Science-a-thon 2017

July 13th, 2017

Today is the first-ever Science-a-thon! Started by my graduate school pal Tracey Holloway, it’s a day to raise awareness of and funds for science. I copy her description here:

From Tracey Holloway:

Hi All –

You’ve probably heard about the study that over 80% of American’s can’t accurately name a living scientist — and my guess is that the numbers are similar when asking “what do scientists actually do?” Of course, we do lots of things – work in labs, go out in the field, teach classes, program computers – but the public doesn’t get to see this.

As a large-scale public outreach initiative, and the first major fundraiser for the Earth Science Women’s Network (ESWN), we’re launching Science-A-Thon. … an international “day of science” where participants share 12 photos over 12 hours of their day. From morning coffee through the ups and downs of a day in the life of a scientists (any scientist, any field of STEM, students, professionals – all are welcome).

We already have 100 scientists signed on – lots of earth scientists of course, but also cancer biologists, computer scientists, and more. Men and women, from 10 different countries so far. We’d love to have you! Just go to to sign up. (And you’ll get a great “I love science” t-shirt)

If you’re not up for showcasing your own day, you can support ESWN and Science-A-Thon by sponsoring your favorite scientists (like me!)

You can donate here, if you are so inclined, any amount is appreciated.

Even if you’re not interested in donating to the cause, I highly recommend checking out the #scienceathon hashtag on Twitter as it’s a great way to get a sense of what a scientist’s day looks like.

Below are my twelve images of the day.

Image 1/12

This is the main University of Zurich building that I passed with the tram this morning on my way to my office. (For those who’ve been reading CT for a while, yes, this is a change, I moved institutions and countries last year.)

Image 2/12

More here

Image 3/12

The occasional break is necessary to stay productive. My preferred quick distraction is Ingress. Fortunately, my office sits on a portal (or if I’m lucky, three) so it’s an easy quick break before diving back into work. (For those who speak Pokemon Go better, that translates to two Pokestops.)

Image 4/12

Research is rarely a solitary activity. Here I am meeting with one of my postdocs, Amanda Hunsaker, about researching older adults and Internet use. The beautiful plant in the corner is courtesy of a UZH program that includes someone coming and watering/dusting off/taking care of this marvel.

Image 5/12

I find that a good desktop setup is important for staying on task, this works well for me.

Image 6/12

Lots of research happens through group meetings, this one an advisory board meeting conference call for an important CDC-supported project.

Image 7/12

Touching base with my other postdoc, Marina Micheli, in preparation for a longer meeting tomorrow.

Image 8/12

Went for a walk in the office neighborhood. This piece is next to my building. From one side, it looks like an abandoned log, from the other you realize it’s public art. I’m not sure I would have ever noticed it were it not for the fact that it is a portal in Ingress.

Image 9/12

Science requires training future generations of researchers. Teaching courses, mentoring through research, and in this case grading their papers are ways I contribute to the cause.

Image 10/12

I’m old school when it comes to reading books, paper copies please.

Image 11/12

On my way home, I stopped at one of Zurich’s 1,200 fountains. That is, in fact, the number of fountains in the city. There are many that are quite beautiful. Zurich has the most fountains of any city in the world.

Image 12/12

As my last picture of the day, I share with you a picture of my screen with one of my Instagram accounts, the one with one sky photo a day. I started this photo project over a year ago (I’m on day 452 to be precise). Every day I take a photo of the sky. The sky can be so beautiful and so different. I thought it was worth a moment to pause and take it in every day.

In praise of unconferences

January 25th, 2016

Depending on your profession, you likely go to conferences regularly, anywhere from annually to every few months. One aspect of conferences is that they are relatively predictable. They usually have a set schedule that is known to attendees ahead of time. While there may be the occasional session that surprises or an unusual hallway conversation that is unexpected, these are rare. So what if you want to be surprised? Where can you go if you want to be pushed out of your comfort zone? What is a good venue for learning about something far afield from your expertise? Cue a well-organized unconference.

Unconferences are meetings that don’t have a set agenda until participants show up and create one. There is a structure to the timing of sessions, but attendees fill up the grid with whatever topic they deem of interest for a session at the beginning of the in-person meeting. Then participants decide which sessions they want to attend. And if it turns out that they are not enjoying where they are, the law of two feet means that they are welcomed to get up and leave to find another group or activity.

For the past several years, I have had the great pleasure of attending ORDCamp, an unconference held in Chicago in January made up of some extremely creative people (many of whom are from the area, but a good chunk of whom fly in from various parts of the US and beyond, in January to Chicago, yes). ORDCamp is the brainchild of Brian Fitzpatrick (former Googler, more recently founder and CTO of Tock) and Zach Kaplan (founder and CEO of Inventables). Attendance doesn’t cost anything to participants, but it is by invitation only. Google and Inventables have been footing the bill with lots of people and organizations pitching in to provide food, drinks, gadgets to try out, lots of supplies for various sessions, and an embarrassment of riches in the swag bag box.

Read the rest of this entry »

Travel blogging: Zürichberg

July 11th, 2015

I was in Zurich last week where my hosts kindly took me to a very nice restaurant on Zürichberg, a hill that offers pretty views and a peaceful environment of fields and forests. In addition to the garden restaurant of the Hotel Zurichberg, there is a terrace as well with even better views. It turns out, Zürichberg is host to all sorts of attractions: FIFA’s headquarters, the Zurich Zoo and a beautiful cemetery where James Joyce is buried.

FIFA’s headquarters greet you with three flags, the middle one proudly proclaiming “My Game is Fair Play.” It’s good that they cleared that up. I was curious to see a sculpture peeking out from behind some trees, but as we tried to enter the FIFA grounds, a security guard stopped us explaining that unless we were children playing in the soccer match nearby or their parents, we could not proceed. Nearby was a guard with a weapon as well, not a common occurrence in Zurich.

The highlight of this area for me was Friedhof Fluntern, a most charming cemetery, if that word is appropriate given the context (as aptly noted by a reviewer on TripAdvisor, “how do you rate a cemetery?”). Given the Swiss context, it is not a huge surprise that the grounds are very orderly. But there is more to it. It feels more like a garden than a cemetery. You can imagine spending time there to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. A colleague even noted that he sometimes goes there to read. The headstones move past the usual venturing into the whimsy and artistic. The cemetery is on a hill, which adds to its character. I enjoyed going from row to row trying to peek into the lives of the people buried there through their names, the dates and notes on the stones, and the little sculptures honoring them. See more of my Friedhof Fluntern photos here.

It was too hot to proceed to the Zoo, but having later read that they have Galapagos giant tortoises, I was bummed by my decision to skip it and will be sure to visit next time I am in town.

To get to Zürichberg, take Tram 6 from Central to Zoo, which is a 2-minute walk heading east from the main train station, which is ten minutes from the airport by train. Zurich offers day tickets for its entire public transportation system. The 24 or 72-hour ZürichCARD can also be very beneficial if you plan to visit numerous attractions.

Travel photo blogging: MLK Memorial in DC

January 19th, 2015

MLK Memorial, DCIn honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the US, I am posting some photos I took at the MLK Memorial in DC when I visited there last Fall. There is no shortage of critical commentary about the memorial from when it was dedicated a few years ago. I wasn’t aware of these when I visited, which is probably a good thing as it would have tainted my visit, not necessarily justifiably as far as I’m concerned. (If you feel you must add your critical thoughts in the comments, I just ask that you try to be original.)

MLK Memorial, DCI admit that it wasn’t a particularly targeted visit on my part. I was in town for a conference and had an afternoon to roam the city. I had been walking for hours (winding my way back from the Thomas Sweet in Georgetown to the Mall) and found myself walking on Independence Ave SW when I spotted signs to the MLK Memorial. Once I saw the signs, I knew I wanted to see it.

I was lucky in the timing of my visit. It was early evening on a weekday, 9/11 to be precise. There was almost no one else around. This made a difference as I found the place perfect for contemplation. I entered from the northwest, which worked well as I appreciated walking through the rocks not knowing exactly what to expect.

MLK Memorial, DCAfter looking at MLK’s figure and taking in the scene of the Jefferson Memorial that is in the statue’s line of sight, I walked from quote to quote and reflected on each, especially given the Ferguson events still fresh in memory. I was able to do all of this almost in solitude. The early evening light added to the mood.

If you can, I recommend visiting early evening or perhaps early morning on a weekday when you may have the place mostly to yourself. Be sure to give yourself time, it wouldn’t have been the same had I felt rushed.

Chocolate garlic banana shake – 31 days of garlic, vegan edition continued

January 18th, 2015

Chocolate garlic banana shakeThe easiest way to include fresh garlic in your diet seems to be to add it to a drink. But it’s not obvious how to do that without ending up with a rather horrifying drink (depending on your level of interest in a spicy taste). I made a banana shake with garlic, but that was too spicy for me. I wasn’t ready to give up on the idea, however, banana shake being such a yummy and easy drink so I experimented. I am happy with this result so I thought I’d share it. Another nice aspect, depending on the ingredients you use, is that it comes in at under 180 calories, which is helpful if that’s something of interest. It’s 3g protein, which is not great, but it’s better than a glass of water or tea. You can certainly improve on that by switching out the almond milk with regular fat-free milk, but then you’re also paying in terms of calories (30 vs 80). And of course you can switch out the non-dairy chips for dairy-chips, but again, different caloric intake, and then it’s no longer a vegan recipe, in case that’s of interest.


1 medium banana, chopped
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 tbsp dairy-free semi-sweet chocolate chips


Put everything in a blender and voila. (I don’t like my shakes too cold so I skip the ice. Adding a couple of cubes is certainly an option.)

Some social science links of interest

January 10th, 2015
  • Nature has an editorial about why investment in the social sciences must accompany investments in the sciences.

    If you want science to deliver for society, through commerce, government or philanthropy, you need to support a capacity to understand that society that is as deep as your capacity to understand the science. And your policy statements need to show that you believe in that necessity.

    To many in my world, this is unlikely to be a particularly surprising statement, but one need only glimpse at the comments that follow to appreciate how controversial the idea seems to some.

  • The New Yorker has a long piece about the sociologist Howard Becker and his work about what it means to be a “deviant.” Certainly if you’re a sociologist, it is unlikely that you would not have encountered his work at one time or another during your training at minimum thanks to his helpful tips on how to write as a social scientist.
  • The Pew Research Center has an interesting new position of “Director to lead the creation of the Pew Research Center Labs.”
  • The new open-access journal Social Media + Society is now ready for submissions (submission fees waved for now).

Apple garlic mushroom potatoes – 31 days of garlic, vegan edition

January 9th, 2015

 At the end of a long day, I found myself hungry, but explicitly not craving any type of meat or dairy products. That almost never happens to me so I must have been unwell. Fortunately, I was still craving garlic, roasted, something dry. So then what? I did some searching for recipes, but with the added limitation of a broken oven, I didn’t find too many options. I decided to experiment. I was very happy with the result and look forward to making it again in the future as a side dish. It looks like this may qualify as a vegan recipe.


1 tbsp olive oil
3 medium potatoes, cut into eighths or smaller
4 cloves of garlic, chopped into 8-10 pieces each
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 tbps chives, finely-chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1 apple, chopped into small/medium pieces
1/4 tsp basil
2 tsp salt


1. Boil potatoes (add 1 tsp salt)
2. In a pan on medium heat, pour in the olive oil, add the mushrooms and garlic, top with the chives, basil and remaining 1 tsp salt. Cover, but do stir occasionally (with the cover lifted;).
3. A few minutes later, add in half a cup of white wine. Keep stirring. Add in the potatoes. Stir some more, put cover back on for a few minutes. Add the apples, continue stirring.
4. When the potatoes are starting to get brown on the edges, remove from stove.

Shakshuka for breakfast for one – 31 days of garlic

January 7th, 2015

31 Days of Garlic: ShakshukaAs I kicked off my 31 Days of Garlic challenge, I knew there would be days when work would only allow me to get creative for breakfast so I started looking for recipes that went beyond the usual scrambled eggs or omelette suggestion. This is how I stumbled onto Shakshuka, a Middle-Eastern breakfast dish. I recall seeing this at breakfast in Jordan when I was there last February, although I don’t think I ever had it as there were so many other yummy breakfast options at our wonderful hotel (the Mövenpick in Petra).

The above-linked recipe calls for four eggs, which I knew I would not consume. I also didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand (like zucchini). Having read the reviews on for that dish, it became clear that you could get creative and still end up with a good result. Below is how I prepared the dish, it was delicious and a nice hearty breakfast to get my week started off on the right foot.

Shakshuka for one

31 Days of Garlic: Shakshuka

1 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 onion, chopped
1 cup chopped grape tomatoes
2 eggs
a pinch of Hungarian paprika
a pinch of smoked paprika
a pinch of herbes de Provences
a pinch of salt


1. Pour the oil in a pan and add the garlic plus onions. Stir for a few minutes until the onions are beginning to get translucent. At that point, add the chopped tomatoes and the spices. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.

2. Create two little craters in the sauce to make room for the eggs (see picturse below). Since you don’t have that much sauce, this may require moving some of the mixture around. Add one egg to one crater., the other egg to the other crater. Do not mix. Cover and cook until the eggs reach desired consistency. Serve with bread. I also added some Parmesan once served.

31 Days of Garlic: Shakshuka

Chicken with garlic sauce – 31 days of garlic

January 4th, 2015

Chicken in garlic sauce with salad As I mentioned earlier, I am consciously trying to add more garlic to my diet. I’ve gotten some great suggestions on both Facebook and on Crooked Timber. Restricted by snow, I wanted to find something for today that didn’t require additional shopping. Inspired by mentions of chicken dishes with large quantities of garlic and restricted in options by a broken oven, I settled on this recipe, but ended up tweaking it a bit (see list of ingredients below).

This dish calls for a whole head of garlic. Even though I only used half the amount of chicken suggested, I still used a head of garlic, which met my need for lots of garlic. I had neither fresh parsley nor fresh rosemary so I replaced those with crushed rosemary, ground thyme, and a seasoning blend. I used chicken breasts instead of thighs. I happened to have a bottle of opened white wine, Oracle of the Wind Sauvignon Blanc 2010. The recipe calls for any white wine that you like, but since I don’t car for any white wine I just went with some leftover wine from a party. This worked well for the dish.

To complement the chicken, I made some salad: mix of baby spinach, red and green chard, and kale, mushrooms, and grape tomatoes, all diced. For the salad dressing, I mixed nonfat Greek yogurt with sunflower honey and a bit of vinegar.

While eating all this, I ended up cutting up the chicken as well as the whole cloves of garlic into small pieces. It occurred to me that this would all work well as a hearty salad. That’s probably how I will have the leftovers.

To recap, here is my version of the garlic sauce chicken recipe:

1 lb chicken breasts
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled, separated
1.5 tbsp olive oil
1 cup white wine
1/3 tsp chopped rosemary
1/4 tsp ground thyme
1/2 tsp no-salt seasoning blend
salt and pepper to taste

Then follow what’s in the original.

31 days of garlic

January 4th, 2015

Garlic cloves cut up ready to be pressed

I like garlic and I’m also convinced that it has health benefits. I’d like to make fresh garlic a regular part of my diet. I realized that I’m not traveling at all in January so I will have more say in what I eat than is often the case when I travel. Thus my 31 Days of Garlic challenge was born. I’m fine with repeating approaches, but I’d also like to spice things up a bit (sorry). Will you help me? Do you have some favorite dishes that include fresh garlic or that could include fresh garlic? I’m especially interested in relatively quick and easy recipes (lots of work things coming up in the next few weeks) and ones that don’t involve an oven (as mine needs repair). But I’ll have some downtime as well so don’t hesitate to share trickier ideas.

Lentil soup with garlic On the 1st of the year, as is the Hungarian tradition (shared by other cultures), I made lentil soup for good luck. I don’t usually include garlic, but I did press a clove into it and it worked well. The pictured soup is missing a usual ingredient, carrots. I didn’t have any at home, but sauteing some onions, adding various spices, adding the clove of garlic and some sausage resulted in a very yummy dish.

Tea ingredients with garlic On the 2nd, I added a pressed garlic clove to my tea. It’s a palatable way to have it, certainly the quickest way I know to include it in my diet. A teaspoon of honey is also an important component of that mixture. The particular tea I have on the image is especially good for soothing the throat (or so I was told by someone who works in theater and I’ve found the recommendation helpful).

Omelette with garlic On the 3rd, I added it to an omelette. The omelette also included onions, fresh mushrooms, rosemary ham and shredded Parmesan. I had it with grape tomatoes, farmer’s cheese and this delicious cornbread. (I highly recommend that cornbread recipe, but I do suggest cutting all ingredients in half as it results in more cornbread than you’ll know what to do with unless you’re serving at least a dozen people.)

What should be next for my 31 Days of Garlic challenge?

I’ll be posting pictures of the dishes/drinks on my Instagram.

Happy New Year!

January 2nd, 2015

Here’s a sweet little video to wish you the best for 2015.

Dave Berry’s 2014 recap

January 1st, 2015

Dave Berry does a nice job reviewing some of the events of 2014.

More coming soon…

August 29th, 2012

I’m shocked by how long it’s been since I’ve posted on here. I’ve put up a few posts over at Crooked Timber since I stopped posting here, but not many. I’m posting this to say that I’ll soon be back! I have collected some very intriguing data on Internet uses by US young adults and am excited to share them here and elsewhere.

In the meantime, I do post with some regularity on Twitter.

links for 2010-06-15

June 15th, 2010

links for 2010-06-14

June 14th, 2010

Neat visualization of World-Cup-related tweets

June 13th, 2010

The Guardian’s replay of Twitter posts during various World Cup games is great! Pick a game by clicking on one of the colorful dots – as opposed to the gray ones that signal games not yet played – and not only see the changing relative popularity of related tweet themes, but also see when things happened during the game. (In addition to these showing up on the side next to players’ names as time goes by, you can also see the entire game time line below the figure and move to any specific point by dragging the blue arrow.) Very cool. (Tx: Gilad)

A fresh look at the left and right political blogospheres

April 28th, 2010

It’s exciting to see a paper about blogs across the political spectrum that goes beyond the by-now rather common practice of looking at who talks to whom among bloggers (e.g., whether there are any cross-ideological conversations going on). Yochai Benkler, Aaron Shaw and Victoria Stodden of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society have just released “A Tale of Two Blogospheres: Discursive Practices on the Left and Right” showing some significant differences in types of blog platforms used (with different affordances), co-authorships and levels of participation among blogs of different political persuasions. Here is one example of specific findings (based on analyses of 155 top political blogs):

Over 40% of blogs on the left adopt platforms with enhanced user participation features. Only about 13% of blogs on the right do so. While there is substantial overlap, and comments of some level of visibility are used in the vast majority of blogs on both sides of the political divide, the left adopts enabling technologies that make user-generated diaries and blogs more central to the site to a significantly greater degree than does the right. (p. 22.)

There are lots of other interesting results in the paper so I highly recommend reading it [pdf].
It’s very clearly written and summarizes related literature well so in case this is not an area you’ve been following, this is a good piece with which to start to familiarize yourself with related debates. If it is an area that you’ve been following then this is a must-read to see some truly original contributions to the literature.

For more on this elsewhere, Ari Melber has an interview with Yochai Benkler on this research in The Nation.

Links for 2010-03-29

March 29th, 2010

links for 2010-03-17

March 17th, 2010

links for 2010-03-01

March 1st, 2010