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.

protecting your ideas

In science, being “scooped” really sucks.

It crossed my mind when I set up Culture Evolves! that “idea security” might become an issue. There are two aspects to this:

1. Idea Security as directly relates to the work I’m doing on my PhD, which I have yet to describe in any detail because I’m not yet comfortable with how much is enough/how much is too much. As well as my own desire to publish from this work, there are other people’s intellectual contributions involved, so this is quite a big deal. I hope to get to some sort comfort zone on that issue soon; for now, it’s just the (vaguely out-of-date) description on my UCL page.

2. Idea Security as relates to work I wish to do in the future, or at the very least, be involved in somehow. The last month I’ve had two quite strong ideas for future projects; things I’ve not got time to do in my one-year-left-and-counting PhD, but that would make good 1-2 year projects. They’re both in domains of culture unrelated to what I’m looking at, so to jump in a new field is too daunting as a side diversion. But I would like to articulate and discuss them to see if they’re viable with people who might know more about those fields. It’s fair to say that this is what one’s colleagues are for, but sometimes one’s colleagues are busy, uninterested, or without background knowledge. And the same issues below will apply.

HOWEVER. Having an idea is all for naught unless it is out there, and in print desirably. Priority is such an important concept in scholarship (rightly so) and I fret about this all the time. There’s the idea itself, and then there’s the execution. I firmly believe that the doing is more important than the saying, but the idea does count for something. Where I’m heading with this is as follows: the expectation in academic work is that you cite your intellectual forebears, and give acknowledgement where due. That is, you make a bloody good effort to know your field and what other people have said and done. But how does the internet figure into that now, when just about any obscure topic gets thousands of search engine hits? If I throw out a reasoned hypothesis or describe a potentially productive line of work here, on a blog, should (a) I expect it to be attributed or (b) no longer consider it my “intellectual property”? Does this change if I slap on some sort of copyright notice?

Enquiring minds.

updated website

I finally updated my academic website.

  • Updated CV with two publications 🙂
  • Changed old diary to point here.
  • Updated the Links page to point to my del.icio.us bookmarks, as keeping that kind of thing current is a time-vortex best left unvisited.

In the process, discovered that my site counter/stats tracker code was incorrect, and hasn’t been logging visits for the last three years. *headdesk* I’m really annoyed at myself for this, because part of setting up a blog was to have it point there, and now I’ve lost that tracking info. Que sera, I suppose, but if you’re reading and have visited my UCL page before, I’d be rather grateful for your catch-up click.


L’Oceanie: Peuples des eaux, gens des iles is a fabulous presentation of the geography, (pre)history, people and anthropology of the Pacific Ocean. It focuses mainly on the Eastern Pacific (i.e. New Guinea westwards). There are dozens of fabulous images and great animations. It’d be a terrific teaching tool for a first-year course and makes a good introduction to the variety of human life in the Pacific.

It is however all in French. I have a basic grasp of the language1, but the good thing about academic language is that it’s full of nouns you can recognise. Try a translator like Systrans if you want a word-for-word and your French is not so hot. There is an info page in English, but it’s in a social-anthropology dialect of English.
[1] Really basic grasp, as in I can order food/ask for directions/comment on the weather.


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.

paper: artificial cultural market

A new paper in Science [link]: Experimental Study of Inequality and Unpredictability in an Artificial Cultural Market by Salganik et al.

In a web experiment, the researchers created an artificial database of music (from unknown bands) and allowed people to download songs after rating them. In some conditions, people could see which songs had been downloaded more often, creating a social influence environment. Interestingly, how songs fared in each of eight different runs vaired widely, and mostly independently of how people rated “quality”.

The message seems to be that in music tastes at least, we are all sheep, and the first sheep to baaa makes a great difference to who gets on Top of the Pops.


I dug out my PDA (a Visor Neo, in up-to-the-minute monochrome) this weekend and have just synched it all up with the Oyster1. My mac is probably having hissy fits about being attached to such an antique piece of technology, but it’s plenty good enough for the diary and contacts function, which is what I am re-trialling it for.

I’m not having much success with the paper diary method this time around; it worked when I was working in design and had it open on my desk constantly for appointments etc. I never remember to take the diary with me though, and the PDA is a bit more bus-friendly. My scheduling is more a case of one or two “appointments” a day (if that) and then a series of tasks to complete. I’d like to track the time spent on those, so we’ll see how this goes.

I’m not really enamoured of digital diary software either; iCal is okay, the Palm Desktop is a bit mouse-intensive. My main problem is that I seem to spend more time entering things than actually doing them. Anyhow, this is the start of a new experiment.

1. My laptop is called Pearl, so it makes sense that my desktop is the Oyster. Right?