Saturday, March 29, 2014

Postdocalypse

The rarely-discussed but nevertheless wanton destruction of America's scientific potential (of which I count myself Postdoc Exhibit "A") is discussed here:
According to Brandeis University biochemist Gregory Petsko, who recently chaired a National Academy of Sciences committee on the postdoctoral experience in the United States, less than 20 percent of aspiring postdocs today get highly coveted jobs in academia. That's less than 1 in 5.

...Ethan Perlstein was one of these postdocs—before he decided he'd had enough. ...

But it wasn't just the competition for jobs that deterred Perlstein. Once you land a tenure-track job, you often have to get a big government grant in order to actually get tenure. And those grants are becoming ever more competitive, meaning that young faculty members usually need to apply multiple times before securing one. That is, if they actually do get one before the university that employs them loses patience.

"I guess I just thought, 'Well, I don't want to keep waiting any more,'" recalls Perlstein. "At the time I was 33, and thought, 'Well, I'm also seeing the statistic that says that the average age at which an independent biomedical research gets their first big grant from the NIH is 43 or 42.' And I just thought, 'Another 10 years of just waiting around for my turn in line?'"

You've probably heard the claim that the United States needs to produce more scientists, like Perlstein, to remain competitive with up-and-coming science powerhouses like India and China. ... But what you rarely hear in this argument is the fact that we don't have nearly enough jobs to put to work the scientists we currently have. "U.S. higher education produces far more science and engineering graduates annually than there are S&E job openings," writes Harvard researcher Michael Teitelbaum, "the only disagreement is whether it is 100 percent or 200 percent more."


An Astonishing Evening Learning Dancehall From Laure Courtellemont

One of the most ecstatic dance nights of my entire life! Laure Courtellement taught two master classes this evening, with Margaret Gidding in the first class and myself in the second class getting the privilege of dancing with her! What an amazing inspiration! Pure fun!

The evening hosted at Step One Dance and Fitness, under the able guidance of Elk Grove Dancehall enthusiasts, La Toya Bufford and Catherine Chiemelu.

Courtellement at first put us through a series of dance segments and exercises, which were intended not only to teach us Dancehall basics (for those of us unfamiliar with the Afro-Jamaican art form) but also to convey some flavor of Jamaican street attitude, the mindset of the dances, etc. This was very important for me - it was the first time I had encountered this art form. Then, Courtellement taught us the first 50 seconds of this dance:




What a good teacher, and what an amazing performer she is! These days, Courtellement lives in New York and gets out to Los Angeles once a month. Time for a field trip!




Watching the first Dancehall class from outside. Laure Courtellement taught at Step One Dance and Fitness, March 28, 2013.




Margaret Gidding (left) dances with Laure Courtellement.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Religious Liberty

Mike Mechanik Previews "Noah"

Irrigation Infrastructure Pays Off With NM Pecans

Who knew?:
Thanks in part to the foresight of farmers who installed sophisticated irrigation systems and in part to the arid climate that helps ward off crop disease, the pecan business has been booming in the farmland around Las Cruces. The prosperous harvest this season has been all the more precious because pecan crops in other states — like Georgia — were ravaged by heavy rain and fungus, leading to high prices and shortages just before the Thanksgiving demand for pecan pie.

...Greg Daviet, a longtime Las Cruces pecan farmer, said that pecan growers here were more likely to have invested in irrigation infrastructure than other crop farmers, because pecan orchards were permanent fixtures and required long-term care.

...Farming historians credit Fabian Garcia, a chile breeder who was head of New Mexico State University’s Agricultural Experiment Station, with planting some of the state’s first pecan trees in 1913. But commercial pecan farming did not really take off in New Mexico until more than a decade later.

As Mr. Arnold tells it, a Texas farmer who was hauling a load of pecans westward broke down one day, spilling his wares on the road. Mexican workers, who loved to snack on pecans and had a special affinity for the nuts from their use in northern Mexican cuisine, brought them to Deane Stahmann Sr., a local cotton farmer.

Mr. Stahmann eventually planted a pecan orchard south of Las Cruces. These days, he is widely thought of as the father of the New Mexico pecan industry, and for many years, the Stahmann family farm was the best-known pecan operation in the region.

As it turns out, the searing New Mexico sun suited pecan trees quite well, as long as they got enough water. Though farmers here must still use elaborate and expensive irrigation systems to manage water efficiently and ensure that their trees get enough water, their front-end investments are now, ostensibly, paying off.

“By and large, you have a far more stable, predictable climate here,” said Richard Heerema, pecan specialist at the Extension Plant Sciences department at New Mexico State University.

...Indeed, in a place long famous for its chiles, pecans have now become one of the state’s most valuable commodities, generating well over $100 million annually. According to state data, pecans and hay have ranked among the top two most valuable crops in New Mexico for the past several years.

...“The thing about New Mexico is, ‘Will they have enough water?'  ” said Lenny Wells, an associate professor of horticulture at the University of Georgia. “Aside from that, it’s the perfect climate for growing pecans. They don’t have the disease issues that we do.”

Now Anonymous Wants To Flame APD's Ass Too

Everyone's peeved:
The Albuquerque Police Department came under new scrutiny Wednesday after officers shot and killed a man outside a public housing complex in the second deadly encounter in the last 10 days.

...But Police Chief Gorden Eden released video from an officer's lapel camera indicating shots had been fired from somewhere before police opened fire. "Put the gun down now, Alfred!" police are heard shouting a number of times, before one officer is seen ducking in response to loud pops.

...The shooting came just hours after hundreds of people took to the streets to protest Albuquerque police fatally shooting a homeless camper in the Sandia foothills on March 16, the 36th shooting involving police since 2010.

A group reported to be the international cyber-activist hackers Anonymous posted a YouTube video threatening a cyberattack against the city over the foothills shooting, calling officers "militarized thugs."

..."We respect this group," Perry said. "They have an ability to get into highly, federally protected computer systems ... and we're going to do what we can to guard against the problem."

Debaffling The Baffling Sink Drainage Issue

Well, this was novel! The kitchen sink backed up. In the sixteen years I've been at this address, this had never happened.

The weird chum flowing from the sink had a weird texture. It wasn't just greasy; it was waxy. Does grease turn into wax after months or years in a pipe? I dunno.

Plunging and snaking didn't work, and a first dose of drain cleaner didn't work, so it was off to Target to get more. Hours after a second dose, the drain finally cleared.

Apparently I had sewer drainage issues too. There was evidence of a spill that went unnoticed last week.

Spring is the usual season when these things happen.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Meds Must Be Unbalanced

E.: MMMMMAAAAARRRRRCCCCC! Look at this article in the paper!
WASHINGTON — Dozens of seasoned militant fighters, including some midlevel planners, have traveled to Syria from Pakistan in recent months in what American intelligence and counterterrorism officials fear is an effort to lay the foundation for future strikes against Europe and the United States.

...Syria is an appealing base for these operatives because it offers them the relative sanctuary of extremist-held havens — away from drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan — as well as ready access to about 1,200 American and European Muslims who have gone there to fight and could be potential recruits to carry out attacks when they return home. Senior counterterrorism officials have voiced fears in recent months that these Western fighters could be radicalized by the country’s civil war.
M.: Well, that's not good.

E.: (Bursting into tears) What is wrong with them? Why do they have to come here? Don't they have a country of their own they can love and defend? I remember that day, 9/11 - it was the worst day of my life....

(147th repeated rendition of what the worst day of her life was like....)

What is wrong with them?

M.: Don't worry. Everything will be all right!

Working On BrBa Locations Manuscript

Quite distracted these days.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Low-Key Visit To The Dentist

Not even my regular dentist was there; just the hygienist. Which is good. She'll phone in the X-Rays and if there's trouble they'll get back to me.

I used to like going to the dentist, until last year, when years of nighttime time grinding killed my molar, which meant I had to face The Extractor: a tiny slip of a Vietnamese girl whose job it is to dole out Blood and Pain.

My regular dentist doesn't have to do that anymore. She was a Beauty Queen back in the day (Miss San Francisco Chinatown 1986) and she has the background and experience to give you news-anchor teeth for a queenly sum.

The Vietnamese girl isn't quite so far on her career path and she has to wade through a lot of blood yet. The task is to mitigate the nighttime teeth grinding and not fall easy prey. (Crossing fingers)

"No Choice"

When police officers say they had to shoot someone because they had no choice, they interpret necessity so broadly and elastically as to be meaningless. It looks to me like these officers had plenty of choices when faced with local pain-in-the-ass James Boyd, only one of which they exercised. The Albuquerque Police Department, looking like killers: