Sunday, December 31, 2006

Calvino Meme

found via Moyen Age

Books You’ve Been Planning To Read For Ages:

Totem Salmon: Life Lessons from Another Species
Walden; Or, Life in the Woods
A Sand County Almanac

Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered:
Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA
A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock

Books You’ve Been Hunting For Years Without Success:
The Rootabaga Stories by Carl Sandburg (Actually I found a copy at a garage sale and gave it away as a present, but I can't remember the names of the other lost storybooks of my childhood.)

Books Dealing With Something You’re Working On At The Moment:
Creating Better Cities with Children and Youth
Children and their Environments
Children's Participation

Books You Want To Own So They’ll Be Handy Just In Case:
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer:
The Famished Road
Amnesia Moon
Foucault's Pendulum

Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves:
The Nature of Design: Ecology, Culture, and Human Intention
Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods

Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time To Reread:
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
A Room with a View
These were both favorites as a teenager, I wonder if I would still like them as much.

Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First:
Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster
The Lawn: A History of an American Obsession

Books Too Expensive Now And You’ll Wait Till They’re Remaindered:
Community Participation and Geographical Information Systems ($95?)
The Ecological Design Handbook ($80?)

Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too:
Guns, Germs, and Steel - I agree with Wil.
Silent Spring


Late Christmas Photos


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I'm a creative genius

I must be a creative genius, because I have a crazy messy desk! According to the NY Times this is a sign of creativity.

"His studies and others, like a survey conducted last year by Ajilon Professional Staffing, in Saddle Brook, N.J., which linked messy desks to higher salaries (and neat ones to salaries under $35,000), answer Einstein’s oft-quoted remark, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk?”


Monday, December 25, 2006

Blogging Hiatus

Apologies for the long blogging hiatus, I had a minor health scare and it left me at a loss for words. Chest pain and a feeling that my face was going numb on the left side resulted in a trip to the emergency room and much stress. After several hours, an EKG, a CT scan, and several blood tests, the ER doctor diagnosed Bell's Palsy. Bell's Palsy has some sort of vague connection to viral infections so they gave me the antiviral that is usually proscribed for herpes. (Lovely!) The feeling of numbness lasted a few days, but gradually disappeared. When I checked in with my regular doctor she disagreed with the Bell's Palsy diagnosis, since Bell's Palsy involves the nerve that controls the facial muscles, but I didn't seem to have any paralysis. Sensation is apparently controlled by a completely different nerve. Luckily, it will probably turn out to be nothing. I'm supposed to be getting a referral to a neurologist, but who knows how long that will take.

Whenever I have a health problem I imagine the worst, despite the fact that I have never spent a day in the hospital in my life. Until this year I had never broken a bone. I have a number of small health complaints, but they are all stress related, like my migraines. In general my family has very few serious health problems. I'm 33 and all four of my grandparents are still alive, so I'm pretty lucky genetically. My healthy history doesn't stop me from engaging in frantic internet research when I feel a little twinge. The down side of the information age is having access to information about everything that could go wrong with your health. No matter how unlikely it is, I'm always convinced that I have some sort of rare brain tumor or degenerative disease.

Grandma G's side of the family does have a rare genetic disorder, Joseph's Disease, also called spinocerebellar ataxia type 3. It causes Parkinsons-like symptoms in later life. Joseph's Disease victims used to be perceived as alcoholics because of their slurred speech and staggering gate. Last year Grandma tried to convince me to be tested because if I have it, I could pass it on to my children. It's an autosomal dominant disease, so my kids would have a 50% chance of inheriting. Unfortunately, if I get tested before I start showing symptoms, then it becomes a "pre-existing condition" and so insurance companies would be able to deny coverage. The nice neurologists explained that it would be better for me to have kids by in vitro fertilization. Then the doctors could test each embryo, eliminating any genetically unfit ones, and not let anyone know whether they had found any with the disorder. Then I could have a genetically "perfect" baby without exposing my own genetic defects to the scrutiny of the insurance industry. The cost averages around $12,000 a cycle, with only a 15%-30% chance of pregnancy. So just conceiving a baby could easily cost $36,000. It seems like an extravagant expense considering the number of unwanted children out there. On the other hand adoption can be expensive as well, and if you don't have the right qualifications you won't be given a child.

During my emergency room visit, a young Latino couple arrived with an adorable little baby boy. I surmised from my limited Spanish language skills that he had a fever and diarrhea. Maybe my prejudices are showing, but I imagined that they ended up in the ER because they lacked insurance. The whole medical-insurance system is frakked in any case.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging

Funny thing happened last week, Beorn adopted two guinea pigs. He claims it was just to save them from the SPCA, but I think he's just a softy. The pigs are funny and in combo with the cats they are really funny! They make hilarious noises, including funny purring sounds and loud squealing sounds. If you rustle a plastic bag around them they get very excited because they think they are getting salad. This afternoon while I was trying to grade papers, the princess got up on the fish tank, trying to get into the bag of fish food. For some reason she is convinced that the fish food is actually a giant bag of kitty treats. So she's chewing on the bag, which makes the pigs utter loud noises."Sqeeeeeee, Sqeeeee, Sqeeeeee!" This means I have to get the cat a treat and give the pigs some salad. Later I sit down in front of the computer with a salad. What do I hear? "Sqeeeeeee, Sqeeeee, Sqeeeeee!!! Can't I even have salad in peace???


Students are funny!

This quarter I emphasized the need for essays to have a thesis. (The class is not a writing class and I am certainly not a writing instructor, but it fulfills a writing general education requirement, so I feel obligated to try to assist students with their writing.) For the final essay, several students decided to do something to point out their thesis to me. One wrote a separate section titled "Thesis" and then proceeded to write "In this essay my thesis is..." Another kind student italicized her thesis so that I wouldn't miss it. I guess the problem isn't with their writing, it's just that I don't know how to read an essay and identify a thesis.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Links to people saying what I wish I could say...

I the last few days several people have posted on academic issues I have been struggling with. Since they wrote articulate posts, whereas I have a headache and fifty essays to grade, I thought I would just point them out.

From Profgrrrl a story about irresponsible attitudes towards human subjects protocols. IRB: It's Required, Buddy! I have been struggling with understanding and following the IRB process. Frankly, the negative attitudes of many professors makes it really difficult for grad students. How are we supposed to learn the process if our mentors make it sound like the most horrible, intimidating thing in academia? Really, I'm not afraid of any part of getting a PhD, except going through the IRB process. Additionally, I want to work with agency partners, but I recently found out the the agency people I was working with weren't following the IRB processes required by their own agency. How was I supposed to know?

From Inside the Philosophy Factory some lovely thought on why college professors should learn to teach. Teach the Professors... As a TA, I have had way more work this quarter because Inexperienced Lecturer doesn't know how to teach. It's also very painful to watch poor teaching.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Final Exam

(Watch out, more complaining!) Inexperienced lecturer assigned a 5-7 page essay as the final exam. Students have to turn the exam by 5PM today. The quarter is officially over on Friday. I have approximately 65 students. If I only spend 15 minutes reading each exam it would take me 16 hours and 15 minutes to read them all. My goal is to be done by 5PM Friday. Grades are officially due 72 hours after the exam. Am I so wrong to want to be done by Friday and have a break like everyone else?


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Research Complications

I really want to blog about my recent experiences in social science research, but I'm not sure I can blog about it in an anonymous manner. Let's just say that it's pretty confusing when you try to work with other people rather than just being in control of your own project. I'm trying to follow the proper procedure according to university rules and the people I'm working with weren't. Yet somehow I feel like a narc because in the process of me trying to follow the rules I managed to bring their breech of protocol to the attention of the authorities.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

This meme is creeping me out.


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Blogger Changes

So I decided to make some changes, including trying out the new blogger. I also cleaned up my blogrolling, so if I accidentally deleted you let me know.


Obligatory Grading Complaints

I posted grades for project three tonight. It's embarrassing how high the grades are, but the assignment was so poorly written it was difficult to come up with fair grading criteria. After struggling with the projects for a while yesterday I finally figured out a system that seemed fair. (There has been no grading criteria provided by Inexperience Lecturer all quarter, so I have had to make up rubrics that seemed fair to me.)

Tonight I posted the grades and within minutes the first complaint arrived. This group probably deserved a C, maybe a C+, but since I was grading so leniently they received a B. The assignment asked them to create a poster illustrating a hairstyle they designed. They asked me if they could do a 3-D model instead. I told them they could, but that it would be much more difficult and time consuming. They went ahead and did it anyway. Of course, their 3-D model turned out looking like an elementary student made it out of popsicle sticks.

I wish I could post some of the "poetry" I received for the second assignment, but most of it has incriminating details about my location and field of study. Let's just say that students who aren't literature/writing majors should not be asked to write in verse, because they don't know what that means. Apparently, in their minds any writing that includes rhyming the last word on every other line counts as verse. I was a natural sciences major as an undergrad, so I still have trouble with lots of grammar rules, especially when to use commas, but even I can tell the difference between verse and prose.

I'm so tired of this crap!


Friday, December 08, 2006

because grading is too frustrating

By Breena
(as seen on The Clutter Museum)

Instructions: Type one word. No explanations.

1. Yourself: forgetful
2. Your spouse: tired
3. Your Hair: flat
4. Your Mother: anxious
5. Your Father: workaholic

6. Your Favorite Item: blanket
7. Your dream last night: baby
8. Your Favorite Drink: cranberry
9. Your Dream Car: carmengia
10. The room you are in: disaster

11. Your Ex: crazy
12. Your Fear: everything
13. What you want to be in 10 years: relaxed
14. Who you hung out with last night: Beorn
15. What You're Not: organized

16. Muffins: pumpkin
17: One of Your Wish List Items: house
18: Time: short
19. The Last Thing You Did: dinner
20. What You're Wearing: blue

21. Your Favorite Weather: sunny
22. Your Favorite Book:
23. The Last Thing You Ate: stirfry
24. Your Life: confused
25. Your Mood: depressed

26. Your best friend(s): funny
27. What you're thinking about right now: grading
28. Your car: small
29. What you're doing at the moment: decompressing
30. Your summer: unknown

31. Your relationship status: improving
32. What's on TV: Seinfeld
33. The weather: cold
34. The last time you laughed: grading


Friday Cat Blogging

Kitty TV!


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Student Applause

Flavia posts on the how to consistently get applause from your students at the end of the quarter. Of course we would all like to be appreciated by our students, but this week I feel I have been unfairly applauded, not once, but twice.

Tuesday night Inexperienced Lecturer was expecting a guest lecturer. The guest was coming from out of town and called a half an hour before the start of class to say that he was stuck in traffic. After spending 5 minutes trying to organize the class evaluations without supplementary pencils and 10-15 minutes discussing the final, Inexperienced Lecturer left the class to chat while messing with his cell phone reception. So Christian TA and I discussed the likelihood that this guest will make it to class before the end of the assigned period. By the time 30 minutes had passed I decided that we should make up something to discuss since Inexperienced Lecturer wasn't going to. So I got up in front of the class and opened up a discussion to questions about 'hairdressing.' Of course the students from my discussion immediately ask me whether I am a licensed hairdresser (which I'm not because I'm still in grad school.) As soon as I answered the question, including some information on the requirements for becoming a licensed hairdresser, the guest finally arrived. Now I could be wrong, but I could swear that the students gave me a round of applause, maybe they were happy to see the guest finally arriving. Either way, I thought it was rather sad that they were so willing to applaud since I felt the class was a complete mess.

Then tonight, during my last Thursday discussion, certain students made a point to applaud me as I was leaving. I didn't do anything to wrap up the course, I have given up.

The final "exam" is actually another essay (5-7 pages), in which Inexperience Lecturer has asked the students to cite three examples from lecture and three examples from the readings, writing a paragraph about each one, while simultaneously writing a coherent thesis. It's the "write a paragraph about each one" that gets me frustrated. Some of the most common writing problems in this class have been lack of coherent paragraphs and problems with transitions. Why give them directions that will just make these problems worse? If you really just want them to prove that they attended three lectures and read three articles why not just have them write six separate essay questions?

So I was just attempting to pass out graded papers, collect their most recent assignment, answer questions about the final, and pass out discussion evaluations, yet the students pointedly applauded. It just made me feel sad. I'm certain that some of them like me, but I would rather be certain that they learned something from the class.


Disserations and Children

I have been trying to post for several days on the topic of children and graduate school, which has generated a lot of discussion, starting at BitchPhD and including posts at Academom, Geeky Mom and Mama(e) in Translation.

The topic has been on my mind because I'm getting to an age where I will have to really worry about fertility issues if I don't have a baby soon.

Maybe I'm just lucky because I feel like many grad students in my program, men and women, have children. As a female grad student I feel a little left out because so many students I know have been having babies. Big Ag U. is certainly not ivy league, but some programs are particularly well regarded, and yet it doesn't seem to unusual for grad students to be having children.

I do think that most men who are famous academics now have had the support of a 'traditional' wife. Too bad I can't get myself a wife! I want someone to to the house work and take care of the children while I'm busy being brilliant. Unfortunately, statistics (if you can trust them) show that female grad students are actually disadvantaged by having a partner and children while male grad students who are married and have children actually do as well or better.

I chose carefully to work in a field and with professors who will take my life outside of academia seriously, but not everyone is so lucky. I think you just have to keep pushing for fair treatment and make sure that you do what you can to support other women with children. No one in a competitive career is voluntarily going to change things to make room for women with children. We have to push for what we want.

Beyond the particular issue of women and childcare, I'm surprised at how little discussion there has been of whether more hours of work really result in a higher volume of research or a higher quality of research. It is typical of Americans to think that working more hours makes us more productive, but if we look at our system in comparison to other industrialized countries that is not necessarily true. If you are doing any sort of creative work (including science) your brain will need time to recharge. Maybe some people are able to obsessively focus on work for long hours and remain productive, but even among very intelligent people, that is probably not the rule.

My feeling is that I need to take my own career as seriously as my husband's. I can't afford to take on all the childcare or housework duties because I have no guarantee that my husband will be able to support us. This is not a criticism of him, just a sign of the times. Beorn and I have to share responsibility for both work and home life because there is not guarantee that either of us will be able to find a lucrative job. Right now we are both students, who knows which of us will be able to find a job with family health coverage. So I have to demand that he do his fair share of the work, there is no other way.

I'm not willing to work some soul sucking 9-5 so that I can get "enough" money to have a family. Is the situation in corporate America really any better? Most people I know who work outside of academia consistently work more than 40 hours per week.

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Amendment: Another great post on this topic comes from
Dr. Free-Ride, who says, "Not that I wouldn't like a wife to take care of at least some of the family stuff. Indeed, my better half and I are willing to economize by sharing a wife if we can find one."


Monday, December 04, 2006

Dubai: Post-Modernism at its Best

Falconcity of Wonders is an new development being built in Dubai, which combines all the seven ancient wonders of the world into one extravaganza of consumerism. The website is so strange and amazing that at first I thought is was a joke. The waste of energy and resources is very disturbing, but I can't help but laugh. Sometimes the world is so surreal.

" Here is the most astonishing place on earth, Falconcity of Wonders.

In the modern world, Dubai has emerged as a city with no parallel. A city that embraces modernity while proudly maintaining its rich cultural heritage and unique identity. The tranquil trade and fishing village that transformed itself into one of the world’s most modern cities holds places of pride for all who have come to know the land. Dubai’s pace of growth continues unabated and its innovative spirit has consistently and continually earned the admiration of the world. Dubai is in every sense a living wonder of the modern world; it is an ideal example of progress. A city driven by bold, inspired, and visionary leadership.

The world’s admiration of Dubai has resulted in a steady and increasing stream of visitors and expatriates. Not a city to rest on its past ways, Dubai continues to innovate and break new ground in all spheres of development.

A new project designed to engrave Dubai’s place in the minds and hearts of the world citizens' is currently emerging, and is called the Falcon City of Wonders. This is the project that honors mankind through its various civilizations, a project that could inspire generations about the power of the human spirit. This is where the world will see its past, its present and its future.

The Falconcity of Wonders has been designed to resemble the national emblem. The falcon with its outstretched wings symbolizes the spirit of leadership, pride and excellent qualities that the Falconcity of Wonders will embody.

The Falconcity will be a self-contained and multi-faceted resid
ential, tourist and recreational destination formed after the wonders of the ancient and modern world."


Monday Cat Blogging

I always forget that cat blogging is on Fridays and since I'm too stressed to write anything I thought I would show a picture of The Princess.

Forecast? Storms ahead, with possible lessening later this week.