Random Whiny Update

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The weather is very weird here -- warm & windy and bouts of serious rain.  It is one of those stupid weekends where Will & I are in different countries.  I have a ton of work to do -- I left for this weekend a task that would probably be done better over two weeks, I need to edit 1/3rd of a book of collected papers.  I can hear people cheering from my living room:  I guess that the Bath Rugby team must have a home game; I am not too far from their grounds.

I've been a bit frustrated at work.  On the one hand, I actually am way happier to be back in Bath than I expected.  It is nice to know a higher proportion of what is going on, and to have people know & respect you for your role in an institution.  But the problem is that I am back at work in a Computer Science department so that is just naturally putting a lot more of my research emphasis (let alone my teaching) back on engineering.  My sabbatical at the KLI was not exactly what I had expected -- I thought they did theoretical biology, but really they do philosophy of biology.  So as a result I know way more about evolution than I even realized I needed to learn -- philosophers are incredibly knowledgeable and beyond up-to-date -- they look way over the leading edge into the questionable fringe, because some part of the questionable fringe will of course become the leading edge in a few years.  But they didn't really help me get better at writing up semi-empirical (simulation-based) theoretical biology, which was one of my goals.

Of course, just reading does that.  I've come back to a paper that got rejected 6 months ago & I can now see that it wasn't written in the right style.  Further, I finally went to a really theory-level conference on the evolution of cooperation last month.  I tend to go to more empirical meetings because I want more data.  But from the meeting I attended I realized that my article is still competitive theoretically, and also I got some ideas about presenting the material so it is more comprehensible from some other researchers who are doing scarily good & complicated stuff.  Particularly Ulf Dieckmann.

Well, we'll see how it goes.  I think I could have an easier time if I concentrate on publishing closer to  the areas I have degrees in, like the social sciences, which are increasingly also taking an evolutionary perspective.  In the longer term I think I probably will, but in the next few years I think I need to get all the stuff I've already done published, even if it means working harder on getting each paper accepted.

But back to the frustration, I hate that doing a significant part of my Bath job (ramping back up my AI research program) detracts from making what is probably more globally-useful contributions in  biology.  Just to make things worse and at the same time better, a brilliant prospective postdoc is getting me to spend time on a third area of my research that I also hadn't spent too much time on lately (though some):  individual learning, emotions & action selection in humans and other animals.  This is really fun, but yet another thing going on.  At least one of my two PhD students seems to be starting to write his own papers, so that's good.  I don't mind people getting me to do interesting stuff if they do at least half the writing about it!

OK, that was random & whiny.  In general things are fine & fun.  Hope you all are doing well.  I got my BT phone fixed so I can dial out of the country again -- I finally chose the "billing" rather than the "report faults" option on the telephone menu & got a foreign call centre, and they were smart enough to figure out the problem.