About koquin

I am an evolutionary geneticist that also enjoys writing novels and petting cats.

Bad Blogger’s Repost: The Pyramid, by Ismail Kadare

This week I am furiously analyzing data and revising study’s for peer-review and publication.  I don’t have time to tell you about the books I’ve read recently (although it’s been a string a good ones), so I’m reposting this review of a book I read last year and really enjoyed, The Pyramid by Ismail Kadare.  As I wrote last year, this is basically one of best novels you’ve never read, written by one of the best novelists you’ve never heard of.  And it’s short and sweet, too.  If you get a chance, comb through a book store for this novel or look for it on paperbackswap.  Claire will keep up the posting while I’m gone to MBL.  — Kelly
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Revise and Resubmit: Science and Fiction

As the Bokononists of Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle used to say, I’m busy, busy, busy.  I’m leaving for a course in Vision Research at the Marine Biological Laboratory soon, so I’m rushing to collect and analyze data before I go.  I’ve also got to resubmit my latest study for peer-review since both PLoS Biology and PLoS Genetics passed on it.  Boo.

In addition to that, on Monday the Baltimore Review rejected one of my short stories, “Savages.”  As usual, I got a nice form rejection, though they did apologize for keeping the story so long (six months):

Thank you for sending us “SAVAGES.” We appreciated the chance to read your work. Unfortunately, this submission was not right for us. We are all writers ourselves, and we understand that it’s never easy to receive this message. Sorry for holding this for so long. Hope you’ll try us again in the future.

Right now I’m keeping all the rejection slips on a nail in front my desk.  They should probably disappoint me more, but they don’t.  Just need to revise and resubmit, revise and resubmit.

Laws Block the Study of Gun Violence

Violence happens.  People use guns to kill other people, and if not guns, then some other weapon.  Murders are so common, in fact, that homicides claim roughly 1,000 victims everyday and images of guns and violence fill our TV screens.  Although mass-killings like those in Columbine and Aurora continue to horrify us, they no longer surprise us.  We understand that humans kill others and that violence is just one aspect of human social behavior that we sometimes accept — think war — but often reject — think bullying, fistfights, and Aurora.

But why?  Why do will hurt, hit, and occasionally murder one another?  Social scientists could shed light on the causes of gun violence and means of preventing it.  But, unfortunately, politicians and lobbyist have stymied research into both the social sciences and gun violence.  In a new op-ed for the Washington Post, Jay Dickey and Mark Rosenberg lament the dramatic cost of gun violence — over 30,000 deaths a year, more than those murdered on September 11th and almost as many that die each year from car-crashes — and their own failure to fund research into its causes. Continue reading

Caturday: Acoustic Kitty

Blaine sent me this damn interesting post about Operation Acoustic Kitty, a Cold-War-era plan to use cats as listening devices.  Basically, the CIA took a cat, surgically implanted a listening device into it (they put the antenna — where else? — in the tail) and then trained it to hang around one person.  Predictably, things did not go as planed.

After several surgeries and intensive training, the cyborg cat was ready for its first field test. The CIA drove the cat to a Soviet compound on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, D.C., and let him out of a parked van across the street. The cat ambled into the road, and was struck by a taxi almost immediately. Five years of effort and over $15 million in spending were reduced to roadkill in an instant. Shorty after its demise a CIA operative returned to the accident site and put the cat’s remains into a container to prevent the Soviets from getting their paws on the sensitive and expensive listening devices.

I imagine a lot of Cold-War-era plans went like Operation Acoustic Kitty: start with a ridiculous plan, spend lots of money, end in disaster.  Good times.

Old Misconceptions Die Hard: Scientific knowledge suppresses but does not supplant earlier intuitions

ResearchBlogging.orgTeachers operate on the assumption that students are “empty vessels” they can fill with new information.  But many students begin classes with assumptions about the world that, although intuitive, are actually incorrect.  For example, many students incorrectly believe that individuals can evolve or that all members of a species evolve together.  Teachers assume that instruction and testing will make students understand that both of these assumptions are wrong and that only populations evolve.  However, recent research suggests that simply providing students with factual information doesn’t make them drop their faulty assumptions.  As it turns out, old misconceptions die hard.
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Ben Franklin: Awesome

I’m stuck this week with yet another round of revisions on my last dissertation chapter, so more posts about science and books will have to wait.  I doubt too many of you are disappointed, but I do want to share one quick thing.  I am currently reading Walter Issacson’s biography of Benjamin Franklin.  Not only is it highly entertaining, it reminds me that Franklin is undoubtedly the Founding Father of Badassery. Continue reading

A Strange Book: Car, by Harry Crews

Car is a strange novel.  I mean “strange” in a way that is neither good nor bad but . . . strange.   It is the story of a man who is so in love with cars that he tries to eat one, a red 1971 Ford Maverick. I had to search hard to find this novel. It’s out of print and the price of existing copies has skyrocketed since Crews died last March.  But after months of searching, I finally found a copy.  And the book is good — real good.  But strange.  Even so, I ate it all in a single bite. Continue reading