Thursday, August 19, 2010

Elaborating on my last post...

Here are my Top Upcoming Responsibilities, in order of time-dependence:

  1. Alcohol.  (Look, there's a fine line between a slacker who likes to party vs. being depressed and coping with it via freely available self-medication but DON'T JUDGE ME YOU DON'T KNOW ME and oh goodness I hope my colleagues aren't reading this and thinking I'm awful and/or in need of help right now /stream of consciousness.)
  2. Meet with a friend tonight to work out some kind of collaborative project.
  3. Meet with my advisor tomorrow to talk about my summer's work and the upcoming semester's work.
  4. Meet with the professor who I'll be TAing for tomorrow to talk about the upcoming semester's work.
  5. Start classes next week.
  6. Start TEACHING classes next week (Eek!)
  7. Prepare for my departmental presentation on my findings over the next two weeks (AAAAAAAAAA...)
  8. Figure out hotel arrangements and purchase airfare for the conference I'll be attending at the end of September.
  9. Give above-mentioned departmental presentation (AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA...)
  10. Work with my research assistants to polish their research ideas and help them get IRB approval.
  11. Finish my damn manuscript, which has been tormenting me for months.
  12. Put together a poster for the above-mentioned conference.
  13. Work on getting the above-mentioned collaborative project off the ground and into science-land.
  14. Finish my Master's thesis proposal.
  15. Somehow maintain my friendships, relationship, and sanity.
So I've been spending no small amount of time freaking out.  Graduate school seems to work in long stretches of stagnation and routine, punctuated by OMG OMG OMG OMG DEADLINES OMG GETITDONE AAAAAAHHHH.

Or maybe it just seems that way to my super-procrastinatey self.  I will never be an adult.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday foolishness :)

I was a huge marching band geek in high school.

If there are any fellow band geeks reading this, what's your favorite marching arrangement?  :)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

On Sluts

This article about sluthood is pretty awesome, and I totally relate. I went through my own period of explicit sluthood* just before embracing feminisms, and I found it empowering in a number of similar ways.

Like Jaclyn, "Sluthood gave me the time and space to nurse a shattered heart. It gave me a place where I could exist in pieces, some of me craving touch, some of me still too tender to even expose to the light." I had just exited a very emotionally-fraught long-term long-distance relationship. I was full of self-loathing from that, plus my mind was thoroughly colonized with all manner of fun patriarchal tropes, primarily that my fat and my inability to appropriately perform femininity made me inherently unattractive.

I eased into sluthood gently; I met Mr. #2 on Valentine's day, at a bar where we were both being mopey about being single, and he treated me like a princess. After that, I was all like, OMG men really do find me attractive? And they want sex -- with me?! Well hot damn! If dudes think I'm hot enough to dipstick, I must not be as bad as I think!

Yeah, I know, that's pretty fucked up, right? But that realization was the start of a journey that led to who I am now - a self-assured, self-confident, sexy-as-hell feminist woman. I needed that initial self-esteem bump to get to a place where I could really look at myself and go, hey self, you're actually doing pretty good for [all of these reasons unrelated to fuckability].

Plus, being with a diverse group of men taught me a lot about my preferences and needs. Sometimes that came from having my needs met spectacularly. Sometimes that came from not having my needs met, and learning how to negotiate through that... or learning how to cut my losses and move on. (And learning that sometimes I deserve better, and that I'm completely right to cut my losses and move on.)

It wasn't always sunshine and rainbows. But having those experiences and learning from them helped me to be a better person. A lot of the pushback ignores this outright, in favor of pointing out how fucked up us self-proclaimed sluts were at different points on our respective journeys.

Listen folks: people are often pretty fucked up. People aren't born perfect. Jaclyn's story and mine are chronicles of how we started with pretty fucked up ideas and learned better ones through engaging in casual sex. That's the whole point of saying that sluthood "gave me the time and space to nurse a shattered heart."

It might sound outlandish to you, but you might have had (oh I don't know) a completely different set of experiences than me. There's a good follow-up post on Feministe addressing how this kind of thing doesn't resonate with everyone. And it doesn't have to! But that's no reason to dismiss those of us for whom sluthood is an amazingly positive experience.

* I'm in the top 3% of women!  Lol...

Friday, August 6, 2010

NYT muddles through my field

The NY Times published a piece that tries very hard to look at popular predictions about Greece's economy through a lens of cognitive-neuroscience decision making theory. Two authors were involved - one works for an investment firm, the other is a neuroscientist.

According to this article, "[T]here are lessons to be learned from neuroscience on what distorts our cognitive abilities that are highly relevant to understanding the Greek crisis." WORD. The notion of rational choice used in a lot of classic economic theory has always struck me as a little silly, just because (I'm not sure if you noticed this) people are frequently irrational. Decision-making science totally has a lot to offer those who are looking at the neurological basis for our irrationality.

But not in this piece.

I think the economist was the primary author here, because the nuggets of neuroscience seem rather shoehorned in... and that's after they've been sanded into the right shape.
The neural system used when anticipating rewards is active long before the one in charge of evaluating risks and losses... Therefore, an outlandish prediction (albeit, perhaps, inadequately grounded) of a euro zone implosion is likely to be rewarded by editorial success and intellectual kudos; and by the time it may be proven wrong, it might well go unnoticed.
Wait, really? Ok yeah I agree with the conclusion there, but that premise bugs me. What two systems are you talking about here? Because "anticipating rewards" and "evaluating risks" are 1) totally intertwined and 2) distributed across a bunch of systems. Both risk and reward anticipation are tangled up with how impulsive a person is, and there's no reason to think that it couldn't tip both ways. It's a generally accepted idea in my lab that brains certainly can be overly sensitive to rewards (ahem, addiction), but brains can also be overly sensitive to risks (ahem, anxiety).

This would be a lot better explained by something like selection bias. In fact, I think most of this piece would have come across as less muddly if the authors had stuck to explaining decision-making errors in cognitive terms instead of trying to make it all about the brain.
Although our brains do not function biologically in a dichotomous fashion, binary thinking is the brain’s favored method, as it is easier to categorize events in terms of success/failure, cooperation/competition, rational/irrational, etc.
This is a straight-up example of a false dilemma. and yes, it is an easy trap to fall into. I have no idea what neuroscientific evidence there is that backs up the idea that "binary thinking is the brain's favored method". I mean, there's been a lot of two-choice tasks used to study decision-making... but that's because it's easy to analyze. It's the researcher's favored method, not the brain's.

I suppose you can justify it -- I mean, our cognition is generated by our brains right? So if we have a tendency towards some cognitive error, it must necessarily be something that our brain is doing. But if your essay is supposed to be about "lessons to be learned from neuroscience on what distorts our cognitive abilities," then you've put the cart a couple miles ahead of the horse.

My point is, the actual neuroscience has been mashed to a pulp, which I suppose makes it easier to swallow for those non-neuroscientists reading this. I guess. You really can't turn neuroscience into a soundbite. It just doesn't work, as this article plainly demonstrated. Which is why it cracked me up to read:
[R]egardless of the context, a careful “it depends” explanation will never be as convincing as a clear-cut opinion.
Hah! Look in the mirror, whydoncha?

P.S. The piece also ragged about building silos! Hahahahaha one of my professors is really hung up on how we should be building "farmhouses", not "silos". I personally plan on building a freaking pyramid. THAT'S RIGHT. A PYRAMID.

So, here's what I've been up to...

Since I last posted, I...
  • completed data collection for a series of studies
  • filled out an IRB progress report for said studies, 'splainin why I had to collect an extra 17 subs more than my original estimation
  • not quite yet started crunching the stats
  • theoretically started writing the manuscript (the methods section counts, eh?)
  • ended a relationship, then started one, then ended one, THEN got back in the original one somehow!
  • overslept a lot
  • didn't get nearly as much done as I'd wanted to, because of serious motivational issues
  • spent too much money on beer
  • might have gone through a depressive episode (putting the three above things together)...
  • ... and since blogging is one of my last priorities, that would explain my lack of posting
  • started watching Season 5 of Doctor Who, which 1) doesn't help the oversleeping but 2) does greatly help the might-be-depression
  • think I can handle it nevertheless.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Hi, all.

I don't know if anyone still reads this... but if you do:

A lot has changed. But a couple things have stayed the same, and this is what is inspiring me to renew the blogging effort.

Thing 1: My mother "discovered" that she is an emotional empath.

Thing 2: A "friend" of mine casually used the word "faggot" as an insult. On the eve of the overturning of Prop 8. Fucking... fuck. I made enough noise at him such that we are no longer friends. And I'm ok with that.

There are too few voices of reason out there. I should work on being one of them, I think.

So let's try and do this again, shall we?