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Matthew Pate


Octopuses driving Porsches

A recent study published in the journal, Current Biology, studies how octopuses move. Titled “Arm Coordination in Octopus Crawling Involves Unique Motor Control Strategies,” researchers from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Weizman Institute of science explore how octopuses (and yes, it’s ‘octopuses’ not ‘octopi’) use their unique structure to glide through the water.

Giving no quarter for Chambers

Most of us are probably used to hearing politicians say things that are ill-conceived, irrational or just outright dumb. In the current age of information overload, the Internet has made it possible for us to branch out into the verbal landmines of political figures all over the world. As if we didn’t have enough fodder at our state and local fingertips, we can now borrow the miseries of constituents the world over.

A jumble of cookies to remember

In the Broadway musical version of the Addams Family, Grandma tells a crestfallen Pugsley, “That’s life, kid. You lose the thing you love.” I saw this musical several years ago. For all the show’s silliness, this somber line is what stuck with me.

Thieves Singing Among Us

Back in the early 1990s when I was in landscape architecture school at the University of Georgia, I took a design class led by a very talented young architect named Hank Methvin. Hank told the class something that has stuck with me all these years.

Where no nerds have gone

A couple of weeks ago I learned that the actor, Leonard Nimoy, had been hospitalized. Upon hearing this, I remarked that it wouldn’t be long. It wasn’t. As the world knows, he succumbed last week to COPD, the cruel reward for a lifetime of smoking — a habit that he had abandoned three decades ago.

From ashes to prosperity

In 79 A.D. Mount Vesuvius near modern Naples, Italy, erupted, burying the city of Pompeii in a thick blanket of volcanic ash. As one witness to the calamity wrote, the dust “poured across the land” like a flood. Nearly two thousand people died; and the city was abandoned for the next 1700 years.

Deeper than the skin

Confucius once said, “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” Beauty is a tough word. We’ve all heard the aphorism, “beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.” I am not so sure.

Now Serving Student Number Six

Recently, I attended a meeting where an administrator from a small public university treated the audience to a review of his institution’s new “brand identity campaign.” There’s a lot I don’t like about the current direction of higher education in America. This is the thing I despise the most.

Pear-ish the thought of spring

As I let the dogs out to do their morning business, I saw the first harbinger of spring. The row of quince beside my back gate has begun to bloom. The blossoms are a deep rosy pink. They’re always the first plant to suggest the coming end to winter’s cold.

Neither easy nor really free

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, the French government rounded up a number of people sympathetic to the horror unleashed on the offices of Charlie Hebdo. All tolled, French police have arrested or are investigating around 100 individuals for making comments that support or attempt to justify the barbarity.

Tall and tan and young and lovely

Thus begins a new year. I don’t really make much in the way of resolutions. I find that life has enough rules without imposing a bunch of new ones on myself. It may be that I’m so much of a contrarian I can’t even stand my own arbitrary orders.

Christmas without Darth Vader

In 1969, the Rolling Stones released the album, “Let It Bleed.” The fourth track on the second side was “You can’t always get what you want.” As the lyrics explain, “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you just might find. You get what you need.”

Hidden in plain sight

It may seem an odd parallel, but there exists an interesting relationship between the judicial evolution of obscenity and changing sensibilities regarding police use of force. The comparison suggested itself as I read an article on James Joyce’s landmark tome, Ulysses. Eighty-one years ago this week, a federal magistrate ruled that the book was not obscene.

Silence of the Carrots

‘Tis the season for culinary exploration. At least around the extended Pate household, that’s when Mother and I usually trot out at least one “experimental” dish alongside the perennially prepared and preordained. Every once in a while, one of the experiments makes it into the regular roster; more often they just quietly fade into history.

No reason to come home

It’s that time of year when most colleges hold their annual homecoming celebrations. The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, the school in my hometown, just completed its annual pageant. There was a parade. Innumerable parties and other commemorations were attended; and of course, there was the big game. It also gives the school a chance to showcase its recent additions and improvements. The newly opened STEM center comes to mind. It is an awesome and inviting spectacle.

Neither folded, spindled nor mutilated

The 1999 comedy, Office Space, was writer/director Mike Judge’s sendup on the perils of corporate drone work, but it applies equally well to almost any bureaucracy. The film has since become a cult classic and touchstone for the disgruntled, marginalized and unappreciated.

The ugly noise of false democracy

Since I was 16 I’ve worked in more than two dozen political campaigns. While most of my candidates have been Democrats, I’ve also worked in several Republican and Independent campaigns. I’m a registered Democrat, but some of my fellow party members might argue I’m not a very good one.

Movement without real leaders

As most regular readers know, I don’t often address issues that attract the bulk of commentary or punditry. This week is an exception. Recent events in Ferguson, Mo,. demand a critical response. As someone who studies crime and social responses to it, I feel compelled to say something.

Success takes a big eraser

For reasons that escape me, I get asked to do a lot of public speaking. More often than not I’m called to discuss matters of crime and justice, but increasingly I get asked to talk about other things. After a recent lecture a young man from the audience approached me and asked a simple question, “How did you get to be a writer?”

When science isn’t funny

Last week I read an evocative article by livescience.com writer, Tanya Lewis, in which many of history’s unjustly forgotten scientists were highlighted. In addition to the rather obvious conclusion that female scientists have often gotten less than their due, the article speaks to a much larger point about the nature of academia.

The irrelevant Mr. Chips

If you’ve taken or taught a college class in the last decade, you can probably attest to the changes brought about by digital technology. We have so-called “smart classrooms” where the technological interface is front and center; and even when its not in the limelight, digital technology is omnipresent.

A Samurai down in Old Mexico

You might recall the old idiom, “Everything old is new again.” As I was recently organizing a shelf of DVDs I came across a boxed set of films that are among my favorites. They are a collection of movies by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. Among the included titles are Sanjuro, The Hidden Fortress, Ran, Rashomon and my personal favorite, Yojimbo (trans. The Bodyguard).