Handling Phone Calls/E-Mails From Intrusive Manipulative People In Your Life

You don’t have to answer the phone. You can even turn off the ringer. No one is going to die because you didn’t answer their phone call.

For the few people in my life who are intrusive and manipulative, I *never* answer the phone when they call. This is effective for at least three reasons:

(1) It trains them to expect that they do not have instant guaranteed access to your attention, and after a while, they will demand it less and less.

(2) It preserves your attention for what you want to devote it to, and protects you from distraction.

(3) It allows you to pick times for communication that suit you, and to calmly prepare any scripts or other tools you may want to have ready before you initiate communication, rather than being taken by surprise and potentially being off balance and not ready to protect yourself as necessary from intrusion and manipulation.

There will definitely be pushback when you start doing this, as there is sort of a social expectation that when someone is home, they answer the phone. So you will have to go through some conversations like this, before callers adapt:

I called you this morning, but no one answered. Were you home?

Yes, I was home.

Really?? Then why didn’t you answer the phone??

I wasn’t able to come to the phone when you called.

Why not??

I was doing something and I didn’t want to be interrupted.

What were you doing that was so important you couldn’t come to the phone??

What I was specifically doing isn’t important. I didn’t want to be interrupted.

What if it was an emergency???

If there is ever a health- or life-threatening emergency, you should definitely call 911 right away so that trained professionals can handle it.

Explaining Interdisciplinary Research In A Faculty Job Interview

When interviewing as an accomplished post-doc for entry level faculty positions, the issue isn’t what you did with your own hands, but what you understand and can talk about. For highly interdisciplinary projects that include, e.g., genetics, physiology, biochemistry, behavior, and imaging, of course no single post-doc did all those techniques.

The question is whether you as a post-doc on one of those projects can understand and explain the full scope of what was done sufficiently to be considered a likely prospect for having the capacity to *lead* such projects in the future. Key evidence for such likely capacity includes being the first author of a manuscript reporting the results from such a project and being able to explain and field difficult questions about *all* of the technical approaches employed during your job talk.

I’ll never forget one faculty job candidate we interviewed a few years back who looked great on paper and was the first author of an impressive multi-disciplinary paper published in a very prominent journal. His job talk was quite nice, and explained physiology, biochemistry, genetics, and behavior. During the question period, someone asked him a question about the biochemistry results. It was a somewhat detailed methodological question: not to the level of what concentration of DTT was in some buffer, but more than “was this done in mice or rats”?

The candidate looked at the questioner as if she was out of her mind, and said “How should I know? That was the other post-doc who did all the biochemistry experiments. I did the physiology, so you can ask me about that.” Needless to say, no offer was forthcoming.

The Secret Of Good Risotto

The key to good risotto–and the reason why you absolutely must add in the simmering broth gradually as it cooks–is that after you add each portion of broth, you should stir it up thoroughly and then allow it to cook without stirring until there is a layer of rice cooking onto the bottom of the pan. After you add the next portion of broth, you should have to scrape moderately hard to get the layer of cooked-on rice off the bottom of the pan. This repeated process of cooking the rice onto the bottom of the pan and mechanically removing it forces the grains of rice to release plenty of starch into the broth and is what makes the risotto creamy instead of brothy.


It is important to understand that the word “freedom” in the United States is inextricably bound up historically in the freedom that slave owners originally had guaranteed to them in the Constitution to own other human beings and for that ownership to be enforced by government power.

Questions About NIH R01 Competing Renewals Answered

In my post on directing the research program in my lab, I received a few questions about competing renewals (grant applications seeking to renew an R01 major research grant for another four or five year project period). So here are some answers.

After our grant got funded some experiments based on this project took off on a very productive and interesting tangent of their own, but with a somewhat different focus. These experiments were funded in part by the current grant and in part by other (non renewable) sources. We also made progress towards the original aims, but not as much as we made with the deviant aims. Furthermore, my grant got cut from 5 years to 3 years so some of the proposed experiments were never even started, yet they are still very viable and good experiments and especially interesting since the original aims panned out quite nicely.

So what should be my strategy? Should I (a) Write a new grant using the stronger deviant aims, use the new data from the original aims to write up the renewal even though we only completed about 50% of the proposed work due to the cut budget and recycle some of the same (uncompleted) experiments as part of the renewal plus a few more based on their logical extension, or (b) use the stronger deviant aims as the basis for the renewal and forget about the original aims, or (c) use a no-cost extension to bring the original aims further along and then put in the renewal. Mind you that the reason the experiments from the original aims are weaker is because they were building blocks for the really cool experiments we haven’t done yet. So is it sensible to re-propose them as the first aim of the renewal (tweaked a little bit of course)?

Before I answer the questions directly, we need to establish four foundational understandings for the analysis:

(1) Competing renewals do *massively* better in study section than new R01s. You can find cumulative scoring histograms at the NIGMS blogge posted by Jeremy Berg that clearly establish this. The reason is almost certainly a combination of the self-selection for submission by PIs who were productive in the prior project period and the penchant of grant reviewers to consider productivity in the prior project period to be highly predictive of the likely impact of the studies proposed for the new project period.

(2) Reviewers of a competing renewal do not get to see the specific aims or other parts of the grant application that was funded for the prior project period. All they get to see is the summary statement of the prior funded grant, and the Abstract and Public Health Narrative. This means they can only figure out the specific aims of the prior project period from what you have included in your Abstract and Narrative, what is in the resume of discussion and written critiques of the summary statement, and what you tell them in the competing renewal application. With the new bullet-point critique structure and if you were smart enough not to enumerate your specific aims in the Abstract or Narrative, you thus have near absolute control of what the reviewers know about your prior specific aims and proposed studies.

(3) It is much more important to get your competing renewal funded than to get a new R01. This is for several reasons: (a) the more times you renew an R01, the greater a history of sustained productivity in that line of research you have demonstrated, and the greater weight it will have with a study section; reviewers are very, very careful before they give a shitty score to a grant that has been rolling along for multiple project periods or even decades and (b) your chances of being awarded an R37 MERIT award depend on having an R01 that has been renewed a number of times and (c) tenure and promotion committees want to see that you can renew your R01s.

(4) The same exact preliminary data can support an infinite number of non-overlapping grant applications so long as the specific aims and proposed studies those data are used to support are distinct in each grant. For example, let’s say you develop a new technique and validate to discover some interesting shitte about a particular biological process. All those exact same data can be used to support one R01 in which the specific aims are directed at further development/refinement of the new technique to apply more generally or to some other particular biological process, one R01 in which the specific aims are directed at deploying the new technique in another biological process to which it already applies to test hypotheses about that other process, and one R01 in which the specific aims are directed at deploying that technique and other existing techniques to further drill down into the interesting shitte you have already found about that particular biological process.

Based on these foundational understandings, we draw the following conclusions:

(1) In deciding whether to submit a competing renewal, give very little weight to how specifically the actual shitte you have achieved fits within the metes and bounds of the previous specific aims. You control the narrative of how what you have achieved was relevant to the goals of the prior project period, so make it work.

(2) In deciding whether to submit a competing renewal, give a lot of weight to how productive you were, independently of the exact relationship of what you published to the previous specific aims. If you were very productive, definitely submit a competing renewal.

(3) Your best, most exciting new ideas that you have in hand should absolutely go into the Specific Aims of the competing renewal you are writing. Don’t save them for some future new grant. You’ll have more new exciting ideas when it comes time to write that new grant.

(4) Unless you are truly in a situation where you will go from poor productivity to excellent productivity in the time frame of a no-cost extension, don’t voluntarily take one. Submit just early enough so that if you get funded on the first submission, you will have no gap in funding, but not so early that if you have to go to a resubmission, you still won’t have a gap in funding.

(5) Your competing renewal can go in a substantially different direction than the previous project period. You can even change the title of the grant! I have had a competing renewal get transferred to a different program officer in the Institute based on such a change in direction. Competing renewals even get transferred between Institutes if the directions changes sufficiently. No one in peer review or program cares. What they care about is that you are continuously productive and doing interesting science.

Fucke This Shitte!

This new trend of making meatball sangwiches out of a weird patty-shaped meatloaf on a round bun is a fucken abomination. Just stoppe itte! This is a motherfucken meatball sangwich:



Directing A Research Program

I basically let people in my lab work on whatever they want within extremely broad conceptual and methodological outlines, and then I figure out after the fact how to explain the relationships of what they have done to the specific aims of my various grants in writing renewals and make up new specific aims on the basis of what they have done for writing new grants. This organic emergent strategy works very well for me, because I get bored very easily and it means we are always moving in new unexpected directions.

Red Chile Lamb Shoulder Tacos

three pound boneless lamb shoulder
six dried ancho chiles
three dried chipotle chiles
one habanero chile
three serrano chiles
nine garlic cloves
one pint veal stock
one small can crushed san marzanos
one cup dry white wine
fresh sage
fresh thyme
fresh oregano
white onion
queso fresco
sliced shredded savoy cabbage
corn tortillas

These are the chiles.

These are the fresh herbs.

Boil a few cups of water, turn off the heat, put in the dried chiles (after removing the seeds and stems), cover, and steep for a half hour, stirring once in a while.

Dump the reconstituted chiles, the chile water (taste it to be sure it isn’t bitter first), the garlic, and the fresh chiles (after removing the seeds and stems) into the blender and blend the living fucke out of it.

Dump the blended chile mix into the braising pot, add the wine, tomatoes, herbs, and stock, and bring to a boil.

Look at this beautiful piece of lamb shoulder!

Put the shoulder in the pot, turn the heat down to a low simmer, and cover. Braise the fucke out of it, basting/stirring every half hour or so.

Done! It took a good solid five hours of braising to reach proper tenderness, where a meat fork slides all the way through with almost no resistance.

Remove the meat.

Shred it.

Reduce the fucke out of the braising liquid after removing the herbs, salting to taste when it’s almost done reducing.

Dump the meat back in, stir well, and turn off the heat. Like I said about the green chile pork shoulder, if you let the shitte steep over night and then reheat it the next day for the tacos, it’s even better. But fucke that; gotta eat it now!


Warm the torillas and dollop the shitte out.

Garnish the fucke out of it with the condiments.

How fucken good does that look!?!?!?!?!?