Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Graduate School: The Game!

So Beorn, who is currently an undergrad, has started reading PhD. Beorn reads a number of comics online and we even have a small collection at home, but this new interest scares me. He's reading all about the worse aspects of grad school and not being scared off. Maybe he's serious about it. Beorn is forty and I'm already feeling old and poor at thirty-three. On the positive side, at least we are staying young at heart.

Yesterday I started thinking about how graduate school is a game. It doesn't matter that I really like teaching and want to help with various campus service projects. The name of the game is to accomplish as much research as possible while accumulating lots of grants/fellowships. So logically, our conversation rapidly turned to the creation of a computer game about graduate school, maybe modelled off Disaffected! The game would be extremely difficult and frustrating. It would mostly involve avoiding undergrads and your advisor while collecting free food and research points. Various events in the games would change the objectives temporarily (think Pac Man). For instance, most of the time you wouldn't have enough research points accumulated, so you would want to avoid your advisor, but at times you would need to find your advisor for signatures, etc. I think the game would be very educational as it would uncover the hidden agendas inherent in academic life. Any skilled game designers out there ready to take on an extra project?


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Hooray! I'm only 30% dorky!

Pure Nerd
69 % Nerd, 47% Geek, 30% Dork For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.
A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.
You scored better than half in Nerd, earning you the title of: Pure Nerd.

The times, they are a-changing. It used to be that being exceptionally smart led to being unpopular, which would ultimately lead to picking up all of the traits and tendences associated with the "dork." No-longer. Being smart isn't as socially crippling as it once was, and even more so as you get older: eventually being a Pure Nerd will likely be replaced with the following label: Purely Successful.


Link: The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test written by donathos on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test


Friday, September 15, 2006

Women in Science

Yesterday I was interviewed by a woman who is researching women in science. I majored environmental science as an undergrad, but ended up teaching science at museums and science centers for eight years before returning to grad school as a social scientist. As a feminist I still feel guilty for not being a "real" scientist. I rarely felt inadequate in terms of my ability to do science, but increasingly, as a became more familiar with the culture of science I had trouble accepting the assumptions that were integral to that culture. For example, I always had trouble believing in scientific objectivity. Most importantly though, I came to believe that the important problems I saw such as habitat destruction or global warming couldn't be solved through further scientific study. So, as much as I would enjoy spending the rest of my life exploring the amazing diversity and beauty I find in the natural world, I'm choosing instead to study people, to try to figure out why they do all the crazy things they do because lets face it, we are the problem.


Monday, September 11, 2006


Last night I watched a documentary on 9/11. I made it all the way through the disaster, but couldn't continue watching when the firefighters started digging through the rubble. I read a number of blog posts today about the events of five years ago. My personal memories of that day are unimportant, but remembering our own stories must be better than watching those terrible moments replayed over and over.

Five years ago I woke up very early because I had to be at a school in the hills by 8:15. Once I had stopped by work to pick up supplies, I turned on NPR like I did every morning. It was apparent that something was wrong. I live on the West Coast, so it must have been very early, because the towers were still standing.

I had the worst time staying awake during that long drive to school as I listening to the unfolding disaster. When I finally got to the parking lot I put my head down on the steering wheel. I was so tired and wanted to keep listening. After a few minutes I woke up, disoriented and late for my first presentation.

I spent the rest of the day in the classroom, hopefully distracting the kids with science. It seemed bizzare to not be talking about what was happening, but what could we say to these children that were not our own?

The strange thing was that after that day I started drinking caffeine again. I had given up caffeine because it contributed to my anxiety and insomnia. It had taken me a long time and a lot of resolve. After that day I concluded that if I didn't start drinking caffeine I was going to fall asleep one morning while driving. I never thought about my drowsing as something unusual, but I had never had a problem like that before. Why did I change my life in response to that day without even giving it a second thought? Maybe there was a part of my mind that wanted to fall back to sleep, wanted that morning to be a dream. My spirit rejected the reality of those events, seeking instead to wake again on an ordinary morning, an ordinary day.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Smart Women are Unhappy

Rosa points out, in FairerScience Weblog that women in science shouldn't marry economists. I would like to add that living in this crappy excuse for a culture could make any woman unhappy. Michael Noer's article in Forbes has apparently been all over the blogosphere. I haven't been feeling well, so this is the first I have heard of it. As usual, looking at the "data" Noer presents, I'm struck with an alternate theory. Noer claims that "career women" will be unhappy no matter what choice they make, and so make their spouse unhappy. Give up your career to stay home with the kids-not satisfying. Continue working, while trying to keep up with the kids and the housework-not satisfying. I wonder why that is? If you make more money than your husband, but still end up doing the majority of the housework and childcare you will most likely feel unappreciated. If you make less money than your husband but still end up doing a second shift of housework and childcare you will probably still feel "less than." So what, exactly is Mr. Noer suggesting that an intelligent woman do? First of all, avoid getting a college education and instead concentrate on catching yourself a successful, career oriented husband while working a cash register at Walmart. Considering the fact that wages aren't keeping up with cost of living increases, this hardly seems realistic. Men and women are working longer for less money all over this country just to support their families. I'm not sure if women who don't have a university education or a job making more than $30,000 a year are just happy because their husbands happen to be making enough money to support their family, or if they are just happy because they haven't noticed the injustice in the world around them, but I know that smart women have plenty to be unhappy about.