Recommended reads #26

  • Here is a summary of a study that tracked time budgets of faculty members. I find it to be shockingly spot on, though I have made an effort to not work for more than a couple hours on weekends.

  • On NPR, Frank Deford had an insightful, if crotchety,  three-minute piece on changes in the perception of sports and its reporting. You can read or listen to it here.

  • The urban legend was true, about Atari throwing unpurchased copies of their famously horrible E.T. game cartridges into the landfill.

  • Last week, nearly a score of Sherpa mountaineers died in a single event, while establishing a climbing route for their clients paying for a route up to the top of Mt. Everest. This tragedy has fueled the long overdue conversation about the ethics of paying people to put their lives on the line for the glory of reaching the top of the world. The climbing season has ended as the Sherpas have taken time to reflect and mourn their losses. Of course, you can always climb if you’re willing to risk your own life while carrying your own gear up the mountain. The Sherpas now have published a rather moderate list of demands to make the situation a little less exploitative.

  • Dynamic Ecology ran four posts this week, all by Meg Duffy, about stereotype threat and what we can do to promote the development of all scientists. She provided many simple, concrete, useful and easy recommendations about what we can do about the problem. The first post is an introduction to the stereotype threat. The second one says what we can do to counter stereotype thread. The third explains how some people avoid engaging in these issues for fear of being criticized, and the fourth is a transcript of a Neil deGrasse Tyson remark about the path of greatest resistance as black science student, from a panel discussion that went viral last week. Every post is not only interesting, but also important. The talk:action ratio on this topic by individual PIs is outrageously low, and by reading these posts, we can learn how to do better, regardless of where we work.

  • You presumably heard last week that the US Supreme Court decided that affirmative action is, or at least can be, illegal, in a 6-2 decision. The dissent by Justice Sonia Sotomayor is, in the literal sense of the word, epic. It’s definitely worth your while to read the original document. The bunk by Scalia, Roberts and Breyer precede her statement, which starts about halfway through the document.

  • In case you’ve somehow missed it, you might want to ask: Has The Whale Exploded Yet?. But it looks like it’s deflating non-explosively. I’m sorry to disappoint you.

  • Tomorrow (the first Saturday in May) is Free Comic Book Day! Head to your local comic store! The more people you bring, the more free comics you get. There will be a line, and it probably will be worthwhile, if only to savor the company of the characters in line.

  • Along the same line, I just read the 14-year old book Reinventing Comics by Scott McCloud. (This a followup to the classic required-reading book, Understanding Comics). It’s ostensibly about the business of publishing comics, the conflicting interests in comic publishing, the emergence of online comics, and is full of ideas about the causes and consequences of an oligarchy of for-profit publishers. While this might not be fully relevant to the comics industry anymore, oh my GOSH the parallels with current state of affairs scientific publishing are remarkable. I think anybody wishing to get a fresh outside perspective on the relationships among authors, funding agencies, publishers, open access journals and the executives running for-profit publishers really would benefit from reading this. I might write a post about it in the future, but that shouldn’t stop you from buying this book. (I got mine used at Goodwill for two bucks, but you can get a copy for 6 bucks online.)

  • Are you Just starting out on your dissertation? Why not write it up in comic book form, like Nick Sousanis?

  • I added The Wall of The Dead, hosted by Richard Conniff, to the blogroll. It is a memorial listing naturalists who have fallen in the line of work. I regrettably report the addition of Subramanian Bupathy to the list, as Madhu Katti reported this week on twitter. Dr. Bupathy was the Head of Conservation Biology at the Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History. 

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