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Aug. 10th, 2012 12:25 am
jedusor: (you can play)


And this is the offseason. 100 G+ posts takes me back to June 20th, a couple weeks after the playoffs ended. I'm kind of afraid to find out how much space that green section would have taken up in April/May. Or how much space it's going to take up in October if the collective bargaining negotiations wrap up in time to avoid a lockout.
jedusor: (badass geek)
In 2003, the word "igry" was coined to describe the sensation of being embarrassed for someone else. The example given there is sitting at a table in a restaurant with someone who tries to get the waiter's attention by snapping their fingers. It's a useful word, although as has been pointed out by others, there's some confusion about the definition. I agree with that post that the word should only be used to describe the sensation, rather than the behavior causing the sensation.

A year ago, when I got into band fanfic, I started encountering the term "the motts." When a band member did something embarrassing in real life, people would say watching it gave them the motts. Further investigation reveals that this term comes from a blog post by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance, which attributes the origin of the phrase to Marc Debiak of Eyeball Records (misspelled as Mark in the blog post).

Both "the motts" and "igry" are on Urban Dictionary, although the former appears to be more popular. I like the word "igry" better in theory, but in actual casual speech, it feels a lot more natural to say, "Man, that gave me the motts" than "Man, that made me feel igry."
jedusor: (badass geek)
[livejournal.com profile] mamagotcha bought me a day pass to GeekGirlCon earlier this month (thanks, Mom!) and it was pretty awesome.

Here are some pictures! )

I also went to some other panels that weren't all that photogenic. There was one on geek businesses, which was the origin of the following glorious quote: "When I started my business, there was no geeky soap. At all. It's kind of a contradiction, nerds and showering." Then I went to a Harry Potter panel, but then I realized that J.K. Rowling's treatment of female characters actually pisses me off rather a lot, and I didn't really want to spend an hour being pissed off. So I left a few minutes in, and went to the panel on diversity on comics instead, and that was definitely the right decision. Gail Simone kind of makes me go ♥_♥ and forget how to not fall over.

There was also a one-woman talk on getting girls into STEM fields, and why there are so few there now. It was good, but she spent way too much time convincing us that something needed to be done (dude, if we're in the audience at this panel, we KNOW something needs to be done) and not enough time talking about what to do. Then there was another one-woman talk about emo music that didn't really focus on women at all, but hey, we got to watch the "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" music video, which is always good times.

I'm glad this con happened, and I'm glad I got to be there. It sounded like most people there had a great time--hopefully it will continue on next year.
jedusor: (badass geek)
That Maphead talk is airing on C-SPAN four times this weekend: 2pm Saturday, 8:15pm Saturday, 11am Sunday, and 6am Monday, all EST. Can someone record it for me, at least the questions section? The rest of it is worth watching too--he talked about the book for a while, then did a geography quiz that involved throwing little boxes of Nerds at audience members. It was entertaining, he's a great speaker. But the bit I want is at the end.
jedusor: (i have a cat)
The marshmallow study continues, with now-middle-aged participants still reflecting their four-year-old willpower. (PDF download of the study.)

I'm told that when I was about four, I participated in a study at the local university. The researcher asked me a series of questions, and I was supposed to answer them while playing with toys as some sort of distraction. Partway through, I put down the toys and asked to see the clipboard with the questions on it. The researcher bemusedly handed it over, and I read through and answered the questions, explaining that it was easier for me to process them when I read them myself. My mother sat on the other side of a two-way mirror, making a valiant effort not to piss her pants laughing. I have no idea what the study was about, but I'm pretty sure my data were excluded.

It makes me wonder how I would have handled the marshmallow test, had I been a participant at the age of four. I would have earned my second marshmallow easily, because I would have spent the fifteen-minute wait lecturing Dr. Mischel about his choice to use a candy containing gelatin and demanding to know whether he was aware of the processes involved in producing that ingredient. I would have then stormed away in a huff, possibly after destroying both marshmallows in a display of symbolic protest.

These days, I just criticize the experimental design and try to figure out the point of the study before debriefing. I am a terrible subject for scientific studies. Really, really awful.
jedusor: (hips)
Man, you know what just doesn't make any damn sense at all? Worrying about weight. We're all just organisms, right, and we're all made of cells, and for some weird reason a whole bunch of people have decided that they have too many of this one kind of energy-storing cell and they need to make it go away or they're somehow not good enough. And okay, yeah, there's a weight range that is healthy and going too far above or below it can cause problems, but that range is a lot wider than people seem to think. And you know what actually is shown to have deleterious effects on your health? All that fucking worrying.

And I get that everyone wants to be attractive, and life is in great part about getting laid, but here's the thing: fat people get laid too. I know plenty of fat people who have happy, healthy sex lives, and I know plenty of skinny people who don't. You know whose sex lives suck? People who worry about their damn weight.

(And don't tell me fat people worry about their weight more. I have known way too many skinny people to fall for that shit.)
jedusor: (madam fatal)
I have a gift for you. It is the first installment in the adventures of Madam Fatal, a superhero who appeared in the aptly named Crack Comics from 1940 to 1942. Madam Fatal was a buff retired film actor who liked to dress up as a little old lady and fight crime using a walking stick and, on two occasions, curtains.

Madam Fatal only appeared twice after Crack Comics was acquired by DC, both times as amusing throwaway gags. But through my efforts, her legacy lives on. I present to you:

Madam Fatal )

How could such genius possibly have been canceled?

EDIT: Also, for the puzzle nerds: a crossword! )
jedusor: (neuron art)
V: is this a step towards or away from self-actualization?
me: ohhhhh do not even get me STARTED on Maslow
me: >:(
V: I want to get you started on Maslow.
me: then I will never get to showering or eating, and then I will never get to your beta
me: is that what you want
me: because if you say yes, I will legit give up cleanliness and food and go on a rant about the failings of psychology as a scientific field
V: It's like you don't know me at all. YES, i want to listen to that rant. Gladly and raptly.
me: okay
much cussing and capslocking, not much respect for current psychology curricula )
jedusor: (neuron art)
"Time makes more converts than reason." --Thomas Paine

Let me start off by saying that I myself am not very good at changing minds. Theoretical understanding of a concept does not necessarily equal practical expertise. I even know exactly what parts of the process I'm bad at, and I'm working on getting better, because I believe this is a very important skill. This is not what I do when I want to persuade people. This is what my study of the decision science literature has led me to believe I (and anyone) should do.

Jonathan Haidt came up with this great analogy to explain how decision behavior works: the rational brain is not a scientist, it's a lawyer. It's not analyzing and fighting the impulses coming out of your emotional brain; it's constantly working to come up with workable justifications for those impulses. For example, there are many logical reasons to be vegan, and I list them when people ask why I chose that lifestyle, but in truth my own path to veganism did not involve much logic at all. I wanted to be vegan because of a visceral distaste for the idea of meat and animal exploitation. I did the research, and I found the evidence to back up my choice, but the choice itself was not rational. I don't eat meat because, in short: corpses, ewwwwww.

When someone's mind is functioning like this, arguments tend to be heated and pointless. (When both people's minds are functioning like this, the arguments are even worse. I'm giving the reader the benefit of the doubt and assuming that the position you're trying to promote is, if not the actual correct position, at least logically defensible.) These instructions are not about how to win an argument, and following them is not a way to make yourself look good to observers. This is about actually instilling doubt in the person with whom you're communicating.

1. Don't focus on getting them to agree with you right now. If they end up expressing agreement during just one conversation, either they were already on the fence or they're saying it to shut you up. Think of your goal as getting them to continue considering the topic on their own time.

2. Start by getting them to want to agree with you. Think of ways things would be better for them if they were on your side.

3. Present your facts in I-statements--this is why I believe this, it's my understanding that, etc. Don't make it about them. If you used to agree with them, tell them that, and try to establish commonalities. The more they can see you as a peer and not an obstacle, the more likely you are to get through to them.

4. Don't shove evidence in their face and demand a response. When you ask people to consider facts that counter their beliefs, their beliefs actually grow stronger. This probably has something to do with defensiveness. So try to avoid getting confrontational. Give them things to think about, not things to react to.

5. Wait. This can be hard, but really, these things need time to percolate. It took me years to be ready to challenge my own thoughts about abortion. Some people take decades to be ready to challenge their own thoughts about things like religion. In the meantime, be available to answer questions and provide information, but don't keep bugging them about it. That won't make them any more open to listening to you.

6. Don't get meta. I don't think this is a problem for most people, but it's where I fall hard. I see people expressing certain thoughts, or justifying themselves in certain ways, and I just can't help telling them all about why they believe the things they believe. This does not help. Ever.

This is not to say that heated argument doesn't have its place. Anger is a powerful tool. If you want to fire up people who already agree with you, change laws, start social movements, then torches and pitchforks might be your best bet. Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" is a fantastic book for atheists, and for religious people who are already massively disillusioned and looking for evidence to hand their lawyer brains. But it's a terrible book for the currently pious. It's way too confrontational and condescending.

Being confrontational and condescending can (doesn't always, but can) stomp people down. It can show everyone else present that you're right and they're wrong. But you're not going to honestly change anyone's mind by ripping them apart.

Conformity

May. 28th, 2011 05:25 pm
jedusor: (axe murderer)
When I was twelve, I spent an afternoon hanging out with a girl who was not like most of the people I knew. I think her name was Morgan. She was also twelve years old. She wore enormous hoop earrings and makeup applied so expertly that I wasn't sure it was there, and she liked SpongeBob SquarePants. (This was 2003, when it was fashionable for teenagers to like SpongeBob SquarePants.) She acted very bored, not with me so much as with the world, and I didn't understand her very well.

I told Morgan that she seemed normal. I said it apologetically, because in the world where I grew up, that wasn't a compliment. I spent my childhood around freaks and hippies, geeks and jugglers, people who valued intelligence and originality.

She didn't seem to mind at all. "Why don't you want to be normal?" she asked.

"Because then you're just like everyone else," I said. "You're just a conformist."

"What's wrong with conformity?"

I was flummoxed. I distinctly remember struggling to even process that question. I ended up stammering something about how I wanted to do something important with my life someday, and that I wouldn't be able to set myself apart if I never did anything differently, but it wasn't a real answer. I didn't have a real answer to that question. Conformity was bad because it was bad, that was all. When I liked things that other people liked, when I got into Pokemon and Harry Potter and Avril Lavigne, I insisted that they were exceptions, that they were good despite the fact that they were popular. I kept doing this through adolescence--sure, this song plays on the radio all the time, but it's actually a pretty great song. This TV show is actually totally awesome, even though everyone watches it.

I was a pretty smart kid, or so I believed because I'd been told that so many times, but I somehow never scraped together the sense to consider the possibility that things might be popular because they were good.

I didn't have an answer for Morgan because I didn't understand what I was talking about when I used the word "conformity." Conformity, in the context that I meant it when I denigrated it, means behaving in socially standard ways because they are socially standard. There are often excellent reasons to do this, which is another thing it took me a while to realize, although it can be dangerous to get in the habit of it.

But there are other reasons to engage in socially standard preference behaviors. It's possible to like a band or fashion for its own sake, not because everyone else does. I am of the opinion that Lady Gaga is a damn good musician, and I didn't come to that conclusion based on how many other people agree or how many people don't. I just like her music. And yeah, some people tend to blindly follow the trends, but trends don't exist because of the people who follow them once they're already there. Trends exist because of a whole lot of people who, individually, just like the music.

It's also possible to engage in a particular behavior not to join the masses, but to understand them. I read the trending tags on Twitter on occasion, not because I think I'll find anything particularly worthwhile there, but because there are a lot of people in the world that aren't me. I don't watch Glee because I think it's good; I watch it because there are a lot of kids growing up right now whose worldviews will be influenced by it, and I want to have that cultural context. (I also watch it because there are two plus-sized characters and five queer characters, and even if they're all as two-dimensional as the rest of the cast and the plots suck like they were written by Edward Hamhands, I can't help wanting to support that kind of presence on such a mainstream show.)

I'm not just figuring all this out now. I think I had most of it worked out in my own head by the time I was sixteen or seventeen. It's just hard to articulate, because preference behavior seems so ingrained. And it's really not. That's just mixing up the concept of ingrained behavior with the concept of impulse. Preferences are extremely impulsive, but they're not predetermined. They can be influenced and to some extent controlled by the most random factors. One of the factors that tends to determine my behavior is the drive to understand how people think. Sometimes that means taking conformist behavior seriously, and sometimes it means identifying and examining it in myself.
jedusor: (badass geek)
Science people! You know that website where you make up a list of bands you're interested in seeing live and they notify you when those bands are coming to your hometown? Is there something like that for scientists and their publications? If, for example, I'm interested in the work Barry Green is doing with the effects of temperature on taste sensitivity (SO cool, seriously) and I want to know when his lab publishes new work, is there a service that will notify me?

If not, I might have to make one. I feel like this would be enormously popular.
jedusor: (badass geek)
I had a dream that my mom came to visit me in Seattle (which she is going to do next month) and that I took her to a vegan restaurant called The Shack (which does not, to my knowledge, exist). "The Shack" was a bit of a misnomer, since the restaurant was in a castle. We went in and apparently before you eat there they give you a tour of the whole place. So they took us through the dining area, where we got samples of ALL THE FOOD (including like 20 different kinds of bread, one of which was maple-flavored and I kind of want to try making it now), and then they took us to the research dungeons where the food is developed! Not the kitchens. The research dungeons. And I was all O.O "CAN I WORK FOR YOU PLEASE" and they were like "well, we're looking for a project manager! But you have no project manager experience. We could give you an unpaid internship with potential for career advancement?" and I was about to say "YES YES YES WHEN DO I START" when I woke up.

With EPIC MAD SCIENTIST HAIR.

Man, sometimes reality is a disappointment.
jedusor: (badass geek)
I like it when all my samples are the same size, because then I don't have to go in and recalculate mean/standard deviation/standard error if the value I'm calculating for happens to show up more than once in the results. *happy wiggle*

(There is nothing more awesome than using statistics on actual true-facts data, especially when I gathered the data myself. I am finding things out that no one has ever found out before. This is why I do this, you guys. *wiggle wiggle wiggle*)

ETA: seriously, when I run an analysis, there's a minute before I tell Dr. K the results when I am the only person in the universe who knows or has ever known this one little thing about how the world works. It's the most fucking amazing feeling I've ever had.
jedusor: (badass geek)
When I first moved to Kansas City right after my thirteenth birthday, my family started going to some homeschool gatherings. At one of them, I hit it off with a girl around my age named Grace, and invited her to my house for a sleepover. She told me at some point during that night that her older sister Ida had this uncanny knack for predicting fashion trends. If Ida wore something, she told me, everyone would be wearing it two years later.

I was excited about this. Had she done tests? How many times had it happened?

Grace didn't really know.

But if she hadn't tested it, how could she be sure?

Grace kind of shrugged. She was sure because right now everyone was wearing the jeans Ida had been wearing a couple of years ago.

No no no, I explained, that's not how being sure works. You have to write down what she's wearing now, then compare it to fashion trends in two years, and then you can really know for sure. But only if you track someone else who isn't a trendsetter and compare them. Here, look, let me graph a projection of the results if you're right. No, look.

...this, in retrospect, may be one reason I've always had difficulty finding people my own age with whom I could really connect.
jedusor: (neuron art)
I was over at Dr. K's today analyzing some data and talking her into buying me Photoshop (successfully, yay), and we were talking about getting an abstract ready for our AChemS poster submission, and she just kind of casually mentioned "first author, which would be you..."

dude, what?

Apparently I'm going to be listed as first author on this. I guess it sort of makes sense, looking back over the work that's been done in the lab since last year's conference. And I'll be the one doing the writing and layout and graphs for the poster itself. Still, I wasn't expecting this, and it feels sort of amazing.
jedusor: (food: coffee cake)
Animals may use sweet taste to predict the caloric contents of food. Eating sweet noncaloric substances may degrade this predictive relationship, leading to positive energy balance through increased food intake and/or diminished energy expenditure... We found that reducing the correlation between sweet taste and the caloric content of foods using artificial sweeteners in rats resulted in increased caloric intake, increased body weight, and increased adiposity, as well as diminished caloric compensation and blunted thermic responses to sweet-tasting diets. These results suggest that consumption of products containing artificial sweeteners may lead to increased body weight and obesity by interfering with fundamental homeostatic, physiological processes.

--from the abstract of a study conducted in 2008

I've never liked artificial sweeteners; I think not being exposed to them much as a kid made me sensitive to them. I didn't pay much attention to the topic until I started in Dr. Kennedy's lab, where we use artificial sweeteners in our research. They're supposed to stimulate the same cascades as regular sugars, but they don't taste the same to me, and there's some weird crap going on with regards to pleasure responses. It's possible, based on that research, that I'm actually experiencing the same subjective perception but also a negative emotional response. Which would be awesome in terms of understanding the brain, but just adds to my aversion to artificial sweeteners in my own diet.

And now it looks like in addition to that, they screw with caloric homeostasis. I don't think that would be different in humans than it is in rats. And if that's the case, I can't think of a reason (apart from diabetes etc.) to eat artificially sweetened foods.
jedusor: (?!)
Okay, I want to learn Python. Anyone have a recommendation for a good tutorial? Know of any introductory books? Mike said he'd be interested in learning it with me, and he has some programming experience, but mine is limited to very basic HTML. Also, I'd like to find an introductory book about programming in general from a more conceptual point of view, if anyone knows of something like that.
jedusor: (liek omg!)
Vaccine cuts HIV infection by 31 percent in a trial of 16,000.

Okay, 31 percent isn't perfect, but IT'S A GODDAMN FUCKING START.

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