Tuesday, October 23, 2007

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The end of the sem, Marikina, and Dumbledore

I concluded this semester with an incomplete and a half-finished paper. I watched Roger Federer lose at the Madrid Masters final. (It was to David Nalbandian, who beat out Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal to get there. Apparently, the guy was having a rough season, so crushing the first three seeds to win your first Masters shield after a dry spell is quite a comeback.) That was the first full match I'd seen with him playing. Despite these things, I'm unexpectedly fine. It must have something to do with being in Baguio.

Something strange happened last night. As I was getting into bed, I suddenly felt something akin to longing for the house in Marikina. It was only for a split second, but the feeling made me realize that the old house has left an impression on me. At the end of a hot, tiring day, it was where I would retreat to set up for the next grind. My house mates and I would sit around the dining table, comparing notes on our daily tribulations. We would laugh our way out of misery, and took comfort in little things like Boy Bawang and vinegar. Sometimes, when it rained too hard, the ceiling would leak. But we were always comfortable, perfectly happy with a series DVD playing on our long-lived TV. The rats who live between the second floor and the living room would make things go bump in the night. These are our house sounds. Occasionally, a mouse would venture into the human world and entertain us with its acrobatics. We've even done impressions. Overall, living in Manila wasn't so bad. I had friends and a home.

JK Rowling has revealed that Dumbledore is gay. Now, people are beginning to pick apart the real nature of his relationship with the wizard Grindelwald, who was quite the looker. But how dense am I? I seriously thought they were only friends. I need a lesson in reading between the lines. This revelation adds a new dimension to the Potter books, and it's encouraging to read that fans are as supportive as ever. If anything, people are loving the fact that someone who could wipe the floor with Voldemort has...er...alternate tendencies. Kudos to Dumbledore. I find it especially endearing that he decimated the guy who broke his heart. If everyone could settle heartache through a wizard duel, the world would be a better place.

Monday, October 15, 2007

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And I'm going to hug them and love them forever

I find it ironic that when I commit to a writing project about the environment, I am unable to come up with anything brilliant because I'm cramming for a conservation paper.

I thought I might just show you guys what I did during my conservation class this semester:

(That's me on the right, playing whale whisperer. It was real lucky I enrolled this sem. Since there were only four of us, our professor pulled some strings and got us a backstage tour of Ocean Adventure.)

Here's an excerpt from the reaction paper I wrote for the trip to Ocean Adventure, Subic Bay. I edited out some of the dorkier bits:

I caught my first glimpse of the dolphins when we were walking to the large pen for our marine mammal anatomy lesson. The emotion that welled up from my chest was so overpowering I nearly cried. Thankfully, I managed to keep myself in check. I took a deep breath and steadied myself. It would never do if I spent my first encounter with a whale sobbing...

...I was tapping my feet incessantly, trying to make small talk with my classmates. Merle beside me was expressing her discomfort with water by staunchly declaring that she was a “terrestrial animal.” Anne next to her was convinced of the powers of a life vest and reassured Merle that everything was going to be alright. Cynthia on the far end was fidgeting with her underwater camera, wondering if it really did work underwater. Our feigned nonchalance was impressive...

Finally, the trainers opened the gate for us and we walked cautiously unto a floating platform...We were split into two groups and assigned to our respective trainers...When faced with a vast expanse of deep water and the prospect of bumping into an animal almost three times the size of an adult human being, one gets a feeling not unlike awe. I was just nursing such a feeling when, without preamble, a large dark head bobbed up from below the surface. The male false killer whale was called "Tonka."

...Like children, we ooh-ed and aah-ed at all the tricks Tonka did for us. We shook hands when he held out his fins, we rubbed his tongue when he opened his mouth wide and we waved when he waved. It was all very disarming...There I was, a naïve first year graduate student, falling madly in love with a false killer whale.

Our trainer turned to me suddenly and kindly said: “Get in the water.” “Why?” I asked suspiciously. “So the whale can swallow you up and eat you whole,” Ryan answered laughingly, apparently used to this kind of doubt from guests. I took a deep breath (it was more like a sigh of resignation, really), invoked Anne’s fervent belief in life vests and dropped myself carefully into the water. I was painfully aware of my clumsiness, bobbing up and down in a dark blue life vest, my face inches away from a graceful animal built precisely for life in the water. Ryan’s voice telling me to hold on to Tonka’s pectoral fins seemed miles away. The ride lasted for all of three minutes, but it did the job. I was hooked...

During the class following the submission of those reaction papers, my professor said that some of us still needed to learn to separate the philosophy from the science. There were only three of us sitting in that room, and I reckon I was the friggin' romantic. See, what I learned in class was: to work in conservation, one needed to look beyond the cuteness of marine mammals and see the reality of their possible extinction. I remember that when I was writing my reaction, I did my best to sound as professional as possible. Still, I ended up writing a feature paper, coming off like a doe-eyed first year. My professor did say it didn't have to be a formal paper. I took him up on that and had fun telling a story. It was like blogging on paper.

Anyhoo, see you guys later. More when I'm done with my final requirements. Hope other people wrote nicer entries for Blog Action Day. Ah, time. We can never have enough of it.

Friday, October 12, 2007

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I love the cold

Climate change seems to be following me around. Yesterday evening, I took my last exam for a basic environmental science subject. It was for the third of a lecture series, this one being the atmosphere module. My lady professor seemed to enjoy our obvious distress, chuckling delightedly when I let out a cry of scholarly misery upon passing my bluebook.

I'm home now, so I've just gone through a regional climate change. The cold is doing wonders for my damp soul. It feels like December out here. I love it. The heat in Manila addles the brain.

Last night, my parents and I were discussing the possible change in my curriculum. Ma said that she was washing her hands of the rash decision I made and told me and Pa off for hanging my academic career on the euphoria of one conversation about global warming. Pa declared that it was actually Al Gore's fault and his blasted movie. This was partially true, as the man was rather convincing. He was also intelligent and charming, which are always pluses. I was a naive little girl who didn't know any better. Global warming has more dimensions than I first supposed. Everything we need to know about this environmental transformation cannot be encapsulated in one film. There are other discoveries, other exciting ideas dancing on the fringe of scientific consciousness. We should always consider the alternatives. On the other hand, it's difficult to do so when everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. Al Gore and the United Nations Panel have just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts on climate change.

Anyhow, I hope you guys are gearing up for Blog Action Day. Let's save our planet!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

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Writing for the environment

I have been wondering if I made the right decision, going for environmental science instead of marine biology. Old friends I run into on the street all ask how it's going over at the Marine Science Institute. For a heartbeat, I feel my chest caving in. Then I tell them I'm actually in environmental science. It wouldn't be so bad if only a few people have inquired after my supposed career in marine science, but even people I hardly knew in high school are under the impression I'm swimming with the dolphins. I've had to make the correction so many times, I now say environmental science with a sheepish laugh. That is not how I want to talk about my job.

I need to re-assess where I am. I find myself more interested in the material I have had to read for marine mammal conservation. On the other hand, I can barely wrap my head around climate change. Turns out it's not my cup of tea after all. I belong in the ocean (yes, swimming with the dolphins). A lot of the things I want to do in the future will require me to be in the water. Sure, I'll still get to do those things as an environmental scientist, but I'll get to do them all the time if I was a marine biologist like I originally planned. I know what I said in that blog entry about career change, and I'm beginning to feel like a cheating lover. I should have just stuck to my guns. I wouldn't be abandoning environmental science; I would just be choosing to be more specific about the environment I want to work in. Decisions will have to be made soon while it's early and I'm not raking in all those ES units yet.

Anyway, here is something we can all do regardless of the career path we have chosen. The environment concerns everyone, and Blog Action Day is providing an opportunity for us to give it the attention it deserves.

On October 15th, more than six million blogs will write about one topic: the environment. The writing project is a good way to get people to think carefully about how current natural and anthropogenic trends are affecting the earth. How are these changes influencing the future of the planet? The sheer number of participating blogs will yield a spectrum of views about these issues. It should be interesting to see how that pans out.

You can blog about the environment in your signature style or step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Check out their official site and get your blog registered. Let's write to save the environment.
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