Academia, the standard by which very little is set


Ezster Hargittai of Crooked Timber has a new “advice” column for those looking to eventually get tenure. A lot of it is fairly obvious – try to network, be prepared, etc etc – but it’s also good to remember. One of the benefits of writing things down is that it standardizes and helps reinforce learning. So remember this advice, thou that wishes to become a tenured professor!

Too often I have had people ask me for advice on how to approach a situation too late in the process. For example, the year you are on the job market is not the right time to start wondering about how to make yourself a competitive candidate. Similarly, the year you are coming up for tenure is too late for plans that will help maximize your chances of a successful tenure and promotion review. The relevant strategies often take years of investment and work…

(Image from williac)

Be all the cook you can be


Metafilter has an excellent AskMefi about cooking secrets (previously). One of the cooler things to come out of the discussion was a link to a site, FoodPairing, that suggests foods to pair with each other, and replacements for ingredients. It seems like it would be an invaluable resource for deciding on how to build meals.

Anyway, snippets from the AskMefi (most of these were repeated multiple times, so I’m going to take that as an indicator of good advice):

One thing that really brightens flavor is not using just the juice of fresh lemons, limes, and oranges, but adding the zest too, grated with a microplane. The difference is powerful.

Professional chefs use a shocking amount of butter. That makes a difference.

Seriously, stock is the foundation of a huge swathe of world cuisines. It doesn’t add depth and richness and flavour, it is depth and richness and flavour.

I think eating at really good cheap restaurants and then trying to copy the food they make is a good start. I’ve been working on my fish tacos a lot lately, after having some amazing ones at a local place. I think mine have become just as good. It’s been fun trying to copy and then improve on their recipe.

don’t make pasta and sauce separately and then pour the sauce over a plate of pasta (unless you really want to for some reason). For better pasta, blended with its sauce, do this: Make your pan sauce and leave it in the pan, with enough room for adding pasta later. Cook the pasta in water, stopping it just a hair short of ‘done’. When you drain the pasta, save some of the water you’re draining from it, either in the cooking pot or in a basin under the colander. Add the pasta to the sauce pan, and also add a little bit of the retained water. Simmer the sauce with the pasta in it for a few minutes before finishing and serving.

And then other, more in-depth, responses.

How to be a proper scientist

Andrew Gelman has advice on writing research articles

1. Start with the conclusions. Write a couple pages on what you’ve found and what you recommend. In writing these conclusions, you should also be writing some of the introduction, in that you’ll need to give enough background so that general readers can understand what you’re talking about and why they should care. But you want to start with the conclusions, because that will determine what sort of background information you’ll need to give.

2. Now step back. What is the principal evidence for your conclusions? Make some graphs and pull out some key numbers that represent your research findings which back up your claims.

3. Back one more step, now. What are the methods and data you used to obtain your research findings.

4. Now go back and write the literature review and the introduction.

5. Moving forward one last time: go to your results and conclusions and give alternative explanations. Why might you be wrong? What are the limits of applicability of your findings? What future research would be appropriate to follow up on these loose ends?

6. Write the abstract. An easy way to start is to take the first sentence from each of the first five paragraphs of the article. This probably won’t be quite right, but I bet it will be close to what you need.

7. Give the article to a friend, ask him or her to spend 15 minutes looking at it, then ask what they think your message was, and what evidence you have for it. Your friend should read the article as a potential consumer, not as a critic. You can find typos on your own time, but you need somebody else’s eyes to get a sense of the message you’re sending.

More advice can be found from Gary King.