Field of Science

Kicking Off a New Semester

It seems like yesterday I was knee deep in determining final grades, but Wednesday I am back in the   thick of it. Luckily, my teaching is much less in the spring, two classes that meet once a week. One is a three hours lecture/lab on the Biology of Beer and the other is a writing instruction course for students writing up their research. Since I have done both a number of times, the time commitment is not onerous (I've already paid the up front costs). Of course things can always be improved so there is always some time investment improving the course(s) and keeping things fresh, but this is nothing compared to doing it for the first time.

In the fall, I am 98% working on teaching, 10% on research, 5%grant writing, 10% manuscript preparation, and like 20% on admin things. Basically the fall sucks. So now that teaching is more like a hard 10%, how do I  maximize productivity on the research? I have a manuscript to revise, so that gets top priority, but also have two manuscripts that are basically done research-wise, so they are strong seconds....BUT grants need to be written, BUT papers need to be out there to support the grants. My life is Ouroboros, but with less rebirth.

Ouroboros tat from here

The Cold North Shore; What If Its Not Cold?

Lake Superior

Back from an official, albeit short, vacation. The only work related thing I did was check to see how things were going in the lab via an email. Have a paper review to complete and could have worked on it there (didn't). Lots of emails to reply to, they didn't go anywhere and I can deal with them tomorrow. Almost always when I take time off, I end up working at some level (revising a manuscript, working on a grant, etc). This is not a good thing. This time I did it right.

Spent almost an entire day, it was overcast, reading and went on a short walk to stretch my legs. Finished the vast majority of Stephen King's Holly, an Xmas present (I have since completed it). It was a great way to reset from the busy end of the fall semester that moved directly into holiday events, which while nice are also taxing. Felt more relaxed than I had in a long time. The following day was spent exploring the city of Grand Marais, bought a new book (support local booksellers), and enjoyed a beer at Voyager brewery

Very little animal life in evidence up there, a few crows and that was about it. Did see a deer on the drive up. You might think this is not surprising, because we are deep in winter, but usually there is plenty of evidence of animal activity especially via tracks in the snow. Can identify squirrels, rabbits, deer, mice, etc pretty easily. However, this year there is still essentially no snow on the ground and the temps have been well above normal. Walking the dog in a sweatshirt, outdoor slippers, and a hat! Usually its a heavy winter coat, boots, mittens, and boots for the dog. This led to a thought, does the increased temperature affect the hibernation patterns of animals like bears, which do wake up occasionally? I realize there are other cues that control hibernation, otherwise animals would come out of hibernation when we have an almost yearly late January warm up, which is followed by another month long drop in temps in February. Animals that wake up too early, may not be able to find food. Many plants do this as well. When to germinate? When to start budding new leaves? Much of this is controlled primarily by day light length (but temperature plays a role too). This is good, because if temperature was primarily in charge, an early warm spell could be disasterous. But what about hibernating animals? They are not out in the open so day length shouldn't be much of a factor. Guess I'll spend some time on google later today.

New Beginnings and Resolutions

Its been too long letting this site sit in limbo, maybe purgatory. I have a couple of goals this year and one thing I think will help accomplish them is to write about things I enjoy and/or want to write about more frequently. So I am planning to put something here, usually (hopefully) science related three times a week. This particular post is not science related, but damnit, I'm counting it.

Obviously the fact this is coinciding with the New Year brings up the idea of New Year's resolutions. I like the idea of New Year's resolutions, but why decide to start something on a particular date, such as January 1? I think it is pretty well agreed upon that these date-specific resolutions tend to die untimely deaths usually before the end of February, which is ironic since its the shortest month. For me, using this date as opposed to October 15th, is that this is a good transition time. I am done with my teaching heavy semester, which is why I didn't attempt to start this October 15th, because I knew it was unlikely to be successful. Also the holidays are done, so there was essentially chaos for two weeks and now it's time to establish a new routine for the upcoming semester. Writing, for fun, is one way I can ease back into a routine.

Things I'm looking forward to this upcoming semester:
  • Being able to attend more seminars in person. In the fall, basically the big ones for me occur either when I'm teaching or end about five minutes before I need to start teaching. I love the option of attending online, so I can listen and see the slides but can leave early without being disruptive.
  • Reading more science. Time limitations in the fall kept me focused on those papers to help with teaching, manuscript prep, and a grant submission. Now I'll have more time to read things that just look interesting (another resolution is to read a paper a day unrelated to my research interests, which I'm starting after my vacation which starts soonish).
  • Read more for fun. I never stop reading but have much less time for it in the fall, usually just before bed. Now I have more time to read for enjoyment. I already started that but will emphasize it in my vacation and continue on....probably until next fall semester.
  • Time to brew! I have a bourbon barrel porter aging in a bourbon barrel (an Xmas gift) right now, but that's it. :(
So some science things I'm thinking about and have been for quite awhile. Why does sexual reproduction exist? What control species barriers? How do endosymbionts become plastids/mitochondria? What should my next science tat be (I already have this one figure out, just need to get it.)?

Ok, I have accomplished day 1 of writing for my personal benefit. No need to go on and on and on and on.