The joy of field biology

July 31, 2008

You can’t fake this smile for the camera.

An ecologist in the field is one of the happiest persons on the planet.

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Barak Obama on Getting Things Done

July 28, 2008

The New York Times transcribed a bit of conversation between Obama and the Tory Leader David Cameron on Obama’s recent trip to Europe.

I love to eavesdrop on accomplished people.

Mr. Cameron: You should be on the beach. You need a break. Well, you need to be able to keep your head together.

Mr. Obama: You’ve got to refresh yourself.

Mr. Cameron: Do you have a break at all?

Mr. Obama: I have not. I am going to take a week in August. But I agree with you that somebody, somebody who had worked in the White House who — not Clinton himself, but somebody who had been close to the process — said that should we be successful, that actually the most important thing you need to do is to have big chunks of time during the day when all you’re doing is thinking. And the biggest mistake that a lot of these folks make is just feeling as if you have to be

Mr. Cameron: These guys just chalk your diary up.

Mr. Obama: Right. … In 15 minute increments and …

Mr. Cameron: We call it the dentist waiting room. You have to scrap that because you’ve got to have time.

Mr. Obama: And, well, and you start making mistakes or you lose the big picture. Or you lose a sense of, I think you lose a feel …

Mr. Cameron: Your feeling. And that is exactly what politics is all about. The judgment you bring to make decisions.

To do great things, don’t just work hard. Give yourself the luxury of time alone, just you and your notebook.

h/t 43 folders


On writing better–Kurt Vonnegut

July 23, 2008

One could do far worse than to model your writing after Kurt Vonnegut. His mythic stories are simply constructed, easy to read, and stay with you long after you’ve shelved the book (or, better yet, given it away).

In his book of essays Palm Sunday, Vonnegut provides some tips on how to write elegantly, simply, and memorably.

Below the fold, I interpret the master’s advice for the beginning science writer.

Read the rest of this entry »


Na Na Na Na…Na Na Na Na…hey hey hey…goodbye

July 14, 2008

What a perfect use of You-tube: a different short video for each chemical element. Kudos to the science geeks at Nottingham University and their Periodic Table of Videos channel.

Now imagine all the ways that  you and your colleagues, with a $100 Flip video camera, can begin to change the world.

Sodium rocks!

ht Boing Boing.


Brown Food Web Friday–millipede ecstasy

July 4, 2008

I spend much of my scientific life crawling around in the forest litter, studying the microbes, the microbivores, and their predators that teem in this fantastic world beneath our feet. One of my favorite litter critters is the millipede. What’s not to like? They carry around in their guts a poorly explored plethora of microbial symbionts that help them digest old dead leaves. It’s hard to see a millipede and not think of a commuter train that runs on biofuels with the help of its passengers.

The other reason to love millipedes is that, because they are slow moving litter fermentation tanks, millipedes are sitting ducks (at the risk of mixing our taxonomic metaphors). If there were to be any new generations of millipedes, the ones that were somehow defended would have to leave more offspring. In fact, National Academy member Tom Eisner has done a bang-up job discovering the many ways (from spines, to crunchy exoskeletons, to cyanide and other poisons) that millipedes have evolved to make sure this train stays on the track.

And where nature produces toxins, there are always intelligent-ish animals waiting to get high…


QOTD:Thich Nhat Hanh

July 3, 2008

“Smile, breathe and go slowly.”