Archive for November, 2011

Insects On Crack

Ever since I’ve been little, I’ve never really paid attention to insects. In my house I would encounter the occasional daddy-long legs spider or see a cockroach creeping across the floor and get the urge to kill it. I’d think, “No, you nasty spider! This is my domain!” and pick up a Kleenex and dispose of that trespasser. I never actually had the ambition to join a club based on something that I don’t really have an interest in. At the beginning of the college year, I was given the task for my Engineering 100 course to join a club or organization and report what you plan to do with such a club in the future. I didn’t really think of it much at first, but then I realized that all throughout high school, I never really ever -not a single time- branched out and stuck with something that was out of my comfort zone and gotten to know other people with strong ambitions in another field. This thought ignited my interest in exploring other options during Quad Day (where all of the clubs join in for an event at the beginning of the year and try to recruit students) and find that one club that would give me a view over that wall. When I saw Club Insecta, I may not have immediately known that that was going to be my outreach group, but after reviewing my other options, I knew it was the one I wanted to “tag along with” and discover what exactly the world is like through the eyes of an Entomologist.

During the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend, I went on a trip with the club to Kennekuk Illinois in western Illinois, and later Turkey Run State Park in Indiana, initially to observe. Knowing me, I was easily interested in how easily these students (mainly seniors and graduate students) know how to collect and identify insects in the natural environment and get to see up close insects that I’ve never heard of. I am absolutely surprised by their amazing ability to spot such small caterpillars, spiders, or millipedes in a field of grass with short a short time-span of observation. I had a lot of fun getting to know these students and learning about entomology. Several members still haven’t gotten over the fact that I am the only engineering major in the club, and lighten up conversations by asking questions about what civil is all about and why I chose it. Despite being the minority of the club, I still enjoy coming in to the meetings of the club. During one, we had a graduate student specializing in the psychology of bees give a talk about his research with these insects.  I never knew that certain varieties of bees only do their dance on a horizontal plane, while others only do theirs on a vertical plane, or that the scientific name of the bumblebee literally translates as nectar carrier, yet as a big misconception, bumblebees actually carry pollen, which is converted into glucose within the hive. Although I didn’t get as “hands-on” in the field as a lot of the other students, I still had fun learning from experts in the field about the tricks-of-the-trade, and of course, taking incredible insect photos. I got to know this one student in the club named Tyler, who is also in Horticulture Club with me, show me how to get an Orb Weaver spider to stay still if you want to get a photo of it. I think it was absolutely hilarious how the web from the spider continued to be spun around Tyler’s hand as he tired out the spider. On the side is my absolutely incredible photo that I took – with a camera phone- of this Orb Weaver, a natural insect of the prarie environment.

Knowing many of my friends, this sort of practice of spending time with insects or learning is rather creepy or bizarre, and the club understands that. We have recently been trying to branch out and get people to be interested in insects. The club sort of lightens the subject by hosting events such as the Insect Fear Film Festival or Insect Day, in which a booth is set up in the middle of the Quad and the club explains the “Wow Box” which is basically a box full of curated insects with pins through them and labels added to help bring in the crowd. I’m not exactly sure if my own outlook on insects has changed due to the club. I definitely think a lot more about them now, investing time in videos such as “spiders on crack” or reading the posts on the Club Insecta blog, clubinsecta.wordpress.com. I’m not exactly sure how I should treat the situation when there is an insect crawling on the floor now. Maybe I’ll play it cool and let it out the window or something, as I would respond in a perfect world. No… not on the twelfth floor of a residence hall building. For now I’m resorting to Kleenex-ing them.

Michael

College

Dear Planet Earth,

Imagine a world (a world part of your amazing vast world, planet Earth!) where the gift of privacy has been smuggled away from your in one fell swoop, where conversations with friends consist of talk about how the friend of somebody’s friend got so wasted last night and was spewing all over the bathroom and partying for hours on end, where if you don’t get to sleep before 11pm on a weekend, you’ve got to wait until at least 4am in order to drift off peacefully to the land of sheep jumping fences, where your entire life is centered around balance of academic life, social life, and of course, sleep, and where every task needed to be accomplished is done by you, for you. Yes, this is life, hitting you on the side of the head, grabbing a megaphone and yelling into your ear: wake up! There can only be one title applied to such a place: college. And most importantly, world, I’ve entered through its gates this 18th of August 2011 in order to be lead to a hopefully successful career path in the field of civil and environmental engineering.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve adjusted pretty well over the past three months to this completely new lifestyle. I’ve gotten involved a pretty great deal with a wide variety of clubs and organizations. I’m on the Outreach Committee for Structural Engineers Association, in which I am helping to coordinate events. I’m part of Concrete Canoe, helping out with preparing mixes of concrete and aggregates in order to prepare a mixture that will have a density less than one and still have the structural integrity to be molded into a boat that will win in competition. I’m part of iInvent, which is an inventing club that works with ideas and tries to actually work its way towards patenting a product. I’m part of Horticulture Club,  where I am given the opportunity to hear talks from experts on gardening and visit orchards and botanical gardens. Lastly, I’m part of Club Insecta, which is an entomology club that goes on trips to look at nature and collect specimens.

I’ve been keeping pretty busy over this time. I’ve been trying to avoid doing any form of drugs or alcohol and keeping away from late night partying. My roommate and I have nothing at all in common, given my many attempts to try and express who I am, nor do we engage in small talk, which makes conversations within the dorm room rather awkward and short.I suppose I can’t have it how I want all the time, but I’m glad that we both respect each others’ space and treat each other fairly well. I’ve gotten to know a lot of my classmates from high school a lot better over the past couple of months, forming stronger bonds. I’m still been more of an independent person, only relying on the slim chance of “bumping into someone I know” to actually hang out and have fun together, it seems like texting or Facebook messaging doesn’t truly work in a setting like this. If I truly need someone to talk to, I would really just end up knocking on a person’s door. I’ve been doing quite of bit of reading in my own time. I finished the massively long 1000 page novel of The Instructions by Adam Levin and have started getting into Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch recently. My campus is located in a micro-urban town, which is basically a huge number of people centered in a small region in the middle of nowhere. Despite the small part of urban, there really isn’t that much to do here. I’ve mainly just been taking trips by bus to the mall area and have spent my time away from the densely packed campus by sticking to calm, peaceful, open atmosphere bookstores to settle down and read or browse. Speaking of buses, the transit system at my campus is absolutely incredible. I don’t ever have to wait more than three minutes at a bus stop during the week in order to get somewhere I want to go. I’ve integrated the transit lines into my memory and have adapted very well to my environment.

College is just another element of life for me. It’s yet another wild beast that I need to tame in order to get on and keep riding.

 I know this post was rather dry, world, I really just have to catch up and gain a sense of comfort with writing on WordPress again before I delve into some deeper subjects.

Michael