succumbing to peer pressure

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Why My Friends and I Can't Manage to Meet New People

we are absolutely CONSUMED by grad school! Went out with the boys' tonight and after a beer at our regular Taco Mac we decided to branch out and intentionally went to the 'meat market' bar nearby, mostly to people watch but also, somewhat jokingly, so the guys could (attempt to) pick up girls. We did an ok job of mingling while attempting to belly up to the bar but once we got a table it was only a matter of seconds before we were discussing job prospects and the kind of company we want to work for and research and money and advisors and blah blah blah. Good Grief! We can get out but we can't seem to leave it behind!

So Much (free) Music!

So last night I did the volunteer with MFA thing at the Guster/Ray LaMontagne show (we alternately switched from Music for America to Music for Apples (my favorite), Music for Afghanistan, and Mother-Fucking Assholes). We registered people to vote (only a few, but the good news is that's because most people were already registered! yay!) and got them to sign up with MFA. Alas, we didn't have any opt out forms, but we did tell a number of folks about public schools hooking the military up with their information without their permission.

Random LaMontagne gossip - apparently his dad tried to kill him. I haven't bothered to google for the story, but security at the gate had his dad's picture with instructions not to let him in should he show up!

Guster was generally awesome and adorable, as expected.

I volunteered with this girl Lyn, who was very nice and ... interesting. The sort of person with stories about being homeless and sleeping on the street and not having any money and touring with bands and me sitting there not sure if I believe half of what she says. But nice, nonetheless, and recommended that I start listening to World Leader Pretend and Ben Lee.

We also hung out with these two guys volunteering for Rock the Earth and about halfway through the show I finally asked one of them why he looked so familiar and turns out he's Joey (one of the chemistry kids) minus his long hair and ponytail. And his friend Seth works at Smith's Olde Bar and they're headed over there after the show to see Pnuma and can get us in for free if we'd like to come.

So free show number two of the evening. Holy shit, Pnuma! They're techno, but a mostly more upbeat, rocking, dance-able techno as opposed to a sit around stoned and/or tripping and marvel at the lights and sounds sort of techno. And the dancing was fantastic! The sort of completely unattractive flopping around thing I typically reserve for the privacy of my own apartment. But everyone is just moving because it feels great and who cares if we all look strange and dorky because no one is checking anyone else out anyway and we're just having FUN! Fantastic. I'm actually a little sore this morning, but that seems a small price to pay (and hey, saves me a trip to the gym).

Moving backwards in time, last Sunday Corrine graciously agreed to spend all afternoon hanging out with me at Park Tavern so we'd have good seats for the free Pete Yorn show, which rocked. Acres opened, whom I'd never heard of, but were quite pleasing. And hopefully I will soon be the proud owner of this Pete Yorn t-shirt (the Expose Yourself one).

Now that my ears have finally stopped ringing I'm supposed to do some reading for my dissertation, but I am sorely tempted to sit on the couch watching the Scrubs dvd that Netflix just delivered instead...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Un-freaking-believable. It's one thing to have anti-choice beliefs and to work to promote those beliefs. It's quite another to outright lie to women. And, of course, our federal government is supporting these actions, with millions of our tax dollars. As usual, Representative Waxman is on it:

Under the Bush Administration, pregnancy resource centers, which are also called “crisis pregnancy centers,” have received over $30 million in federal funding. The new report assesses the scientific accuracy of the information they provide. Female investigators, who posed as pregnant 17-year-olds seeking advice about an unintended pregnancy, telephoned the 25 pregnancy resource centers that have received capacity-building funds from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Twenty of the 23 centers reached by the investigators (87%) provided false or misleading information about the health effects of abortion.

Misleading information like this:

The research shows: Psychological stress after an abortion is NO MORE COMMON than after childbirth.
But they said: Abortions cause "guilt ... sexual problems ... suicidal ideas ... drug use, eating disorders" and "a downward spiral."
The research shows: Abortion does NOT cause an increased risk of breast cancer.
But they said: "All abortion causes an increased risk of breast cancer in later years."
The research shows: Abortions in the first trimester, using the most common abortion procedure, create NO risks for future fertility.
But they said: It's "common" for abortion to lead to "many miscarriages" or "permanent damage," such that "you wouldn't be able to carry."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Well, hello John Mayer

me and all my friends
we're all misunderstood
they say we stand for nothing and
there's no way we ever could
now we see everything that's going wrong
with the world and those who lead it
we just feel like we don't have the means
to rise above and beat it

so we keep waiting
waiting on the world to change
we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change

it's hard to beat the system
when we're standing at a distance
so we keep waiting
waiting on the world to change
now if we had the power
to bring our neighbors home from war
they would have never missed a Christmas
no more ribbons on their door
and when you trust your television
what you get is what you got
cause when they own the information, oh
they can bend it all they want

that's why we're waiting
waiting on the world to change
we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change

it's not that we don't care,
we just know that the fight ain't fair
so we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change

and we're still waiting
waiting on the world to change
we keep on waiting waiting on the world to change
one day our generation
is gonna rule the population
so we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change

we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change
Who would have expected that?

Since a handful of people have landed here by searching for John Tierney, I thought I'd provide an updated post on his past two editorials. The earlier one, about Title IX, can be found here, along with quite a few comments in response. Essentially his point seems to be that since women are excelling in every single other area of education, why not shut up and let the boys be 'better' at sports? He claims that sports teams at universities attempting to comply with Title IX have a hard time recruiting female athletes, despite promises of scholarships and all sorts of other perks. I don't have any hard data to refute this claim, but personally and anecdotally, it just rings very false to me. As usual, at least one of the commenters trots out the old argument against Title IX that it's used to cut poorly performing men's athetic teams. This is, unfortunately, true (as a former gymnast I am keenly aware of this problem as men's gymnastics teams were inevitably among the first on the chopping block). But as another commenter responds, "Title IX became an easy out for many administrations to cut men's programs that weren't revenue producers. Blaming the girls and the feds was just an easy out...Overall to our culture title IX has been a good thing. The fact that some college administrators saw it as an opportunity to thin the ranks isn't the act's fault." Indeed. As usual, it's all about money*, and and if a particular team (male or female) isn't bringing in the revenue, it's going to become a target for the administration, regardless of whether or how much it's benefitting the student body in less tangible ways.

*Of course, I'm not saying athletics come before academics. When school budgets are tight of course I'd rather see teacher pay increases and new textbooks rather than a bigger stadium and new weight machines.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Egads! Could our president be a bigger dick? Bitch PhD has pictures up (with all the appropriate references and credits) of President Bush sexually harrassing the German Chancellor.

Monday, July 17, 2006

If only we could all have such a sense of humor (from a blog written by a mother in Israel):

I checked the news and my part of the country has the same vague instruction as yesterday -- stay alert.

Being a good soldier, I followed orders and immediately made myself a strong cappucino. How's that for sacrifice in time of war?


Try cleaning out the bomb shelter, the room you like to pretend doesn't exist, the storeroom for all of the crap that you don't know what to do with and you just toss inside.

I peeked in mine today, realized there was no light -- not a good thing -- and stuck a lamp in there. No need to replenish the water supply -- there was still plenty of mineral water in there -- left over from 2003 (anyone remember Saddam Hussein? Scuds? Anyone? Bueller?)

She also has an interesting point about crises and our reactions to them:

Despite it all, though, I don't see any point in leaving, even though I've got plenty of friends and family who would be happy to host us. Being overseas when something traumatic is happening in a place you care about is harder than being there. I was in the U.S. in 2000 when Intifada 2 started with its series of terrible bombings. And I had just returned to Israel in 2001 when September 11 happened.

When you are away, you are much more a prisoner of the media, and it's hard to deal with the world around you going on with business as usual, when your head is spinning with the events happening far away. In a way it's easier to be in the "trouble spot" where everyone is feeling similar feelings and are in the same boat.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Book Completed: A Compact History of Everything and More, David Foster Wallace

So, I have mixed feelings about this one. I'm glad I read it, and I'm glad that I hung in there and finished it. Most days it was sort of like going to the gym - although I enjoyed the during part of the experience, it was sort of hard to get psyched up about actually doing it. I imagine every book in the Great Discoveries series has the same problem - in writing a 'pop technical' piece you run the risk of trying to appeal to a mass audience and instead alienating everyone. I recognize that there are math geeks out there who aren't necessarily math majors, but I'm still not entirely convinced that this book is for them. And I think it's definitely too over-simplified to not annoy actual math majors. I much preferred the parts of the book that were more about math generally and math history than the actual technical derivations of things. As I said when I started this one (yes, nearly two months ago) DFW has some really great things so say about the abstractness of math and thinking about math and how and why students struggle so much with it. He also covers some really good ground about the various communities of mathematicians and in-fighting and cooperation and fueds and motivation behind some of the great mathematicians and the ideas that drove them nuts. I've always thought that this sort of background information really makes math more interesting and accessible, but there never seems to be room for it in your basic math class. AWB and I were actually just discussing the other day how intro classes (in all subjects) seem to avoid background and historical context out of this idea that most students can't handle that much information or its irrelevant or something. I don't know. I guess it is possible that some intro students may be overwhelmed by the various controversies inherent in every field, but it feels like such a disservice to teach things as if this is The Law and everyone agrees with it. Especially when your more clever students are going to see through that and either feel like they're missing something or going crazy or just lose interest in the subject entirely. Specific example - it wasn't until my second semester of PhD theory that I had a prof really tackle the divide in statistics between Frequentists and Bayesians. Oh sure, we all knew there are two schools of thought, but since the vast majority of departments are predominantly Frequentist in nature, that's just what gets taught, with a little nod to Bayesians, maybe. And it was nice to have this discussion in class about other statisticians who thought p-values were total crap and made-up, arbitrary values. And they seem that way, to a lot of intro students, so why not give them credit for being thoughtful and fill in the historical gaps? It's really an interesting controversy in the field, and maybe something that would make stats seems so much less dry and boring and irrelevant.

Book started: Sweet Relief: The Marla Ruzicka Story, Jennifer Abrahamson

Karen, my 'gymnastics boss,' loaned this one to me. I'm only a few pages in, but it sounds interesting (and frustrating and sad). Ruzicka was a young woman in her 20s who who founded the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), and was most recently working to secure funding for Iraqi civilians who were injured by or had family members killed by American soldiers and/or American bombs. On April 16, 2005 she was killed by a suicide bomber while driving on Airport Rd in Iraq.

In comments Sid links us to this Doonesbury comic which poses the argument that the reason young women today reject the feminist label is similiar to the reason second wave feminists rejected suffragette - because the label was no longer applicable because that particular debate was over. Seriously? Is this a tangible argument in modern society? If so, I feel like it parallels the false notion that AIDS has become a chronic disease rather than a fatal one. And makes me feel a bit out of touch with, perhaps, the mainstream. And if we are going to move forward with that particular argument, what new term would be appropriate for today's debates?

Somewhat relatedly, John Tierney seems to be going for the misogynist of the year award. Latest op-ed (again, buried under Times Select) - "The Complaint Gap: The girls are O.K., even if they don't sound that way."