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SciFlix Movie of the Month: Soylent Green

SciFlix Movie of the Month: Soylent Green

Relax. It’s just people.

This month’s film will be the 1973 adaptation of Harry Harrison’s novel, Make Room! Make Room! Charleton Heston plays a 21st-century police detective working the massively overpopulated New York City. A murder sparks an investigation that cuts to the heart of the world’s population problem: How to feed it?

The Soylent Corporation just released its new product, a plankton-based biscuit made from a harvest from the world’s oceans, Soylent Green. Nutritious! Delicious! Friday, February 10th is Soylent Green Day.

Film Starts at 6:30pm

Regnier Auditorium

12610 Quivira Rd., Overland Park, KS 66213

Discussion to follow – What is the role of the government in providing food safety and biosecurity to a growing population? And what ethics govern a runaway population? Come hear Professors from KU and K-State discuss these questions and answer your questions.

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Posted by on February 5, 2017 in Education, tv, Uncategorized

 

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The Marriage of Figaro at KC’s Lyric Opera

It’s an unexpectedly pleasant thing that I have come to expect good things from Kansas City’s Lyric Opera. Rarely have I felt like this company has delivered the best operatic performances, but it seldom rates as the worst either.

This weekend I was lucky enough to be taken to see the latest production of this opera by my wife and son for a birthday present (amazingly, Figaro has come on or near my birthday many years now). I don’t think I’ve properly thanked them for this gift, but I very much appreciate it and had a great time.

My favorite part of the Lyric’s production this year was the return to a traditional setting but with a spectacular set design that suggested the change in aristocracy occurring at the time while still delivering on a class-stratified society complete with the trappings of a legacy of what we now call old money. The co-production with Opera Philadelphia, San Diego Opera and Palm Beach Opera truly delivered in this respect.

 

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An excellent effort! But, how does one say … ?

Unfortunately, the performance, while uniformly good, failed to achieve greatness at any point. On the ride home, we all agreed that it was a perplexing combination of all members of the cast ‘delivering’ but still missing the mark. I personally believe that Figaro is one of the more laugh-out-loud funny operas you can see. But where the comedy of Cheribino’s  near-capture and incredible escape and coverup should have brought down the house, I think I merely smiled.

 

Figaro is written for show-stealing performances. In its original production – in contrast to the portrayal in Peter Schaffer’s Amadeus, there were so many encores in its premier showings that Emporer Joseph insisted that these be limited due to the already long running time of the performance. Cheribino, a soprano en travesti, is almost uniformly the most beloved character in the Opera delivering two perfect arias, Non so più cosa son and Voi che sapete che cosa è amor voicing his struggle to keep up with his wildly raging hormones. Samantha Gossard gave a lovely performance that was well done, but oddly unextraordinary. 

 

Bartolo and Marcellina are two other characters who almost uniformly steal the show for their comedic performances. In last evening’s performance, the two were delightful, but also failed to win the night. One exception to all the ‘merely solid’ performances was the scene in which it is revealed that Figaro is Rafaello, the long-lost illegitimate son of Bartolo and Marcellina. Amazingly, it wasn’t the two older players who made the scene work, but the Count who brought everything together in his whole-hearted display of despair in ever figuring out what the hell was going on around him. In fact, I would say that it was Baritone Edward Parks’ Count Almaviva who rose above all others to make the night a success.

Overall, I’d say the Lyric’s Figaro was a musical success surrounded by beautiful sets, but inhabited by mundane performances.

ps – bring back the chair.

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Posted by on November 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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A Farewell to Teaching?

Possibly.keep4

I’m taking time away from teaching – at least for the Fall Semester –  to pursue new opportunities closer to Kansas City. (to which we recently moved house).

Teaching has been something enjoyable that I always wanted to explore, and when we moved from Philadelphia to Paola, Kansas in 2009, a terrific opportunity presented itself. Over the past several years I’ve taught:

  • General Biology
    • My bread and butter course. The more I taught it, the more I liked it and felt good about the story arc I had with it
    • First half of semester: The Cell and its workings
    • Second half: Reproduction, Genetics, and Cancer
  • Microbiology
    • I always thought that I disliked this class, but I think I enjoyed it, I just never felt great about pacing and felt like I was doing the helminths a disservice.
    • I approached this class for a molecular angle through the survey of life, then from an immunologist’s perspective to finish off
    • One of my favorite elements of this class was following an epidemiology sketch that put my students in charge of running a good analysis and containment of outbreak. I would love to include more about John Snow and the origins of epidemiology if I could
  • Medical Terminology
    • This class was a bust. I used it every day just to crank up for Patho, but it’s hard to generate a narrative about what is essentially a semester long vocabulary list
    • I think I would have liked this if I ever got a good handle on how to make it interesting; I love language, and etymology, but how do you fill an hour and a half with it?
  • Population Genetics
    • This was the smallest, most undefined course I’ve taught. We covered a number of topics including:
      • making relationship maps from DNA sequences
      • exploring allelic frequencies
      • looking at survival strategies

      This was a lot of fun and probably the most low-pressure class I’ve ever taught. It was more like a graduate seminar.

  • Pathophysiology
    • This is the core class that my nursing students needed.
    • I was leery of teaching it because it is not where my background was strongest, but it is interesting and I found myself spending hours filling in background for myself.I would be willing to bet that after a few more semesters it would be my favorite class to teach.

The big question now is: ‘What next?’

If anyone knows anyone who would hire an Immunologist / Molecular Biologist / Educator  / With interest in developing coding skills, please point them in my direction.

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Posted by on August 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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strutting and fretting

ImageI just signed up to take the Praxis exams on Biology and Chemistry. These are content knowledge exams for those who are interested in teaching these subjects at the High School level. I’ve been teaching biology for several years and have been immersed in it for about fifteen years before that, so I’m not terribly worried about that one (although I may need to read up on some botany, as I largely ignore it in my classes – my apologies to any botanists out there.) Despite some low-level understanding of chemistry and familiarity with organic chemistry, it does worry me. There’s a lot of potential information to cover and I have about three weeks to get re-acquainted with the subject.

Why am I doing this? A good question. Because adjunct teaching is neither fulfilling (you never feel a part of something, but merely an add-on), nor rewarding (financially).

-Whoa! Wait a minute, doc. You’re not seriously thinking of teaching in a High School as a way to get paid well, are you?

No. Just paid.

 

Kansas has what it calls an ‘alternative pathway’  to a ‘restricted’ teaching certification. It’s designed for professionals with strong backgrounds in math and science, and are interested in a career change to teaching.

It’s heavily advertised on the radio here (at least on NPR, the non-profit, public radio station). However, most school administrators I’ve spoken with are unaware of the program.

Further, I’ve also heard that taking on educators with restricted licenses means that these teachers cannot qualify as

In order to get into the program (in addition to the classes you’ve taken in the subject’s content), you have to:

  • pass these Praxis exams to prove you actually do know the content and not just a dusty piece of paper from University.
  • Find a school that needs you
  • Get that school to provisionally hire you
  • Enroll in a program to earn your certification while you teach.

So far, I’ve signed up to take the exams and found a school that is willing to entertain the idea of taking me on so long as I can teach both biology and chemistry.

 

What is not entirely clear to me is whether these restricted licenses are considered ‘full’ licensure. The ‘No Child Left Behind’ Law requires all teachers to be ‘Highly Qualified’ and then defines that as:

Highly Qualified Teachers: To be deemed highly qualified, teachers must have: 1) a bachelor’s degree, 2) full state certification or licensure, and 3) prove that they know each subject they teach.

ImageCurrently, I am proceeding under the understanding that these programs do talk to one another and that the restricted licensure will not leave someone unable to meet federal demands.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Cosby and Freaks

ImageMy family and I had the pleasure to see Bill Cosby live this past saturday at the Midlands Theater in Kansas City.  Of course it was a terrific show – Cosby was relaxed and seemed to enjoy the evening as much as we did and told what looked like a mix of new material and just fun conversation.

One thing stood out to me… and I could be mistaken about this. But when describing the way that women almost ritually welcome young girls into womanhood when they reach puberty, I could swear that he referenced the old movie, Freaks, as he chanted, ‘One of Us … One of Us!’ I could see it came out completely spontaneously and unplanned from him because it was one of the few times he actually chuckled at his own joke.

 

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Don’t Know Dorothy’s Debut EP, Above My Head easily a winner

ImageSeveral weeks ago I reluctantly promised to listen to and review Don’t Know Dorothy’s Ep, Above My Head. But any doubts I had were quickly dispelled listening to the first,  title track to the album (Do people other than me still use vinyl-centric language?) as a simple guitar melody was taken over by a much more driving beat that promptly raised the bar for the rest of the recording.

As a whole, Above My Head has a good blend of fast and slow songs giving it a sense of completeness that makes it worth listening to the whole thing together. My son immediately took to the slightly retro feel of the music and I was  reminded of a number of artists that probably stopped playing music before these guys were born. Despite the conscious or unconscious influence of an earlier era of music, Don’t Know Dorothy comes through as completely fresh, original music with a distinct sound.

Right out of the gate, Above my head felt like a mix of Ben Harper and Matthew Sweet achieving a good beat with bass and drums wrapping around the vocals and itchy guitar riffs. Where’s the Love, Whatever Comes and It’s You maintain the sense of retro pop-rock and keep up a good pace. Finally, Down the Road finishes the EP with a ballad tone recalling some of the playfulness of Squeeze but at a much more relaxed tempo.

Altogether, Above my Head is an excellent debut album and I expect to see much more from Don’t Know Dorothy over the next several years as they find their fan base and continue to grow.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Dry County – prayers for rain

ImageLast Year I wrote extensively about the drought conditions here in Kansas.

Luckily, we had a very wet winter and spring this year, catching us up on our annual precipitation data, but since the beginning of June, the rain has stopped (maybe even longer, I’m just relying on memory, not real data here).

As much as I dislike hot weather, I dislike drought even more. I feel as though I, as well as my plants and yard, get my energy from the rain. And this year is shaping up a lot like last year.

More than just feeling better when it rains, I was really hoping for a wetter year this year to help replace some of the trees that died in our yard from last summer’s conditions. Despite my efforts in setting up automatic watering systems and taking garbage barrels of water to our parched trees, I simply couldn’t keep up.

This year, my strategy was to get cheap, small trees from Walmart and Home Depot to at least lower the financial risk (we spent about $1k last year and lost every one of the trees we planted in addition to others throughout the yard). This year, our investment is only around $150 and we have about twice as many new trees as last year.

Anyway, here’s some actual data from NOAA that illustrates our wet spring + dry summer:

Current Condition: Abnormally Dry

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Year to date: KC at ~100% or better precipitation

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Spring Data (April 1 – May31): Already Drying up (~60%)

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(I guess the rain stopped earlier than I remembered)

Although there is no data available for the current period, I don’t think we’ve had so much as a shower since May 31.

 

 

ps- just to clarify, I don’t live in a dry county – that would be intolerable.

 

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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