticed that the banter between Henry and his friend Sameer (I believe he's Pakistani?) has a similar feel to that of Jonathan and Alex in Foer's Everything Is Illuminated


The plot had its entertaining and sometimes dramatic moments but it was one of those stories where I kept waiting for it to hit its stride but that never really happened for me. Maybe because Henry never grew on me and he's the star of the show. Also, that ending.. what was that?! I found it so bizarre and unsatisfying. Wish I had ended up liking the story as much as I like the cover art! 





Note to Readers: Just a heads up -- Henry spends much of the story working his way through Tom Clancy's The Hunt For Red October. As you might guess, near the end of Zoology when Henry is finishing up Hunt For Red October, he reveals some spoilers for that book. Just FYI, in case that was on your TBR. 

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text SPOILER ALERT! 2015-10-16 22:08
This post is going to bug you!



Four groups of insects are known as pollinators:




Dipterans or Flies


Lepidopterans or Butterflies/Moths


Hymenopterans or Wasps


This story, however, is about Clusia spp. The picture below shows what the tree looks like:



Clusia are trees of the Caribbean, including the Bahamas, Hispaniola, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Florida. They are pretty amazing for several reasons:

a) they are hemiepiphytes, which means they start life as epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants, mostly for support and not for kinky or parasitic reasons). In fact, they are quite similar to the strangler fig.


This alien is Strangler Fig and it literally strangles the tree that it grows around!


Here it is: Strangling in three easy steps



One more because it looks so dam cool!


So, while it does start life the unholy way, Clusia soon sees the error of its ways and starts to repent hence the term hemiepiphyte.


b) Look at its beautifully glabrous, dark green leaves, shaped like fat tear drops.



They are responsible for the plant's common name, the autograph tree. You can write on the upper surface and the writing not only registers, it stays! For a long time since the leaves are long-lived.



But the clever people on this blog turned it into an art. Look at the beautiful shapes that they drew:



c) It has very pretty flowers. Solitary, with 6-8 petals that are either white or pink, and with numerous yellow stamens.



d) If you think the flowers are pretty, you have to see the fruits! Because of the fruits, balsam apple and pitch-apple are two other common names of this plant. They are so decorative that they are often used as part of bouquets!


But after they have opened...



e) Some of the members of this genus produce floral resin that they use as a reward for their apian pollinators. The bees then use it to build their nests.


f) It is also the subject of this research article. The authors hypothesized that for a particular species of Clusea, none of the other insects would do. If they were going to be pollinated, it was going to be:


Yeah, cockroaches!


Here is what was done to the poor roaches:


“In September 2006, 11 cockroaches were captured after

they had contacted staminate flowers and these were used

to determine pollen load (Dafni, 1992). The animals were

immobilized with ethyl acetate and washed with few

drops of 96 % ethanol. The drops were spread on a small

area of a Petri dish covered with a thin layer of gelatin–

fuchsin and the ethanol was allowed to evaporate. In the

laboratory, the layer of gelatin–fuchsin was excised,

melted on a microscope slide and examined under a light

microscope for the presence of pollen grains.”


There was also some antenna slicing that led to something sciency. (Okay,  went back and read this part. It is a technique called Electroantennography (EAG). They used it to discover how the plant was attracting the roaches in the first place. It is doing so by secreting a male roach pheromone.)


The interesting part is that this species has other visitors as well. Crickets, ants, and moths. Those insects are more likely to feed on the pollen rather than transfer it. Cockroaches, on the other hand, have no specialized structures that would help them carry the pollen but still do not gobble it up! The plant rewards them with a liquid that is produced at the top of the petals and base of the ovary.


Of course all of this reminded me of the PFG episode where they had to deal with a roach guy.


Roach Guy




#Roaches #Pollination #AoB #Botany #Roachology


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text 2015-09-10 07:39
A Mostly Botanical Foray


This post is going to be all over the place. It is not just about a plant. It is what I found as I kept looking up stuff that led me to other stuff and so on. Here goes:


Stellarioides tenuifolia belongs to the Asparagus family. That means, a) it is going to be pretty, b) it is bulbous (not that all of them are bulbous)





The flower does not have petals but tepals with a green line that is beautifully visible in both pictures.


That takes care of the bulbous part


The tepals are not there just to look pretty, though. Remember that a stigma is like a helipad for the pollinators? This plant has evolved so that it uses its tepals as a functional helipad - in plant world, that is a big deal! Also, I have pictures:



Something else that makes this asparagasine (totally making it up) member stand out is its chromosome number. Humans have 46 chromosomes in each cell. Having so  many chromosomes does not make you research-friendly and that is one of the reasons that geneticists love Arabidopsis.


The plant under today's spotlight is one of the six plants that has the lowest chromosome number i.e. 4!


Another of the low chromosome-numbered sextuplets


And another one


The award for the lowest ever goes to male ants, Myrmecia pilosula  that have only one.



The highest number can be found in the fern, Ophioglossum reticulatum, which has 1260 chromosomes per cell.


This guy


Then while searching, I came across:


Don't let anyone convince you that the number of chromosomes affects the complexity of the organism, either. It's true that simple bacteria have only one chromosome, but look at these numbers: domestic cats have 19 pairs of chromosomes, and Geometrid Moths have 112 pairs. Moths are definitely not 6times more complex than cats, even though 6 x 19 equals about 112! And don't forget about the ferns with over 1,000 pairs.


I then found proof of this too! A ciliate (for simplicity's sake, a tiny organism with cilia for movement) has about 15,600 chromosomes! It is also much much smarter than us since about 96% of all genetic material is repetition and this organism filters all the garbage out, keeping only what it needs to survive on a daily basis. (It does not hurt that it has two nuclei, one of which stores all DNA - garbage and all)


Try to read the whole article, it boggles the mind how complicated this creature is!


My last foray led me to this article that just freaked me out! It talks about B chromosomes that are not part of the actual genetic makeup and are extra. The authors seemed determined to scare the shit out of me by saying stuff like:


There are also significant biological questions concerning the origin and structural organization of Bs, and the way in which these selfish elements can establish themselves by exploiting the replicative machinery of their host genome nucleus.




and, in general, it is a truism that in higher numbers they are deleterious, especially to fertility.


Like I said, freaky!


#BPotD #Botany #DNA #Chromosome #WhoCares


Source: www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/potd/2015/09/stellarioides-tenuifolia.php
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url 2015-08-14 18:43
It is official...Octopuses are aliens!

I was reading the article:


"The first full genome sequence shows of that octopuses (NOT octopi) are totally different from all other animals – and their genome shows a striking level of complexity with 33,000 protein-coding genes identified, more than in a human."


Then I remembered these steampunk sketches I found on that I've been dying to share! Meet Otto and Victoria...


Lounging with Otto


Otto and Victoria in Thailand


Octopus Safari


Teatime with Otto


Ridin' with Otto


Baking with Otto



#Octopuses #Science #Metro News #Steampunk #Otto and Victori #Deviant Art #Brian Kesinger

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review 2013-06-07 00:00
Zombie Zoology
Zombie Zoology - Tim Curran, Ted Wenskus... Zombie Zoology - Tim Curran, Ted Wenskus, Hayden Williams, Eric Dimbleby, William R.D. Wood, Wayne Goodchild, Carl Barker, Ryan C. Thomas, J. Gilliam Martin, Anthony Wedd, Anthony Giangregorio, Brian Pinkerton I need to get in the habit of writing reviews right after I finish reading.

Honestly, I've forgotten most of the stories except for the beginning and the end. The first one about the freakin' baboons and the last one about the mosquitoes are what got to me the most. Yikes. If I remember correctly, I had a nightmare. Zombies are the only thing that can do that to me.

...Excluding that one nightmare about Santa Claus. Don't judge me.
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