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11 October 2011 @ 03:23 pm
Dear Livejournal, we've had some good times together, but I think it's time to admit they're over. If it's any consolation, I still think your UI is prettier than Faceblergh or Google-positive. But I really enjoy the freedom of design at Blogger, and the community at Science 2.0.

Along those lines, I'm pretty sure that anyone reading this already knows where to find me, but just in case . . . 

My homepage, The Cephalopodiatrist, contains or links all my academic writing, science writing, art, fiction & poetry, as well as some travelogues, a cafepress shop, and other creative endeavors.

Squid A Day is pretty self-explanatory.

I'm also on G+ and FB (Danna Staaf), but I'm rather irregular about keeping up with the firehose of content. I haven't managed to catch the twitter bug yet, but maybe someday.
15 July 2011 @ 07:43 pm
made something today that I remembered from a dream last night. I'm absurdly pleased with myself.
12 July 2011 @ 12:55 pm
So I'm looking for something in one of my grad school notebooks, and as I'm flipping the pages, I come across a jotted-down exchange between me and an undergrad, Liz, who briefly worked in our lab. It originated with the name of our awesome labmate, J. Ashley T. Booth.

Liz: Ashley's name is so legit.
Me: Do initials make your name more legit?
Liz: Yeah, like J.K. Rowling.
Me: We are so not in the same generation.
Liz: Okay, T.H. White? T.S. Eliot?
Me: That's more like it.

Further evidence of the generation gap: I am posting this on LJ not FB.
26 May 2011 @ 09:53 am
I'm using Chrome now, but under protest.
22 February 2011 @ 12:36 pm
I just received a most curious missive: an application for a postdoctoral position in my laboratory! The sender wrote seven careful paragraphs about their* research experience and attached their CV.

It is not spam--the person is a legimitate researcher with published papers and all that jazz. But I rather suspect it is the machine-gun approach--the same e-mail sprayed liberally across a field of potential hirers.

What could possibly have tipped me off? Well, a wee bit of judicious googling might have informed the applicant that I am currently a freelance writer and therefore unlikely to be looking for postdocs. And there's no mention anywhere of how their interests and research experience makes them a good match for my laboratory. Instead, I read this:

After the six years of study and nearly two years of work experience on biology, my work covered from cell biology to molecular biology, from cell manipulation level to gene clone and shut down. I'm confident that I can be competent to most of biological work.

Whoa! Whoa. Just, whoa. A purely cellular and molecular background means you've only half-experienced the field of biology.

I know, because my predominantly ecological and evolutionary background has left me in the same situation. When I read about the work this applicant has done with DAPI fluorescent staining and monoclonal anti-α tubulins and dsRNA interference, those are just words to me. I've never used those techniques.

But have they ever had to use the weather and season and time of day to guess where they'd find their study organism? Have they ever sampled quadrats along a transect line? Or spent hours just sitting still and watching animals? These are the techniques of the ecologist--dare I say the naturalist?--and they are just as much a part of biological work as ultramicromorphological observations.

Should the applicant ever engage in the aforementioned googling and stumble across this blog, I would like to thank them for giving me an excuse to jump on my soapbox and whine about the rift between mol/cell and eco/evo. I've been here before, lamenting the negative stereotypes each side entertains about the other:

Mole/cell biologists are narrow-minded, technique-obsessed fly-counters and yeast-spreaders, driven by medical funding, with no interest in the big picture and no grasp of how life works in the real world. Meanwhile, eco/evo biologists are tree-hugging, touchy-feely, pot-smoking hippies who failed chemistry and use science as an excuse to hike in the rainforest and dive in the tropics.

Mmmm, diving in the tropics . . . oh wait. Actually, despite my background, I'm not eco/evo. I didn't do a single quadrat or transect for my thesis. In fact, I spent my PhD years in a little-known third camp, a track that Stanford calls Integrative/Organismal, or I/O.

My dissertation was indeed extremely integrative, if you take "integrative" as a fancy word for "all over the map."

I had a chapter of genetics. A chapter of biomechanics. A chapter of oceanography. A chapter of in vitro development. And an appendix of almost straight natural history. My thesis had ADD, and that probably counts as a win for the I/O track.

But I/O is still the narrowest slice of biology at Stanford. There are only two active I/O faculty, compared to twenty-three mol/cell and eighteen eco/evo. And those two guys have been around for a while. I never heard any murmurs of hiring into I/O, and I rather suspect it will die out when they retire.

And that's too bad. I really liked the idea of a third camp that straddled the line, spanned the divide, crossed the tracks. I wanted it to stimulate collaboration and mutual understanding. If I had my own laboratory, that's what I would do with it. Instead of hiring "I'm confident that I can be competent to most of biological work," I would look for "I'm eager to broaden my molecular and cellular background into ecological and evolutionary studies."

But that's if I had a lab.

If I had a lab
I'd integrate in the morning
I'd integrate in the evening
All over the seas
I'd integrate questions
I'd integrate techniques
I'd integrate love between mol/cell and eco/evo
All over this land

* I am using singular they, as I am uncertain of the sender's gender. "But you are a grammar snob!" I hear you protest. "How can you condone singular they?" All I can say is this: it's the worst solution to the problem, except for all the others.
13 February 2011 @ 10:50 pm
A few years back, one of my grad school pals came up with a card game based on the day-to-day lives of scientists. You hire and train scientists, then use them to make discoveries and mess with the other players' scientists.

Of course, having been designed by a very analytical person, the first incarnation of the game was about a thousand times more complicated than that one-sentence summary. It was also called Scienze Warz, if I remember correctly, which . . . really doesn't bear commenting on.

Along with a lot of other people, I gave some helpful feedback, and Kevin went through a process of simplifying and streamlining game play. The original version, despite its complexity, was already a lot of fun, and every subsequent version became more so.

I also offered to illustrate the cards. Pics or it didn't happen.
19 January 2011 @ 07:58 pm
I decided to draw hourlies yesterday. That is a thing that people do where they draw a comic for every hour of a day. Sometimes it happens on February 1st, or other days. I think I got inspired by the Johnny Wander archive.

Due to a surprise visit from some awesome friends, my day turned out to be more interesting than expected. Maybe that's what happens when you decide to draw hourlies?

No offense to my tablet, which I love very very much, but it was splendid to work in pencil again. My hands got all covered with graphite--hence the smudginess of the later comics.

Anyway, here they are!
01 December 2010 @ 08:26 pm
Yesterday I finished two novels.

One was Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and I have babbled about it here.

The other was my own invention. The working title is A Girl and her Squid, and that is what it is about. I am intending to make it a great deal better--perhaps four or five hundred drafts will be enough--and then publish it. The first draft is 50,223 words in length. I believe that is probably one quarter or less the length of Jonathan Strange,  but that is a fearsome tome. Fifty thousand words is enough for a nice light young adult paperback, which is my aim.


01 November 2010 @ 06:32 pm

Scanned and posted in honor of kicking off my first NaNoWriMo today, with a novel about squid racing. It's an idea I've been kicking around for a while and I'm excited about fleshing it out.
26 October 2010 @ 09:34 pm
 Let's see. How far did I get in the last post about Madagascar? Oh yes, I managed to describe our first full day in the country.

Let's see if I can move things along at a speedier clip this time . . .