Recommended reads #59


The time I became a father in the same week my tenure portfolio was due, from Liberal Arts Ecologists.

You’re an insect curator. Cool! So what is it you do?!

Saving species experts from extinction

How should a professor be? 22 suggestions, including many great ones.

The NSF Division of Environmental Biology is typically in top blogging form. Lately, they’ve told us how how to write and what they want to see in annual and final reports. Since the reporting system recently shifted over from Fastlane to, this is a good time to consider the what, how and why about what goes in there. (And I’ll be making some offering to the Lab Goddess in the hopes that this will still be a problem of mine a few years from now.)

Weeks ago, NSF announced that they have scaled back the scope of NEON, the ambitious National Ecological Observatory Network. They didn’t cut the funding allocation to NEON, but just discovered that there were bigger financial and logistical constraints than initially anticipated. What to think of this? Well, in short, I think budgets gonna budget. A more informative view about changes in NEON comes from 16 presidents of the Ecological Society of America, which was published yesterday. 

Our obsession with metrics is corrupting science

Research metrics have made rivalry part of higher education’s DNA

I Am Biased and So Are You: thoughts on funding and influence in science

Sexism in science leads to willful blindness

Oh my gosh the first paragraph of this review of Franzen’s latest novel pins him down in a way I have primordially conceived but couldn’t really express:

Probably no one alive is a better novelist than Jonathan Franzen, and this is frustrating because his novels are awful, excellent but awful, books you read quickly and remember ponderously, books of exhaustive craft and yet a weird, spiraling cluelessness about the data they exhaustively collate. They analyze the wave frequency but don’t hear the sound. They are full of people who talk and act exactly as you imagine such people would talk and act in real life…

(And for the record, as a human being, Franzen is a verified putz.)

Here is an incredibly helpful post in Dynamic Ecology for new parents and parents-to be, about pumping at work. (Dads, this is for you too, as presumably you’re on bottle cleaning and management, and probably involved with Picov Andropov.)

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of going to or from Los Angeles through LAX, you probably noticed this historic airport was designed around the car, but not for contemporary quantities of cars. The design is particularly non-amenable to modernization. But here’s a big design that can help make LAX work more like a regular international airport.

Oliver Sacks has died. The New York Times obituary is a good one. One thing I learned, that surprised me a bit, is that he was a super-duper workaholic. Spent all his time thinking about work.

If you have any black students, or any students who are women, or any learning disabled students. Or anybody who isn’t a white male. Please do them, and yourself, a favor and read this explainer of stereotype threat if you don’t think you’re an expert on stereotype threat. It’s amazing how massively student performance can be affected merely by how assessments are perceived.

‘Love Becomes a Funeral Pyre’ review: The rise and fall of the Doors. Huh. I had no idea Jim Morrison was just a horrible person.

Using Active Learning to Teach Concepts and Methods in Quantitative Biology: “We describe some of the recent initiatives to develop hands-on activities in quantitative biology at both the graduate and the undergraduate levels. Throughout the article we provide resources for educators who wish to integrate active learning and technology into their classrooms.”

Teaching a class all about On the origin of species

The Case for Teaching Ignorance

10 Things This Instructor Loves

Taking My Parents to School — this is a wonderful read about the experience of first generation college students, and food for thought because odds are you’re teaching at least a few.

Is the tech sector in a bubble again? Hell yes, we are in a bubble.

On turning down the startup job:

The startup world, or at least the ones making the majority of the noise, have their heads up their own ass and don’t realize it stinks. They’re solving problems for the top 5% of the population. How can I get poor people to do my chores? How can I get people to drive me around without having to pay them health insurance? How can a drone deliver my toilet paper within 15 minutes while the person who fulfilled my order sits at her desk crying because she’s working a 15-hour day and can’t take time off to get that lump in her chest looked at. This is known as the service economy. Where entitled white boys figure out how to replicate their private school dorm experience for life.

“I Had a Baby and Cancer When I Worked at Amazon

Next time someone asks me what it’s like being an Associate Editor, I’ll point to this post, which has the lowdown.

An organic chemist I know tells her doctors that she is a professor of Southern literature whenever she is in the hospital.” Herein lies some interesting thoughts about the education of doctors.

This is not a surprise at all, the but data themselves are fascinating: That Ashley Madison site had no real women using the site. And they invented a bunch of women for men who paid more than a little money to fantasize that they could actually use this website to cheat on their spouses.

How understanding the prisoner’s dilemma can help bridge liberal and conservative differences. You know about that class that had an extra credit problem, in which students had to choose to Hawk or Dove for extra credit points?  This is an interesting rationale.

Why is the US number one in mass shootings? The American Dream.

Japan is serious about getting rid of the humanities and social sciences.

How Common Core Can Help in the Battle of Skills vs. Knowledge

This 50-Cent Paper Microscope Could ‘Democratize Science’ – if you ignore the hyperbole, this is a mighty fascinating and inexpensive tool.

Here’s a consequential convergence of gay rights, sports, and intercultural understanding (or the lack thereof): It was only in 2013 that the US saw the first openly gay athlete playing in a major league team sport. The pioneer was Robbie Rogers, who starts at left back for the LA Galaxy (whose stadium happens to be on my university campus, which has its perks). That was a big signing for the team, but a more recent big signing has inadvertently introduced an ethnically charged anti-gay element into the fan base of the Galaxy. In perhaps the biggest leap ever in Major League Soccer, the Galaxy just brought on board the Mexican international star Giovani Dos Santos. Who seems to be a perfectly nice guy. This is a huge coup for the league, and also for the Galaxy which has caught the eye of many Mexican soccer fans in LA who up until now looked to the south and to Europe to follow the game. And they’re coming to the stadium to cheer on Gio and the Galaxy. But, there’s this thing that Mexican fans do when they’re at a soccer game. When the opposing keeper takes a goal kick, the crowd shouts “puto.” Which, no matter how you slice it, is an anti-gay slur. (I haven’t been to a game since Gio was signed, and now, well, I’m not so thrilled about the idea.) I’m sure a lot of the people who do this, don’t think consider it to be the horrible anti-gay insult that it is. The Galaxy doesn’t want to alienate the Mexican fans they just paid several million dollars to attract, but they also don’t want the league to take a step back after having made some substantial progress towards equity and inclusion — the work environment for gay and ethnic minority athletes in the US is much, much better than in Europe. It’s critical for the Galaxy and the league to shut the lid on this practice of hurling an anti-gay slur at the opposing team. How do you get fans to stop doing something they’ve been doing for so long, that some think is a part of their culture? In Europe, teams and their supporters have been punished for racial abuse by being forced to play future home games to an empty stadium. I hope Major League Soccer heads in this direction if a kinder, gentler educational approach doesn’t work.

Do you list job talks on your CV as invited talks? I used to, then pulled them, but it seems at least in biology that people tend to? Here’s the start of a discussion on the topic, click through to see the extended and interesting conversation that follows:

Last, a set of spectacular artwork featuring butterflies and moths gets published, after being hidden away more than a century.

Have a nice weekend, which is a 3-day weekend in the US. (So I’m not planning on posting on Monday.)

2 thoughts on “Recommended reads #59

  1. I teach a graduate/advanced undergrad seminar on the Origin, from James Costa’s Annotated Origin. It’s a total blast and the students really like it. Looking forward to reading what Costa and his co-authors have to say about teaching the Origin in that paper you linked to.

    Protip from my own experience: If your Origin course will be touching on historical, philosophical, or literary issues, you want students from those fields in your class. You get much better discussions going that way. Not that biology students aren’t interested in these issues or can’t discuss them themselves–they are and they can. But I find my Origin class works especially well when we have students from outside biology in the class.

  2. That sounds like a fun class. I was about to teach a first-year student writing seminar centered around Humboldt, Wallace, and Bates (and was excited about it, but then politics intervened and I didn’t have the chance each the class.) If you write more about how you run your class and what students get out of it, I’d be interested in learning more.

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