Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to anyone out there reading this. I hope your holidays were merry and bright! Sadly, here in Minnesota, our Christmas wasn't very white. We usually have a good amount of snow by now, but a warm weekend after a few weeks of now snow left us with dull browns and greens. Thankfully, that meant no ice for those who were out and about on the holidays to skid and slip on. I'm sure there were a lot less car accidents and sprained accidents because it was so dry.

I'm back in Minnesota for the time being as I've been spending Christmas with my mom's side of the family. I also get the awesome opportunity to fly down to Orlando, Florida for the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl soon! It'll be my last bowl game trip with the Minnesota Marching Band and I'm SO PUMPED that we get to go somewhere warm and exciting. Hopefully the Gophers can pull off the win over Mizzou. That would just be the icing on the cake. Once I'm back from that, I'll spend a good amount of the month of January back home in Michigan before finally coming back to Minnesota for my last semester of college.

I try not to think about next semester too much. It kind of ruins vacation when I worry about school too much. I think being busy during school makes it really hard for my brain to "turn off" during vacation, so I always feel like I need to be doing something. I have to sort of train myself to turn my brain off sometimes. I think that is going to be one of my New Year's resolutions is to learn how to just stop and chill out. It'll probably help my sanity in the long run, especially as I come up on college graduation.

Since I probably won't post again until after the New Year, I hope everyone has a lovely New Year's Eve!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Winter Wonderland

It's great being back home in Michigan's Upper Peninsula especially because when it snows, it actually retains the look of a winter wonderland for a while. Minnesota is blustery, knocking snow off the trees soon after a storm, if not during. And living in a city means that things are brown and slushy almost instantly after a new snowfall. Not so at my house. Snow looks like it's supposed to. Pristine and beautiful.

Dad and I took our family's dog, Molly, out for a walk to gather some branches for outdoor decoration I've had in mind for a few of my mom's ornaments. She has so many that they don't all fit on the Christmas tree anymore! Across the road there's no development, just trees and the ghost of an old railroad grade that used to run there. Down the hill and through the woods to the sparkling river we went. Molly runs at full tilt, no matter where we're going. I don't know what we'd do with her if we didn't live by the woods where she could run, off-leash.

I forget how low the sun sits in the sky around this time. It was mid-afternoon but the sun still seemed low to me. But it made for some lovely photographs of the light coming through ice and snow coated branches. The cedars are one of my favorite trees. Evergreens in general I have come to miss greatly in the mostly-deciduous Twin Cities.

After collecting branches, we went back to the house and took the car to town to pick up some suet for the birds. Our chickadees sure are spoiled.

Feeling that the dog needed some more exercise (when doesn't she need exercise is the real question) we drove to the beach, a stretch we know to be usually empty. Perfect for throwing her tennis ball. She always astounds me, leaping into the freezing, hypothermia-inducing water after the prized orb. Dad only throws it there a couple times over the course of our stay, just to get her clean. The rest of the throws are land-based, getting her body-temperature up as she tears down the beach, flinging water and sand in every direction.

The waves are still high, but not as high as Monday when we'd attempted to come to this beach. Molly had to have been disappointed when we found the beach being totally eaten by waves. There was no tennis ball chasing for her that day. But today I found some gorgeous aftermath of the high waves, some broken branches covered in a mesmerizing membrane of ice. It caught the sun in such interesting ways and enhanced the color of the wood beneath.

Unrelated to my ice and snow adventures, coming home meant harvesting out as much as I could carry from my plant propagation greenhouse, carting it home with me and offering it to mom. Peppers, tomatoes, basil, a poinsettia, and lots of other things put to good use.

Back in Minnesota, I left some perennials on the unheated steps that lead up to our upper duplex unit. I'm hoping I can get them to go dormant for the rest of the winter. The rosa rugosa my mom offered to take and I have a mum, a hardy hibiscus and a hydrangea that I'll have to find a home for. It might be a relatives house or just a bigger pot on my small porch this coming summer.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Do Your Science

Caution: Rant ahead.

One of my pet peeves in a lot of my college classes has been the sheer lack of research that my peers decide to base arguments off of. It seems that, to many, finding a few sources to back up your argument is enough to go into a presentation or paper with. Sorry kids, but research doesn't simply mean "find some other people that say the same thing as you and use that", it also means reading about all sides of an issue. If you come in and say "I think Statement A is valid because of Sources 1, 2 and 3," you bet your butt I'm going to come in and say "Well sources 4, 5, and 6 say otherwise." Am I stating those sources because I agree with them? Not always, but if you go to any scientific community, they are going to use the facts that you conveniently forgot to mention against you.

The other thing that I always like to bring up is source bias. In reading opinion articles, it's often easy to get sucked in by the fact that the writer is published on a website. While information from individuals and organizations is a good thing to read while doing research, it is often biased by the opinions that individual or organization represents. Usually, either side of an argument can argue the bias of the other. Let's take the GMO debate. While many who decry GMOs and argue that the science that says these organisms is biased, they then turn right around and direct people to websites and sources that are obviously anti-GMO. How is this less biased?

These arguments aside, it makes me sad to see students taking research far too lightly and becoming misguided on the subject in the process. Today in one of my classes specifically, I saw so many presentations by my peers that were well thought out and well executed. But I also saw many that that could have been compelling, but shot themselves in the foot when they made mistakes that could have been remedied by even simply reading a Wikipedia page or two. I can understand how, to many, these things are simply assignments that they need to finish. But the way I see it, this sort of behavior is setting us up for failure later on. In our workplaces, knowing a few facts to back up your own argument or statements is necessary, but knowing the other side just as well is absolutely crucial. We will only fall short and continue to add to stagnation of education if all we look at is a single side.