27 April 2007

John Orcutt, Oregonian

After seven months of living in Eugene, it's finally official: I'm a certified Oregonian now. Yesterday, I finally had the requisite documents and the necessary funds to license my car here and, more importantly, to get an Oregon driver's license (for those of you out there who don't happen to live stateside, driver's licenses effectively double as national IDs here; the fact that it's a license rather than a voter registration card that identifies you in the US probably tells you a lot about American priorities). Up until now, I'd always officially remained a Washington citizen, a residency that I proudly - if impractically - maintained even when I was living eight out of twelve months of the year in Illinois. While the thought of officially being from a place as cold and flat as Chicago gives me the chills, I was raised by an Oregonian to believe that this is the best state out there, and as such had no qualms about settling in here. So far, life as a resident of Oregon has been uneventful but good, all in all. If nothing else, I get one very tangible benefit: not only is there no sales tax in the state, but I'm not taxed for anything I buy online either. It may not be quite as cushy a deal as Alaskans - who get paid just for living in the state - have, but as a starving student, I certainly am not going to complain.

15 April 2007

Paleo futures are up!

Maybe this makes me crazy (or, more likely, marks me as a Chicago alumnus), but I sometimes find myself thinking of my paleontological career as a Wall Street-style stock and wondering how the market for that would look. The years between Chicago and Bristol would have been a good time for a canny investor to buy low, and there were a couple of times when PhD rejections nearly drove me to bankruptcy. While I'm still not claiming that my stock is the most valuable out there (I'm no Microsoft), I do think it's fair to say that's it's steadily risen in value this last year and a half or so. While you never know how long these things are going to last, I am happy to report that my paleo futures market took a noticeable jump this last week. First, I've finally narrowed down the topic for my dissertation project to a reasonable scale: I'm going to be correlating ecological changes in the John Day Fossil Beds with the that site's extremely well-documented paleoenvironmental data. There are all sorts of advantages to this project (not the least of which is that it's the one I really wanted to do). I'll be heading out that way early next month to nail down the specifics with the park's resident paleontologist. Not only am I happy with this turn of events, but the department here has just announced the hiring of two new paleontologists rather than the one we were expecting (I'd say who, but the hiring is still unofficial and I don't want to break any departmental taboos). This is outstanding news for all of us in the program, but I am doubly lucky because both study Cenozoic paleoecology, which I now know is exactly what I'll be doing as well.
Perhaps the biggest news of all, though, is that I was just accepted to attend an Analytical Paleobiology class this summer in Santa Barbara. As far as I'm aware, it's the only class of its kind in the world, and given that they only take 12 people, I feel extremely lucky and privileged to have gotten in. I'm excited about the class, of course, but I'll confess I'm also looking forward to living (albeit briefly) in a warm climate for the first time in my life. Now, if only I could get all this imaginary stock to translate into real money...

09 April 2007

Drawing Out Leviathan With a Hook

I spent last weekend celebrating Easter the traditional way: by fighting and then killing and eating a giant fish. Really. On Saturday, my dad and I went fishing on the Olympic Peninsula (fishermen are a secretive bunch, so I won't give away which river) and I caught a Steelhead that I'm told was of the world-class, once-in-a-lifetime variety. This is hilarious, since I hadn't been fishing in years and anyone who saw me reel this one in could tell you that it shows. It's also funny because it was one of only two fish we caught that day, the other one being all of six inches long. Not that I would ever brag, but my fish was significantly bigger, weighing in at a hefty 17 pounds, which I'm sure we can all agree is awfully large for a trout. I was so excited about this that for pretty much the first time ever, I willingly ate fish that evening, which will no doubt come as a shock to anyone who knows my finicky eating habits. I have to admit, it was pretty tasty...

02 April 2007

Play Ball!

Do you know why today was a great day? Because it's one of the happiest days of the year on my calendar. See if you can guess which one (this is a real toughie...):

  1. Christmas Eve
  2. Baseball Opening Day
  3. Christmas Day
To say that Opening Day is always more fun than Christmas would be a bit of a stretch; after all, it's hard to beat a day that begins with presents and ends with roast beef. However, when - like today - your favorite team opens up the season with a win over their arch-rival that is nothing short of brilliant, it makes for a great day. Sportscasters across the nation have been bludgeoning us all over the heads today with the old cliché that the return of baseball heralds the onset of Summer and that it's an opportunity for even the most pessimistic among us to become optimists for a brief while. I won't deny that those are true, but for me it's much simpler than that: for whatever reason, I like baseball, and life just seems more fun when it's going on. Of course, a good season on the part of the Mariners never hurts (speaking of irrational optimism...).