Tuesday, January 27, 2009

for all the Teachers out there:

song chart memes
more music charts

And my favorite response, which sums up the thoughts of most teachers everywhere:

"I’m pretty sure this graph was created by my students. Like the three I failed last week for Wikiplagiarism. Seriously guys!? Like I don’t have a computer? When your writing goes from “there idea from the books editors note say this” to “After centuries of foreign occupation and short-lived native dynasties, Iran was once again reunified,” you think I’m not going to notice?! (Wikipedia: Iran p.s.) And do me a favor, when you cut and paste from sites online, don’t choose the first paragraph of the first site that comes up when you google your topic. Sometimes I like a little challenge in discovering your thievery. It’s more satisfying that way."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Battlestar Galactica premiere

Characterization was great, the mystery surrounding Starbuck gets deeper and the final cylon gets revealed. Huh, who'd have thought it would be her???

Disappointing, though, was the way in which they dealt with the destroyed Earth. I had a number of conversations about this after the season half-finale. Discussions of where stuff would go, how they would explain the Earth destroyed, cities in ruins. There were a lot of interesting theories thrown around, but I don't think anyone expected the writers to simply up and ignore the whole Earth scenario. "Oh, we can't settle here, let's move along. Nothing to see." And I have to say, just because it was unexpected doesn't mean it was well done.

Hopefully they'll address this some more.

Monday, January 12, 2009

An early entry for "Worst Science Reporting of the Year"

From AP: [faked racist event]

Those asked to predict their reaction to either comment said they'd be highly upset and wouldn't choose the white actor as their partner.

Yet students who actually experienced the event didn't seem bothered by it — and nearly two-thirds chose the white actor as a partner, the researchers report Friday in the journal Science.

"didn't seem bothered" based on what scale? what measurement? Was this simply anecdoctal evidence from a camera? Was there some sort of way to measure it?

And: two-thirds of who? All of the participants (because one-third of them didn't receive any special stimulus...) or two-thirds of the ones who received the stimulus?

What was the task? Although this is certainly not going to remove the tag of "racism" from the choice one way or the other, it is going to modify the specifics of how that racism plays out. For instance, a stereotypical "white" task is going to lend itself to racist choices simply based on the task itself, not the belief system of the actors regarding social control mechanisms, which is the variable this study seems to be studying. Of course, considering the shoddy reporting, the study itself might have been trying to study the effects of friendship on race perception, and the reporter just never got to that part. (or, to continue this totally random example, didn't understand the term "dyadic relationship")

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Paranoid Schizophrenia as a horror movie

So, I just finished watching an interestingly creepy movie. Bug was directed by William Friedkin, whose resume includes such wonders as Deal of the Century, The Guardian, and Rules of Engagement. (But, also Exorcist, so he's got a touch for horror films).

Unfortunately, this film was mis-portrayed in the trailers as an actual horror film about some kind of literal bug infestation. In actuality, it's an exploration of paranoid schizophrenia, and quite a good one. Plus, Harry Connick, Jr. looking especially ripped as an ex-con was an interesting choice.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Just a bit of randomness

So, the headline reads "Tattoos come of age in Asia at Singapore show". And the first line of the article is:

His parents were against it, but student Shendon Goh smiled as a tattoo of a skull with a knife through it reading "Live Free or Die Hard" was drawn on his right calf at the first annual Singapore Tattoo Show on Saturday.

So apparently "comes of age" means getting completely useless vaguely symbolic tattoos that don't mean anything. There's some kind of Britney Spears reference to be made here.

Look, I don't disagree with tattoos. I have two, I plan on getting a couple more. But tattoos should be relevant to your life. Talking with tattoo artists after bringing in my own researched tattoo image, I've realized that artists hate people who walk into their shop, look in the flash book and pick something out. This thing you are doing is a permanent addition to your body, and the one thing you don't want to tell your kids and grandkids when they ask "what's that?" is "Oh, I just thought it looked cool."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


So, apparently I have been so lax with this blog that I'm getting orders from family members to make a post. Hasn't much been going on in my life, I've been swamped by work + dissertation.

However, I will take a moment and rant about "journalistic" works of non-fiction. There's an interesting irony here.

In the academic world, where credentials are gained and then re-established over and over, everything gets referenced. Facts, quotes, interesting anecdotes, everything has a source. Extensive footnotes, indexes, and bibliographies are de rigeur within academic publishing. So when John Keegan writes about World War II, Margaret Mead wrote about Samoan culture, or Einstein wrote about relativity, their expertise in the field didn't matter one whit - they still documented everything they said or claimed.

In journalism, where someone can win the Pulitzer prize for an essay on the US Olympic swimming team (totally out of my ass on that example), that same person goes on to write a book about the Pentagon during the Vietnam War, and just throws facts and quotes around willy-nilly, with the reader trusting that this author knows what they're talking about, and they're credentials inevitably read "Pulitzer Prize winning author," as if that has any relevance other than their ability to write an insightful piece... once. No footnotes, no references, rarely a bibliography. And really, to me, that's just insulting, and completely defeats the purpose of a non-fiction book.

I want to read a book to A) learn about a subject, but (much more important) B) find other sources of interesting facts I can follow up on. Without footnotes, I'm just reading someone's mental masturbation.