18 July 2002

Reflections and ideas

I consider myself a little lucky in that I enjoy writing, and I seem to be reasonably good at it. A lot of scientists don't like writing. And it shows.

Granted, technical writing is not easy, since reviewers tend to reject humour, colloquialisms, and pretty much every technique that writers in other fields use to engage a reader. But I still get the impression that for many researchers, the only reason they write their articles is because grant money would stop without them.

I was reminded today of one of the reasons I like writing, and consider it integral to my research. You're confronted with, "Just what the heck am I going to say?" While there have been some famous one and two page papers (the structure of DNA, by James Watson and Francis Crick, is one of biology's most famous: just over one printed page), most of us need to elaborate.

Filling blank pages gives you time to mull things over. While doing that today, I got a couple of nice ideas I hadn't thought of before. I doubt I'd've come up with them if I wasn't thinking, "This section has got to be more than two paragraphs!"


Also did some phoning around to see if anyone could convert some PAL video I brought back with me from Australia.

[Explanatory digression: there are a few TV formats in the world. PAL is used in most of Europe and Australia; it has higher resolution but lower frame rate. NTSC is used the North American standard: low resolution, higher frame rate, and colour values that are so loose that the ancient joke is that NTSC stands for "Never The Same Colour."]

This conversion may be trickier than I thought, because I not only have PAL videotape, I think I have PAL Super VHS (S-VHS) tape, which is not as popular a format as plain old VHS. I may have to bundle up the tape and send it through the post someplace far away.

On the plus side, I realized that when I converted the video, I could have it all burned onto a DVD. This would be fantastic for research. DVD images are still when you freeze-frame them, it's easier to jump from one place to another, and the images are already in digital format, so it should be easy to grab them for slides and publications.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: I love living in the 21st century.

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