Friday, December 28, 2012


Today I got an email from ResearchGate (a sort of facebook for scientists) that started,

"Kristine, what happened to all the research you didn't publish in 2012?"


Yeah, I know, I didn't publish anything. Thanks for the reminder ResearchGate. Now how do I unsubscribe?

Reading further, the email is actually offering to let you upload unpublished datasets and manuscripts so you get feedback and "credit" for things that aren't peer reviewed. It's kind of a nice thought. There are plenty of datasets that I will never publish because they're incomplete or don't tell a good story, or just don't fit in with the stories I do want to tell. 

But oh, man, it stings when an automated email comments on your lack of productivity.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Stress relief

You know, I've been stressed lately. Moving does that to me; moving to another country seems to make it exponentially more stressful.

I just got an email, though--we have a place to stay once we get to Adelaide. YEAH!!!

I think I felt my blood pressure drop 10 points.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Too bad none of those kindergarteners had conceal and carry permits.

Guns don't kill people. People with guns kill people.

I'm not going to post either of those as Facebook updates. They're too harsh, too on the nose, too crass.

Here's the deal: we (currently) live in a country with as many guns as people, most of them concentrated in the hands of a few people who really like guns. Most of those people don't want to get rid of their guns because, hey, they're responsible (and they are) and guns are fun (also true, again for some people) and they cost a lot of money. People who own guns probably feel safer, even though statistically they aren't, and that sense of security is something many people cling to.

I understand.

I also understand that if you outlaw guns when there are so many guns out there already the only people who will have guns will be the criminals. We've saturated enough of the market that changing the gun laws now will result in a disequilibrium condition for some number of years in which gun violence will rise, disproportionately affecting law-abiding citizens.

I don't like the equilibrium point we're existing in right now, though. I don't like living in a place where a certain number of public places will just get shot up every year. With this equilibrium condition we have to simply accept the 30,000 gun deaths every year. Is that really where we want to be as a society? I guess so.

My fear is that the "equilibrium" in which we currently reside isn't really an equilibrium. My fear is that we're trending toward a society in which it becomes increasingly necessary to own and carry a gun. My fear is that we're becoming a dystopia in which the second amendment right for militias to arm themselves turns all of us into de facto militia members or nameless, faceless victims of violence.

Again, glad I'm moving to Australia.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Can giant squid get us? (after watching a Wild Kratt's that featured blue whales and giant squid)

Is this (random organism from a book of ancient life) extinct?

Why is it extinct?

Why did they all die?

I don't want them to die!

Mommy, I don't want to be a carnivore anymore.


What do frogs eat?

Do they eat worms?

I don't want them to eat worms.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fixable, but broken

It's been a less than stellar day. I didn't get done the things I wanted to get done, except one thing I wanted to finish yesterday. I made one figure and then discovered I needed to make it differently. Blech. I'm already so far behind there's no way to dig myself out of the hole and today just made that worse.

The only bright spot of the day was that Derrick and I ate lunch together. Just us two. That doesn't happen often.

After I picked up Paul, we played in the house, building towers with blocks and throwing balls around. While we were in the kitchen, I threw a ball and hit the beautifully carved decorative spoon my uncle made for Derrick and I when we got married eight years ago. It's a rather ornate heart-shaped spoon with a handle carved to look like knots and to have a ball inside a cage in the middle. When it hit the floor the cage shattered. Derrick thinks he can fix it, which makes me feel a little less bad, but it just reinforced that today was one of those days when I should have stayed in bed.

But tomorrow will be better.

I hope.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


A couple of things today. Sylvia's stayed dry very well lately (Yeah!) so this evening I let her watch a couple of shows on PBSkids. Lately she's been into this silly show called "Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman." Sylvia watches it over and over and over again, which I suppose I can accept since most of the episodes are at least a little bit about science. We did have a nice discussion of density and why things float or sink after one episode, which I know is a concept that plagues students well into college, so I'm glad she's getting early exposure. Anyway, the bad guys in the show are cats in an organization called PURRS. Sylvia asked me FOUR TIMES over ice cream why PURRS wants to take over the world. It's almost tempting to introduce her to James Bond, but I worry she'd start thinking there really ARE people who want to take over the world for ill-defined, silly reasons.

Second, I'm not at AGU this year, since we're moving to Australia, we didn't have sitters lined up, and I didn't think I could get anything together for the meeting. As it turned out, not going was a wise idea since Paul got sick with a nasty gatro-intestinal bug right before Derrick left and having both of us leave would have been ridiculous.

Fortunately for me, AGU is streaming some presentations in a "virtual meeting." It's the big-name lectures and town halls that I never go to anyway, but I've caught a couple of the talks and it's nice to feel like I'm not completely out of the loop.

Monday Ira Flatow of NPR's Science Friday gave a talk. Mostly he talked about how science is sexy, I think trying to encourage us scientists to engage more with the public. He presented a lot of evidence scientists are loved by the public, including clips from shows that feature scientists in positive roles (Big Bang Theory especially), art both using and venerating science, and a couple of interviews of scientists by big-name entertainers like David Letterman. The clips were meant to both encourage us scientists and show us how successful science communication is done.

He also presented a couple of spots from public relations campaigns trying to encourage young women to consider science. Okay, the first one is a public relations campaign; the second is some young women spoofing "For the Longest Time" to present their research. Anyway, if you want to see what I'm talking about, the clips start at about 39:30 in the talk liked above. You should go watch them--it's worth the time.

Back? Okay, so what did you think?

What did you think of the audience reaction?

Did you notice Ira Flatow's reaction to the two clips? If you want to go back and watch him this time, go ahead.

Yeah. I think he was more impressed by the professional public relations campaign than the amateur quartet. Either that or he was amused watching the reactions of the scientists. Can't rule that out.

I loved the second clip of the acapella group, even with its tone issues. It's clever, it's funny, and it's educational. The slick advert, not so much. I wouldn't go so far as to embrace the idea it's reinforcing negative gender stereotypes, but it is embracing a far more traditional version of femininity. While I suspect that was the point--encouraging ALL women to think of themselves as potential scientists, not just us frumpy girls--as a frumpy girl I found it off-putting. I certainly didn't choose science because of the way people look, but the fact that the other women around me who were interested in science were similarly, ahem, beauty challenged made it a far easier place to imagine myself inhabiting. Not that I think exceptional beauty should be a barrier to entering science, but I do think reinforcing the idea that women in science are average-looking, not hot, will make more young women feel comfortable in a scientific environment than presenting scientists as sexy. Maybe it's just me, but one of the things I love about scientists is knowing it's not physical attractiveness that determines relationships but common interests and respect for the ideas and intellect of the parties involved.

In other words, I want to be loved for my brain, not my body!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Last week Paul started signing for the first time. His first sign: when he picked up a book he signed gentle. I can't rule out the possibility he thinks the sign for book is gentle (rubbing your hand down your forearm toward your other hand), but later he signed two more things: dog (patting your leg twice) and yes (nodding with a closed fist).

So glad to know the little bits of ASL I've been using are rubbing off!