I go away for a conference and stay off the blog for a couple of weeks, and so much happens! I'll be catching up with some of the events over the next few posts, and also posting a number of last-minute submissions from students during the dying days of the semester, so I hope the students are still visiting this blog even though the class is over!
But let me start by noting a rather unpleasant incident that occurred on campus on the last day of the finals week: Ryan Earley, my faculty colleague who regaled us with tales of Machiavellian fish a couple of days ago, had his tires punctured for having one of those Darwin Fish stickers on the back of his car. With a crude note stuck to his windshield telling him “Fuck you Darwinist. Take your car to heaven.” Subtle response that, to a mere bumper sticker, don't you think? Not a model of behavior I should emulate or I'll be really busy with all the other stickers that abound in this town...
I'd learnt of this incident just a couple of days before I left for Germany, and so didn't get around to sharing it here. I did happen to mention it to Diwata Fonte of the Valley Notebook blog, who followed up with a blog post of her own, generating quite a few heated comments. The story got bigger (well... within the blogosphere) when PZ Myers picked up on it, and another longer discussion ensued there (as is wont to happen with the Pharyngula crowd).
Let me say that this is the first such incident I've come to know personally, although I have read of such things happening elsewhere. I have a Darwin fish on the back of my car as well, but it hasn't attracted any such ire so far. I'd also like to clear the air on one point that has come up in some of the comments on the other blogs: the absurd suggestion that Ryan may have done this to his own car to attract attention to himself or some Darwinist cause!! This is really absurd, if for no other reason than the fact that Ryan did absolutely nothing to seek attention to this incident. He simply took his car to the dealer to get fixed under warranty, told a few of us here, and shrugged it off. That the story even got into the blogosphere is actually my fault!
That said, I am still puzzled that someone would feel so aggrieved by a mere bumper sticker as to act in this way. Was it just the stress of finals week getting to some student? Or the heat wave we had seeping through here that week? Or maybe it was a valediction for Dr. Earley since he is leaving this great Central Valley of California for a faculty position in the University of Alabama this fall!
In the end, what does it say of the valley, and of our campus, if we lose promising dynamic young biologists like Ryan - to Alabama??!!