Wear-Your-Damn-Safety-Glasses Safety Poster

You may have seen this bloody safety glasses photo making the rounds on Twitter.  This photo was taken by the amazing chemist Ian Tonks (@ianatonks) after an unlucky incident involving glass and his face.  He first tweeted it at me, @TheCollapsedPsi and @Chemjobber during a conversation we were having about #labscars.

With Ian’s permission, I made his photo into this poster!  Why not print a million copies for the walls of your lab?  I did.

click on it for the big-ass hi-res version.jpg for download

SafetyGlasses Poster (click on "3456 × 2592" below for high-res .jpg version)

What I Say When My Colleagues Ask Me If They Should Be On Twitter

Quite frequently nowadays, other professors ask me if they should be on Twitter.  “This is kind of sad,” I think to myself, “How did we get to the point where I’m giving computer advice?”  I’ve decided to generously make my opinions available.  Here they are right in front of your very eyeballs. 

What I Say When My Colleagues Ask Me If They Should Be On Twitter

Twitter is like a river.  It’s a river of information flowing by.  Some of the information is important.  Some of it isn’t.  Twitter can be a clear and pure mountain stream and it can also be a rank and fetid conduit of human sewage.  It can be all of these things at the same time.  Every day I go down to the river and toss a few rocks in.  They mostly disappear under the surface without ceremony.  Once in a great while I make a small splash.  Every day I get a little wet down at the river, which can be kind of refreshing.

“Join the Conversation!” commands Twitter, and we obligingly comply.  “Where does all this Conversation go?” you might ask me.  Well, it flows down the Mighty River of Sh*t into the Great Ocean of Oblivion.  The whole process takes about eight seconds (at most).  Supposedly you can go dredge the ocean years later and relocate any drop of water you care to, no matter how random it was.  This means that Victoria Beckham might one day contact me and ask to see my Baby Spice Dance, which I never had the chance to make public before I got on Twitter.  It also means that I may someday be taken to task for the disparaging generalizations I’ve made about #heterotrophs, who can be disappointingly sore losers in a metabolism-based #smackdown.  Like a lot of other things in life, Twitter can be as much or as little as you want it to be.  No, Twitter probably won’t help you organize your desk drawers or lower your cholesterol but it is particularly good for a few things.

Twitter is useful for five things:

1.  Meeting people.  You will inevitably meet people on Twitter because there’s always somebody down at the river — day or night, rain or snow, Christmas Eve or Thermonuclear Doomsday.  People meet their soulmates on Twitter.  They meet their deranged stalkers as well, and every imaginable scenario in between.  Twitter is great for combatting isolation.  Here in Hawaii we spend long hours in the lab while the mainland is sleeping or shoveling snow or being on CSPAN or whatever the hell it is you guys do over there.  Twitter allows us to share the small victories of lab-life with the handful of other people in the world who “get” what it’s like to piss yourself with delight over the growth of a new leaf.  This is invaluable to us and has improved our sorry lot immeasurably just within the last year.

2.  Saying something.  If Twitter is like a river, it’s also like graduate school in that you shouldn’t just get in and float around aimlessly for a few years.  What do you want to say?  What do you need to say?  Whatever it is, go say it, even if it is controversial.  Especially if it is controversial.  And you will inevitably step on someone’s toes, it’s unavoidable.  Credibility is an interesting thing both IRL and on Twitter.  A lot of Twitter-cred is simply a function of how much time you’re willing to spend on the riverbank.  You probably won’t have any luck arguing with someone who lives 24/7 at the river’s edge.  So set your own limits according to what else you’ve got going.  Remember that you can come and go from the river as you please, Good Glory it don’t need you to keep it flowing.  And do remember that tweeting about an issue is not the same as doing something about it.

3.  Expressing rage.  Some users really go in big for this option.  If you need evidence that Homo sapiens is a rageful species, Twitter is a convenient and supremely fecund source.  Some of the anger is straightforward to understand, since injustice inevitably inspires legitimate rage.  I suppose all rage is a legitimate response to something, just only rarely toward whomever it’s being tweeted.  Combine this with the fact that on Twitter one is not excessively accountable for one’s rage and you get The Perfect Interpersonal Storm.  Listen, you can scream insults in ALL CAPS for hours on Twitter, and you will not be held accountable in the same way that your neighbors will hold you accountable if you go out your front door and scream profanity at the top of your lungs all night long.  This has value because IRL accountability is often based on norms founded upon unjust power structures that are rendered deliciously ineffective by the internet.  Yes indeed, this has value, but it also carries a cost – and this cost is exacted not only from the person being screamed at, but also from the screamer’s overall effectiveness.  Incongruously enough, anger ultimately rings rather impotently through the halls of Twitter, while unexpected kindness can echo long.

4.  Setting an example.  One thing that makes Twitter so interesting is that there are almost no rules.  No one can control what hashtag you post to or what words you type, although I’ve seen people expend an impressive amount of energy trying to do just that.  I strongly recommend that you choose your own rules before setting sail down the River Twitter.  First take the time to explore your values.  What kind of person do you believe you are?  What kind of person do you want to be?  Decide the circumstances under which you would block a user who is attempting to communicate with you.  It may not seem likely at the start, but these will be criteria to which you’ll eventually appeal.  It’s constructive to consult the concept of reciprocity, and the long history of the internet can be useful here.  You can learn a lot about a user by examining a few days of recent feed.  Has the person demanding that you listen to them ever demonstrated a willingness to listen to anyone?  Has the person demanding that you change ever evidenced a change in themselves?  Deliniate your personal threshhold for reciprocity, set your limits, and then act accordingly.  Oh, and by the way, if you do this right then your students are watching you, as are a bunch of young people you don’t even know.  What example will you set for them in terms of how to handle internet conflict?  What will you teach them about how scientists should treat each other?

5.  Experimenting with your identity.  You can claim any identity you want on Twitter.  Start from the assumption, however, that most people want to know the real you.  Unless you make it relentlessly explicit that you are a parody account, people will assume that whatever you tweet is basically your real opinion.  What do you really think?  What do you really care about?  It is an interesting experience to tweet your opinions outloud.  You’ll also hear interesting opinions, sometimes held by unlikely identities.  There’s this rabbit that runs a lab and recently an urchin got on Twitter and by gosh I lay awake at night wondering what they’ll say next.  Many smart journalists have twitter feeds where they pull what is actually interesting out of the vast septic intertank as some kind of penance for something, I imagine.  Always remember that every tweet you read is out-of-context because there is no context that fits into 123.7 characters or whatever the hell the number is.  A healthy first reaction to every and any tweet is “Golly, I wonder what the hell the context for that could possibly be!”

So there’s five reasons for ya.  Since when have you had five good reasons to do anything?  Were there five good reasons to go to this week’s Faculty Meeting?  Exactly.  So go ahead and set up a Twitter account!  Hell, set up two or three or six.  Paint your nails and tweet a picture, you never know what might happen.  Come on down to the river and make your choice – because in the end, every time you tweet you are making a choice — whether you realize it or not.  Like every other arena of your life, you are choosing to what and whom you will give your time and emotional energy.   On Twitter, you will never be able to choose what people say to you.  But you are the one who chooses what you say back.

Do you like being told what to do by people who think they know everything?  If so you’re in the right place!  Here’s my advice on how to Get A Faculty Job, How to Save Time Your Faculty Job once you get it, and what to do After You Get Tenure.

What I Say When People Tell Me That They Feel Hopeless About Climate Change

Scientists like me study carbon emissions, deforestation, ocean acidification, desertification, sea-level rise, glacial melting, landscape degradation, groundwater salination, invasive species, global warming and more.  There is very little good news to share.  Today’s environmental problems are easily big enough to eclipse our inadequate solutions.  When people tell me that climate change makes them feel hopeless, I breathe deep, and then I respond.  I don’t answer them because I have a good response, but because we all deserve at least a bad response.  Here is what I say.

What I Say When People Tell Me That They Feel Hopeless About Climate Change

First of all, I remind them that we are strong and lucky.  That our planet is also home to one billion people who live wretchedly on less than one thousand calories a day.  The fact that we are of the group with food, shelter and clean water obligates us not to give up on the world that we have compromised.  Knowledge is responsibility.

I remind them that every Age is conscripted to struggle with its own impending Armageddon.  That during centuries past, men and women railed helpless against overwhelming natural forces that poisoned the wells, spoiled the crops and robbed them of their babies.  We may discount their science as superstition but it was based on state-of-the-art observations.  Genetically we are no smarter than they were, and we may be laboring in similar darkness.  I note that the succeeding centuries did bring unfathomable solutions to even the most intransigent of these ancient plagues.  And though these solutions came far too late for many, they were not too late for all.

I stress that it matters what we teach the next generation.  That we should mourn the marring of our childhood sleep with nightmares about the threat of nuclear war.  We risk our own paralysis via the message that we have hated the Earth and so the Earth hates us.  As far as we know, this is still our species’ eternal home, and we must not alienate our children from it.

If these are my colleagues, I tell them that complaining about something is not the same as doing something about it, and that scaring people is not the same as informing them.  Then I remind myself to take my own advice.

I reassure them that my address book is full of people who care about these issues.  That the smartest people I know are dedicating their lives to gathering the data that will tell us more.  That on this very day, scores of people got to the lab early and will stay late, trying to quantify the exact magnitude of the problem.  That we are walking the fields and counting what is there and what is not.  That the ecologists who first noticed these problems could not have imagined the computers or instruments that we now use every day.  That scientists are watching and working and not just worrying.  That Science is really just as it has always been — overworked and underfunded and absolutely unwavering in its refusal to ever stop trying to figure it all out.

When people tell me that they feel hopeless about climate change, I look them in the eye, steady my voice and state that I believe all will be okay, even though we both know damn well that it may not.  Then I put my head down and I go back to work.

Next month my student graduates with a thesis project focused on crops, carbon dioxide and global hunger, which is what got me thinking.  It’s my first big foray out of rather esoteric plant biochemistry and into socially-relevant climate change research.  I also love science, and believe that it embodies all of our best hopes for tomorrow.

How I Fell In Love with Becky Sharp

I always wanted to be a writer, but I became a scientist instead because it is a lot easier.  Here’s the story of exactly how I made that choice.  I was a sophomore in college at the University of Minnesota and it was, well, the Eighties.  I told this story once when I was on a panel meant to explain to undergrads how their professors had chosen their majors.  I was never invited back.

While growing up in America you are taught that everything worth reading was written in England a long time ago.  I developed the expectation that after I’d spent four years in college exploring just how incredibly goddam true that was, I could then be a Writer, having absorbed all that Great Writing and understanding the Symbolism and Context, et cetera.  So I became what used to be called an “English Major” using this thing called a “scholarship” that used to exist.  I gave it a try — I really did — but it still didn’t work out the way I expected it to.  Here’s what happened.

The lectures for my English classes were downright bizarre.  It became clear to me early on that the students who showed up having even scanned the assigned texts comprised a pale minority, and that we weren’t meant to criticize or question what everyone had decided fifty years ago was a Great Work.  This made for predictable and tedious discussion sections perversely enforced on behalf of some cosmic curricular calendar.

We read Bram Stoker’s Dracula which contains a “Memorandum Left by Lucy Westenra” describing how a wolf jumped on Lucy and her mother causing the latter to die instantly of fright, while the former hung on bravely for a number of pages, but ultimately also proved mortally wounded by the aforementioned canine barbarity.  The scene affected me deeply in that I thought it utterly asinine, and during class I said so and furthermore postulated that Stoker had either never met a big dog or a full-grown woman, nor possibly both.  The professor countered with a short speech describing the widespread incidence of tuberculosis throughout the eighteen-hundreds.  I pushed my luck by describing how the bacteria guilty of causing TB, for all their sins, couldn’t rationally be accused of preferring female lungs over male ones, and that in Stoker’s follow-up short story Dracula’s Guest a wolf actually gets into the bed of an unnamed Englishman while he is sleeping and then French kisses him for a while, after which the Englishman goes on with his life not more worse for wear.  My soliloquy left me energized but my professor appeared depleted and my classmates only looked bored.

“Women in those days couldn’t breathe properly,” she explained patiently, and I marveled that she was serious.  “They were constricted by corsets,” she elaborated.

“Not all of them,” I contradicted, “The women in my family would have knocked that thing cold with a cast-iron skillet, drug it into the yard, poured lard on it and set it on fire to keep other wolves from getting ideas.”

“I think you are missing the point of the story,” she said in the tone that teachers employ when they’ve deemed it time for you to shut up, “This is an ancillary scene around a subordinate character.”

I slumped down in my chair and seethed for a moment, then looked around me and began to appreciate the comedy of the situation.  Maybe Victorian literature should just be left alone, I reasoned: if the only student who had actually read the book had also missed its point then even Bram Stoker and Henry James put together probably couldn’t save my woeful generation.  I waxed philosophical and reflected upon how the words “ancillary” and “subordinate” effectively summed up ninety-nine-point-nine-nine percent of the female characters depicted on paper during the nineteenth century.  I had enrolled in a class named “Great Novels of the Victorian Era” figuring that I’d encounter at least one book that I’d want to read twice.  I learned that there must be something wrong with me because I dutifully read and re-read the same passages that had charmed and inspired generations of intellectuals and was plagued by what I saw as their repeated demonstrations of insufferable insipidity.

Of all the stupid characters, the female ones were the stupidest, and damned if it wasn’t female authors that had cooked up the worst ones.  The four Little Women and their four hundred Little Problems didn’t much move me and I suspected it was because I didn’t really care which one ended up genetically replicating Laurie throughout her reproductive years, except that it seemed the only way for any of us to escape the tedious sermons that Reverend Marmee dispatched with chapteric frequency.  These characters can’t even die assertively, I thought when I finally got to page 456, smiled through my tears, and thanked God that Beth was dead at last.  All those acerbically witty Jane Austen characters never got around to discussing anything important because their life stories ended on the same day that they got engaged.  I even had to admit that the Dickens characters who had burrowed like chiggers into my heart were obviously too good to be anywhere near real, and I was aghast at his heroines who didn’t start out virtuous but mysteriously evolved into their better selves upon extended exposure to matrimonial brutality.  Why the hell hadn’t the mother and sisters of these characters already in-lawed the asshole husbands into a shallow grave by the time he administered his tenth beating?  Where were the granddaughters of the Viking women warriors who brought down war on your head for looking at them wrong, and could be killed only by an epic battle after which they marched straight into hell and told the entire afterlife to f*ck off?  Where were the granddaughters of the Greek heroines who revenged themselves even by murdering innocent children when wronged, giving terrible shape to the infinite injustice that they presumed attended any harm to themselves?  Had every single one of their descendants died of tuberculosis on Old Vicky’s coronation day?

Catherine Linton née Earnshaw was attractive because she had so effectively harnessed her God-given talents towards sadism, but I was disappointed to find that she never made it off the farm and instead spent her best years stomping around the bogs and caterwauling into the darkness.  Her sister-by-another-mother Jane Eyre used her formidable strength to stagger down a moral high road only to win the prized pile-of-cinders heart of a secretive and mutilated old buzzard, the moral of that story being Be Careful What You Wish For.  About the time that I pompously declared the English language fundamentally inadequate to the description of true womanhood, I noted that Charlotte Brontë had dedicated Jane Eyre to William Makepeace Thackeray and decided to read Vanity Fair in order to see what the hubbub was about.

I was immediately enraptured by Rebecca Sharp: without friends, connections or money she went more places and saw more things than all the other characters in the book combined, while forced to rely on her wits alone.  Becky didn’t have any love for the world that didn’t love her, though she could heartily pretend it if her survival required.  This was the role model that I’d been searching for, I decided, and she signed on as an indifferent and shadowy travelling companion for the years ahead.  I was further convinced of my evaluation when searching the voluminous canon purported to interpret Vanity Fair turned up no authoritative analysis of Becky’s multidimensional character.  The back cover of my filthy and frayed Penguin Classics copy described Becky as “free-wheeling,” and thus came closer than anything else I could find.  I decided that Becky was different because she was the only one of all these characters that was truly free: free from definition by others and so free to define herself, her marginality furnished an accidental means towards liberation.  Perhaps if you transplanted a Visigoth princess into Modern history, stuffed her into a corset and a complex social code, what you got was Becky Sharp.

Becky’s life wasn’t easy, and it didn’t end particularly well, although I suspected that she didn’t give a shit what the reader thought.  Plenty of literary analysts stared down their post-Industrial noses and judged her as “amoral”, but it rang hollow to fault her for rejecting a career as The Little Matchstick Girl in favor of hanging out in Bath and Brussels bedizened in silk shantung.  Becky’s abject deficiency as a mother was not lost on me: she couldn’t take care of her son and she hadn’t really tried, and if this failure at all pained her, the reader sure hadn’t heard anything about it.  You might scan chapter after chapter curious to see whom Amelia would end up with, but you didn’t worry about Becky.  She could take care of herself.

Having discovered far more value in a book that wasn’t assigned than in all the books that had been, I tapered off of the English courses and commandeered my own literary education.  I filled the daytime void with science courses that liked me back even more than I liked them.  There my curiosity and questions fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold (chemistry), some sixtyfold (biology), and some thirtyfold (physics).  I was astounded to find that diligent combat against my lack of preparation during high-school made me a precious “B-plus” sheep that when found and returned to the fold, they verily rejoiceth more of than of the ninety and nine which had easily earned an “A”.  Ironically, it was science that regarded my ability to write correctly to be nothing short of a divine harbinger of success.

I wasn’t ready and I wasn’t special.  I knew damn well that I wasn’t smart enough to be a scientist, and I was certainly not noble enough to deserve to be one.  I was merely audacious enough to want Science, and the more I learned, the more I wanted.  I decided that like Becky, I would take something that wasn’t meant for me, and I’d never apologize for my theft.  Like her, I’d just have to make it up as I went along.

I also love Marie Curie.  Or at least I think I do.  You can read more about that here.

The Full Text of My Letter to Nature Magazine

Nature published an excerpt of my letter below within their Correspondence section; the text that they actually published was a 300-word extract from the full letter below.  I worked with them on the shortened version, and they were very receptive to my insistence that each word of it be chosen by me.  Below is the full letter, for your interest.

Dear Editor-in-Chief Philip Campbell,

I wanted to presume upon your attention in order to explain more fully why I chose to decline the interview that I had agreed to do for Nature-Jobs.  In one way it was an easy decision, mostly because I am secure in my assumption that every submission to Nature is treated fairly.  The selection process is indeed severe, and has mostly resulted in my rejection, but I am confident in the overall scientific integrity of the process.  Such extreme selectivity doesn’t uniformly result in a perfect and complete inclusion of the very best, but within every issue of Nature are scientific articles that are well worth reading, thinking and talking about.  This is my opinion based on more than twenty-five years of reading and citing your journal.

My declination was a strategic decision and I am concerned that you should not interpret it as a simple effort to silence your Correspondence section.  I admit that I was motivated by personal inclination, but I maintain that it is a valid inclination based on long and meaningful experience.  The journal Nature is a powerful institution; many have argued that it is the most powerful literary institution within the entire discipline of science.  Every scientist has paused over a Nature article at some point in her/his career, often to the effect of challenging or even changing opinions and beliefs about how the world works.  Every student starts each experiment harboring the faint hope that if all goes well enough, the result might merit submission to Nature.  Every early-career scientist is told that acceptance within Nature is a valuable prize and a harbinger of glory, laud and honor and job-security.  Thus the assignment of a Nature doi is a powerful force of reification, one that endures far beyond the squabbling that may precede or follow it.  Nature is an institution in which its editors, reviewers, authors and readers have invested a monument of effort and care.  For this very reason it is also an institution that merits exceptional scrutiny.

Nature has stated many, many times that the correspondence it publishes does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors.  This is a standard disclaimer within any news-type publication and Nature is correct to expect its readers to be familiar with such policy.  However, it is well worth examining why this disclaimer requires so much repetition, both within the publication and within conversation (e.g., recently on Twitter)There seems to be a deep-seated tendency to associate the Nature masthead with the Nature selection process.  Emphasizing to the readership that this association is not good practice with conspicuous adamancy right after readers react strongly to what’s been printed will engender predictable cynicism towards what may be interpreted as a lack of editorial responsibility.  A simpler solution might be to remove the Nature masthead from the Correspondence, but then – it wouldn’t be Nature any more, would it?  Exactly why did Nature want its readers to read Koube’s letter?  As a reader, I would very much like an answer.  A meaningful answer probably requires a vigorous and protracted conversation within Nature exploring the very purpose that the Correspondence section is meant to serve within an age where Koube’s letter already has multiple outlets for mass distribution.

This brings me to my larger reason for declining the interview.  I don’t have the authority to set up a time, date and venue for the above “vigorous and protracted conversation” that I wish to see happen.  I made my decision hoping that my declination might serve as a concrete catalyst for an authority figure within Nature to call for such a discussion.  I rationally judged that the possibility of this discussion is of greater benefit to my field, when compared to an article about me as an individual.  One last clarifying point: on my blog I wrote, “Nobody [at Nature] gives a <bleep> about my hurt little feelings.”  I do believe that Nature the institution does not give a <bleep>.  But I believe that individuals within the institution perhaps do.  I feel deeply that we, as people, are always better than the institutions that we create, and that perhaps this is the tragedy of our age.  I also know that the very fact that we can create institutions implies that we also have the power to change them.


A. Hope Jahren, Professor of Geobiology, University of Hawaii

Post-script: Nature and its editors are welcome to reproduce or distribute the unedited text of this letter as it sees fit, including with the Correspondence section of the journal.

Still wondering what this is all about?  You can read the whole story of Lukas’s original dumbass letter on @rocza ‘s blog.  Oh, and here’s what I wrote on the morning that I declined the interview.  It’s a lot less measured and profesh … and funnier too.

Group Post: Real-Life Identity and The Internet

We got together and started writing this post after Slate published this article about a University of Kansas tenured professor who got in trouble with the Kansas Board of Regents for tweeting his views about the NRA.  Since that time the issue of anonymity, pseudonymity and real-life identity on both Twitter and the blogosphere has really blown up.  Below are essays by five academic scientists discussing the pros and cons of being real-life identified on the internet.  

Group Post: Real-Life Identity and The Internet

Hope writes: “People have good reasons for wanting to be anonymous on the internet.  People have good reasons for wanting to be pseudonymous on the internet.  I have good reasons for wanting to be real-life identified, but they are not noble reasons …” read more here …

DNLee writes: “I share my personal experiences with students, educators, academic policy makers, and the general public as my fully identified self to shine a light on how the meritocracy doesn’t quite work the way it should. Right now, my real name carries no weight, but my use of it is about conspicuousness  …” read more here …

Jeremy writes: “Even if I toyed with the idea of restarting under an assumed name, I can’t think of much that I’d do differently. I suspect that my profile—youngish gay biologist with a thing for species interactions, a distaste for sloppy evolutionary storytelling, and a stylistic crush on David Foster Wallace—would out me …” read more here …

Karen writes: “It is a combination of luck and privilege that has permitted me the choice to be Karen James online, not strength of character, commitment to transparency, courage, or any other sort of superior crap certain foes of pseudonymity might suggest …” read more here …

Terry writes: “A visit to a blog can be like arriving at an intimate party where you don’t know anybody. In contrast, I want my blog to be approachable to everybody. I want to be the guy who walks over to the front door, says ‘Hi, I’m Terry. Come on in.’ “ … read more here …


Note: You can find us individually on Twitter! We are: Hope Jahren (@HopeJahren), DNLee (@DNLee5), Jeremy Yoder (@JBYoder), Karen James (@kejames), and Terry McGlynn (@horminga).  You can also get to our individual blogs via our Twitter profiles.

Why I Turned Down a Q-and-A in Nature Magazine

Today is not the first day that I’ve woken up to realize that my name will not appear in Nature magazine.  I send them my scientific breakthroughs quite regularly.  One of them even broke through recently, and If you love me, you’ll go download it and cite it a few times.  My experience with Nature’s publishing process is that first, a severely overworked Editor desperately tries to find a reason to reject your stuff, and then if he can’t, he sends it out to a few more guys who close ranks and tell you it’s shit.  Then you write a long measured response explaining patiently that they’re all wrong, and finally the Editor has to come down on one side or another, usually not yours.  I don’t have any evidence that this process doesn’t work exactly the same way for every poor bastard that submits a scientific report to Nature, regardless of creed or calling.

So today I learned that the publishing process at Nature is actually very different from the above.  I am now convinced that there’s a rat that runs across the keyboards late at night, accidentally hitting “command-P” here and there and producing content.  I’ve concluded this because apparently no one is responsible for what’s in the correspondence section of Volume 505, which looks like this (click it):


Above I see two things that I don’t want to read about, one of them being Genital Itching.  I also see the Nature masthead, and a Nature volume number and doi assigned to a letter arguing that journalistic adherence to scientific quality will logically and inevitably result in my invisibility.  Well, that’s my summary, but I encourage you to read it and formulate your own.  This whole thing is a big old steaming déjà vu of Womanspace from a few years ago, which I also wrote about.  Anyway, it hurts to read that crap and so I’m all pissed off.  On Twitter, journalists have splained and splained to me that Nature-Jobs, Nature-Comments, Nature-Letters, Nature-TooManyIDK are totally f*cking separate and each is populated by Editors that positively abhor the values of the others.  It seems that Nature is always really concerned that I fully appreciate this after they publish something offensive.  At other times they’re more comfortable with the lines being blurry.  Like when I’m paying my subscription bill, for example.

I try hard to avoid having principles because they inevitably lead me to hypocrisy, and aside from that, very little else is accomplished.  Today was particularly illustrative: I used to have this policy that I never, ever declined to talk to a reporter.  Because I hold my practice of self-promotion sacred, it was an easy policy to follow.  Well, today I violated my own policy.  I told a very professional, smart and sincerely motivated freelance journalist that I wasn’t going to do the Q&A we’d planned for Nature Jobs.  I felt like shit for declining.  I told her again and again that I don’t want to make her job harder.  Just like Nature doesn’t want to make my job harder.  But it does.  At least I can take comfort in the fact that if readers wonder why my name is not in their issue of Nature, they can just flip over to the section with a letter that explains why you shouldn’t expect to see names like mine in Nature.  This will be handy for everyone, and yet I still feel the need to formally revise my principles in light of today’s events.  Below is my new working model:


I will not serve as the poster child du jour for Nature’s version of GirlsRule!  I don’t want to be Nature‘s counterpoint.  I am my own point.

I will not wear pantyhose ever, for any reason.


I will do the exact same Q&A interview — with the same or a different reporter — for any other publication under the sun.  This includes Science, PNAS, Guideposts, Playboy, Hustler and Dog Fancy.

I will fly to Sherman, Texas and do a Q&A interview with Lukas that Nature can print in place of mine.  This will salve my guilt for leaving the Editors in a lurch.  Also, something tells me that Lukas has yet more to say, and I have some questions of my own for him.  It just makes sense!  [Same-Day Update: I'm no longer willing to do this.  Lukas likes to tweet about guns.  See?  Hypocrisy already.  Damn.]

I will allow Nature to officially link to this blog post.  They could call it, “Here’s What Hope Jahren Thinks!”  After all, their wish to interview me proves that they want their readers to know what I have to say, so this will make it easy.  Watch for the link, everyone!

I will hold Nature responsible for choosing to print anything that it prints.

Oh, shucks, who am I kidding here?  Criticizing Nature is like throwing a rock at a tank.  C’mon, it’s Nature for Chrissakes.  Nobody there gives a shit about my hurt little feelings and they can find hoards of men far more interesting than me to interview.  It’s also not my place to tell Nature what to do about what just might be pernicious editorial problems somewhere within their chain-of-command.  And furthermore, I’m sorry for what I wrote about rats.  I feel bad for rats.  It’s not their fault that they spread disease and just generally gross everyone out.  And they clearly don’t understand the damage that they do.

Important point: The Itching-Genital information is not part of any Nature publication, it’s just a web ad.  If my genitals itch, it is not Nature’s responsibility.  Sort of like it’s not their responsibility if one of their editorial choices disempowers the shit out of me.

Got a comment? hahaLOL, send it to Nature! Or you can tweet me.

Still wondering what this is all about?  You can read the whole story of Lukas’s original dumbass letter on @rocza ‘s blog.
I also wrote a very measured and professional letter directly to Editor-in-Chief at Nature, mostly because I like to hear myself talk.  They published  a 300-word excerpt of it within their Correspondence section.