Friday, June 30, 2006

Doreen on Internet Radio

A few days ago Doreen was interviewed on an internet radio show DPeeps' People's Network. Doreen and the host, KhaazRa MaaRanu, talked about a number of issues around genetic engineering in agriculture. An mp3 of the show is here. (The file is around 11MB.)

Monday, June 26, 2006

Where has June gone?

It's been far too long since I've posted an entry here. I've been busy with end of the term grading and evaluation writing, and lots of end of the year administrative stuff. Also, Doreen and I spent a few days in Quebec City, and last weekend we spent in Boston. So I've been moving around some, doing lots of work, and trying to recover from the term. I'm always surprised how exhausted I am at the end of a term. I have great intentions to maintain momentum, finish my grading in a few days, and put the term behind me. But almost every time I end up sleeping a lot and catching up on errands right after the term ends, and I almost never manage to complete my grades and evaluations much before the deadline.

Anyway, one of the things I've been doing has been getting ready for my trip to China. I'll be co-directing the Santa Fe Institute's Complex Systems Summer School (CSSS) in Beijing, China. I'll be in Beijing for a month, and then will spend three weeks traveling with Beijing. A lot of the organization of the CSSS occurs via a wiki that Santa Fe has set up. So I've spent a bunch of time posting or writing, wiki-ing? ... I'm not sure of the verb. Anyway, it's been a little tedious, but also kinda fun to put lots of information on the wiki. The wiki can be found here.

In the summer COA hosts a bunch of different summer programs, some of which are run by our staff and faculty, while others are run by other organizations. One group that falls in the latter category is "brass week." This is a week-long camp or something for players of brass instruments. The musicians are pretty good. Pretty much anywhere you walk on campus this week you'll stand a good chance of hearing somebody playing a trombone or a french horn or something. I think this is pretty cool, especially on a dark, foggy night like this. Someone is playing a trombone outside right now, and it sounds very nice.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Fear the Turtle?!

The University of Maryland, whose sports teams are know as the Terrapins, has a new motto: Fear the Turtle. When I heard this I first thought it was a joke. But I think it's for real.

With great pride in our past achievements and full of great expectations for the future of the state's flagship university, the University of Maryland family has come to embrace "Fear the Turtle" as a reflection of our great stature. First conceived as a slogan of athletic success, the phrase has evolved to embrace the spirit of achievement and excellence in every aspect of the university.

Yikes. I'm glad that I don't work somewhere where my spirit of excellence is embraced by frightening turtles. Beside, I don't think turtles are frightening. I like turtles.

Saturday, June 03, 2006


Graduation 2006 will start in a few hours. It's raining steadily, so a lot of people will be getting wet. There is a big tent set up on one of the lawns, but not quite everybody fits under the tent. The reception usually happens in the Newlin Gardens; this year I imagine that it will occur spread out in several buildings. Hopefully there'll be a break in the rain, but looking at the current satellite photos things don't look good.

Graduation is a great ceremony. At other schools I've been to they've sometimes been boring and even pompous. But at COA we do graduation well, and it's a highlight of the year. Part of this is because we're so small; around 70 students will graduate this afternoon. I probably know 50 of them, about half of the have taken at least one class from me, and several took multiple classes and/or were my advisees.

I was thinking last night how about differently students and faculty experience graduation. For students, it's a ceremony about change. It marks a transition from one stage of life to another. Faculty certainly feel some of this too, as we watch students undergo this transition, meet students' families, and celebrate together. But for faculty themselves -- at least for me -- the actual graduation and related events serve to underscore the cyclic nature of teaching. In some ways it's more of a holiday like a birthday or Christmas or Thanksgiving that reminds me of the passing of time. It's always somewhat hard to believe that it's time for Graduation (or an important birthday or anniversary) again.

Teaching isn't circular in a negative way at all. It's circular perhaps in the way the seasons are circular, or at least cyclic. Perhaps graduation is a particularly interesting time because there's a clear intersection between the circular life of teaching, and the less cyclic lives of students.

Enough geometric analysis, at least for now. I need to be on campus in a little more than two hours. Enough time to eat some pancakes, look for a nice pair pants, wash/dry/iron said pants, and hit the road. It's still raining, but the sky seems to be getting less dark.

Friday, June 02, 2006

References on Academic Publishing

I got an email last week asking if I had written up the talk on the Political Economy of Peer-Reviewed Academic Publishing that I gave at COA a few weeks ago. I haven't written a paper on this, nor do I even have any reasonable notes. My talk was videotaped, and I'm working on finding a way to have at least the audio from the talk put online. In the meantime, here are some links to some of the references I've found particularly useful.

Ted Bergstrom, professor of Economics at UCSB, has written a number of papers on journal pricing, and has assembled a very useful webpage about journal pricing. I'd recommend starting with "Free Labor for Costly Journals?" (Journal of Economic Perspectives, Fall 2001), available here. This paper is an excellent overview.

A Morgan Stanley report on Elsevier makes interesting reading. I also found Reed-Elsevier's annual report to be quite interesting. The 2004 annual report, which I used for my talk, can be found here. And the 2005 report, which I've not read, is here. In brief, the financial statements make it clear that Elsevier is making lots and lots of money.

Bergstrom, Preston McAfee, and Vera te Velda have put together a website,, that lets the user search for journals by keyword and discipline and will display a number of statistics, including cost, cost per article, and cost per citation. The output can be saved as a spreadsheet for further analysis.