May 03, 2008

Research and Indiscipline

I've been spending a lot of time and effort — and I do mean a lot — on putting together a research plan for my investigation of the evolutionary relationship of polypore fungi (both Polyporales and Hymenochaetales) and beetles (Tenebrionidae). In very tangible sense, one that makes me sweat just a little bit as I work at it, this outline represents the culmination of a couple of years' worth of reading about other people's research, gaining a better understanding of the principles of molecular and organismal evolution and the modeling thereof, getting a handle on phylogenetic inference and some of the nuts and bolts thereof, finding the missing bits that nobody else has investigated to date, and so on. That's not to say that I believe I'm even aware yet of all of the issues that will likely crop up as the experiments go forward; I understand the principles well enough to talk about them coherently and synthesize it into something that I can put in front of other people and say, "Here, this is what I'm going to do."

As I sit here today at the kitchen table in a house in Massachusetts, well over a thousand miles from where I was less than a year ago, glancing back and forth from my laptop to papers by Seidl and Hunt and catalogs of beetle species and their habitats and habits, very nearly chain smoking cigarettes next to a window fan that insures that none of the smoke gets into the house and now writing the longest run-on sentence I have probably ever written in my life, it occurs to me how everything hooks together. When I lean back for a moment and visualize it all, it looks to me a lot like a Celtic knot... and it sounds to me exactly like this:

"Indiscipline" sums up my experience with and feelings about this plan better than any other analogy I can think of. I suppose everybody has done something about which they feel this way. Maybe not. This song, though, has been the soundtrack running in my head for the last two days whenever I think about this document over which I've been slaving.

I'm also happy that my antiperspirant really is as strong as advertised.

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