succumbing to peer pressure

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Me and My Lama

Also, I took all these notes during the Dalai Lama's lectures, and keep meaning to post about how awesome they were and how funny and adorable he was, but given the low probability of that actually happening, how about if I just point you to the archive where you can watch videos of the lectures?

Feminism (and Grey's Anatomy??)

There was a nice moment in tonight's episode, but I'll give you some back story first. The chief of surgery is played by a black man, and two other main surgical attendants are white men. A third attendant was just recently replaced by a white woman. At the opening of the episode we see the three men (chief and two attendings) planning a "gentleman's evening." There's much snickering about whether this implies porn or strippers or what. Toward the end of the episode, the new female attending catches wind of this plan, and in the course of a totally separate conversation (during which the chief is attempting to call her out for not running a surgery plan past him) she reminds him that social events where only the male attendings are invited are like the old days when a club would invite only its white members for a weekend getaway. It's nicely played out, because I think it nails the subtle forms sexism can take, as I've mentioned here before. Because we 'know' the characters in the opening scene it's easy to think of their guys' night out as something innocuous. We 'know' they aren't really sexist, aren't actually being malicious. They've been 'friends' for a couple of seasons now and this newbie just stepped in and it's just a coincidence that she's a woman, that's why they didn't think to invite her. Which may all be fine and true. But doesn't make the action any more ok, since it involves careers and power. It's nice the way the new attending calls them on it, and gets invited, and it's all ok and friendly in the end. I know the real world doesn't work that way, and most viewers probably just thought she was being a bitch. But maybe one or two people out there got an idea planted in the backs of their minds, and maybe one or two more female colleagues will get invited out for drinks next time. It would be nice to think so.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Na Na Nanananana
(Mom sings this little jingle when things go her way)

If my life had a soundtrack, around noon today you would have heard that high pitched "aaaaaa" usually played when the skies clear and a single ray of sunlight shines down. Or maybe just a nice musical swell instead. Either way, there would have been a commemoration of me handing over the giant stack of papers for our secretary to overnight for my student paper submission. Even better than just being done? Actually feeling pretty good about the final product. So thanks for the kind words after my last post - it's nice to crawl back out of the ugly places in my head.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Impostor Syndrome

There are several things going through my head right now. First, something a former friend once said, when describing his long battle with his dissertation - that after a while it's just you and this document. And it's so isolated and lonely that you start to identify yourself with the document. Start to conflate your self-worth with the quality of the document. I think, I hope, I've managed to step back from that particular precipice today. It's not that the paper I'm working on right now feels particularly isolating; in fact, that's one of the things I've always liked about my department - I never feel like I'm going at it alone. But I did start to attach a little too much of myself to the quality of the paper.

Second, I'm a big fake. But let's be both honest and precise - I know that I'm a damn fine statistician, thankyouverymuch. But I also know my strengths and weaknesses - I'm good at analyzing data, explaining results to non-statisticians, and teaching. These skills do no necessarily a PhD student make. Somewhere along the way I've got to grit my teeth and wallow around in some theory. I know I'm not good at this, and don't particularly enjoy it, but I also know I need it sometimes. I intentionally slid over to a more applied discipline to minimize how much theory I would have to handle. On good days I can just about believe that I really can understand theory when I have to. But it makes me nervous. And the more I work on this paper, and think about the larger dissertation, the more nervous I get. What if I can't hack it? What if I'm just a particularly skilled masters-level statistician? I don't really believe that. Typing it just about broke my heart. But there's this nagging voice in the back of my head that keeps muttering about how I prefer to work with non-statisticians because they ask easy questions, the level of analytical thought required is lower, and clarity takes precedence over completeness. I know lots of people intentionally make their papers and presentations obtuse to make themselves sound and feel smarter, and I know that's just as much about feeling like an impostor as my current anxiety. But damn if I don't feel insecure about my paper specifically because it is so clear and comprehensible and readable. That somehow it can't be both those things and interesting, worthwhile research.

Blah. I don't really believe these things. I've just gotten stuck in a crappy place in my head.

I hate drugs
Or rather, I hate these particular drugs (warning - probably TMI)

When I went to get my hip checked out a couple of weeks ago I was given a prescription for an anti-inflammatory/painkiller (voltaren or volaren or some such nonsense). When I asked if I could just use an over the counter anti-inflammatory, because I really wan't in all that much pain, I was told oh no, this stuff would work much, much better. Well, maybe it really is a better anti-inflammatory, but as a painkiller it SUCKS! It's completely worthless! You see, the first day and half to two days of my period are essentially incapacitating. We're talking curled up in a ball, nauseous from the pain, can't think straight. Fortunately, aleve/naproxin is like my wonder drug. I take one or two on my first two days and zero pain. Literally. Not like it takes the edge off and makes life bearable, but zero discomfort. Ok, so I should have listened to my gut and just taken the damn aleve this morning, but the doc wants me to take this prescription nonsense regularly, and I can't exactly take both, so I figured hey, this stuff's prescription strength, and it's supposed to knock out all kinds of pain - arthritis, menstrual, etc. so surely it'll do the trick! Um, no. Not even taking the edge off. Maybe it's some weird way that my body metabolizes one chemical versus the other, but as far as I'm concerned this prescription crap is just that - crap! My whole damn body aches and it hurts to sit up straight and I have these two damn papers to finish and I can't concentrate and I can't (shouldn't) take new drugs for another 6.5 hours! Gah!

Dorky Goodness (via Scientific Activist)

The good people over at Bloggers for Peer-Reviewed Research Reporting (BPR3) have generated some icons to indicate when a particular blog post is about peer-reviewed research, not just a news article or press release. Guidelines for use are here and a list of posts that fit the description are here.


I'm doing the paper-writing-leaving-town scramble, so updates will continue to be sparse (unless procrastination kicks in and I get tired of tv). I'm hanging in there, but will be a happier camper when I'm seated on the plane Saturday afternoon headed to DC.