This Monkey Ain’t a Junkie

Even though I am not on Twitter, I couldn’t help but notice that today is the unofficial drugmonkeyday!
Many bloggers shared stories of how DrugMonkey’s blog has given them a sense of community, as well as helped with pragmatic advice on NIH-funded sciencing in the US. Here are some of the posts (also a chance to see some blogs you may not regularly follow):

When I first started blogging in 2010 on Academic Jungle, DrugMonkey was among the first folks who blogrolled me. I was very much not ready to be read quite so broadly and I did get into trouble a few times over the stupid stuff that I wrote. I still sometimes write stupid stuff. But I also still think very warmly of DM’s welcome to the academic blogosphere.

At that time, DrugMonkey was on ScienceBlogs. Since then, blog collectives have come and gone, and the science blogosphere isn’t today what it used to be be. Many interesting voices have vanished and many others have moved exclusively to Twitter. (I am still keeping my fingers crossed that Female Science Professor will come back to blogging after her administrative sentence service ends.)

DrugMonkey has remained a strong and consistent presence, with his blog that features a unique blend of NIH careerism advice, addiction science, politics, and snark. I am very glad that he keeps writing and has not been entirely lost to the wiles of Twitter.

While I am not a biomedical scientist and do not apply to NIH for funding, I have benefited greatly from DM’s online musings over the years. I feel I now have some idea of how NIH operates and an appreciation for the struggles that the biomedical researchers face, especially those exclusively on soft money — a common setup in biomed, but uncommon in the physical sciences; I would not have had a clue about this reality if it weren’t for DM’s blog. There are notable differences in the field cultures and expectations between the biomedical and physical sciences, but there are also many similarities in how we run our groups, approach science and technical writing. DrugMonkey has provided people like me with a clear picture of professional science on a much broader scale than we would be otherwise be exposed to.

These days, I usually lurk at DM’s place and enjoy the writing. DM’s comment sections are always lively, witty, and informative, a signature of the great community that has assembled around him over the years.

Happy drugmonkeyday, DM! Thank you for writing! 

May all your R01s get funded.

May-o MOFO

You know how November is the month for writing?  NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) both happen in November.

I blogged daily in November over the past few years, as it’s a great way to  purge the metaphorical lactic acid from the “writing muscles” that were straining to make the late October deadlines at the NSF.

But, what about the rest of the year?

May is midway between two Novembers, plus it’s the month in which those of us who are academics on a semester schedule finish teaching and breathe a great sigh of relief for a few days (or a few seconds) before the catch-up-on-work-and-conference-travel season.  So May seems like a great time to do another month of daily posting, to treat myself  after the end of semester! Sort of like having cake for a half-birthday!

Thus, I introduce you to:


As I thought what would alliterate with May, MOFO popped into my head and, once you have a MOFO in your head, it’s never coming out.
A jump from there to May-o MOFO was inevitable. Now the task was to came up with a slogan for the abbreviation, and that’s how we have May — the Month Of Futzing Online.

I invite you to blog daily in May. Feel free to use the badge.

Merry MOFO!




I usually get a few hundred views per day, and I am happy with that.
But it seems that “A Good Little Girl” really hit a nerve, and has been shared like crazy via Facebook (over 3k shares) and on  Twitter. So I have had several days with thousands of views and it’s been quite exciting watching my WordPress stats page. (Although, to be completely honest, I really enjoy my stats page even on slow days. Not sure that’s entirely healthy.)

I am really glad the post brought many new people to the blog.  Hi there! And welcome!



Notes from the Road 5

After this post, some commenters have been wondering about my origins. There are many countries in Europe that would fit the description of tiny and inconsequential (whether or not their citizens are willing to admit it). Knowing which one specifically I am from would probably not bring much excitement or illumination to most of my readership.

Now, finding out that I am secretly Martian, or royalty, or a 60-year-old truck driver named Big Mike who suffers from hypertension and enjoys ballroom dancing — now those would be fun revelations!

I can also vouch that even finding the identity of a pseudonymous academic blogger is essentially anticlimactic. I mean, who could the person possibly be? Unless they are a Houdini-like master of deception (which sounds quite exhausting and I can’t understand why anyone would want to impersonate a professor), the person turns out to be who they say they are: another faculty member at some school, working in a field likely different from yours.

I mean, it would be a revelation to find out that a colleague from down the hall, who I am willing to bet doesn’t even read blogs, is in fact FSP. Or it would be fun to find out that CPP worked as a male stripper to put himself through college, or that DM spent his youth smoking (and dealing!) pot. But other than that, they are just people doing the same job elsewhere and in a different field. I think we are generally fine not knowing one another in meat space; it doesn’t add anything to the online experience. Besides, as a few bloggy friends who know me can vouch, and to paraphrase nicoleandmaggie, I am probably cooler online than in real life.


I spent a lot of time with my former PhD advisor, and we had a great time and a lot of beer. The topics of inspiration and the passion for work and regretting the time spent or not spent on work or on family came up. He is still as passionate about his work as ever, in his mid-70s’, and he mentioned this quote from Steve McQueen’s movie “Le Mans” (I haven’t seen it):

Lisa Belgetti: When people risk their lives, shouldn’t it be for something very important? Michael Delaney: Well, it better be. Lisa Belgetti: But what is so important about driving faster than anyone else? Michael Delaney: Lotta people go through life doing things badly. Racing’s important to men who do it well. When you’re racing, it’s life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting.

Isn’t that a great quote? Science is important to the people who do it well. When you are immersed in the work, nothing else matters. It is hard for people who are not particularly good at much to understand it.

I am constantly guilt-ridden that I don’t enjoy homemaking or playing with my kids or other womanly pursuits very much; I simply enjoy working more. (Some people feel they should come to tell me that I shouldn’t have had kids in that case. If you feel the urge to say that, don’t; instead, ask yourself why you think only women with no professional ambition or drive are supposed to procreate, or worse, why you think women have to squash their professional lives in the service of family.) I crave the mental stimulation and, as much as I love my kids, family life doesn’t scratch that itch. Legos and plastic animals can get very boring very fast (especially by kid No 3); shopping for curtains or home decorating never even manages to rise beyond the level of tedious. Perhaps I am a horrible person, but somehow I don’t think the male version of me would ever obsess about this.


I just got a resubmission of a paper to review. The first time around, I requested extensive edits, while the other referee accepted with minor revisions. In the response letter, I am amused by how the other referee was thanked for “his/her comments,” while in my case “we thank the referee for his comments… In his point No xx, the referee says…” The authors sort of recognize the existence of women referees, but us ladies must be the softie referee, certainly never the hardliner. Tee-hee.


I am coming home soon, I can’t wait. En route, I came across this delicious overpriced latte with a gloriously firm head of foam: Latte

Belated Bloggiversary

Happy 1st bloggiversary to Xykademiqz! Actually, it was four days ago, but I’m super busy, and was sick, and am now traveling, so even though WordPress kindly congratulated me, I didn’t really register it…

It’s been fun and less drama-filled (knock on wood!), and definitely less purple than over at Ye Olde Abode. I starting sharing my doodles, which seem to be appreciated.

Thanks everyone for reading!

If you read but don’t comment or don’t do it often, it would be great if you came out to say ‘hi’!

TGI December and Reader Questions

‘Tis December!!! Phew. I must admit, posting every day in November has been tough, which was probably obvious from some of the less-than-inspired posts. When you start photographing produce, you know you are scraping the bottom of the blog-fodder barrel.

I think last year’s November blogging was easier, I am not sure why. I don’t remember having quite this many moments like “It’s roughly 11:30 PM, I am completely pooped and I finally got a few minutes to sit down. I want to go sleep, but I haven’t posted today. What the heck am I going to write about?” (Enter squash.) I had more travel but I think I was overall less busy. Or at least I felt less busy. Or I repressed traumatic memories of excessive busyness and insufficient inspiration. Or I just had a higher tolerance for my own vacuous posts. (I was kind of aiming for some serious academic blogging here. I guess that ship has sailed!)

Thanks everyone for reading!


OK, that’s enough meta self-flagellation.  EarthSciProf posted some interesting questions after the 15-Min Improv Blogging post.

1) How long does it usually take you to do a review? I take much less time than I did when I first started but am wondering about how long it takes you since you’re farther along.

It depends a lot on the length of the paper. In my field, there are letters, of 4-page double-column size (like Physical Review Letters) and there are comprehensive articles (like in Physical Review B, for instance), which can be anywhere from 4-5 to 20 pages long. I would say most papers are 6-10 pages of main text, anything over 10 generally means long appendices.

For a well-written letter in PRL, it takes 1-2 focused hours to read and write a good report It may be longer if there’s supplementary material or I have to look at a lot of references. These letter papers also tend to be reviewed for hotness rather than just interest and correctness; a common complaint is “This  is fine technically, but of too narrow a focus, and should be expanded and submitted to a specialized journal instead.”

A comprehensive paper takes longer to go through and write a report. Between 2 and 4 hours, depending on length.  Flying on planes is my favorite time to review papers, as there are no distractions. (Crappy papers take longer to review, because I start reading, get irritated, drop the paper before finishing, then have to still do it later, but then I procrastinate because I have already experienced the pain.)

A few months ago I was a referee for a good review paper, it was probably 60 pages (double column) and it took me all day. It was written by people I respect, so I ended up writing a lot of comments in the margins and scanning the marked-up document into a PDF which became part of the report. There should be some karmic brownie points in it, I hope.

What about you, blogosphere? How long does it take you to review papers? 

2) You posted something about a few months ago here

about only a small percentage of collaborations working out long-term. Any advice/guidelines/rules of thumb that you use to cut things off when a collaboration doesn’t seem to be going anywhere?

Ugh. This is a tough one, but I will give it a shot. All collaborations of mine that have dissolved owing to nonfunctionality were simply abandoned to die by all (dis)interested parties; at some point, no one attempted resuscitation any more. The parties stopped communicating and went on with their lives, never discussing the collaboration. The upside is that technically there was no confrontation, so everyone is still formally on good terms. This is not a bad thing in the long run.

I also have several collaborations that are generally healthy, but are on-again off-again, depending on funding and interests. We work together, then go our separate ways when the grant ends, then rejoin a few years later to do something else. I like this type of collaboration. It’s with people I enjoy working with, who have the same zeal, similar attitude to advising students and publishing, but we don’t have to be joined at the hip. In contrast, I have a colleague who does everything collaboratively, with several long-term collaborators. I find it stifling.

Are you on a grant together? If not, then just cut your losses and part ways. If you are on a grant together, then you need to produce something one way or another for your own sake, even if the collaboration is not working out. Proceed as best you can alone. If you feel appropriate, offer to include the collaborator on papers on your own terms; if they don’t agree or are being difficult, that’s your answer. I have found even very demanding people, when you do all the work and offer to have them as a coauthor on a polished paper, will swallow the pride/whatever other bug they have up their butt and say “Sure, go ahead and submit. Looks good!” I take myself off of papers to which I didn’t contribute enough, but most people don’t.

EartSciProf, if you have a specific situation, I am sure the readers would be happy to offer their insights.

Here are also some thoughts on collaboration from the depths of the Academic Jungle.

Wise academic blogosphere, please help EarthSciProf with the collaboration dissolution tips!