succumbing to peer pressure

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Slow Realization

So it turns out that going to Case undermined my self-confidence in the classroom. Now, I don't want to sound like I'm simply bad-mouthing Case. Because this certainly wasn't due to some sort of negative atmosphere within the classroom. I think it's mostly just due to an unfortunate set of circumstances - I chose to major in Statistics at a university with an incredibly small statistics department. This resulted in taking required courses in a less than ideal order, since one pretty much had to take them when they were offered, and the department wasn't big enough to provide much flexibility. Also, there weren't enough profs to offer some classes at both the undergraduate and graduate level, so many course were taught as both a 300-level and 400-level class simultaneously, with differing homework assignments for undergraduate vs. graduate students. But everyone attended the same lecture. Then I decided to earn my BS and MS concurrently, which meant taking nearly all my classes with PhD students, when in reality I was finishing up my senior year. The end result - I learned to expect that everyone in the class knew more than I did, that any idea or suggestion I might have would be overlooking some major assumption, and that I would misinterpret or simply misunderstand nearly every homework assignment. In reality, things were not quite this bad or absolute, but it often felt this way. I don't think I really gave it much thought until lately, when it occurred to me that perhaps I seek more help than I need. Not that asking for help is a bad thing. But I tend to second-guess myself a lot when it comes to interpreting questions or choosing the appropriate approach to a problem. And I really think it stems from these experiences at Case. Which is just unfortunate. On the other hand, I suppose it's better to realize these things now rather than then. Perhaps if I had thought about how "bad" things were, I would not have been nearly as happy as I was. That would have been much more unfortunate than a little second-guessing now.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

A thorough treatment of the Iraq/Vietnam analogy can be found here.
Choice bits:

"From a strategic perspective Vietnam was considered important only (okay, primarily) because of the domino theory (one nation falls to Communism, all in the region will). One of the theories used by the administration to sell Iraq was that it would function like the domino theory in reverse..."


"The simple fact is that a guerilla war is being fought in Iraq, that the US was misled via an utterly ridiculous ideology and a lack of hard facts into the conflict; that US ignorance of the situation before, during and after our arrival on the scene was and is boundless; and that the US is bogged down in Iraq for as long as anyone can foresee with a steady number of casualties reminding us everday of the quagmire, the avoidable quagmire, that the US government perpetrated both on Iraq, and on its own people.

Just like Vietnam. "

My survival analysis professor is making my life hell. She assigns weekly homework assignments that could easily be final projects. Seriously, I've spent 20+ hours every week on single assignments. Which might be reasonable if she gave us 2 weeks to complete them, but we're lucky to get one week! We have yet to turn in the current assignment, yet today in class she handed out two questions due tuesday and a third (long) one due right after Thanksgiving break. When I pointed out that we might not have access to the computer lab she gave us a 2 days extension, which helps, but only means we'll have 2 less days to do the last assignment, which, by the way, will be due right after I get back from Anne's funeral. Oh yeah, and I don't have SAS on my laptop, so even if I had time, I couldn't work on it while I'm in Boston. I know this just sounds like a whiny grad student, but I swear it isn't because I'm trying to get out of working hard. I'm working on a PhD for pete's sake, it's not like I thought this was going to be easy. But her class is orders of magnitude more time consuming than any of my other classes. And most of the time this results in a sacrifice of learning. Because I inevitably reach a point each week where just getting it done matters more than actually knowing what the hell I'm doing. Not to mention half of the time suckage is due to her lack of preparedness. She hasn't done her own homework assignments, so she has no idea how long they will take. In fact, she never does her homework assignments, because she gets the solutions out of a book. And if we work solutions differently, she still doesn't work out the problem to check our work! Neither she nor the class know the computer language she wants us to work in, but if she finds a program online that claims to compute something she's interested in, she'll tell us to use it without checking it out or using it herself first. The last straw is that she has this very put-upon attitude, like oh poor me for having to teach this class. I have to work soooo hard and I'm soooo tired. Well then don't be a fucking teacher!

/end rant

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

I know I've been harping on the current administration's mistreatment of dead and wounded soldiers, but this editorial (by, *gasp* a Republican!) has some particularly poignant passages.

"Finally, there is an asymmetry to the administration's use of the military in presidential events. It is wrong to bask publicly in glory on the deck of an aircraft carrier unless you are also willing to grieve openly for fallen soldiers. You can't wrap yourself in the flag while avoiding flag-draped coffins."

Most of the editorial describes his own job preparing for press to arrive at Camp Lejeune after 241 marines were killed in Beirut in 1983. He says, "At that moment, in that place, I felt a sense of moral accountability for my own minor role in White House affairs." We could do with a little more moral accountability these days, not just lip-service.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about bringing the media in to memorial services, and it's certainly a slippery slope between sharing in someone's grief and using it as a publicity stunt. So I don't know that I completely agree with everything this guys says...but the bottom line is, I think we would be better off thinking of our country as more of a community, and considering the lost lives to be a loss to our country, not just their individual families. There should be more sharing of the grief that inevitably comes with war, and our president should be leading that movement.

Monday, November 17, 2003

The way those who sacrifice for their country deserve to be honored.

Ah, why I love McSweeney's. This one's for you Carrie.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Sanna mentioned tonight the two periods in her life when she thinks she was happiest, the times that immediately come to mind if she were ever to relive parts of her life. Which got me to thinking. And immediately I thought of the 10 days I spent in Berlin when I was 14. I'd go back to that in an instant. Or the semester we did "Into the Woods". If I couldn't have the whole semester, I guess I'd settle for the 2 weeks leading up to the show. So, for a little "Our Town" moment, what period(s) from your life would you most want to relive?

Non-Political Post

Yesterday was a great day. Spent most of it with Sanna, and I am so glad she decided we should be friends. In addition to the fact that I think she's a totally cool girl, I like myself better when I hang out with her. Ok, that sounds conceited. What I mean is, she encourages me to make decisions that I (thus far) am always glad I made. From small stuff, like buying a really beautiful pair of earrings or dancing with a guy at a club, to more general things like trying to be more courageous. Yesterday we had burgers at The Vortex (I really want a copy of the etiquette section of their menu - "Do not whistle or snap your fingers at your bartender unless he or she happens to be a cocker spaniel") then spent the afternoon wandering around Little Five Points (bigger and cooler than Coventry, less hip than SoHo). In the evening we met up with Reese and drove to Athens to hear Badly Drawn Boy at the 40 Watt club. Which was incredibly awesome. Wow, I love BDB. And mostly hate UGA students. At least the ones at the club. Most of them showed up after their football game and were loud and obnoxious and would not shut up. Damon even kept making fun of them from stage. Seriously, why would you pay for a ticketed event if you had no intention of listening to the band? Anyway. Yeah, Sanna's cool. She's a chem major with this totally artistic side (kind of like how I pretend to have this literary side). Back at Skidmore she designed clothes and put on totally cool fashion-show-as-art sorts of things. I hope someday I can introduce her to the Chicago kids. A collaborative project between her and Christine and Ken would probably blow my mind. And tonight, after we both finish the hours and hours of work we've been putting off, we're making brownies. Yay!

Ok, so just yesterday I responded to Sid's comment with the suggestion that perhaps analogies to previous wars were more informative when applied to what's happening socially and politically here in America rather than the actual combat in Iraq. Then this morning I read this rather compelling editorial. I must admit that I know very, very little about military strategies (um...absolutely nothing?), but this guy's points seem mostly valid. Except when he starts suggesting that enlisting more local Iraqi help would also enable them " try some of the strong-arm tactics that our own scrupulously legalistic armed forces shy away from." Oops. And the part where he suggests that we mimic Vietnam programs that resulted in the My Lai massacre. Ok, so maybe half his points are valid. Either way, interesting read.