In the olden days we wrote our manuscripts after working in the data mines and spending time refining the raw ores, maybe even going back for another shift or two after the smelting and reading up on the Manufacture and Uses of Various Ores. But that was back in the olden days, when you discovered things after walking uphill to the lab in the snow, both ways. I hear now you can just sit at a computer and write and send a postdoc out to fetch all the cheap industrial processed ores you need ready-made from the store. Modern life is so full of astonishing time-saving conveniences! Truly we live in wondrous times.
Archive for the 'Science Follies' category
Regular Zuskateers know that I am a humorless, hairy-legged feminazi. Day in, day out, my grim outlook never wavers. I devote myself to the serious pursuit of feminism, which is no joking matter.
Thus, you can imagine how my little feminazi heart beat just a little faster, how the hairs on my legs stood up all a-quiver from the tops of my thighs all the way down to my Doc Martens, when I read these two posts last weekend: Scicurious on Are men really funnier than women? Who's asking? and Stephanie Zvan on Humor Study is Funny Peculiar. Sci and Stephanie together were discussing Greengross & Miller's paper "Humor ability reveals intelligence, predicts mating success, and is higher in males" Intelligence, 2011.
I absolutely refuse to admit that anything is higher in males, not even cholesterol, and fortunately Sci and Stephanie were able to shoot this paper full of holes. Feminazism is spreading all over the internets! I do think, however, they could have been a little bit more serious and angry in their posts, maybe shouted a few revolutionary slogans and given some press to the Wimmin's Front of Scienceblogging, which, as you know, is vastly superior to the Scienceblogging Popular Wimmin's Front.
Also: Congrats to Stephanie on moving Almost Diamonds to Freethought Blogs!!!!!
Or should I say, series of crazy bosses. Why, you wonder. Why you? What is wrong with you? You work well with plenty of other colleagues. They seem to like you. But the crazy bosses keep on coming. There must be something wrong with you, because otherwise you just don't get it.
I don't think there's anything to "get". I've had my share of crazy bosses, in academia and in industry. For a long time I thought "why do I keep getting these crazy bosses? what is wrong with me?" There are just lots of wackaloon people. Many of them end up in boss positions. What you hear about on the news is some working class stiff who went shitznutz and came back to work with a gun and shot a bunch of people and everyone nods their heads and says "yeah, those poor folk and their guns. they are whack." You do not hear about the white collar, middle to upper middle class people who go shitznutz and instead of bringing a gun to work and shooting up a bunch of folks, just psychologically abuse the hell out of everyone under their control. Structurally, I think the way we work is designed to produce more of the latter than the former, but the former get airplay, and the latter are completely hidden from view, so that each person's encounter with Crazy Boss is experienced as a unique and strange experience that is felt as somehow reflecting on their personal worth, as a personal failing, not as something the system was almost guaranteed to cough up for them sooner or later.
The conference proper hasn't actually started yet (okay, many worthy souls are busily workshopping even as I lounge about in the hotel room typing this) but it's already been totally worth the trip. Why, you ask? Three reasons.
1. Robert Krulwich's keynote address last night. Interesting, useful, entertaining, inspiring, could have listened to another hour of it. First time I can recall ever wanting to give a keynoter a standing ovation.
2. Joseph Hewitt's "2010: The Year In Science Blogging" comeek in the swag bag (which itself will make another nice grocery bag). Josephe Hewitt is a genius.
3. Hanging out with Commenter Extraordinaire of Science Blogs Everywhere, Becca.
Item #3 has two sub-parts of wonderful to it. 3(a), last night at the Open Mike session, Becca instigated a performance of Ripple and inveigled me to sing along with her and Sandra Porter, with Kevin Zelnio backing us up on guitar. Sandra and Becca can actually sing, and Kevin can actually play the guitar. I screeched along as best I could.
3(b), you can always count on Becca's astute observations to generate a comment FTW. Last night at the intro to the keynote was no exception. Up on the screens in front of the room we were treated to a slide full of the names of supporters of this un-conference - sorted, as is so often done, into three categories. You know how it's done. Sometimes it's platinum, gold, and silver. My local arboretum has oak, ash, and willow. Whatever it is, you know the first category is Top Dawg, second category is Still Pretty Good, and third category is Well, Not Bad, Your Name Is Still Here, Someday When You Can Give More You Can Be A Top Dawg. The categories chosen for SciO11's supporters are as follows:
Top Dawg = Charles Darwin Level
Still Pretty Good = Albert Einstein Level
WNBYNISHSWYCGMYCBATD = Marie Curie Level
Oh yes they did.
Becca's comment: "That's an active disincentive to donate more money."
There's just something weird about associating Names of Famous Scientists with supporter levels in this manner. When supporter levels categories are given somewhat innocuous names - like platinum, gold, silver, or oak, ash, willow - everyone understands that there is a ranking involved in the categories. The ranking is there to distinguish and honor the supporters, and also to generate a little competition - oh, I see the Jones Company supported at the oak level, notes Smith Company. We have got to try and keep up with the Joneses in this important arena. Maybe next year we ought to be mighty oaks as well. Marketers can use it as a selling point: You know, the Jones have been mighty oaks for five years now. We'd like to see you getting your name out there with the same level of recognition and influence, Smith Company. Wouldn't you like to consider moving up from ash to mighty oak this year? So you need the ranking system, both to sell to the supporters, and to recognize the supporters. Everybody knows how the coded system works. When you slap some Famous Scientist names on top of this system that everyone understands, it cannot help but send an implicit message along with it - Top Dawg is the scientist this particular community worships values most, Still Pretty Good, is still pretty good, and WNBYNISHSWYCGMYCBATD is somebody we had to come up with as an afterthought, and we'd better make it a woman or the ladee science bloggers will complain, so let's pick Marie Curie because she's the most famousest woman scientist.
Blargh. Revise and resubmit for SciO12, please. Squid Level, Polar Bear Level, Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Level. Sea, Land, and Air levels. Book, Blog, and Twitter levels. Ha ha ha! my little joke. See how that ranking thing works?
A friend of mine (maybe YOU are that friend?) will be soon be leaving a job at Wackaloon Scientific Enterprises where said friend is supervised by sadistic micromanaging douchebags from hell with poor reading comprehension skills.
How best to spend the remaining time my friend must clock at WSE?
I suggest devoting large chunks of it to rearranging pipet tips in their boxes while singing some version of this song.
Oh it was sad,
Oh it was sad,
It was sad when the research went down to the journal.
All the postdocs and techs.
Little grad students lost their lives.
It was sad when the research went down.
Then when your time is up, shake off the dust under your feet, and blow out of Dodge.
The last week or so I've been reading that classic of naturalist writing, The Outermost House by Henry Beston, as the last of this year's selections for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Book Club.
The book is a delight to read for those who love language - it is essentially one long prose poem. But at the same time, it is sweetly painful, as one takes the measure of all the glory that must have been lost in the time since Beston wrote.
Nothing quite prepared me, however, for encountering the following passage about halfway through the book, in the chapter titled "Winter Visitors". Beston is described the birds that come to the Cape in winter - "a region which is to them a Florida".
A new danger...now threatens the birds at sea. An irreducible residue of crude oil, called by refiners "slop," remains in stills after oil distillation, and this is pumped into southbound tankers and emptied far offshore. This wretched pollution floats over large areas, and the birds alight in it and get it on their feathers. They inevitably die. Just how they perish is still something of a question. Some die of cold, for the gluey oil so mats and swabs the thick arctic feathering that creases open through it to the skin above the vitals; others die of hunger as well. Captain George Nickerson of Nauset tells me that he saw an oil-covered eider trying to dive for food off Monomoy, and that the bird was unable to plunge. I am glad to be able to write that the situation is better than it was. Five years ago, the shores of Monomoy peninsula were strewn with hundreds, even thousands, of dead sea fowl, for the tankers pumped out slop as they were passing the shoals - into the very waters, indeed, on which the birds have lived since time began! Today oil is more the chance fate of the unfortunate individual. But let us hope that all such pollution will presently end.
Oh, unfortunate individuals of the Gulf Coast, how I mourn for you and your "chance fate". I suppose we can take heart that we are no longer purposefully discharging "slop" into the ocean - we aren't, are we? - but it's slim comfort.
But no matter. I heard a story on NPR the other day about how the oil slicks haven't made it to the beaches of the Gulf Coast yet, so the white sands are still sparkly. And the state tourist bureaus are hard at work on ad development to reassure you that your vacation need not be ruined or delayed by any distressing sights on the beach; all is well! Out of sight, out of mind! The only oil you need to worry about is the tanning oil on the shapely young lass on the beach towel in this tourist ad! (There's nothing female flesh can't sell!) Come relax, spend your dollars, support our local tourist industry, and forget about the environment for awhile! It's all good! Till it's not.
As you know, it was just over a thousand years ago this past March that I defended my dissertation. As I recall, I picked up a dozen bagels and some cream cheese on the way to the defense, and the department
secretaries administrative assistants brought in an urn of coffee. It was me and my committee. My advisor made some exceedingly brief introductory remarks and then the semi-bored, semi-hostile committee allowed me to launch into the show-and-tell of What Did You Do These Last Five Years. A few hours later it was all over but the revisions and shouting. Literally. Revisions completed, signatures of committee members collected...and then, suddenly, Advisor wants to make changes. Big changes.