Sunday, October 26, 2008

Omamori: Lucky Objects and the Luck of Friends

I have a new omamori hanging on my wall. The little packet of good luck, about 1 x 2 inches, looks much like the pictured one from wikipedia, although the pictured one is for good luck in studying and mine is for good luck in marriage. While she was at the Todai-ji temple complex in Nara, Japan (which includes the largest wooden building in the world with the largest Buddha statue in Japan; all you can read more about here on Abby's blog), my friend Abby picked this up for me.
Such an object leads to many lines of contemplation. Obviously, I could investigate the history of omamori and mention omamori etiquette (apparently one does not ever open it, because that would allow the luck to escape, and, while luck does not expire, if I needed a new one, it would be proper for me to return this one to the shrine). I've been wanting to start a series on lucky objects. The general Chinese and Japanese fanaticism about luck and superstition is also certainly worth exploring (a result of lacking a fanatical religion? an artifact of sales to tourists? something necessary in high population densities?). And I'm intrigued by Abby's comment that she bought me a omamori for good luck in marriage, "Not that I think you need it," and my reaction, "even those of us fortunate enough to be married to The Mister (or someone else equally appropriate) need all the marriage luck we can find." But what strikes me most about the packet of luck from Abby has nothing to do with little red objects, Japan, or marriage, but rather the wonder of friends.

It overwhelms me a friend researching cnidarians at a remote lab in Japan would put extra effort not only into finding me a lucky object, but finding me the right lucky object ("I didn't want to give you a random one like the one you buy for good luck on tests"). This is a friend who I knew in grad school for two years and may not have seen in the three years since she left Kansas. Yet I'm not surprised she found me a cool object. I'm just overwhelmed by how lucky I am to have made such friends and how lucky I am to have kept such friends.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Stick Bug Sex

I was lucky in having gorgeous fall weather for ecology lab today, lucky that one of my students noticed this pair, and lucky that they were still going strong half an hour later when I returned with the camera.

The insects, of course, are getting very lucky.
The lighting was the only unfortunate part of the whole incident, and I feel prurient enough with this quality of images; imagine if you could see any better where he is sticking that stick.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Is "unlikely" the same as lucky?

I gave an exam today with population growth problems. The answer to the first problem was 245. The answer to the second problem was -254. I made up all of the numbers and didn't know the answers before giving the test. While I could have figured out that 0.53x800x(1-800/2000) was the inverse of 0.53x800x(1-800/500), the likelihood that I would arbitrarily pick three numbers (800, 500, and 2000) that would give identical inverse results is well, statistically very very unlikely.

Meanwhile, the chem prof. did a demonstration in which 1 g of something led to 1 L of gas (or .1, I forget), a situation which only occurs under specific temperature and pressure, which he was not controlling. Also very very unlikely.

So maybe it's my day to buy a power ball ticket. Yet somehow, having done something statistically improbable with numbers doesn't make me feel particularly lucky at all. Lucky must be more than unlikely.

But is does make my grading one step easier.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Our Rodent Friends

As to the goings on of our rodent friends: In August, all of our newly ripe grapes were on the vine one evening and gone the next morning. We believe a groundhog to be the culprit.

We left town on a Friday when this beaver dam was half built. It was complete by Sunday and completely gone a week and a half later.

We had a good chestnut crop this year which the squirrels seem to have taken advantage of, as there are nothing but spiked shells left for the humans.

The chipmunks have not learned to fear Mr. Splashy Pants, and she has not learned they exist, but someday she'll notice and stalk them, just as diligently as she hunts the bees in the gomphrena.