28 July 2006

Best of times, worst of times, best of times

Today was the last official day of the program for my summer intern Amanda (supported through the Hispanic Health Research Center (HHRC)). It's been a good last week with her. On Wednesday, she gave a presentation to the community advisory board for the HHRC -- and she kicked ass with both feet. She was flat out awesome. Note: Not "awesome for a high school student." Awesome. No qualifiers. Full stop.

To round out the last day of her research experience, the cherry on top, as it were, we submitted a short manuscript to a research journal of her project. It doesn't get much better than that: to have a project work so well that it's worth taking a crack at publishing it. Any day in which a manuscript is submitted is a good day.

Meanwhile, mixed news on the grant front. Today, the status of a NSF equipment grant from the was officially changed from "Pending" to "Recommended." I was a co-PI on that one. It's not got quite as big a deal as usual, since it's the one I mentioned previously, so I knew this was coming.

The equipment grant that I was lead PI on was rejected. Bummer. No confocal microscope for me this year. Oh well. Try, try again...

19 July 2006


I was the first on this campus to use a wireless remote polling system, a.k.a. "clickers." I gave talks about it within campus, got at least one other faculty in my department to try it, and pushed.

Today the university committed to adopt a single system, campus-wide.

I made a difference. I don't think we'd have the clicker system in place if I hadn't started the ball rolling.

18 July 2006

Under the wire again

Just submitted another NSF proposal. I kept asking the Sponsored REsearch office who I had to buy lunch for getting it in on time, because this one -- totally my fault, I admit it -- was late. Mainly because of the graduate class I was teaching in summer session I.

The sad thing is, I am reaching the point where I'm not writing these in hope of actually getting funded. The odds are just too long. But to paraphrase Robert Heinlein, "Of course the game is fixed, but don't let that stop you. If you don't play, you can't win."

At this point, I'm mainly writing research grant proposals because even an unsuccessful grant proposal counts towards my merit folder. In fact, writing three unsuccessful proposals is worth as many merit points as one successful one. Which rather does promote quantity of proposals -- maybe not more than quality, but volume definitely has advantages.

15 July 2006

Getting help

InternA trip out to the Coastal Studies Lab was encouraging. I met the new research assistant, Felecia, who was at one point a nationally ranked surfer. Cool. I talked to her about some of the plans I have in mind, and what she can do to facilitate them. I was also able to bring back some more tunicates for experiments that my students and intern (shown with slide overgrown with tunicates and other marine invertebrates) are doing.

12 July 2006

Summer I is dead, long live Summer II

Teamwork motivational posterI've just finished posting the final grades for the graduate course in Evolutionary Theory that I've been teaching with Anita. An evil evo duo, working together to cause students a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, "Oh my God what have I done to myself?!" challenge. (This came from the feedback session, which surprised me -- I was thinking the course would be a 7 or 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 challenge.)

It was a great experience, though, truly team teaching a course. In most cases, team teaching means, "One instructor for the first half of the class, who walks away and you never see again, who is then replaced by a second instructor, who gives very few signs of having communicated with the first." In contrast, we were both in the class every day. (Except that one bad day when Anita's partner walked out of the house with two sets of keys... one of which was hers.) We took turns lecturing and leading discussions, but every so often there would be times when we would end up on opposite sides of a sketch on the chalkboard, going back a forth, making complementary points. It felt, I think, a little bit like what jazz musicians do with music, only we were doing it with scientific concepts.

Great fun. But I'm definitely glad it's over.

09 July 2006

Film is dead, long live the movies

They had better be working on a new Pirates of the Caribbean movie right now.

Yes, I was among those making this a big boxoffice weekend for the Pirates movie, which was something of a revelation for me.

Little known fact: I was a projectionist through a good chunk of high school and my undergraduate degree. So I'm rather picky about projection quality. Plus, during my doctoral work, I thought a lot about film and video for behavioural analyses. In one of my earliest publications on movement analysis, I wrote, "Film's quality is still unbeatable," that's not true any more.

When we went to see Pirates of the Caribbean today, I noticed just before the movie started a little clip that stated the movie was shown on a digital projector. And I was amazed. The image was uniformly crisp across the screen, in contrast to most screens, which sort of have spots where the picture goes a little soft. I would daresay the Imax films I'd seen would have a hard time matching the image quality (though I haven't seen one of those in a few years, alas).

I honestly wonder if there's any market left for film at all now.


One last lecture tomorrow, and summer class is all over but the marking.

07 July 2006

When things break, break, and sometimes fix themselves

The book manuscript has ground to a screeching halt, as my obsessive graph shows. I'm hoping to get caught up somewhat after the middle of next week, when the summer class I'm teaching will be over.

I've been having weird computer problems. On Saturday night, my computer screen at home blanked out and died. So Sunday was spent shopping for a new one. The new one is very nice, considerably larger and with a sharper picture than the old.

But things got stranger on Monday night, when I lost my internet connection after a pretty severe electrical storm. Do the usual troubleshooting stuff. Wait for a day in case the connection went down temporarily. No luck. Ah, I think, the DSL modem is toast, so I shell out for overnight delivery of a new one. No, that's not it. Phone the ISP and get a walk-through, and they diagnose that my network card drivers are somehow shot. Network cards are dirt cheap, so I buy a new one later that night.* Plug in the new one, check the drivers... and see the old one back on the system. Plug the cable back into the old network connection and the old modem...

And everything is fine.


Things are not supposed to fix themselves like that.

Now I have to try returning a DSL modem and a network card.

* Tangent: The network card came with all its drivers on a 3.5" floppy disk. A floppy? A floppy?!? When was the last time a computer got sold with a floppy drive? You have to order them special now! What are retailers doing putting software on floppies?!?

01 July 2006

Truth, justice, and the Canadian way

Tying together Canada Day and the current summer blockbuster release and my last blog entry, it seems fitting to remember that one of the co-creators of what is now seen as a quintessentially American character -- Superman -- has a Canadian connection. Joe Shuster, the artist who created Superman's look, was born in Toronto. Clark Kent's newspaper was originally not the Daily Planet, but the Daily Star, a name it shared with a Toronto newspaper. And the Fortress of Solitude lies within Canadian waters, I'm sure.

I might go see Superman Returns to celebrate Canada Day this weekend. It might be appropriate, even though in another twist of globalization, it was filmed in... Australia? At least the television series Smallville is filmed in the lower British Columbia mainland.