29 December 2005


Manuscript submitted. Now the waiting begins...

15 December 2005


Today has been a frustrating day.

First of all, I fucking despise openoffice. What an absolute and unmitigated piece of shit. It never renders MSWord docs properly and it just croaked after I had finished reviewing a really crappy paper that I really don't want to have to read again to re-evaluate its crapitude. Screw the stupid review form, I'm sending my comments back in plaintext.

Second of all, I'm not going to be submitting my manuscript before flying to Boston tomorrow. There just wasn't enough time to get Lon's revisions back in time and to write requisite cover letter, etc. The current plan is to submit on Monday, from Boston. If we make that deadline, then all will be well, but I'm a little worried about being able to effectively coordinate submission while separated by 3000 miles and 5 time zones.

Damnit. Damnit. Damnit.


For those of you who ever have to write papers in the fields of medicine or biological science (which is probably precisely zero of you), this site allows you to search PubMed, but returns the citation in BibTeX format. It saves a lot of time and drudge work.

13 December 2005

<i>Sus salvanius</i>

PygmyhogA coalition of conservation groups calling themselves the Alliance for Zero Extinction has published a report detailing 800 species on the verge of extinction. They have previously staved off extinction for a few species, including the pygmy hog (Sus salvanius, pictured left). My question is, "Why bother?"

This isn't a popular argument, I know, but I've become more and more Darwinian the longer I work in this field. We're the only species in history to actively try to affect the fortunes of our co-earthdwellers. Why should we aim for "zero extinction"? Extinction is a part of evolution and has been happening constantly since the beginning of life on Earth. Without the help of a great many extinctions humans would never have evolved.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want the whole planet to be paved over, but we're not yet close to the same order of magnitude inflicted by the known mass extinction events (which purged 50-90% of existing species tens or hundreds of millions of years ago). Why do we draw such a distinction between our typical "industrial" existence and the separate "natural" world? We're merely a part (admittedly perhaps too big for our britches) of the greater environment.

08 December 2005

Black Tie

BandaidHere I am at the Grad Dinner at BNC last week. I broke a port glass on my hand after dinner, so I accented my tuxedo with a bright blue bandaid and a little dried blood smeared on my thumb. I also decided to smile like a doofus. The food was really nice, as expected, and it was a good chance to talk with people at college one more time before we disperse for Christmas.

I'm still busy at work (desperately trying to submit this paper before I go back home) but I've managed to do social things almost every night. Monday night we played Scrabble here at the house (I won even though David was cheating). Tuesday we went to the Turf for the Pub Quiz. We had come in the money (top 3 places) for two weeks running. This time we finished 5th, but we won the bonus question prize, which is a gallon of beer. Last night I went for whisky, cigars and Cranium with some BNC peeps. Tonight I may have to say in and do laundry and work on the paper, though.

01 December 2005

Blurbs/London/Grad Dinner

It's been a busy week here amongst the dreaming spires. I've been busy at work preparing for the latest of our fortnightly WTCCC Analysis Group meetings at the Wellcome Trust Building in Euston Square, London. Last night I took a break from my frenzied preparations for the meeting to go to Blurbs at BNC. Blurbs is the very silly name for one of my favourite college activities. One of the fellows and one of the graduate students each gives a 30 minute presentation on his field of study, followed by dinner and 2nd desserts. There's copious wine available from start to finish, and the dinner is high-table quality, which is actually really excellent (especially compared to the crap they serve in hall to the students).

I love Blurbs both because it offers a high quality meal and lots of wine for only a couple of quid and because it's one of my only opportunities to hear about people studying topics far afield from my own. Usually the two presenters are from vaguely similar areas of study, although never exactly the same (mostly due to the finite number of Fellows in the college). Previous nights have included Economics, Gender and Place in Medieval Romance, Contemporary Character Analysis in Macbeth, Suicide and Self-harm in the British Prison System, Eliminating Legal Fictions, and the Future of Renewable Energy in the UK. Last night was a little closer to home, with Branwen Hide presenting on protein folding and the Principal, Roger Cashmore, presenting on Dark Matter and the origins of the universe.

The talks were good and dinner was of the usual high quality (the first course was this fabulous dish of quails-eggs on some kind of mushroom stuffing) and I got to catch up with some BNC folks I don't see that often. At 2nd desserts (basically port & chocolates in the common room) the principal broke into his private stock and shared an '83 Warre's vintage which was definitely the best port I've ever tasted. I couldn't stay for more than one glass, though, because I had work to do before my presentation at 9:30 AM today in London.

Back home I was up until about 2 putting last minute tables together and trying to keep my voice down while I cursed at my computer so that I wouldn't wake my housemates up. I actually enjoy getting up at 6:45 and cycling down to the rail station while it's still dark out (as long as I only have to do it once every two weeks). Jonathan (from the Stats department here) and I rode first class again (Lon had gone on an even earlier train to meet with other people in London at 8:30). It feels a bit weird to be surrounded by high-flying business types, but the cushy seats and tables meant I could use the hour productively instead of being crammed in the back with the plebs.

The meeting went well (I'm 3 for 3 now on not embarrassing myself in front of any of the important people who attend these meetings). The only down side of such success is that it always means more work for me to do for the next one (which thankfully isn't until after New Year's). Lots more work to do in the next two weeks before I head home for the holidays, but for today at least, I deserve a break.

Luckily tonight is the end-of-term graduate dinner at BNC, where there will be more free wine and post-prandial port. It's a black tie affair, so expect to see photos of me in my DJ and gown soon.

Finally, props to my man Gayaume for blasting across the NaNoWriMo finish line.