October 2011 – March 2012
Ricardipus has been dominating recently; the rest of you clearly need to comment more.
Comment(s) of the week
Oct 7 2011: Chall for “I’m in. Somehow I don’t think it will go worse than the current NFL pool…. and my poor leafs are looking wilted already”
Ricardipus for “Ok, so this year I’m gonna pay attention and make picks for the first month. Unlike last year, where I didn’t do JACK for the first month and a half and STILL ALMOST WON.
You are all SO going down this year. Prepare to be demoted to the minors, permanently.
Oh wait, you said you enabled trash talk on the *pool*, not the *blog*. Whatever.”
modscientist for “This is my first ever sports pool since my dad used to have me make his picks when I was 7. I chose my fav players and filled the remaining spots with players that had cool names and/or cool hair.”
katebow for “I chose to write my thesis at my mother’s kitchen table due to its proximity to a well-stocked fridge.”
Ricardipus again for “I’ve probably told this story before, but a Certain Eminent Scientist Famous For Cloning A Recessive Disease Gene was on my committee. I gave him my thesis to read and comment on prior to final submission. After some weeks, I cornered him and asked for it back. It appeared shortly thereafter, and he told me (and I quote) “It has the content of a thesis, and the format of a thesis, so I guess it’s ok”.
When I started reading through, I found he’d written comments… on the first ten pages or so. The rest of it was exactly as I’d given it to him. You can draw your own conclusions from these data.”
biobabbler for “Finally, GREAT thing re: finishing. Once you get that degree, despite any fears you might have about not being worthy or “found out” re: not being a genius, THEY NEVER TAKE IT AWAY. It’s ALWAYS yours. =) Hooray!!!”
and Ricardipus yet again for “I got similar advice from a senior grad student… do the figures first, then you’ll know what to write about them and how they fit together to make the complete story. Maybe the best advice anyone ever gave me (other than my dad, who told me “the point of graduate school is to get out of it as quickly as possible” ).”
Oct 14 2011: Ricardipus for “You know, this is doing wonders for my translation skills:
Dead simple. I’m phoning the U.N. up and asking for a job.”
and Bob O’H for “OK, OK, I’ll admit it. I took the sign.
It said “Nothing here to see. Please move along”, in Swahili, Estonian and Northern Irish.”
Oct 21 2011: katebow for “you are inspiring me to comment more even though I have been told by many impatient teachers that quality, not quantity is important and that I in particular should apply this to what comes out of my mouth.”
Ricardipus for “I think you should take those screen captures from Twitter, print them, and fax the printouts to the transcription service where someone can type them out, give ‘em to someone else who reads them into a telephone and send the resulting audio recordings TO YOUR PAGENET PAGER!!!
Full of good ideas, me.”
and Eva for “…saws? SAWS? Okay then…”
Oct 29 2011:
ScientistMother for “Uhm, hi (head bowed) Didn’t mean to be ungrateful (shuffles feet). Sorry. I’ll post the week 3 update. (looks up sheepishly).”
Liz for “In a recent journal club, one of the main figures in a high impact journal was a bar graph arranged such that the bars extended radially. I don’t know if this graph has a name or a purpose, but the circular shape didn’t seem to add any relevant info in this case and just led to us discussing the weirdness of the graph as opposed to the content of the figure – possibly this was the sneaky intent of the authors, who knows!”
Ricardipus for “I guess this stuff bugs me too. Almost as much as generic Excel colour schemes.
You realize you’ve just raised the bar for the hockey pool results, right?”
Nina for “Argh. These are all awful examples and I feel bad for the people who use them.
I was taught all during my courses what graphs to use. We always had to present stuff and then the profs would critizise our graphs in “public”. That surely helped.
I also TOTALLY agree with Chall that excel is NOT a statistics program. At best it is a tool to convert your data into txt files to import into statistics programs …
Finally, I know English grammar is hard, but I learned it in highschool and already then had the feeling my grammar was better than my American cousin’s…”
and Bean-Mom for “Yup, I was never formally taught data presentation… just as I wasn’t formally taught how to give a talk or write a paper. You observe, see what works and what doesn’t, do it yourself for the first time (and take the heat) and learn. Yesterday i was talking with a grad student and realized how very little *formal* training we get in what is most important. But the truth is I think that applies in most fields; you learn on the job, as you go along. Formal seminars/classes/workshops often don’t seem that helpful (although maybe that’s just because I haven’t been to good ones).
[...] Oh, by the way, I can’t articulate any rules of grammar at all. Has never stopped me from editing grammar.”
Nov 4 2011: Bean-Mom for “The professional scientific editor at my institute (who works with any lab or person that needs him) can tell you precisely what the grammatical rules are and why what you’ve written is wrong and why his edits are correct. Frankly, I don’t think that in itself makes him a better editor. . . but it does mean that he can justify himself with technical rules and he can explain the rules. And I understand why that would be reassuring =) (I think I would go nuts, too, if I were trying to write in a foreign language and no one would explain to me what the rules were!)”
rpg for “If I were a member of a secret society, I wouldn’t tell you, because then it wouldn’t be a secret. Or I might tell you that I’m a member of one I’m not…”
Ricardipus for “I think the analysis, interpretation and presentation of simulated data already has a name: computational biology.”
Chall for “Where I am now we have to use the kit (FDA approved) since… well, it is FDA approved ^^ Industry.”
Cromercrox for “I’ll show you mycoplasma if you show me yourcoplasma.”
and Steve Caplan for “Mycoplasma are an essential part of animal/human cells. Since there is MORE bacterial DNA in a human than human DNA, we need to look at humans (and their cells) as symbiotic organisms–meaning that Mycoplasma are an essential component of human cells and any cell lines lacking them should be treated with suspicion.
If the editor wouldn’t listen, I’d tell him/her that he/she is full of sh.., no cr…, no…Mycoplasma…”
Nov 18 2011: Cromercrox for “The main picture is rather disturbing. When it popped up on my browser (the OT main page is my homepage) I almost fled beneath the desk.
I’d guess that in the right context the mask would be less scary, as people would be expecting such things at a Hallowe’en party – so kudos to you that you managed to scare people even in such a situation. However, when it popped up on my screen in the Bureau des Girrafes, I wasn’t thinking of Hallowe’en at all — so it really made me jump, and gave me that rather scary sense of disorientation that one finds in nightmares. Wooooh!”
Jennifer Rohn for “You’re at the stage of evolution where you’ve just evolved romantic sensibilities and the fur has rubbed off the right knee because that’s the one you’ve been kneeling on to fruitlessly propose to all the other missing links of the opposite persuasion.”
Ricardipus for “The furry patch is there because of the thighbone of a mixed metaphor.”
and then “I’d like to say I saw that joke coming from miles away, but actually I was looking in the wrong direction and it came around the the other side of the world and clubbed me in the back of the head.
I will now go off into an incoherent rant about why that 96% figure is totally wrong.
*foams at mouth, gibbers, searches PubMed furiously”
Alyssa for “Congrats for getting through! I’m sure just working on everyday things will practically feel like a vacation. Right?”
and Bean-Mom for “I am glad to not have constant deadlines =) (just the vague and looming threat of career doom ever omnipresent, but, uh, vague as I said…)”
Nov 25 2011: Double edition because I was on a ferry last Friday!
Steve Caplan for “I think there are laxatives that might help Mister Daker….”
Ricardipus for “Oh ye gods. Blooooooarrrrggggg mmm ee amorayyyyyyyyyy…. [etc.]
Now I must spend the rest of the night finding out if this guy’s for real or not. Damn you Cath! :D”
Mike for “¡Bing!
(wipes tears away)
(and a wee snotter that half shot out)”
Beth Snow “I was so excited that I got so many points this week… until I noticed that so did everyone else! But, like you say, it’s still anyone’s game – the season is young… just like all the boys on my team!”
Grant for “It’s an unexpected form of prejudice isn’t it. Writing that ‘looks like’ lefties work is generally considered poor writing.
I can remember something like penmanship stuff as a kid – with fountain pens, too – a blotters at the ready! I hated it – as a leftie I often wound up with ink on the side of my hand. A sort of human blotter of sorts.”
Cromercrox for “I know someone – the most gentle, moderate soul you could imagine – whose job is to moderate the comments on the Daily Mail website. He must have done something really awful in a previous life.”
Ricardipus for “I wasn’t aware that Hipster Scum were responsible for inner-city re-development. Educational blog, this.”
Steve: “Know-won out jeezes me on cheezy puns–especially awful review titles. Try this won on for size:
C-terminal EH-domain-containing proteins: consensus for a role in endocytic trafficking, EH?”
Austin: “I think that one’s disappeared up its own organelle… Or come to a bad end(osome).”
Steve: “I think we could put your pun in a new organelle coined the “awesomesome.””
Dec 5 2011:
Grant for “Thought I’d mention NZ is having national elections at the moment. Still have to find time to get myself to a polling booth. (Still a few days to go.) Lousy campaign, IMHO. Way too much nonsense and nearly impossible to see the actual policies. My impression is that they’re avoiding them and will set up a second agenda after the election – for all the stuff that’s hard to “sell”. Sigh.
As for the ‘voting for me’ thing, some people actually liked my idea of a NZ Science Party! Maybe next elections… I’m allowed to dream, aren’t I?”
Anthony for “Oh man, You come up with these awesome things to do just as I’m getting ready to leave? Harsh.
I never knew I was supposed to grow my cat to epic proportions and inject myself with peptides… so many opportunities lost.”
Liz for “gaah, I’ve been getting this “stem cell alternative” ad on my facebook homepage for the last few weeks and it drives me bananas
I do find it a bit funny that as it is likely being targeted to the pages of those with stem cell or biomedical related content on their profiles, it will hopefully primarily be seen by annoyed scientists and not by those who are likely to buy into the scam.”
Bob O’H “Are you sure it’s the cat that’s the wrong size? Peptides do that to people, you know.”
and Schlupp for “Gah. Peptide based is such a disappointment. I had read Reptile first.”
~~~~~~~~~~this is the cut-off for the annual count & competition~~~~~~~~~~
Dec 9 2011: Nina for “The mayor is the happy planet inventor???? Tell me again why I am not living in Vancouver yet.”
Mel for “I’ve been getting the peptide ad too! Now I know I shouldn’t visit their website, it would probably make me as mad as when I found out about “DNA CryoStem Skin Therapy system” which apparently you can get in several “spas” in the States. Here are some of the more awful rage inducing excerpts:
“[woo that's too long-winded and stupid to put in my sidebar]”
Because you know – cow cells can magically become human if they’re stem cells. Maybe this is unique to organic French cows? Then there’s this:
“[more woo that's too long-winded and stupid to put in my sidebar]”
Isn’t it great that cells touching your skin just automatically feed your cells their DNA?!? Good thing my skin never comes into contact with any cells… oh oops except for various millions of bacteria. I guess my skin must be >90% bacterial DNA by now. Hope their DNA is as flawless as cows.
AAARRRGGGGH. This still bothers me and I found this ages ago.”
and Nina (aka future Global Minister of Soil) again for “Cath, I really like the way you are working towards world domination. As I said before, you have my vote!”
Dec 16 2011: Steve Caplan for “Ahhh, that’s typical peer review. The Canadians supporting the Canadians… Bloody favOUritism!”
Ricardipus for “Yes! PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION! REPEAL THE POLL TAX! DINOSAUR PARKS FOR EVERYONE!!!!”
and Jenny Rohn for “It was great meeting you too, Cath. I almost didn’t recognize you without your kayak.”
Jan 6 2012: ScientistMother for “I’m not sure I could rank. I already use the close my eyes and pick as its hard to decide [who] is the funniest. Ranking would cause head explosion.”
Bob O’H for “I’m rather disappointed with my presence. I’ve tried to be extra boring this year, but I still got myself nominated.
Next year I’m going to have to be even more disciplined and only post quotations from Cox & Reid’s The Theory of Design of Experiments.”
Ricardipus for “I used to take the bus home from University. It had the advantage of taking longer than the train but always being early. The train, by contrast, was on paper a shorter trip but always late.”
Alyssa for “I’ll do a post about our Christmas tree soon, and I’ll be sure to add a photo of the shooting star just for you (I think it came free with a bottle of Smirnoff, so don’t get too excited).
See, now you’re all worked up about it and you’re going to be disappointed! Tune in to my blog tomorrow for a photo :)”
Liz for “I recently had a new laptop delivered by UPS. They left the notice stating they had made the first of three delivery attempts and I phoned them to say I would not be home for the next two attempts so not to bother and I would just pick it up at the depot. I was told that they had to make all three delivery attempts before it would be able to be picked up, which seemed like a complete waste of everyone’s time. After the third delivery attempt, I eventually made it to the depot, which was at the other end of the city and took me 45min each way by bus, and then a walk through a deserted field that clearly wasn’t designed for pedestrians. Anyway, I was pretty annoyed by the whole thing. (the new computer is great though )”
and Mike for “Huh – trying to take credit for the first part of my bribe for next year’s BRC, wise guy?
Cath, I also sent some further bribes under an assortment of false names, that correspond closely to your family and loved ones.”
Jan 16 2012: Supermassive holiday edition! 3 weeks worth of comment and post goodness!
Laurence Cox for “Happy holiday, but you should have really taken a picture of one cat in two places simultaneously!”
Cromercrox for “When you get to my age you’ll find that waking up in the morning without parts of oneself falling off is as good as it’s going to get.”
Nina for “I would like to know if Eva is going to contact the powerpoint-date and tell him something good came out of that date finally?!
Seriously: congratulations! I thought that was by far the funniest comment, perhaps also because it could have happened to me… I don’t recall if I said this in the original comment-strain, but I once dated a guy who worked in an ice-cream shop and I later realized that was indeed the only good thing about him (as my friends had pointed out from the start … but then they couldn’t really complain because they got free ice-cream as well)”
Massimo for “It is a funny comment — I mean, seriously PowerPoint ? What kind of a loser uses that in the age of Keynote…”
Bob O’H for “Wooo! Joint 4th.
BTW, a commonly employed, but in some contexts rather unfortunate, terminology is to call centres a random factor and to add the usually irrelevant assumption that the τ_j^B also are random variables. (p148)”
Eva for “I tried so hard not to win! I sound so mean! But thanks for voting, and this really *is* the only good thing to ever come out of this. Normally every failed relationship (including the ones that never even took off, the unrequited things) somehow always leads to something positive, like exposure to new music, or making new friends, but until now the only positive thing I got out of this one was discovering (via one of the very few books on his shelves) that an ugly bus stop near my parents’ house is considered one of the 1000 buildings to see before you die.
Okay, that’s also pretty good. But this is better, probably!”
(The next few should probably be read in the context of the full post, for ease of comprehension!)
Stephen Curry for ““A His-tag!?!””
Stephen Moss for “I love actin. It is so much more real than life.”
Eva again for “The world is a lab, but the gel is badly cast.”
and Crystal Voodoo for ““Grad students begin by loving their PIs; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.””
Jan 27 2012:
Austin Elliott for “Deceiving others. That is what the world calls an impact statement.”
Cromercrox for “A scientist’s lab notebook is private and therefore intended for publication.
A graduate student’s CV is his autobiography – a PI’s, his work of fiction.”
Eva for “Well, the last thing I read was Grant’s comment on this post. (See above). It was a short read, but informative.”
Bean-Mom for “Ha! I am spitefully gleeful to see that you and Mr. E. are now hopelessly lost in Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire land. I am languishing there myself. What can I say–it seems I like to spread my addiction.”
and Elizabeth for “I’m re-reading George R.R. Martin’s series right now, just so I can be one of those terrible people to my labmates, who says during the lunch conversation about the HBO series the next morning…” well, in the book they didn’t do that…“”
Feb 3 2012:
EcoGeoFemme for “Regarding Stroke of Insight, I too thought it was hard to get to the “right brain space” or whatever she called it without having had her experience. But it was interesting to know it existed and I did enjoy some of the exercises she described. I found them somewhat helpful for relaxing and escaping stressful thought loops, but they didn’t get me to the zen-like state she describes. I’m pretty sure that’s why people use hard drugs..”
Mike for “iCan haz iCrackCocaine vsn plz.”
Heather for “Just consider that if some cataclysm takes place, either you and the other reasonable and adaptable people will survive, or the nutters (and alas they are pullulating). My bet is on you. If it’s the others, I wouldn’t want to stick around anyhow.”
Eva for “This story reminds me of two of my previous trips: a train from Paris to Amsterdam, and a Greyhound from Las Vegas to LA.
The train from Paris was double-booked, because the train before us was cancelled/broken/non-existent. We were also delayed a bit, but obviously not by as many hours as half of the passengers who should have been on the previous train. There were *almost* enough seats for everyone, but obviously many people had the same seat numbers because they merged two trains, and people COULD NOT COMPREHEND how this was possible. “This is MY seat!” “No, this is MY seat!” *sigh*. There was a lot of shuffling, and a LOT of complaining. I found my sister a seat, and I ended up sitting in the restaurant for the whole trip, with some other seatless people. It was fun in the restaurant! But every time I walked back to check on my sister, the people in the carriage were STILL complaining. Aaaaargh. What were they going to do – build another train?
The bus from Vegas to LA broke down in the middle of the desert for a few hours, and we had to wait for a new bus. It was warm and annoying, but people weren’t as complain-y about it. One guy next to me was on his way to Lollapalooza to scalp tickets (heh), and he said he took that bus trip about once a month, and in summer the bus ALWAYS breaks down there. It was a completely different crowd. People on trains expect everything to be perfect, and people on Greyhounds are expecting crap. It’s what you pay for! ”
Chall for “ahh.. the Greyhound from LA to Vegas and back. Did that, survived and have a bunch of intersting stories…. like you, it was in the middle of summer. No AC on the bus. Stop in the middle of desert and I remember thinking, “if they leave me here, I’ll be a burned crisp in like 15 mins” (temps about 120+F will do that to superwhite swede who don’t tan.at.all)
As a side note, I learned that LA Hollywood and LA downtown Greyhound busstaion are not (no surprise really, apart for me) the same in terms of @safe@ It was a good story afterwards ^^”
Bob O’H for “I was once stood on York station, and an announcement was announced that the train to London was delayed because of thunderstorms near Doncaster. I had visions of a nervous wreck of a train huddled in a siding refusing to come out until those loud bangs and bright flashes over the horizon had all stopped.”
and Steve Caplan for “I have to share (briefly) my own cross-border train journey from Chile into Bolivia in the Atacama desert in the high altitude of the Andes in about 1992. There was a train switch in the middle of the night, where everyone had to get off the train in the dark, freezing cold and wait for the new train to come. No station. A local woman served as a “decoy” and began running with all the backpackers following her, and then the train coming from the other direction with the other locals grabbing all the seats (including extras so they could stretch out and sleep). Finally, all on board, conductors selling greasy food wrapped in newspaper, and asking for passports.
The clincher came when a local (Bolivian) woman asked us in Spanish “What are you bringing with you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Alcohol, cigarettes, electronics? What are you bringing over the border.”
“Uhh, nothing. Just our clothes, tent, cameras.”
She looked astonished, and then angry. “Everybody needs to bring something. That’s how it works…”
Somehow, I doubt it’s changed much since then…”
Feb 10 2012: Ricardipus for “I’ve dredged up a memory of something a Tanzanian-born colleague once told me. He said that when he visits his brother in Tanzania, he takes two bottles of Scotch with him. One for his brother, and one for the customs agent. ;)”
Frank Norman for “It’s good to see that lawyers’ ethical standards are in such rude good health. Maybe you could write a blogpost about ethics and link to their site?.”
Mike for “I’d like to add some lay comments on the subject of this blog.
Too technical. Not enough cool train photos.”
Ricardipus again for ““The reviewers thank the author for her inclusion of supplementary figure #1. However, we feel this figure would be better suited for inclusion in a training grant.”
I’m here all week, folks.”
and Mike for “I’ve just been filling out some job applications – some online, others by email, so I’d like to add a couple of other points to your list, if you don’t mind:
PROPOSAL / OTHER LARGE TEXT SECTIONS
Bad: Anywhere with a character limit: specify the limit CLEARLY and whether this includes spaces or not.
Bad: If you insist on using text input boxes in your online forms, please have the decency to make sure putting in fewer than the maximum stated number of characters (including spaces) does not generate an error. (And I can assure you, “Srsly, WTF?” is < 4000 characters)
If I don’t get the position, I’ll be back here to tell you exactly which ‘prestigious’ UK University apparently can’t handle one or both of these simple requirements.
Oh – and if you’re an HR department, please read through my attached documents (which all included the reference for the College of Science & Engineering in the footer on every page) before you ask me which department in the School of Humanities and Associated Farting Around you want me to apply to.”
“I tried all sorts of combinations, except filling up the empty spaces with “You are a bunch of incompetent imbeciles”.
(I have a history of telling IT staff exactly what I think of their capabilities, and it doesn’t always end well. My favourite case of IT incompetence lasted over a month of me without a functioning computer (not helpful for a theoretical ecologist) and led me to finally respond with some fruity language, leading to a change of institutional policy that prevented students dealing directly with IT support. Wusses.)”
Feb 17 2012: Steve Caplan for “One of my many heroic struggles these past few was actually with a PDF file. Sounds easy, but the 16 page file was 15 MB, and too big to submit through our antiquated email system. So, reduce the size of the PDF, you say. Sure! But every time I get an error. I have a Mac, so I tried on several PCs, and nogo.
Redo the PDF, you say. Sure! But the PDF comes from a Word document, embedded with power point figures that were originally derived from Adobe Photoshop Images, that were saved as TIFs from the Laser Scanning Microscopy system that we have. Not so simple!
Deadline approaching–what to do?!
Well I knew it was because of one or more complex figures, so it hit on the following solution: extract each of 16 PDF pages and reduce their size individually. This worked for all but 1 page, that had a large complex figure and stayed 3 MB. All the others did reduce their size. And recompile.
It took me 45 minutes of listening to HO! and HA! during my son’s Taekwando class, but I did it!
I know 2 things with submissions:
1) There’s ALWAYS something that crops up, and
2) It ain’t over ’til it’s over…”
John the Plumber for “Has this layman got it right Cath?
Neither the originators of the ‘high’ science, nor those who peer review it, are capable of presenting it in an understandable way, so they employ you, who must both understand the unpresentable, then present it understandably, in order to get funding from those who would otherwise find it incomprehensible – so your value to both science and laymen is inestimable.
For layman read ‘average cretin’”
“Albert Einstein helped by Leopold Infeld put together a tiny book, The Evolution of Physics, In the simplest language – kind of: If you hold a brick in front of you, standing in an elevator, and drop it, it will land on your foot, but if the elevator is on the way down fast ……..
In this fashion they give you Relativity and Quantum Physics – and for the next couple of hours or so you understand it all perfectly.”
John the Plumber again for “Any way I think you’ve made it up. – Not the the train trip – the bit about winning at Scrabble. – On the other hand you were clearly surrounded by morons so who knows.”
Feb 24 2012: Robyn for “I hope they had animal certificate for the guinea pig (and good house insurance).”
followed promptly by CromerCrox for “Let me through, I’m a zoologist. It’s not a guinea pig, it’s a hamster.”
Austin Elliot for “Urrrgh. Don’t mention the Gnat Chart.
Some genius in our Command Hierarchy has now decided all our final year undergrad lab project students should have to do one of these – and this for projects that last a maximum of eight weeks, and usually only 2-3 days/wk.
As ever, it feels like the molecular biological tail wagging the dog:
Wk 1: grow bugs, design and order primers
Wk 2: isolate plasmid DNA and send for sequencing
Wk 3: prepare DNA for ligation and subcloning
– etc. etc.
My next door neighbour, a splendidly unworldly ecobiologist, tells me that when he tells the students now:
‘Well, for your project, why don’t you have a go at changing X, or maybe Y, and see if anything happens?”
– they look so stressed that they practically spontaneously combust.”
“I am vaguely reminded of a friend of mine who went in the 90s from our lab to working in a research institute run by a large consumer product and food multinational, but then quit after a few years to re-train to do radiation safety. When I asked him why, he said:
“Well, we did some interesting stuff at that institute, but when it got to the point that four managers had to have a meeting just to decide what one technician would be doing on one afternoon each week, I decided things were way too far out of control”.”
Steve Caplan for “Science is the art of being judgmental…”
Liz for “For some strange reason, I’ve noticed that there is an huge amount of confusion among highly educated sciency folks when it comes to issues of longitute/latitude, timezones, and sunrises – maybe it is not actually so strange but speaks to the need for work like what Alyssa does!
I had a recent conversation that began with the comment that there is only one timezone in China, and led to a half dozen people with science PhDs sitting there in confusion trying to figure out how the sunrise would differ from one end of the country to the other and how it would change in winter vs. summer. (This also exposed our ignorance of Chinese geography)”
bean-mom for “But it’s surprising the gaps in knowledge highly educated people can have. One of my favorite examples: one morning during his medical residency, my husband got a telephone call from a colleague. Afterward, he just kept shaking his head. His colleague, another medical doctor in her pediatric residency, had dropped her hairdryer into the toilet that morning. She unplugged it, but she was now staring at the thing, afraid to touch it because she thought the toilet water might be “electrified” and she was wondering when it would be safe to fish it out. She had called two other colleagues previous to my husband, and neither of them had a clue. Three people, all of whom had gotten through college and medical school.”
Chall for “haha, your first example made me giggle like crazy since I’m a Swede… ha, we would never ever live if we didn’t know after the first year that the winters mean “short sun span and day light” and summer means “a lot – some call it maddingly lots – of sun during a day and night” (difference lightly would be 6 hours of sun in winter, 22 in summer…)”
Nico for “Being judgmental probably comes from being a cyclist and shaking your head every time you get close-passed only to catch up with the offender 100 yards further at the lights.
In defence of the Weegies I don’t remember seeing much sunlight even in summer there, that cloud cover is stubborn. I preferred it in the English part of Scotland, Edinburgh. But as scientists they should have had theoretical knowledge of the existence of sunlight, at least. No excuses for the Germans and Greeks.”
Mike for “I loved the spring equinox in Scotland and Finland, a celestial middle finger to all those further south who enjoyed less bone chilling winters.
As for your 2nd example, I guess it’s like that “2% of the population are beautiful” ‘factoid’ – “2% of the population are just dicks”.
In fact I think she was just one of two or three I’ve encountered in 14 years of cycling to work
14 years? You should be nearly there by now…”
Catherine for “I had noticed that near the equator, the crescent moon looked more tilted over on its side, but hadn’t thought it through. Can’t believe that was more noticeable to me than the upside down moon in Australia, but, well, I was busy looking for koalas…”
Pika for “I actually asked my sister when she went to Kenya, to look at the Moon and tell me what happens with it. Because I knew it was upside down in the southern hemisphere, from my visit to Australia and I could not imagine what happens at the Equator. She says it turns around, goes up one way and goes down rotated. Maybe Alyssa can confirm this (or not)?
Also, another thing that was completely confusing in Australia is that the Sun is in the north. I kept having problems comparing real life location with the map, since I automatically considered Sun to be in the south without thinking…”
Alyssa for “I can see how this would happen, because the Moon doesn’t revolve right around Earth’s equator (see another answer above about the tilt relative to the ecliptic). So, if you’re on the equator, sometimes you’ll look northish to the moon, sometimes you’ll look southish, so it will appear to “flip”.
It’s amazing how much geometry is involved in our “simple” Earth-Moon system!”
and ScientistMother for “WTF!?! Scientist don’t know that days / nights are more extreme at the poles?! They teach that on freaking Sid the science Kid and Sesame Street!”
Mar 3 2012: Nina for “At first I thought it astonishing that scientists don’t get the sunlight/N-S thing, but then I remembered how I move to Freiburg from Amsterdam and the days in winter were slightly longer and everybody in Amsterdam assumed that was because I had moved East.
Moving to NZ obviously has everyone still soo overwhelmingly confused that no phone or skype call can ever start without 5 minutes philosophizing about the time, date and season in each respective end of the conversation… And then we drive left, which of course has everything to do with being in the Southern hemisphere too. Because the sun is in the North, so you have to change sides on the road to still be able to orientate to the South, you see?.”
John the Plumber for “I love the simplicity and the complexity. – 12 months in a year – 24 hrs in a day – 360 ish days in a year – 12 constellations. Easy to divide a circle into 360 degrees. Sadly no one told the universe it was supposed to act to the exact dozen. – Imagine the guys who spent their time making the first observatories – pre stonehenge – wooden posts in the ground stargasing and handing down their knowlege over centuries. – Hang on a minute, the calculations have gone adrift – the moon didn’t come up right on the tip of that post when it should have done. “Who moved the post – come on fess up. – O K joke over – I’m making the next one out of damn big stones – lets see the joker move them.””
Science Girl for “I too got blank stares all around a few years ago when I complained about how I miss the long days in the summer in Ukraine (as opposed to short ones in the Southern States). And then even more blank stares as I rummaged around and found a flash light and a ball to explain this on (it was a dark evening!). To a bunch of grad students. Sigh.
And then, the other day, a (seemingly?) brilliant visiting grad student asked how the ducks got into our fenced-off facility. Oh, I dunno, you think they can fly?”
Bob O’H for “My performance is just a virile show of strength – I’m able to hold you all over me without even trying.”
Grant for “So… if I rename myself ‘The Bioinformatic’, CIHR will give me loads of money and everyone will come and worship me at my blog?
Sounds good. Must put that down on my to-do list. It’d be a whole lot easier than grant applications, after all.
Ironically (or hilariously, depending on your point of view) I have a post in draft titled ‘Are bioinformaticians gods?’ Maybe I ought to run that tomorrow…?”
Sylvia McLain for “ICK Cath – all I can say is I think that is the worst thing we have to do – I hate end of grant reports – its like showing your mom your grade card – yuck”
and Ricardipus for “I recently had to submit a five-year roll-up report for a grant for which I had already submitted twenty (20) quarterly progress reports. Did the agency (or their *ahem* regional counterparts) simply synthesize the content of those twenty (20) reports? No, they did not. Was the format of the data required for the consolidated one different enough from the twenty (20) other ones to be a right royal pain in the tail? Yes, yes it was.”
Mar 9 2012: Steve Caplan for “Love that paper turnaround! Is that why Elsevier is so expensive?!”
Mel for “Ha! I was just going to say that my favorite part was that after 11 years of review (?) it took a further 2 and a half years to publish online and another 3-15 months to print, depending on when in 2009 this finally appeared. Hope this person wasn’t counting on this for a tenure app or anything!”
and Ricardipus for “Typewriters! *That’s* what we need to improve our next-gen sequencing throughput. Thanks, Cath!”
Mar 16th 2012: Professor in Training for “Moving to a new country brings with it heaps of crazy misunderstandings. Like when I arrived in Postdoc City in the middle of winter and was asked about the weather I had left behind. I said it had been really hot and I’d worn thongs to the airport. That turned some heads in my new lab. Now people just nod and think I’m weird.”
and then “The whole fanny and fanny pack thing still makes me blush. Like the day one of my friends told me she had fallen over and bruised her fanny. I was so embarrassed I didn’t know what to say. Was imagining all kinds of scenarios, the most innocent of which was that she had been walking along a fence when she fell.”
Nina for “Ah, the fanny-dilemma. As a non native speaker, I can never remember which meaning it has in which country so I try to avoid the word altogether. But: a fanny pack = a bum bag. Not sure how that makes it better.”
Richard Wintle for “Completenes. The ancient Greek god of proofreading.”
Bob O’H for “Wait, you mean Extraction of DNA and Genotyping sections aren’t already written in verse?”
Mel for “Maybe I’ll use my Canadian advantage and start me a colony of diremice. And wait, not everyone can tell what cell line is in a dish by observation alone? Labeling is for suckers!”
Laurence Cox for “IF J R R Tolkien was a scientist – the evolution of the species of Uruk-hai by hybridisation of orcs and goblin-men under anerobic conditions (1)
(1) Tolkien described orcs being “bred from the heats and slimes of the earth.” In Peter Jackson’s films Uruk-hai are shown being bred in pits under Isengard.
Sadly, this paper was rejected by a well-known weekly journal of science beginning with N and as a result Tolkien lost the Chair of Evolutionary Biology at Oxford and was forced to accept the lesser prize of a Chair in English Language and Literature. We may only speculate as to the direction of evolutionary biology had the journal editors been more far-seeing (or had access to a palantir).”
Richard Wintle again for “If Tolkien were a scientist, even simple experiments requiring travel from one end of the lab to the other would require a 17-page protocol to describe them. Video tutorials of these experiments would be produced by Peter Jackson, last for 6 hours, and cost 450 million dollars to produce.”
and Mike for “If Stieg Larsson was a scientist, all his papers’d have a 14 page section in the Methods fully describing each item of office furniture purchased from IKEA.
No editor would dare touch a word for some inexplicable reason.”
Mar 23 2012:
Richard Wintle for “I’d heard that there was a Hobbit movie coming out. I’ve even seen a trailer. In the absence of real evidence, however, I remain skeptical.”
Mike for “Martin´s version [of War and Peace] would just be called “War and War” though.”
Richard Wintle again for “If George Lucas were a scientist, he’d be censured by his peers for going back and changing his results, adding new, not properly sourced material, and re-numbering the pages of his lab book after the fact…”
Bean Mom for “If George R. R. Martin were a scientist:
1. All feeding conditions for cell lines and organisms would be described in exhaustive, loving detail, from the ruby-red color of the DMEM to the amber of the bovine serum to the shade and scent of, well, whatever it is that mice eat (I don’t know, I don’t work with mice or any whole organisms).
2. Departments would serve much better food at their seminars and journal clubs. Lemon cakes, anyone?
3. Department Friday happy hour would probably ROCK.
4. Forget about the department softball team. We would JOUST for glory and grant money!
5. In the game of grantsmanship, you win or you die. Oh, wait. We already do die, metaphorically speaking (careers ended, labs shuttered. . . ).
If J.R.R. Tolkien were a scientist or wrote about scientists:
A puny lab is locked in mortal struggle with fearsome competitors. Instead of waging conventional, “safe” science, the hero PI gambles all on an incredibly risky, nigh suicidal strategy. He chooses a lowly, untested grad student to bear the burden. Against all odds, the grad student’s project succeeds, the competitors are crushed, glory envelops the lab, and a new age in science dawns. But the ending is bittersweet, because the grad student has been so traumatized by his scientific struggles that he can find no peace in the lab, and departs the shores of academic research forever.”
and John the Plumber for “wouldn’t it be more sumpathetic to use lemmings as the laboratory animal of choice to be < alive. Whilst it might be a misconception that lemmings like to commit suicide, I’ve yet to find a truly suicidal mouse, – On the subject of mortality, it’s disappointing to learn from Mike that Stieg Larsson has died. As a dyslexic myself, I found comfort groaning at his sentences which he wrote with a hardened steel roller ball pen, puchased from the shop next door to Ikea, straight after he had bought his walnut topped desk with the oak legs, on his way to the library. The librarian, a most helpful blonde haired woman, dutifully sought the book he required, explaining that her hobby was knitting and that she always had two hardboiled eggs for breakfast at the Umqvist Cafe on Sodemalstrada. Now I feel guilty about the whole thing.”
Mar 30 2012:
Nina for “How many Belgians do you need to change a light bulb?
One to hold the bulb while standing on a table and, and three to turn the table.
Which brings me nicely to the point that I know this joke in several languages and each country substitutes “Belgians” for the stupid nation of choice. So the above example is valid in both the Netherlands and France (which I also found very funny), In Belgium it is about Luxemburgers, in Germany about Ost-Friesians (some backwards state in Germany, apparently), in Canada you would use Americans and NZ obviously takes down the Aussies. Seems like a simple joke, but it immediately gives you so much information about a nation’s beliefs!”
Richard Wintle for “How many people from Toronto does it take to change a light bulb?
One to change the bulb, and one to go to New York and see how they do it there.”
and then “Ah the Newfies. One has to like the people who came up with the phrase “That stinks so bad it’d gag a maggot on a gutwagon”.
Not a joke, I know, but one of my favourite sayings ever. It just rolls off the tongue.”
CromerCrox for “Isaac Asimov once wondered why no joke he heard was ever original. People who told jokes had always heard them from elsewhere. He therefore came up with a story in which someone realised this – and all humour immediately vanished from life. Jokes had been introduced to the human race by aliens, you see, as a psychological experiment, but once humans had understood this, the experiment was spoiled.
I think you have found part of the answer yourself – as many jokes depend on sexual and racial stereotypes, they have been expunged by PC. As you mix in a PC crowd, they are liable to tell fewer jokes for fear of offending anyone.
Q: How many militant feminists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One, and it’s not funny.”
Mermaid for “In the spirit of the post, I immediately told that joke to everyone I saw for the rest of the day (when appropriate). I startled a few people. I think you are correct – people don’t tell jokes much anymore.”
and EcoGeoFemme for “The only jokes I sometimes tell are a series of man with no arms and no legs puns. I really apologize if readers have no arms or legs (I really think there is something to the PC-constraint hypothesis).
OK, here we go:
Q. what do you call a man with no arms and no legs on hanging on the wall?
Q. what do you call a man with no arms and no legs laying on the floor?
Q. what do you call a man with no arms and no legs floating in the water?
Q. what do you call a man with no arms and no legs baked in a pie?
Q. what do you call a man with no arms and no legs in a hole?
Q. what do you call a man with no arms and no legs in a pile of leaves?
Q. what do you call two men with no arms and no legs on the window?
A. Kurt and Rod
Q. what do you call a woman with one leg?
Q. what do you call a dog with no hind legs and steel balls?
I think I have replaced joke telling with funny stories, usually repeated from tv shows. We get SO much mileage out of Family Guy. Also “your mom” and “that’s what she said”. We are not very sophisticated.”
Post(s) of the Week
Oct 7 2011: ScientistMother for “That Damn Alyssa is a ButtNugget CryBaby” (this superior example of hockey-pool trash talking was the obvious winner this week)
Oct 14 2011: Steve Caplan for “A happy and healthy new year…” (preventive medicine and cancer screening)
Oct 21 2011: KJHaxton for “Safety first… or not?” (trying to strike the right balance between fear and confidence in undergrad chemists)
Massimo Boninsegni for “Rantings over rankings” (are university rankings useful after all?)
Cromercrox for “Misquotation” (fun with Creationist quote mining)
Kimli for “There are no words” (how to cope – or not – when your, um, quirky 66-year-old mother starts dating)
and Beth Snow for “My first turkey” (deliciously geeky cooking post. There’s a Gantt chart and everything!)
Oct 29 2011: Anthony Fejes for “Are we there yet?” (funny but rather painful post about the final stages of grad school)
Bean-Mom for “Indian summer, lab reunions” (lovely post about old friends and the paths they take)
and Alyssa for “”Nice” drivers” (a shared pet peeve!)
Nov 4 2011: Anthony Fejes for “How to write a PhD thesis” (excellent advice from someone right in the thick of it!)
Viktor Poór for “What’s the diagnosis? (Cartoon)” (Grandmother, what big immune reactions you have!)
and The Hirschey Lab for “Infographics: make your data more clear” (best Venn diagram EVAH!)
Nov 18 2011: Prof-like Substance for “What scares you most?” (Hallowe’en round-up of scary things you have to face in a scientific career – and how to overcome them)
Beth Snow for “On being vulnerable and connecting” (Outstanding and very personal post about reaching out to friends during hard times, and other gems of wisdom)
Stephen Curry for “Let’s democratise the bejesus out of libel reform” (rousing call to arms and/or Republicanism)
rpg for “Meet your density” (excellent this pumpkin is. The puns, not so much)
and Kimli for “Experiment: part 1″ (hilarious (but possibly NSFW – you have been warned) choose-your-own-adventure approach to NaBloPoMo)
Nov 25 2011: Jenny Rohn for “In which we leave our mark – or not” (ensuring continuity when leaving a lab)
KJHaxton for “Wannabe PhD” (How do you communicate to undergrads what it will take to get a PhD?)
Makita for “Avoiding responsibility” (how abusers try to get away with it)
Kristi Vogel for “City Reads” (starting a list of books that feature specific cities)
and Jenny Rohn again for “In which signaling takes the cake” (the best PhD celebration cake of all time?!)
Dec 5 2011: Athene Donald for “Lechery and other failings” (the perils and pitfalls of seeking and giving informal character references)
KJHaxton for “Prognostication 101 Course Proposal” (“This course has been introduced in response to requirements for academics to assess the National Importance of research work over a 10 – 50 year time span when applying for research grants from certain funding bodies”. Hilarity ensues.)
and again for “Google first, think second” (how do students use the internet, and is it hindering their learning?)
GMP for “Salaried” (did you know that “one football head coach equals 6 Nobel-prize-winning physicists…”?!)
ScientistMother for “Choosing happiness” (beating post-natal depression by refusing to do the stuff that doesn’t make you happy)
Beth Snow for “Did you vote today?” (what the hell is the deal with “non-partisan” political parties?!)
and Unbalanced Reaction for “Grants require blood, sweat, and tears….and more blood?” (can you put TOO much of yourself into your work?!)
~~~~~~~~~~this is the cut-off for the annual count~~~~~~~~~~
Dec 9 2011: BiochemBelle for “The art of the sale” (selling yourself may be uncomfortable, but it’s an essential skill in science)
and The Bloggess for “God and Jesus. It’s like when your parents get on Facebook” (Why God’s electric bill is so high)
Dec 16 2011: Athene Donald for “Lecture theatre habits” (those crazy kids!)
Steve Caplan for “It’s that time of the year” (a genius conference marketing idea – with lousy execution)
Richard P Grant for “On cell porn and laser beams” (projecting human cells onto a cupboard door using a laser beam, just because it’s awesome)
Anthony Fejes for “Funny things I’ve seen in resumes” (how NOT to apply for a job)
and Beth Snow for “Snark” (supreme punctuation geekery)
Jan 6 2012: Athene Donald for “Science and the law” (the case for improving the scientific literacy of politicians and lawyers – and vice versa)
Chall for “Seeing dead bodies” (how taking an anatomy class with a thoughtful instructor can lessen the impact of seeing dead bodies in the future)
Nina for “Software rant” (hilarious post about alpha males, stupid plant science, insulting your audience, and Googling “stupid excel apostrophe” to find spreadsheet software fixes)
and Prof-like Substance for “Tweeting a vasectomy” (that man has cojones!)
Jan 16 2012: Cromercrox for “The real meaning of Chanukah” (I probably learned more from this post than from five years of compulsory religious education at school)
Unbalanced Reaction for “Christmas is the new Halloween!” (amusing observations about weird costumes, tacky decorations, offending the religious and more!)
xkcd for “xkcd presents some new science mnemonics” (all excellent, but I liked the final Christmassy one in particular!)
Viktor Poór for “New Year at the lab (cartoon)” (yup, I’m very familiar with this concept – and not just in the lab!)
Frank Norman” for “They’re really not helping” (fun with journal names!)
Massimo for “Customers” (are public universities accountable to students, or to their parents, future employers, taxpayers, or society as a whole?)
Alyssa for “The ultimate goal” (education, outreach, and a scientifically literate public)
Scott Wagers for “What do Monty Python and grant proposal writing have in common?” (the importance of structure in creativity)
Nina for “International “cooperation”” (how NOT to plan fieldwork in a foreign country)
Jenny Rohn for “In which not much is left to the imagination” (excellent writing advice, and some photos that made me homesick)
Steve Caplan for “Impressions from a parallel universe” (sliding lab doors and the roads not taken – plus some gorgeous photos of Israel)
Frank Norman again for “How are your tweetations?” (can Twitter buzz about a new paper predict how extensively it will be cited?)
and Cromercrox again for “Decisions” (how to maximise your chances of getting published – plus some cute animal photos)
Jan 27 2012: Ann (from “Breast cancer? But doctor… I hate pink!) for “Blaming the victim” (infuriating but fascinating post and comments thread about how some people deal with their own fear of cancer by blaming people who already have it)
and Gerty-Z for “The appropriate use of your time” (hilarious response to an accusation of poor time management – again, the comments are great too!)
Feb 3 2012: Heather (on the Occam’s Typewriter Irregulars blog) for “Response to RFI on Public Access to Peer-Reviewed Scholarly Publications Resulting From Federally Funded Research” (the #icanhazpdf hashtag phenomenon and some much more serious and important stuff on the subject of open access in science)
Steve Caplan for “Dealing with pressure… and men” (excellent advice for dealing with grant deadlines and other sources of stress)
Sylvia McLain for “When do you “make it”?” (does any scientist ever truly believe they’ve made it, or are we all horribly insecure?)
Richard Wintle for “Planetary” (inside the humble pencil sharpener)
EcoGeoFemme for “Format, then delete” (why it’s sometimes necessary to grit your teeth and spend time polishing text that you know is likely to be deleted)
Nina for “A geographer’s blacklist” (how to lose friends and alienate people)
and Ruchi for “On maps and infinite friendships” (lovely post about building your own personal map of a city and your relationships within it)
Feb 10 2012: Benoit Bruneau (on Stephen Curry’s blog) for “Guest Post – society journals and the research works act” (the impact of the trend towards open access publishing on journals published by academic societies)
Richard P Grant for “On ghostwriting” (thought-provoking post and comment thread about the ethics of hiring professionals to write research papers)
Athene Donald for “What am I doing here?” (great post and comment thread about impostor syndrome – with a focus on men)
DrugMonkey for “More on “shitasse” journals” (why any call for academics not to cite papers published in Elsevier journals – or ANY journal / group of journals – is wrong-headed and unscientific)
and Kimli for “Please don’t release the Krakken” (best commentary on the republican candidacy campaign I’ve read so far)
Feb 17 2012: CromerCrox for “Mentl” (excellent, courageous post about mental health awareness in general and depression in particular)
Jenny Rohn for “In which I sort it out” (does a brand new shiny lab signal the end of scrounging?! Surely not…)
Steve Caplan for “If these data were in a grant, it wouldn’t be funded” (ice cream ingredient multiplication as a new branch of mathematics, possibly akin to Douglas Adams’ Bistro Mathematics)
and DrugMonkey for “Rude questions” (would you rather be asked in public about your age, your weight, or your latest grant scores?)
Feb 24 2012: Massimo for “Mend it, don’t end it (email, that is)” (the pros and cons of the system we all love and hate!)
Massimo again for “Whither scientific publishing?” (one vision for an improved system)
Ann at “Breast Cancer? But Doctor… I Hate Pink!” for “Hard luck Hannah” (good luck is all relative)
Steve Caplan for “Interpreting reference letters – lost in translation?” (cultural differences in letters of recommendation)
Chall for “Rehashing killing begins with k” (wait – you mean I DON’T need new, shiny, expensive things?!)
and Nina for “Waiting for orders: Euro-top Jr on fieldwork” (you should all know by now that Nina is absolutely hilarious when she’s all grumpy about fieldwork – but what happens when she tries to have a good attitude about it instead? IT’S EVEN FUNNIER THAN EVER, that’s what!)
Mar 3 2012: Massimo for “Letter from the trenches” (a former physics grad student shares their experiences as they train to become a high school science teacher)
Prof-like Substance for “So where are the liberal Christians?” (damn good question. And WHY is that gay guy on the new season of Survivor a Republican? It makes no sense!)
and TOC ROFL for “After the 115th round of revisions, I might have considered submitting to a different journal” (is this the most patient author in the world?!)
Mar 9 2012: GMP for “Panelicious” (the things that go on during grant review that can make all the difference between success and failure)
and Letters of Note for “Deep sickeness seized me” (an absolutely amazing account written by a woman who underwent a (successful!) mastectomy in 1855 – without anesthetic)
Mar 16 2012: Athene Donald for “That dratted tenure track” (a comparision of how maternity leave and other career breaks are handled in the US and UK systems)
Kimli for “Curmudgeon” (try taking your good deeds outside your own tax bracket!)
and Beth Snow for “Guess who’s moving?” (awarded for a) the excellent “Escape from Surrey” poster and b) escaping from Surrey)
Mar 23 2012: Athene Donald for “Dangerous assumptions” (titles matter – especially in the context of women and other minorities in science)
and GMP for “Why I can never ever not work” (work ethic and financial independence)
Mar 30 2012: Frank Norman for “Collecting, categorising, connecting” (finding themes in libraries, life, and story telling)
Ruchi for “The agony and ecstasy of this here editor/actor/blogger/liar”, & Retraction Watch for “Watch and learn, science journals: “This American Life” retracts Mike Daisey segment on Apple in China” (two very interesting – and very different – takes on the Mike Daisey / Apple / This American Life story)
and Grant Jacobs for “Teaching students to write scientific papers” (Grant draws inspiration from a couple of my manuscript editing rant posts to discuss how best to teach students to write)