Category Archives: Miscellaneous

My fair college on the hill

Yesterday was a very Denison day for me. It’s really a testament to my undergrad alma mater that I’m still so connected to it 3.5 years later. If you know anyone deciding about colleges to apply to, I could easily bend their ear for an hour singing Denison’s praises. Including that it rightfully made the top of Buzzfeed’s list of “college campus pics that will make you never want fall to end.”

First I got an email about planning After Work with Denison…Everywhere! I previously volunteered to host the event since there are other Denisonians in Missoula but no gathering in our area. I had a fun time schmoozing with alumni at the previous Madison events, so I didn’t want to miss out on that opportunity this year. Now I have to find a good place to reserve a small room for us. I’m thinking maybe Jaker’s? If you have any other ideas, let me know.

Then I conducted a Denison Alumni Recruitment Team interview. It’s a great way for Denison and its prospective students to get to know one another when an on-campus interview is unfeasible. I’ve done a few of these now, and it’s always a pleasure to meet with bright, engaged, passionate young people. It also just feels cool to be a part of shaping the next Denison class.

Of course I did it all while wearing my Denison sweatshirt. Like I said, it was a very Denison day.

PS: The post title is a reference to a line from the school song, “To Denison.”

“And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

Today I was commissioned to make a quote “pretty” so it could be hung up in an office. I ended up liking it so much that I ordered a poster print for myself too. The quote is from Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech and the picture is my own.

Jobs commencement speech

Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.

I’m so glad I trusted myself enough to leave grad school and start Science Refinery (learn more about me here) so I could continue doing what I love–helping people improve their writing, posters, talks, job applications, and more.

Are you settling right now? If so, Steve Jobs and I agree: keep looking.

“Science Journal Publication”: Don’t fall for this OA scam

In checking my Spam folder today (I always make sure something legitimate didn’t slip through the cracks before deleting them all), I found a suspicious message. It was soliciting submissions for an open-access journal. There were many red flags, from the numerous spelling mistakes to only using the acronym SJP for their name.

So I Googled SJP. This gave me endless information about the actress Sarah Jessica Parker. Oops. So I Googled SJP open access. The first hit was their site, but the second was this article. It describes the evidence that Science Journal Publication [sic] is a scam. They’re even based in infamously spam-heavy Nigeria (“Many publishers lie about or hide their headquarters location, but I’ve found that when a publisher claims to be from Warri State, they are generally telling the truth.”).

If a publisher has been on Beall’s List of “Potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers” for almost two years, it’s pretty safe to assume you shouldn’t submit to them. Avoid Science Journal Publication and, as always, be on the lookout for other open-access publishing scams.

A supremely important article: “Why Malcolm Gladwell Matters (And Why That’s Unfortunate)”

Malcom Gladwell, author of such popular science books as Blink, The Tipping Point, and now David and Goliath, is culturally influential. And that’s unfortunate. The super short explanation is that he makes strong, causal claims unwarranted by data.

For the more elaborated version, I can’t recommend highly enough this article by psychology professor Christopher Chabris. It’s long, but definitely worth the read.

Here’s one of my favorite excerpts (though it was hard to choose):

But consider what Gladwell’s quote means. He is saying that if you understand his topics enough to see what he is doing wrong, then you are not the reader he wants. At a stroke he has said that anyone equipped to properly review his work should not be reading it. How convenient! Those who are left are only those who do not think the material is oversimplified.

Who are those people? They are the readers who will take Gladwell’s laws, rules, and causal theories seriously; they will tweet them to the world, preach them to their underlings and colleagues, write them up in their own books and articles (David Brooks relied on Gladwell’s claims more than once in his last book), and let them infiltrate their own decision-making processes… It doesn’t matter if these are misreadings or imprecise readings of what Gladwell is saying in these books—they are common readings, and I think they are more common among exactly those readers Gladwell says are his audience.

Please read Chabris’ piece and help give it the signal boost it deserves. 

View from the M trail

Yesterday I finally became a true Missoulian: I hiked the M trail! Although it’s less than a mile, it’s steep. Hills have always been my nemesis, so it was very tough for me. Kudos to my husband Kristofer for helping motivate me the whole way up. The view of Missoula was highly worth it:

LM KB MNever stop trying new things, even if they’re scary–the sense of accomplishment is a great reward.


Happy Constitution Day!

The U.S. Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787 (and went into effect on March 4, ROUNDEDpocketConst_1501789), making it the oldest written constitution in the world. Happy Constitution Day!

I celebrated last night by going to a talk at the University of Montana called “Dissent and the Constitutional Dialogue” by prolific Constitutional scholar Melvin Urofsky. It was highly enjoyable and I learned a lot about how and why Supreme Court Justices write dissents (and concurring opinions).

Though there was only one entrant in the contest, it was a great one. From Lisa Meyer:

The Constitution was written in 1787 in the manner of the day — in other words, it was written by hand. According to the National Archives, the version we are most familiar with today was penned by Jacob Shallus, a clerk for the Pennsylvania State Assembly. In the document itself are several words which are misspelled. Far from the days of spell checkers and easy edits, these misspellings survive in the document today.
Only one, though, is a glaringly obvious mistake. In the list of signatories, the word “Pennsylvania” is spelled with a single N: “Pensylvania.” This usage conflicts with a prior spelling, at Article 1, Section 2. However, the single N was common usage in the 18th century — the Liberty Bell, for example, has the single N spelling inscribed upon it.
Another mistake, though less obvious, is a common one even today: the word “it’s” is used in Article 1, Section 10, but the word “its” should have been used. (

How appropriate and cool. Thanks, Lisa! Enjoy $17.87 off your next edit.

I promised three facts and/or quotes, so I’ll supply two more.

Gouverneur Morris was largely responsible for the “wording” of the Constitution, although there was a Committee of Style formed in September 1787. (

Again, neat. The committee didn’t change much, but I still find it interesting that they were that concerned about the style, in addition to the substance, of the Constitution.

And to close, a quote from Ayn Rand:

It took centuries of intellectual, philosophical development to achieve political freedom. It was a long struggle, stretching from Aristotle to John Locke to the Founding Fathers. The system they established was not based on unlimited majority rule, but on its opposite: on individual rights, which were not to be alienated by majority vote or minority plotting. The individual was not left at the mercy of his neighbors or his leaders: the Constitutional system of checks and balances was scientifically devised to protect him from both. This was the great American achievement… (

From Gutenberg’s Blackletter to early computers’ Pixel Type, watch the history of typography

From Gutenberg’s Blackletter to early computers’ Pixel Type, this video is a fascinating trip through the history of typography. Creator Ben Barrett-Forrest describes the paper-letter animation process:

291 Paper Letters.
2,454 Photographs.
140 hours of work.

Wow. The least you could do is take 5 minutes to watch it, eh? 🙂

Zeno’s Thesis’ Paradox

Ever feel like you’ll just keep revising your paper forever and never actually publish it? This is the PhD Comic for you:

“Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham,

“Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham,

(Here’s the main text: “Around 465 BC, a young Zeno of Elea formulated this paradox in response to interactions with his advisor, Parmenides: ‘If for every n number of errors you correct on your thesis, your Professor discovers n/2 number of new errors, the number of revisions reaches infinity.'”)

For your daily dose of neuro-jargon

In this new Funny or Die video, we watch Donna and Leslie: “roommates who trigger each other.” What could have ended up as an ugly roommate fight over doing the dishes instead ends amicably because “now they have neuroscience terms to help them communicate and resolve their issues.”

Donna is upset because the messy kitchen “brings up a lot of implicit memories from [her] chaotic childhood.” But at the mention of a chaotic childhood, Leslie’s “Central Nervous System drops into a fight, flight, or freeze state” and she has “trouble accessing [her] Prefrontal Cortex.”

How will they move past this? Only a heavy dose of continued neuro-jargon can save the day!

It’s important to be able to laugh at ourselves as scientists from time to time, so take a minute to watch the video now.

(Thanks to Joe W. in Madison, WI for the link!)

Is anyone reading this? Like, do I really need to spell out what each chapter covers?

I’m the kind of editor who will sometimes push conventional boundaries. For example, I strive to insert the first person voice and active verbs whenever feasible. But there are some rules in academia that don’t seem to be changing anytime soon.

When it comes time to write your thesis or dissertation, you’ll almost certainly be required to write a chapter outline that will almost certainly not be read (at least not carefully) by anyone. Let’s let the ever-hilarious Jorge Cham of PhD comics sum up those feelings:

“Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham,

I know I’ve been tempted to add filler like that to certain sections of papers and my own Master’s thesis!

So here’s another benefit of hiring an editor: at least one person will read your entire project thoroughly to appreciate your brilliance.