Monday, January 27, 2014

Academic protest songs

@EvoNeuro added some new Academy-inspired lyrics to classic 60s era protest songs, which were just awesome. It inspired me to reword another song—classic, though not from the 60s.

Old profs oh yes they rob I
Sold I to the post-doc ship
Minutes after they passed me
from the Ph - D pit
But my brain was made strong
by the boot of the Academy
We forward this grad generation
Won't you help to sing
these songs of vain hope
Cause all I ever have
Rejection songs
Rejection songs

Almost feels wrong to use this particular song. But, I think the greatness of the real song can easily survive this silliness.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


November is the month of NaNoWriMo, a project that gets writers together with the aim of completing a full novel in 30 days. Sure, it’s not intended to be a perfect final version, but rather an exercise to force out a crappy first draft. If you’ve co-authored something with another person, you know that it’s often much easier to do the editing than to set down the initial draft.
NaNoWriMo helps with motivation by connecting authors with one another for encouragement and with tools for keeping track of your progress. The concept has gone beyond the novel writing goal, being coopted by many different communities. One such is AcWriMo, which is geared for academic writing projects. It’s described here 
For me, this is a perfect time for such a writing push, as I have multiple projects that need transforming into papers. I have one that really just needs an introduction and discussion, so that’s first up. But the other projects maybe still need an experiment or two. What better way to see what’s truly needed than writing them up- and getting the inevitable “why didn’t I do THAT experiment then?” feeling?
I tried something similar back in 2009, which crashed and burned- add another notch to my failure case (must be room somewhere). No matter, it’s a new year, and I’m in a much different place personally now. So, let’s see what I can really do. How much writing I can produce in a month?
An important part of NaNoWriMo is to set clear goals, but make them lofty. For the novelists, it’s fifty thousand words. For AcWriMo, it’s more personalized, given the variety of academic disciplines involved. Whatever your goals, try and push the limit. Looking through my writing output that I’ve tracked in the past few months, I’m in the range of 300-400 words per day. That’s not full-time writing, as I’m doing experiments as well. But I think a goal of 750 words per day is good- ambitious yet attainable.
I’ll keep track of my progress among nine different files, each for the writing software Scrivener. It’s a great program, and I’ve been using it for about 6 months. Probably it’s worth a later post on how it’s improved my writing output- and my experimental output). And yes, I said nine different files. That’s what’s currently in my open-loop writing wise. I did say it’s a good time for AcWriMo. I’ll prioritize them of course, but progress on any of them will count towards my goal. Everyday I write, I’ll tweet my word count, with the #AcWriMo hashtag. Maybe I’ll also post periodic updates here. And, I’ll take all the high-fives and hells-yeah folks can spare. So if you’re on Twitter, or here, I’ll take any and all kind words.

Oh, and how many words did I write today? Well, including this post (hey, it counts. It’s my goddamn AcWriMo, and I say it counts) I wrote 744 words. Not bad, considering I also raked fifteen 30 gallon bags worth of leaves, played Wii with the boy, hung out with the girl, and went to the movies with the family. I got this.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Where IS my outrage?

[note- this is a bit rambling, but I think it's important to get these thoughts out, ill-formed as they may be. And on the off-chance that you haven't read about Monica Byrne's experience, go do so now ]

I want to thank ScientistMother for her post last night, and for noting that only Isis explicitly reblogged Monica Byrne's story. I couldn't stop thinking about how my own response to DNLee's experience and Monica Byrne's experience differed so much.  Why was that? It felt pretty easy to stand with DNLee when some two-bit online marketer called her an "urban whore." Didn't require a second thought. Why not the same response for Byrne's story?

Because Bora has been a science blogger for so long? Well, I've never interacted with Bora online, and honestly I never did follow his blog.

Because he's an editor at SciAm blogs? Maybe, though I don't have any aspirations for deliberately trying to widen my blog's audience (if I did, posting something, anything, would be a step).

Because after what he did to Monica Byrne, he apparently didn't continue making sexual advances to her? Ok, but other women writers say he did the same to them (see comments on her post), and honestly, his apology is weak.

Because I didn't want to be seen as a trouble maker, or 'activist' in this regard? Whatever I write here may be read by people I'd want to hire me, and is this how I'd want them to see me?

Because I know of times where I know I've acted badly, and recognize there are surely times where I've acted badly without knowing it. So, who am I to judge?

It's been bothering me all night, and that's good- it should. Because it's not consistent to stand up loudly for DNLee and not for Monica Byrne. And because my thoughts above place the center on the incorrect location: either Bora, or me. The attention should be on Byrne, and then what is the best response

Monica Byrne wanted to talk to Bora about writing on science- Bora thought of Byrne (and the other women he did this to) purely as a potential sex partner. "I'm a very sexual person," he said. There's no way to see that as anything other than a disgusting and outrageous comment in a work setting. I still can't grasp what it would feel like to meet with someone about a cool new opportunity to write an article, a blog post, whatever- and then have that person make it clear that they don't give a shit about that. They just want to go to bed with you. And then integrate that over a lifetime of similar experiences? I have no words, cause I cannot conceive of it. Need more concrete examples? Read about Kathleen Raven's experiences.

This pisses me off. Any right thinking person knows these actions are horrendous and unacceptable. Behavior like this shouldn't be tolerated anywhere. I'm pissed off as a man, who is judged, reasonably so, as a possible creep by people who don't know me. I'm pissed off thinking about what experiences the women in my life (my mom, my wife, my daughter) have endured. But that's too narrow a focus. I'm pissed off that other people have to experience this. I don't really know what to do to address it. But the response overall has been somewhat muted, when more outrage is in order.

I want to thank Monica Byrne for her bravery in speaking up. I don't know what it feels like, but can only imagine it's incredibly difficult to do so.

Relevant links:
Priya Shetty has an excellent piece about the relative silence of the community's response.
Dr FreeRide's post
DrugMonkey's post
Odyssey's post

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A bit late, but still time to stand with DNLee

Perhaps you've heard of this through others in the science blogging commuity, but it needs to be said over and over again: this behavior is never acceptable, and must be called out as such. If you offer a science writer a change to blog at your site, and she refuses you, you don't call her whore. 

Go read about it at Isis's place here (after Scientific American removed DNLee's post), and also check out her follow up here

[it's another example showing the value of the web to learn about experiences of people different than you. As a white male in science, it's not likely someone would call me a whore if I refused their offer to do something. What would that feel like, especially when it's one more thing in a long line of similar experiences?]

Sunday, October 6, 2013


After a long, cold day of apple picking in the rain, not much can beat the first beef stew of the season.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Cleanliness is next to godliness

Noise- electrical noise. One of the banes of the electrophysiologist. It turns your recordings to laughable 60 cycle garbage, that you'd be embarrassed to publish. It turns your days into fruitless searches for impossible to find ground ground loops.

Some of the most pernicious sources of noise I've had resulted from old spills of salt solutions that I thought I'd cleaned up. One time the saline seeped between the air table and a post holding the manipulator and headstage. That created a weird acoustic pickup that was near my voice's natural frequency. Took me a long time to find that one.

Another annoying place that salt can build up is the pipette holder itself. A little excess internal solution at the non-tip end of the pipette can get into the holder, causing havoc. I haven't seen that lead to overt 60 cycle noise, but rather an increased RMS noise that makes single channel recording more annoying that it already is.

To get around that, a good dip in the ultrasonic cleaner can do wonders. I fill up the cleaner with a solution with some detergent (1% ContRad works well). The detergent improves wetting of the objects you're cleaning, and reduces microbubbles-which prevent effective cleaning. Degas the solution by running the cleaner for 10-15 minutes, then immerse your disassembled holder and bath in the solution. Let it run for ~10 minutes, wash your stuff a few times in dH20 and you're good to go.

A cool way to test if your cleaner is working well is with a pencil mark drawn on the frosted end of a glass slide:

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Patch-clamp playlist

This playlist has been killing it for the past few weeks. I share it with you all in case you need inspiration. I left off 'The Who', lest you go all Pete Townsend/Keith Moon on your rig.

1 - Working Man - Rush
2 - Space Truckin' - Deep Purple
3 - Ace of Spades - Motörhead
4 - Pain and Pleasure - Judas Priest
5 - Highway to Hell - AC/DC
6 - Crazy Train - Ozzy Osbourne
7 - I Wanna Be Sedated - The Ramones
8 - Whipping Post - The Allman Brothers Band (20+ minute live jam preferred)
9 - The Mob Rules - Black Sabbath
10 - Symphony of Destruction - Megadeth
11 - Fade To Black - Metallica
12 - Tom Sawyer - Rush
13 - We're Not Gonna Take It - Twisted Sister
14 - The Prisoner - Iron Maiden
15 - God Save the Queen - Sex Pistols
16 - Seek and Destroy - Metallica
17 - We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions - Queen