five things to update

The not-blogging-because-I’ve-not-anything-meaningful-to-say phenomena has really got to stop. Email’s become like that, too. I put it off and then it’s three months later and I feel like I have to write a mini autobiography, when really, two lines at the time would’ve been sufficient. So, in points, some interesting things of late:

1. Modern Approaches to Investigating Cultural Evolution, a LERN/CECD postgrad/postdoc workshop organised by my friend Tom Currie here at UCL. We had 13 speakers and over 40 participants discussing the latest cool research in cultural evolution. Lots of empirical stuff on linguistics (yay for data!) but also a good coverage of archaeology, psychology, economics and anthropology as well. More details including photos are at the link.

2. Rediscovering Darwin: The real story of Darwin’s finches. John van Wyhe gave the CEE Grant Lecture this year. van Wyhe has been the man behind Darwin Online, (the project to put the complete works of Darwin on the internet), and he’s an historian of science who gives an entertaining talk. This one traced the evolution of a “meme”: the persistent myth that Darwin “discovered” evolution on the Galapagos while observing the beaks of the finches. The talk did a cracking job of pulling together all the strands of the myth, how and where they originated–nice example of scientific detective work.

3. Gave a lecture for our Bio Anth Masters on Comparative Methods in Anthropology. This was my first “methods only” seminar, so it had some interactive bits, and hopefully seeded the idea that anthropologists can use phylogenetic/comparative methods for a whole range of interesting questions–not just how primates are related to each other!

4. Reviewed some papers, and cracked on with writing my own. (Interesting for me!)

5. Speaking of papers, have become more and more enamoured of Papers, a great little bit of Mac software that does what I couldn’t manage if left to my own devices: organise my PDF library. It’s a bit like iTunes for papers. The latest update has allowed for automatic matching of PDFs with their bibliographic information in the Web of Science and Google Scholar, filling the gap neatly for social sciences. Previously the automatic matching facility had only been in PubMed. You can also do full searches of databases from within the program, and set it all up so your choice of directory structure is created on your drive and each new paper filed into it. The user interface is pretty as well. Check it out.

On a more recreational note, I saw Barry Adamson and Matana Roberts at the London Jazz Festival this week. The drummer for Matana Roberts, Frank Rosaly, was phenomenal to hear and watch. Highly recommended.

I just look at the figures

Why is it with all the combined mac-love and technogeekery amongst phylogeneticists there isn’t a simple, friendly way to get my treefile into a presentable graphical form?

At present, it’s something torturous like from PAUP > Save As Pict. Then in Word, Import > Picture > File, and try to manipulate the individual bits. Until they start making random boxes, and I go blind.
All I want to do is colour code my taxa, add some node annotations, and not have to buy Illustrator! Photoshop won’t open the *.pict and let me manipulate the text, no matter what format it is converted to, because it rasterises the text.

TreeView wants me to save the file as an *.svg, which PS also doesn’t like. Searching Joe Felsenstein’s site, there appears to be some sort of program (TreeMe) which does these nifty things for the presentation of phylogenies, but it’s for PC! And also costs more than Illustrator.

Today I am Thwarted Lass.


I would very much like EndNote to interface with WordPress, my PDA, my email, and in general, my brain.

But mainly the first.

I like EndNote very much, and it has improved greatly over the years. I always feel I’m not using it to its greatest capabilities, despite always looking for tips and tricks, and it has a few things that can’t be keyboard-shortcutted. Most of all I would like it to function as a note-taking organiser as well as a reference manager. I imagine I could do a work-around with some clever tagging in custom fields, but with over 2000 records, the task of going back through them is diminished returns before I start.