succumbing to peer pressure

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Also, I nearly forgot, I finished The Last Templar. It earned added bonus points for avoiding common Templar Knight conspiracy theories (they're guarding the holy grail, which is a cup, a la Indiana Jones; they're guarding Jesus's bloodline, a la The Da Vinci Code). It's possible that the storyline this particular book goes with will be familiar to you, but as I'm not a Templar scholar, it was new and enjoyable to me. It also hit one of my particular religious kinks. The ending was somewhat less than satisfying, but they had written themselves into a corner such that I'm not sure I would have found any of the roads back out fully satisfying. All in all, still thoroughly enjoyable.

And I started The Tipping Point. I'm only 50 pages in, but I think I may have to pass on this one, or move to skimming rather than actually reading. It's not bad, but I'm unconvinced that it offers a particularly new/useful strategy. Then again, I'm probably just not the right audience. Gladwell's argument is that we should look at many/most/all trends as epidemics, and use the tools of thinking of things as contagious and spreading along social lines to understand (and ultimately predict) trends. The language of epidemics is, of course, something with which I'm already familiar, and so far all the stories he's trotted out are also things I already know. I think the epidemic paradigm is a useful way of contextualizing some of these things, I'm not convinced it's any better at predicting 'tipping points' than anything else.

Father's Day

Lastly, because I know you've all been waiting with bated breath, another silver lining to the hellish weekend of moving is that I found a poster from the Dalai Lama's visit last year that I had been saving. So I went out and got it framed and sent that to my Dad. Perfect.

Hot damn I had forgotten how nice it was to lay in bed all morning, then waste away half the afternoon sipping coffee and watching bad weekend tv! Actually, I wasn't even watching bad weekend tv, I was watching Swingtown thanks to On Demand (hooray cable!). And so, I offer you this little review:

Overall, I have to say I'm not yet won over, so I can't embrace fully recommending this show to others. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see Jack Davenport (Coupling, Pirates of the Caribbean) as a main character, even if his American accent wavers a bit from time to time. Canadian actress Molly Parker plays his wife, and she is sublime. Simply watching her excel at her craft makes all of her scenes enjoyable. Added bonuses include Grant Show sporting a horrific 70s 'stache and a Mark Valley cameo in episode two. The basic storyline is that Davenport and Parker have recently moved, just a few blocks, into a new neighborhood, where they befriend new neighbors who happen to be swingers. Their old neighbors are pretty conservative, and are jealous and freaked out by the new neighbors. Awkward sexual encounters ensue, often accompanied by drugs. I'm going to wait and see if it grows on me.

Data Entry
In other news, should you ever find yourself designing a survey instrument, please, for the love of god, don't replicate this particular problem. One of the datasets I'm working with includes information about BMI, which is missing for a few observations. No problem, since those observations do include information about height and weight, so a little arithmetic later and I can fill in the BMI values. Except that some genius decided to tell the data collectors that they could enter the height in either inches or centimeters and the weight in either pounds or kilograms! Sure, on a case-by-case basis I could probably figure out which was used, but there's no good way to explain that to a computer program, and it's just not sound data-cleaning to make assumptions like that. Bah!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Where has this woman been all my life?

We could all benefit from the kind of honest eye JaneB casts on her own professionalism and what it means to her to be a scientist. (via Zuska)

The lesson I'm trying to learn this year and next is that when I try to 'play the game' using externally set values for the things I do and am, I will be off balance - the weights of the different parts of my life will be wrongly distributed. It is up to me to recognise the true weight of things, and to distribute them appropriately for efficient and enjoyable carrying.
By treating these aspects of the job as less weighty, I end up berating myself for underachieving and feeling like a failure. "I did nothing today" often actually means "I saw three students, taught a class, had an email exchange about why so-and-so's data is making the model play up, ran so-and-so's data myself, found the problem, sent a long message explaining the problem and the work around, popped into the lab three times to check what was going on and lend a hand, talked to the technician about whether we needed to get some new sample bottles or could clean the old ones, wrote a reference for someone, prepared a handout, took two phone calls... and didn't do anything that will directly lead to a publication or grant".

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I should probably know better than to blog when I'm 1.5 cocktails in and sans dinner. Nevertheless. I figured completing my move and handing my keys over to the landlord deserved a little celebrating. So here I sit, grooving to some DMB (make fun. go ahead. I don't care. We've been in love for 13 years. God I'm old) and thinking a bit too much.

So for the past 6 days I've been in moving hell. And I finally figured out why this morning. This is the first move that I (foolishly) attempted to do on my own. Of course, my lovely, wonderful friends came by Saturday afternoon to do some heavy lifting, but that only lasted two hours. Literally. It took two hours to move all my furniture (plus what the roommate's parents had shuffled over two nights earlier). Sure, it was two hot, grueling, sweaty hours, but two hours nonetheless. Meanwhile, I spent half of Thursday, all day Friday, most of Saturday, a small part of Sunday, all of Monday, and half of today (Tuesday) moving all the other small, annoying shit (minus the contents of the kitchen, which my amazing roommate and her sister moved while we were hefting the furniture). Ok, I know this sounds confusing, since I'm referencing a roommate, yet lamenting moving all on my own, but here's the story:

For the past year I've lived with C, who is awesome, but who graduated this past May and is moving out of the country in December, and my housing association only allows 12 month leases, so she and all her stuff moved out a week and a half ago. Meanwhile, her younger sister is in town for the summer, so my new landlady is allowing me to bend the rules and live with her for two months while looking for a more permanent roommate come August (know anyone looking for housing?). So the little sister lived in limbo with me at the old place for several days, then officially moved into the new place this weekend. So between the roommate, her sister, and their parents, there was help. But mostly just for their stuff. And somehow I managed to remain firmly entrenched in denial about just how much shit I managed to accumulate in three years. The longest I've lived in any one place since moving out of my parents' house. All my moves to college dorm rooms came with help from the parents, moving into my first apartment was accompanied by lots of help from the parents and roommates and friends, and moving out of the apartment and back home for the summer was again roommates and parents (and grandma!). Moving to atlanta was me and the parents. Moving once within atlanta was my first experience with professional movers. This move was two doors down, so hiring professionals seemed silly (and beyond my saving-for-euros budget). So I'd say I did 90% of this move on my own. And holy shit did that suck. I really should have asked for even more help than I did. But c'est la vie. At least I got my workout (and then some) in this week. But I swear, if I have to walk up one more flight of stairs, I may burst into tears.

At least the silver lining is that moving provided the perfect opportunity to throw away and give away and recycle things. I am now officially in love with my closet. It's organized and I can see everything and I can even step into the closet to find things without stepping around a sea of crap piled on the floor. It's awesome. I still can't seem to bring myself to part with any more books, although every time I move I swear I'm going to break off that particular love affair.

Ok, end boring post about moving. Shocker, it sucks. Everyone knows this. I have two Ezra Klein articles bookmarked, so perhaps a return to content soonish.