Thursday, August 23, 2007

Things I have that make me happy

#1.) A poster proof! It's all shiny and everything!

#2.) The first figure done for my paper. And decent revisions of both the Intro & the Methods section. No Results or Discussion yet... next week is gonna be hell.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Today's Epiphany

Just so you know, I finally have a legitimate excuse for horribly erratic posting habits, as I'm currently simultaneously preparing to move across the country and writing my first paper for publication.

So I'm taking a break from the latter to finish revising my poster for SfN (since I realized that the standard turnaround for posters is 5 days, which would mean that if I turn it in today it'll be back the day before we load up our PODS), and I had an epiphany about the difference between writing for a scientific audience and well, pretty much any other kind of writing I've done.

A key element of writing for a general audience is to have a host of synonyms at your disposal, so you can always insert whatever word sounds best into a given sentence. Also, you need to be able to avoid using the same words in consecutive sentences when possible as your sentences will sounds homogeneous and monotonous. But in science writing, you need to choose a some word and stick with it. Use the same term to describe the same thing every. Single. Time. Otherwise, your audience will just get confused and wonder if you're talking about different phenomena. I realize this is not a major grand epiphany for most people, and is probably a bit obvious. But it's part and parcel of explaining all of the writing problems I've had when working on things in the lab. My secret to good writing has always been to write for the ear; I just get the text out there and then revise and revise until the prose has some flow to it. But when I try to do that on my poster or in my paper, it's actually counter-productive since I'm just messing things up when I try to liven up the words.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Google Search Terms Q & A

In response to the person who arrived at my blog using the google search terms "3-minute depression cure does it work?":

No. I'm pretty sure that no, it doesn't.


Your Tuesday Sort-Of SciAm Moment

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn--from The Gulag Archipelago--as quoted in Michael Shermer's Skeptic column from the latest issue of Scientific American:

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

Suddenly I understand why my mom had all those Solzhenitsyn books on the shelf when I was growing up.

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New Candidate for Most Useless Headline Ever

Reuters: Brain chemical has key role in ADHD


Two Observations From Jamba Juice & One From an Airplane

#1: The second most horrifying sentence I've heard thus far this week: "I'm gonna have to run back to get a band-aid soon because this thing fell on me again and I'm bleeding all over the place." This, from the person preparing my breakfast.

#2: I think this is the first business I've ever entered that with a sign up informing customers of their ticker symbol.

#3: The most horrifying sentence I've heard thus far this week, uttered on my flight from Charlotte by the hideously obese, greasy truck driver that is every Northerner's nightmare: "Why don't you just get out of the way so I can get my butt up in that?" And yes, he was talking to me.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


We had some bridge-related shenanigans in Minneapolis today; but AFAIK me and mine are all OK.

From the What-The-Hey? Department:

From this AP article, in which we learn the Senate is moving (once again) to put tobacco under the FDA's jurisdiction; but we also learn the following:

The committee adopted an amendment by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., that would ban clove cigarettes, reversing a controversial decision by Kennedy to allow the FDA to make that decision.

Kennedy, the panel's chairman, said he was responding to several senators who contacted him with concerns that a ban on cloves would not be compliant with World Trade Organization rules. But Kennedy agreed to the ban after several senators objected.

Most cloves are marketed in Asia, and Philip Morris, a unit of New York-based Altria Group Inc., recently launched a Marlboro cigarette flavored with cloves in Indonesia.

Kennedy said at the meeting that Philip Morris had "nothing to do with our decision" and he supported the clove ban as long as it is WTO compliant.

This doesn't make sense on so many levels. I think the "Marlboro cloves launched in Indonesia" is a red herring caused by bad copywriting. My guess is that the point of the clove ban is because Marlboro doesn't make money on cloves in the US--you know, where the ban would take place--which really makes the rest of the article make a lot more sense. Because otherwise: is there some extensive "ban cloves but not tobacco cigarettes" lobby I've never heard of before?

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Ask a Stupid Question...

Okay, so bitwise linked to this article about priming in the NYT, and true to form I got obsessively distracted halfway through... by the font for the "Mental Health & Behavior" section. Does it really jump out at anyone else that the section heading is in a different font than, well, anyone else? Or am I just deranged?

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If You're Minnesotan and You Know It...

Then this is the funniest thing ever. Well, if you follow the Timberwolves obsessively: T-Hud's album sells 78 copies. I think there are more posters advertising it than that on my bus ride to work. Admittedly, all of those are within a block of the Electric Fetus, but still...

No wonder they bought out his contract.

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This picture makes me want to cry:

On the upside, the article reminded me that Wally is playing for Seattle now (having been traded for Jesus), so I'll get to see him up close again once we move out there. On the downside, Wally's body is falling apart so he doesn't play like he used to.

It's a world of pain and misery, until I remember that I'm moving to Kevin Durant country.

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Today's SciAm Moment

Another excerpt from the July 2007 issue of Scientific American, this time from the Fact or Fiction? column (yes, guess what I've been reading on the bus to work):

Most modern cars, however, are designed to employ a specific compression ratio, a measure of how much room is available to the fuel when the piston is at the bottom and the top of the cylinder. This compression ratio—somewhere in the neighborhood of eight to one—tolerates lower octane fuels (such as regular gasoline, good old 87 octane) without knocking. "The compression ratio is fixed by the designer of the engine," Green says. "The regular fuel will burn properly and the premium fuel will burn properly and therefore there is no reason you should pay the extra money."...

...Such high compression ratios—and the premium fuels that go with them—could be turned to efficiency, rather than speed, Green notes, especially if put into the engines of lighter cars like his Honda Civic. Other automotive fuels, such as ethanol, can also offer high octane ratings, allowing oil companies to use more volatile gasoline in such blends. But for standard cars on the road today, purchasing premium gasoline is simply paying a premium for a fuel that delivers no added benefits. "If you think you need it," Green says, "you're being very eccentric."

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Holy Crap!

I was just in the shower when I suddenly realized that the blood-dimmed tide is loosed and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned!


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