26 February 2007

Odd instructions

From a conference I'll be going to in the near future:

“You will be expected to be present to respond to questions from delegates for half of the time during this session.”

Meaning... I can ignore questions from delegates the other half of the time?

22 February 2007

20 February 2007

“... and it's only Tuesday!”

This week is going to be ratty ugly nasty busy. There are two job candidates interviewing for positions today and Thursday. Tomorrow I'm currently slated for four meetings and office hours. Thursday I'm running out the Coastal Studies Lab for some animal collection, and Friday I teach and have Journal Club. Which reminds me... I have to pick a paper for that.

I really do feel like the punchline to the old joke: ”This has been a horrible week, and it’s only Tuesday!”

On the plus side, I was isolated all weekend so I was able to finish reading a book I'll be reviewing for a journal. Now I just have to actually think and write the review.

16 February 2007

You can learn a lot from a game

“Kill the wounded monster first” is quickly becoming a mantra of mine after reading this post.

Another favourite quote on the subject of games: "You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation." - Plato.

15 February 2007


I feel like much of what I'm doing intellectually this week is just reviewing other people's stuff. I'm reviewing one paper for Journal Club tomorrow. I'm reviewing one paper to help out a local newspaper reporter at The Monitor. I'm reviewing a manuscript for one scientific journal, and reviewing a book for another.

I'm particularly pleased to be reviewing for journals. A lot of my colleagues have been mentioned reviewing articles at one time or another, and I really haven't been asked to do many since I got here. When you're asked to do those sorts of things, it's one of those signs that you're "known" in the field.

So far, I haven't run into the problem that one of my supervisors warned me about. Because editors have trouble finding reviewers who make constructive comments, and get the reviews done on time, once you do a couple of reviews well, you get asked to do a lot of them.

Cephs are fun

Deep sea squid
Great video footage (scroll down to the bottom) of some squid having a go at bait. Not the lethargic animals they were thought to be, the video shows them zipping around, and flashing lights as they attack. Cool stuff. I really must work with octopuses again one day.

It’s like I’ve been sayin’ for years...

I've been interested in the ethics associated with brain scans for years now, and I've been saying for years that we're on the verge of a revolution that's going to make the use of DNA in courts look like peanuts. My talk last year, "Brain scans and the magic lasso" was about just this point (available on the right hand side of the screen).

The latest findings show that we're getting very close to reading minds. With high accuracy.

A lot of people are worried about this. I prefer to see an upside. I would love it if it worked in part because there would no longer be need to hold "suspected terrorists" without regular legal process. Debates about “washboarding” would end. The television series 24 would have to find new ways of creating dramatic tension. (Don't get me wrong, I enjoy 24, but dislike what it reveals about American thinking about torture.)

I'm considering starting a pool for the date of the first court case that accepts fMRI brain scans as legitimate evidence. Any takers?

07 February 2007

I can stop being obsessed for a while

I just submitted my latest manuscript, a review article, into Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. I'm aiming high on this one, because I'm really happy with how this article turned out.

Apart from the one little typo I found about a minute after submitting the article. In the title. Sigh.

One of the nice features of this submission is that this journal has an entirely electronic submission. That probably saved me an afternoon, if not more, of photocopying, sorting, writing a cover letter, and so on.

The downside is that I've been working so hard to pull this together and finish it, I've been letting quite a few other bits and pieces slide for a week or two. Time to get back to all those other administrative and teaching fiddly bits.

Giving good phone

I am constantly amazed by how simple some things are, yet how many people are bad at.

I have voice mail. Anyone who has ever listened to a recorded message has probably realized that what you hear on the phone is not exactly CD quality. Plus, you can't see a person, so you can't see some of the important lip cues that we normally use to help make sense of the sound we're making.

Yet people read off their phone numbers really, really fast. And only once! Yes, I can replay it, but if I can't make it out, I am probably not going to be able to make it out on the rewind.

Also had someone phoning who didn't give their last name... Hm.

The moral of the story is: Say it slow, and say it again!

04 February 2007

The writing process

I've had my door shut a lot this last week. I've been working on a new paper, and I've been getting increasingly chuffed about how it's coming out. Because as I write it, and have gotten more immersed in it, I've actually been generating a lot more new ideas than usual. And though I say it myself, I think there are a few pretty darned interesting ideas.

It's interesting how the process of articulating something generates new ideas. I think part of the reason why is that in the last week, I have really tried to concentrate a little more on completing this paper. Just forcing myself to have uninterrupted time on something helps, instead of being interrupted every few minutes by various odds and ends, as my days often are.

Most of the good ideas haven't come while sitting in front of the keyboard -- they've come while I've been at home. Even when I'm not actively writing, that I'm spending more time on the process means that the ideas are squirreling around in my head much more than usual.

Even though this paper started off as a relatively mundane summary of stuff I've talked about before, I think it's going to push significantly beyond that. I hope I'll be able to convince and editor and a couple of reviewers of that!