Monday, April 30, 2007

Music meme

Via Made of Meat

Step 1: Put your MP3 player on random.
Step 2: Post the first line(s) of the first 20 songs that play, no matter how embarrassing the song.
Step 3: Post and let everyone you know guess what song and artist the lines come from.
Step 4: Strike out the songs when someone guesses correctly.
Step 5: NO CHEATING on your guesses (don't use the google)

  1. it's been a hard day's night and i've been working like a dog
  2. take me on a trip. take me from the hip. keep me cool and dry round the corner from the dip.
  3. so i wandered like Jesus, like an alien cure, searching for my disciples
  4. strange shapes light up the night. i've never seen them, though i hope i might
  5. oh the word's on the street that you've found someone new. if he looks nothing like me, i'm so happy for you.
  6. no need to be afraid when the light starts to afraid, when mind disintegrates
  7. Callas went away. She went away.
  8. baby, i'm so into you. you got that something, what can i do?
  9. sophistaphones, artistocats, distinguished dogs, clean up your act
  10. grey in grey, raindrop explode at blind windows
  11. all we want is a headrush. all we want is to get out of our skin for a while.
  12. and you can dance for inspiration. come on! i'm waiting!
  13. chemical halo burning bright in a sodium haze. all meaning is lost but this confusion remains.
  14. i was never any good at lovin' you. i was never any good at comin' through for you.
  15. immaculation in your eyes; depravity within your mind; a suffer from a devotional alliance
  16. war and slavery, exploitation - the common basis of the western nations
  17. you turn the screws, you tear down the bridge
  18. it's hard to find the balance when you are in love; it's hard to find the middle
  19. i see love; i can see passion. i feel danger, i feel obsession.
  20. the wintergreen, the juniper, the cornflower and the chicory, all of the words you said to me still vibrating in the the air

Hint: You all lucked out here with seven songs where the song title is in the first lines. That's practically unfair. And the iPod went on a kick of one particular band, so one artist appears three times. Also, I now realize that the lyrics to #15 make no sense whatsoever. That's what happens when you listen closely to songs you normally ignore.

Joining up

Back in August, I wrote about looking for a new gym. I ended up deciding to stick with Vanderbilt's gym for a while to see how it went, and I ended up doing that all year. On the plus side, the price was right, and the equipment is decent, but on the negative side the vibe is weird and the location not so great. I had to attach my gym trips to visits to campus. The biggest negative was that it doesn't have decent yoga classes, so I ended up spending as much as I saved on going to those at a studio. Today it suddenly occurred to me that I was about to lose access - there is no mandatory summer rec fee, so if I wanted to keep going I had to pay. Granted, the fee is very low, but it seemed like I might as well look around.

The "big" gyms are still all way out of my price range, and the Y's are still not my cup of tea or really conveniently located, but a new gym had opened up a few months ago within a mile of my place. I figured it was out of my price range, but on a whim I stopped in today. It turned out that it would cost more than Vanderbilt's Student Rec Center, but the fee was within my grasp. And they were willing to let me get a four-month membership for just this summer.

Now I have no excuse if I'm not in shape in time to hike Mt. St. Helens in August.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Is done better than good?

I just climbed out from under from a stack of work for a temporary breather. I'll have to go back under soon, though, because it's that time of the semester.

Thursday evening I was up late working on a project due the next day at 2 p.m. The last-minute scramble was entirely my own fault, due to procrastination. I didn't sleep well (too much coffee), and then I had to get up early to work on it some more. At 9:30 it was pretty much done, so I shifted gears and met with my partner on a project for practicum. We worked on that until lunchtime, at which time I had to turn my attention to a minor project that was part of the other one. I got that all done and in, but instead of feeling relieved that 3/4 of my classes were finished, I mostly felt bummed that I hadn't done a great job on one of them. I rushed off to a haircut and then to meet friends for dinner. I was tired already, but we had plans for the evening - dinner and Grindhouse. (Aside to my mom, who wanted my opinion on the film - I thought it was pretty awesome, but I wouldn't particularly recommend it to you.*) That didn't get done until after midnight.

I had the greatest of intentions to go to yoga this morning; it was the last ashtanga class being taught by a teacher I really like at a studio near me that was closing, but my body went carpe dormium and I didn't wake up in time. Now I'm sort of trapped in East Nashville, since many of the streets are closed for the Country Music Marathon.

After the breather, though, I have three paper proposals to finish this weekend. ASHE conference proposals are due May 1, a date that is good for no one in academia. And that final 1/4 undone is a paper for our higher ed seminar due May 7.

* Alright, I do have one question that is bothering me, which you would think would be a minor detail since we after all talking about a zombie movie, the category of which is not closely related to genre of documentary film, but how does Cherry shoot the replacement leg gun? She doens't use her hands. Mysteries!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It'll knock you out

Taxes, my clutch - just when I'm tired of spending money on boring things, I had to go out and buy ... antivirus software. There aren't any viruses for the Mac OS, so I didn't have any. There are, however, Microsoft Word viruses that you can catch. Apparently I caught one that doesn't do much to Macs themselves but can spread to anyone you share Word docs with. If you have it, come Dec. 13 it tries to wipe your C drive. I only caught it when gmail would not email an attachment, saying it had a virus. So if I've sent you any Word documents recently, you might want to check your own status.

The software spent most of the evening running - I did the whole hard drive, because I wasn't sure that Word docs weren'e lurking in unlikely folders - and of course I didn't want to reopen Word until everything was disinfected, so there went my plans to get work done last night.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


First dance
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken.

I went to Lawrence, Kansas this weekend for the wedding of two friends from my masters program. The wedding was lovely, and several of our other friends from IUPUI were there as well, so it was a mini-reunion. This is the last wedding any of us are anticipating for a while, so we'll have to find other ways to reunite.

Tomorrow it's back to school for the last week of classes. Thursday is my last class, although everything isn't actually due until May 7. (Yes, Vandy readers, Tuesday is the last official day of classes, but things can slide around when you have one class of four students and another that's an indepedent study.) So the next semester, Maymester, actually starts for me before this semester ends. During Maymester we have practicum - every afternoon! - and I'm probably going to audit HLM.

Then - June and the Peabody Professional Institutes start.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Greetings from Kansas

Mysterious ball
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken.

I'm in Lawrence, Kansas for the wedding of two friends from my masters program. Lawrence is the cutest little college town (and they do have an ed school). Several of us are staying at a hotel right on the river, and near our hotel is this mysterious ball. We hoped there would be a plaque, but no luck.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Tackling thorny issues in education

This article disturbs me a little bit. The quick version: Colgate, like most colleges, wants a more diverse faculty but is having trouble getting it. Their solution: make diversity more important than subspeciality when hiring. I haven't decided if that's a great idea or not, but I've seen worse. What bothers me more is the thinking that gets Colgate to this point. And I think most colleges are thinking this way, so it's a systemic problem. Colgate is getting called out, perhaps unfairly, because they made the news.

Colgate has gotten to a 20% minority and 40% female faculty. This actually isn't bad, relative to some other institutions. But they seem to have a revolving door: "As a small liberal arts university in a rural setting, Colgate has a hard time holding on to minority professors — and so needs to keep hiring them as well as trying to encourage more of them to make their careers at the university." Now I have no reason to believe Colgate has an unfriendly campus culture. Almost everyone has trouble holding on to minority faculty. (Women are a different issue, which I'll come back to in a minute.) Colgate may be interested in encouraging them to stay long-term, but this particular policy only affects hiring. Which means they are saying, in essence, they're accepting that their institution is going to be very diverse, but only at the assistant professor level. Most of the senior folks are still going to be overwhelmingly white and mostly male. You don't have to be a college president to know that the senior faculty have a lot more power than the junior.

But why can't colleges hold on to minorities? It's simple supply and demand. Everyone wants to be diverse - which means either reflecting the population or, in cases of historically black colleges, reflecting their student body. (Yes, there are anti-diversity individuals out there, but in general the institutional position is in favor of diversity.) And not a large enough fraction of PhD are going to minorities to fulfill that demand. As long as this is the case, the "diversity problem" is insoluble.

The problem is a pipeline one. In higher ed we try to fix a lot of problems at the tail end - in faculty hiring in this case, or in remediation for underprepared undergraduates - when the problems actually begin long before then. I'm not suggesting we shouldn't work from this end, but that is at best ameliorative. Increasing minority faculty is a long-term proposition, starting when students get on campus. Who is choosing what kind of majors? Who is encouraged to go to grad school? It even starts before college, and this is where it leaves the hands of colleges and becomes the responsibility of our K-12 system, although some would argue that colleges have outreach responsibilities. If minorities have an edge in being hired, they have a disadvantage in making it to the point where they are qualified to even apply.

I said women were different because PhDs are close to parity gender-wise. This varies widely by field; education is heavily female, political science heavily male. (Unlike most social sciences, poli sci remains an outlier.) Here the problem is closer to a hiring one and in some ways more complicated - more women decide to take lower-level jobs in favor of their spouses' careers, academia's busiest years coincide with childbearing ones, and there are vestiges of sexism just as there are of racism. But in most fields, the progress toward a racially and ethnically diverse faculty is much less than the progress toward a more equitably gendered faculty.

Colgate, at least, is seriously tackling the issue, but at best it will succeed only in winning a larger slice of the pie for itself, rendering other institutions less diverse. This is a systemic problem, and what we need is a larger pie.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Conference types

When you go to sessions at academic conferences, after some sessions a discussant who has read the full papers provides a critique. Then there are Q&A. This tends to be my least favorite part of the session. The discussant frequently is good, but the questions are almost always not. The same few types of conference-goers reappear at every one - sometimes they are the same people! - saying the same things.
  • Dr. Cranky - "This work is a waste of time; it's not important to study X." Dr. Cranky may have come to the session just to tell participants this. Needless to say, X is a big field, but not one Dr. Cranky has done anything in.
  • Dr. MyWork - "I would like to know why you ignored the very important work done in the field by ... me."
  • Dr. LastMoment - He or she comes in the last five minutes, and then proceeds to ask the presenters a series of questions. "Sorry if this has been covered already, but what was your methodology? Did you consider Y? What was this session about?"
  • Dr. PassiveAggressive - I regret to say this one is always a woman faculty member. She learned growing up to be supportive and nice but then got to academia, where criticism is a necessary part of the grad school and peer review process. Her compromise is to be especially brutal but to couch it in uncertainties. "I guess that what I'm saying is just that your paradigm is totally wrong."
  • Dr. Everywhere - This person is at every session you are, which normally suggest that their acquaintance could be fruitful. But not when they do one of the above at every single session. When they stand up, everyone else averts their eyes and shifts in their seats.
  • Dr. Panel - Generally the people who talk the most are the paper-presenters and the discussant, but sometimes an audience member seems to think his or her exclusion from the program was an oversight. Rather than be offended, these types just go ahead and share their knowledge anyway.
  • The Grad Student - This one never talks, held tight in the grip of imposter syndrome.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Aw man. Every now and then you find something so totally academically brilliant you want to share it with everybody. Er, well, I do, at least. I just finished Joseph Soares' The Power of Privilege, and there is this table on page 184 that is pure genius. I wanted to share it with you, but the data appendix here does not present it so easily (and not even comprehensibly for those not well-versed in regression analyses). You'll just have to take my word for it. A totally nontechnical summary would go something like this: The public middle-class belief about what it takes to succeed in the most elite institutions, which are assumed to be desirable, do not coincide with the actual characteristics required to be admitted. And we can prove it with statistics.

Supply and demand

The annual AAUP faculty salary survey is out, and one finding is that the pay differences between fields are growing. One reason for this is that in certain disciplines PhDs can command large salaries outside of academia - think medicine, engineering, business. That's one reason education is at the lower end; while we can get jobs other than as professors, the pay isn't superior. But it's also about supply and demand.

The article quotes someone from the MLA (the humanities academic group): “The gap in pay worries me because it might discourage those who want to teach language and literature." I would argue that discouraging them is precisely what we ought to be doing. There is an enormous oversupply of English PhDs relative to the number of openings, and there isn't a ready career alternative for them that justifies getting a PhD. If anyone in the field wants a job or a good salary, it's in his or her interest to discourage would-be doctoral students. That kind of practical yet dream-killing advice is only taken seriously by economists, however.

Of course, we have our own problem in education, so don't think I'm smug, but too many qualified PhDs isn't one of them.

Sunday, April 8, 2007


For the rest of the week, I'll be guest blogging over at Peabloggy about the AERA conference. Head on over there to read about the largest academic conference in education. If you just want to stare at Pharoah hats, stay here.


Originally uploaded by TheTurducken.

We went to the Field Museum today and I got to see Sue the T. Rex. At the museum store, my sister found her inner Pharoah.

Thursday, April 5, 2007


Normally on a Thursday afternoon I'd be on campus, but today I left early in order to do some errands, such as get my mail held. Tomorrow I leave for Chicago for over a week. I'll be spending Easter weekend with my family - our parents have already arrived and my sister lives there - and then on Monday AERA starts. I don't leave here until 6 p.m. tomorrow, but in the early afternoon I have a presentation at Grad Student Research Day, so these errands need to get done today.

Hm. It looks as if I need more laundry detergent. More errands!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Taxes, wah wah

I went to see the Jorge Cham lecture tonight, and then I came home and did my taxes. I would cry, but there's probably a tax on that too.

How can a grad student owe so much? Part of it is the way our pay is structured - the scholarship money (which is taxable if it goes beyond tuition, required fees, and books) doesn't have taxes taken out. In fact, it's not actually reported to the IRS - you just have to be honest or hope you don't get audited. With a Lutheran guilt complex and bad luck, I'm not taking my chances. Of course, the solution to this is to plan ahead - that is, have more taken out of my regular checks. I've changed my withholding so I'll be more caught up next time around. The other part is a financial decision I made that, again, pretty much boils down to you knew this would increase your income, so you should have planned for that!

Honestly, I can kvetch, but realistically I should be able to live on my stipend. Not live the high life, but for a grad student I'm doing fine. It's a matter of choices, and for example I couldn't spend much less on rent unless I moved to a much smaller place, and I'm not Zen enough to let go of my possessions. The biggest problem is that I have a lot of credit card debt, and without savings I'm just nibbling at interest every month. That is, it's a nibble in the debt, but a chunk out of my paycheck. That sucks, but that's my own fault, yes? If I had a time machine I could go back and warn my younger self. Having misplaced my flux capacitor, I will just have to live with the choices I have made.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The perfect dataset

Major event: I turned in my event history analysis paper today. Better late than never, right?

Event history, like much of the latest trends in education research, relies on large datasets. I'm not keen on using large datasets collected by other people. Why? Because it's kind of like online dating, which I also don't like.

So you start looking around at the various datasets. Some are easy to reject, because they're too old, too short, not college educated. A few look more promising. You start a little communication - look at some more pictures, chat about variables. Maybe it stops there, because you don't really like their variables; maybe they break it off by refusing to communicate with you. (Sorry, no access to my data for you!) But sometimes things still look good, so you agree to go out. You meet for coffee, maybe dinner, try a kiss, run a few regressions. That's when you realize you aren't compatible. It can't give you what you need.

Still, better to figure it out when you're only committed to a few dates. The trouble is, you never ever find one you want a long-term commitment with, because it's always somebody else's dream dataset. (They have an open relationship, though, because data never gets jealous.) It's a search that's doomed from the start.

The problem with this metaphor is that the logical conclusion that the only way to happiness lies via Weird Science.

Keeping on task

Last night my yoga teacher asked me if I had ever been a dancer. "Well," I said, "I took ballet in second grade." (I realized later this wasn't strictly the entire story - I also took a couple of years of ballet at an adults-only studio in Seattle. The experience, while enjoyable, failed to convince me that I had missed out on my life's calling.) While many adjectives have been applied to me in my life - some even positive - graceful has never been one of them. Maybe it was my Danskin sweater.

Otherwise, yesterday was worky-worky-busy-bee. Today promises more of the same.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Another week begins

Another weekend is over. It was pretty quiet; on Saturday I went on a rather uninteresting hike:

View of the lake
Mostly, I did homework. It's getting to be the end of the semester, and next weekend I'll be in Chicago and hence not getting much done. The AERA conference falls too close to the end of the semester, when we don't really have time to spare, but nevertheless I'll spend the weekend after Easter at the conference, also in Chicago. While I can get some work done there, I can't count on much.