Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rune's Presentation, part III, Death Angel, Mary's NaNoWriMo Novel for 2011

Amanita muscaria
Fly agaric
this is not my image but was borrowed off the internet.  I found many copies of it but did not locate the photographer.  I would be happy to give credit if I did. 

Rune's presentation part III

Rune showed slides of morels, of her grandmother frying them in butter and garlic and white wine.  She showed shaggy manes and Coprinus. She mentioned how she thought it was odd in a way that the inky caps were among the first mushrooms she learned and explained that the students should never eat them and drink alcohol.  Her grandmother had not told her that.  Rune wondered if she knew.  She did not tell them they shouldn't drink; most of them did and it was their business, not hers.  She thought about the way her presentation wove in and out of McHaggerty's, how there were differences and similarities.  In no case were her pictures or her wording the same.  She didn't go for pyrotechnics.  She thought, as she spoke, that she might add more flare in the future, when she was away from Dr. McHaggerty and Dr. Otis.
She talked briefly about chicken of the woods, hen of the woods and black trumpet mushrooms, which her grandmother used to flavor soups, stews and sauces, and then switched to poisonous mushrooms.  She showed several of the white varieties of Amanita, and then talked about Fly agaric, Amanita muscaria.
"This is one of my favorite mushrooms," Rune said, showing a brightly-colored yellow Amanita muscaria.  My grandmother told me that it was poisonous.  I have friends who told me you can get high eating or smoking it.  My research tells me that it is both poisonous and psychoactive and has been used by shamanic practitioners for centuries.  But it is a dangerous mushroom to use for psychoactive properties because the dosage to get high is somewhat variable by season and location and by whether you dry or heat the mushroom and the dosage to get high and the dosage to to poison yourself are fairly close.  Muscimol and Ibotenic acid are two of the psychoactive chemicals in Amanita muscaria. A fatal dose of Amanita muscaria is estimated to be approximately 15 caps whereas the amount recommended to get high is 1-6 dried caps.  That may not sound like much of an overlap, but keep in mind that the dosage varies extensively."  As she was talking, Rune showed a number of slides of different colored fly agarics, including bright red ones she got off the internet--she had never seen red ones in person.  Only yellow and orange.  

Amanita muscaria, yellow
photo by Keith Taitt, Three Rivers GMA
"To further complicate the issue," Rune continued, "there are people who use this mushroom for food.  They slice it thin and boil it.  The toxins are water soluble and if properly prepared they become a food source.  Deaths, which occur infrequently, are caused by coma and inability for self-ventilate-- that is, breathe.  The prognosis for recovery for most people who eat these mushrooms, even in fairly large quantities, is good if they medical help.  However, keep in mind that you can die if you eat them.
"If you are interested, compare what it says about Amanita muscaria on Wikipedia and at Erowid with what your textbook says.  And consider taking Dr. Ned Tedeschi's course on Drugs from the Wild, keeping in mind that most of the drugs he's referring to are medicinal rather than psychoactive."
"The Drugs from the Wild course is too hard for most of you!" a laughing voice said in the back.  Dr. Tedeschi had slipped into the back of the classroom, the fourth member of Rune's graduate committee.  "I don't want a bunch of druggies taking the class thinking it will be an easy A," he added, still laughing.  "What do you say we give Rune I mean Miss Carmichael a big hand?"
Everyone clapped and cheered and Rune asked if there was any questions and answered a few.  As she was packing up the projector and turning off the computer, Dr. Otis returned to the front of the room.  
She pushed the cart out of the room and paused in the hall to scarf down a couple of Larry's cookies.  She heard Dr. Otis say to the class, "Even a hobbyist can collect a lot of good pictures and information."
McHaggerty, Hanselman, and Tedeschi were coming out and almost ran into Rune, who stood by the door with her hands balled into fists and tears welling up in her eyes.  Darn, she thought, for the hundredth time, I wish I didn't cry so easily!  She turned away so they wouldn't see her tears, but they all wanted to congratulate her on a job well-done.
"Why does he insist on calling me a hobbyist?" she hissed to McHaggerty.  "I'm a graduate student at an accredited college doing research in his area of expertise and what I've said is correct." As soon as she spoke, she knew the answer.  Dr. Otis respected only hard science and rigorous research.  He wanted Rune to do 'real' research, not become a naturalist and teach kids about nature.  He wanted double blind studies, he wanted controls.  She wondered if she could somehow get Dr. Otis off her committee.  He could skew the results of her work.
"Don't worry," McHaggerty said, "there are three of us and only one of him."
"Wait, did I just speak out loud?"
"No, he was reading your mind," ((Hanselman)) said, laughing.
"We'll outvote him," Dr. Tedeschi said, his face serious and concerned.  He had big sad eyes and Rune knew he hated to see anyone cry.  But she couldn't help it.
"It's a great program," Dr. McHaggerty said, "I'm going to arrange for you to give it at Beaver Lake."
"I'd like you to give it to my drugs in the wild class," Dr. Tedeschki said.  "They would love it, especially the bit at the end."
"I'd like you to give it at the senior center--a lot of those folks grew up collecting mushrooms and would love it.
Rune was nodding and nodding, but wondering why it was with all this praise, the thing that really got her goat was still Dr. Otis's comment about her being a hobbyist.  As if her work didn't count, wasn't real or was less than.

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