Caution: Do Not Swallow

Frederick Banting, co-discoverer of insulin (at my alma mater), would have been 127 today. And so today is also….. wait for it….

Happy World Diabetes Day! In early celebration, I recently had a giant stack of pancakes with real maple syrup and extra insulin on top.

So if you’re doing something special for diabetes today, I hBa1C you! (A little medical humour there. Very little.)

In other news, I just walked the dog through the very cold streets of Hamilton, Ontario. In the park, we saw an old Chinese woman in a parka, doing slow-motion Wushu moves with an actual sword. No one else was there, so nobody will believe me. Not even the dog.

Speaking of which, here’s the little nubbin wearing his plaid turtleneck:

I call this one, “Bitches.”

Balls Silly

I was just informed by a Google alert that I was just cited by a scholar from the Balsillie School of International Affairs. I have no idea what the context of the citation is. All I know is that my first response was, “Balls silly.  Heh heh. Balls silly school of international affairs. Heh heh. Balls silly.”

Damn. There go my lunch plans.

Good to know. Thanks.

“This Fucking Cat Looks Like Grandma”

When I saw this video yesterday in the airport, I laughed out loud for more than a minute. Then I watched it again and laughed out loud again. I’m pretty sure some people thought I was having a brain aneurysm:

It turns out that the video is of a famous internet cat named Wilfred. Actor Michael Rappaport just did a comical voice over for the existing video.

It’s still funny. But this is why we can’t have nice things anymore.

Chuck vs Tito

One of the least anticipated big MMA fights this year is next week, featuring a rematch between hall of famers Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, both of whom are approaching my own advanced age.

It’s going to be ugly. But I will watch. I particularly enjoyed this training video of Chuck beating a bag:

The funny part is that Tito is in the audience watching. That’s weird. But the scary part is just how hard Chuck can still hit. Ouch. I felt every one of those punches. Even so, I’m a little concerned that Chuck is not sufficiently cardiovascularly fit to endure several rounds of world class beatdown. I’m not picking a winner, though. I learned my lesson.

This Vegan Life

Yesterday I flew from Ottawa to Toronto and took a GO bus directly to Hamilton, because I have to be there (here) on weekdays to take care of Dogulus Prime. And because I knew I wouldn’t have a chance to do any grocery shopping for my Overly Complicated Breakfasts®, I decided to take all the ingredients for a vegan protein salad on the plane with me.

Well, you guessed it. Airport security confiscated my beans and lentils. MY BEANS AND LENTILS, PEOPLE! This is where this irrational terrorist fear has got us: the confiscation of brand-name innocent beans and lentils still in the can. Sheesh.

Aliens and stuff.

When Oumuamua came to town last year, all the space nuts I knew immediately said: “it’s an alien probe.” Nice to see that Harvard astronomers agree with us. As I observed at the time, it’s like real life has decided to imitate Rendezvous With Rama. Too bad Clarke was not alive to see it.

Just as Harvard released their speculation, the news goes nuts that a flotilla of UFOs has been sighted off the coast of Ireland.

Coincidence? Hmmm? Yeah, probably.

It’s also good timing for a lecture I will be attending next week at my alma mater, the Physics department of the University of Toronto, titled, Exoplanets and the Search for Habitable Worlds.

In my experience, such lectures are poorly attended, which is why they don’t seem to have a registration option. But something tells me that this year they might have underestimated the general public’s interest in this particular topic. In fact, my best friend from high school will be attending, along with his wife and two kids. And The Blonde One will also be in attendance…. and none of these people has a particularly deep demonstrated background in astronomy or physics.

It helps, of course, that “refreshments will be served.” Mind you, since I went full vegan, public “refreshments” have always been a bit of a coin toss.

The centenary of WWI

This past weekend was, of course, the 100th anniversary of the armistice of WWI. As we were in Ottawa at the time, the Blonde One and I attended the ceremony at the cenotaph at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

It was a pleasantly medium sized crowd, on a very cold Sunday morning. Around us was a diversity of citizens of all ages and races, and even a few dogs.

Sprinkled amongst us were veterans from many services. I’d met with one of my former students an hour earlier, and he was expressing one of his hobbies of “medal watching.” He taught me a few things about the history of the Victoria Cross in Canada. (Shout out to Kyle R.)

The ceremony was touching. Long time readers of this blog might be aware that I have in the past struggled with the co-option of the symbolism of the red poppy (revisited in this later post). So for years I did not wear one. But this year, I put my political extremism aside as I finally realized that what matters are the feelings of the people around me at the moment. And for them, at this moment in history, the red poppy was an important symbol of the memory of true sacrifice and largely pointless death.

But that’s not the rabbit hole I wanted to fall into today. Rather, beyond the touching emotionalism of the moment, what struck me was the fact that we were solemnly commemorating an event that happened a hundred years ago. And it was a genuinely touching and emotional commemoration. It occurred to me: what other events that are a century old can elicit the same heartfelt reaction from the living today? I can’t think of one.

And I also immediately wondered if any community outside of Waterloo actively commemorates the end of the Napoleonic Wars?

Calling all editors and editor-wannabes!

You may know that I technically own The Interdisciplinary Journal of Health Sciences (inasmuch as I founded it and pay for its daily upkeep), though I make it a point to keep a distance from its day-to-day operations and editorial decisions. Our current editor, the fabulous Julie Boucher, is ending her three year term, and a new Editor in Chief is coming on board.

I want to take a moment to publicly thank Julie –and indeed, all the previous Editors— for the otherwise thankless job she has performed, mostly without much input or guidance from me. I’m a bit of an absentee landlord, I’m afraid.

And I wanted to help get the word out that we are currently recruiting for new staff:

The journal’s website has sustained an ungodly number of brute force hack attacks, many successful, over the past year. I’ve spent a fair amount of money on third party security solutions to inoculate the site from future attacks. But you may find that the site still has some broken links. I will try to get those fixed in coming weeks.

Speaking of academic publishing…

Have you heard about the upcoming Journal of Controversial Ideas?  I like the idea. Frankly, I don’t care if it attracts “deplorables” or people with uncomfortable or occasionally offensive viewpoints. The more venues for genuinely peer-reviewed serious positions, the better for our species’ overall intellectual health. Few things make me more nervous than a trend toward curated acceptable viewpoints.

Note that I said “genuinely peer-reviewed.” This is because there is something called predatory publishing, which is when a scholastic journal only pretends to offer peer review, but in reality will publish everything under the sun, in exchange for the (sometimes exorbitant) open access fee.

I have some depth of experience with the study of predatory publishing. In fact, I am the primary author of an upcoming study on how best to define a predatory journal. (I will reprint that paper here once it is published.)

But have you heard the story of Professor Derek Pyne? He did a study on the extent to which his colleagues at his own university were publishing in predatory journals. And he was subsequently suspended from his job.

I’m a little confused about what actually happened. Did he reveal the names of his colleagues who had published in predatory journals? If so, that’s a dick move and I think warranting of punishment.

Or did he just point out that a large percentage of his colleagues were doing so, without revealing their names? That’s perfectly acceptable scholarly behaviour on his part, I believe. As Gary Mason wrote in the Globe and Mail today, “anything a professor writes that is embarrassing to the school or its staff is problematic, no matter how valid it may be. In these instances, those cherished freedoms can be rescinded.”

The national organizing body of Canadian university professors’s unions, in which I am actively involved, has expressed concern for Dr Pyne’s treatment, and is investigating.

But what I wanted to say was that I question whether everyone is using the term “predatory” in the same –or indeed in a fair– way. In my experience, extreme critics of journal predation are really opposed to the open access models. And frankly, they are reflecting a kind of systemic racism that discriminates against non-Western journals, which are perceived as being of lower quality, and therefore branded as predatory.

I myself have published several papers in non-Western journals, and have been accused of some administrators of using predatory journals. But they were not predatory, just underfunded and low impact. They still engaged in transparent and demonstrable peer review. I know this because, in turn, I have conducted peer reviews for those same journals.

The grand arbiter of whether or not a journal was predatory was something called Beall’s List, which was maintained by a single man named Jeffery Beall. His methodology was not transparent, and many have questioned whether journals on his list were truly predatory, or just very low impact.

Our upcoming study tackled some of these questions. So stay tuned for more clarity and content on this issue.


And now what you’ve all been waiting for….

The Overly Complicated Breakfasts™

Nov 9 – Falafel platter from the shwarma place across the street:

Nov 10 – Protein kale salad with cinnamon-raisin toast from Lt’s Pump on Elgin Street:

Nov 11 – Mushroom veggie burger on my mother’s Guyanese dal puri, topped with lettuce, sauerkraut, hummus, mango chutney, veggie mayonnaise, and ketchup, with a side of pickles and steamed random vegetables:

Nov 12 – A stack of blueberry pancakes from the Wellington Diner in Ottawa:

Nov 13 – Protein salad with lettuce, peanuts, mixed beans, and mushrooms, with dressing made from olive oil, wine vinegar, black pepper and maple syrup:

Nov 14 – Another protein salad as above, but also including pumpkin seeds and a bosc pair; and two “fafalo” (my mother’s falafel) sandwiches using three-grain high fibre bread and mushroom tomato sauce:

Apropos of nothing…

I am a reproduction researcher. These days, that’s a dangerous field, especially as non-scientists increasingly want to impose their ideologies onto empirical research. Someone recently published a summary of well established observations on the sexual behaviour differences between human men and women. I don’t want to misplace that list, so I’m posting it here. Do with it what you will. I just need it here for reference purposes:

Until next time.

The little nubbin is pissed that I’m ignoring him.