Archive for: January, 2009

Robert Burns' birthday food blogging.

Jan 31 2009 Published by under Food, Personal

Robert Burns's birthday, which was January 25, is an important day for Scottish celebration and food.
Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Give it a chance.
So, back at ScienceOnline'09, I was talking with AcmeGirl about marking the 25th with some lovely Scottish food. She was talking about haggis. In the Free-Ride house, seeing as how we don't do meat, we don't do canonical haggis either. (In 1997, in Scotland, I had a fabulous vegetarian haggis, but I doubt I could reproduce it in my own kitchen, at least on the first try.) So I was thinking maybe tatties and neeps (potatoes and turnips).
But on the eve of January 25th, things were kind of wet and cold in our neck of the woods. And, our garden had just yielded ...

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Mark your calendars for the Great Backyard Bird Count.

The 12th annual Great Backyard Bird Count, sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, will be taking place February 13-16, 2009. This is a lovely (and long-running) bit of citizen science that aims to compile a continent-wide snapshot of bird populations during a few days in February before the spring migrations have started.
Participation is easy:

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Friday Sprog Blogging: what's shaking?

Jan 30 2009 Published by under Geology, Kids and science

Dr. Free-Ride: What have you been learning about in science this school year?
Younger offspring: Lots of stuff.
Dr. Free-Ride: Like what?
Younger offspring: We learned about rocks and minerals. Rocks are made out of minerals, and some rocks have more than one kind of mineral in them.
Dr. Free-Ride: So, what's a mineral?
Younger offspring: Umm ... I think quartz is a mineral. They can cut it in the shape of jewels. And also marble. But I think granite has more than one mineral in it. And we talked about how different rocks are formed.
Dr. Free-Ride: Oh?
Younger offspring: There are some rocks that form from the lava when volcanos erupt. We got to look at some pumice and see all the bubbles that were in the lava when it got hard to make the rock.
Dr. Free-Ride: I know another kind of rock mad by volcanos.
Younger offspring: What?
Dr. Free-Ride: It's called obsidian. It's really smooth and glassy, so I'm guessing that the lava that hardens to make obsidian has hardly any air bubbles at all.
Younger offspring: Yeah.
Dr. Free-Ride: So, do you know anything about earthquakes?

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Office of Research Integrity takes 'final action' in Luk Van Parijs case.

You may recall the case of Luk Van Parijs, the promising young associate professor of biology at MIT who was fired in October of 2005 for fabrication and falsification of data. (I wrote about the case here and here.)

Making stuff up in one's communications with other scientists, whether in manuscripts submitted for publication, grant applications, scientific presentation, or even personal communications, is a very bad thing. It undermines the knowledge-building project in which the community of science is engaged. As an institution serious about its role in this knowledge-building enterprise, MIT did well to identify Van Parijs as a bad actor, to take him out of play, and to correct the scientific record impacted by Van Parijs's lies.

MIT wasn't the only institution with a horse in this race, though. Given that many of Van Parijs's misrepresentations occurred in work supported by federal grants, or in application for federal grant money, the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI), an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, launched a thorough investigation of the case. As reported in the Federal Register, ORI has now taken final action in the Van Parijs case:

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Good intentions, bad effects: the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

Remember the scares around December 2007 about lead in children's toys manufactured in China? Back then, people cried out for better testing to ensure that products intended for children were actually safe for children. Partly in response to this outcry, a new law, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, was passed. The intent of the law is to protect kids from harm from lead (and other substances) in children's products. However, the effect of the law may be something else altogether.
I've been meaning to post on this for awhile, but I've finally been spurred into action by my friend Heddi at the Educational Resource Center of Santa Cruz. Here's how Heddi explained the situation in an email to me:

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Friday Sprog Blogging: making faces.

Jan 23 2009 Published by under Kids and science

As I turned on the lights this morning, the younger Free-Ride offspring graced me with some faces.
Younger offspring: This one (eyes squinted and teeth wide in a gappy second grader smile) and this one (eyes bugged out and mouth in an O of horror) creep people out. My mad look (eyebrows lowered and eyes rolled upward in a glare) doesn't creep people out.
Dr. Free-Ride: Maybe that's because people see it so often.

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ScienceOnline'09: Diversity in science, online and off.

There were some really good discussions of ally work in the gender in science session led by Zuska, Alice, and Abel and in the race in science session led by Danielle Lee and AcmeGirl.
One of the issues that has become clearer to me is that there is an inescapable asymmetry in the relationship between allies and those (like scientists of color or women scientists) they are trying to support. (I think the discussion at Samia's blog helped me feel like I got it well enough to put into words.) An ally is someone who wouldn't have to care about the difficulties faced by members of the group s/he is trying to support; not being part of that group, the ally doesn't face those challenges first hand. This means the ally is choosing to care -- making an effort to take the issues of others seriously.

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ScienceOnline'09: Managing your online persona through transitions.

Some quick thoughts in response to the session led by PropterDoc and Sciencewoman.
In some sense, this is really just an extension of the problem of managing your public persona as you go through transitions in life.
Maybe it's something even deeper than that. Maybe it's a piece of the project of deciding who you are and what kind of person to be.

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ScienceOnline'09: Liveblogging a Friday Fermentable wine-tasting.

Jan 16 2009 Published by under Food, Science Blogging Conference

Abel Pharmboy set up a wine-tasting for this evening with a selection of wines from Wine Authorities for us to taste.
Abel professes to be an "amateur" at wine-tasting, but I'm coming here from Northern California, so I have to represent! Also, after this morning's coffee tasting, I'm kind of sold on the idea that looking, smelling, and tasting carefully can give me something like a better appreciation of the complexities of fermented grape juice. So, I'm going to attempt something more detailed.

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ScienceOnline'09: Liveblogging Coffee Cupping at Counter Culture Coffee.

Counter Culture Coffee generously invited us to join us for their regular Friday morning cupping at their Durham, North Carolina headquarters.
Here are the dimensions on which the coffees are evaluated in the cupping:

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