Lies About Workplace Productivity

Pascale has a post up giving some tips for avoiding distractions–many of them from the Internet–while trying to get work done. These are probably perfectly good ideas if you are seeking to increase your sustained focus at work.

However, she also refers to a published article announcing that workplace distractions, those that take us off-task, cost our economy over $10,000 per worker per year.

Such estimates of “lost workplace productivity”–such as the handwringing every year during March Madness about “billions of dollars of lost productivity due to bracket pools”–are a complete lie. This is because they assume that every minute of time that a worker dickes around on the ESPN Web site subtracts an entire minute of time from the total amount of time spent working during a day *and* that work output over the course of a day (or week or whatever) is a linear function of time spent working during that interval.

With regard to the first assumption, it is obviously the case that different distractions can also displace one another, and not just displace work. With regard to the second assumption, the marginal output from a given unit of time spent working decreases as the amount of time spent working increases (once you reach some minimum threshold).

The result is that these estimates of lost productivity are always grossly overblown.

Ham-Eating Wasp

This fucken wasp was absolutely incessant about getting into the motherfucken iberico. And once it was in there, it was fucken chowing down. Anybody got a clue as to what kind of wasp would be interested in eating iberico ham?

UPDATE: Check this fucken shitte out. This is pretty clearly the exact same kind of wasp that was chowing down on our ham.

Baked Rigatoni


twelve ounces ricotta
one ball of mozzarella
half cup diced onion
six diced garlic cloves
salt and long pepper
one cup chopped baby spinach
crushed red pepper flakes
one pinch oregano (crushed in your fingers to dust)
one cup dry white wine
large can diced san marzanos
small can crushed san marzanos
one pound rigatoni
grated parmigiano reggiano

Sautee the onions with ground long pepper, red pepper flakes, and oregano until turning translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sautee until the garlic is fully softened. But don’t brown the shitte.

Deglaze with dry white wine, reducing until the alcohol is gone.

Add the tomatoes, cover, and simmer on low for about thirty to forty minutes. You don’t want to completely break down the diced tomatoes, but you do want them to be tender.

Boil the rigatoni in salty water only until it is halfway done, about six minutes, and drain. Assemble the casserole by first spreading a layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan, then a layer of rigatoni, and then some spinach, ricotta, and grated parmigiano reggiano, followed by more sauce.

Repeat the layering until all of the ingredients are in there. Since my sauce was not very liquidy, I sprinkled some water (maybe two or three tablespoons?) over the thing at this point, to make sure the pasta didn’t dry out and had sufficient moisture to incorporate as it finished cooking in the oven.

Cover the top with grated mozzarella.

Bake thirty minutes in a pre-heated 400 degree oven.


Grant Peer Review Study Section Targeting

A potential strategy–one that I have employed to great effect–is to target study sections that are *not* filled with subfield experts. This scares people because, “OMFG! They won’t understand my science and why it is important!”

However, my experience is that it is a lot easier to explain your science to a non-subfield-expert audience sufficiently to get them to see its importance, than it is to convince the subfield cognoscenti that there aren’t holes in your experimental design, logic, whatever. The harshest reviewers are always your fuckebagge cronies who know all the minute difficulties and weaknesses of your methodological and conceptual approaches.

Favorite Books

I was glancing drunkenly at my bookshelves, and I noticed one of my favorite books of all time. It is the 1983 paperback version of the famous 1979 Arion Press edition of Moby Dicke, set by hand beautifully in Goudy Modern, with illustrations by Barry Moser. When I was a freshman in college, I came home for Thanksgiving week with a nice juicy quarter ounce of fucken awesome weede. And I holed up in my room with the fucken weede, the Arion Moby Dicke, and a big purple bong. I stayed in there for three fucken days, and when I came out, fucke, I had devoured the booke and the weede. Transformative.

If anyone knows where I can get a copy of the original 1979 Arion Press edition, please let me know.

Teaching Science To Undergraduates With Lab Courses

Undergraduate lab courses–as currently constituted–are worse than worthless, because they give a grossly misleading picture of what it is like to actually pursue a scientific question in the lab. They are built around little technical demonstrations with a preordained outcome, and they give students the impression that being a scientist is boring, routine, and mechanical, rather than exciting, novel, and creative.

At my institution, the undergraduate cellular and molecular biology program has actually instituted lab courses that are based on the students being supervised in genuine discovery-based research projects devised by program faculty and related to ongoing work in their research laboratories. These are excellent, but they are extraordinarily time- and resource-intensive in comparison to the prepackaged demonstrations that are the norm.

And more generally, undergraduate science curricula tend to be overly focused on facts and theories at the expense of providing insight into the process of generating scientific knowledge. Of course, the former is much drier and more boring than the latter.