brdgt: (Back and Forth Forever by iconomicon)
I've been remiss in reposting articles here ever since I started using Facebook, so here's some things I've been reading lately:

First of all, I'm not a big fan of Tumblr - it often seems to be the worst kind of social media: no original content or even your own thoughts, just reposting, BUT, these, these I approve of:

Dads are the Original Hipster

And Hipster Animals:

Then, some feminism related links:

Poor Jane’s Almanac
The New York Times

Cambridge, Mass.

THE House Budget Committee chairman, Paul D. Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, announced his party’s new economic plan this month. It’s called “The Path to Prosperity,” a nod to an essay Benjamin Franklin once wrote, called “The Way to Wealth.”

Franklin, who’s on the $100 bill, was the youngest of 10 sons. Nowhere on any legal tender is his sister Jane, the youngest of seven daughters; she never traveled the way to wealth. He was born in 1706, she in 1712. Their father was a Boston candle-maker, scraping by. Massachusetts’ Poor Law required teaching boys to write; the mandate for girls ended at reading. Benny went to school for just two years; Jenny never went at all.

Their lives tell an 18th-century tale of two Americas. Against poverty and ignorance, Franklin prevailed; his sister did not.

Read more... )

Dallas Sports Columnist Displeased With Pitcher’s Decision To Do A Totally Normal Thing

It can be hard to tell that Dallas Observer sports blogger Richie Whitt is a sports blogger, since his professional blog, the one that is actually hosted on Village Voice servers, largely consists of pictures of women in various states of undress and reflections on recent Korn performances, so you could be forgiven for wondering where the hell he thinks he gets off shitting on Texas Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis for having the gall to miss a start in favor of attending the birth of his second child.

I mean, my first question was, what is Richie Whitt doing writing about sports, anyway? Is there not a wet t-shirt somewhere in the whole of suburban North Texas that needs his undivided attention?

Apparently not. No, when Whitt heard that Colby Lewis skipped a game, well, this:

In Game 2, Colby Lewis is scheduled to start after missing his last regular turn in the rotation because — I’m not making this up — his wife, Jenny, was giving birth in California. To the couple’s second child.

That’s right, folks. If you can believe it, this guy attended the birth of his child. Take a moment to collect yourselves if you must. I know news like this can be hard to process. Ok? Ok.

And lest you think that Whitt was just joking, I invite you to read further, wherein Whitt doesn’t really joke at all but just talks about how hard it is for him to wrap his mind around the idea of taking a day off to see your kid born.

Read more... )

Academia related links:

April 24, 2011
Paranoid? You Must Be a Grad Student

By Don Troop

Memo to grad students: Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not about to give you a Ph.D.

A mild case of paranoia might even help you navigate the tricky path to that terminal degree, says Roderick M. Kramer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business.

It's an academic cliché that graduate students are paranoid, but Mr. Kramer has actually crafted a linear model to explain it. The model depicts how factors common to the graduate-school experience—like being a newcomer unsure of your standing, and knowing that you're being sized up constantly—can ultimately induce social paranoia, a heightened sensitivity to what you imagine others might be thinking about you.

"That self-consciousness translates into a tendency to be extra vigilant and maybe overprocess information on how you're treated," Mr. Kramer says. (He published his model in a 1998 paper, "Paranoid Cognition in Social Systems.")

To be clear, he is not talking about clinical paranoia, an illness he studied at the University of California at Los Angeles under the psychiatrist Kenneth Colby, who had developed a computerized paranoid schizophrenic called PARRY. And Mr. Kramer, who has written extensively on the social psychology of trust and distrust, doesn't regard social paranoia as a pejorative term, either.

"It's meant to be almost a playful label to help people remember the consequences of being in these situations," he says.

Not only does he know what you're thinking, but he also knows why. Roderick M. Kramer has developed a linear model to explain the type of social paranoia common to graduate students.

Read more... )

Professor Deeply Hurt by Student's Evaluation
The Onion, APRIL 2, 1996

Leon Rothberg, Ph.D., a 58-year-old professor of English Literature at Ohio State University, was shocked and saddened Monday after receiving a sub-par mid-semester evaluation from freshman student Chad Berner. The circles labeled 4 and 5 on the Scan-Tron form were predominantly filled in, placing Rothberg’s teaching skill in the “below average” to “poor” range.

English professor Dr. Leon Rothberg, though hurt by evaluations that pointed out the little globule of spit that sometimes forms between his lips, was most upset at being called "totally lame" in one freshman's write-in comments.

Although the evaluation has deeply hurt Rothberg’s feelings, Berner defended his judgment at a press conference yesterday.

“That class is totally boring,” said Berner, one of 342 students in Rothberg’s introductory English 161 class. “When I go, I have to read the school paper to keep from falling asleep. One of my brothers does a comic strip called ‘The Booze Brothers.’ It’s awesome.”

Read more... )

A really great article on politics, science, and psychology: The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science
How our brains fool us on climate, creationism, and the vaccine-autism link.
By Chris Mooney, Mother Jones

"A MAN WITH A CONVICTION is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point." So wrote the celebrated Stanford University psychologist Leon Festinger [2] (PDF), in a passage that might have been referring to climate change denial—the persistent rejection, on the part of so many Americans today, of what we know about global warming and its human causes. But it was too early for that—this was the 1950s—and Festinger was actually describing a famous case study [3] in psychology.

Festinger and several of his colleagues had infiltrated the Seekers, a small Chicago-area cult whose members thought they were communicating with aliens—including one, "Sananda," who they believed was the astral incarnation of Jesus Christ. The group was led by Dorothy Martin, a Dianetics devotee who transcribed the interstellar messages through automatic writing.

Through her, the aliens had given the precise date of an Earth-rending cataclysm: December 21, 1954. Some of Martin's followers quit their jobs and sold their property, expecting to be rescued by a flying saucer when the continent split asunder and a new sea swallowed much of the United States. The disciples even went so far as to remove brassieres and rip zippers out of their trousers—the metal, they believed, would pose a danger on the spacecraft.

Festinger and his team were with the cult when the prophecy failed. First, the "boys upstairs" (as the aliens were sometimes called) did not show up and rescue the Seekers. Then December 21 arrived without incident. It was the moment Festinger had been waiting for: How would people so emotionally invested in a belief system react, now that it had been soundly refuted?

At first, the group struggled for an explanation. But then rationalization set in. A new message arrived, announcing that they'd all been spared at the last minute. Festinger summarized the extraterrestrials' new pronouncement: "The little group, sitting all night long, had spread so much light that God had saved the world from destruction." Their willingness to believe in the prophecy had saved Earth from the prophecy!

From that day forward, the Seekers, previously shy of the press and indifferent toward evangelizing, began to proselytize. "Their sense of urgency was enormous," wrote Festinger. The devastation of all they had believed had made them even more certain of their beliefs.

In the annals of denial, it doesn't get much more extreme than the Seekers. They lost their jobs, the press mocked them, and there were efforts to keep them away from impressionable young minds. But while Martin's space cult might lie at on the far end of the spectrum of human self-delusion, there's plenty to go around. And since Festinger's day, an array of new discoveries in psychology and neuroscience has further demonstrated how our preexisting beliefs, far more than any new facts, can skew our thoughts and even color what we consider our most dispassionate and logical conclusions. This tendency toward so-called "motivated reasoning [5]" helps explain why we find groups so polarized over matters where the evidence is so unequivocal: climate change, vaccines, "death panels," the birthplace and religion of the president [6] (PDF), and much else. It would seem that expecting people to be convinced by the facts flies in the face of, you know, the facts.

Read more... )

And some funnies:

XKCD + Star Wars:

Probably the best Dinosaur comic ever:

brdgt: (Grad Student by iconomicon)
Me, trying to explain my work in Medical History in a History of Science Department. At least the Department finally decided to call it the "Program in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology in the History of Science Department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison." Say that four times fast...

brdgt: (Panda Rainbow by Iconomicon)
Monday morning links:

Moulage (French: casting/moulding) is the art of applying mock injuries for the purpose of training Emergency Response Teams and other medical and military personnel. Moulage may be as simple as applying pre-made rubber or latex "wounds" to a healthy "patient's" limbs, chest, head, etc., or as complex as using complicated makeup and theatre techniques to provide elements of realism (such as blood, vomitus, open fractures, etc.) to the training simulation. The practice dates to at least the Renaissance, when wax figures were utilized for this purpose. (wikipedia, link goes to blog entry on Moulage museum)

New Bakery in the hood, will have to swing by this week., my new favorite blog.

Crispy Kale recipe - I had a version of these at the Green Owl with Emily last month and they were amazing.

Two songs I heard on XMU last week that I instantly fell in love with:

The Big Pink - Velvet from felix on Vimeo.


brdgt: (Grad Student by iconomicon)
Last night I worked this event: 

The Center for the Humanities proudly presents:

A Panel Discussion

Humanities in the 21st Century

February 3, 2010 @ 5:30 pm

Chazen Museum of Art, Room L160

This panel brings together the nation’s foremost experts in the humanities to discuss the direction of the Humanities in the 21st century. Moderated by UW-Madison Chancellor Carolyn ’Biddy’ Martin, the panel will include comments from Jim Leach, Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities; Don Randel, President of the Mellon Foundation; and Pauline Yu, President of the American Council of Learned Societies.

...and it was fascinating. Leach, Randel, and Yu represent the infrastructure of funding for the Humanities in the United States and they all had very strong opinions on the value of the Humanities and it's future.

Leach focused on the decline of debate and the rise in polarization in America (and their relationship to the crisis in the Humanities). He pointed out how Business is the number one major in the United States, while critiquing the difference between possessing knowledge and having a skill set. For him, the ideal future for the Humanities is one in which it is valued by everyone and contributes to the enrichment of society. I respected his overt political stance on polarization in America (pointing out, for example, that when people are calling other people both fascists and communists in public debate this reflects several failures). The humanities teaches us how to have informed and reasoned debate and if anything the Bush administration and current events (ie: teabaggers) shows us is that we have lost these skills/no longer value them.

Mandel emphasized the intrinsic value of the Humanities (rather than the instrumentalization argument - and pointing out that both the sciences and the humanities are fundamentally about the insatiable curiosity of how things [natural world/humans] work). He pointed to a tradition of anti-intellectualism in the United States, the poor quality of modern media, and the decline in reasoned debate as well. During the question and answer period he conceded that the instrumentalization argument (the humanities are good because of their instrumental value in economics, politics, etc.) shouldn't be thrown out, but that it shouldn't be the only argument for the value of the humanities.

Yu was the only one to focus less on the value of the humanities and more on an internal critique (for example, expanding the people, regions, methods, and theories that the humanities engages with expands their value to the public). She pointed out that the Humanities needs to undergo a thoughtful critique, while also emphasizing intellectual freedom as the basis of all other freedoms. She was definitely the most quotable - pointing out that "democracy demands wisdom, not superior force, money, or technology," and the humanities should be about "the relentless inquiry into the idea of 'value' itself - one only needs to look at the financial pages to see the cost of not doing this."

The question and answer period was a whose who of humanities faculty (I'm willing to bet the chairs of every single humanities department was there and Biddy Martin called on everyone by name - impressive, considering the size of the room and attendance). I thought the best question actually came from the director of the Center for the Humanities, Sara Guyer, when she asked how we convince students and parents to not just see the value in the humanities, but choose it as a major. The panel responded with two lines of argument: 1. the Humanities are definitely of value to society and we need spokespeople and other types of publicity to get this out there (ie: that CEO's want people with humanities, not business degrees, etc.); and 2. that we need to advice students of the multiplicity of careers available (within and outside the humanities) of a humanities degree.

The question I wanted to ask was this: so much of what they talked about emphasized the value of teaching the humanities, but, what we, as humanities graduate students and  professoriate, know is that we will be rewarded for in hiring, promotion, funding, and accolades for our research. The financial component of the teaching award I won will barely cover segregated fees for a year, while I have classmates who will leave with a PhD and no teaching experience because they are on NSF or NEH grants (the very institutions represented on the panel). So, if the future of the humanities lies in it's teaching, why don't we reward teaching as much as we do research? (and yes, I know the two are intrinsically related - being a better teacher, makes me a better researcher and vice versa).
brdgt: (Winter is coming by iconomicon)

Six Degrees, but no PhD

Not being a scientist is a help rather than a hindrance when it comes to communicating - with the necessary passion - the findings of scientific research

'That vast majority of those who dismiss the reality of global warming are simply ignorant' ... Mark Lynas. Photograph: John McConico/AP

"So, are you a scientist then?" It's a very frequent question whenever someone finds out that I write about global warming. No, I reply, though the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change once referred to me - entirely incorrectly - as Dr Lynas. But that's as close as I'm ever going to get. I'm a journalist - or worse - a campaigner. So how can I be trusted to convey meaningful information about a subject as complex and controversial as climate change?

Rather than being a setback, however, I would claim that my lack of academic qualifications as a scientist is actually precisely what does qualify me to try and communicate effectively to the general public about this issue. After all, I'm one of the latter rather than the former.


Read more... )

brdgt: (But Here's What Really Happened by Icono)
EXHORTATION: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education
Our best universities have forgotten that the reason they exist is to make minds, not careers
By William Deresiewicz, The American Scholar

It didn’t dawn on me that there might be a few holes in my education until I was about 35. I’d just bought a house, the pipes needed fixing, and the plumber was standing in my kitchen. There he was, a short, beefy guy with a goatee and a Red Sox cap and a thick Boston accent, and I suddenly learned that I didn’t have the slightest idea what to say to someone like him. So alien was his experience to me, so unguessable his values, so mysterious his very language, that I couldn’t succeed in engaging him in a few minutes of small talk before he got down to work. Fourteen years of higher education and a handful of Ivy League dees, and there I was, stiff and stupid, struck dumb by my own dumbness. “Ivy retardation,” a friend of mine calls this. I could carry on conversations with people from other countries, in other languages, but I couldn’t talk to the man who was standing in my own house.
Read More )

brdgt: (Badfeeling by __sadie)
Wisconsin's Flagship Is Raided for Scholars
Public institutions can't match job offers from private universities

Jon C. Pevehouse had not even finished his first year as a tenure-track professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 2001 when other universities began trying to lure him away. By last year, Mr. Pevehouse decided it was time to consider the offers seriously. He quickly ended up more than doubling his salary, with a move to the University of Chicago.

Mr. Pevehouse was considered an up-and-comer, and his departure last spring was a blow to Madison's political-science department. But he wasn't alone: In all, nine political scientists, more than a fifth of the department, left Madison last year.

"It was a body blow," says Donald A. Downs, a longtime professor of political science there. "People worry about holding down the fort."

The problem is money. Wisconsin's stagnating state higher-education budget has forced the university to keep faculty salaries far below average. When professors get feelers from elsewhere, they learn that a move can easily mean a whopping 100-percent salary increase — sometimes more.

Budget problems have also depleted money for perks that keep faculty members on board — funds for research and travel, pay for summer months, reduced teaching loads, and longer and more frequent sabbaticals.

Since the departures last year, the political-science department has made some new hires that it is excited about. But it remains one of several departments at Madison, most of them in the humanities and social sciences, that are losing faculty members faster than they can replace them.

As the faculty pay gap between public and private institutions widens nationwide, lots of public universities are having a hard time competing. But Madison is having particular problems, losing faculty members not only to well-off private institutions, like Chicago, but also to lower-ranked public universities. In the past few years, professors in a variety of disciplines have left Madison for Arizona State, Florida State, and Rutgers Universities and the University of Minnesota, among others.

Some people worry that the wave of faculty departures is damaging Madison's reputation as a premier public institution. From 2006 to 2007, the university dropped from No. 34 to No. 38 in U.S. News & World Report's rankings of national doctoral institutions.

And when it comes to faculty pay, Madison comes in at the bottom of a list of universities that it considers competitors. "As our peers have pulled ahead," acknowledges Peter V. Farrell, the provost, "we bring up the rear."

Despite the losses, some professors at Madison remain optimistic. Last year Wisconsin's governor persuaded the Legislature to approve $10-million to increase the salaries of professors who are likely to be lured away.

"This is not the apocalypse," says William Cronon, a professor of history who, at $147,000 a year, is one of the highest-paid faculty members in the humanities at Madison. "This is a great university, and that will be true 25 years from now."
Read More )
brdgt: (Brainriver by wednesday_icons)
Stuff White People Like #81: Graduate School

Being white means to engage in a day in, day out struggle to prove that you are smarter than other white people. By the time they reach college, most white people are confronted with the fact that they may not be as smart as they imagined.

In coffee shops, bars, and classes white people will engage in conversations about authors and theorists that go nowhere as both parties start rattling off progressively more obscure people until eventually one side recognizes one and claims a victory. By the time they graduate (or a year or two afterwards), white people realize that they will need an edge to succeed in the cut-throat world of modern white society.

That edge is graduate school.

Though professional graduate schools like law and medicine are desirable, the true ivory tower of academia is most coveted as it imparts true, useless knowledge. The best subjects are English, History, Art History, Film, Gender Studies, Studies, Classics, Philosophy, Political Science, Literature, and the ultimate: Comp Lit. MFA’s are also acceptable.

Returning to school is an opportunity to join an elite group of people who have a passion for learning that is so great they are willing to forgo low five-figure publishing and media jobs to follow their dreams of academic glory.

Being in graduate school satisfies many white requirements for happiness. They can believe they are helping the world, complain that the government/university doesn’t support them enough, claim they are poor, feel as though are getting smarter, act superior to other people, enjoy perpetual three day weekends, and sleep in every day of the week!

After acquiring a Masters Degree that will not increase their salary or hiring desirability, many white people will move on to a PhD program where they will go after their dream of becoming a professor. However, by their second year they usually wake up with a hangover and realize: “I’m going to spend six years in graduate school to make $35,000 and live in the middle of nowhere?”

After this crisis, a white person will follow one of two paths. The first involves dropping out and moving to New York, San Francisco or their original home town where they can resume the job that they left to attend graduate school.

At this point, they can feel superior to graduate school and say things like “A PhD is a testament to perseverance, not intelligence.” They can also impress their friends at parties by referencing Jacques Lacan or Slavoj Žižek in a conversation about American Idol.

The second path involves becoming a professor, moving to a small town and telling everyone how they are awful and uncultured.

It is important to understand that a graduate degree does not make someone smart, so do not feel intimidated. They may have read more, but in no way does that make them smarter, more competent, or more likable than you. The best thing you can do is to act impressed when a white person talks about critical theorists. This helps them reaffirm that what they learned in graduate school was important and that they are smarter than you. This makes white people easier to deal with when you get promoted ahead of them.
brdgt: (Skeletons by iconomicon)
The Professor as Open Book
By STEPHANIE ROSENBLOOM, The New York Times, March 20, 2008

IT is not necessary for a student studying multivariable calculus, medieval literature or Roman archaeology to know that the professor on the podium shoots pool, has donned a bunny costume or can’t get enough of Chaka Khan.

Yet professors of all ranks and disciplines are revealing such information on public, national platforms: blogs, Web pages, social networking sites, even campus television.

Wait a minute, you have a life? )

Debate Over ‘Little People’ Intensifies After Recent Island Discovery
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD,The New York Times, March 18, 2008

The dispute over the “little people” of Flores continues, unabated.

The bones and a single skull of these “little people” are believed to be remains of a separate species of the human family that lived about 18,000 years ago on an island in Indonesia, as the scientists who made the sensational discovery concluded in 2004.

But persistent skeptics have contended in a recent flurry of scientific reports that they were nothing more than modern humans with unusually small bodies possibly malformed by genetic or pathological disorders.

Neither side is backing off in this sometimes bitter row, which intensified last week with the announcement of the discovery that in Palau, in the Western Caroline Islands of Micronesia, other abnormally small-bodied people had lived long ago. Their bones were found in two caves and described in the online journal PloS One.

Microcephalics or new species? )

The Tropics: Why a Genetic Blood Disorder Seems to Protect Against Malaria
By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr., The New York Times, March 18, 2008

Researchers believe they have figured out why a genetic blood disorder found in the tropics protects against death from malaria.

The disease, alpha thalassemia, causes children to produce abnormally small red blood cells, often rendering them listless from mild anemia — a much smaller threat than malaria, which kills an estimated one million children a year.

A simple explanation? )


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