About Penny

I do a lot of things. The running joke in our household is that “I need another hobby”

Professionally, I am a vertebrate paleontologist/isotope geochemist/geologist. I work at the University of Rochester (Rochester, NY, USA) managing a stable isotope laboratory, teaching a few courses, and doing research. Most of my research revolves around studying the chemistry of fossils of mammal teeth to learn about the environments in which the animals lived and what they might have been eating while there. My work has taken me to some interesting parts of the world, like the high Arctic, and the Altiplano of Bolivia. I love that I get paid to do what a lot of people would pay to do! But… it still is work.

When I’m not working, I come up with other things to do. One of my favorite things to do, of late, is write fiction. That’s why I’m here. What I write tends to have very little to do with the science that I practice. I occasionally write science fiction, but my latest tome is historical speculative fiction (if there is such a genre), where the action is taking place in something like 14th century Europe. Now that I’m 100k words into the first novel, I’m finally accepting that I do have a passion for writing. That’s why I’m here.

I have a deep and abiding interest in medieval warfare and culture. I have been studying the Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) for about 5 years, learning to use the 14th and 15th century longsword, as well as period dagger and grappling techniques. I participate in SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) activities, which includes but is not limited to martial activities (like swordplay) and costuming. I attempt to make costumes that represent the mid-15th century of Europe, which is about the time that many of the important treatises on the German school of longsword were published.

To round out my life, I am married to a guy I kind of like (snort), and we have a son who has an autism spectrum disorder (he’s a handful!). We live in a rural home outside of the metropolitan area of Rochester with our four cats, two dogs, five bunnies, and around 70 chickens and hope someday that we can figure out how to live sustainably off our two-acre plot.

I need another hobby.

6 thoughts on “About Penny

  1. Hello, my name is Richard Smith and I am a senior at SUNY Oswego. I am doing my senior thesis on a section of mammoth tooth the head of our department, Dave Valentino, is letting me use. I would like to be able to find out anything and everything I can about this sample and would greatly appreciate your professional input. Thank you so much. Hope to hear from you soon.

  2. I just now stumbled across your blog and I love it! I have a MSc in vertebrate paleontology (earliest birds). I like how your technical posts are written in language that is understandable to laypeople and still interesting to those who already know the science bits. I have linked your blog on my blogroll on Plannerisms.com, I hope that is ok, please do let me know if you would prefer I remove it. I look forward to reading more of your blog!

  3. Hi Laurie. Nice to meet you. Glad to hear you enjoy my blog. Especially glad to hear that you like the ‘technical’ posts. I’ve intentionally written them as accessibly as I can so that everyone can enjoy them, and to hopefully de-mystify science for those who are leery of those pesky ‘ivory tower’ scientists (that don’t really exist). Your blog is interesting. I haven’t used a portable paper planner in a long time, but if I were to go back, I’d try yours. I’m happy to be linked to your site. Cheers!

  4. Hi Penny,

    Your post on how to construct a tree in TNT on a MacOs is the only one I’ve found on the internet. As a new grad student trying to figure out the command line prompting on a Macbook it is a little frustrating. Do you know anyone else in the field who’s adept at using TNT on a MacOS? Or have you found a guide anywhere else on the internet? I am tempted to buy a junker PC to use exclusively for TNT analyses. Regardless, much thanks!

  5. Hi Vincent,
    I do not have any friends who are using TNT on a Mac. In fact, the instructions on this post no longer work with newer versions of the MacOS (or maybe it’s a new version of TNT). I have since changed to using Mesquite, because it’s also free and has a shinier user interface. But I am so in experienced with cladistics, I’m pushing it doing any kind of analysis on computer.
    For what it’s worth, I have never had problems with TNT for PC.
    Thanks for stopping by!

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