October 2009

Here’s a second, more user-friendly stab at Hitler’s fearsome, catastrophic love affair with Galton’s eugenics program. As you can see, I don’t truck with “social darwinism” or any other form of racism. There will be more where this came from, though since this is a celebration of Origin and its author, most of the remaining weeks are happy and comedic. Props to anyone bold enough to comment in haiku 🙂

Adolf read Galton
those baseless misconceptions
what if he had not?

Over on KTS, I think I titled this “War and Peace” in a moment of sleep-deprived witlessness. I’m still sleep-deprived, as always (did you know that increases your risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease? I’m hoping the language study, cinnamon, and crosswords will counterbalance these unwilling nocturnal tendencies), but “Delusions II” can’t be any worse. None of these get titled on the bio-ku wall.


Hey, guys. Things are getting unexpectedly rough in this small corner of the world, so I’m going to bow out for a while. The Darwin haiku’s are programmed to keep running on schedule, but I may not check in as regularly as normal, so please don’t be miffed if I don’t get back to your comments right away. If you get bored, I’d highly recommend looking up the BBC’s Horrible History series on YouTube. There may have to be a post on this wonderful programme at some point.

Hope to see you on the other side.


Three weeks! This poem is a little punchier than the previous ones, which I happen to like. Still badly written, but what the hay.

Tortoises debate
Apes and ancestors unite
Darwin and Huxley

A newer and slightly better-written (read: more esoteric) one incorporating the Buddhist schooling we’ve been getting in Japanese lit. It may have been scribbled on my notes about Heike Monogatari, but it is about bio, I swear.

The bells of Gioi
ring for the blind processions
sight through time alone.

And, wow! 3 haiku for 3 weeks! Here’s an updated version of that one that may be even more impenetrable.

Bells of Gioi ring
unheeded by the pilgrims
yet sight comes through stone.

Funny title, that. Our one day of fall break was this past Freitag, and I celebrated by sleeping in 3 hours (my flatmate tells me that 9 o’clock is not sleeping in, but my room, my rules). Then of course there were TB tests and problem sets and readings to be done, but that didn’t stop me from procrastinating by making dinner for my best friends, getting an overdue haircut, doing a few Will Shortz crosswords, and catching up on my Gaiman & Pratchett reading. I hadn’t read for pleasure in so long that I was worried I’d forgotten how. As much as I thrill in my thesis work, being in the lab until 6 or 7 every night, then coming home to work into the decently-sized hours of the morning has constricted my downtime and exacted punishment on my sanity. More bits of Aestir and Finch (and, right now, Johann) have started piling up and badgering the busier parts of my mind, so they might have to meet paper over our next break, though that will be a while in coming. I wonder what happens when a little sliver of yourself that’s as idiosyncratically brilliant as Finch barges into your waking life? It might not be so bad, really. We get along inside my head (probably because neither of us labors under the illusion that I have anything to do with his evolution these days), and he would be really handy about the lab. Maybe if I refuse to write things down for long enough all those ideas will build up to the flash point of reality and manifest in this world. That…would be tres cool.

I should probably apologize for that weird stream of words up there, but I’d imagine you all are used to this sort of thing by now. At any rate, have a lovely week, and tune in again for this week’s DHW!

A bio-ku for the second week of Darwin Haiku Wednesdays:

Mockingbirds, finches,
strata and island fossils
birth of an era

For my cousin,

I’ve always found, and you agreed, that music offers a certain substance to the world that’s lacking in our other exploits. Without that melody humming in the background of your mind, there isn’t much to recommend the day, and silence makes it difficult to be human. With a touch of rhythm and even a few notes, things burst into color. You remember them. Life is worth living, with a song.

With that in mind, I was pleased to run across this while I was putting together my paper on the Tale of Genji:

“I used to do tolerably well on the Japanese koto myself; but my son tells me it is in bad taste. I suppose the fashions have changed. He says he can’t bear the thing, and besides I am wasting my time. I ought to be spending my time with my beads, every last minute of it, he says, and so I am out of practice. If I could just give you something on that koto of mine, such a fine, clear tone it does have.”
She would like nothing better than to perform for them, the captain could see. “Your reverend son has strange ideas of what you should and should not be doing. Does he not know, and like all the rest of us think it admirable, that the powers above play on instruments like these and the angels dance to them? What sin can there be in music, what harm can it do to your prayers? I for one cannot think of any. Come, let’s have a tune or two.”

-Tale of Genji, trans. Edward Seidensticker

Take that, Calvin!

There is a wonderful tradition here in the biology department of using the big dry erase wall in McDonnel Hall for haiku. Perhaps because we spend our lives seeking pattern, rhyme and meter are something of a game to us, and we make a surprisingly decent bunch of poets when the mood/coffee break strikes. Not all of my contributions are good, but a few have been left up under the giant Kilroy Was Here. Presumably, they’re there for posterity, or at least until the F2 generation comes in next month.

2009 being the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth as well as the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of the Species, I thought it might be fun to finish out the year with a Darwin haiku each Wednesday. These posts will be paralleled on our apartment’s joint blog over at Kitchen Table Society, since that actually gets readership, though I might flesh the posts out more here. For a few weeks, though, they may stand in for regular talk while I deal with papers and family matters. Here goes with the first two I put up:

The Beginning

Mockingbirds and strife
from fossils to rhetoric
Darwin & Huxley


Galton misread Charles
conclusions without data
Hitler read Galton

The second one lasted all of 5 hours on the wall; apparently people saw only the names and didn’t think too hard about what it actually said. Look at it in the context of Everett Mendell’s lecture on The World Before Darwin (which happened to address aspects of the post-Darwin world, as well), of Jame’s Watson’s recent racist comments, and the paramount importance of backing not only one’s publications, but one’s opinions, with genuine data.

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