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random musings of a crazy cat lady

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Calgon, take me away!

One of my many duties at work is to help the students learn how to write scientific manuscripts.  Once in a while it really is just proof-reading and suggesting stylistic changes.  Unfortunately, most of the time it makes me turn into the old biddy who claims that back in the mystical days of my youth, we knew how to write scientific papers.  I don’t tell the students this, of course.  Nonetheless, it seems odd that they’ve been reading scientific papers for several years and somehow still be so bad at writing them.
I’ve never taken a scientific writing class, or even a college writing class.  Nonetheless, I’m fairly good at it, although I am the first to admit that it can be slow and painful at times.  I have my weaknesses, including a fairly terse style, a tendency towards overly brief introductions and discussions, and a lack of self-promotion.  I picked up most of these bad habits from my graduate advisor.* Anyway, I learned the same way everyone learns.  I picked up the general style from reading papers and theses.  When I wrote my first paper, I gave it to a few friends to critique, and then gave it to my advisor to read.  He returned the manuscript with a bunch of changes – I was kind of traumatized by how many there were, but my friends told me this was normal.  Now that I am on the other end of the process, I realize that it was only minor stylistic changes – when a manuscript needs a lot of changes it’s all but impossible to write down all the corrections in the margins and space between the lines, or return it as fast as he did.  Subsequent papers required fewer changes.
Anyway, now that I’m on the other side of the process, I don’t get a lot of manuscripts which can be quickly edited by hand using only the space available in the margins/double spacing.   Sometimes it makes me want to tear my hair out.  The most common problem is wording things the exact same way as it would be described verbally in a presentation.  The other common mistake is to be too verbose, too often.
Like poetry, scientific writing has its own pentameter.   With students who are fairly good writers but are novices at scientific writing, it’s relatively easy to teach.  These are not the students who make me want to tear my hair out.  Anyway, I describe what the general problem is and we go over a paragraph or two and discuss how I would reword it, and then I have them practice for little while and help them when they get stuck.  Eventually, they pick up the cadence and conventions of it and then go edit the rest of their paper.  However, other students just don’t catch on easily, and the above approach is mostly useless.  They just keep on doing the same sort of things, even after multiple manuscripts.  They end up with lots of corrections from me and their labmates, and get frustrated, especially when everyone comes in with slightly different corrections.
I suspect that they think I am trying to make them write like me, but that’s not it.  If it’s well written, I will mostly leave it alone, even if I would’ve written it very differently.  In the end, it’s all about telling a story about the science and not distracting people with bad writing or a disorganized or confusing paper.  If you get those things down, no one even notices your writing style. My boss and I have different writing styles, but when we write proposals or papers we don’t end up making very many stylistic changes on each other’s sections.  It looks surprisingly seamless.  

* You may notice that I am pretty verbose in my blogs and emails – I change my writing style according to what I write.  I am still pretty weak on conclusions, though.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lil Bitty Biddy Kitty, the sequel/Molly

As most of you are aware, I've been looking to adopt and kitten and got one a few days ago.  Contrary to my prediction, I did indeed get a female maine coon mix kitten rather than a shorthaired teenaged cat like I tend to chose whenever I visit the humane society.
It's sort of Missy's fault - she got a little Maine Coon mix a few weeks ago and deluged me with pictures and stories.  Nonetheless, I was firm in my resolve not to get a kitten until after my trip to CA in mid-June and the Gordon Conference in July, or so I thought.  I made it about half way and then fell for the first female Maine Coon mix that I saw on the local* listings.  Actually, I didn't even hold out until after my trip to CA, but Rita, the woman who was fostering the kitty, let me pick her up after I returned from CA.
Anyway, she's about 3 months old.  I named her Molly.  Her foster care name was Tilly - I didn't like that but it reminded me that I did like the name Molly, and it seemed to suit her. In the week and a half between when I met her and when I picked her up, I told people that I might name her Molly but was going to wait and see.  But the name had really stuck even before I picked her up.  The chemistry jokes (Molly Cule.  Moly cat, etc.) did not occur to me later, despite the fact that we did a lot of molybdenum chemistry back when I was in grad school. 
Molly was a feral kitten when the cat rescue organization found her, although her mother had obviously been a pet at some point.  According to Rita,when they found her, Molly was almost at the age where it becomes more difficult to socialize them, but either Rita did a really good job and/or Molly is just very friendly, because it's almost impossible to tell.  She is a bit skittish occasionally, but she is just a total lovebug and loves to be petted, wants to be with me much of the time, especially if I am sitting down, purrs loudly even when she is not being petted, etc. She is a lot like Rugrat was at this age.  I am glad that I went with my gut feeling that a lot of these traits were somewhat type related, even in the non-purebred cats.  I love my 'presence cats' but missed having a lap cat.
Luna and Lucy are adjusting.  Luna always adjusts quickly to new kittens/cats.  She is the queen, and she knows it, and so does everyone else.  When Molly gets in her face too much or pisses her off, Luna hisses at her and sometimes swats her (if food is involved), but is not otherwise aggressive or too annoyed. It's not really any different than how Luna deals with Lucy. Molly has figured out not to mess with Luna too much. Lucy is having a bit harder adjustment, although by cat standards it's still pretty easy.  She is very interested in Molly, but also kind of nervous and kind of pissed off.  The first day she sat by the door when I was in the computer room, watching and growling.  She seemed pretty normal otherwise.  Now that I am letting Molly roam around the house, Lucy is somewhat better.  She growls at Molly but only if Molly is too close or too feisty. It's basically the same dance, in reverse and sped up, that Lucy and Rugrat did last summer.  Molly is not that scared of the older cats, although she does seem to have good judgement about when to back down.I was a bit nervous yesterday but they are already a lot more comfortable with each other today.
It's summer, and Molly has a lot of fur.  She likes to sleep on cool, smooth surfaces like the tiles in front of the fireplace or the plastic chair mat in the computer room.

* local = within a 2 hour drive.  I ended up getting her from a rescue agency in Syracuse.  It was surprisingly hard to find long haired cats in Ithaca.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Creepsters of OKCupid, part 1

The thyroid meds have returned my energy levels to the point where online dating is starting to seem interesting again, but I'm not ready to actually pay money for it.  So I dredged up my OKCupid profile and changed the location info to Ithaca and waited to see what happened.
I got an email from a guy that I was really not interested in. I'm showing a lot of discretion here and not snarking on his profile, so let's just say he wasn't my type and leave it at that. He copied and pasted his standard opening email/profile and then asked that I let him know, even if I wasn't interested.  Yes, dear readers, I should know better than to take bait like that, and indeed I did ignore him.  He wrote back a few days later saying  that he saw that I logged on and why didn't I write back.  Uh, creepster alert.....  I should've just left well enough alone but I wrote back that he was too old for me.  I left out the part about how I don't date creepy stalkerish types.  So he writes that he should've lied about his age. Lovely. 
As you know, I'm not a big fan of gender specific rules or expectations pertaining to relationships or even online dating etiquette.  However, if men wonder why women don't write back if they're not interested, or give a white lie, it's because for every couple of normal guys there is an asshole or two who takes that opportunity to insult us, be overly persistent, or just generally be a sleazy asshole.