Category Archives: Quirk

Flux Playlist: So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye…

Well, that’s it for us. We’re done. This specific group of web writers is breaking up. Some of us are graduating. Some of us are heading home. Some of us are taking jobs. Some of us are traveling abroad.

We had a blast, keeping our readers informed, entertained, chuckling, weeping, and generally interested. This playlist is for thoughtful contemplation of the past, possibly while walking slowly through a desolate town or perching yourself on a rail while staring unseeingly at a large body of water.

We hope you enjoyed this last academic year, and that you’ll return for a new set of writers, leaders, topics, beats, concepts, and emotions when we begin again.

From all of us here at The Pulse, so long.

For now, anyway.

Sam

Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) – Green Day
Don’t You (Forget About Me) – Simple Minds
American Pie – Don McLean

Emily

Every Time We Say Goodbye – Ray Charles
With or Without You – U2
Babylon – Angus and Julia Stone

Sarah

Closing Time – Semisonic
Leaving On A Jet Plane – John Denver
So Long Goodbye – Sum 41

Rache’ll

Float On – Modest Mouse
Send Me On My Way – Rusted Root
Pull My Heart Away – Jack Peñate

Casey

I Can’t Stay Here Anymore – Middle Brother
Long May You Run – Neil Young
End Of The Line – Traveling Wilburys

Marissa

Never Let You Go – Jakaranda
You’ll Be In My Heart – Phil Collins
Goodbye to Love – The Carpenters

Procrastination Nation

 

-Marissa Tomko

I bet you’re doing it right now. Yeah, you. I bet you’ve been up all night with an assignment you’ve been dangerously close to finishing for hours. You could have gone to bed at midnight, but instead you watched a bunch of YouTube videos and Snapchatted your friends pictures of your coffee at 3 a.m. with the caption “I HATE MY LIFE!!!!” Now, the sun is starting to peek over the horizon, and you’ve found yourself here. You have two pages left on that research paper, and yet you’re catching up on your email, current affairs, and of course, The Pulse.

Ah, procrastination. A delay by any other name would leave an assignment just as incomplete! Okay, enough with the jokes. Procrastination is real life. I’ve been doing it since I can remember; I can never bring myself to do something until I absolutely have to get it done. As far as the end results go, I’ve never had a serious problem—I get good grades, my expired driver’s license was never an issue, and I am perfectly content eating Saltine PB&J’s when I should have gone grocery shopping two weeks before.

Psychology Today distinguishes three types of procrastinators: the arousal types who procrastinate for the exhilaration, the avoiders who fear failure (or even success) because they care about other people’s opinions of their work, and decisional procrastinators who can’t make decisions and consequently attempt to acquit themselves of responsibility by simply not deciding. All procrastinators make excuses, with the most noted being “I work better under pressure.” In an article for the BBC, Rowan Pelling discredits this excuse, citing research that suggests procrastinators both complicate and shorten their lives.

“Procrastinators are less wealthy, less healthy and less happy than those who don’t delay,” she writes.

I have never considered my procrastination as being anything more than an annoying quirk. It was not until recently that I realized my habit has lessened the quality of my life and the opinions that people have of me. Last week, I was called out by one of my best friends for using the excuse of “I’m just spacey and put off studying” one too many times. I had to back out of plans to study for a test that I had been avoiding the reality of up until the penultimate day. My friend’s outburst at me got me thinking: I can never hang out with friends during the week because I am too busy scrambling to get things done for the next day. I don’t remember the last time I was able to make a big spontaneous commitment, like hiking Spencer’s Butte or taking a last minute coast trip. Procrastination makes me feel especially crazed—my relationships have suffered, and I feel a constant guilt because of it.

My friend made me realize that I have two choices: I can join Procrastinators Anonymous, or I can remember what it’s like to feel carefree and have the respect of my friends. Because of his wake-up call, I can already feel a brighter school term ahead!

Image by Rennett Stowe.

Raising the Perfected Pup: Establishing the Holiest of Bonds Between the Monks of New Skete and the Dogs They Train

-Emily Fraysse

Within the first fifteen minutes after my 8-week-old tri-colored collie arrived at my house for the first time, I had to jump into my 40-degree pool at nine o’clock in the morning completely clothed to rescue the poor fella due to his disobedient behavior. Before my collie, I had a rottweiler/border collie mutt that decided it would be fun for my family to wake up to a half-eaten couch, or to swallow a rubber fish and squeak every time he barked. The truth is, I should have sent both of my dogs through the dog training program at the New Skete Monastery.

After the countless hours of expensive puppy training (which both of my dogs failed miserably), the occasional “accidents,” and finding my brand new pair of slippers chewed up, I wondered to myself: is there a perfect way of raising a puppy? Is there some sort of hidden secret that Cesar Millan is not telling us?

Apparently, the monks in New Skete have perfected this difficult, yet rewarding task.

In upper-state New York, the monks of New Skete understand the unique and spiritual bond between man and dog, allowing them to master the art of raising a puppy. The brothers have over 40 years of experience under their robe belts as well as five books published on the subject.

Their first dog, Kir, inspired the Monastery to set up a German Shepherd breeding program, as well as a two-and-a-half week training program for other puppies who have not been raised through the Monastery. The training program teaches the dog basic commands like sit, stand, and lie down, and how to overcome any behavioral difficulties. It includes boarding, exercise, daily training, and a final interview between the owner and the brother that trains the pup.

The key to raising a pup is simple: with love, dedication, and respect, any dog can be transformed into an obedient and loving friend.

Those interested in adopting one of the German Shepherds that have been raised and trained through the Monastery may add their name to an extensive waiting list, and those wanting to take advantage of their training program for their own pet can apply at their website.

Image by tlindenbaum.

1.21 Gigawatts: Your Face, Close Up – Meet The Tiny and Mite-y

-Sarah Keartes

They nuzzle your nose. They cuddle cadavers. They suck down Sebum. The few, the proud, the face mites.

Yes, hiding in the hair follicles around your nose and forehead live microscopic mites—Demodex mites to be exact—and as it turns out, mine are quite shy.

Last February, I jumped at the opportunity to “meet” my mites by participating in a study conducted by Your Wild Life, an organization dedicated to exploring the biodiversity that lives “on us, in us, and around us.”

I signed the waiver excitedly, eager to donate some of my precious facial cargo to science. The lab tech sat me in her chair, lifted a metal scraper to my nose, and began the search. While my mites were nowhere to be found, Your Wild Life has  successfully scraped mites from many of more than 200 participants.

Over 48 thousand species of mites have been described—two of which, D.folliculorum and D. brevis, are found only on humans.

“Both species are sausage-shaped, with eight stubby legs clustered in their front third. At a third of a millimeter long, D.folliculorum is the bigger of the two,” science-writer Ed Yong said in a 2012 article for Discover. “Richard Owen gave the mite its name, from the Greek words ‘demos,’ meaning lard, and ‘dex,’ meaning boring worm.”

Before the image of “lard worms” hiding in your pores sends you into a Jabba the Hutt-fearing frenzy or running for a loofa, keep in mind that nearly every adult hosts these squidgy little squatters, and they most likely do you no harm.

“For the most part, it seems that they eat, crawl and mate on your face without harmful effects. They could help us by eating bacteria or other microbes in the follicles….Their eggs, clawed legs, spiny mouth-parts, and salivary enzymes could all provoke an immune response, but this generally doesn’t seem to happen,” Yong said.

Demodex mites are ectoparistites, meaning they do not burrow under the skin. They are not exclusive to the face, but because they feed on Sebum (the oily secretion of the sebaceous glands that keeps your skin moist) and the cells inside of hair follicles, each face is a piece of prime real estate.

Every generation picks up mites throughout their lifetime, and they have been found in nearly all races, something that intrigues the team at Your Wild Life.

“We aim to study the evolution and diversification of human-associated Demodex mites over time and space. Specifically, we want to map the mites’  “family tree” and see how closely that tracks our own human family tree,” the team said.

There is certainly much to be learned about these microscopic mooches, and their relationship to us. I find it all rather fascinating but taking a close look at what is crawling on our skin is not for everyone.

If this post has you nearing the edge of an emotional breakdown, chances are you have Acarophobia, the fear of Mites and small insects. Phobia here, phobia there, phobias, phobias everywhere!

Follow Sarah on Twitter!

Image from Your Wild Life.

It’s a righty’s world: the rest of us just live in it

-Marissa Tomko

Bill Gates. Neil Armstrong. Demi Moore. Barack Obama. Leonardo da Vinci. Marilyn Monroe. My Uncle Eddie.

What do these people all have in common? They all have a reason to celebrate with me on August 13th.

National Left-Handers’ Day is an actual thing, and I’m really happy about it. Us lefties are always getting left in the dust, fed to the wolves, laughed at ruthlessly—but we are strong! We adapt! I mean, when is the last time you saw a right-hander living with left-handed standards? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

You might recognize the 10 percent by the way our hands shimmer with the ink we just smeared across our notebooks. Or maybe you notice how we casually bump elbows with our siblings at the dinner table because we sat on the wrong side. Or, perhaps, you have seen us crumpled over in class looking like a cinnamon twist because our tiny little desk in that huge lecture hall was built for a righty, and we were too late to get an aisle seat.

If you ask me though, these are small prices to pay for the privilege of being a lefty, or southpawed, if you will.

This awesome life trait appears to be genetic. According to a study cited by ABC News, children with one left-handed parent are twice as likely to follow suit. If both parents have been blessed with a dominant left-hand, their children are four times as likely to inherit the trait. Any lefties out there looking to put a ring on it? Settle down? Start a family of left-handed babies? I’m available.

If you recently lost a basketball game or are down on your luck in the boxing arena, you might be able to blame a lefty for that. Southpawed citizens are more able to surprise their opponents, as competitors are used to playing against right-handers. In baseball, lefties up at bat can see first base, so they can easily cover all their—er—bases.

If you just got in a fight with a lefty, please step back for a hot minute. Left-handers are more likely to have a hard time sorting through feelings, which might be because there is an imbalance between the two brain hemispheres when bad moods occur. Studies also show that a lefty is more likely to have a drink in his or her hand, but not because being left-handed is stressful. We just like to kick back with a nightcap more often.

Look, I’m not saying that I feel superior because of the way I hold my pen. But allow me to leave you with one final thought. I saw it on a refrigerator magnet once, and it spoke to me.

“Everyone is born right-handed. Only the greatest over come it.” —Refrigerator Magnet

Image by Vassilis Online.

Hello, my name is Marissa. But you can call me…

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-Marissa Tomko

Of the sea.

That’s what my first name means.  Not only is it a little weird due to its non-standard pronunciation (muh-REE-suh), but I happen to want to be a fish. That my name has to do with water thrills me. Is it a coincidence? Probably. But I would like to think otherwise.

My best friend is obsessed with tiaras. She always has a bow in her hair, and her birthday is a month long event in which she shamelessly commands our friend group to wait on her hand-and foot—charmingly of course. She’s a princess, aptly named. She answers to Sarah.

My most normal roommate is named Erin, a name which means peace, and is associated with Ireland. This surprised me until I realized that Erin happens to love a good drink and is always the balancing variable in our house. She is a peacemaker if I ever met one.

The point that I’m trying to make is that I believe our names define a large part of who we are. Of course, the definition of everybody’s name does not match them perfectly. But to what extent do our names decide our lives?

According to The Week, names have more of an impact than we realize. It notes research that says there are more dentists named Dennis than is proportionately normal. Personally, I associate dentists with the Hermey’s of the world, but I realize that not everyone believes in elves.

Does having an unique name make you unique? Maybe. But not because your name might be something cool, like Seawillow. (I went to high school with a girl named that. She ruled.) Live Science theorizes that a unique name given by parents is just another symbol of their parenting styles. If a kid’s parents wants him or her to be different, the name is not going to be the reason for success. Chances are, those are the parents that are going to raise their child in a way that cultivates an off-beat outlook on life.

Some names aren’t unheard of. In fact, we hear some of them so much that we might start to develop stereotypes surrounding them. Christine’s (or Kristine’s) are always the voice of reason in my life dramas. The Matt’s I meet are all like my brother—goofy, laid back, and the person everyone wants to be friends with. Don’t want to take my word for it? Check out this thread on Reddit that recently blew up. Matt’s are described as awesome and likable, and the sketchiest people I have encountered are also sketchy to the rest of Internetland—I am not alone!

Associations with names are not just serendipitous; The Week notes that they have the ability to tell the world about our ethnicity, education, and class. Case in point: my name is pronounced the way it is because my Mexican grandmother’s accent deemed it so. Holler at my culture.

There are lots of names out there. How do parents choose just one?! No matter what yours is, I just have one request: have a sweet signature. Nothing is more attractive than a sweet signature.

Image by Alan O’Rourke.

1.21 Gigawatts: Do U(O) Know? WTF Evolution!

madscientist

-Sarah Keartes

Is it possible for a cute, cuddly, normal land mammal to smell underwater? Forty students were polled, thirty-nine answered no.

“Sure it is, right before it drowns,” one student told Flux.

Ninety-eight percent: that is a pretty cohesive answer, but once again University of Oregon Students, you are incorrect. To the one student who answered yes, I commend you.

Enter the first star in a lineup of five creatures that have evolved unbelievable abilities, the Star Nosed Mole.

#1 Underwater Smelling: Star Nosed Mole (Condylura cristata)

 

It’s certainly not the most beautiful rodent, but when it comes to strange abilities, the Star Nosed Mole has one for the charts: underwater smelling.

The tiny mole uses it’s strange twenty-two-tenticled sniffer to blow and re-inhale air bubbles underwater. Five to ten bubbles per second (about the same speed a rat sniffs a suspicious odor) are aimed at potential prey items when the mole is submerged.

Each fleshy tentacle of the nose is covered in 25,000 sensory receptors called Eimer’s organs that the mole uses to find food in its marshy habitat.

“When these bubbles come into contact with an object, it is almost inevitable that odorant molecules will mix with the air and be drawn into the nose when the bubble is inhaled,” Kenneth Catania, assistant professor of biological sciences at Vanderbilt University, said.

#2 Mountain Dive: Venezuelan Pebble Toad (Oreophrynella nigra)

 

Measuring only a few centimeters long, this teeny toad has picked quite a dangerous place to call home—the flat, table-like Tepui Mountains, which rise thousands of feet above the Northern edge of the Amazon rainforest.

Luckily the Pebble Toad has no problem with falling—in fact, it relies on it. Only able to hop a maximum distance of one inch, the toad has developed an alternate mode of escape.

When threatened, it curls in its limbs, tenses its muscles, and hurdles itself down the nearest cliff face, bouncing down the rocks like a rubber ball.

Because it is so small, and weighs so little, the forces of impact are too light to cause it any harm. Watch high-speed video of this amazing escape artist here!

#3 Bloody Eyed Bandit: Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum)

 

The Texas Horned Lizard, introduced to the western United States through the pet trade, is native to the southeastern coastal plains, a desert environment made mostly of sand dunes.

Like most dune-goers, ants and small insects make up the majority of the reptile’s diet. Foraging for ants (about 200 per day) means spending long periods of time in the open. In order to protect itself, the lizard has developed quite a few defense mechanisms, but one is far stranger than the rest.

Should a predator not be deterred by its camouflaged coloring, playing dead, or spiked back (which can be used to pierce the throats of birds and small predators), the Horned Lizard will squirt an unexpected foul tasting blood excretion from the sinuses behind its eyes.

Taking this extreme action doesn’t hurt the lizard, but it consumes up to a quarter of the body’s blood so it is only deployed when absolutely necessary.

#4 Now You See Me, Now You Boom: Harlequin Mantis Shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus)

 

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Credit: Perry Aragon

The Harlequin (or Peacock) Mantis Shrimp is undoubtedly one of the most beautifully colored animals in the ocean, but don’t let that fool you. This crustacean packs a mean punch—the fastest in the world, in fact.

Reaching speeds over fifty mph and delivering approximately 160 pounds of instantaneous force with its spring loaded clubs, the mantis shrimp can easily crack the shells of clams and other mollusks—but has also been known to TKO aquarium glass without causing any damage to itself.

Studies show that the club structure is made up of three layers of differing hardness, stiffness, and orientation, which allow small cracks to form in the club but prevent them from growing or spreading. The outermost layer is made of highly crystallized form of the mineral hydroxyapatite, a key component of human bone and teeth.

Not only does the Mantis Shrimp boast some of the most effective arsenal in the world, but it also has the most complex vision system currently known to science, able to detect circular polarized light, something no other creature can do.

#5 Take a Deep Breath: Spanish Ribbed Newt (Pleurodeles waltl)

 

What do Xmen’s “Wolverine” and this small nondescript newt have in common? Skin piercing spikes, of course—but for the Spanish Ribbed Newt, using them is a last resort.

Newts’ skin is moist and quite slippery, so squirming away to escape predation is quite effective. But should the Spanish Ribbed Newt find itself cornered, it moves on to phase two.

When attacked or threatened the Newt will rotate its ribs forward, increasing their angle to the spine while holding the rest of its body still. When the force becomes too great, the sharp spear-like ribs actually pierce through the newt’s skin. As the ribs come through, a toxin, which is bothersome to humans but potent enough to kill small rodents, is excreted through pores in the skin.

The newt not only appears to be immune to its own poison, which seeps into the body tissue when the ribs are exposed, but also displays extraordinary skin regeneration.

Follow Sarah on Twitter!

The Art of Raising Chickens

Coop

-Emily Fraysse

I’ve had chickens since I was about ten years old. I’d spend my mornings letting them out and collecting the fresh eggs nestled in the straw of the nesting boxes.

It all started when my older sister, Anne, was found constantly sketching ideas of chicken coops and practically begging our father to build one so that she could pretend like she was Amy from the film Fly Away Home. A year later and the beautiful coop was built with a flock of ten stunning Barred Rock, Sex-Link, Buff Orpingtons, and one Indian Runner duck. Over time, the ivy grew up and over the sides of the coop, hiding it in the field.

My parents, sisters, and I had little knowledge of how to take care of chickens when starting out. We learned as we went. The baby chicks, unable to be in the giant coop just yet, spent the first few weeks in a galvanized tub with shavings, wood, water, and a heat lamp. When they began to get their feathers and gain strength, we let them roam in the coop and the outside “pen” area. They spent another week there before we finally let them roam the one-acre property.

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The first batch of chickens that we had, we had to manually put them into the coop at night because they would not go on their own. Although this was a bit tricky and a hassle, they eventually they got the hang of it. Now, they go inside independently when the sun begins to set and the predators roam about. Living in the suburbs of San Francisco, there are owls, foxes, coyotes, opossums, raccoons, and other animals that are around.

The only up-keeping that I find necessary with the chickens is to clean the coop every month (take out old straw and replace it with fresh straw), close them in at night, let them out in the morning, and make sure they have food and water. Also make sure that, especially after you’ve introduced a new flock of chicks to the older chickens, none of the chickens get picked on. Chickens can be pretty mean to each other and will single out one or a few chickens that look “different” to them. Once chickens get the taste of blood in their beaks, they go crazy for it in a very cannibalistic way.

rsz_photo2
 

I have found that I can no longer eat regular eggs from chickens that have not had the ability to roam free and have been cooped up their entire lives. The ones allowed to roam free have different sized eggs and the yoke is a deeper yellow. I have yet to buy the jumbo white eggs that are found at the local grocery store. I love my chickens and could never, ever imagine growing up without them.

“COEXIST", “PACE”, “PROUD PARENT OF AN HONOR STUDENT”: Bumper Stickers Voice Opinion & Pride

Rat-Lover

-Emily Fraysse

Driving down I-5, I see a variety of cars, from the beat-up pick-ups to the giant trucks to the mom-mobiles.

Every once in a while a car will slow down enough to where I could easily see the interior and the driver. With just a few clues, I try to figure out what that person does for a living and what they’re like just by catching that small glimpse. The best hints about the lives of these strangers comes from the bumper stickers smothering the back of some cars.

Bumper stickers are a fairly underrated form of advertising. People place logos, brands, and sayings on their car for the outside world to see. It is the cheapest and easiest way to get the word out to the public. Simple, clean, and effective? Or does it show that the owner of the car merely has a strong stance on an issue that he/she needs to show to the world? Do more bumper stickers on a car mean an angrier person?

In my opinion, yes to all the above.

In order to have an effective sticker, it needs to be clean, readable from far away, and simple. Too many words can get lost in the jumble and promote other drivers attempting to read it to get into an accident.

It has been six years after he ended his second term and “George W. Bush for President” is still sitting on the back bumpers of cars. By placing the delicate piece of tape carefully onto your car, you are solidifying your stance. When it comes to political campaigns, an NPR host reasoned that, “the glue on the back of the bumper sticker is sort of a metaphor for the glue that then is going to stick you to that candidate.” Although not all stickers may make a huge impact on the public, I think the people who place it there believe that it will. I have yet to change the way I live because of a bumper sticker I read. But, they can be good reminders.

Some parents love placing not one, but ten “Proud Parent” stickers over their back windshield, which, ironically, may interfere with their ability to reverse safely. They want to prove to other parents out there how superior their child is comparatively. Sometimes you see the very religious Christian bumper stickers that reflect how good they are and how God is always watching when they make that illegal U-turn. And then you get the soccer moms who place stick figures representing their family members in a row because I’m sure the person behind really wanted to know. In comes the giant SUV with “Sugarbowl Skiing” and “Keep Tahoe Blue” stickers smeared across the backside of the car to show the public how sporty and environmentally friendly they are by driving their gas-guzzler.

My theory is that the more bumper stickers you have placed on your car, the angrier of a person you are. It makes sense. The more you want your voice to be heard, the more agitated of a person you can be. I find that people (like the nut-so rat lady’s car in the photo above) want to be heard. Whether you are an avid environmentalist, a college student with school pride, or a scarily obsessed rat-lover, bumper stickers are an easy way for people to hear your voice, whether they want to or not.

Flux Playlist: Musical Mania

We here at the Pulse are a ways away from Broadway, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate musicals! In fact, we’re rather dedicated fans. From Rent, to Willy Wonka, to Avenue Q, our tastes are varied and vivid. Let each song choice bring you into a small slice of a larger story. Take a listen, then go check out the soundtracks!

 

Rache’ll

Gay or European – Legally Blonde: The Musical
Magic Dance – Labyrinth
Another Day – Rent

Sam

Murder, Murder! – Jekyll & Hyde
If You Were Gay – Avenue Q
Beggin’ – Jersey Boys

Sarah

Seize the day – Newsies
I Got Life – Hair
Any Dream Will Do – Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Emily

Defying Gravity – Wicked
Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind – Spring Awakening
Pretty Women – Sweeney Todd

Marissa

Try To Remember – The Fantasticks
Out Tonight – Rent
Seventy Six Trombones – The Music Man

Casey

Up There – South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut
Pure Imagination – Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life – Monty Python’s Life of Brian