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Writing, writing, and more writing

1. One of the two courses I am teaching this fall is a course on experimental design and scientific writing (called "SciWriting" for short). We'll use Pechenik's book A Short Guide to Writing About Biology, along with a custom booklet written by the faculty here, called the Guidelines booklet, which contains a whole bunch of complementary elements on statistics, R, experimental design, and writing.

So of course I have Opinions about how it's organized and am revising it for my own purposes. What I know so far is that the students have learned how to use R in the course in the past, but almost none of them continue using R after they finish the course. (how I know: countless hours wasted spent trying to help Animal Physiology students futz around with graphs in Excel or the Goog). So there's a gap in setting students up to transfer their knowledge.

2. I am making some forward progress on manuscript-writing. For some reason it seems like I always wind up doing a lot of the heavy lifting on every academic project I'm involved in. So forward progress on writing always feels slow.

3. I continue to be concerned about how writing tasks for rowing obligations may be eating into brainspace for the above two categories of professional writing. I need to pace myself.

Doing a lot of writing puts me into the state that [personal profile] scrottie often describes as "being boring."

You know, aside from the cat updates. (This morning's update: she will still eat the raw food diet. I'm now starting to think [personal profile] shalpacafarm might be correct about a tooth problem. She keeps taking a bite or two, then makes an awkward face and runs away, but eventually she'll come back and eat more).

Back at it.

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Cat setbacks

I thought that Emma and I were making good progress on food transitions, but now, not so much, sigh. Two recent unfortunate tidbits:

-One of the types of wet food has chicken in it. She threw up again, just a teeny tiny bit, after eating it. Further support for my chicken allergy/intolerance hypothesis.

-She is refusing to eat _any_ of the types of wet food now, and is back to crying all night long. This morning I put all food away (I'd left out some dry food and wet food overnight, after she'd been refusing to eat any of it). We'll see what happens this evening, but I'm not especially optimistic. I'm wondering whether the wet food has been making her feel odd because it probably sits in her digestive system differently than the dry food she has eaten for the past 15 years.

So, all told, one way or another, it's time for a vet trip.

I think the last time I took her to the vet was once when she stopped eating for 2 days, maybe about 10-12 years ago*. There was noting wrong with her at all, although we did learn from an x-ray that she has an unusual spine. This upcoming vet trip will probably be more about education of the owner (me) than anything else, although they will probably also want to run a whole list of older cat diagnostic tests if I let them. I'm conflicted on medicalization for pets, as I am for humans. I realize many/most of you may disagree with me.

Do any of you use any online pet food ordering services?

*I realize many people take their pets to the vet much more frequently than this.

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The thing I don't understand...

About aebleskivers OR poffertjes is, what's so special about small and/or round pancakes that require a special cooking pan? Is the special cooking pan really worth all the bother? How did that even happen?

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Posty McPost

*rolls up sleeves*

Time to go hang out in the basement and Clean All The Things.

How do you get yourself to do these kinds of chores, when you'd rather sit around and drink tea and bake cookies?

I think I'm going to need a good playlist.

I wish the basement ventilation was better. That's the biggest dealbreaker for me.

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Neko Case on a Saturday Afternoon

We had a rowing "FUNgatta" this morning. For me it involved a lot of running around, then a nice BBQ lunch with teammates, young and old. Rowers can be an odd family.

Now there's a 1-week break in the training calendar. Between that, [personal profile] scrottie being gone, and it still being the summer, it's going to be a low social interaction week. Probably a good thing.

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Just when I think I have one thing sorted out...the mites are back in the litterbox. (aka Baker's Itch). The joys of organic litter.

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Thief Ants, the Other Thants.

(title is a reference to this)

Oh Emma.

So last night, feeling desperate, I tried a different type of gushy food. I set the plate down, she came over to it, then she ran away. Then she started crying again.

So I tried again, enticing her over to me with a little bit of food on the end of a knife. I got her to sniff the knife, then she started licking it, showing no aversion to the food itself. I tried to lead her towards the plate, but she turned again and ran away, crying.

So then I picked up the plate and brought it over to her, and held it up to her. She smelled the food, and started eating, and continued to eat, just fine. She didn't gobble down the food, but she ate at a reasonable pace.

(Oh, also, she has gotten fatter again since I switched her over to the wet food, and hasn't showed any other signs of digestive trouble, so I do think that the wet food at least has been working much better for her than the dry food was. I'm still uncertain about the raw food - I think it's behaving differently in her digestive tract and may be making her feel uncomfortable, so I'm not going to push it on her.)

Instead, what I think is going on might be more psychological than physiological. I've had some tiny thief ants show up in the house, first in one of her dry food dishes, then parading across the kitchen counter into the honey and into the butter dish (jerks!). I finally collected some up and brought them into the lab where I was quickly able to identify them with a simplified ant identification key. (yay, I'm like a real myrmecologist!)

So if she's had a bad encounter with some of the thief ants in her food, I could appreciate how that would traumatize her and make her reluctant to continue trying to eat when her food is on the floor in the usual spot.

I'm hoping I don't have to hand feed her every single meal from now on. For now we'll just go one meal at a time. Poor girl. She is usually so well-behaved, but she's also really good about being very dramatic/demonstrative when she has identified that something is Wrong and needs to be Fixed.


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I ordered an older recording on CD, but you can also listen to it on that one big video streaming service owned by the Goog.

Emma was not too happy when I got home last night after a rowing Board meeting, and then refused to eat her mix of raw food + gushy noms. And so then after that she cried for most of the night. This morning I provided separate piles of each food type, but she still wasn't too interested, so I might have to crack open a different tin this evening. At least I'll be home and awake for a few hours this evening. Yesterday was a meeting double-header day: coaches meeting in the morning, Board meeting in the evening. There were signs of good progress at both meetings, making them worthwhile, but still, it's a lot.

I am highly aware of the dangers of burnout on the rowing leadership front, because I can't afford to let it negatively impact my professional life and goals. On the flipside, it is rewarding for everyone when there's a need and there are ways I can work with others to help fill it. In the longer term I am hoping we can stabilize things to the point where we can start to do even more powerful work in communities here, by developing ways to bring in people who haven't traditionally had as much access to water sports or organized sports in general, and providing them with opportunities to develop as rowing student-athletes.

Plus, the more people we can get down to the river, the more people will care about the state of the river, and the more likely it is that we can keep momentum going towards making the river a clean and safe place for recreation. Right now we're rowing through a disgusting and depressing amount of wastewater, and when it rains hard there are uncontrolled combined sewer overflow discharges. This is a huge and mind-bogglingly expensive infrastructure item to change.

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Hope, for action

At one point while in Berkeley, my postdoc advisor told us to go see a film about climate change that was showing in town for an incredibly brief window.

So I went, as you may recall.

I still feel that it's important to tune into sources of hope, to turn from inaction and despair towards action.

Here are two stories that give me hope today.

1. [NYT] The 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg is sailing to the U.S. for climate talks. She's the one who has decided to completely refuse to fly, due to flying's horrible carbon footprint. So, take note: it takes about 2 weeks to sail to the U.S. from England. Oh, look: there I go, blogging about sailing again. Funny, that. What an inspiration, in multiple ways.

2. Just read the first two sentences of this [NYT] article: "Our democracy's founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true."

In these initial two sentences, a powerful, succinct re-write of what's all too frequently presented as a white, colonialist narrative. Of course, the full article expands greatly on this thesis. It should be required reading for high school history courses.


Now randomly, just for fun, here are some wonderful photos of the Ants of Arizona:


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It's interesting to read about what Australia is doing in the face of China's refusal to import recyclable goods.

One of the things I liked most about visiting Australia is that Australians aren't as far into disposable takeaway culture as Americans are. You can get nice food and beverages at a cafe, then sit at a table and enjoy them while using real eating utensils. The importance of the "reduce" part of "reduce, reuse, recycle" cannot be understated.

Meanwhile in America...


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