Sunday, June 29, 2008

Lucky Racoon Penis Bone and Midpoint Assessment

Pictured at left is a raccoon baculum or penis bone. According to wikipedia (also the source of the image), a raccoon baculum is a good luck charm. When I set out on the year of luck, I thought that this would be the sort of information I would be providing you. In much the same way that last year I saw a new rodent, looked it up, and wrote about it, I anticipated learning about a new luck charm, looking it up and sharing the information.

I've hit a few snags with this approach so far this year. First and foremost, I'm just too lazy. Sure, wikipedia says that raccoon penis bones are a good luck charm and fertility symbol, but among whom? where? This wikipedia article being properly referenced, I can click to the Lucky W Amulet Archive and learn from people who sell necklaces of them that the scientific name is os penis (for "penis bone") or baculum (for "little rod") but they are also known in Oklahoma and Texas as coon dongs or mountain man toothpicks. Still, I'm not convinced that internet salespeople at "" should be my primary source of information, and, as it happens, I have neither the historical anthropology skills, nor the motivation to dig into the origins of good luck charms and, unlike rodents, there aren't a few authoritative texts where I can look up luck.

The second major snag is that I have become much more interested in the psychology of fortune. The difference between luck, fate, gods and superstition interests me, as does one's perception of when one is lucky. Probability and statistics fascinate me (as many of my graduate school friends will attest, who else would throw a wine tasting based on a factorial analysis of variance?) but mostly from a teaching and a perception stand-point, rather than as a gambler or actuary. During my year of luck, these interests have grown and led to the beginnings of brilliant essays composed while walking home from work or washing the dishes. Despite this, astute readers will notice a definitive lack of brilliant essays here. In composing these brilliant essays, I've discovered that few are brilliant enough for me to spend my time actually writing them, that most fail to come to a conclusion, drastically diminishing their brilliance, and that I lack the skills or, more honestly, the persistence, to delve into the social science and biopyschology literature to learn enough to come to conclusions. Halfway through a year on luck, I'm still resolved consider these ideas, but I've failed to come up with a workable plan. We'll see. I'm also short on luck books and movies, but plan to hit the library for some lucky summer reading tomorrow.

Meanwhile, penis bones have proven to be lucky for me. While teachning vertebrate zoology this spring, I wanted to talk about mammalian os penes, and how some species have a calcified bone in their penis and others do not. Alas, I could not remember the term. I was cringing at the thought of googling for "penis bone" images when I happened upon an article I needed for another lecture contrasting lagomorphs (rabbits, hares and pikas) with rodents. Among other things, rodents have baculum and lagomorphs do not. Technical word found at just the right moment, safe search done, image found, lecture given without overmuch giggling. Penis bones: lucky indeed.

1 comment:

Irene said...

Coon dong. That is so much fun to say that I will now attempt to work that phrase into sentences, or perhaps it will become my new signature swear word.