Category Archives: advice

Lemon zest, theory of mind, and the hazards of localized advice

Image: Lemon zest, © Didriks via flickr.com CC BY 2.0

I hate lemon zest.  Yes, that’s trivial; but I’m going to turn it into a point that (I think) matters.

I hated lemon zest even more when I was growing up.  My mother, on the other hand, loved the stuff.  She put it in everything (well, it seemed that way to me), and she was perpetually amazed when I’d sample something new and – after my first nibble – say in an injured tone of voice “Mum, this has lemon zest in it!”.

What mystified me about the lemon zest was the stance my mother was taking.  Continue reading

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The “publication power-of-attorney”, and why you should have one

(This is a lightly edited version of a post that originally ran in January 2015. But you probably didn’t see it then.) 

Here’s a problem you might not have thought of: did you know you can submit and publish a paper with a coauthor who’s deceased, but not with one who’s in a coma and might recover?

A lot of people have never thought of this, and a lot don’t think it’s a problem worth worrying about.  Please bear with me, though, because I think it’s a more important problem than most of us realize – but also one that’s easily avoided.

The unavailable-coauthor problem is actually more general than my coma example. Continue reading

How to write, and read, a (manuscript) rejection letter

Several months ago, I wrote about how to write, and read, a job rejection letter.  I know a lot about those.  I also know quite a bit about manuscript rejections (as most of us do).  I’ve received so many I’ve lost track, and I’ve written as many or more as an editor.  Just as with job rejections, there are better manuscript rejections and worse ones. Continue reading

A snippet of my 37-page CV

Why I have a 37-page version of my CV (and why you should too)

Image: just the first six pages of the stultifying detail in my 37-page CV

A while back on Twitter, someone asked which details she should keep track of on her CV – in particular, I think, with respect to multi-authored conference presentations.  All the details, I replied, which answer was promptly and rounded derided.  Why, a bunch of people asked, should anyone care about the 13th of 17 authors, the month or date of the conference, or the city it was held in?  Why bother?  Why keep the 37-page version of one’s CV – the version that’s (metaphorically) clogging up my hard drive*?

I couldn’t convince those who were deriding me, and to be fair, they had a considerable advantage: common sense and logic were entirely on their side. Continue reading

Man working on the beach

Working on “vacation”

Photo: Working on the beach, © Yuvipanda CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia.org. Not a photo of me – you couldn’t pay me enough to sit on a beach, working or no.

I took a 2-week vacation this summer.  I packed some Dick Francis mystery novels, sunscreen, my swimsuit – and a half-dozen theses and manuscripts to work on.

I gather I’m not supposed to do that last part. Continue reading

Steve presenting at a conference

Conferencing as an old fogey

Photo: Me hijacking my own talk at CSEE 2016 to shamelessly plug my book.  I don’t look all that old, right?  Photo © Alex Smith, with permission.

I’ve just (as I write this) come from my favourite yearly conference: the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution.  It’s my favourite for a number of reasons – among them, really superb science, a broad range of topics, and a lot of friends.  (The latter makes a big difference when you’re conferencing as an introvert.)

I’ve realized something a little bit disturbing.  When I went to my first conference (the Ecological Society of America meeting in 1993, I think), I was young, and a rookie.  I watched the grey-haired old fogeys whose names I knew from the literature, and I knew I should introduce myself and get to know them, but it was hard.  But now, in 2016, I have become a grey-haired old fogey*. Continue reading

"I'm stumped!"

Every qualifying-exam candidate should say “I don’t know”

Photo: “I’m stumped” (sorry, I couldn’t resist that one).  Geocaching Hanley Park, by Martyn Wright via flickr.com, CC BY 2.0

As I write this I’ve just come from a great talk: Kim Hughes’ SSE Presidential Address at Evolution 2016 (Variety is the spice of life: death, sex, and the maintenance of genetic variation).  Presidential addresses are very much a mixed bag: sometimes a ramble from a superannuated blowhard with a big captive audience; sometimes a charmingly offbeat mix of reflection and experimentation.  This was neither – it was just a terrific talk. Continue reading