Recent Entries by Dylan  

Class Update

Today is the middle of the 4th week of my junior year here at UMR. I am taking 8 classes this semester: Microbiology Lecture, Microbiology Lab, Microbiology and Environment, CLI, Spanish 3, Physics, Molecular Genetics, and an Introduction to clinical lab sciences course. So far in my microbiology classes we have talked about significant discoveries in microbiology (such as pasteurization and the penicillin mold), the components of microbes, microscope, dye, and staining techniques, respiratory pathogens, and the dynamics of bacterial growth. In my CLI class we are preparing ourselves to take the MCAT exam (amongst other graduate school exams).

Each week in CLI we find 3 words with Greco-Latin roots and define them according to the roots in order to better understand the etymology of these words. We also took a practice MCAT exam (which I did surprisingly well on, yay!). In our Spanish 3 class we are learning words that have to do with the medical field, which is a great example of how we integrate health science into all of our classes. We also are learning to utilize social media in Spanish by tweeting in Spanish for credit and by making Spanish podcasts and videos. In my physics class we are learning about the physics of two dimensional motion and kinematic equations.

In my molecular genetics class we began by looking at genetics at a more macroscopic scale; such as examining heredity, mitosis and meiosis. We are now beginning to look at DNA at a microscopic scale by examining the carbohydrate backbone, the nucleotides, and the phosphate group and how they all interact with one another. My clinical lab science course has so far introduced the professions in a clinical lab setting, the role of laboratory medicine in patient care, and hematology.
It's been a good semester so far, I'm looking forward to learning more!
~Dylan G.

My Little Tarantula

While a lot of college students would want to have a cat or a fish or a dog, I've chosen some pretty unconventional pets to care for. I've talked about my two adorable chinchillas in another blog, but today I want to talk about the most recent edition to my fuzzy family; Shelob the Brazilian Salmon Pink Birdeater tarantula.


See, She's Fuzzy!

I've wanted a tarantula for some time now, but it was a hard battle to get my girlfriend to let me keep something with more than 4 legs in our apartment. Imagine her reaction when I informed her that the species of tarantula that I aimed to get could grow to 10 inches long and possessed venomous fangs that could get as big as an inch! But, to my avail, she gave in on the premise that she could choose her own exotic animal to keep in the near future (it'll be a full house soon!), and that the tarantula would stay in my room (locked up). My other roommate was not against the idea of keeping an arachnid in the apartment, but he wasn't overly enthused either. With the go-ahead from my roommates and a membership to a wholesale reptile store, I ordered the tarantula online.

The shipping cost was pretty high, so I talked to my friend Joe, who was interested in buying a ball python, and we decided that it would be cheaper if we both got our exotic pets together in one shipment. We joked about how 80% of the population would be terrified by something in that box if they stumbled upon it and decided to open it up.
Lucky for us, the shipment arrived the next day! The box that arrived was much smaller than I anticipated; but to my surprise (and relief) both animals had plenty of room on their journey. I decided to name my new tarantula Shelob, akin to the giant spider from the Lord of the Rings series. It definitely suits her; she is a little monster when it comes to feeding.

For those of you who are wondering how I am crazy enough to want to keep a tarantula, let me explain. I find spiders absolutely fascinating, in a terrifying and beautiful way. They are adept predators and are extremely advanced evolutionarily. Did you know that spiders have retractable claws just like cats? They can use their claws along with their special hair on their feet to scale surfaces that are smooth as glass, and they can even crawl on the ceiling! Also, when tarantulas are walking in a dangerous place they spin a strand of silk behind them as they walk, like a safety wire. If they happen to fall the silk will catch them, since spider silk is reported to be 5 times the strength of steel of the same weight. Speaking of strolling spiders, do you know how tarantulas move? Spiders, like many bugs, have an exoskeleton. That means muscles can only attach to the interior side of their skeleton, effectively only being able to draw their legs inwards. In order to move their legs in an outward motion, they need to use hydro-static pressure from their blood; which means that they push blood into their limbs to push them outward. If a spider loses too much body water, it can't generate the necessary hydraulic pressure to push its legs out; this is why when you see dead spiders their legs are curled up. And since we are talking about spider blood, did you know spiders don't breathe like people do? They have special lungs called book lungs located on their abdomen. Their name describes their structure; alternating stacks of blood filled 'pages' of tissue and air pockets make it possible for spiders to breath. As the spider moves, the air in the pockets gets replaced with new air and gas exchange occurs between the air and the blood behind the thin tissue page.


Tarantulas are voracious predators. Some tarantulas have these special bristles on their butt called utricating hairs that they can fire like projectiles. Utricating hairs can cause some damage to small creatures and irritation to larger ones. They can tackle prey that is the same size as them and inject them with venom that will kill them within a minute. This venom has enzymes in it that digest the prey outside of the spider's body into a liquidy slop that can be slurped up through the spiders mouth, which is comparable to a drinking straw. Watching a tarantula eat is one of the most rewarding parts of owning one of these magnificent creatures, as it demonstrates the raw power that they possess.

I could spend all day here typing spider facts, but instead I will leave you with this link to a short, mediocre quality video of my juvenile tarantula eating a cricket.



Recently I signed up for the Annual UMR Students Today Leaders Forever (STLF) trip, and I am feeling pretty excited for this Spring Break. I don't know much about the trip to be totally honest, but from what I've heard from students who have gone in previous years; it is going to be an emotionally charged experience that I won't ever forget. What I do know is that it is going to be a 9-day trip across the country; we will stop in 5 different cities to do community service and when we get to the final city we will rendezvous with students from different STLF tours and do one massive community service project.

This year the ending city is Atlanta, Georgia. The trip was pretty reasonably priced; it costs $450 dollars, which may seem like a lot until you realize that it is only $50 dollars a day with meals included. I wasn't sure if I was going to go when I first heard about it but after thinking about it I decided it would be a fun experience. Plus a community service trip will look good on my resume. I haven't ever gone on a trip with a large group before, so I think that it will be interesting to see how this turns out.


When I tell people I have two chinchillas, a lot of the time they don't know what I'm talking about. Sometimes they go "eww" because all they know about chinchillas is that they are rodents. The most appropriate response I get when I mention this tidbit about myself is "DAWWW" because, I kid you not, these little creatures have to be the most adorable things in the world. Look.



Don't tell me I didn't warn you. I hope that you didn't suffer any cuteness related injuries.
The chinchilla on the top is Chibi, and the chin on the bottom is Pikachu. If you think they are cute now you should see them when they snuggle together, which they do constantly.
Chinchillas make for excellent pets. They grow affectionate of you, so whenever I walk into the room that I keep them in they will run up to the side of their cage to greet me. They are pretty quiet, so even though they are nocturnal they don't keep me awake. They are so fun to play with; they hop all over you like you are the perfect chinchilla jungle gym. They don't bite. They don't smell. They are just fantastic. Of course, every pet has its downside. Chinchillas are rodents, so they have a natural tendancy to chew on just about everything (but they won't bite you!).Chinchillas don't have external anal sphincters, so when they need to poop they just poop. Everywhere. If a chinchilla got lost, it could follow its poop trail back to wherever it came from with no issue. The poops are hard and don't smell though, so cleaning up after them isn't so bad. Alright that's enough poop talk.
The other thing about chinchillas that may be a deal breaker for anyone interested is that they frighten extremely easily. Chinchillas are natural prey animals, so they instinctively fear everything that moves quickly or makes loud noises. This makes it hard to handle chinchillas, because they think that the giant hand that is coming to pick them up is an eagle about swoop down and eat a chinchilla snack. However, if you make slow, deliberate movements around chinchillas they will feel more at ease and allow you to pet them. That brings me to the best part about chinchillas: their fur. Chinchillas are literally the softest thing I've ever felt, and you would be hard-pressed to convince me that chinchilla fur is not the softest substance known to man. Chinchillas have the highest density fur of any living animal, with each hair follicle containing around 70 hairs. Humans, on the other hand, only have one hair per follicle. Chinchilla fur is so dense that when they get wet all the water stays trapped in it, so like gremlins, chinchillas can't get wet. Instead of bathing in water, chinchillas bathe in volcanic dust (pumice dust) to clean out their fur. One major bonus about their fur (other than it being the softest fur in the world) is that it doesn't contain dander; in other words chinchillas are hypoallergenic.

Poaching chinchillas for their fur has dwindled the wild chinchilla population down to dangerously low numbers. Currently, wild chinchillas are critically endangered species in their native Peru. This may be surprising to hear since chinchillas are pretty common pets, but interestingly enough almost all of the chinchillas in North America are related! A man named M.F. Chapman took an expedition to the Andes Mountains in 1918 to captivate some wild chinchillas. Over three years he managed to trap 11 chinchillas, 3 of which were female, and he brought those chinchillas back to his native California. Apparently all of the chinchillas in North America are descended from these 11 chinchillas!

Alright, this long is getting pretty long-winded and I could talk about chinchillas forever, so I'll leave you with one final cute chinchilla picture.


Fancy Fridays

Here at the University of Minnesota Rochester the dress code is pretty easy to follow; don't wear anything you wouldn't be embarrassed to wear in front of your grandmother and you'll be fine. Some students have taken the liberty of expanding the dress code, however, to incorporate a day for dressing their best. This day is Fancy Friday, and it is my favorite day of the week.

Anyone is welcome to participate in Fancy Fridays, but some people opt not to because Fridays are also University Pride days and wearing Maroon and Gold is encouraged. I think that Fancy Friday is a lot more fun than University Pride day, however, so instead of Maroon and Gold I wear Swag and Debonair. I look forward to Fancy Fridays because when I am dressed to impress I feel more confident and I always have a smile on. I'm not the only person who participates in Fancy Friday of course, so it's always fun to see what my friends are wearing too! Everybody who dresses up with us has a really good time doing it, so if you plan on going to UMR pack your best dress or suit.

My Apple Orchard Adventure

I love candy. I mean I REALLY love candy. I have a Grade-A certified sweet tooth, and I have the dental record to prove it. Lately, however, I've been trying to cut back on the sweets and eat some healthier snacks. That's how Alison and I decided to go to the Sekapp Orchard to pick some apples.

It was a crisp fall afternoon the day that we went to the orchard. It wasn't so cold that it required a winter jacket, but much too cold for shorts. Our drive out to the orchard was short; Sekapp is just a five minute drive from Alison's apartment. The drive seemed to go by so much faster as I watched colorful trees fly past me. Fall is my favorite season, because I love the way the color of the trees changes the atmosphere and how the cold air freshens my senses. When I opened the car door at the orchard a burst of cool air hit my face. Refreshing. I took Alison's hand (eeewwww cooties) and we walked into the Sekapp Farm.

Right away you can tell these guys at Sekapp mean business. There are pumpkins all over the place and... Wait a minute; this is an apple orchard, what's with the pumpkins? As you'll learn when you get there, Sekapp actually doesn't exclusively sell apples. On their 170 acre farm, the Kappauf family harvests over 100 varieties of fruits and vegetables, making Sekapp Orchard Rochester's largest grower of produce. They grow raspberries, strawberries, cucumbers, peppers, onions, tomatoes, sweet corn and even pears! In October, however, Sekapp gets most of its business from pumpkins and apples. IMAG0180.jpgAlison Standing in front of a Spooky Hay Bail

Alison and I did not go to Sekapp to get any pumpkins, so we left the pumpkin patch and headed towards the orchard. It turns out that the folks at Sekapp offer wagon rides on the weekend to anyone who wants to pick their own apples, so we got in line for the next wagon.

IMAG0181.jpgWagon Rides!

When we arrived at the apple orchard the wagon stopped. The driver let us off and offered us five, ten, or twenty pound bags to collect our fruit in. He told us that all apples are a dollar per pound, except for honeycrisps, which are two dollars per pound. Alison and I grabbed two ten pound bags and then the driver let us loose in the orchard. We spent about half an hour in the orchard before we hitched a ride back to the farm on a wagon with seven pounds of honeycrisps and five pounds of fireside apples.

IMAG0185.jpgRows of Apple Trees

IMAG0184.jpgAlison Picking Some Apples

IMAG0188.jpgThe Wagon Ride Back

In order to buy your apples, you need to go to the salesroom located on the west side of the farm. The salesroom is filled with pre-picked apples and other produce. The coolest part about the sales room is that they have free samples of every apple they have for sale! Alison and I couldn't help ourselves and we ended up getting a jar of apple salsa, two pieces of caramel, two caramel apples, and a pack of caramel to make caramel apples (can you tell I have a sweet tooth yet?) along with our twelve pounds of apples. With the added stuff, the total came out to be about thirty dollars. Not bad for fresh produce.

IMAG0183.jpgFree. Apples.

IMAG0189.jpgOur Bounty from the Orchard

All in all, my apple orchard experience was a treat. If you would like to go sometime, Sekapp Orchard is open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm, 7 days a week. If you would like to pick your own apples you need to go on a weekend.

Dylan's 5 Ways to Beat the Heat

5. Soldiers Field (Or any other park really)

Once the winter coats come off it's fair game for... any game really. Get your sport on at Soldiers field or one of Rochester's other community parks, because after a video game binge or watching Netflix for the 8th straight hour you should really stretch out your Cheeto fingers and get outside. Soldier's memorial field has a large field that is good for running around and playing Frisbee or ball sports and it also has a baseball diamond if kickball or baseball is your thing. If you just need to get out for a run, Soldier's field has a running track and a few trails that lead from the park that are good for running. Soldier's field also has an impressive monument dedicated to Minnesota Veterans, so you should check that out too if you have a chance.

Soldiers Field 1.JPG

4. Rochester Public Library

For those times when the summer heat is a little too much I like to go to the Public Library. The Library is a nice and cool place to hang out, and of course it is filled with tons of books! Over 360,000 books, actually. I love getting lost inside books and discovering new things or new worlds, it really helps me de-stress. The library also hosts events for the community, generally for free, every week. The events vary, but there is usually something for everyone to do.

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3. Quarry Hill

If you enjoy the great outdoors Quarry Hill Nature reserve is a great destination for summer fun! The 320-acre park has numerous hiking trails which will lead you through some of Minnesota's fauna and give you a great opportunity to see some woodland critters. The trails will also lead you to the limestone quarry, which is riddled with Ordovician fossils. If Hiking isn't for you, Quarry hill features a two acre fishing pond where you can catch (and release) panfish and other lake fish. Quarry hill also has several nature facilities where you can learn about wildlife including a bird observatory and a small museum of the nature found in the park.

Quarry Hill 2.JPG

2. Foster Arend Park

On a blistering hot day nothing cools you down quite like a dip in a lake. Foster Arend Park is Rochester's own free beach located on the edge of Foster Arend Lake, an 18 acre brown lake that is stocked with around 10,000 rainbow trout every year. Its sandy beach makes for a great place to lay in the sun or play some beach volleyball, and the water near the shore gets pretty nice during the summer. In my opinion, there isn't a better place to swim in town. Foster Arend Lake is also an excellent fishing location. The water gets to be around sixty feet deep, which makes it great for catching cold water fish like largemouth bass, bluegill, perch, rainbow and brown trout, crappies, northern pike and, of course, walleye.

Foster Arends.JPG

1. Thursdays on First & 3rd

Every Thursday starting on the first Thursday in June, Rochester hosts an outdoor market with over 100 food, crafts, and arts vendors and live local entertainment. Of course, the food and crafts aren't free, but window shopping is. The two live concerts that are performed each week at the Coca-Cola stage or the peace plaza stage on either end of the market are also free to attend. Personally, my favorite part about going to Thursdays on First is seeing all of the people! There are hundreds of people that show up to the market, so a person watching is always interesting.

Thursdays on First.jpg

(Photo Credit Chad Johnson, Flickr)

Top 5 Places You Can Find Dylan Munchin'

Howdy Everyone!
I've got food on my mind (but not in my belly) so I thought I might write a bit about my top five favorite places to eat around campus, starting with number five.

5. Z-Pizza

If I've got class in five minutes at University Square and I need something quick and delicious, Z-Pizza is what I usually stop to get. They always have slices of their hand-made organic pizza waiting to be eaten so you almost never have to wait. Plus the selection of their delightful pizza is different every day, so you never have to eat the same pizza two days in a row.

4. Dooley's Pub
Dooley's would probably be higher on my list if I was 21, because it is definitely the place to be on a Saturday night. Dooley's has a great atmosphere. Good music is always playing, the waitresses and waiters are generally polite, and the lighting makes the place comfortable. You can find me at Dooley's after 10 o'clock pm, when their appetizers drop in price. I always get the buffalo wings when I go to Dooley's because I am a buffaloholic.

3. Salad Brothers Café and Deli
Today it's a little chilly outside (Of course it is, we're in MN!) And I'm thinking it's a soup day. Where can I get the best soup for my money? Salad Brothers! With a wide selection of soup ranging from Clam Chowder to (my favorite) Minnesota Wild Rice, you are sure to find a soup you will love. And if soup isn't your thing they've got great sandwiches and salads as well. The best part about it all is the FREE BREADSTICKS that come with every order. And let me tell you, they make great breadsticks. OH! I almost forgot about the Cinnamon buns! Every morning they bake 'em fresh and they cost under three bucks! In my opinion they have the best buns in town.

2. Newt's
If you are looking to eat some burger than look no further. Newt's has been voted the number one burger place in Rochester many times, and for good reason. They simply have delicious burgers. Delicious. Huge. Burgers . What more do you need? I'll tell you. Every time I've been to Newt's I've had excellent service. My drinks never run dry and the waiter always asks if there is anything he can do. What's more is that Newt's doesn't have to be a sit down thing. They have a Newt's Express restaurant in the skyway system that will get you a good burger super-fast.

1. Mac's Café
And here sits Mac's Café, at the top of my list. I may be a little biased towards Mac's because it was the first place I took my girlfriend Alison on a date (Awwww) but it seriously has some great food. Located right on peace plaza, this family owned restaurant is pretty much right up next to campus. Mac's Specializes in American/Greek Comfort food, so right away you know it's going to be great. So far I've only ordered three different meals from Mac's, because I fell in love with the third one I tried (the Greek Burger) and that's all I get there now. The Greek burger is a beautiful thing, covered in tomatoes, onions, and tzaziki cucumber sauce and tastes like it is made from unicorn meat. They also have fantastic meatloaf and tuna sandwiches. Of course they have gyros as well, if that is your thing. To end off a meal at Mac's I always get some banana cream pie, which is the best way to end any meal in my humble opinion.
Anyways, writing all that made me hungry so I'm gonna go get some soup!