Getting Organised

Well, that’s a good start. I thought: I should make a separate folder in my Scrivener file for blog posts, and I should write about how I’m currently trying to organise various things for the scientists/musicians project. And guess what – there already is a folder called “blog posts”, with inside of it a document called “Getting organised”. There was no text in the document, though. That’s what I’m typing now. It’s a testament to how scatterbrained I’ve been lately, while still *trying* to be organised.

For those of you wondering, here’s what’s happening:

-I’ve done another interview that I’ll put up soon.
-My list of “people I should talk to” is getting longer and longer.
-I’m planning to consolidate all my blogs into one (again), and just sort things by category. That means things will move, but I’ll make sure they’re easy to find.

But mainly that’s all padding and fluff and avoidance of what’s *really* going on:

-I’m…writing a book…?

After a few years of talking to scientists/musicians and thinking about it a lot, I actually have a book-worthy amount of material *and* an angle that I can convert to a narrative. I went into this with the idea of doing a documentary, because sound is such an important aspect of music. But it’s been a few years, and I no longer freelance, I don’t have time, and I no longer have easy access to film contacts. Writing, on the other hand, is something I can do – and have been doing – in the tiny bits of time between other things. Plus, this is the 21st century, and books are no longer limited to silent bundles of paper. You can create interactive ebooks. You can embed sound files and movie clips. Four years after starting this project, my reasons for wanting it to be a documentary rather than a book are no longer valid.

So, writing. It’s not that I haven’t written before, but most of the things I’ve written in “my style” have been less than 2000 words. It’s not that I haven’t written anything book-length before, but one “book” was my PhD thesis, and the other an unfinished novel from NaNoWriMo 2009. Having done a PhD is a HUGE disadvantage when trying to write a nonfiction book. I keep wanting to do more research and find more sources, and I worry when I come across something that I can’t back up with works from the literature. There is an actual non-existing study I’d like to see the results of, but instead of writing about how someone should really do that, because that would be interesting, I start thinking about how I can do it myself. I’m too academic sometimes.

That being said, I’ve made a start, and I’m not stuck yet, so I will be typing away for the next few weeks. Some people can expect email about this as well.

Sidebars and side projects

Quick post, with just two tiny announcements.
1. Side bar
I’ve now added some links in the sidebar here. (There, to the right). They’re all blogs that have been sitting in my Google Reader for several months under the header “Sidebar Audition”, and I’m pleased to say these blogs passed their audition. Yay!
2. Side project
I recently finished a tiny side project, which I had also been working on for a few months. By “working on” I mean I just abandoned it since February. I couldn’t get it to work the way I wanted, but then I recently came across If This Then That, and it did exactly what I needed, so I could finish You Learn Something New Every Day . This Tumblr blog aggregates tweets that contain the hashtag #ylsned and Flickr photos with the ylsned tag. Try it and share what you learned today! (Note, it doesn’t work for tweets that contain the @ symbol, to avoid repetitive retweets and partial conversations.) It’s not just for science, but a lot of the cool things people learn are science, so I thought I’d give it a mention here.


This is a test of my blog on the new MT4 system.
Please do not leave the exam hall during the first hour or last 30 minutes of the test. Do not write on your test paper. Turn off your phones and leave them in your bag at the front of the room. Read all the questions before you begin the test. You do not need a calculator for this exam. You need a pencil and a pen. You may only fill out the scantron card with pencil, and only write on the supplied lined paper with a pen.
Do not turn over this page until instructed.
Turn over this page.
No, not that way, the other way.
Good. You may begin.
1. How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
2. What is the airspeed of a laden swallow?
3. Does this bus go to the station?
4. Why is the sky blue?
5. Will you won’t you will you won’t you will you join the dance?
6. If it takes five NPG staff members two days to log in three NN bloggers on the new system, how long will it take ten staff members to log in thirty bloggers?
7. Please do not answers questions 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, and 8.
8.Did you even read the line above?
9. Are you ready to rock?
Thank you.
Please put down your pens.
You too, Bob.
Henry, is that your iPhone? I told you at the start to turn it off and leave it at the front!
Jenny, where’s your scantron form? No, you have to fill out the form properly.
BOB, stop writing NOW!
Richard, stop looking at Heather’s answers.
Heather, I specifically said NO CALCULATORS.
Will you ALL just PUT DOWN your pens and pencils! NO, not you Jenny, finish filling out the form so we can all move on.
Where’s Steffi? Is this her test? Where did she go? What? How long has she been in the bathroom?
CATH, you are THREE HOURS LATE. I don’t care that they went in overtime – you registered for this exam and you have to take it now! No, there is no make-up test.
What is this, Stephen? I TOLD you not to write on your test paper! I can’t mark it this way.
Ian, give me your form. Ian…IAN WAKE UP!
Thank you. I will have this test graded before our next class, for which, I may remind you, you are required to read chapters 31-37 and hand in your 10-page essay. But you’ve already worked on this essay for several weeks now, so I’m sure that won’t be a problem, right guys?

MT4 will fix that

FYI for my three readers who are not themselves bloggers on this platform: Nature Network is giving us new blog software (yay!), and that comes with the side effect of all of Nature Network being in maintenance mode for several hours today… I’m not actually sure if that is the “whole site is down” kind of maintenance or the “you are just seeing an old version of the site and can’t leave any comments” kind of down, but if anything is weird at all, that’s what’s going on.
(I am totally banking on people subscribing to this blog in RSS, otherwise you won’t even be able to see this once it’s down.)
We’re going to be moving to Movable Type. (That’s a kind of blog software; We’re not actually going to be printing our posts with individual metal letters arranged to form word stamps.) We’ve been promised this, and in particular version 4 of the software (MT4) for over a year now, but these things take a while to implement within big companies, so our wait for MT4 has taken on epic status:
Over the past year we – that is some NN bloggers – have been using “MT4 will fix that” as catch phrase for all problems, because lots of features we’ve asked for on our blogs would automatically come when we got MT4. More embeddable objects? MT4 will fix that. Use regular html? MT4 will fix that.
Feeling slightly under the weather? Socks lost in laundry accident? Don’t want to do the dishes? Can’t find car keys? Relationship troubles? Paper rejected? Sports team lost an important game? Experiments not working? Don’t worry – MT4 will fix that.
Site temporarily unavailable?
MT4 will fix that.
… I hope

Work in Progress

Don’t worry kids, I’m working on TWO blog posts. But in Word, because I learned from Ian’s mistake
In the mean time, I found something in Nature Network’s Terms and Conditions that I feel I need to highlight:
bq. “You are to abide by the following rules: (…) not to submit, or create any link to, any material that (…) causes annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety (…)”
So do not be needlessly anxious or annoyed by this post, please, it’s against the terms!

Helloooooo, Cambridge!

I’m in Cambridge. To be precise, I’m on Lou ‘s couch, in between house viewings number 6 and 7.
I’m starting work on Monday, I have a bank account and a bank card but no PIN yet, I have to wait several weeks for a national insurance number, and I still haven’t found the perfect house yet.
But one thing is certain and that is rain that we should have a pub night here. Pick your date on this poll Come to say hi and celebrate several birthdays, including Nature Network’s (which turns three – awwww, so big already!). Hope to see you there!
(And the lack of comments here doesn’t mean I’m not welcome, I think. It’s just all elsewhere )

Squishy’s slow ascent to fame

“Squishy! Squishy Cow!”
“Zzzz…WHAT? What’s going on? Where’s all the furniture?”

minimal furniture, yesterday
“We’re moving… How long were you asleep?”
“I was hibernating. It’s cold outside.”

Cold outside, last week
“Look, squishy, you’re famous on the internet!”
“What’s this then?”
“Your post was runner-up for best Nature Network blog post of 2009.”

“I’m special!”
“You’re even more special, because you’re also going to be in a book .”

“Yay! I read a book once, but it wasn’t about me.”
“This one is not entirely about you either. There are 49 other blog posts in it, and none of them are about squishy cows.”
“Any other kind of cows maybe?”
“No. But there are entries about lots of other kinds of animals, and also another one about animal research, so you’ll feel right at home.”
“Good. Because I don’t really feel at home here after what you did with the place. Everything is in boxes or gone altogether…”

Hey diddle diddle

In a few hours I’m going to bring my parents to the airport. They’re taking my cat and violin back to Holland with them, because I can’t take either with me on my move to England until I have a final place to stay. So I’m starting the new year without two of the three things I would rescue in a fire. (The third is my laptop, of course.)
Last year I wrote that my resolution for 2009 was to “try and learn to cook better”. I said that “the goal is to have 5 awesome “signature” dishes (and home-made bread) by the end of the year”
Since then I’ve made bread from scratch, learned to whip up curry and chili without the recipe in front of me (and with varying the ingredients), had friends teach me how to make a broccoli pie, prepared chicken and turkey dishes for others (I’m vegetarian myself), and started looking more closely at the ingredients of food I was served elsewhere, so that I could figure out which things “go together”. I’m not sure if it amounts to five “signature dishes”, but I’ve cooked from scratch way more often in 2009 than at any point before that, and I can make meals without recipes, which was my ultimate aim.
Conclusion: GOAL REACHED.

bread from scratch, 2009

turkey meal, 2009
My other plan for 2009 was a bit more vague. It actually spanned three weeks of 2008 as well, and ended earlier. When I defended my PhD on December 9, 2008, I said that I would take a year to figure out what I was going to do next. With a few days left to go in that year, I accepted a job. GOAL REACHED.
On top of all that, I visited Australia, wrote a crappy novel, and developed numerous concrete and discrete social and professional skills. I’ve complained a lot, but, looking back, it was all part of a year of making choices and decisions. In the grand scheme of things, I’d rank 2009 up there with 1999, and that was a great/busy/crazy year for me. If this trend continues, I guess I should be looking forward to another crazy year in 2019, but meanwhile I hope to slow things down a bit in 2010.
There’ll be more blogging, I hope. I should probably pick up my musician/scientist project again. I was a bit miffed to see the list of scientists/musicians on Twitter and elsewhere , and not only be absent from it, but (worse) also not have anyone (but myself) relate it to the interviews I did with similar people (some people on my “to interview” list are on the Twitter list, though). It’s all my fault for lack of promotion, but I’m still unsure of the final format of what I want to do with it all. I was thinking to do it like a documentary, but that was based on me being in Toronto, where I have tons of contacts in the film/arts/production industry. I can’t do anything like that myself, and Cambridge is just not quite as much of a film-hub as Toronto (aka “Hollywood North”) so I might just resign to keeping it in some kind of web format. Which would eventually bring my total number of web projects to the unmanageable number of four…
Anyway. 2010. I need to find a place to live, find a new orchestra, get settled in a new job, and otherwise I don’t really know what to expect from it at all. I hope there’ll finally be flying cars. And I promise to stop talking about my boring self and try to write more about science.


I decided to collect some of my personal favourite blog posts on this blog and put the list in my profile, but it’s probably easier to put them all in a blog post.
So if you have already read these classics (ahem), feel feel to just skip. The list is for the sole purpose of linking from my profile as a highlights section, sorted by topic.
Blogging and social networking
Distant Friends
How to get scientists to adopt web 2.0 technologies
Love, Actually
Social Networks: What Makes Them Work?
Leaving the lab
To Science!
Last Saturday
Intro to Failure
The culture of science, science in culture
Mr. Darwin, You Make Me Blush
A Squishy Topic
I dream of Jenny
Manipulating Nature
Alice’s Adventure’s in Animal Experimentation

It has a name now

After some consideration, I finally have a name for this blog! Expression Patterns!
Actually, I came up with it a while ago, after a few minutes of intense brainstorming, and just waited to see if I really liked it.
“Expression Patterns”, as a play on “Gene Expression Patterns” but with the double meaning of “expression”. After all, this is a place to express myself, and I write a lot about science and art/culture (other people’s expressions)
I have three pages full of word associations, and only very few usable things came out. (Monkey, typewriter — you know the story)
My runner-up choice was “Neighbour Joining”, a method of creating phylogenetic trees, but I felt a blog wasn’t really about “joining neighbours”. I still think it’s a great name for a Bioinformatics forum or group, so feel free to use it if you have such a thing and are in need of a name.
I also have the obscure “Arty PCR” starred on my pages of babble. You know, like “RT PCR”. Too far fetched, that’s why I didn’t use it.
Finally I tried to find something using the word “domain” (protein domain, web domain) but didn’t get anywhere with that.