succumbing to peer pressure

Friday, February 02, 2007

You don't have to convince anybody of anything

So I'm freaking out about this conference. This was supposed to be the low-pressure dry run for March and April - a non-statistical poster at a non-statistical conference. And yet all week I've been a basket case. So today my therapist gave me a set of instructions. A To Do List to get through the next week. Two items on that list are "You don't have to convince anybody of anything" and "Expect (picture) a friendly audience." Our conversation about those two made me realize some things about my entire approach to my profession, and part of my motivation for seeking a PhD.

I expend a lot of my energy outside of myself - directing it toward other people, worrying about their stuff, trying to affect change for them. Things I don't have control over. So it's no surprise that that is how I approach my work too. Thinking (worrying) about how to convince an audience that my analysis is correct. There are some good things about that approach - thinking about how best to convince (explain something to) my students certainly makes me a better teacher. But I don't actually have any control over what people believe and understand. All I can do is my best work, have faith in that work, and stand behind that work. What people do with the information I provide, whether they choose to believe my results, agree with my choices - I have no control over these things.

I also tend to enter situations prepared for people to poke holes in my arguments. Again, not all bad. Debates with friends during undergrad prepared me well to criticize my own arguments, look for potential holes, and fill them. I certainly do that every time I write something here. But there are lots of situations in life for which I don't have to be defensive. My field is actually pretty congenial. Although it's not outside the realm of possibility for a questioner to be a real asshole and confrontational, it's definitely pretty far outside the norm. And my direct experience provides plenty of examples of a warm, friendly, and appreciative audience. Better to envision that the night before a presentation than one of my PhD fantasies - I have to confess that one reason (not The reason) I decided to pursue a PhD is because I always sort of expected to be treated like a 12-year old girl, and I figured the letters after my name would lend more credence to my arguments. I need to let go of that idea, of that expectation, and recognize that it just feeds into the Imposter Syndrome. I need to stop thinking that I have to hide behind my (hopefully) soon-to-be title, or dress up and 'play grown-up' to feel like I deserve respect. I, and my work, are enough.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Math Geeks Unite!

Feb. 9 will mark the beginning of Carnival of Mathematics! Hooray! I probably won't be contributing, as next week I'll be cooling my heels in CA, giving my first poster presentation at a conference (eek!), and indulging in some r&r with AWB and PC (yay!). But y'all should read away anyway.


Do you know the difference between dollars and cents? Decimals are hard! (thanks to AWB for this mindnumbing display of innumeracy)


Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Oh Molly, I'm so sad you didn't make it to see our post-Bush country. We'll keep raising more hell, you keep chuckling when you look down on us.


First things first. The whole reason I logged in this morning (while allegedly sitting in on the class for which I am a TA; I'm such a responsible grad student) was this post over at Scientific Activist. Quelle suprise, the Bush administration is once again dipping its greedy, closed-minded little paws into scientific pots where it doesn't belong. By Executive Order, Bush has now decreed that every regulatory agency must now have a policy office run by a political appointee. On the surface, this sounds maybe, potentiall, reasonable. These are, after all, federal agencies, run with federal dollars. However, as pointed out by the Times, "This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts." Additionally, "The directive issued by Mr. Bush says that, in deciding whether to issue regulations, federal agencies must identify "the specific market failure" or problem that justifies government intervention." Does this mean we'll now be referring to things like post-hurricane Katrina New Orleans as a 'specific market failure'? On the plus side, does this mean that we can now employ market logic to political debacles and start firing some people for, you know, sucking at their jobs? As Nick says,

By pushing through rules with no other purpose than to ensure that the Administration line trumps agency scientists, the Administration is attempting to further institutionalize the culture of political interference in science that has flourished so well under its rule.

Although this smacks of the desperation surely felt by a President whose powers are quickly slipping from his grasp, this is still a dangerous and completely unnecessary directive from the Bush Administration, and it is one that should be thoroughly challenged.

In other news, blogger has finally succeeded in forcing me to migrate over to their new and improved and shiny blogger! Blah. I have been refusing to click on the blogger beta button for months (since AWB migrated to wordpress to avoid blogger beta's suckiness) but alas, they now have me in their clutches. Sigh.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


I'm still back-logged on interesting and maddening articles sent from friends, but fortunately BitchPhD has beaten me to the one Sid left in comments yesterday. Here's an excerpt from her page (but really, click over and read the whole thing. You know you want to):

The linked article spends a lot of time focusing on the problem with arresting rape victims, so I'm not going to get into that. But. The throwaway paragraph about the Plan B demonstrates something that there was a lot of talk about at NAPW last week, and it deserves more attention.

Here's the paragraph:
Adding to the mother's ire is her claim that a jail nurse prevented her daughter from taking a second dose of emergency contraception prescribed by a nurse at a clinic as part of a rape examination. The jail nurse, said the mother and the victim's attorney, denied the medication for religious reasons.
Okay. Again, leaving aside the question of whether the woman should have been in prison, and even leaving aside the issue of health care practitioners who should be fired for not doing their jobs, let's talk about the other problem here: the woman is in prison. She has no recourse if she gets bad health care. Maybe she can file some kind of lawsuit, but that isn't going to help her in the here and now, when she needs medication.