28 April 2007

Tough choices

Check out the New 7 Wonders website and vote. This was brought to my attention through Sounds Like Canada interview with Bernard Weber.

What does this have to do with science? Um... archaeology is a science...

26 April 2007


I spent part of the day talk to some local K-12 school administrators looking for ways to tie their stuff into my stuff, with research experiences, graduate studies, and so on. Looked promising. But even if nothing were to come of it, there were free danishes in the meeting room.

And, as it happens, I run across this article about some comments by Don Kennedy, with whom I have an indirect relationship. He's talking about K-12 education and evolution, which is an amazingly twitchy topic in this country.

21 April 2007

A little quick money

I've been spending most of my time recruiting for the REU program, but I did get some good news a couple of days back. I got a little internal money for my student Sakshi to do some summer research with me. Hooray.

Now, we just have to actually do what we said we would do...

11 April 2007


My student Alan successfully defended his undergraduate Honor's thesis today, and this is good. There may be a publication coming out it it, I hope.

Meanwhile, I am slowly digging my way through the pile of stuff that I cannot seem to tame. One of these is working up some posters for the REU program, which is now officially one week later than I was hoping to have them done by. But I think I will get a couple printed tomorrow.

10 April 2007

“If you wanted monogamy...”

“...you should have married a swan,” is how the old joke goes.

Except it isn’t true. Swans are not strictly monogamous.

This story also falls into the “Hey, I know that guy” category, as I got to know Raoul Mulder during my time at Uni Melbourne. Nice work, Raoul – good on ya!

07 April 2007


Was looking at TV listings, scrolling down to Bravo, and read:

Work Out (Reality) Jackie sees a therapist; Zen considers cosmetic surgery; Jackie throws a sexy slumber party. TV-14 CC

I'm considering what?!

A couple of quick URLs later, and I find only my second namesake attached to an actual person. The first person I found to share my first name is actor Zen Gesner. My new namesake is apparently a trainer, Zen Gray. Although I think she only counts as half a namesake, since her website bio shows her name as "Jennifer 'Zen' Gray." She blogs as part of the show she's on.

The Zen of Presentations, Part 7: Reading out loud

Hm. Been a while since I've done one of these. Just to save you from searching, here are the previous installments.

Part 1: *.pps
Part 2: It's all about you
Part 3: Can you do it on the radio?
Part 3.5: Lessig is more
Part 4: Title slides are a crutch
Part 5: Legalized insanity
Part 6: Failure is an option

A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald talks about using slides, particularly those in PowerPoint format. The key quote for me is, "It is effective to speak to a diagram, because it presents information in a different form. But it is not effective to speak the same words that are written, because it is putting too much load on the mind and decreases your ability to understand what is being presented."

I think it nicely explains why so many people get so frustrated by seeing a talk where someone just reads the text on their slides, almost word for word.

Another annoyance factor in reading slides aloud that many people don't think of: the audience can read faster than you can talk. So most of the time, when you put up a slide of text, the audience will have read the text and is just waiting for you to catch up to your own text.

It is tough to get rid of text completely. I am guilty of using text slides all the time when I lecture. I console myself that sometimes, there is a legitimate teaching reason to put up text slides: because students need to be able to see the correct spelling of technical words. If I were to just say, "allele," I have little confidence that students would be able to figure out the right spelling from the pronunciation alone. (There are various pronunciations, but the mode seems to be "a-leel," not, as the spelling might lead you to think, "ah-lel-lay.")

When I do have a text slide, another thing I try to do is not to read it verbatim. I try to put the same information in a different way. Use examples. Elaborate. Often, I go on talking on a point much longer than the slide is up, so that people will get bored at the slide and their attention focuses back on me.

It is a constant challenge to presenters, including myself, to use more pictures -- perhaps only pictures. And high quality picture. Assuming, of course, that they need visual aids at all (see Part 3).

04 April 2007

7 to 22 µg/ml

Spent yesterday working with Sakshi doing some DNA extraction and testing. It was good. We're getting the procedures down. I think we're getting better and faster at them. But it was rather tiring, for some reason. Not because it's physically strenuous, but when there are so many other things on the plate, somehow it's mentally tiring because while you're in the lab, you're thinking about all the other things that need doing.

Anyway, our two samples yielded 7 to 22 µg/ml of DNA, according to our HHMI core lab spectrophotometer.

01 April 2007

Hey, I know her...

There's always something surprising when you come across people you know in places you don't expect.

I met Sheila Patek at a Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting. She was presenting some gorgeous work on spiny lobster sounds (some are noisy; they stridulate). She endeared herself to me by mentioning that she'd read my sand crab paper. Vain, I know. But any author will attest that meeting someone that you personally do no know who has read your work is a thrill. (And by "any author," I mean Sean Stewart.).

So finding Sheila's work on crustacean biomechanics as a TED talk was a bit of a shock. While TED is about any "big idea," its initials do stand for "Technology, Entertainment and Design," and I wasn't sure how mantis shrimp attacks fit into any of those three things.

Damn cool stuff, regardless.