Crap I told a reporter (print version)

Last week I was interviewed by a freelance journalist who was working on a story about speed training for distance runners for the Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call. I’d never heard of this daily, which is nowhere near where I live or ever have, but its circulation of 150,000 ranks it well within the top 100 papers nationwide.
Why me? Apparently Ms. Milcetich got the idea after seeing my name on the cover of Run Strong and contacted Human Kinetics, and my editor there passed her contact info along. Aren’t you glad to know?
Anyway, here’s the story. None of what I — or, for that matter, competitive running long-timer Bart “Yeah? So?” — said is of interest to anyone reading this, yet I feel compelled to link to this simply because I write on a blog and was quoted somewhere else. I’d link the interview to the blog as well if I could, for symmetry’s sake, but mcall.com probably wouldn’t go for that idea.

The Tolkienian War on Science*

bushwell.jpg
When I was a little kid, I frequently snuck into my older brother’s room and read his collection of science fiction books and pulp magazines (see previous post on SF&F books). My mother, who was (and is) a big fan of The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald (a lovely book and recommended) thought I might benefit from reading some fantasy so she bought The Hobbit for me when I was 12 (6th grade; 1966, yes, I am that old) which I happily read. My brother, who was a college student at the time, then brought home The Lord of the Rings in 1968, and I devoured it. I re-read The Hobbit and the trilogy throughout high school, and when The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales were published, these were added to my Tolkien collection which, in addition to many other fantasy and sci-fi books, I read throughout grad school and into my post-doctoral years as wonderful escapism from the realities of thesis research and fellowship proposals.
A funny thing happened. Real Life, that is, children and a career intervened, and although I remained an avid reader, I rarely read science fiction and fantasy, and JRRT’s works were among those that went by the wayside. I did, however, turn my kids on to Tolkien, and my son, in particular, became a fan.
My family and I dutifully went to the Harvard Square theater for three successive Decembers to see Peter Jackson’s interpretation of Tolkien, and I have to say he did a decent job. But I still didn’t pick up the books to re-read at the time, mostly because I knew this would be too much of a juxtaposition with the movies, and I didn’t want to get all weird over orthodoxy. However, it turned out that it was easy for me to enjoy the Jackson-Walsh-Boyens “non-canon” vision.
After a hiatus of a number of years, I re-read The Silmarillion this past winter. What a difference life experience makes. When I first read the book, I was fresh out of undergrad and not really too aware of a lot of the politics surrounding science and technology. I just liked science and was eager to know more, so off I went to grad school and a post-doc. During that pleasantly naive time, I re-read The Silmarillion but not quite the way I did recently. So what has happened between then and and now? Well, I read it through the prism of my experience and the current climate surrounding science in our culture.

Continue reading “The Tolkienian War on Science*”

Objective 2007: Become Goddess of PowerPointery

Long time no see.
I took something of a hiatus from the hootacular environs of the Refuge due to the Most Wonderful Time of the Year at DOPI:* performance reviews for 2006 and objectives setting for 2007. I know. I shouldn’t whine and bitch about this, seeing how much work you academics put into the grant writing process in the unending effort to suck at the NIH/NCI/NSF/IYAH** teat, and I can appreciate how difficult that is. After seeing my grad advisor lose a significant grant (since regained) during the heyday of Ronnie Reagan years when 0.0000037% of all NIH grants were funded, I was utterly convinced there was no f’ing way I would be hippity hopping down the academic trail.

Continue reading “Objective 2007: Become Goddess of PowerPointery”

Objective 2007: Become Goddess of PowerPointery

Long time no see.
I took something of a hiatus from the hootacular environs of the Refuge due to the Most Wonderful Time of the Year at DOPI:* performance reviews for 2006 and objectives setting for 2007. I know. I shouldn’t whine and bitch about this, seeing how much work you academics put into the grant writing process in the unending effort to suck at the NIH/NCI/NSF/IYAH** teat, and I can appreciate how difficult that is. After seeing my grad advisor lose a significant grant (since regained) during the heyday of Ronnie Reagan years when 0.0000037% of all NIH grants were funded, I was utterly convinced there was no f’ing way I would be hippity hopping down the academic trail.

Continue reading “Objective 2007: Become Goddess of PowerPointery”

“Bring the Wiki to me.”

Everyone I know loves Wikipedia, perhaps because it can be touted as a great source of information when material supports a particular contention, but dismissed with an “anyone can edit that crap!” when it contradicts a given stance.
Wiki pages have been started for a few ScienceBloggers (I’l leave it to the curious to uncover which ones). I’m not among them and hope I never will be, since the result would quickly resemble something like this — and that’s after only the kind, discreet, and out-of-the-loop people had turned it up.

The resolution conflict (not an oxymoron)

As a person driven to heights of ecstasy (or at least competence) throughout his life by numbers and data, I’d seem to be ideal candidate for forming absolute, concrete New Year’s resolutions — e.g., “I’m giving up fried borscht entirely”; “I’m going to climb every mountain over 5,000′ east of the Mississippi.”
On the other hand, it makes little sense for me to make hard, fast resolutions at all. I’m too capricious and impulsive to stick to anything out of the ordinary I might lazily conceive (i.e., if I were really going to watch one porn flick a week, I would have started before now), but not blase enough about this tendency to avoid getting annoyed when its implications are realized. That is, if I say I’m going to knock over one headstone in the local boneyard every damned Saturday night while knowing full well this is difficult in the winter months, and subsequentlly fail thanks to the vagaries of frozen soil and access problems, I’ll still brood over it. Once a goal is out there, no matter how improbable or ill-advised, it’s there.
Yet moderating myself by saying I’m going to “do more” of something or “cut back” on a particular behavior — while far more realistic — gives me way too much latitude. I need to have something to hang my hat on besides trite metaphors.

Continue reading “The resolution conflict (not an oxymoron)”

Why I don’t poop on Christmas

One year, my decidedly Yule-tilitarian family executed a neat three-way trade beside the Christmas tree. My girlfriend and I gave a gift card to the Olive Garden to my parents, who in turn had given a Chili’s gift card for the same amount to my sister and fiance, who for their part had gotten me and my partner an Outback Steakhouse card bearing the same value. I may have the details wrong, but the basics of the transaction render a clear message about how those I hang with typically operate.
Nevertheless, while I’ve become benevolently but progressively unattached to holiday traditions over the years, someone made it pretty clear to me in 2006 that it’s possible to grok my tastes and sources of amusement in a fairly short time. Here’s what Santa One brought:

Continue reading “Why I don’t poop on Christmas”

But First…Roo-Roo!

Re: Ask a Science Blogger – Harsh Criticism, Did It Help or Hinder? Warning. My response contains offensive material. Oh, you’re not surprised? Well, OK, this is the Chimp Refuge. You already know that there are piles of bonobo scat everywhere. So let’s get to steppin’ and squishin’…
During my first “real” job out of my post-doc, one of my colleagues told me this joke, repeated here with my embellishments:

Continue reading “But First…Roo-Roo!”

Hot or Not?

Wait! Don’t answer that just yet. Please allow me to give myself a little Q&A pertaining to issue of “proportionately fewer hot women read sci-fi and fantasy.”
Q1. So tell me, Me, do you read sci-fi & fantasy?
A1. Well, not so much lately.
Q2: How about your past flirtations with the genre?
A2: I burned through my older brother’s Analogs and other pulpy sci-fi mags when I was a kid. I went on to read Poul Anderson, Harlon Ellison, Roger Zelazny, Larry Niven (my husband for whatever reason likes to call me Teela Brown), Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. LeGuin, Julian May, Marion Zimmer Bradley and many others. I often enjoyed browsing at Pandemonium in Harvard Square when I lived in Cambridge. One of the salesmen sounded just like Comic Book Guy. Seeing as how the Harvard Lampoon (source of writers for The Simpsons) is just around the corner from Pandemonium, I expect the clerk was an inspiration. Oh, and I met Ben Bova there, too.
Q3: How about Tolkien?
A3: Tolkien? Oh, hell yeah, I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings multiple times. Plus The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales.
Q4: What sort of stuff do you read now?
A4: Well, in my dotage, I tend to read a lot more non-fiction these days, and the fiction in which I indulge is of different genres. I still dig sci-fi and fantasy type movies though. I most recently watched “Donnie Darko,” “V for Vendetta,” and “Serenity.” All got thumbs up. Then there’s my guilty pleasure, the SciFi Channel’s Originals, which are supremely awful. “Mansquito” is my favorite.
OK, thanks. I think we have the answer to the question and that is…

Continue reading “Hot or Not?”

The Meme-ome

There. That banal neologism has been rattling around in my cranium for a few days like errant bb shot, and I needed to get it out there. Sometimes, a loathsome word must be purged from the brain before it causes too much damage.
“Meme,” which makes me cringe when I read it let alone write it, is the most overused word in the blogosphere (also a shudderworthy term). Just say it: “Meme.” It can only be spoken with a nerdsome whine.
Everyone and her/his cat and dog are tacking -ome on to words:
“Genome. Metabolome. Kinome. Lipidome. Transcriptome.”
Harlan Pepper, would you stop naming -omes!?”

RPM over at evolgen brought up the secretome, and correcly noted that “-ome” can be attached to darn near any biological system to give it hype. The natural consequence of my reading this last week and the “Speed of Meme” hot topics on the Science Blogs mainframe page was the unholy convergence of “The Meme-ome.”
Scott Douglas, a freelance writer with a number of running-focused books and articles to his credit, maintains a list of Forbidden Words. Scott has been lax in updating his list of overused phrases and words, but here it is:

Continue reading “The Meme-ome”

Look, I’m just a biochemist, part 2

Continued from Look, I’m just a biochemist, part 1*…
stanley_biochemist.jpg
Recently, I had lunch with a colleague who is concerned about how he is perceived in discovery research. The guy is a sr. scientist in DOPI’s leads discovery department which assays something in the order of a gazillion compounds in screening “campaigns.” He and his group are able to miniaturize assays to volumes the size of fly’s tears and make the robots dance like St. Vitus on rye bread. He fits massive numbers of data points to mathematical models, and has a keen eye for what constitutes a lovely and seductive concentration response curve versus the crapola generated by compounds with horrible physical properties . Yet he was troubled. He said he felt increasingly pegged as a “technologist, and not a biologist.” I gesticulated with my fork, in mid-bite of a garlicky shrimp and sputtered, bits of crustacean flying, “You, sir…you are not a biologist. You are a biochemist!”

Continue reading “Look, I’m just a biochemist, part 2”