Saturday, December 17, 2011

wordy wordness

I'm fond of language, and I like to think of myself as a decent writer. I may or may not be a decent writer in the grand scheme of things, but I feel that I'm above average with respect to the field I'm in and the people I've had the opportunity to work with.

To me language, and specifically the English language with all its various and sundry adjectives and adverbs, can really give straightforward concepts real color and texture in the way they are perceived.
That made him less believable.

His credibility was damaged.

The confidence in him was shattered.

"I could carve out of a banana a judge with more backbone than that." Roosevelt declared.
A proper wordsmith can take common terms and rearrange them into something special. There are people in all fields that exemplified this, for example in organic chemistry Professor Danishefsky writes beautiful and eloquent papers that not only describe beautiful science but are beautiful themselves.

Of course these few individuals are counterpointed by an army of hacks that get tired of using "yield" for yield and want to flower up their speech, but seem unable to structure a story that is both accurate and understandable. Sometimes journal articles read like a high-school student wrote a bad parody of Shakespearean scientific practices. The use of 50 cent words can be a beneficial addition to a well-written passage, but won't salvage a limp story. Embedding a few sparkly gems in a turd does a poor job of disguising the fact that it is a turd.

In the last few years some turns of phrase have taken on an odd sort of popularity in the science world, and I find it a little disconcerting. I have heard "inform" being bandied about lately, which is not a problem itself, but the usage tends to be somewhat galling.
Hopefully the data will inform you research.

Use what you find to inform your literature searching.
Inform my research? You mean all I have to do is tell my research something and it will do it? Wow, if only I knew that years and years ago!

What exactly is this inanimate object/concept going to do when I tell it these lovely factoids? Maybe I should inform my car next time I'm going to drive it, or maybe I need to inform my toilet that I'm going to violate it next time I eat a super greasy meal after 10 beers.

It may be a hangover (see what I did there!) from my graduate advisor jumping on anyone that anthropomorphized anything, but this seems to be a particularly obvious situation that makes little to no sense.

I guess there will always be people writing and presenting their work, and trying to emulate those that they look up to. I just wish they would proofread more often.

Side note: if you want to increase your douche-itude by using words like "exogenous" to describe additives to your flask, think about what the phrase actually means and implies before you publicize it. For example reagents that commonly come in their own bottle are always exogenous with respect to the reaction, and if you claim something is exogenous that implies that another is endogenous. If you can't think of an endogenous example, then you shouldn't be able to think of an exogenous one either.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

back from the dead

I moved earlier this year, and while looking through some stuff recently I stumbled onto an old treasure. When I was in graduate school a friend of mine modified a neat click type pen ad gimmick, and customized it for me. I used the pen happily for a few years after until it ran out of ink.

From then I think it kicked around in different desk drawers until I found it a few weeks ago. I was able to take an ink cartridge from a coworkers pen and fit it to the custom ride, and bring it back into daily use.

every time you click, a different message is displayed

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

yay USPS

I'm pretty sure I snapped this pic a few years ago, but forgot to post it.

I'm one of untold millions that are pretty hooked on Netflix services who, love or hate them, have a pretty good business going; their stock went from ~$40 to a high of $300 in less than 2 years! Typically I have no problems with their services (ignoring for the moment their new pricing structure), with few problems spaced very far apart. There was one time where a disk didn't arrive, that was most likely a post office problem, and it took me a while to realize I hadn't gotten it. Netflix, of course, sent me a replacement after I clicked into the 'problem' area on their website, and everything was forgotten.

Some time later I got this in the mail:

One valuable scrap of paper.

Apparently my disk and containing materials were forcefully disconnected from each other, leaving only this poor, lonely address to fend for itself. In an attempt to assuage the damage caused to the psyche of the disenfranchised sheet, they bagged it comfortably up and sent it on it's happy way to the final destination, not unlike Paddle to the Sea.

The thing I find most humorous about this is that I can't think of a scenario where the people working with this scrap wouldn't know what it was, and the value to the customer that it no longer held. They need to perform their due diligence, and finish the job, whether it makes sense or not, but I wonder if the person prepping the lone survivor saw the humor in the obvious futility of the situation.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

the old bait and switch

I don't know a whole lot about fluorine chemistry, and I think it's safe to say that not many people do. It's like a magic element that can act like other elements, only harder to deal with.

Because of this when I see papers with interesting fluorine chemistry, especially the incorporation of a fluorine, I like to check them out. Last week this beauty popped up in the Org. Let. ASAPs, and I was enthused to read more and maybe learn something.

I was cheerfully greeted by the same image in the abstract for the paper itself.

So I was a little taken aback when I read on further and saw this.

That looks a lot like there are both more reagents AND steps in that transformation. I understand leaving out the solvent and temperature, but the other reagent and step? That seems a little gratuitous, especially since it is still a neat transformation.

I can't imagine they left it out on accident or forgot, but I would hate to think that it was an advertising ploy. Try this reaction, you'll LOVE IT! Just mix it all together and BAM, product! Oh and don't forget that other stuff we didn't mention on the outside of the container. Batteries not included.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

nice addition

In my current gig I get to read all sorts of articles on topics foreign to me, in journals I'd never heard of before. All in all pretty sweet, I must say.

Every now and then I stumble onto something kooky, and today I found one worth mentioning. This was at the end of an article, after the references.

Chemtech, 1990, 20, 1, 31-37

A nice, funny, way of delivering some solid advice.

Friday, March 18, 2011

great title

This article fell into my inbox via ISI alert:

A density functional theory study of the ‘mythic’ Lindlar hydrogenation catalyst

Really caught my eye, although I didn't read it.