29 July 2003

Home again, home again

Back in Edinburg, after a few days of fun but definitely not relaxing personal time. Since this is a research journal, I won't go into details here. I'm currently in "catch up" mode and suffering from a mild case of reverse culture shock ("Wow, there's a lot of Hispanics around here!").

So far, have heard from one student, Annette, who sent me a brief email saying she had no major disasters, and I should be meeting with her in a few minutes. Hopefully Isaiah and Nisha will have similarly good news (or lack of bad news!) to report.

22 July 2003

Blogging from Boise

Part 5

As Captain Star might write, "Uneventful day. Listened to science. Helped criticize a practice talk by another speaker for for tomorrow. Made preparations to leave for airport tomorrow. Now setting off on excursion to find food."

Blogging from Boise

Part 4: Play behaviour of unrestrained primates

One of the things that has apparently become a tradition at the Animal Behavior Society meetings is an evening presentation of "acaoke" (ah-kay-o-kee): "academic karaoke." It owes a lot more to improve, theatresports, and Whose Line is it Anyway? than karaoke, though.

What happens is that the organizers collect a large number of slides (or, these days, Power Point diagrams). The "speaker" gets up and begins presenting his talk, using the slides provided. Except the speaker has no idea what the images on the next slide will be! So you may be talking about the historical background of Darwin's ideas (or, last night, his lesser known relative, "George Dubya Darwin"), and suddenly be faced with a slide of copulating lions, a cute child, a hideous graph, or a slide proclaiming in huge hot pink letters, "Size might matter!"

Like all improv, it can be laboured and painful to watch at its worst, but screamingly funny and inspired at its best.

I think I'll do it for this year's department Christmas party.

21 July 2003

Blogging from Boise

Part 3: The smell of... success?

The symposium is over, and I slept well last night. For the most part, it went very well. We kept to the schedule to within a minute or two. The speakers' all gave excellent talks with interesting science. Got positive feedback, for the most part. The only sort of concern that was expressed was whether the attendance was as high as we might have expected, hoped for, or liked. The audience certainly did peter out to a minimum over the day, and the feeling of desertion was amplified because they put us in a huge room.

Nevertheless, I am very pleased overall with how the symposium went, and with the speakers I recruited. Lots to think about.

Now I get to relax a little and enjoy some other people's science.

20 July 2003

Blogging from Boise

Part 2: On your marks...

The opening keynote talk is in 22 minutes, then a coffee break, then my symposium starts. Wish me luck.

From yesterday: It's hotter here than in souther Texas! How hot is it? One of my speakers, Roy Ritzman, said to me, "Thanks for the invitation to hell."

19 July 2003

Blogging from Boise

Part 1: The calm before the storm?

Arrived in Boise for the start of the Animal Behavior Society meting. My symposium. "Mechanisms of behavioural switching," is tomorrow morning. I'm calmer than yesterday, as I'm over the "Oh no! I-haven't-packed-what'll-I-take-and-what'll-I-wear-and-my-flight-is-first-thing-tomorrow" panic of yesterday.

Met a few of my symposium speakers, and so far none have threatened me. Definitely a confidence builder.

Met Phil Stoddard, the junior Program Officer, and he complimented me on being the only symposium organizer to get everything in on time and not change everything after it was approved. More ego boosting goodness.

I was thinking, "Maybe this'll work out after all."

Then someone pointed out that one speaker in the program was listed twice, and another was completely missing. As much as I like Paul Stein (the double listed speaker), I don't think it's quite sporting to have him do a talk twice in a day. Ah, the life of a symposium organizer is fated never to be trouble free...

18 July 2003

Last minute bits

I am rushing around like the proverbial chicken. I feel like this is the worst prepared I've been for a trip in a long time.

My independent study students, however, seem to be set and should have enough to keep them busy at research in the week and a bit while I'm gone. Annette and I went to the Coastal Studies Lab and got some animals. I had planned another trip with Isaiah to dig up the beach for sand crabs, but he mesed up his back earlier in the week and may not be able to go. Which would be good -- more time for me to pack! Nisha is well on her way; no problems there.

And just for those of you who wonder how far in advance we have to plan, I just got my teaching schedule for January of next year, 2004.


Additional: Not only can't Isaiah make it to the Coastal Studies Lab, he can't make it because his truck blew a tire. A bum back and a messed up truck in one week. Poor sod.

For me, his phone call saying he can't make it in is a blessing in disguise: I get to go home and pack!

15 July 2003

The little ants

The ants I mentioned recently, after a day of really annoying infestation, seem to have vanished of their own accord.

Claudette, you tease...

Hurricane Claudette has completely and totally missed us, for which I am thankful. I awoke to sunny skies and no winds to speak of and thought, "If only all tropical storms and hurricanes were like this." It's a bit of a bummer, though, since we could have easily made the trip to South Padre Island today, and now we're not. And my students' schedules are such that we'll probably have to make two separate trips.

Too bad for folks in Galveston, though.

Meanwhile, my three independent study students are keeping me hopping. Annette and I teleconferenced a bit with my colleague Virginia Scofield this morning, while Nisha and Isaiah are beginning to get their lab work started. I hope that I'll have given them enough of a push before I get on a jet plane to Idaho this Saturday. (Eeeek! The trip is so close! And I have so many things to do before I leave!)

14 July 2003

Curse you, Claudette!

The prospect of a very wet and windy day at the beach made me cancel a planned animal collecting trip to South Padre Island tomorrow. Luckily for us, however, tropical storm Claudette seems to be headed much further north than was originally anticipated. We may be able to get out later in the week, however.

12 July 2003

Scenes we’d like to see

A bit of weekend goofiness...

James Lipton: We end tonight's Inside the Actor's Studio, as we always do, with the questionnaire invented by my hero, Bernard Pivot, for his show Bouillon de Culture. Pikachu, what’s your favourite word?

Pikachu: Pika!

JL: What is your least favourite word?

P: Chu.

JL: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

P: Pika! Pika!

JL: What turns you off?

P: PiiiiIIIiii... kachu?

JL: What is your favorite curse word?

P: Pika?

JL: No, it’s all right, you can say it here.

P: Pika. Pi!

JL: What sound or noise do you love?

P: Pikachu-chu!

JL: What sound or noise do you hate?

P: Pi-pi-pi-pikachu!

JL: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

P: Pikachu... pika pika pi. Ka. Chu. Pik?

JL: Of course. What profession would you not like to do?

P: Pi. Kaaaa.... chu.

JL: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

P: Pikachu, pi ka chu!

11 July 2003

Couldn't stand the weather

Plans for me and my 3 students to head to the Coastal Studies Lab next week may be scuppered by the weather. We were planning on going to South Padre Island to collect animals and do various other things next Tuesday -- which is about when Claudette is scheduled to hit Brownsville, which is very slightly south.

Only about a week until I head off to the Animal Behavior Society meeting to run my symposium. Nervous? You bet!

Our department continues to have problems finding a new chair to replace our current one.

09 July 2003

Infestation! (A free verse blog entry)

There are ants in my lab.

They are very small ants.

But there are very many of them.

While they are very small ants -- so small that you can only tell they are ants instead of dirt because they move -- they still bite.

The bites do not hurt. (They are very small ants).

I do not like ants in my lab.

I cannot work well in my lab with ants in it.

Even when the ants are very small. (They do no take up much room.)

I hope they will go away.

I do not think they will go away on their own.


There might be ants in my lab.

08 July 2003

Grants leave, students arrive!

My NSF grant proposal was just submitted 10 minutes ago. Yay! It's done! It's gone! Now the wait begins... I probably won't hear anything until January.

Today was unexpectedly busy, as I had three students in my lab who are interested in doing a little bit of summer research!

  • The first was someone I knew was interested in doing research, but I'd heard about her from another professor, and hadn't actually met before today (Nisha).

  • The second I had as a student in a class before, but had no inkling she was interested in taking an independent studies class with me (Anet).

  • The third I had talked to one before, and actually planned to have as a student (Isaiah).

It looks like I could well have a big supervisory load on my plate over the next six weeks. It is, as far as problems go, a very nice one to have.

03 July 2003

Paper chase

What's happened since I finished my NSF proposal?

The first thing was to start the signature collection. I had to sign a "routing form," then get the Department Chair's signature, then the Dean's signature, the the Director of Sponsored Research's signature. (Our Dean, who's been here for half a year, has remarked a couple of times that "this place runs of paper," which is a very true thing to say.)

Of course, once I got the proposal to the Office of Sponsored Resarch, I discovered was that I really didn't finish the proposal: they pointed out a couple of mistakes (one grammatical one in the main text, and some budgetary gaffes that took a couple of tries to patch up.) The budget fix required I go over to the Office of Grants and Projects to initial the changes on the form. From there, it has to go to our Vice President for Research and our Vice President for Business Affairs...

The expression goes that it takes a whole village to raise a child. I'm not so sure it should takes an entire beuracracy to submit a grant proposal -- but it does here, apparently...

01 July 2003

How to celebrate Canada Day...

...When you're a Canadian scientist living in America?

Well, first you get up for a 7:45 a.m. department meeting -- just how I wanted to spend the day! It was a meeting on a serious issue, though, so I won't complain too much. The Biology Department I work for has the current Chair resigning that position (still staying as regular faculty), but there's nobody set to replace him in September. Not for lack of trying; the Biology Department's proposed candidate was rejected by the administration.

The major way I am celebrating is by finishing off the NSF grant proposal I've been working on. I made the last few changes, got the paperwork signed by everyone who needed to sign it, and so it should be winging its way to the NSF considerably in advance of the 10 July deadline. Now I just have six months to wait before I hear "Yea" or "Nay."

In the meantime... my Animal Behavior Society symposium is coming up this month! Eeek! Time to start working on an introductory talk. Also still have manuscripts to write, lab equipment that needs to be fired up, and much, much, more to do in the remaining two montsh of summer. (The voice inside my head just read that and said, "Two months? Is that all? Arrrrrrrrrgh!")

But in the meantime, I will celbrate Canada Day as I probably would in Canada: working a bit in the morning, and goofing off in the afternoon to catch a movie. And maybe get a little ice cream.

Happy Canada Day to all the readers in my homeland. I sure wish I could be there.