[warning - long customer service rant ahead]
I really want to like AT&T. My grandfather worked for them back in the days of telegraphs, and I still have an old telegraph unit he was given on his retirement back in the 1960’s. And I have fond memories of our old Bell rotary dial monstrosities from my childhood. But unfortunately I have had nothing but bad experiences with them for the past several years.
I used to have cell service through them, but coverage was spotty, and customer service was poor. Still, coverage is very location-specific, so I wrote that off as just a function of where I traveled, and moved my cell service to Verizon (which has been great for me, especially with my Mexico fieldwork), but kept my ATT landline. I know, I sound like a luddite maintaining a landline, but I have done so out of safety concerns - I like the comfort of knowing 911 operators know exactly where I am, and having a landline that works even during power outages is comforting. We had an incident a few years ago with an active shooter, and it was nice knowing that even if I dropped the phone, police would know where I was and what was happening. So we have dealt with the crazy cost for a basic landline ($50+/month for the most rudimentary line they will give us).
And then - a couple of weeks ago, our landline dialed 911 in the middle of the night. We didnt know it until two police cruisers showed up, asking to walk the premises to be certain there was nothing nefarious going on. The police were professional and friendly, but also clearly perturbed that they were taken from other duties to come wander through a house at 3 am. Our phones had been acting up the last few days, so we unplugged them, thinking it was our wireless phones, and used an old corded phone.
The next night, the same thing happened at midnight. The police were still professional and courteous, but a bit more put-out by the interruption. So the next morning, I tried AT&T’s online help service - as soon as you select “connection problem”, you get told to call their service number. So I tried their service number, which yields a long series of phone tree decisions that ultimately lead to…an automated system that sets a service call appointment. Ours is set for Jan 8. Thinking that is a long time to be harassing the police, I turned to Twitter. I have had great luck with Cox and Verizon using Tweet-based customer service, and AT&Ts Twitter handle is “ATTCares”, so how could I go wrong?
Apparently, their naming scheme is irony-based. They responded reasonably quickly (a few hours), asked for my account number, and said “You came to the right place, Drew!” followed by “give us some time while we look into your account”. That was two days (and two police visits) ago, and not a word from ATT, either on email, Twitter, or my cell phone. But this story does have a happy ending. Since I already have Cox for internet (Gigabit internet, no less), adding internet phone service will cost me only $3 a month over my current payment. SO I save over $50 a month by being able to dump AT&T. And with e911, dispatchers will know where I am calling from, AND the IP modem has a backup battery, so works in a (reasonably short) power outage.
Saving $50 a month, saving the police from making needless trip to my house, saving sleep not having to let them walk the house in the middle of the night, and knowing that I am not sending >$600 a year to a company with such awful customer service? THAT is a great way to start 2019!
We have our older traditions (pajamas on Christmas Eve), newer ones (Colbert Christmas, Elf, and Die Hard as holiday canon), but one newer personal tradition stands out:
Every year I re-read and share John Gruber’s wonderful, short thoughts about the holiday. You should too.
Last weekend was pretty monumental for me, and I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the path that led to where I am, and the way forward. And smiling a lot (well, you know…for a curmudgeon like me, anyway).
This weekend I was putting away some old research notebooks, and noticed an entry I made in Bahía de los Ángeles in 2003, while there with Dave Sandstrom and some people from The Nature Conservancy doing some research. I noticed this entry:
“Sun Nov 16. Decamped in Cataviña, checked out the cave paintings, then drove to BdlA. Set up boats for quarterly sampling with Sammy. Road out to BdlA was very very green (as was the rest of the trip down). Bahia itself looks verdant. Shara Fisler is in camp with Travis, Melissa, and one other girl to check things out for the next summer.”
OK, first, excuse my “one other girl” comment. That was Lindsay, who is wonderful, and certainly a woman not a “girl”. I have become better about weird language use since then.
This was my first time in Bahía de los Ángeles with Ocean Discovery Institute (neé “Aquatic Adventures”). I had no idea at the time how much Shara, Travis, Melissa, Lindsay, and the program would become a part of my life.
Last summer was my 15th summer in Bahia with Ocean Discovery Institute. Students from the very first year are to this day friends (some more like family) and colleagues; my daughter calls Shara “Aunty Shara”, and has learned a lot about diversity, nature, and feeling grateful through our relationship. Ocean Discovery Institute and my family have gotten grants together, written papers together, and dreamed together. I recall one conversation in Bahia, maybe in 2007, sitting in the sweltering staff house working on schedules and proposals, where Shara turned to me and said “Wouldn’t it be amazing if one day we were an institute? And you had former Ocean Leaders who were your grad students working down here, and we had a facility in City Heights?”. Of course I agreed, but I also thought it was akin to wishing I would one day be a Nobel laureate - fun to dream about, but not very likely.
Clearly, I underestimated Shara and Ocean Discovery Institute.
As time went on, I became more involved, eventually becoming the Science Director for Ocean Discovery Institute. Ocean Leaders went on to college and careers in large numbers, the programs expanded to include the entire “school shed”, in City Heights, and several years ago Anai Novoa, an Ocean Leader, completed her Masters degree with Theresa and I, doing work *in bahia*.
Last weekend, I watched the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Ocean Discovery Institute’s new “Living Lab” in City Heights. The place was filled with supporters and well-wishers - political leaders, scientists, community members, donors, volunteers, and Ocean Leaders. Visions from last Sunday keep coming back to me…my daughter, not even born that first summer, was playing with the children of Ocean Leaders who themselves were children when I met them in 2004. Another Ocean Leader, Rudy Vargas, is now himself a political force in San Diego and beyond, while others are students in STEM, conservation scientists, and community leaders.
Let me be clear - I had only a tiny role in this incredible success. But I am super proud of being there and touching lives to the extent I have, and also very grateful for the ways Ocean Discovery Institute has impacted my life and my family.
I can’t wait to see what happens next!
If you can go see this tonight, do it. I absolutely love her books, and her artwork is wonderful. As The Nat says:
Click the picture below to get your tickets! Tonight at 7pm.
Sure, he is among the most famous and talented marine ecologists, has an amazing family, is a wonderful friend, champion of the underrepresented, and has had a richer life immersed in natural history than anyone could hope for.
And now he is an award-winning author of a children’s book? That hardly seems fair.
Check out Liebres y Ratas, Aves y Semillas, Cactos y Árboles: Plantas y animales en interacción en El Pinacate, Desierto Sonorense, México, winner of one of the 2018 Latino Literacy Now’s International Latino Book Awards.
putting the finishing touches on my slides for this talk at the San Diego Natural History Museum.
Excited? Yes. Nervous? Also yes!
[Edited to correct my lame mistake of misidentifying Angelica]
So, I have heard a lot about Hamilton for the past few years (often from my 11 year old daughter), and I have always felt…well, a few things: “that Lin Manuel Miranda is brilliant - such a good person doing positive things for the world - wow, those are some talented actors/singers - yup, I really enjoy the songs from the musical”. But having seen Hamilton in person yesterday, I just want to say - wow, I underestimated how powerful it is.
Yeah, yeah, I know, I am late to the party, but holy crap - that was a crazy great show. There have been two musical events in my life that have been transformative - seeing Tom Waits in concert at the Wiltern, and seeing Hamilton on Broadway yesterday.
To top it off, I was amazed that, after an undoubtedly exhausting performance, @MichaelLuwoye (A. Ham) and @_mandygonzalez (Angelica) generously spent time signing autographs and taking pictures with fans (including my star-struck daughter). _
So - I get it! What a stunning, moving, funny, exciting show.
I saw THIS interesting study today, and it reinforced one of the messages I took from that cool article I posted recently.
I think email is a really difficult problem, and one that there is not enough time to address in this post. That said, part of having a good lab code of ethics (see this awesome one HERE) is being clear about email expectations. One of the best lines in that code of conduct linked above is this:
I have started to include clear (I hope) expectations about email in my syllabi as well, to let students know that they cannot expect me to see their email on weekends or at night (although, frankly, I usually do). I hope they get the idea that work-life balance is important, and there is every chance I will be spending the weekend with my wife, daughter, and friends, but that during my copious work hours I will work hard to give them what they need.
I read THIS article today, and as much as I consider myself enlightened (can I say “woke” without sounding like an old man trying to be cool?), it struck me how much this applies to me as well. And I took a few solid, actionable ideas from this.
1. It is super easy to see when other people are mansplaining in a meeting, talking over others, or simply monopolizing thew conversation. It is much tougher to recognize yourself doing it. I don’t think I work as hard as I should to make sure everyone gets an opportunity (and feels encouraged) to speak, or to amplify the voices of those who are less vocal.
2. I have been lucky to be invited to speak on numerous panels, and have organized some myself. Not once have I ever protested a biased panel, and I dont think I have paid as much attention as I should to insuring diverse panels that I organized.
3. I could not say it better than the wonderful Mika McKinnon (you should start following her right now on twitter @mikamckinnon):
Go read this - trust me, it is worth your time! https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/voices/how-men-can-help-women-in-stem-shut-up-sit-back-and-listen/
In my opinion, one of the most beautiful cacti in Baja California is the endemic Opuntia molesta, pictured here. Despite its name and fearsome looks, I have actually never suffered much of an injury from this plant. On the other hand, I have spent a lot of time yanking spines from my body due to the cuddly-sounding "teddy bear cholla", so maybe the names arent so instructive after all.
We are doing some really interesting high-resolution mapping of some of the islands in Bahía de los Ángeles, with students from Ocean Discovery Institute.
The best part of having a reasonably nice drone in the air (DJI Mavic Pro) doing mapping is that you have a nice drone in the air taking pictures. And some of them really are accidentally amazing.
We are lucky enough to have Dr. Sula Vanderplank helping us here in Bahía de los Ángeles, and it has been delightful. Sula is not only one of the world's leading experts on Baja California plants, but she is also a passionate communicator of science, a great mentor to the students here, and a dear friend. We have all learned a lot, and she has managed to create a bunch of budding botanists out of our Ocean Discovery Institute students!
Already managed to sample seven islands, and tomorrow we start checking our pitfall traps and completing the invertebrate census work. Tomorrow night, Dr. Sula Vanderplank will arrive to help us get started on looking at the island vegetation. We have seen dolphins, scorpions, sea turtles, blue-footed boobies, coyotes swimming in the wetlands - just an amazing variety of life here in the Biosphere Reserve.
Can't wait to see what week two holds in store for us!
As usual, a great group of kids, a broad overarching project (maintaining a long term insular invertebrate census database in Bahía de los Ángeles), and a cool focal project, comparing multiple methods of measuring plant communities to see what works best for what species.
Whale sharks are out in force (not as good as Fundulus, but they are pretty cool), as are blue-footed boobies, dolphins, and frigates.
Off to work with Ocean Discovery Institute students in Bahía de los Ángeles again, a lab full of talented and dedicated graduate and undergraduate students, and coming home to head off to CT and hang with family and see Hamilton on Broadway.
Tough to ask for much more. Want to see where I am? Follow me at https://share.garmin.com/DrewTalley
Nice to see so many students and colleagues concerned about gun violence.
It has taken me far too long to write about this, but I think in part that was my reluctance to engage in what felt like shameless self promotion.
Well, fear not - I am filled with shame as I engage in this self promotion!
I was staggered and honored to be presented the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation’s William A. Niering Outstanding Educator Award at this Fall’s conference. I wanted to take the opportunity to say just how humbling this is, and how grateful I am for the honor. This one has particular meaning for me for several reasons.
First, while I never met Dr. Niering, I heard his name and reputation frequently, beginning when I met Theresa (my wife) at San Diego State University in 1991. She had graduated from Connecticut College, and spoke often and warmly of Bill Niering. She praised his teaching, his knowledge, and his passion for his students and for nature. Despite never having the chance to meet him, he was (and is) nonetheless very much a presence in our house.
Second, to receive this honor from Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation, which is the go-to organization for coastal and estuarine ecologists, makes getting this distinction all the more surprising. I am stunned to see my name on the list of nine awardees since 2001 that includes Joy Zedler, John Day, Ivan Valiela, and Alejandro Yáñez-Arancibia. Getting to receive the award with my wife, daughter, and in-laws just made it that much better.
And I was deeply moved by the kind words of those who wrote letters of recommendation - students, colleagues, and mentors who offered me praise I am not certain I earned, but that I will work hard to deserve.
As I said at the award ceremony, I feel as though I have somehow pulled off some sort of scam…I get to work on projects I love, with people I love, and in places I love, and somehow I get awarded for that? It hardly seems fair!
Here is a picture of me with my wonderful grad student, Katie Blaha-Robinson, who was also honored with a well-deserved CERF Rising TIDES award at the conference!
I have been asked a few times about what podcasts I would recommend, and yet on the spur of the moment I rarely recall more than 3 or 4 of my favorites. Seems like putting them in one place is not a bad idea.
Of course, treat this is a moment-in-time sort of list. New podcasts are released all of the time; my taste in podcasts changes with time; and some beloved podcasts end their run ("Hypercritical" comes to mind). And there are some GREAT ones that will not get mention here (e.g., RadioLab, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, Invisibilia - if you arent listening to those you should be). I am assuming most people who listen to podcasts have heard of these large-scale, NPR backed ones.
Rather than try and create a taxonomy of podcasts, I will just break these into "tech" and "non-tech". When possible, I will also add a recommended "starter" episode, so you dont happen on an unrepresentative one.
Sawbones. One of my favorites - a physician and her husband take an often hilarious and always interesting trip through medical history. What is trepanation? How did we learn how Yellow Fever is transmitted? Not sure? Try listening to the Self-Surgery episode and see if you like it http://www.maximumfun.org/sawbones/sawbones-self-surgery
Gastropod. Fascinating mix of food and science. Learn about the history and science of vinegar; why consumers once had to dye margarine black - a really great podcast, and one of the ones where I wish they would publish more often! For starters, try the one on tea: https://gastropod.com/its-tea-time-pirates-polyphenols-and-a-proper-cuppa/
The Beef and Dairy Network. This is the equivalent of a mockumentary, with short episodes where the conceit is how seriously the people are taking their meat and dairy related topics. Not to everyone's taste, I am sure, but if you want to give one a try, I would recommend Episode 20, The Lamb Investigation Special.
Judge John Hodgman. You need this podcast. Hodgman and his "bailiff", Jesse Thorn, are funny, smart, and (I don't say this lightly) wise. People bring their disputes to his fake court of internet justice, and he hears both sides (usually something inherently minor, like arguing over whether the soap dispenser in the kitchen sink should be filled with dish soap or hand soap), and then they somehow provide thoughtful insight on broader issues. The best episodes are when Jesse Thorn is the bailiff (he is rarely replaced by guest bailiffs, who are also great, but not AS great), and episodes where they "clear the docket" (going through numerous cases in short order) are also great. If you are on twitter, both of them are good follows (@hodgman & @JesseThorn). Try episode 313, "The Sisterhood of the Gaveling Pants"
Also, consider checking out Hodgman's book, Vacationland, which is funny, poignant, and just beautiful.
Bullseye. Also on the Maximum Fun Network (I am sensing a trend). Here Jesse Thorn interviews...well, just about everyone. I Don't listen to them all, but I DO listen when it is, say, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Jack Black, Fred Willard, The Pointer Sisters...you get the picture! Jesse Thorn is a thoughtful and talented interviewer. Pick someone you like, and listen to that episode.
Pod Save America. Based on the number of their T-shirts I am seeing these days, they have quite a following. Another one that I don't put on my "can't miss" list, but very very good. As they put it "This is a political podcast for people not yet ready to give up or go insane, hosted by Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor".
Hello Internet. Another in a long line of podcasts by two white dudes who talk about stuff, that is where the similarities to usual podcasts ends. One former journalist turned You-Tuber (who does math and science videos), and one former teacher turned You-Tuber discuss anything and everything, from Brexit to fear of heights. I am not doing it justice, but try it. You'll thank me.
No Such Thing as a Fish. Toss a bunch of science geeks into a room, give them each the opportunity to talk about one weird/amusing/interesting story in science from the week, and this is what you get. Funny, educational, and should be on your list.
Roderick on the Line
I confess I didnt really know a lot of the music by John Roderick and The Long Winters until recently (although what I knew I did like). It turns out that he is also thoughtful, funny, candid, and astute, and together with one of my all-time podcast favorites, Merlin Mann, they create varied, funny, sometimes poignant podcasts that tend to take a long, entertaining path around their various topics.
My Brother My Brother and Me
OK, they mean it when they say "not for kids" (although I would be lying if I pretended my daughter has never heard any of them - what can I say, she loves Justin McElroy!). It can be a bit uneven (I suspect even the hosts would admit that), but I have laughed aloud many a time in the gym or car listening to them. Good stuff. Episode 351, "Omnidirectional Scampi Blast" is not a bad place to start.
Yes, I am a geek, and while I tend to gravitate towards Apple gear, I also like Windows and unix stuff, as well as Kindles and Synology and just plain old tech. That said, there are really only four tech podcasts I regularly check in on...
The Talk Show
This was a wonderful show when John Gruber did it with Dan Benjamin on the 5x5 Network, and it is just as good now as an independent. Gruber is an Apple fan without the "fanboy" traits, and really sets the bar as someone who can objectively and deeply analyze the tech industry, regularly providing really insightful commentary on everyone from Samsung to Uber to Amazon. Great guests as well as high production values make this a go-to for me.
Mac Power Users
David Sparks and Katie Floyd (mac geeks and attorneys) do a weekly podcast focused on Apple hardware and software. They keep things informative, fresh, and engaging, at least in part due to the chemistry between the hosts. This is a tech podcast that is accessible to non-geeks, but also great for those of us who are pretty deep in the weeds with tech. I look forward to every episode.
Mac Geek Gab
I have been listening to these two guys talk about mac-related tech (and other stuff) for years now, and I never tire of it. It has a lot in common with Mac Power Users, but these two are slightly more focused on helping people solve their tech problems. Again, I would not miss it, and have learned how to solve a ton of issues with iPhones/Macs by hearing other people's problems.
ATP (Accidental Tech Podcast).
One of my all-time favorite podcasts was Hypercritical, with John Siracusa. He is passionate, smart, opinionated, and engaged in social issues (well worth following if you are on Twitter - @siracusa). He, programmer Marco Arment (@marcoarment, creator of the best podcast client "Overcast"), and Casey Liss had a podcast about cars (Neutral) that I tried really hard to like, but just didnt have enough interest in the topic to stay engaged. It turns out, though, that they often strayed back into tech topics, which led to the creation of "ATP". These often run long (sometimes topping 2 hours), but if, like me, you find you love listening, that seems like a feature not a bug.
Some others I listen to but that are not, like these, on my must-listen list include:
The Critical Path
Under the Radar
Your Inner Child Is An Idiot
Am I missing some I should be listening to? Let me know in the comments!