Friday, 19 November 2010

Apodrosus revision and blog

Apodrosus is a genus of broad-nosed weevil found in the isles of the Caribbean. Apodrosus wilcotti, pictured above, is from Puerto Rico. It has recently been revised in a well written and illustrated paper by Jennifer GirĂ³n and Nico Franz. This paper was part of Jennifer's Masters degree project, and the process of conducting the revision was chronicled on her blog, appropriately titled Apodrosus. It's a great insight into the taxonomic process, and the combination of scientific thought, careful observation and personal passion that it requires. Other valuable outputs from Jennifer's work include a poster and a presentation.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

HTML helps

I am not a particularly on-to-it web designer (as you can probably guess by my having a blogger blog), having a rudimentary knowledge of HTML and not having either the time or the incentive to enter the brave new world of cascading style sheets and the like. While there are a good many websites that help with learning and remembering HTML tags, I've found the page to be particularly useful. The categories are not always aligned with my intuition, but it's good nonetheless.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Asian Beetle Websites II

In addition to the websites on Asian beetles mentioned previously, here's a couple more which are worth visiting.

The first is the Kisti website that provides online access to issues of Insecta Koreana and the Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology, both of which have many articles written in English. In addition they have issues of the Korean Journal of Applied Entomology and the Proceedings of the Korean Society of Applied Entomology Conference which are in Korean.

The second site is the insect collection database of the Kyushu University Museum (English page). Many of the database entries have got habitus photographs including the Acallinus tuberculatus shown above. Unfortunately, the encoding seems to be incompatible with my font set, which makes it look ugly and hard to navigate on my machine.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Using pdfpages to rotate odd pages only

Today I scanned a document to PDF. It was a large document, and I scanned it in stages. No worries about putting the pieces together—that's what the LaTeX package pdfpages is for. What did cause a bit of a problem was that the odd and even pages were oppositely orientated. When I scanned the pages I had to turn the book around, meaning that all the odd pages were upside down.

To rectify this problem I had to delve into the dark world of LaTeX programming. It was an adventure, but thankfully it wasn't too difficult. What I came up with was the following tex file:





\loop\ifnum \value{number@} < 6 %CHANGE for each document
   \ifodd \value{number@}
      \includepdf[pages=\arabic{number@}, angle=180]{document}


To illustrate, I've made an example PDF file to test it on. This test file is an open access paper from Zootaxa, the original of which is available here.

Do remember to change the number that \value{number@} is being compared to. This number is the total pages in "document.pdf", and I haven't yet figured out how to automatically retrieve it. Doing so would've consumed more time than I can afford just now.

Particularly helpful in this adventure was the Tralics site that contains documentation on all TeX commands, and this site on counters.

Monday, 8 November 2010

South Pacific Study

South Pacific Study is a Japanese periodical that publishes scholarly articles on a diverse range of subjects of relevance to the South Pacific in a very broad sense. The scope of the journal is extremely wide—you'll find articles ranging from analyses of Buddhist missionary activity, to measurements of volcanic SO2, to the biology of pests, to taxonomic papers. The icing on top is that these articles are freely available online, back to around 2000. Tables of contents and some articles prior to then are also available.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

"Kairos" and the universality of Christ

A central Christian doctrine is the universality of Jesus' death and resurrection and Lordship. This means that the spiritual needs of all people—whether they originate from Europe, India, Saudi Arabia, Cameroon, PNG or Japan—can be fulfilled by following Jesus. Simeon, speaking over the newborn Jesus: "A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of Your people Israel" (Luke 2:32 NKJV). Jesus himself: "If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all peoples to Myself" (John 12:32 NKJV).

Revolutionary stuff, particularly in this age of post-modern thought and the promotion of pluralism and tolerance. In actual fact, however, the above admission of the universal sufficiency of Christ can promote a love for others that is far greater and deeper than a live-and-let-live tolerance of those differences.

Modern mission training recognises the beauty and significance of different cultures and promotes the understanding of different cultures by all Christians. It also maintains that Christ should be seen as the fulfillment of the hopes and dreams of each culture, on the premise that every culture has legends, beliefs and traditions that point to the one true God. Examples of these can be found in Don Richardson's very interesting and inspiring book "Eternity in Their Hearts". Finally, current teaching on cross-cultural mission warns against the danger of confusing cultural tendencies with Christian truth, and encourages the moulding of methods of proclamation and forms of worship (NB: NOT core doctrine) to the pattern of what is natural, acceptable and God-glorifying in the culture being reached.

Recently, I participated in the Kairos course, which was developed by Living Springs International and is being run in about 50 countries throughout the world. Its emphasis is on the cross-cultural proclamation of Jesus' death and resurrection and the implications of this event for the lives of those who decide to follow Him. It is a great course and well worth doing if you have the chance. A particular highlight of the course was the video by J. Edwin Orr on the role of prayer in spiritual awakening.

Other useful internet resources for those interested in cross-cultural mission include the Joshua Project, and Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Friday, 5 November 2010

They don't publish papers like this anymore...

Modern scientific writing is very detached and impersonal, a style which encourages objectivity but makes it somewhat difficult to read. This wasn't always the case. I came across a paper by Thomas Vernon Wollaston published in the periodical Annals and Magazine of Natural History, one of the top scientific journals of the time. The title is enough to make you want to take a second look: "On certain musical Curculionidae...."

His introduction goes:
Whilst residing in the remote and almost inaccessible village of Taganana (towards Point Anaga), in the north of Teneriffe ... my attention was called to a peculiarity in a beautiful species of Acalles ... which I do not remember to have seen recorded concerning any other Coleopterous insect whatsoever.

Without any further ado, he launches into the methods section:
It was on the 22nd of May that my Portuguese servant ... brought me home eleven specimens of a large Acalles which he had captured within the dried and hollow stems of a plant growing on the rocky slopes towards the sea ... he was about, in this instance, to throw away these rotten stems as worthless, when he was arrested by a loud grating, or almost chirping, noise, as of many creatures in concert ... On shaking the hollow stem, so as to arouse its inmates, and putting his ear alongside it, the whole plant appeared musical, as though enchanted ....

The methods continue:
So pleased was I with the accomplishments of these anomalous musicians, when brought to me, that I felt quite a reluctance (even though an entomologist) to put them to death. I therefore made a compromise with my feelings, and killed only eight of them.

The results of this investigation are that:
... in the case of the Acalles, the pygidium, although roughened, is not very sensibly so; whilst the small portion of the inner surface of the elytra against which (at each successive pulsation) it is brought to play is far less strictly file-like than was the triangular mesothoracic space of Deucalion [a genus of longhorn beetles that also make a noise] ... yet this is certainly the contrivance by means of which this little Curculionidous musician is enabled to perform its anal "song".

I don't think that Nature would appreciate a piece written in this style...

Wollaston TV. 1860. On certain musical Curculionidae; with descriptions of two new Plinthi. Annals and Magazine of Natural History Series 3, 6:14-19

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Insect farming

Insect specimens can be big business. There are enough people out there with money to spare, and who find large and colourful insects such as butterflies, jewel beetles and certain scarab and longhorn beetles worth spending it on. As in all things, this offers both an opportunity and a challenge. Typically, countries with an abundance of desirable specimens are in the tropics and are classed as developing countries. The insect trade offers a high-value export product that can be sustainably produced and can give value to undisturbed habitats. The converse is the usual danger of unsustainable production and unscrupulous middlemen

The sites that follow are a selection of insect trading websites that I've found that are well illustrated, and have some sort of connection with the Pacific. I am not involved with any of these companies, and cannot vouch for the ethics of their trading practises.

Papua New Guinea company, The Insect Farming and Trading Agency, functions as a link between rural insect collectors and breeders and the trade, and sells a range of butterflies and beetles.

The Insect-Sale site is a Taiwan based outfit that exports insects collected from throughout the world, and particularly South East Asia. It boasts that it has the world's largest number of online insect photographs, and is also notable for its gallery of freak insect specimens.

Finally, InsectNet serves as a portal for a number of other sites that offer insect specimens for sale.