Saturday, November 19, 2011

Nature's "Womanspace" controversy

As many of you are already aware, Nature published a piece of fiction titled Womanspace. It talks about a wife who sends her husband and his friend to buy knickers for their daughter because she was busy making supper. In the end, the men return empty-handed because they cannot fathom how to complete such a simple task. Their conclusion is that "women can access parallel universes in order to find things."

First, let's neglect the quality of the piece and focus on what it says.

Why, again, is this offensive? What if the roles were reversed and the wife couldn't find the knickers? Would the blogosphere cry about the author portraying women as useless? Nowhere does it say she is a housewife. Cooking may simply be one of her household duties that they equitably split after they both get home from work. As far as shopping, I see it as women being better at multitasking, while men can only focus on the single goal at hand. Honestly, the men seem rather like troglodytes while the women operate in the modern world.

This article essentially pokes fun at men, positing that men are unable to complete a straightforward household task and then having them invent parallel planes as an excuse. Yeah, that's gotta be it. Because they can't just be incapable.

My recommendation: Try to find the humor and be more selective in what offends you. Like crying wolf, you will not be taken seriously if too many things get you up in arms.

Other blog posts on this:
Scientopia, who has her own list of related blog posts
Contemplative Mammoth
Doing Good Science at Scientific American, who makes a good point that sexist stereotypes hurt men, too, and male and female stereotypes are present in this story.
Science Sushi at Scientific American
JAYFK, though I don't think it is appropriate for futures or pasts. Perhaps satire.
Principia Discordia (forum, not blog)
On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess

Friday, November 18, 2011

Reducing obstacles: TG edition

Over at Making a Living Writing, Carol Tice posted on How to Eliminate All Your Freelance Writing Obstacles. She questions, does it seem overwhelming, too hard? These questions are not only for freelance writers. They are universal to challenging, valuable pursuits, and so is the prescription.

She opens with a Yiddish folktale, which is well worth a minute to read. Then her suggestion: change your attitude. To get perspective on the obstacles in your life, list what you have going for you. As the first commenter said, it's just in time for Thanksgiving.

I don't think it directly addresses the feeling that something is overwhelming, but it does make one feel better to take stock of good things. Feeling happier can make difficult things seem more approachable.

Here's my gratitude list:
  • Wonderful, supportive boyfriend who adores me
  • I'm in the best shape of my life
  • My mom may have health and potential financial issues, but she's still alive and in good mental health
  • I have a large, loving family
  • Even if it is occasionally stretched by unexpected expenses, my boyfriend and I both have secure income
  • I'm going to be an aunt for the first time in January, and two of my closest friends are having babies around the same time
  • Everyone believes I have a bright future and many of them gladly help me along the way
  • I have affordable basic healthcare

What's on your list?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I intended to knock off an essay for my journalism class today with plenty of time left to work on research. I ended up crafting a lengthy email on a personal matter and finishing my essay, but little else. I do not feel efficient or terribly productive.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Organizing past and future research

I'm having trouble splitting my attention between two projects, PhD research for AGU in December and the project with geology. I've always been good at organizing things, but it's more difficult when the goals are hazy and the scope seems overwhelming.

J-man likes to clean by a method he calls "convergent messes." He sorts things into piles based on where they go. First maybe it's by floor, then by room, then by place in the room. Eventually everything is put back where it goes. Planning my PhD should be similar. First I define specific, detailed research questions. Then I decide the experiments I'll use to answer them. Or do I choose data sources? When do I outline the papers I'd like to publish based on my work? I feel like I'm flailing after defining the questions, simultaneously trying to plan everything else without being sure exactly what I need to plan. It's the prelim again and again. So far my plan is to start with what I turned in for that and refine, even though revisions are not required since I passed. At least it provides a starting point.

On top of planning, I also need to record what I do as I do it so I don't get lost along the way and make writing my dissertation an epic nightmare. I've never been good at keeping records. I don't remember if I ever even balanced my checkbook (though I know how). I record the checks I write only because I don't have duplicate checks.

I've skimmed several sites that tell researchers how to keep a useful notebook, but they don't seem to address some of my questions. What do I write about research as I do it when my work is mainly programming and computer modeling? Surely I don't need to document every step of debugging a program, but I'm sure I need to record when we make a major change, such as adding random noise to the initial conditions of a simulation, and why we change it. Should I keep a separate notebook for each project or one master notebook?

I asked my advisor about keeping records and he relies on comments in code and TimeMachine backups. He doesn't seem to keep general notes in one place. He also often seems disorganized. I suppose I'll take a hack at it and make up the rest as I go.

Yeah, that usually works out.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NaBloPoMo & Students with bikes

I signed up for NaBloPoMo for the heck of it. That means you'll hear from me a lot more during November. Every day, in fact. (11/15/11: Nevermind. Not working.)
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Bikes are near and dear to many students as a form of transportation. They're cheap and quicker than walking. But have you seen the chaos that ensues? I've spotted people talking on cell phones, smoking, and riding with hands stuffed in pockets because the cyclists doesn't know how to dress himself properly for the weather. Don't get me started on bike lanes and sidewalk etiquette!

Oops, too late.

Yesterday's post on Road Rights showed a map of sidewalk laws in the U.S.:

I grew up in Wisconsin, so I'm biased against riding on the sidewalk unless one has a good reason. In Illinois, however, riding on the sidewalk is allowed and students take all the rights of that without the responsibilities. Cyclists are required to yield to pedestrians on sidewalks.

I by no means blame only cyclists for the problems between bikers and walkers. People walk on the bike paths all the time, sometimes making them inaccessible because they refuse to move. Have you ever noticed that people seem to think you can't hit them if they don't look at you? It works when they walk in front of your car, too.

The option I most use is riding on the road. I figure a car is not likely to expect someone moving 10-15 mph on the sidewalk and I'm safer on the road. A lot of cyclists join me on the road. But again many of them take the rights without the responsibilities, and they blow through stop signs and lights without so much as a glance at cross traffic. If they don't look, the car can't hit them. I sense a theme here.

The bottom line is that, whatever your local cycling laws say, act like a car on the road and a pedestrian on the sidewalk with the caveats that you are much smaller than a car and bigger than a pedestrian. Adjust your risk assessment accordingly and be respectful of others.
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Illinois Bicycle Rules of the Road

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Adding Journalism

My uni has five weeks of classes left this semester. Where did the time go? I would swear we were only five weeks into the 15-week semester. I don't know if I like that or not.

On one hand, I have a heap of research to complete in the next few weeks, both for AGU in December and for a collaborative project with a geology professor. I hope and pray and beg that I have enough time to do both and not let anything else slide (too badly). My Great Books of Journalism class takes a lot of time. Because I enjoy sitting around reading, I still have difficulty convincing myself it's okay even for a class. Strange...

On the other hand, I'm looking forward to winter break (though I could do without winter) and spring semester. I finally get to take the introductory reporting class for journalism majors. I have wanted to take that for six or seven years, but they're usually restricted to majors. I talked to the journalism department and the grad coordinator will give me permission to take whatever classes I want as long as I meet the prerequisites. Que bárbaro! She also left the option open that I can transfer those credits to a master's in journalism if I want to finish the entire degree. J-man says I just want to have more letters after my name than he has (with MS and PhD).

Speaking of J-man, we're approaching one year together in less than two weeks. Tempus fugit!