Archive for October, 2011

Halloween 2011 count

31 Oct 2011

We don’t get many kids seeking candy at our house. I’m not sure if there just aren’t many kids in the neighborhood, or if it’s our location (next to the pond, with a big gap before the next house).

I decided to keep track. As usual, we bought a huge bag of candy, and we still had about half of it left to hand out tonight. But only 19 kids came.

They arrived pretty regularly from 5:50 to 7:50.

I comment on the figure’s style below.



27 Oct 2011

A cute and useful menu bar application for Macs: Caffeine, available in the App store.

If you click the little coffee cup in your menu bar (so that it’s full), it will prevent your Mac from displaying its screen saver or dimming its screen. This is especially useful when you’re giving a talk.

SUV-driving bastards

25 Oct 2011

On my bike ride to work, in the rain, I was stopped at stop light, in the bike lane, when a big black SUV pulled up behind me and honked, wanting to turn right. Three seconds later the light turned green. As the guy turned behind me, he yelled out his window, “Get the hell out of the way!”

Who would not flip him off?

Madison can be great for biking, but it is not without assholes, though I suppose that is obvious.

Tips on grant writing

21 Oct 2011

While some may feel that grant proposals should be perfect, I think they should be good enough to be funded and no better. Only three or so people will read the thing, and they’re not allowed to talk about it; you should be devoting yourself as much as possible to the actual work rather than the grant writing.

Having read many grants (some good, many bad), I’ve formed quite strong opinions about what constitutes a good grant.



19 Oct 2011

I went to a great talk today by David Goldstein, which I might write about further later since he said many of things of considerable interest. But I had to quickly point to an interesting paper he mentioned: Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma related to gravitational challenge: systematic review of randomised controlled trials. The main conclusion:

We think that everyone might benefit if the most radical protagonists of evidence based medicine organised and participated in a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled, crossover trial of the parachute.

Make sure to read the statement regarding the authors’ contributions.

Fund people not projects?

19 Oct 2011

John Ioannidis, known for his comments on medical research (see also the Atlantic article), has an interesting opinion piece in Nature on saving researchers’ time writing and reviewing grants: fund people not projects. As he concludes, “Requiring [scientists] to spend most of their time writing grants is irrational. It’s time to seriously consider another approach.”

It was thought provoking, but I don’t think any of his ideas will really work. Lots of people complain about peer review, but I think it largely works well and none of the proposed alternatives would actually be better. Here are my thoughts.


New title, new look

15 Oct 2011

My old title was too verbose, and the old “theme” was too messy (and the font too small). Hopefully the changes are satisfactory.

Designer of C died

14 Oct 2011

Dennis Ritchie, the designer of C and co-developer of Unix, died on Wednesday. He arguably had more impact on my life than Steve Jobs did.

Resizing windows in Lion

14 Oct 2011

I upgraded my Macs to Lion; my favorite improvement is that we can now resize windows from any edge or corner.

(Previously, you could only change the size from the lower-right corner, so I often found myself resizing and moving and then resizing and moving and then…. Why did it take so long for them to do it properly?)

Animal research

12 Oct 2011

Last night, I was an “expert” on a panel at a public discussion on animal research. I was really nervous, but I ended up not saying much and learning quite a lot.