Mid-Semester Evaluations

This week marked (what I hope will be) a turn toward spring in West Michigan. I can leave my parka at home, I can see some grass peeking up timidly from the mountains of snow/salt/mud, and I can hear birds nesting outside my window. This is really great: I was feeling stuck in a snow-covered …

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Recent Reading

Still working out the balance of having a life, a job at Google, and being a blogger. In the interim, here are the things I’ve been reading and key takeaways / thoughts / questions. Article: The Joy of Teaching CS in the Age of Facebook – ”When people see companies like Google and Facebook being founded by relatively young …

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Social Media Afterlife

As the age of technology grows older, more of us face the question: what do we do with a person’s social media accounts when they’ve passed away? Many families and friends choose to continue to post pictures and memories on the person’s wall in order to help keep their memory alive. However, Facebook has made …

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#1 for 20 years in a row

This morning U.S. News & World Report issued its rankings of the nation’s best graduate schools in a number of disciplines, including education.  I wrote in detail last year about these rankings, so I won’t repeat much of what I said at that time. Overall, our college was ranked 15th in the nation among all …

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Addio Grande Joe!

Joe McGinniss had a love affair with soccer. The award-winning author and journalist died on March 10, 2014, of prostate cancer at the age of 71 (read an obituary here). I got to know Joe pretty well in the late 1990s while he was writing The Miracle of Castel di Sangro, one of the very first commercially …

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The Story Behind “Tackling soil diversity with the assembly of large, complex metagenomes”

I’m pleased to announce the publication of “Tackling soil diversity with the assembly of large, complex metagenomes”, by Adina Howe, Janet Jansson, Stephanie Malfatti, Susannah Tringe, James Tiedje, and myself. The paper is openly available on the PNAS Web site here (open access). External links: Joint Genome Institute press release GenomeWeb article MSU press release …

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GMO the old fashioned way

Monsanto gives up on GMO but uses phenotype-genotype modeling to crossbreed vegetables. WIRED: … Furthermore, genetically modifying consumer crops proved to be inefficient and expensive. Stark estimates that adding a new gene takes roughly 10 years and $100 million to go from a product concept to regulatory approval. And inserting genes one at a time …

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Artisans All

About a decade ago a wrote a little essay on what people mean when they talk about “natural food”. Now to launch right off on the obligatory tangent right from the get go, I would need to clarify: There’s really no telling what some people have in mind when they are talking about “natural food”. …

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Rise of the GameDev Hobbyist

Flappy Bird prompted game developers to think about a lot of things. Lots of important things. It prompted me to think about hobbyist game developers again. The first time I thought about hobbyists was through the lens of an opportunity lost with Mario Factory back in the 90s. The second time was thinking about Nintendo …

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Is EMA a “catastrophic event”? A Review of the Food Fraud Aspects of the FDA Public Meeting on FSMA Intentional Adulteration

Is an “economically motivated” incident only dangerous “economically”?  This question raises the important point of scope and definition of the “risk” in a “risk based approach.”  From a terrorist attack impact or food safety outbreak perspective an EMA incident almost always has a very low public health impact.  This is an ever-present challenge for Food …

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1.5 page-clicks of fame.

WordPress’s Jetpack plugin lets you do a few nifty things with your blog, including getting a pretty good look at how many people are reading what articles. One of the fancier things that it does is (sometimes) let you know what search terms people were using when they ultimately found your website. I know of …

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Winter Warmer

It took this year to remind me that my least favorite month is February. Now that we’ve successfully made it to March, I believe we can let the sun go down on that terrible, frozen disaster that was February.Taken on an iPhone 4. Tweet

Pornography to pay for college?

The Internet and mainstream media have been abuzz the last couple of weeks with the story of a first-year student at Duke University who is financing her education by working as an actress in pornographic movies.  A Google search today for the terms “duke university porn star tuition” returned 179,000 results.  The story evidently surfaced …

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Wy do you believe?

If you say you believe in something, what is it that you mean by that? For example, if you say you believe you will find a hundred-dollar bill today, what is that belief built upon?I posit that what you actually believe (as opposed to what you say you believe) is really based on probabilities. Perhaps …

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The beautiful (Zambian) game in a beautiful (Chinese) stadium

The latest Cowries and Rice podcast features Michigan State University History PhD candidate Hikabwa Decius Chipande discussing China’s stadium diplomacy in Zambia. Intriguingly, the enterprising hosts of the podcast, Winslow Robertson and Dr. Nkemjika Kalu, contacted Chipande in Lusaka after reading his “China’s Stadium Diplomacy: A Zambian Perspective” post on this blog. In the interview (listen above), …

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Our Third Anniversary

“Let’s not sugar coat this, grad school is tough” In June 2011, that was the first sentence to the first blog post introducing GradHacker to the world. Three years later, I still think it’s a good introduction. Graduate students live tough lives. They aren’t quite undergraduates and aren’t quite faculty. They are expected to ace …

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Elite Food

I got on an airplane last week for the first time in several months. For the first year of the blog I would routinely reflect upon my peripatetic ways, almost always from a different locale every week. 2010 was particularly dense with travel for me, and included an unplanned and enforced 3-day vacation in Rome …

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What Can We Afford?

We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we …

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The Neanderthal Problem

The NYTimes magazine describes efforts to resurrect extinct species such as mammoths. Let’s suppose this is possible. Perhaps it will even be possible with Neanderthals, Denisovans, Homo Erectus and other pre-modern human types. Consider the following thought experiment. Imagine thousands of Neanderthals on some privately held land in Siberia, perhaps the secret project of a reclusive …

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