Sunday, November 18, 2007

Random bits

I just came across a neat blog and I liked how she just kind of gives little updates of stuff. I'm still a blog newbie (although I made my first blog in 2003 after meeting Glenn when I was in NYC for a long weekend, applying for a NYC Teaching Fellows program that I am still grateful I didn't get into. I would have been eaten alive...) and have never really figured out what to write about. Leading to a terminally dull blog. Terminally, as in, so boring it might actually cause someone to have a fatal accident when they fall, asleep, off their chair...

One of the perks of having an office job is that I can whip through a lot of blogs in between getting little bites of work done. I do this on purpose after reading the article "Working it Out" by Virginia Valian. This was right after reading her book Why So Slow. Both of them were hard-to-put-down good. The article in particular completely changed my view of how I work. I tend to work really hard for, like, 4 minutes, and then fuck around for at least 30. I always felt really guilty, and I have all this anxiety about being 'caught' (having an officemate who looks over my shoulder and makes comments about what is on my computer screen does not help). But the thing is, this is just how I work and trying to force myself to work continuously results in actual physical agony as I literally wrestle with myself I'm squirming so hard in my chair, and I don't actually get any more work done. I just make myself miserable. I seem to produce a reasonable amount of work, in the end, working at my 4:30 pace. My bosses have always been happy as far as I could tell, and I keep on getting new and better jobs. Valian talks about her own struggle to accept a somewhat similar working style, and I just thought, yeah, why not just accept that this is how I am?

Anyhow, short story long, I spend a lot of time reading blogs and stuff. And I love it. I love science, not so much the actual, nitty gritty doing of it, but the idea of it and all the exciting stuff going on. I subscribe to a lot of science press releases at Eureka Alerts. I am like some kind of science vacuum cleaner, hoovering through tons of material in a very superficial way and then dropping little tidbits into my conversations. My friends love me for this. They love that when they need info on some obscure something, they can come to me and 99% of the time my mouth will open and the words, "Oh I just read a book/article about that" will come out. I can't quite figure out how to turn this talent into a job, which is a shame because I am really, really good at it. I can't exactly charge my friends for 5 minutes of information! But god damn, if I could just spend my time sifting through all this stuff that interests me and then directing people to exactly what they need to know, I would be a happy camper. Whoa. That sounds like a librarian, now that I think of it. Except not just books, but info in general and general resource locating (be it the store where you can buy that obscure cleaning product or the website to learn about yarn conversions).

So here I introduce a new 'feature', a kind of web round up of the most interesting stuff I've stumbled across 'lately' (where lately is just however often I get around to this. Ideally daily, but I guess not quite).

The process of science
, which is supposed to be objective, but it operated by subjective, irrational humans.

One of my eternal, lingering anxieties, is about my published work. I am always finding mistakes in my code, and I worry that after I send something in I'll find this huge mistake in my work. Apparently, all science has the possibility of being wrong, and most of it is. Now, they mean this in the sense of new discoveries changing or contradicting old ones, but I guess a lot of it is just plain mistakes or bad thinking or bad math.

The whole vaccine-autism issue is a great example of ordinary people having lost their faith in the scientific process. This is really interesting to me. On the one hand, I'm a scientist and I see that the scientific method is ideally a logical, evidence based method of testing hypotheses and moving forward. It should be objective. But there's that word should. The process is done by humans, and we are subject to bias in what questions we choose to investigate, how we frame the question, and how we present the results. As a person who has been pretty maltreated by the western medical system, I've lost a lot of faith in this process. For example, I think massive studies looking at the 'average' response are kind of beside the point in a lot of cases. In my case, you might go out and test 100 people and ask "does wheat make them sick?" You would get a 'no, pretty much not" answer, with some responses floating around the outlier of 'yes'. You might conclude that "wheat does not make people sick". That answer isn't helpful, though, if a person has celiac disease. In that case, wheat makes us very, very sick. I see the point of testing large numbers of people for an average response, but I am not the aggregate of large numbers of people. I am me. So I don't really care about some mythical 'average' response. This entire "this is irrelevent" aspect applies to a lot of things in medicine, as far as I can tell, and really drives me nuts.


music and the brain

how praise affects kids

sleep deprivation

yes they are this obsessed with rules here.

BBC and their cat obsession

I think on of the BBC editors must love kitties, because they always have these great cat stories on there. I like kitties, myself...


This week I am obsessed with the incredible colors in Estonian unspun yarn, as seen in these shawls. Two yarn vendors are here and here.



Blogger Chris said...

Finding your niche in the blogging world is a challenge, isn't it? But it sounds like you're going about the right way, playing to your strengths. Like you and your gift/skill with science factoids, my unemployable skills are connecting people with information (maybe a librarian, indeed) and humorous captioning.

Thanks for the links to "Working It Out" and the article about gifted kids!


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