Making a super villain

I’ve written about Reviewer 3 before (here, here, here, and here). Somehow the third reviewer has come to embody the capriciousness (and sometimes meanness) of the anonymous peer review process. Note that I believe in the peer review process, but am a realist about what it means and what it accomplishes. It doesn’t mean that every paper passing peer review is perfect and it doesn’t mean that every peer reviewer is doing a great job of reviewing.

When I’m a reviewer I see the peer review process through the lens of the line from Spiderman (Stan Lee), “with great power comes great responsibility”. I strive to put as much effort in to each paper I review as I would expect and want from the reviewers who review my papers. Sometimes that means that I don’t get my reviews back exactly on time- but better that than a crappy, half-thought-through review. I’m not sure that I always succeed. Sometimes I think that I may have missed points made by the authors, or I may have the wrong idea about an approach or result. However, if I’ve done a good job of trying to get it right the peer review process is working.


I, for one, welcome our midichlorian overlords


STAR WARS is really just a treatise on microbial evolution and the concept of the selfish gene. See below for more details.






So here’s the idea. The concept of midichlorians was introduced in the prequels. They are “a microscopic lifeform that reside within all living cells and communicate with the Force”. So essentially mitochondria, but powered by the Force. Han Solo has a great quote in episode IV,

Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other, and I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen *anything* to make me believe that there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everything. ‘Cause no mystical energy field controls *my* destiny. – Han Solo

But with midichlorians you now have a genetically discrete entity that is the sole communication with the powerful Force. The midichlorians want, in an evolutionary sense, to preserve and continue their lineage- they are ‘selfish’. So it stands to reason that they would have a say in what was going on with their hosts. A ‘host’ is simply a very large (relatively speaking) machine to enact the plans of the midichlorians. Of course. A kind of large biosuit for battle. So it’s amusing to think of them controlling all the battles like they’re playing video games.

Incidentally, this is not my first Star Wars inspired comic. That would be here.

More Science Caution Signs

You asked for it (you don’t remember? Well, you did) so you got it. More science caution signs.

This time I had some help. See the contributions of ideas from:

And there were some other ideas too that I just haven’t put into a visual representation yet- so there may be another installment of these important warning signs in the future.



Inktober 2015

Here, in one big glob, are all my contributions for inktober 2015. Inktober is an activity where you try to draw and post an ink drawing per day. Sounded fun and so I swallowed my drawing-oriented imposter syndrome and started in.

I think it’s fun since it’s much more undirected and sketch-like than what I normally do for RedPen/BlackPen (though sometimes RPBP is that sketchy too).

Day 1: Sad squid- he has a different idea of what inktober might be about


Day 2: Power chords


Day 3. Shadows of my hand holding a red pen







Day 4. Night of the PARSER!



Day 5. My attempt at drawing a plastic bag on my desk. Turns out that it’s really *hard*


Day 6. My homage to the Little Prince. Maybe he’s not so alone out there after all.

Day 7. Frickin’ laser beams. A 5 minute sketch with no real purpose.






Day 8. A throwback Thursday: drawings I did 30 years ago. Not entirely certain my artistic skills have improved all that much since then 🙂

Day 9. The Busy-o-Meter

Day 10. Eastern Washington farm fields with weather. 2015_10_10_FarmFields

Day 11. Red/black spiral


Day 13. Inspiration!


Day 14. The new NIH biosketch format (geeky academic joke)



Day 15. Academic Halloween Costumes!


Day 19. Happy penguin!


Day 20. Silhouette of hills at sunset.


Day 21. SCIENCE!


Day 22. A tomato.


Day 23. Academic caution sign #12015_10_25_AcademicRejectionStation

Day 26. More Science Caution Signs from RedPen/BlackPen
ScienceCautionSignsScanDay 28. Finally one more Science Caution Sign, an update. I’m planning more by the way.


Day 30. Finishing up #inktober with a move to #Movember at the request of MovemberUK

Academic Halloween Costumes

It’s that time of year. You’ve been invited to a costume party and now must decide: what will you dress up as? Well, I’ve assembled some of the BEST Halloween costume ideas for overworked, stressed out, over thinking academics right here. If you have further suggestions please Tweet them with the hashtag #academiccostumes.



I’ve posted before about some of my organizational approaches (and attempts at it) but it can sometimes be impossible not to get overwhelmed and busy. Being busy on multiple tasks, with multiple deadlines can be a killer, but sometimes it crystallizes a resolve to move some of those items off your todo list and you increase your overall effectiveness (you know, less Twitter and blogging and comic-making and stuff). I’ve also seen people who seem to make it a part of their academic persona to be perpetually too busy. This seems to be considered a status symbol (often times mostly by the person being so busy). The key to busy-ness and keeping your head above water (and the seals at bay) is balance. Make sure to keep perspective about what you’re doing and know that often (maybe always) banging your head against the same task for hours on end is counterproductive.

Anyway, here’s a handy tool to help you assess your level of busy-ness, fresh from the RedPen/BlackPen labs.


The Truth

What do you think the truth is? That is what do you think the concept of “truth” actually means? Is it an absolute- a destination that you can reach if you just try hard enough? Or is it something else? A road that stretches out in front of you and constantly changes as you progress and add more evidence?