Category: Language

Time to write simply

How junior researchers can write effectively and simply? Use simple style in all your writing, whether it’s an email, an invitation or a reference letter.

 

photocredit: universityaffairs.ca

I am so tired of reading badly written science. I barely finish reading articles that runs over one page. None of my friends read (my) articles. The feeling of failure spreads in me like cancer. Firstly, I’m worried that we have failed everyday people who need our answers the most. Secondly, I fear that I, my colleagues and my mentors have failed future scientists by passing our bad writing habits on to them. How junior researchers can write effectively and simply?

Read my latest article in the Career Advice section of the University Affairs magazine website:

http://www.universityaffairs.ca/career-advice/career-advice-article/

 

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Writing Together: Do Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth?

July 29: Nurse Liz Charalambous has shown how a Facebook group can really help boost writing (careers, June 3). We would like to take this idea one step further and argue that, contrary to a commonly held notion, ‘too many cooks do not spoil the broth’ when it comes to group writing. Instead, this approach fosters collaboration between writers, as Ms Charalambous suggests, and which has also been our experience.
Nursing Standard is the UK’s best selling nursing journal and the ultimate resource for students and fully qualified nurses.

The University of Limerick and University College Dublin primary mental healthcare research writing group recently skyped bimonthly to discuss a short piece of research written by one of four post-doctoral members.
The group read the sample in advance and discussed it with the author, facilitating her to think through her ideas in a supportive environment. Once the group reviewed and discussed the text, the author revised it, combined it with the rest of the article, and emailed it to the principal investigator.
The principal investigator and the author then finished the paper and emailed it out for review to all named co-authors. This way, the authorship was clearly defined, managed and assigned as per the necessary guidelines. The broth was ready and we had all helped to cook it.
J Klimas, D Swan, G McCombe and AM Henihan, University of Limerick, University College Dublin, Kings College London and University of British Columbia 

Read the article in the Nursing Standard Volume 29, Issue 48, 29 July 2015 at: http://journals.rcni.com/loi/ns 

Voice to Voice Book launch June 18, 7 pm, Lost + Found Café, 33 W Hastings‏, Vancouver, BC


Thursdays Writing Collective invites you to celebrate the launch of our seventh anthology, Voice to Voice!

Thursday, June 18, 2015
Lost + Found Café 
7pm-9pm

Join us for a fun evening of socializing and celebration. The evening will include a SHORT reading (15mins), catered free snacks, book sales and some silliness. Details will be posted asap.


This book of poems, stories, songs and memoir by members of the Downtown Eastside community of Vancouver represents a year of thinking about music and transformation. It also represents our collaboration with six composers from UBC School of Music who turned 11 of our poems into original new music art songs. Our collaboration was facilitated by Laura Barron of Instruments of Change.

Beautifully designed by Doris Cheung, Voice to Voice includes score excerpts of the songs which were performed in two concerts (at UBC and at St James Anglican Church).

The book was funded by the community via an Indiegogo campaign and we thank Canada Council for the Arts, UBC School of Music, Peter Wall Centre, Instruments of Change, Carnegie Community Centre and SFU’s Writer’s Studio for support in many guises.

Written, created and brought to life on the unceded territories of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh peoples.

Contributors include: Anita Lo, Antonette Rea, Brian Topp, Cindy McBride, Christiaan Venter, d. n. simmers, Donna Dykeman, Elee Kraljii Gardiner, Eleanor Guerrero-Campbell, Erol Almelek, Gene Emerson, Ghia Aweida, Gilles Cyrenne, Graham Cunningham, Harry Langen, Henry Doyle, Irit Shimrat, James McLean, James Witwicki, Jan Tse, Jane Miller, Jano Klimas, Joan Morelli, John Alan Douglas, Johnny “Chihuahua” Jaworkski, Judy Nordlund, Laura Barron, Leichandra Truong, Lucas Oickle, Martin Ritter, Michael Ducharme, Molly Skye Ancel, Muriel Marjorie, Neil Dato, Patrick Foley, Rena Sharon, Roger Stewart, Ruth Dato

Accessibility Info for Lost + Found Café:
Main entrance: 5 feet wide, double doors that open outwards, wing handles 41” from ground. Weather permitting, doors to street will likely be left open. There are no steps to entrance. The space inside Lost & Found Café is stair-free. Signage is a sandwich board on the sidewalk.

There is parking (paid by metre) on Hastings St directly outside and opposite the café. There are bike lock-ups directly outside café, as well as the Hastings bus stop. There will be transit tickets available at the event for those who need them.

This event is a scent reduced space. Please refrain from wearing heavily scented perfumes and hygiene products.

Readers will use a microphone and the space has minimal echoes. Lighting is even throughout space.

There are a variety of seating options. A variety of upholstered seats & couches with and without armrests. The majority of seating consists of unpadded wooden chairs with no armrests. There will be space for those who wish to stand. There will be priority seating reserved for elders; these seats will be marked “Reserved for elders”, please help yourself as needed. If you need a particular kind of seating for your physical comfort, please contact us beforehand and we will have that set aside for you.

There will be snacks provided for all attendees. There will be vegetarian options. Water is freely available. Alcohol is not provided but is available for purchase in the space. Counters are 3’3” from ground.

There will be two All Genders washrooms for the event.

The hallway leading to the washroom is 32” wide. There is a 90 degree turn in the hallway with a turning area of 40” by 37”. There are two washrooms, both of which have one stall. The doors to the stalls open inward and the stall entrance is 33” wide. The washroom on the lefthand side has a stall that is 57” deep and 61” wide with the toilet located in the rear left corner of the stall, immediately beside the wall. There is no grip bar. There is a scooter and wheelchair accessible public washroom located at the Carnegie Centre at Hastings & Main, three blocks East of the venue. For further info regarding washrooms, contact Lost & Found at 604-559-7444

This accessibility audit was done using part of the information provided in the RAMP project audit (http://radicalaccessiblecommunities.wordpress.com/radical-access-mapping-project-vancouver/). Thank you to RAMP for giving us feedback on this audit.

Shoes off! You’re in Iceland

Barefooted or not, Iceland is a country for adventure seekers. Planning a trip to Iceland? Our narrated itinerary might help you.

Sunday, 31.8. Skógar

Our Gatwick flight was delayed by 90 minutes due to strong winds. We enjoyed our delay though. The best thing about our flight was a prolonged break in the Gatwick, discovery of a public footpath around a small lake with water lilies and harvest of blackberries. 

Starved by the flight, we bought super healthy bread with walnuts at the Keflavik airport. Fair car Rental Companypicked us up. Gave us printed maps and weather focused. We opted for a used car with “Scratches and dents all over the place”. We managed to drive the 200km to be in the Skógar hostel just before the bedtime. The hostel was very basic, with dorm rooms only.

Monday, 1.09. Hvoll

Nothing is better than a room on your own, especially after the first night in a super basic hostel. Hiking around the Skogar waterfall wasn’t really great fun. After about 2 hours, we finished the hike, exhausted and wet. The wetness wasn’t obvious until we came down and rested for a while when the high wind started again.  The rest of the day, we spent in the Skogar folk museum – a safe haven while the elements had their time outside. 


There were so many things in the museum that we wondered whether they know about all of them. You could spend hours learning about Iceland across several themed buildings plus an open air museum. The Vik finished our day with my hot pool treat and a quick stop in the Icewear which proved to be too expensive for our budget. Missing the grocery store just by 20 mins, we went on a scenic journey by the sea, crossing lava fields under the Laki volcanoes.

 

Our hosts in the Hvoll hostel, Hannes and Guony, have been living there since 1975. Since 1999, they started renting rooms and shortly build the nearby hostel. They still have a farm with a few sheep.

Tuesday, 2.09. Selfoss

After half an hour driving from the Hvoll hostel to the Skatfafell national park, we headed for the looped walk. The walk was well marked with knee-high yellow-end-painted poles. Also very busy with other hikers, especially at the start and end.  The Skatfafellsheiq loop was 15.5 km long and we had about 7 showers on the way, we thought there was no point in taking our raingear off. It took us about 5.5 hours to do the loop walk. At times, we had luck to see bits of the huge Skatfafell glacier pushing its way through the valley. The glacier greeted us with cold wind, the descending side of the walk and mountain Kristínartindar was colder. The trail was rocky at times, especially going down.


On our way to Sellfoss,we stopped to take pictures of the Skatfafell waterfall – foss in Icelandic. We gave a ride to a couple of hikers from France, only to Skogar; happy to see it again in the daylight, we said bye to the youths right in front of the campsite. They told us that they had to stand only 20 mins in the rain and their rides were mostly tourists. But the guy had rides by locals in the past.

Finally arrived to Selfoss at 9.30PM, hungry but happy. In the hostel, again, was a very large kitchen. Surprisingly everybody was hanging out in a tiny lobby/ office because it was warm and the signal was strong enough. The night was crystal clear

Wednesday, 3.09. Golden circle – Geysir, Gullfoss, Pingvellir national park, Borgarnes

Listed in the sub-heading above are the 3 most popular attractions in Iceland.  


The underwater tunnel to Borgarnes was surprisingly long. We went all this way to find that all we needed was in the Borgarness– a great hostel, beautiful town with sunset and a hot tub. Was it safe for women? We asked twice, they immediately replied yes, without even thinking about it. A natural reaction. A well hidden secret which we discovered was the 90.50 FM RUV R2 Radio with programmes for all hard rock lovers. The local settlement museum below the restaurant with a gift shop offered 1 hour tours and good insights into early history – the first 60 years and the Icelandic sagas.

Thursday, 4.09 Grundarfjörður

Our car engine oil started to drip. We went into a garage and they called the car rental company to replace our car. The new car arrived very quickly, in about 3.5 hours. We gave a ride to another couple, they were Germans. We learned from them why there were so many German tourists in Iceland; the return flight from Berlin was only 120EUR.  “Come back next year!” said the notice on the closed restaurant in Hellisandur. The next seafood place in Ólafsvík was served by very young women. Even staff at the gas station was the same age, we wondered why? The explanation came later in the evening.

 

The hostel TV was turned off in the evening. This was the same in hostels yesterday and the day before yesterday. A Hungarian receptionist, Zsuzsi, found a job in Iceland within two hours of her jobhunt, after living for 3 years in Ireland. She wanted to change. Her contract will be over in 4 weeks, after which she’s moving to Reykjavik. “If you say you will do any work, you can find a job there easily,” she said. The fisheries are always looking for people. Some Islanders are overeducated (100% literacy), and they don’t want to do manual labour, such as cleaning. That explained the underage staff in the previous services. We wished her best of luck and went to sleep in the Forest, or Skogur (Icelandic name of our room).

Friday, 5.09. Reykjavik

On the way to Reykjavik, we stopped in the Stykkishólmur for a brisk walk around the harbour hills; everything else was closed for season. The farm in Erpsstadir was supposed to be opened from 1pm, but when the farm lady saw us coming, she opened the shop at 12noon. They have woofers through the helpex.net site every year. Their strawberry ice cream tasted like it was made just yesterday. The dirt road to the farm was safe enough for the maximum speed of 80 kph.

 

 

In the capital, we saw an exhibition of arctic photography by Rangar Alexonn. It documented a slowly disappearing world of melting glaciers and shrinking communities of Inuit. The Flora café in the Botanic gardens, with their resident cat, is the 2014 best kept secret in the town. In the past, women used to wash the clothes in a nearby hot spring which is commemorated by a volcanic sculpture and information boards.

We couldn’t leave Iceland without Bjork’s early and rare GlingGló (1990) album. 

Hope you found this short narration useful. If you’re planning a longer trip to Iceland, check out my friend’s, John Fitzgerald’s blog. It inspired our journey a lot.

John Fitzgerald Images

Take precautions: improve or improv-ise?

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” ― William G.T. Shedd

How much uncertainty can you live with? A lot, at least I thought so until I started a new course in improvisation. Improv is a bit like acting without a script. Scary? Here’s how this new experience helped me to lighten up my life.

Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.” – J. A. Paulos

Before the improv course, precaution was my modus operandi. I was prepared, over-prepared and hyper-prepared for anything and everything. Like many other people, over-preparation was my way of coping with the uncertainty of life. I learned that careful preparation improved my performance and outcomes. This improvement, however, had limits and I couldn’t do better regardless of how much time I spent with preparation.

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” – J Lennon

Figure 1 Neil Curran (R) photo credit: lowerthetone.com
 The Improv course with NeilCurran re-defined perfection for me. Over-preparation can often lead to a stilted impression. As if the spirit of doing things evaporated the moment you get in front of your audience, committee, boss or panel – you replace the addressee. Furthermore, you can only prepare for things you can foresee. But there are always unforeseen events. Improvisation helps you react to those challenges. Like any other art, it gives you the freedom of being here and now and reacting to whatever comes your way. It’s a way of being. An other paradigm. Some critics may say improvisation is lousiness, lack of knowledge or skill, neglect or laziness – something that should be avoided. The opposite is truth; improv skills allow you to respond when you run out of your prepared responses – to transcend yourself.

Improv and medical profession

The role of improv in medical profession is bigger than you might think. Although there are strict procedures and guidelines for most medical procedures, there’s still a lot that we don’t know and therefore – cannot regulate. Clinical intuition is invaluable in unregulated or over-regulated situations. Similar to improv, intuiting is reacting to the situation based on previous knowledge, experience and trust in the process. Atul Gawande, in his book The Checklist Manifesto, advocates using checklist to make sure the basics are done. This creates room for clinical wisdom and intuition to deal with unforeseen events. Instead of making rigid orders to doctors and thereby stripping their responsibility and clinical judgment away, the Checklist helps people make sure they do the basic and essential things, leaving enough space for intuition and … you’ve guessed it – for improvisation.