Saturday, March 25, 2017



I often learn something at funerals.  It may be the good things about the guest of honor, in this case, a former student being eulogized by the clergyman, on the basis of second-hand knowledge recently gained from his family and friends.  The deceased was in his late fifties, he had no wife nor children, a fact of life that the octogenarian priest noted he shared with him.  He pondered the meaning of a premature death as others have done.

He related the story of a Jewish scholar in Alexandria, Egypt, pondering the question about a hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ.  The scholar did not arrive at an answer but reflected that a life well-lived is more to be desired than a long life.  I think most of us would concur.  If you believe in an eternal reward for a life well-lived, the length of life becomes somewhat irrelevant.

The greatest life was only about 33 years long; today is an anniversary of his miraculous conception over two thousand years earlier.  More recently, Martin Luther King showed what a person can achieve before forty.


The fact that I did not remember the former student did not bother me too much.  I was at the funeral because his mother was a friend of my wife from working together on some charities years previously.  But I realized how few students I still remember from the hundreds taught in the thirty-six years of teaching plus twenty-one years of retirement.  Even fewer names from that sub-group are remembered.

I started reflecting on the people that were part of our lives in the past.  A next-door neighbor, some fifty years ago, had been very good to us and we had visited her after she retired and moved away, but I couldn’t think of her name.  Well, I finally did a dozen or so minutes later.  I was telling that to my wife and she said, “you couldn’t remember my name when we were first married.”  Unfortunately, that was true several times when stressed by making introductions.

Your name does not have to be known to me in order for me to pray for you, but it helps.  I don’t pray for invertebrates, but it was exciting for me to see one for the first time as a specimen in some pond water on a microscope slide a student was examining.  It was a tardigrade and it looked just like the line drawing of it in a textbook.


I doubt that tardigrades would make the bucket list of things to see or do before dying for very many people.  They are not quite as spectacular as the Grand Canyon, Denali, a volcano, Waikiki, or the skyscrapers of many cities.  Celebrities and famous people and their homes, historical sites, and related tours appeal to many.

One thing that stands out upon reflecting about the many places I’ve visited are the encounters with people.  For some reason, when you are traveling it is sometimes easier to talk to strangers.  When you are older, I hope you do not regret not getting to know the people you find close to home better.  That is one thing travel often makes you realize- people are people and each one has an interesting story to tell.  The hazard of that is that if told every time it may get boring.  The joy of it is you can have an interesting life just staying home.

A bucket list is not essential.  I discovered this most convincingly when I was completing my trip around the world on the way back from Tasmania.  Although making new, interesting friends on different segments of the trip; I mostly missed doing it with someone or a group that was part of my normal life.  So, wherever you are, be happy.

Joe Engemann       Kalamazoo, Michigan     March 25, 2017

Thursday, March 16, 2017



     drop, splash, trickle, dash
     torrent, stream, creek, meander
     turbid, clear, precious, dear

     river, stream
     ocean lake
     pond, marsh
     gulf, bay
     fountain, fall
     channel, quay
     oasis, sluice
     salt, fresh
     stagnate or use

     hydrogen, oxygen, hydrogen
          hydrogen, hydrogen
                                      is water

     bathing, cleaning
     cooking, steaming
     cooling, quenching
     boiling, blanching

     vapor, dew
     mist, rain
     hail, sleet
     ice, snow
     freeze, thaw
     sizzle, drizzle

     fished, squished
     polluted, drained
     eutrophic, stained
     chemically maimed

     saline, pure
     limpid, clear
     tossing, frothing
     churning, turning
     smooth, placid

     surf, shore
     wave, breaker
     feelings of closeness
       to our maker;
     needed, soothing
     renewing, laving
     tears, sweating
     baptizing, saving

     softened, piped
     distilled, wiped
     tanked and drank
     pumped, dumped
     leaked, sumped
     flushed, floated
     bridged, boated

     studied, muddied
     channeled, dammed
     crudded, flooded
     swum and skied
     Aquarians and all
     will ever need

Joseph G. Engemann
August 10, 1977

as a tentative forward to a
proposed limnology text

Copyright 1981 Joseph G. Engemann
[permission to reproduce is granted for non-profit use and/or for printings of less than 1,000 copies.]

The above was found when looking in my limnology notes from long ago to find something about "Langmuir circulation".  I gave up and looked in Wetzel's limnology textbook.  It is the seeming cylinders of alternating clockwise and counterclockwise water that, where they converge, push bits of debris or oils into surface streaks paralleling the wind direction.  I was thinking it must operate in the atmosphere on a much larger spatial scale and be responsible for some of the streaky weather patterns at times seen in rain, snow, and clouds.  I was going to send an email asking the weatherman for the Kalamazoo Gazette if they use that type of phenomenon to explain small scale weather patterns.

Joe Engemann   retired, Western Michigan University,  Kalamazoo, Michigan   March 16, 2017

Friday, March 3, 2017


The importance of research focus

When focus is maintained on a research topic success in publication of results is likely to follow.  Not only will the researcher more easily add new elements to their topic, reviewers will be aware of the publication record and assume you are well qualified in the topic and publication is justified.

An additional important aspect is the ease of keeping current in the pertinent literature.  The beginner in a topic has the difficulty of mastering the literature with searches of older literature, pertinent peripheral topics, and newly published material.  Attendance at professional society meetings is very beneficial in learning what are the current hot topics and who is working on them.

Role of literature cited in manuscript evaluation

Lack of citation of key research papers can result in rejection of submissions to professional journals.  Citing the most recent review articles is helpful in reducing the need for citing countless older articles.  The most recent publication of materials and methods you use is important to cite to show you are up to date as well as to simplify your discussion of that aspect if you have not made modification of the materials and methods.

The hazards of research focus

The danger of becoming obsolete can plague older researchers who have pursued their topic to where their work is finding more and more about less and less with sadly declining value.  In my search of literature on isopods I encountered many redundant lists of measurements of isopod leg segments published in an old prestigious French science journal and authored by the editor.  Journals sometimes become less valuable when editors and/or reviewers become narrowly focused.

Some molecular work on evolution of phyla has suffered because the accepted standard ignoring generation time is too often applied and older peripheral knowledge of other disciplines is ignored.

My lack of focus, or frequent change of focus, has been detrimental to success in publishing research results.  Often it was one submission and out if a rejection was encountered.  Unfortunately, many manuscripts were never submitted because they were produced over such a long time that I felt a need, not easily met, to catch up on recent literature to update the manuscripts.  Many of the most cited research papers of others were rejected many times before publication.

Jumping in to new topics can make review of pertinent literature overwhelming.  The help of on-line searches may ease the need for Biological Abstracts, Science Citation Index, and Zoological Record .  I also used Chemical Index and Index Medicus for some past searches.  Nowadays, Google and Wikipedia are useful for both quick overviews and details to get current.  Specialty journals need monitoring for researchers to stay current.


Focus, with success, can bring credibility.  Linus Pauling gained success for his work and Nobel Prize.  Unfortunately, he was given attention, in areas other than his specialty, in some peripheral subjects.  Much more than needed amounts of vitamin C was consumed by many others as a result.  And in a joint paper with E. Zuckercandl he ventured the idea that generation time did not need attention in molecular clock evolution studies.  That mistake has not yet been corrected as you can find in numerous other posts on this blog.

Success in one area does not equate to mastery of another area.  I will try to avoid applying that observation to current events.

Joseph Engemann    Kalamazoo, Michigan    March 3, 2017