Monday, May 22, 2006

Bad Research

I've come to realize that I'm not one of the best researchers in the world. I don't think quickly on my feet; I don't make clever connections; I am not "instinctually" critical of material placed in front of me.
It's funny, possibly even ironic, that I use "instinctual" to describe a process that isn't in this particular entry. For I know that researchers learn how to be critical of studies, media presentations, texts, etc. In other words, the habitual critical faculty of academics and intellectuals is not an instinct; to take it into a common division, it's "nurture," not "nature."
So what does that have to do with this entry? Well, since I'm not a very good researcher, since I'm not very critical, it makes me extremely angry to read research that even I can find fault with.
I think I've mentioned my guilty annoyance, namely women's magazines. I was reading yet another one the other day, R3@l S!mple. In it, there was an article discussing the medical differences between men and women.
Before I go on, I need to make clear that there are medical differences. My favorite story (possibly myth) about this difference is that breast cancer was not considered a major medical problem for decades because men didn't get it very often. But I also think it's important to realize that it's very -- extremely -- difficult to tease out whether something is due to nature -- genetic differences between men and women -- and nurture -- differences due to society influences, which start at birth. Don't get me started on Lawrence Summers' example about his daughter/granddaughter and the trucks.
So the fact that there are medical differences between men and women is important.
The first difference this article listed was that women react to emotions differently than men. Women are more sensitive; in an experimental setting, women react more (whatever the dependent variable was) than men to emotional faces, that women react to more subtle emotional cues than men do. I don't remember most of the details, but I do remember the closing tidbit. That tidbit was a quote from the lead researcher, where she said that women are evolutionarily programmed to cry because that's the only way they can get men to notice they're upset.
Does anyone else see the problem with this statement? the major hole in the argument? the immediate and obvious possible counterargument that hasn't been ruled out yet?
So maybe -- maybe -- the researcher did actually do some sort of experiment wherein she showed that even newborns react differently to emotional images depending on gender. But do you think so?
I don't.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Of course I am

If the book is open on my lap while I'm playing Sudoku, that means I'm working, right?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Procrastination is a Wonderful Thing

I have two or so hits on my blog (so far) from google searches. Here's a sample:
"divorce due to husband's lack of ambition"
I talked about husbands' lack of ambition a few entries ago -- not mine, if you recall -- so I guess that makes sense. But I didn't talk about divorce.
So it must be pretty far down in the search, right?
Two things:
1) How is it that a web-page that doesn't even have all the search terms ends up being in the top ten out of 280,000? Does the 280,000th even have any of the search terms?
2) How is it that a highly unlinked (both to and from) web-page ends up being in the top ten out of 280,000?
In other news, I have already received an e-mail from one of my summer students. I wasn't expecting such eagerness, and am far behind in my planning.
I guess I should go work now.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

House Spoilers, Because I'm in a Rage

Remember how I said I tried to be a nice person, see the positive side of anyone's story, tried to come to discussions from the angle that the misunderstanding/conflict may be due to me?
Or whatever sort of nonsense I spewed?
I am not that person today.
Today, I am in a livid, screaming rage at the writers, producers, and network suits of House.
Last night, one of the side diagnoses was post-partum psychosis. In fact, the woman smothered her son while suffering from it. House, with his patented mix of equal parts sense and lack of anything resembling tact, pointed out that the woman could no more have not listened to the voices in her head than a diabetic could tell her body to start producing insulin, dammit.
Regardless of what crazy movie stars claim, post-partum depression and psychosis are real diseases, of danger to both child and to mother. They are NOT, in any way, shape or form, due to some sort of "weakness" on the part of the mother, any more than a brain tumor is due to some "weakness" on the part of the cancer patient.
House went on to tell the father that he was just as responsible. "A person doesn't become crazy enough to kill someone without first becoming crazy enough to be noticed."
In my opinion, the father was not only equally responsible, but more at fault. He ignored all the warning signs, because they were too much. He was the one who showed weakness of mind; he was the one who had a choice to face difficult truths, the choice to do something hard, and who didn't do it. The wife didn't have a choice.
I'm getting to my point.
House the character said all these reasonable, sane, logical, ABSOLUTELY TRUE things.
The mother still kills herself out of guilt. And the father? What happens to him? He gets to tell the mother, when you see our son, tell him his father is sorry.
So what's the takeaway message?
That the mother is responsible, is at fault.
That she could have done something.
And don't tell me that's not the takeaway message. Some bloggers were discussing a Burrrr-gur Royalty ad, and the idea that the implication is men are being sissified by women, and they have to reclaim their higher ground by co-opting the liberation movement. And that the ad is a step backward, and people who have power, who still have power, shouldn't be complaining that they don't have any because a miniscule amount has been rightfully reclaimed from them.
I agree with that analysis. Especially the more thoughtful, clear, articulate version that the original parser put forth.
And I think it's subtle compared to this.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Fifties Have Not Left Us!

So I still don't remember my point from yesterday, which is really too bad. It was subtle (well, for me), and it shone a gorgeous light on professors. I'm also a little annoyed at myself for the massive contradiction, i.e. "I never criticize people" and then I go and criticize someone(s). Maybe I should rephrase that to "I never criticize people who I think will somehow hear about it." Which is not only more accurate in general, (see? I told you it wasn't a good thing), but also removes the inconsistency.
But to the point.
You know how some people have "guilty pleasures"? Women's magazines -- i.e. F@mily C!rcle -- are my guilty annoyance. I inherit them from a family member, and read bits and pieces at desperate moments of reading-less-ness. A day or two ago, I was having an extremely desperate such moment, and ended up reading an article I would normally have skipped over. It's entitled something along the lines of Don't Nag, Nudge, and it was all about how to get your husband to clean up some of his bad habits.
I think I chose it because one of the academic entries that has stuck with me is Bitch PhD's entry on how to be a bitch. How to get a partner to participate in housework? Now I don't remember the title, but her idea, as I remember it, is to keep a running commentary of everything you're doing, and at some point, your partner will be so annoyed, they'll start doing it too. Clearly, her plan was much more subtle and intelligent than that simplistic sketch I've just written. The reason I mention it is because even her intelligent plan would come under the heading of Nag.
So that's interesting in and of itself. I like her idea; moreover, I like the underlying implication I come away with: women have just as much right to demand as men.
(Nerts. That's not thorough, detailed, nuanced enough. It will have to do.)
This article's title, on the other hand, implies that women don't have such a right (the nuanced, subtle right that I can't articulate).
Oh, wait. It gets better.
The article lists 4 or 5 areas where not to nag: too much TV, not enough help around the house, etc. The second to last one is about the husband's lack of ambition.
A tangent. Do y'all remember, about six months ago, there was a cartoon floating around the blogs? It was a drawing of a happy fifties family, and the accompanying text was a list of all the ways the wife should make her husband's life better: make sure to make yourself pretty just before he comes home. Bring him a cold drink and his slippers. Don't bore him with your little concerns of the day, he needs to relax and unwind. It turned out to be modern, rather than contemporary.
Well, the tips on how to nudge rather than nag about ambition are... not the same, but of a piece. Don't offer advice. Let home be a place where he can relax. He needs to feel your in his corner, so reassure him. If he frets about his weaknesses, emphasize his strengths. The only sentence in the whole paragraph (and it was the longest in the article) that indicated this was written less than 60 years ago was the last one: if your husband just isn't ambitious, maybe you should go do something yourself (not a direct quote).
I can't believe it.
I can't believe I can't believe it.
I'm very sad, angry, frustrated that it isn't as unbelievable as it should be.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Perfectionism Gets In the Way

The title is by way of apology to you, and chastisement to myself. It won't have much to do with the entry. It's just very frustrating to pile up topics (like women's magazines, and children), and not let myself write about them because I want the entry to be perfect.
Today I want to talk about trolls.
I have another blog, a craft blog, a non-pseudonymous blog. I like the community of people in that particular sphere; I created the blog so that the writers I wanted to talk with had some way to learn more about me.
On of the things I like about craft blogs, in general, is that commentors are almost uniformly positive. Even if -- or rather, when -- the blog veers into personal territory, the commentors are generally supportive. If the blog refers to a touchy topic -- politics, religion -- those readers who disagree tend to not comment. They may stop reading the blog, or they may just avoid those entries, but, for the most part, they don't engage the author, even in a respectful manner, on that topic. The blog, and the community, is focused on the craft.
This is not to say that there are not trolls in this craft community. Maybe some of you reading now would say "trolls" is too strong a word, considering how nasty people can get on political/academic blogs, but they aren't very nice to other bloggers. However, they tend to criticize on their own blogs, where they get the support of their own readers.
Wait, ceresina: isn't that what you do?
So, yes. I respond to issues here instead of on the blog that brings them up.
But no. I don't criticize.
One of the main reasons I respond here, on my own blog, is that I am working through my own feelings; I don't think it's appropriate for me to write an entire blog-entry about me in someone else's comments.
The other part of the "no" answer is that I am never criticizing the author. I am a "good girl" who prefers not to criticize people in public, who tries to find the nicest reason for someone's bad behavior. (I am not saying this as a "I'm better than you because I do this;" along with other criticisms of such behavior, I am well-aware of how annoying Pollyanna is.) But even if that weren't the case, I have not yet read a single blog entry, in this sphere, where I thought that the writer was badly behaved. I have read entries that were hurtful to me (specifically), but I knew that was due to my own sensitivity. I knew there was no ill intensions -- or some lesser snarkiness -- on the part of the author. And so there was no reason to criticize what the author had said.
The craft bloggers I call trolls, on the other hand, use their blogs as an opportunity to say how wrong-headed other craft bloggers are. Thinking about this, I wondered why I was so offended -- not hurt, offended -- by what they write, but I don't think what, say, professors venting about students is offensive.
I think what I don't like about the craft trolls is that they have no patience for beginners. Sure, they claim to, but they don't. Venting professors are venting about... well, I'd call them professional complainers, personally. The students who, a la Cher in Clueless, think they can talk/threaten/badger their way into a decent grade. Craft trolls make fun of people who don't know the first thing about the craft, or who don't approach the One of Ancient Wisdom with enough reverence, or both.
And just because they make me cranky, I will criticize them: they also tend to not like people who are happy.
I had a more profound comparison, but I don't remember it.
Just another problem with perfectionism.