27 August 2005

A mysterious scratch: the tone of the week

I woke up last Monday morning with a big scratch on the left side of my face that was not there when I went to bed Sunday night. And that has sort of set the tone for this week, which has been not a very fun one.

Tuesday was marked by an interminable college meeting. It when on for about 2 and a quarter hours, and I got about two or three useful pieces of information from it. Luckily, I was smart and was working through the President's address in the morning, which I heard went on for an hour and forty minutes, and had about the same amount of useful content as the afternoon meeting.

I think one good thing I learned around this time was that the first stage in our green card application went through. And quite a bit faster than I was expecting. Now, we begin phase 2: which means more money, medical exams, pictures, and more paperwork. But it should be worth it, as it should make it possible for my S.O. Sarah to get a job, which would be a huge difference.

Wednesday was marked by more meetings, although these were my own fault, because I called them! I'm the graduate program coordinator, so I wanted to meet with our Master's students. I ended up with a two hour meeting in the morning, and a one hour meeting in the evening (for part time students with day jobs). They were good, but draining. Plus, I had people one after the other in my office, again mostly talking about the graduate program.

I think Wednesday was also the day I got a rejection letter for one of my manuscripts.

Thursday was the first day of class. I didn't have any classes to teach, but it's always a ratty day, so I went to the beach with my student Michael to collect mud shrimp and sand crabs. The sand crabs have become scarce: only saw one that I hit with a shovel. The mud shrimp were more plentiful, though. It was a good trip, but again, a couple of hours in the sun and heat on the beach meant I came home with a bit of pink on my skin and was again pretty tired.

By Friday, half the mud shrimp we collected the day before died. It was also my first day of my class, plus I was presenting a paper for our Journal Club. I was also running around trying to deal with a variety of administrative things. Like a graduate student who is apparently missing one class to graduate, and I could have sworn I'd checked he had that requirement. Don't know how that happened. Went to the pub for a bit afterwards, but had to leave when Chris and Jason started smoking their foul cigars. Luckily, by then Sarah was there to rescue me. Again, just a long day.

And this morning I wake up to find Port Adelaide won their match over the Dockers, which means tomorrow's match with Essendon is a must win if my team the Demons are to make it to the AFL finals, and break the odd-year hoodoo that has plagued them for years now. Go the Dees!

And I spent most of the day at work because there's so much that needs doing. And more mud shrimp died. And I'll have to go again tomorrow to try and get a little more work done in time to meet some Monday deadlines.

Oh, something I've been forgetting to mention: I have a little technical essay up at the International Society for Neuroethology website. It harkens back to my first post-doc.

18 August 2005

Almost like a real scientist

It's so cool to have two papers in the works that are coming out. As I mentioned earlier, I received news this week that I've had a paper accepted (though I don't think I mentioned where: Journal of Crustacean Biology). This morning I received the proofs from the Texas Journal of Science for an article I have coming out with them, which looks like it might be out in the September issue. Just to give you an idea of how long this process is, it was just over a year ago that we did the work that this paper was based on. The manuscript was written and submitted over Christmastime in 2004. Reviews came back at the end of February, 2005. Revisions completed in March, 2005. And the proofs this week.

I feel like an actual productive scientist on weeks like this. I wish I had more weeks like this.

Proofreading always ranks high of writer's least favourite things to do, with good reason. It is tedious, particularly for technical writing. I can only imagine what it must have been like when typesetting was done by people with scientific training. Simply transposing the technical text and references always introduced errors not present in the original manuscript. Yet Fortunately, since most publishers can simply download Word processor files, there are usually fairly few errors that get added to papers in the typesetting process. Yet even now, it still happens. In this most recent paper, I found one error that wasn't in the original manuscript: somehow, a degree sign got inserted where a space should be. Hm.

Of course, that wasn't the only error I found, but all of the others were ones I'd made before they went off into the production process! No one to blame but myself.

15 August 2005

Good news at last

I was moping a little over thwarted plans this weekend, thinking I really hadn't gotten any good news in a while. And wouldn't you know it? Fortune smiled.

First, one of the three manuscripts in the hands of editors came back with reasonably positive reviews, and it's going forward for publication. Alright, that's two articles accepted for this year, and there are two more out there that might be accepted.

Second, I got a phone call from my colleague Anita, who was bubbling with some excitement over her good news. She got a pre-proposal past the first elimination round at the National Science Foundation, and now she's gets to go ahead and submit the full on proposal. And only 30 people can say that in this round. I get to be pleased not only because she done good, but because I helped a little, so feel I can take a little bit of reflected pride in her accomplishment.

11 August 2005

Go inverts!

I started my research career working with octopus (under the guidance of Jennifer Mather), so I was tickled to see this video clip. (Spotted at fellow blogging biologist Mike The Mad Biologist's blog).

Lost in translation

I had an intermittent smirk on my face last night. I mean, how can someone look at the captioning for this Japanese Elmo toy and not laugh? The enthusiasm of bad translation has a charm all its own. It's that mix of absolute earnest sincerity of people trying to do their best and an end product that is wildly off the mark and hysterically funny to the fluent speakers.

I think much of the same problem affects scientists and the general public. Science, much like a language, has its own words and a distinct way of thinking. So when non-scientists try talk about scientific issues, the results are often very much like the examples of bad translation you might find on Engrish.com or Hanzi Smatter. A recent example concerns the American president's comments where he endorses teaching "intelligent design." In brief, intelligent design argues, "Living organisms are so complex, someone or something must have made them." Unstated but implicit is that the Christian God is that someone or something. It's an old, old argument, whose best known formation came from William Paley, though I suspect variations of it existed before.

His comments drew severe fire from scientists worldwide (see, e.g., this related article), and Bush's own science advisor was trying to put the best light on his boss's comments (i.e., backtracking, disagreeing, what have you). In fairness, today's editorial in Nature gives a more optimistic reading of Bush's statements (text from Pharyngula).

I would definitely see the humour in the situation if the consequences were not so serious. Intelligent design is not science, and that is widely known in biology. So why do so many people buy into the proposition that it is somehow legitimate science? I think there's a similar occurrences when non-scientists try to talk about scientific matter as when foreign corporations try to put English on their packages. Complete sincerity and incomplete knowledge producing a laughable result.

10 August 2005

Odd times, and; They're so cute!

The last few days have been strange. Every time I turn around, I have people in my office talking to me, mostly about the graduate program. Monday was the worst; I have one incoming and two prospective graduate students in my office, one after the other after the other. Then a colleague came in and talked to me. When I finally looked at my watch, it was 1:30 pm and I hadn't eaten lunch, and I realized I must have been talking for three or four hours pretty much non-stop.


I'm fascinated by finding new large species. And I have to agree that these guys are pretty darn cute.

04 August 2005

Nothing stinks like dead sea creatures

Bad news. Some lobsters I had ordered for my graduate student arrived D.O.A. And the prospects for those that remain do not appear rosy. Ugh.

New graduate student, you say? You never mentioned anything about a new graduate student! Why, thanks for noticing. I've been working with a Masters student, Sandra, over the summer. Because I wanted to give her a chance to consider whether she wanted to work with me (because, hey, I can be difficult sometimes), we've been holding off on putting in committee formation paperwork that would make me her supervisor officially. But she's decided she wants to continue working with me on her thesis, and that's a good thing.