Saturday Self Promotion
Over at Cosmic Variance, Sean Carroll bemoans the lack of science-professor bloggers:
There are a lot of good science bloggers out there, but overall we are way behind other areas of academia in the realm of scholarly blogging. Social scientists and law professors, in particular --? that is, disciplines that regularly interact strongly with the larger social context --? seem to have taken to blogging more readily, including at least one Nobel laureate (economist Gary Becker).
Of course, it's not terribly surprising to discover that science faculty are way behind the blogging curve. Many science departments still haven't really caught on to the idea of the Web, period, let alone this newfangled "blog" thing.
Back when I was job-hunting in 2000-1, it was really depressing to see how many physics departments had webpages that had last been updated in 1998 or so. The situation really hasn't improved in the intervening five years. Research labs are no better-- my old group at NIST is still using the page I helped put together in 1998.
This isn't terribly surprising-- web-page development and public outreach aren't particularly rewarded by the scientific establishment, so those things get done only when somebody with an interest in them takes charge. As a general rule, research group web pages look pretty nice when there's a grad student with some HTML skills in the group looking for a job, and updates cease as soon as that person finds employment.
While it isn't surprising, it is a little ironic, as many physicists are fond of pointing out that physicists invented the Web in the first place. It's also disappointing, as the Web is now the primary information source for a lot of prospective students and job candidates. You're shooting yourself in the foot by not having a reasonably nice, reasonably up-to-date web page.
I'm still tinkering here and there, but I like to think it looks pretty good. We'll see how well I do at keeping it updated, and what happens when webmaster duties rotate to somebody else.
Here are the titles to go with the lyrics of from a couple of posts back.
- 1) I'm not afraid of wild crocodiles, caribou, or man-eating bees. "You Scare the Shit Out of Me," by the Frantics. Canadian sketch comedy, which I first encountered via my undergrad lab partner, and then spent years trying to locate.
- 2) Outside we wait 'till face turns blue. "Here Comes Your Man," by the Pixies. The soundtrack for many a sophomore-year card game.
- 3) I save coupons from packets of tea. "Lost in the Supermarket," by the Afghan Whigs. A Clash cover that we danced to at our wedding.
- 4) But there's no danger, it's a professional career. "Oliver's Army," by Elvis Costello. The best sing-along part in the Costello catalogue-- ASCII doesn't do it justice.
- 5) I just can't contain, this feeling that remains. "There She Goes," by the La's. At 2:42, a Perfect Pop Song.
- 6) Back to your golden age, where they tucked you in at night. "Homecoming King," by Guster. Already explained in comments.
- 7) And when it sails away, you'll hear the people say "You never get no play in the cheap seats boy." "The Boat Song (We're Getting Loaded)" by the Ike Reilly Assassination. Probably the weakest track in the lot. Kind of juvenile and frat-boy-ish, but not a bad song-- the rest are just that good.
- 8) It's stupid to laugh and it's useless to bawl about a rusty tin can and an old hurley ball. "The Broad Majestic Shannon," by the Pogues. Definitely not a happy Irish song. Catchy, though.
- 9) Married my cousin up in Arkansas, married two more when I got to Utah. "Lower 48," by the Gourds. A whole bunch of verses about state sterotypes, over a the sort of old-school country that uses violins.
- 10) Thanks for the book, now my table is steady. "Dyslexic Heart," by Paul Westerberg. I've never seen the movie, but I own the Singles soundtrack just for this song.
- 11) I know we should take a walk but you're such a fast walker. "Outta Mind (Outta Sight)" by Wilco. Whoah-oh. Well, all right. I know where I'll be tonight.
- 12) They're just thorns without the rose, be careful of them in the dark. "Downtown Train," by Tom Waits. By Tom Waits, dammit. Not Rod Stewart.
- 13) Girl try to remember when we didn't have no shoes. "Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You," by Wilson Pickett. It's the opening line. Wilson Pickett's not a great one for memorable lyrics.
- 14) I don't know no shame, I feel no pain, I can't see the flame. "Mandinka," by Sinead O'Connor. "Issue Four: The bald chick, what's with her head?"
- 15) And the rain came in from the wild blue yonder. "Coma Girl," by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros. This may or may not count as a second Clash cover. It shows up on lyrics sites as a Clash song, but the version I have is off Streetcore.
- 16) Just move along, not too fast, try to make the good times last. "All the Time in the World," by the Subdudes. The clanking, rattling aspect of it reminds me of Tom Waits, but Kate thinks I'm crazy.
- 17) Woke up the other day, the pain won't go away, I am growing in peculiar ways. "This Time," by the Verve. Unless Mick Jagger and Keith Richards got the royalties from this one, too.
A lingering stomach bug is sapping my will to post anything more involved than this. Something more substantive over the weekend, maybe.
In Which I Am a Piker
I'm a complete amateur, it turns out-- a quick scan of the list reveals only fifteen books that I've actually read. Interestingly, six of those were because they were assigned reading in school. Which just goes to show that one man's enduring literary classic is another man's filth. Or something.
A couple of other observations:
What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters, by Lynda Madaras, is on the list at #40, but What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons, also by Lynda Madaras, only makes it to #61. This probably tells you just about everything you need to know about the psychology of the censorious in this country.
Also, #88 is Where's Waldo? by Martin Hanford. What's up with that?
Tuesday Random Tracks
Tuesday is my Lab Day this term-- I don't have any teaching responsibilities on Tuesday, and I don't schedule any student appointments or office hours for Tuesday. That means I get to spend one day a week working in the lab on my research stuff, plus whatever odd bits of time I can find on the afternoons of other days.
It also means completely frivolous blogging on Tuesdays, because I have other things to think about.
This is actually a bunch of songs from Saturday-- I hit a real good run of tracks on the iPod while I was out running around, and noted them down for a future blog post. These are from running shuffle play on the playlist of tracks rated four or five stars. A couple are pretty obscure, but some are pretty well-known. For example, I don't really expect anyone to get #7, but it was almost impossible to disguise #5.
Just to be annoying, we'll do this in guess-the-lyrics format:
- 1) I'm not afraid of wild crocodiles, caribou, or man-eating bees.
- 2) Outside we wait 'till face turns blue.
- 3) I save coupons from packets of tea.
- 4) But there's no danger, it's a professional career.
- 5) I just can't contain, this feeling that remains.
- 6) Back to your golden age, where they tucked you in at night.
- 7) And when it sails away, you'll hear the people say "You never get no play in the cheap seats boy."
- 8) It's stupid to laugh and it's useless to bawl about a rusty tin can and an old hurley ball.
- 9) Married my cousin up in Arkansas, married two more when I got to Utah.
- 10) Thanks for the book, now my table is steady.
- 11) I know we should take a walk but you're such a fast walker.
- 12) They're just thorns without the rose, be careful of them in the dark.
- 13) Girl try to remember when we didn't have no shoes.
- 14) I don't know no shame, I feel no pain, I can't see the flame.
- 15) And the rain came in from the wild blue yonder.
- 16) Just move along, not too fast, try to make the good times last.
- 17) Woke up the other day, the pain won't go away, I am growing in peculiar ways.
I'll post the titles later.
You Can Find Anything on the Internet
On more than one occasion, I've come home from work saying "God save me from deans and lawyers!" On an intellectual level, I understand why so many of the meetings we have with deans and lawyers are completely uniformative-- they can't say anything that could be taken as committing the institution to any particular policy-- but I find it intensely irritating to listen to a series of yes-or-no questions being answered with "That's an interesting issue..." or "A case like that is very complicated..." I would prefer not having the meeting in the first place to calling a meeting at which the principals refuse to give a definitive answer to any questions-- I would know the same amount at the end of the day, and I wouldn't be annoyed.
Of course, the Internet being what it is, there was bound to be a dean out there publishing a really compelling and readable blog (lawyers are no problem-- throw a rock in the air, and it'll land on a blogging lawyer). And, indeed, Bill Tozier provides an off-hand pointer to Confessions of a Community College Dean, which is really excellent.
If you'd like more specific recommendations, well, there's a post about calendar mismatch, and teaching as sprinting, and guilty pleasures, and the cost of textbooks, and that perennial favorite the difficulty of evaluating teaching, and... Oh, just go read the whole thing. It's all good.
Meanwhile, At the Ayn Rand School for Tots...
Also in this morning's Times is a story whose print edition headline is the boggling "Benefits of Caffeinated Drink for Children Are Source of Debate." Well, yeah.
Even more mind-blowing is the second paragraph:
The drink, called Spark, contains several stimulants and is sold in two formulations: one for children 4 to 11 years old that includes roughly the amount of caffeine found in a cup and a half of coffee, and one containing twice that amount for teenagers and adults.
Now, I don't drink coffee (I don't like the taste), but I do consider myself a bit of a caffeine junkie-- I can't function properly without at least two cups of tea in the morning, and it's not uncommon for me to go for three. Which is still less caffeine than one of the adult-version drinks decribed here.
And a cup and a half of coffee for a four-year-old? Are these people insane? (That's rhetorical.) The kids will be sitting in daycare vibrating at about 120 Hz...
Second Order Effects
There's a nice article in the New York Times today about the Raleigh, NC area's economic integration program in their public schools, which has been producing very good results. Of course, it contains a quote expressing the usual ignorant opposition:
"Kids are bused all over creation, and they say it's for economic diversity, but really it's a proxy for race," said Cynthia Matson, who is white and middle class. She is the president and a founder of Assignment By Choice, an advocacy group promoting parental choice.
The interesting thing here is that, in my opinion at least, she's got the causality exactly backwards. The problem isn't that economic status is being used as a proxy for race in this case, it's that race is used as a proxy for economic status in a much more general way.
I'm not half stupid enough to claim that racism is non-existent these days-- I grew up in a rural area, and believe me, racists hicks are not a liberal media myth. But I think that most of the really big systematic problems associated with race in the country-- biases in education, in hiring, in financial matters-- are not fundamentally about race, but about economic status, with race used as a proxy. Bankers don't hate black people, they hate poor people. Of course, the fact that black people are more likely than white people to be poor is itself a result of past racism, but I think a lot of current problems are more about race being used as a proxy for economic status than about traditional racism.
(For example, if you look at the famous recent study of race and hiring (the link is to a blog post with a link to a PDF of the study), the list of "White" first names that were used is awfully... preppy: Neil, Geoffrey, Brett, Brendan, Greg, Todd, Matthew, Jay, Brad. Those aren't just "White" names, they're upper-class "White" names. I think it would be interesting to see how the distinctively "Black" names fare against a list of more characteristically lower-class "White" names. I had a high-school classmate whose given name was "Bud" (he and his sister "Genny" were supposedly named after their parents' favorite beers), and I'm guessing he wouldn't be topping many call-back lists.)
The really unfortunate thing about this is that discussing these matters in terms of race (as pundits and politicians are wont to do) is a losing proposition in more ways than one. But for some reason, it's more acceptable to talk about race than about class in this country.