Archive for the '[Etc]' category

On Further Consideration: What I May Be Reading

Jul 17 2015 Published by under What I'm Reading

GoSetWatchmanThis week Harper Lee's novel, Go Set A Watchman, hit the shelves of booksellers. The internet gave a collective gasp when early reviews revealed that Atticus Finch has racist views in this sequel, set in the 1950s. I know, because I gave one of those digital huffs. I could not believe that Atticus would be this way! I had no desire to read this book.

With further thought, I am reconsidering.

Racism does not have an on/off switch; it resides on more of a dimmer, with a variety of levels in between the extremes. I know* a lot of people who would agree that Tom Robinson got treated unfairly in To Kill a Mockingbird. They would agree that people of African descent should not be abused by others just because of the color of their skin. They also would not want "those people" living next door to them. They would express dismay when a professional sports team fielded an all-black starting line-up. They are racists, but not as extreme as the white jury of Mockingbird.

As I considered the bits included in reviews about "the new Atticus," I realized that he never professed to be a civil rights pioneer in Mockingbird. Readers really have no idea how he feels about African Americans, other than recognizing that Tom Robinson cannot have raped Mayella Ewell. Providing Tom's constitutionally-guaranteed defense does not mean that Atticus wants black people living next door or attending school or voting.

I will likely download and read Watchman in the near future. With current discussions of race, the "new Atticus" may provide more important lessons than our more heroic version.


 

*I may be related to some of these people.

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What I Am Reading: #GDIGFA Edition

Jun 26 2015 Published by under What I'm Reading

One of the plenary sessions at this meeting demonstrated the utility of Whole Brain(R) thinking.

Now, I assumed that I tried to use my whole brain most of the time, so I got the book, The Whole Brain Business Book, and read it en route to Puerto Rico. This model overlaps with a lot of other approaches to how we humans perceive the world, but it can provide a useful new frame for the problem.

DetailedBrain

 

Four aspects of human pattern preference occupy each quadrant of the diagram. The upper left thrives on logic and facts. The bottom left craves order and process. The lower right focuses on the human-emotional facet of things. The upper right is creative and big-picture. Many, if not most, people have a dominant quadrant. This doesn’t mean that we cannot appreciate the other perspectives; they just come less easily to us.

Many people have more than one quadrant that is relatively strong. The two upper quadrants are often found in inventors, scientists, and other creative yet data-driven types. The bottom half of the diagram, with its order and emotion, often finds professions like nursing supervisors. Those who favor the left side rely on facts, logic,and order, while those on the right tend to be idealistic.

As I read this book, I thought about the pharma booths I saw at recent clinical meetings. Ad agencies certainly know how to pull all of these perspectives into the show. Each booth featured big images, most often people living good lives with their disease (because of this drug, naturally). If not a patient image, some other emotionally charged picture appeared; fish out of water seem to be favored by pulmonary products. A tag line also dominates the big stuff, often with a message appealing to those D (upper right) quadrant folks: “Imagine a world without disease X.” Less prominent, but still big enough to catch the eye, are diagrams and graphs showing study results about the drug to start pulling in the left side of the diagram; after all, you have to get them close enough to take the reprints and package inserts that have the details they need to change their practice!

Like all models, this one cannot solve every problem of interpersonal communications. It explains a lot, if you let it. And Ann Herrmann-Nehdi put on a rollicking work-shop this morning where we all learned a lot.

 

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Our Private Wild Kingdom

Jun 01 2015 Published by under Random Thoughts

Nature and science are everywhere, even in a civilized front yard. In addition to the usual insects and lizards, my spouse encountered a shy copperhead and a small turtle while spreading mulch around our front shrubs yesterday. His scariest encounter was with a mallard hen. We saw her walking around the yard earlier, but as he moved toward the front door she flew out of the bushes at him.

We soon learned why:

MammaArrow

This lucky duck feathered her nest of ten eggs right outside our dining room window, a mere 5 feet from our front entry. When she sits on the nest, she is really difficult to see. I thought the duck and eggs were gone this morning!

We will keep an eye on progress and update when things happen!

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Random Thoughts: AP Classes

May 05 2015 Published by under Random Thoughts

I hear things. On the radio or television. Random elevator talk. These bits of information can inspire observations too long for a tweet, but not a substantial blog post. Thus, the Random Thoughts category begins...


 

Yesterday I heard a story on my local NPR station about advanced placement classes*. The story examined the possibility that schools were expanding the population of students placed into AP work for a variety of reasons. One result would be less "advanced" AP classes, perhaps resulting in fewer students qualifying for college credit.

Both of my offspring took a number of AP courses and tests. The classes challenged them, and I am sure it looked good on their transcripts. However, these courses would not have saved any significant amount of money in college tuition.

The main advantage I see of coming in with these credits is more rapid advancement of academic rank. In other words, you obtain sophomore, junior, and senior standing sooner if you come in with these credits. This gives the student higher priority in registration for the courses that they want or need.


*Thanks to potnia theron for supplying the link.

 

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Things That Make You Think

Apr 19 2015 Published by under Wackaloonacy

On my way to the hospital today, I heard the Top 40 Hits of this week in 1973. For you youngsters, the Top 40 involved the sales of small vinyl records with 1 song you wanted on one side and something completely random on the other. These small discs turned at 45 revolutions per minute and were often called 45's or singles. Based on sales, they ranked the top songs in the US.

Somewhere in the middle of the pack was the song, Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road :

This begs two questions:

  1. Why would anyone write this song?
  2. How did it make the Top 40?

Thanks to the power of the internet (and Wikipedia), we can answer question 1:

The lyrics describe a dead skunk in the middle of a busy road and the smell it produces for pedestrians. Wainwright said the song was an accident, written in 15 minutes

Question 2 may forever remain a mystery, although I feel it must be a testimony to the economic power of 12-15 year-old boys at the time.

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What I'm Reading: Herding Cats Edition

Mar 18 2015 Published by under What I'm Reading

Even an experienced speaker like Guy Kawasaki says, “Moderating a panel is deceptively hard--harder, in fact, than keynoting."

What makes a good moderator panel? We all know bad ones, or at least bad performances. Now Denise Graveline, an internationally renown public speaking expert who blogs at The Eloquent Woman, fills the gap in panel moderation. Her ebook, The Eloquent Woman’s Guide to Moderating Panels, provides a brief 51 page collection of thoughts and checklists to make moderation successful.

PanelsPanel moderation is too often an afterthought; she encourages planners to engage moderators with speakers early in the planning process. That way ground rules can be set, and the moderator(s) can reinforce his or her plans to enforce the rules. One section of the guide gives the reader 9 reasons to turn down an offer to moderate. For example, women often get asked to moderate groups of male speakers to provide an appearance of diversity. Just say no if that seems to be the case.

The usual roles of moderators are addressed, like better panelist introductions and calling on questions from the floor. One delightful section presents smart ways to interrupt speakers, primarily so you can shut them up and stay on time, for the win.

In about ten days I will join my colleagues in Boston for Experimental Biology 2015. I’m sure I will remember many of these points during symposia at that meeting and others farther in the future. I highly recommend this quick read for anyone involved in meeting presentations.

 

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Christmas Lyrics That Make Me Giggle

Dec 24 2014 Published by under Wackaloonacy

The Carpenters, a 1970s sibling duo, are the only ones I know that covered this song, Merry Christmas Darling (full lyrics here). The following lines always crack me up:

Logs on the fire
Fill me with desire

Read more: The Carpenters - Merry Christmas Darling Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Yeah, wood can do that...

Here's the story of the song:

Richard Carpenter composed the music for this song in 1966 when he was 19 years old. Frank Pooler wrote the lyrics twenty years earlier, in 1946, when he also was only 19 years old. The song Pooler had written was to be a Christmas gift for his girlriend, whom he was missing while being away from her during a visit with his parents at Christmas time. However, their relationship ended before he could present it to her.

Twenty years later, Pooler was the choir director at California State University in Long Beach, when both Karen and Richard Carpenter were members of the choir. Richard and Karen were performing locally and had tired of playing the usual Christmas fare. Richard asked Pooler, their favorite professor, if he had any ideas for different Christmas songs.

Pooler remembered the Christmas song he had written many years before and mentioned it to Richard, adding that he didn't think much of the melody anymore. Richard said he would try his hand at writing new music for the lyrics. Within about 15 minutes he was finished creating a song, written by two teenagers who were a generation apart, that was destined to become a Christmas classic.

The song was first released as a single (yes, a 45) on November 20,1970, and earned gold record status. This song sparked the idea of a Christmas album by The Carpenters, and on October 13, 1978, "Christmas Portrait" was released with this newly recorded version of the song. Karen re-recorded her vocals for the album version as she felt that she could give the vocals a more mature treatment. This newly recorded version was presented on their TV Christmas special in 1978, as seen here, and became a hit all over again.

And here is Karen Carpenter performing it in their Christmas special:

Happy Holidays to everyone, and as many logs as you desire...

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Oops: Repost of Subtle Spirit of the Season

Dec 19 2014 Published by under [Etc], What I'm Watching

I accidentally posted this a few days ago in some obscure corner of the Scientopia site. It received little attention, and I'm still looking for movies with a holiday twist that are not in-your-face Christmas movies. To that end, I'm re-posting here.


 

Sure, there are CHRISTMAS flicks, movies that focus on the holiday. Think Elf, White Christmas, Christmas Vacation...I'm sure you can come up with many more.

I would like to collect less in-your-face holiday films. I will start with some favorites, but I would love to collect more. Sometimes you just need a good movie that fits your mood.

  • An Affair to Remember - You youngsters probably learned about this one from its stalkerish spin-off, Sleepless in Seattle. The original starts with two people otherwise committed falling in love on an ocean cruise, then deciding to figure out how to support themselves before marrying. Tragedy ensues, and they do not find their way to each other again until...Christmas! Have wine, chocolate, and tissues available if you do not know the details.
  • Meet Me In Saint Louis - This musical follows the lives of a family through a year preceding the World's Fair in St. Louis, MO. The climax occurs on Christmas eve with Judy Garland singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Everything ends well, of course, at the 1904 Exhibition.
  • Auntie Mame - This one is a year-round favorite, in part because I would like to be "that aunt." Free spirit Mame becomes the guardian of her nephew, despite the general disapproval of her brother and the banker that pays for the boy's upkeep. When Mame loses her money in the crash of 1929, she Needs a Little Christmas Now. Decorations go up in early November (not as early as the stores today) with the song explaining her need for some holiday cheer. Rosalind Russel turns in a wonderful performance, and the scene where she entertains her nephew's fiance and parents will make you wet your pants. If you have never watched this one, stop whatever you are doing and find it.

I will provide one additional bonus film that through chance became part of our holiday traditions. Dogma does not include any Christmas portions, but it came on while my daughter and I were baking Christmas cookies a few years ago. She was aghast that I had never watched it, and I agreed that it was an excellent adventure in religion. She gave me a copy, and it became our cookie-baking flick. It's not for everyone, but keep an open mind. At it's heart, it really has a nice message for the faithful.

What movies do you associate with the season? Comment below!!!

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No Permission Required

Dec 09 2014 Published by under etc

One of the most valuable things an academic can do requires no permission from your supervisor. While some departments and groups perform the activity formally, many faculty do it on their own. It should not be a solo activity, though. Strength comes from input from others.

I am talking about the CV review.

In The Ivory Tower, your CV is your life and the most important part of your promotion and tenure packet.

Hosting a CV review is pretty simple. I have a guest post up over at Tenure She Wrote detailing how you can make this happen. When you're ready to have your event, you can also download a CV review worksheet from the website for The Promotion Game.


 

You can also still score a free copy of the book by signing up for the newsletter or following the book on Twitter. 1 in 5 will win!

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What I Am Reading: Recent Airport Edition

Nov 20 2014 Published by under What I'm Reading

I spent a bunch of time in airports recently (thanks, winter), and I read several books. Instead of trying to review each one separately, I will just list them with a short synopsis of my thoughts. 

The Prince Lestat (Ann Rice)

 Ann Rice abandoned her muse, the bad-boy Lestat, and wrote about other things for several years. I am delighted that the non-sparkly vampires have come back to explore their existence. I have been waiting for her to do a history of the Talamasca since Taltos, the conclusion of the Mayfair Witch Chronicles. Waiting, waiting, waiting…and finally rewarded! If you haven’t read any other books in the vampire series, I would not start here. If you read the first 3, you can jump right into this one!

The Secret History of Wonder Woman (Jill Lepore)

Don’t let the size of this book scare you away; almost half of the text contains notes and other references. This meticulously researched history documents the life and times of William Moulton Marston, a frustrated academic who invented an early lie detector, lived with two women, and belonged to the Harvard Men for Women’s Suffrage. This read provides a fascinating history of the women’s movement in the US, as well as the rationale behind a beloved fictional character (yes, the bracelets, lasso, and invisible plane all have a reason). I was sort of sorry when this one ended; frankly, the story of the Amazons is as believable as that of the Marston clan!

The Secret Place (Tana French)

This is French’s fifth book to solve a death with a member of the Dublin murder squad. If you haven’t read her earlier works, you could start with this one without feeling lost; however, her character-driven novels are delightful, so you will want to read them all anyway. You may as well buy them all and go in order. In this one, an officer working cold cases gets a chance to work a murder. The action takes place in a swanky girls’ school over the course of a day. While I agree with the critics that this is the weakest novel yet from this author, I still found it a wonderful read and recommend it highly.

Obitchuary (Stephanie Hayes)

This came to me as an Amazon featured book that I got for almost nothing. This chick-lit features a young reporter who gains a degree of fame writing in-depth obituaries for selected people. Getting a date for her cousin’s wedding results in murder, mayhem, and the mob, along with finding true love. Good book to have in an airport if you want to forget you are delayed in O’Hare. It has no redeeming social value.

Killing Ruby Rose (Jessie Humphries)

Another Amazon feature and the first book in a series. Ruby Rose is 17, a brilliant high school senior in southern California, and grieving after the death of her ex-marine, SWAT team father. She starts tailing sex offenders who got off on technicalities, planning to get them convicted. She ends up being manipulated to kill them instead. Her family history gets very complicated along the way, and her own life comes under threat. She handles it all with poise; the major criticism with the story is that NO TEENAGER IS THIS TOGETHER, I DON’T CARE HOW SMART SHE IS!!! It’s a fun enough read that I bought the second book (came out last week), but you really have to be able to suspend your disbelief for these reads.

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