After having endured the sleep deprivation of flying across the Atlantic, Anne and I safely arrived at London Heathrow early Thursday morning. There is a trip-log forthcoming, as I am taking copious notes (and a list of where I took my photos, just to be sure), so I'll provide a full update later (I'm not sure if the two of us will get up to video-blogging any of this... at least at Corflu. We're still jet-lagged).

However, for those of you interested in seeing what we're up to today, here's a live stream: Keep in mind that GMT is +4 hours to the Eastern time zone right now... the program is set to go until around midnight, which should be just right for dinner entertainment. ;-)
This is especially aimed at those of you who are active photographers and camera afficianados, but if anybody has any relevant experiences or recommendations, I'd love to hear them:

Given that our upcoming trip to England should include something of a travelogue, I'm looking for a new camera for myself. Anne has a nice one, but it's about time I got myself another one--my last I bought in 2004 for the Hong Kong trip.

What I'm looking for: digital, all-in-one package (i.e. I'm not lugging a separate flash unit around the UK), sufficiently rugged, both significant on-board storage and room for cards, and with good physical optics. My price point is ~$300, I figure.

Oh, and if you care to recommend any highly useful accessories, like a carrying case or such, that's appreciated, too.



Dec. 24th, 2009 12:25 pm
willowroot: (Goofball)
Accidentally deleted a bunch of recent comments... silly interface changes. But thanks to everyone for the congrats and good wishes! I didn't mean to wipe them off the electronic face of the planet...
Anne & I are going to England in April! We won the 2010 TAFF contest!

I haven't a clue yet for how long we're going, beyond attending Odyssey 2010, but I don't think I care right now! Planning will happen! Merriment will be had! Fandom connections will be reaffirmed! Travelogues will be written! Pictures will be taken and (mostly) not manipulated! All shall be shared!

(Brighton may still be destroyed and London gently ravaged by a deliquescent pox, I'll have to converse with Dr. Wu about that.)

I thank all of you who voted for us, and my thanks to Chris Garcia and Steve Green for managing this year's contest. Also, I offer my condolences to [ profile] frankwu and his wife Bri, and my thanks for making this a fun contest. I yet look forward to meeting you in person some day (Frank, I've been told to watch out for the Mariners going all the way in 2010...)
Hi there! Anne and I are running for the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund this year, and we would greatly appreciate your support. If you have already voted, I appologize for bugging you, but I wanted to remind people that we are fast approaching the deadline of December 22 to vote!

Short version: Go to for a ballot to vote.

Long version:

The fan fund sends fans one way or the other across the ocean each year, to either a major event in North America or to one in the UK. This year's TAFF delegate(s) will go to Eastercon in London. See for more info.

Anne's never been to England, and both of us would love to see more of the UK in general. We would very much like to go meet fellow fen there, and would probably extend our trip to Ireland and possibly Germany.

TAFF, like other fan funds, is supported by donations. Anyone sf fan who wishes to vote is requested to send along at least a small donation to the fund with your vote. Other than that, any fan can vote (If you don't think the TAFF administrators will recognize your name, you are asked to name a well-known fan who knows you and can vouch for your fannishness. This is to keep us from passing out ballots on the street corner, but is not intended to discourage fen from voting. If you do this, you have to name someone other than ourselves or any of the people who nominated us for TAFF). The voting deadline is December 22.

The TAFF ballot is available online at You can print it and send it with a check to vote. Or, if you want to vote online, you can; there are directions at the bottom of the ballot. It involves sending a paypal donation (please add extra to cover paypal fees) to one of the administrators (e.g. Chris Garcia at garcia [at] with all your voting info in the paypal comment. If Anne and I are chosen we'll make sure there's a full online voting form in future years.

We are committed to going to Eastercon if selected, and to administering the fan fund diligently (raising money for it and running the selection process) for two years, as well as of course producing a trip report. As to other destinations we might take on our trip, we're not quite sure, but they would definitely include Edinburgh, Scotland. Here is our platform from the ballot:

Brian Gray & Anne KG Murphy
He's a microbiologist. She's an engineer. Together they run cons, playtest games, sing and dance, concoct gustatory delights, write zines and blogs, perform sketch comedy, and generally have a good time doing anything from reading sf to chopping wood. (We didn't say they aren't weird. Oh YES, they're weird.) They promise to use their powers only for good, and not run scientific experiments upon unsuspecting international fandom... however tempting that might be. But as trained observers, they look forward to documenting cultural differences across the Atlantic divide in a trip report. An eeeeeevil trip report. With photographic evidence. And tissue samples...

Nominated by: John Scalzi, Steven H Silver, Geri Sullivan (North America), Paul Cornell, Cheryl Morgan (Europe)

You can also see more about us, and our friendly competition (Frank Wu, [ profile] frankwu), at Chris Garcia's fanzine The Drink Tank, issue 231,

In addition to voting, if you feel comfortable putting in a word for us in your blog or twitter or what-have-you, we would really appreciate it.


Brian and Anne
Yesterday saw an e-mail relating that a second of my 11 students was officially diagnosed* with influenza A/H1N1. However, given that both cases happened after my flu lecture, wherein I detailed the differences between seasonal flus and a dangerous pandemic, my students' responses were fairly measured, with a general tone of "Aww, nuts, this is gonna hurt" as opposed to the general popular media-based response of "OMGZ gonna dieeeeeeeeee!"

* I have a suspicion that three more of my students also had it, but they never e-mailed me about it. *shrug*
[ profile] frankwu, I saw this today and thought of our dastardly plans. My only regret is that someone/thing else beat us to the punch. It's brilliant!


Nov. 9th, 2009 02:52 pm
willowroot: (spaz)
To the many who gave me many kind birthday wishes, and of those who could come out and play at my party, thanks for making it a great 35th birthday! It was a grand time! And I didn't even get thrown in the pool (for all that there was much muttered discussion and plotting before the party started...)
For all of the thrown mental gears and seized mental steamwork I'm dealing with in trying to get my papers done and out the door, I am needing to put some time and effort into setting up my next steps, i.e. either a teaching job or a post-doctoral fellowship that supports teaching.

The American Society of Microbiology has an education listserv, so I thought, what the heck, this is a group that's talking about education and teaching, and hopefully is supportive of people interested in such... so last night I dropped in a quick note asking for any recommendations or pointers to particular programs.

I'm already up to a dozen replies with helpful suggestions and personal anecdotes outlining how they found their own successes. I have many thank-you notes to write. And a bunch of new sites and schools to look at. Heh.
What's that, you say? Brian's running a campaign to get elected as the first human test subject in an untried, highly dangerous, experimental human-to-taffy conversion? And you can help get him win?

Umm, no. But close!**

Actually, [ profile] netmouse & I are running as candidates for this year's Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund, and you can help us win. If we win, you get to help send us to London for this year's EasterCon. Click on through, take a gander at the ballot, and (if you're a qualifying member of fandom... which covers about 70% of my friends' list) send in your vote and donation!

TAFF is a very friendly race, and our competition this year is the highly entertaining and multi-talented [ profile] frankwu. How friendly a contest, do you ask? Well, Frank's been talking us up, we're talking him up, and Frank's contributing several illustrations to [ profile] netmouse's inaugural issue of her new fanzine, Wellspring. Furthermore, Frank and I have discovered we have a mutual love of microbiology, and can both (shortly!) claim "Dr." as an actual title on our Mad Scientist Club membership cards!* (He earned his about a decade ago, mine's coming... real soon now.)

* Dr. Wu and Dr.-To-Be Gray have decided to run a secret third-party campaign for TAFF, on the classic Mad Science platform of "Vote for us, OR ELSE." This year's version of ELSE includes unleashing upon the world a succession of horrific microbiological plagues of unparalleled virulence and so squeam-inducing, that Dr. Frankerschnozzlin's Ebolaflu threat seems the stuff of a rank amateur. Which it is. If Dr. Wu and Dr.-To-Be Gray DO win, as a team, then we promise to confine our Delightfully Mad campaign to the proper confines of London and document the mayhem with Dr. Wu's tremendous artistic talent and Dr.-To-Be Gray's refined turn of scientific phrase.*** Our joint platform is so secret, that even the organizers of TAFF are unaware of its existence! Spiffy!

** While I don't relish the prospect of myself being turned into a walking, giant pull-taffy, I can see about whipping up a batch of Gray's Patented Post-Pathogenic Deliquescing Skin Treatment and sending free samples to prominent media personalities of your choice. You have only to vote for me!

*** Hello to my new acquaintances from the London area! We don't really mean it, you understand, but if you don't sound like you mean business with the public masses, then how will they ever know that you're a dedicated and serious Mad Scientist?

(no subject)

Oct. 12th, 2009 10:35 pm
willowroot: (Zombie Dyslexia!)
Paper #1, submitted at the start of June, rejected in mid-July, subsequently rewritten, is now going back out the door, this week, submitted to a different journal than Attempt #1.

*crosses fingers*

Y'see, this is the part that grad school promoters never tell you about: The long, arduous, draining (metaphorical) trudge at the end of your researches, where you're crossing your fingers and engaging in most unseemly, low-brow, superstitious behaviors, solely in the hope the verdammt file doesn't get ever get bounced back to your inbox.

And now I get to wait. At least six weeks.


Tomorrow, on to Paper #2, to see if I can do the same thing with before the end of this week, although likely by the end of next week.

(At least I get to teach on Wednesday. Yay!)
Is it a good thing, a bad thing, or simply an interesting observation, that I find myself a little nervous in the minutes before I head downstairs to administer the first college exam I've written myself, covering material for which I've been the only teacher?

I know where the nerves are coming from, really: I want to challenge my students, but I want them to do (moderately) well. I want to get them thinking, not scare them out of their wits. Achieving that balance will be an interesting exercise, to be honed over coming years, I'm sure.
Whilst looking for an illustration of a particular concept in biology (specifically, the density of molecules in the cytoplasm of a cell) to use in my lecture tomorrow morning, I came across David Goodsell's The Machinery of Life. Just click through to the reduced illustrations in there (especially this, this, and this). There are also some lovely illustrations of the structure of various macromolecules (DNA, RNA, proteins) as well as some of the processes of life. Dig through there, it's just amazing.

(insert *maniacal laughter* here)

(keep *laughing*, *cackling*, *gibbering*, and throw in the occasionaly *howl* for good measure)

Aaaaaand.... that's good.

Well, no complaints (from me) so far. I believe my final numbers are set at a whopping 11 students, so I have a nice, small course to work with. I'm covering material, that while I may be a little rusty, has never been terribly far removed from the rest of my work.

I am teaching Micro 332 at EMU, which is sort of the entry class to the (certified, accredited) medical technologist program run by the School of Health Services. What is a medical technologist, you ask? Well, whenever you're in the doctor's office and they go "Hang on, I want to take a sample and run some lab tests," the medical technologists are those who actually run the lab tests.

What's in Micro 332, AKA Clinical Microbiology 1? I'm teaching an introduction to the wild & wooly world of microbiology, or at least the medically-relevant portions thereof. The program director (and prior instructor) selected a pretty darn good textbook to use (of which I used the 2nd or 3rd edition, it's now in the 10th edition...), and while I am teaching mostly within the parameters of the book, there is enough room for me to teach with my own style and quirks.

The first day of class was generally brief, where I was introduced by the program director, went over the syllabus, so on and so forth. But then I threw up a bunch of slides wherein I asked some very broad questions (nothing like shocking your students, on their first day back from summer break, with the teacher going "So... you there... right, wossyername, can you think of any environments on our planet where bacteria do not live?" to really wake them up), to two ends. 1) I so loathe the standard "I am a lecture drone, you are note-taking drones" format of larger classes--this is a 300-level course after all. 2) If my students are paying attention and are capable of talking back to me, whether or not they have a 'correct' answer, then they're more likely learning than not.

Plus, I got to impress upon them just how wild and wooly, how strange and varied, and how downright bizarre the world of microbiology can be, all in the first day of class. (A perennial favorite microbiologist's poser: "So, if you had to pick a number, what do you think is the ratio of microorganisms on and in your body to the actual number of cells in your body that are recognizably you?" "Answer: on average, 10. Yes, 10:1, them-to-you. Now go wash your hands.")

As for today, the second day of class, well, I apologized (in my generally bemused fashion) to them that this week's sessions were likely to be the most boring of the whole term, as I wanted to make sure that all of the students shared equivalent chemistry and biology foundations. Today's lecture I even went so far as to cheat and use the pre-made slides that come with the instructor's DVD in the textbook (wow, publishers are adding many bells and whistles, these days). However, I tore out about a 3rd of the given slides, reordered them to my satisfaction, and then while actually presenting them, frequently laid out the importance of given chemistries and biochemistries to microorganisms. Relevance before recall, please.

Next week, however, things get interesting. *evil grin*

Me, having fun so far?

Yeah, pretty much.

My class.

My responsibility.

My hard work and my reward, as a teacher.

I'm nervous, a little twitchy, and of course hoping that things go well.

Above all, I find myself hoping that my students connect with this particular material in the same way that I did, many years go.

In other words, I believe the correct response is:

Hell, yeah.
I'm stalling out, quite badly*, on writing the paper.

Time to switch to another time-crunch project: syllabus and the first few lectures for my class!

* It doesn't help the self-esteem much when the response to my revision of the bounced paper is the boss wholly rewriting the discussion I already rewrote, and then the collaborator redoes the whole results section. Thanks, folks. (Yeah, I know "it's a learning experience")
I'm working on my third paper now, whilst I await my boss' comments upon the rewrite of Paper #1 (rejected once, pondering where next to submit) and the third draft of Paper #2 (as yet unsubmitted), and I'm, as ever, experimenting, to see if a modal change in how I write has an effect upon my productivity or clarity of thought and word.

(I've already determined that I need to write in the morning if I'm to get anything done at all... once I go to the lab and come back, my brain goes *fweeeeep!* and I usually have a very hard time re-engaging.)

I'm working over the Discussion section right now, wherein I briefly revisit our findings to summarize and assemble a few interpretations, maybe I'll posit a new disease model, and then I'll likely wrap it all up with a proposal for the field's next steps. Basically, it's a section wherein I apply spin to my work.

This morning I find I'm struck by the layered (or threaded) thoughts I need to keep track of as I'm writing this particular section:

look here, my results are condensed to a paragraph

these are the obvious interpretations based on the immediately relevant other work in the field that my findings now reflect upon

those are the greater implications if you factor in related work A, Q, and z

and that's the pile of info rattling around the back of my head about all the other work I've done that I'm writing up, that I cannot mention here, as the work should appear to be independently designed and developed

then mix in the Really Big Picture review-type document I'm laying out, which will likely serve as both the first and last chapter of my thesis document as well as another submitted paper if someone were to ask our lab for a summation of recent advances in our field, wherein we would highlight our recent contributions.

Keeping them separate so that I can focus on writing the little paragraph I need to write right now is an interesting challenge. What reflection upon this process has shown me, however, is just how fantastically great, in scope and in scale, my training and my education have been, to get me to this level of intellectual comportment. Because I compare myself to the undergrads I'm teaching and asking myself "How the hell did I ever get myself from there to here?"

(Yeah, science PhDs are totally the arch-mages of the modern age--what we do is just so arcane.)


Aug. 4th, 2009 11:55 am
willowroot: (Default)
This morning I sat down and wrote a chapter outline for my final dissertation document. Mostly so I could structure my background section, as well as the end chapter where I'll advance new hypotheses and a novel model or two.

But, wow, it's rather uplifting to sit down, type something out, and be able to simply say "Finally!"

Of course, I won't actually be using the document for another two months, but heck, it's a start...
It's just that my mind is rather heavily pre-occupied these days, obviously.

Had a fun, and... interesting, weekend attending and helping out with [ profile] weisbrow's and [ profile] juniperrampant's wedding. Short, sweet, and very to the point, the ceremony was. Heh. Setup and breakdown was something else entirely, but that story's been re-told sufficiently to those in the know (NB: nothing to do with the bride and groom, rather, relatives).

I also went out to Clinton and helped [ profile] greenmanbear design and shop lumber for his new project, a weapons rack for all of his martial arts accoutrements. I'll be heading out there again next weekend to actually start building the thing. Budget constraints and limits on our technical skills mandated that we scale down his plans from clear grade lumber and simple wood stains with classical joinery, to construction grade lumber, paint, and hardier, simpler joints. Pending our success with the first one, he might consider making another one, full to our original plans, as a gift to his sensei when the time comes for taking on his black belt. That'll be fun. (Especially considering that as a gift a few years back I gave him this book, which we both drool over, periodically)

I'm still enjoying my Wednesday night, calling-in contributions to the horror game up in Lansing. I'm not driving it these days, as I downgraded myself to a poor grad student a while back (have I mentioned this?) who can't as easily afford the luxury of the gas for that trip every week, nor can I really afford the time. The second factor is paramount this month in particular, as my boss is running an 8 AM Thursday morning class on histopathology. Attendance suggested. (Umm... whee?)

And I'm heading down to Yellow Springs this weekend to see Anne, which is always a good thing. Of course we don't see each as often as we really would like, and that gets harder as the date for my graduation bounces around the calendar (generally farther and farther away, unfortunately), but we're planning to head up to her uncle's place on Grand Traverse Bay for the Labor Day weekend, which will be very nice. GAFIAting, I believe it's called.
Final draft of paper #2 off to the boss. Barring her finding any particularly boneheaded mistakes on her part, she gets to finish the last formal details.

Next up, I take a look at the outline for #3, and then glare at the critique on the bounced paper #1. After I head in and help my summer student prepare her final presentation and research poster.
Page generated Sep. 19th, 2017 11:45 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios