QOTD: Marc Maron

November 30, 2011













“I’m going to bleed on the page and laugh at the blood. ”


Creative types could do worse than to check out the podcasts of Marc Maron. The struggle to do something original, to have your voice heard, to make a difference. This is something we all share. Maron reveals the joys and neuroses of the creative life like no-one else.

Do it.



Using Google search–a few tips

November 29, 2011

A nice mashup here. As one who just types in a scree of words and hits “return”, I realize now I could probably do better. Here is their take on our old friend, Google Scholar.

Oh, what a piercing chill I feel…

November 29, 2011

Just when you think things couldn’t get worse. You’re already living at -1C, with urchins and starfish for neighbors.

Ahh great. A brinicle.

5 tips from Leonardo on fostering your creativity

November 27, 2011

Robert Krulwich (co-host of the Greatest Science Podcast Ever: RadioLab) writes in his NPR blog of a new book by Toby Lester on the life of Leonardo da Vinci. It never hurts to study the live’s of the great thinkers. All it takes is one good idea, one new habit, to change your life, incrementally, for the better. Here are a few things to think about.


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More Vonnegut on the art of writing

November 25, 2011

I mean, a lot of critics think I’m stupid because my sentences are so simple and my method is so direct: they think these are defects. No. The point is to write as much as you know as quickly as possible.

ht Christopher Buckley writing for the New York Times

See also On writing better–Kurt Vonnegut

Farewell Lynn Margulis

November 25, 2011

Lynn Margulis passed away last Tuesday 22 November 2011.

Margulis is best known for her serial endosymbiosis hypothesis: that eukaryotes are collections of co-evolved bacteria; that our mitochondria  were once free-living creatures that served up their ATPs to a host cell in exchange for free room and board.

It is a measure of a scientist’s life the number of hypotheses that go from heresy to dogma. Often one only really notices this when teaching undergrads. I used to enjoy, years ago, trying to blow the minds of freshman and sophomores by spinning stories of ancient collaborations in briny seas; how life “self assembled” in a cooperative framework. I’ll never forget the one year in Principles of Ecology, in the middle of waxing on about this great evolutionary milestone, when I caught the looks on the faces staring back. Distinctly bored; more than a little impatient.

“Errmm, so you know about this stuff?” I think I asked. “Doesn’t everybody?” said a pre-med.

This was Oklahoma. Margulis had won.

I end with a quote from the NYT obituary, linked above.

“More than 99.99 percent of the species that have ever existed have become extinct,” Dr. Margulis and Dorion Sagan wrote in “Microcosmos,” a 1986 book that traced, in readable language, the history of evolution over four billion years, “but the planetary patina, with its army of cells, has continued for more than three billion years. And the basis of the patina, past, present and future, is the microcosm — trillions of communicating, evolving microbes.”

Tom Waits on collaboration

November 24, 2011

“How do you and your wife split songwriting chores?

It’s an adventure. You’ve got a flashlight, I’ve got the map. You hold the nail, I’ll swing the hammer. You wash, I’ll dry. If two people know the same thing, one of you is unnecessary. My wife has dreams and is telepathic and clairvoyant and female. I write from the news or what I see in my field of vision. I’m boots and hats and pocketknives. She’s filled with musical and lyrical surprises. She’s a joy to work with.”

From Tom Wait’s Library

Oribatid mites–plunging into the dizzying diversity of the brown food web

November 24, 2011

BrittanyB, a tuba-playing entomologist extraordinaire, has been tasked with developing methods to catalogue the diversity of our oribatid mites–little fungal grazers in the brown food web. Brown food webs convert the dead into minerals and carbon dioxide; they are nature’s cleanup crews, and a subject of endless fascination for us here in the AntLab. Our latest big project will explore how these food webs work at six sites, from the rainforests of Oregon to the alpine forests in Colorado,  from the diverse forests of the Smokey mountains to even “diversier” forests in Panama.

So, after years of splashing around in the kiddy-pool of ant diversity–our first love, but relatively well known–we in the AntLab are moving into the calm, dark waters of the soil’s meso- and micro-fauna, starting with collembola (springtails) and oribatids (box mites). This requires a dive into the baroque literature of each group’s taxonomists–the high priestesses of biodiversity–and to learn the the secret language of the guild, the road marks and way signs embedded in form. We also must o photograph the little darlings, using cameras attached to microscopes.  This involves fidgeting with lights, angles, magnification, and embedding media (some in the lab were relieved to know that the K-Y Jelly experiment was a flop, sparing them the embarrassment of a tube at every microscope station). Then these images must be stitched together and further manipulated with software. Lotsa variables, lotsa play, lotsa art.

For me, this is magical. For years, having simply counted petri dishes  of “collembola” and “oribatids”, pushing them around into little grey piles before plopping them into centrifuge tubes, it is unimaginably exciting to finally get a good look at what I’ve been squinting at.

So here are a few of Brittany’s first attempts. This is gonna be fun.

Happy Thanksgiving from GTDA

November 24, 2011

Looks like Aunt Edith was getting a little rowdy.

Mashup by Bob Staake as revealed at BoingBoing.

7 steps toward making headway on that manuscript

November 20, 2011

Let’s face it. Writing is sometimes a joy. Especially after the fact, when you’ve finished something.   Your three hundred words for the day.  A particularly troublesome paragraph. Or, that holy of holies: a manuscript, newly proofread and, through the magic of the interweb, now sitting in the inbox of some unsuspecting editor. Huzzah.

But starting work on those three hundred words, that paragraph, that manuscript, is tough for all of us. I have an almost cartoonish capacity to dither before launching into writing. All the little OCD’ish behaviors–straightening out my desk, aligning the keyboard and monitors, checking my email, adjusting the chair, checking my email, scratching my…beard, writing blogposts, checking my…OK…you get the picture–that inevitably precede any writing assignment. But once I get to work, I can usually make some progress. Here’s my recipe for getting some serious writing done.  Read the rest of this entry »