Jack O'Lanterns for everyone!

This is our happy vampiric squash. A pleasant brrl-brrl-brrl to all!

Another citizenship test

Yes, the Brits have started one recently. And, of course, my favourite web site has its own version (What IS this Life in the UK thing? It seems quite useful!).

FYI, I actually got only two questions wrong in this one. I don't know if it's because the style of the test (and the questions) are rather different compared to the US one (less historical/specifically "British" stuff). The answers seemed more "commonsensical" as well. I'm thinking of Questions 1, 6, 7, 11, 14 for example. It does ask about the MC but not who wrote the blasted thing. Thankfully. Also, maybe I just guessed better in this one :-)


More Halloween stuff

As E has declared we can have an entire weekend of Halloween-related posts, here's my contribution :-)

For a quiz on your knowledge of monsters, go here

In case you are confused as to which monster is after you, go here

To stock up on films to watch in the upcoming few days, here are some tips. A bit dated and it doesn't include one of my favourite films (though, strictly speaking, that film is a spoof of the types of films listed here so maybe they would have left it off anyway. But, if yous haven't watched it, SOOD is well worth watching. Just for the sly humour and innovative usage of a cricket bat)

Apart from the usual Dracula and Frankenstein stuff, some of the creepiest moments in my younger, teenaged self's life came when reading M R James' ghost stories (thanks to the British Council back home which had a very eclectic selection of books). Due to the wonders of the 'net, you can order your own copies or read some of James' stories online. There's also a James newsletter with a complete bibliography and filmography and even download an anthology of ghost stories from (what else?) the BBC here.

In case you need to know what kind of Halloween costume you are, check this out. Here, you can find a list of Halloween customs from places around the world (no Nepal or Thailand, unfortunately)

So, there you are. Personally speaking, the best Halloween costume I've seen so far this year (not that I've seen many since I've been rather busy with actual academic endeavours) was at the place I wish I really worked but only volunteer at. It was a dad and son with the dad dressed as a convict and the kid as a (tiny) policeman with handcuffs. The really creepy one was a six-foot tall dad dressed up as a clown (I've always been not too fond of clowns. They are far scarier than Dracula or Frankenstein or Vampires). What was I dressed as, you ask? Well, since we are not supposed to "really" scare the little people with blood and gore, I was being wrapped up in silk by an enormous spider who wanted me for food. Nice and easy since it just needed a fake cobwebs wrapped around me and my borrowed spider hat (with a rather menacing red-eyed spider). It was all very effective though I did get a few comments about being a hobbit (being short does not help when you are being wrapped in a spider's web).

More festive Halloween fun!

No costumes--but pumpkins and hay, two of the other ingredients for halloween hijinks...

ETA: Photo credit where credit is due. I think this is one of my mom's shots, taken soon after she discovered the wonder of the digital camera. Note the natural eye for framing and color, as well as her wise decision to shoot warm colors in late afternoon sunlight. I'd have cropped the edges a bit closer to the subject, but that's more of a personal preference.

Now if we could just get her to delete the photos from the card after she transfers them to her computer...


Talking to professors (and to each other)

In view of recent efforts at our department at TUWSNBN among postgraduate students to get together and discuss stuff, I am linking to this post from The Valve, which discusses a post on dissertating which appeared on Inside Higher Ed. The Valve person's concerns are about English departments but it seems to fit in with what is an ongoing concern for me right now.

As the only "humanities" student in my family, I get reports from my brother/sister about how often they meet up with their advisors. My brother, also a PhD candidate, works for his advisor, has co-authored various (apparently v exciting stuff on physics whatnots and math :-)) and gets funded to go off to conferences and talk about these things. His complaint is more along the lines of (following the article I refer to) "I need some time alone" in a very Greta Garbo-ish fashion rather than "let's discuss this point in my dissertation proposal further without me having my notes/pen/paper/points to talk about all ready". One of my sisters, an undergrad doing her third-year thesis in New Zealand, also interacts a lot more with other students (all in the same year, same field: "wildlife management") than I do with other students and faculty people who share similar research topics and methodologies.

One of the reasons may be that both my brother and sister are fairly specialised (especially my brother). So, there's a small group of similarly specialised people/faculty in the department to talk to. Also, neither of them are in an "interdisciplinary" department as I am. So, not only am I doing "International Relations" (heaps of topics, methodologies) but also interdisciplinary IR (though I can't see how IR can be non interdisciplinary). And, this interdisciplinarity differs, as I found out when I was in OOD earlier this year: TUWSNBN's interdisciplinary department has a big concentration of certain types of practitioners, OOD Uni had a different type of "majority" discipline, making interactions and conversations about where my methodological standpoint was/is more complicated. Often, as has often been discussed by E and me here, the rules and boundaries are difficult to figure out and work with. We get by (yes, I'm speaking for E too, again) but it's not easy and it doesn't really encourage me to go about to chat to Professors. Unlike Australia, where both the Unis I was in had "Student Unions" where there were places for beers/coffees and one could usually find various professors there, TUWSNBN does not have anything like that. For someone unused to visiting professors in their offices (when I was in high school, the only time you visited people in their offices was if you'd done something that transgressed the rules of the school. Not to "have a chat"), the practice that we have to plan a visit is rather nervewracking. Hence, little interaction among advisors and this particular student :-)

What is the solution then? I'm not sure. I know that, for myself, the few professors I know are always keen to listen and help with what I am trying to write and do. But, the experience of having to be "prepared" in some way before going to discuss things with them has meant I've not discussed my proposal as much as I should have. Again, going to someone's office or even making an appointment to meet up is serious stuff. It's stressful. But, I still need to make up a committee so I can defend my proposal by the end of the year. I guess it's time to start knocking on professors' doors. And, to make sure my ten point summary of my proposal and my pen and paper are all ready.

Happy Halloween weekend!

Because one night just isn't enough to contain the whole costume, candy and party fun that is halloween, I'll be bringing you, our faithful reader, a new halloween photo each day this weekend. Today's offering is a shot of the Genius Nephew from last year. I tried to convince him to be a toilet this year, but he is insisting on using the same costume. I'm pretty sure this year we'll be able to see his tibia and fibula.

Sometimes I miss OOD, part I

I do really. Especially realising that I did have some good mates there. I received an email from one of them today. A Pole. Describing the recent elections (yes, in the past, I wouldn't give a toss about Polish elections. After all, despite being an IR PhD, I can't keep up with all sorts of places in the world. Post-OOD, I actually read the "Europe" page on the Beeb too. Another "good" thing). Here's part of the email, with comments :

"We just had presidential elections in Poland, and what really surprised me was that the most nationalistic, extremely pro-catholic (but also in favour of capital punishment), against minorities, against EU, against gender equal status, against abortion, really traditionalist and conservative, populist candidate won...

Well. What next? The Crusades? Oh, wait. We might already be having one of those.

...Our new president called our country the '4th Republic of Poland' now (as it will now be a new country after the '3rd Republic' which according to him was from 1989 till last week...).

This is rather similar to Nepal where we are apparently now a new country after the King took over control of government early this year. I didn't know countries could be renewed but apparently they can. I wonder if this means I could take over a country and "renew" it?

What is funny is that he has a twin brother who is also a politician, who (this is really possible!) may be the new Prime Minister soon. Can you imagine that? Twins as President and Prime Minister! Also their family name comes from the word 'duck', so most of the people just call them 'ducks'. And to make the whole thing more absurd the most important opponent's name was Donald Tusk, so in the 2nd part of elections the choice was Donald or Duck :D"

Imagine the Monty Pythonesque possibilities with Donald and Duck fighting it out for being a country's leader. I'm sitting in the office at TUWSNBN and sniggering away.


Bothering bosses

So what do you do when you're supposed to be working for someone, and they don't give you anything to do?

Backstory: I had an assignment to do research that I turned in a while ago, with the understanding that once all the original work was in, I'd be assigned further research. But I haven't heard from the person who's supposed to be doing the assigning. In a while.

Obviously it isn't my job to remind this person that I'm supposed to be working, but I'd like to be able to plan my schedule (I've got another job, conference papers, and that whole dissertation thing to worry about) and I can't know for sure how much time I have until I find out whether this person needs me to do more work.

So I throw the question out to our faithful reader--what's the best way to find out whether you've got an assignment without making it seem like you're telling someone they need to work faster?


Well, if I have to...here they are

I had a hard time with this since lapses in English grammar don't particularly bother me (some of the best literature I read is written in crap grammar/dialects), I don't have pictures on my walls (though I, too, straighten them and, E, your cats are horrors at that! I straighten books in bookstores too), and I own one towel and even that is fading and bleached so no folding needed.

But, here's 5 I can remember right now:

1. I wear my socks inside out. Don't know why, I just do. They are more comfy that way.

2. I like frog-shaped jewellery and obsessively search for such. This was rather troublesome when living in Northern Australia since frogs (cane toads, to be precise) are major pests there and are often the target of teenagers (which I was, once) who run their utes over the animals. This results in a (allegedly highly satisfying) "plop" sound and lots of gooey materials.

3. I like writing backwards. That, to me, has a symmetry lacking in "regular, left to right" writing.

4. I step over piles of dirt and dust on pavements and footpaths. In Nepal, the dust piles are supposed to represent ghosts being swept out of peoples' houses and if one steps on them, then the ghosts can enter you/your house. I'm not sure if that would really happen but I'm not putting myself forward for experimentation.

5. I read the end of books before buying them. I started when young and ruined the kids' version of Romeo and Juliet by telling my classmates how it ended (This was grade 4). There were a lot of tears as a result. I figure, if I'm paying money for a book, I'd better know how it ends. That's why I don't much like films. You can't see the ending of films before you buy them (well, not if you're at the cinema). The Harry Potter books are the only ones I've resisted reading the endings of, so far.

So there yous go. I won't tag anyone but leave it up to our readers to write/make up their own idiosyncracies.


I'm pretty sure that tagging is supposed to be personal

But whatever--Kartography knows I read her stuff, so here are five idiosyncracies that I have and that I'm willing to admit to:

1. If I watch a tv show (as in sit down and see the whole thing, not just flip past looking for a hockey game), I really watch it--message boards, fanfic, chatrooms, even the occasional group cruise. Television is an interactive experience, so it's a good thing that I only watch one or two shows at a time.

2. I'm easily distracted, so I tend to start sentences and forget to finish them. Same thing with conversations, craft projects, papers, recipes, shopping lists and something else I can't remember right now.

3. There's a right way to fold towels, and if they're done wrong I re-fold them to match. I've also been known to restack the closet so that all the washcloths face the same way, sort the handtowels by color, and fold sheets so that they're all the same size. I blame my mother for this. And her mother. The whole family has serious issues with linens.

4. I'm a stickler for language. Nauseous instead of nauseated, affect when it should be effect, and improper capitalization drive me absolutely nuts. Also the your / you're thing that was mentioned at Kartography. This doesn't stop me from changing my speech patterns when I talk to people from back home because I prefer being understood to being correct.

5. Crooked picture frames are central to my personal version of hell. I'm pretty sure my cats know this, and are trying to slowly drive me insane by knocking every frame on the wall crooked at least once a week. They've got help from the crazy guy who lives next door, who slams the door hard enough to shift them all to the right.

And a bonus, to reduce the impression that I'm OCD: I love old musicals, and occasionally break into song for no real reason. And I love meat, unless it's on pizza.

In my defense, a meme like this is designed to make bloggers look as strange as possible. So there's no way to avoid sounding crazy, and I choose to embrace my special qualities rather than run from them.

I'm tagging Broken Black Button and Priya, and challenging endgame to stop eating jello and restart his blog--because it's a shame that only people on his email list get to enjoy his particular brand of black humor and snark.


The Road to BigNameMeeting, Part ?

This is from a few months ago. I’d just finished a seminar at OOD Uni (our regular reader might remember the issues I’d been having about it).

E: so how did it go?
P: Yay..finished talk. had AWFUL guy going on and on about how i was "simplifying stuff" and "not giving the whole complex picture of Nepal"...ah well
E: the complex picture of nepal? so he rather missed the point, didn't he?
P: ended up in name calling and me telling him that "this is my project so shut up"
E: name calling? that sounds like a seminar here.
P: but the fun thing was that all the other profs got the point (well, sort of) and all ranged on my side
P: (in v polite Danish way)
E: good. so you've converted the heathen Danes.
P: was hilarious...he also implied that since i was a girl and did not have "experience" of security, i was wrong
P: and "misrepresented the whole picture"
P: (he was in the army apparently so KNEW security)
E: of course you didn't know security. one must have a Y chromosome to understand it.
P: thought that was rather funny myself.
P: that is when name calling went on
E: good to get that sort of response early. there'll be more of it here, so at least you're prepared. I think name calling in a seminar is funny. [E: See Numb3rs episode from two weeks ago for more on name-calling in academia]
E: but then, I've never been called names when presenting
E: after, yes, but not during.
P: me too. well, I have decided I need to include some sort of interviewing in the PhD project overall
E: ?
P: but will see
P: well, I was told constantly I was wrong
E: not seeing the connection
P: and that (get this) "everybody" thought the king's actions were stupid and thought he was lying
P: and was ridiculous
E: everybody, huh? he gets around.
P: so it was a case of me supporting authoritarianism instead of totalitarianism and nothing to do with terror
E: oh-kay.
P: totally. He has been "reading lots of security literature"
E: and so understands it all
E: what is "security literature?"
P: it was really funny. and then all the profs told me I had defended myself and my project v well so i must have done something good
P: don't know
E: bravo. sounds like it went well.
P: the interviewing thing came up because I think it would be interesting to see how insecurity construction in northern ireland/nepal was going on
P: well, apart from name calling fight
P: :)
P: btw, I will send you abstract for Local Meeting by weekend
P: and another one (BNM) by the time i leave next week
E: right, well, it makes a good story. okay. once I get all abstracts, will send them off to where they go. I'll run mine by you before I do, so that we're on the same page.
P: me too
E: it's a plan, then.
E: plans always go wrong. just warning you.
P: lol..read your Copenhagen comment. No, I’m going on holiday (need to get away from here for a while)
E: i don't do well with plans. holidays are good.
P: nepali costume did not go down well with this guy who said "you don't know about nepal because you have not lived there"
E: I was a little worried that you were going to travel 8 hours for a movie [P: I’d told her that I was going to Copenhagen, to watch the new Star Wars film] thought you might have finally snapped.
P: maybe for a Clive Owen movie...but not for Hayden Christiansen
E: you have never lived in Nepal?
P: that is what he said (he said I sounded like I had never lived in Nepal...not that he ever had)
E: wait, so how would he know?
P: and also said that US insecurity construction was not based on anti-terror but on totalitarianism
E: do you get a stamp or something?
P: (don't ask)
P: probably. tattoed on forehead
E: won't ask. got flickr working, finally. We can use it to post photos now.
P: yes, and gypsies are not the look to go for
P: oh goody
P: i used some thing for the beach thing
P: i think it is a site which lets you host stuff (if I have the term right)
E: didn't think so. HRDiva did a project on gypsies a couple of years ago. The cool thing about flickr is that they post as pics, not as links.
E: and it’s free.
P: oh good. maybe i can try use it too
P: wait..got this email
P: Dear Madam,
This is in response to the call for papers on disease and security. I a
graduate student at University of X and part of my work relates to
International Sanitary Conferences in the nineteenth century and the fear of
importation diseases like cholera. Please find below a proposal for the paper.
Many Thanks,
A Student
E: ? now what do we do?
P: (Abstract on how cholera supposedly spread from “East” to “West”)
E: do we have any spots left? Maybe the one that we haven't heard from—StudentY?
P: i think this is BNM
P: so StudentY never answered
P: ?
E: oh. no, that won't work, will it. Nope, haven't heard from her.
P: what should i write (am emailing now)
P: wait..let me recap BNM
P: we have us
P: the two others
P: and maybe SomeoneElse, right?
E: right. We can't add anyone until we hear from SomeoneElse.
E: can we ask to get back to cholera person next week?
P: ok. he sounds Nepali :D
P: (jumps up and down in nationalist fervour)
P: <:o)
E: if you say so. I've never been there, so I don't know. this is turning into a very nono-american panel
E: non-american
P: no, we have you
P: and me
P: :D
P: do you mind?
E: so one and a half americans.
E: doesn't bother me. i just think it's funny
P: lol..and SomeoneElse
E: right, forgot about him.
E: but he's actually [E: foreign country. Yes, that's right, a whole country. All by himself], i think.
P: wait..if SomeoneElse does not go, we have this guy (cholera) and another person (who is american)
P: ah...
E: um. it may be time to start another panel?
P: so i will email both American person and this guy same thing...that we will get back to them next week
E: right. That works.
P: do you want to (have another panel)?
P: we can have us (again), (various people whom we can’t name here)
P: but no moosehead
E: hmm.
P: right now, I writing back to him saying we are waiting to hear from fifth person
E: wonder how important the moosehead is?
P: and will let him know if we need him
P: not too imp i would say but it can't harm us
E: right. but maybe phrased so that it sounds like we've already offered the spot, but would take this project if we had known of it earlier? (okay, but better worded than that)
P: ok..would we?
E: beats me. sounds good, though.
P: i cc:d you. oops. cc-d
E: okay. [some talk about having a second panel proposal, linked to the first]
E: but not sure how that would work, since one of us would be presenting twice.
P: eh wait
E: this is not the problem I expected to have.
P: me neither!
P: but i love h-net now
P: (and we should take this I and B show on the road)
E: absolutely. Will submit all panel suggestions there from now on.
P: wait..am writing to SomeoneElse. Reading what you said
P: good.
E: and we should definitely take this on the road.
E: travel the world
E: spreading our gospel of terrorism and disease
E: wait. that's not quite right.
E: that wouldn't make us very popular.
P: lol..yes, indeed
P: though i have decided that i on darth vader's side in the Star Wars series (except for Ewan Macgregor Who Can Do No Wrong, in my book)¨
P: wait...so i emailed SomeoneElse now
P: did not mention two panels
P: but wait
E: ok. good idea. we should wait and see who we have at the end.
P: if we have two panels, then it would be one of us in each?
P: because right now (recap recap)
E: no, Weberman said to have one discuss and one present on each.
P: BNM: person1, person2 (whom I should ask to chair but maybe tomorrow since my brain is sort of sleeping right now), and us and person3
P: but we also have SomeoneElse, student, maybe SomeOtherPerson
E: Right.
P: one to discuss, one to present and a chair
P: i think the panel is right now weighted in favour of first one
E: again, right. [E: I'm pretty much the person who agrees in this conversation. Very little substantive contribution.]
P: since both person 1 and person 2 profs (and person 3)
P: so the other one would be grad students' work
E: yes. but could do back-up of grad students without much trouble.
P: since it is us and these others who are all grad students (postdocs, or phd candidates)
P: true. but then we will be submitting two panels
P: and also individual paper submissions (don't think i going to bother with that)
P: ?
E: yes. and one of them is most likely going to be accepted. so we should skip the paper submissions.
P: same panels?
P: and do we make it clear that one is grad student work
P: one of two panels?
E: I think the titles should do that for us.
P: (blast. this is too much thinking on empty stomach!)
E: we'll need different abstracts. something closer to what people are bringing
E: you should go grab something to eat. this will keep until tomorrow.
P: so we are going to do two panels (should i re-remail SomeoneElse and this guy?)
P: it just seems like more work :D
P: no..i going to be around for another hour (am waiting for mum to call. she reckons you are a good kid and i totally ungrateful btw)
E: no--wait a day or two and then we'll know better what's up. let me talk to Weberman about the chance of getting the grad student panel in.
E: funny, my mom didn't see it that way.
P: lol
P: because i would hate to do work without having dividents
P: oops
P: dividends
E: will get back to you with his input. agree that work with no results is not good.

How I learnt to stop worrying and love studying

There’s been a lack of postings here lately. I’m sure our loyal reader has noticed that. And probably even wondered where we were. Well, E has wandered off to the great wide lands of the American centre while I languish away at the local bignamebookstore thinking about all the things I could be doing while trying to read/rework the latest version of my PhD proposal.

Yes, in case it hasn’t been obvious yet, this is an angst post. But, not really. I just wanted to let you know that we (no, I'm not using the Royal "we" but referring to E and me and, in my usual imperialist way, speaking for her as well) are still around and still about to entertain you with our myriad of views on life, the universe and everything. Or, at least about our (selfish? Caring? Unique?) views on life. It just takes time since we are working on other stuff in between. Though, I guess this is part of the “other stuff”.

I also want to tell yous that I am seriously thinking about my PhD proposal while I am typing this post. Seriously. In fact, this post is about my PhD. Specifically, about studying.

So, here you go. Tips for studying when you don't have a desk at home (or even a proper home, really).

Studying is not something you can just “do”. People think that you can just sit and do it but then they have never studied much. Studying is something that happens but often not when we want it to happen. Rather like that bloke who said something similar about ideas. Yes, well, that’s sort of what studying is like. You go to bignamebookstore, whip out (rather difficult considering it’s quite heavy) your computer from your tattered backpack, get ready to get amazed (yes, I’m still not over it. I still remember having to walk to get to the nearest “cyber café” when I was home last year and then having to wait for minutes for a page to load. One could actually finish reading The Complete Sherlock Holmes during the time one checked emails. I know. I did that) by the instant internet access and then do work/study.

The thing about it is that it hardly works that way. For instance, I was all set to work yesterday evening, after having spent the morning walking to Uni and back (took about an hour each way) but got distracted by finding new (well, not “new” since the bloke is dead but new in that I’d never read them before) books by one of my favourite scholars. By the time I’d finished reading some of the chapters from From Shakespeare to Existentialism, it was late and time to head home. The same thing happens with libraries: there are a lot of other books you’d rather be reading than working on your proposal. This is bad and pretty much unhelpful to studying. But, there’s no way of avoiding it. You can sit at home and try to study but that’s even worse since the house reminds you of many things, especially the need to clean it, do laundry, get a table to work on, etc. So, home’s out as a place for studying. It’s either bignamebookstore or the library and each has its own drawbacks.

You do, as I wrote earlier, have moments though when you realise that’s IT. That’s what you wanted to write about. Usually, though, by the time you’ve got your pen/paper/fingers ready to write/type, this feeling’s gone. As an analogy, it’s like going dancing if, like me, you just can’t dance. There’s this one song (it was AC/DC for me last week but it could be anything really) which makes you think you maybe can (jump up and down and wave arms, look like a ridiculous fool but not care) but then by the time you realise that, the song’s over. The next one is some crap stuff again and you head off to the bar and prop it up. Writing/studying is sort of like that. The key is to take advantage of when you have the AC/DC moments and go for it.

Following from this, it is important, even essential to have non annoying music playing when studying. Bignamebookstore isn’t half bad (it had the new Franz Ferdinand album on yesterday) with its musical taste but for those non-MP3 player owners like me, some places are traps waiting to ensnare you in some really terrible crap (think Mariah Carey, Beyonce-type stuff) which will either ensure your brain cells have given up on any pretence of intellectual thought and gone off to sleep or will raise your blood pressure to such an extent that you can’t work on your proper stuff anyway. And, you’ve just bought your coffee so you don’t want to leave right away. The solution is probably to get a player or make sure you're mates with the person who controls music in the shop. Both these options involve a fair amount of effort and/or money.

Studying, as you note, is full of little pitfalls like these. And, I’ve not even gotten to the people who want to discuss studying when someone is trying to do it. The thing is to avoid places like bignamebookstore on weekends when those who really don’t study seem to populate its premises in the hopes of talking to people who are trying to study. This leads to situations where you get to tell people off or have to suffer through your neighbours’ descriptions of what they did over the past few days (usually involving inebriation and some form of US sports-watching, often both together).

I reckon that's about all the tips for today. Might think of more as I keep doing this (studying).


Nepali yak farmers do it too

Blog, that is. Or they may very soon. Right now, they are using the Web and emailing each other.

Thanks to Articulatory Loop for the news and links. Though, I've noticed news about Nepal/Tibet/Himalayas are usually titled "End/top/apex/(add your own word meaning "high up and remote") of the world". Why is that, I wonder?

The post links to a BBC article (yes, the BBC should start paying me as their personal PR person) about yak farmers in the mountains who are using wireless technology to keep in touch with their families and to get information about vets and such.

There's also a link, on Boing Boing, to an interview with the man who had the idea of making (okay, I'm using it now) the top of the world wireless.

Next step, the yak blog. I can't wait. I wonder if I can somehow do my research in that area so I could blog while lounging about in yak pastures?

War and lies

The Guardian reports that "we" might be going to war with Iran. But, reading through the article, it appears that
a) The Brits have denied this (but it was the foreign secretary. Is that "official" enough?)
b) The Americans have denied this too (phew. And, it was Bush and C. Rice. Can't go wrong there, eh?)
c) But, wait. John Bolton, the US Ambassador to the UN, said, in an interview with the BBC, that Iran has spent 18 years making these nuclear weapons and has also lied about this (Gosh. who'd have thought? No state ever lies about such things. Not finding WMDs in Iraq was an error. A one-off occurrence. Not a lie)

Bolton thinks Iran is developing nuclear weapons to:

1. intimidate the rest of the Middle East (somehow I reckon others are doing a better job of that), and

2. possibly supply them to terrorists

Iran says the weapons are intended for civilian use (thus not for terrorists). Also, it's not actually developed a nuclear weapon yet.

Talks are being planned on preventing Iran from "having access to the nuclear fuel cycle".

So, after reading these two articles, we can say:

1. Iran wants to try make nuclear weapons
2. US/Some European countries/Russia don't want it to
3. US wants to refer Iran to the UN security council
4. Russia's not really on board with no. 3
5. US (in the form of Rice) is saying Iran needs to "negotiate in good faith" but (in the form of Bolton) is saying Iran "have engaged in concealment and deception and they've engaged in threats before"

So, what's the US about? You have the Sect of State telling Iran to negotiate and the Ambassador to the UN saying they're a bunch of liars. Not exactly about to inspire an already reluctant Iran to negotiate, I'd have thought.


I didn't even know this was an option

I'm not sure if I'm insulted, or proud:

I am a d100

Take the quiz at dicepool.com

The rundown:

There's two ways to end up with this result. Either you picked the silliest possible answer to each question, or you answered honestly, and happen to be hyperactive, manic, loon. Assuming you answered honestly, your profile is as follows: You are the 100-sided dice, also known as the legendary Zocchihedron. You are the bit of data that registers so far off the chart that the average person doesn't even know you exist. You are desperate for attention and will get it any way you can. Your jokes have the lowest laugh ratio, but you go for quantity, not quality. Once you get started on a pointless tangent, it takes a group effort to bring you back to reality and make you shut up. You are a distraction who is permanently distracted. You consider yourself silly and entertaining, but everyone else complains about how lame and annoying you are. The one secret they aren't telling you, is how they sometimes actually miss the noise when you're gone.

But even better is the description of the quiz itself:

This survey is completely scientific. Despite the mind-boggling complexity of mankind, the billions of distinctly different personalities found on Earth can easily be divided into seven simple categories that correspond to the five Platonic solids, a pseudo polyhedron, and whatever the hell a d100 is. The results of this quiz should be considered not only meaningful but also infallible, and pertinent to your success as a fully realized individual. If you feel the results of this examination do not match your perceived personality, you should take whatever drastic measures are needed to cram your superego back into proper alignment, as described by the quiz results.

And if you believe that, we have some really great critical-hit insurance to sell you.

It's a bit of a metaphor for the whole poli-sci program, isn't it?

Returning to our favourite hobby

No, it's not football this time. Not in any form though I realise that may well be "our" favourite hobby. Football, the proper one that's played with feet, is mine. The other, scary one is (one of) E's. So, can that be a joint hobby?

This one's a more common hobby which we both have entertained/bored/annoyed yous with through this space. I found and did another one and here you go. It's a bit scary when blog quizzes start predicting/explaining how my PhD life has been so far. E, check out the last line. I think that's why "our" cohort exasperated many in "our" time :-)

I am a d8

Take the quiz at dicepool.com

It tells me:

No use trying to fight it, you're an eight-sided die, a d8. A fine example of simple elegance, the d8 is one of the least appreciated types of dice, and is often neglected. You are known to be quiet and shy, outward traits that conceal viscous sarcasm and mean wit. You are very smart, yet wise enough to hide your intelligence the quicker they found out how smart you are, the sooner they'll put you to work, which is something you can do without. People call you dark and pessimistic, or moody and cynical. You find little point in arguing.

Identity concerns in the ID card debate

I've been keeping up with the ID card debate on the other side of the Atlantic because it fits in with my ongoing interest in how people are categorised (and categorise themselves).

This report today doesn't actually inspire confidence that biometric ID cards are going to be the solution to problems of border-crossing and entry that states seem to face.

The report says that irises and fingerprints will be used to identify people but that typists and manual labourers are among those whose fingerprints may be worn out (and, hence, misidentified and not recognised as citizens, most likely).

The news report followed up with this:

"Men who go bald also risked being identified as someone else."
(How about women? Does the same apply for them? )

So, bald people, especially men, have to be wary of suddenly being someone else.

Then, being scanned "in the wrong type of light or in shadow" could lead to "inaccurate identification". This is rather unclear about what sort of inaccurate identification they are talking about: would that person get classified as a non-British citizen? Would s/he not be recognised at all (hence being a non-person)? Or would other, non-British people get identified as British?

Depending on what would happen, the possibilities of wrong (in terms of the ID card's goal of identifying legally-resident British people) classification seem quite high, especially as the report further adds that brown-eyed people have high chances of being "misidentified".

I can only conclude, from all this, that if you are British and bald and brown-eyed, you are likely to be in deep trouble. Presumably you could be categorised as an alien of some sort, with a non-valid ID card. Probably carted off to questioning where you could then be held up to 90 days without charge.


I swear this is not going to become a WW blog

But honestly, what are the chances of this?

Can I tell people I'm from Cleveland?

Because really, this sort of thing doesn't make anyone look good.

Toledo riots


Blogs must be mainstream

Because now they're showing up on television shows. Specifically, on West Wing, as campaign blogs for the fictional candidates. It's weird enough that they have websites (complete with platforms and statements from the candidates); adding fictional blogs about the fictional race is a little too 'meta' for my taste.

But the question remains: if a fictional professor had a fictional blog and was up for fictional tenure, would the fictional blog make a difference in the fictional committee meeting?


Good thing that's what I'm working on

But it would have been good to figure this out before that first degree.

You Should Get a PhD in Liberal Arts (like political science, literature, or philosophy)

You're a great thinker and a true philosopher.
You'd make a talented professor or writer.
What Advanced Degree Should You Get?

Via Terminal Degree.

ETA: So if I get deported, at least I can get my passport back.

You Passed the US Citizenship Test

Congratulations - you got 10 out of 10 correct!
Could You Pass the US Citizenship Test?


What kind of smart are you?

No, it's not another of those blog quizzes. At least, not one that I've taken. My brother recently went back to school because he wants to be a teacher. Did I argue against it? Did I advise him to run screaming from all things academic? No, I did not. He'll either love it or find something less student-oriented to do with himself.

Ah, but why am I rambling about my brother's career decisions? Here we come to Gardner's seven intelligences, and what they're teaching the college kids these days. These have been floating around the educational field for decades. I remember them from grade school, when I had a teacher willing to do just about anything to keep our attention. My brother thought they sounded familiar, and figured out that we learned them from the same teacher. He spent the rest of the class deciding our (me, my brother, and our younger sister's) primary and secondary intelligence types. Then he called to see if I agreed, and presumably to think about whether they make sense at all. I'm not sure if he came to the same conclusion that I have--Gardner's intelligence types are interesting, and they widen the possibilities for teaching children beyond the traditional ones, but the primary / secondary distinction seems false, and I'm uncomfortable with his writings on morality and education, as well as the additional forms of intelligence he proposed in later articles.

But for what they're worth, here are the original seven:
Linguistic intelligence involves sensitivity to spoken and written language, the ability to learn languages, and the capacity to use language to accomplish certain goals. This intelligence includes the ability to effectively use language to express oneself rhetorically or poetically; and language as a means to remember information. Writers, poets, lawyers and speakers are among those that Howard Gardner sees as having high linguistic intelligence.

Logical-mathematical intelligence consists of the capacity to analyze problems logically, carry out mathematical operations, and investigate issues scientifically. In Howard Gardner's words, in entails the ability to detect patterns, reason deductively and think logically. This intelligence is most often associated with scientific and mathematical thinking.

Musical intelligence involves skill in the performance, composition, and appreciation of musical patterns. It encompasses the capacity to recognize and compose musical pitches, tones, and rhythms. According to Howard Gardner musical intelligence runs in an almost structural parallel to linguistic intelligence.

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence entails the potential of using one's whole body or parts of the body to solve problems. It is the ability to use mental abilities to coordinate bodily movements. Howard Gardner sees mental and physical activity as related.

Spatial intelligence involves the potential to recognize and use the patterns of wide space and more confined areas.

Interpersonal intelligence is concerned with the capacity to understand the intentions, motivations and desires of other people. It allows people to work effectively with others. Educators, salespeople, religious and political leaders and counsellors all need a well-developed interpersonal intelligence.

Intrapersonal intelligence entails the capacity to understand oneself, to appreciate one's feelings, fears and motivations. In Howard Gardner's view it involves having an effective working model of ourselves, and to be able to use such information to regulate our lives.
Something to think about. I'm never entirely sure where I fall in the list, for a variety of reasons. But they're certainly a broader understanding of intelligence than that provided by IQ tests.

Returning to a theme

Another post from a First Generation academic. Not that I'm sure what that means. But some things ring true here.
I could say smart things about this and be reflective about the ways in which this makes being a professor complicated, but I don't really know how to talk about it right now. I have tried before, and I haven't been too smart about it. I know I'm not the only one in the world who is a First Generation Academic, but I don't really know what it means to be First Generation.

I think it means I have to explain myself more to my family than people would if their parents were professors.

I think it means I have a different version of the fraud complex because I sort of feel like I lucked my way into being in academia.

I think it means I feel like I have no examples in my own family of how to be in this professional role and sometimes that makes me feel... weird? Like there is some sort of secret handshake I never learned.


Have you ever wanted to...

ask those unanswerable questions?

Well, you're in luck! Now there's...AskPhilosophers!

Via Mind Hacks

I don't want to hear about the OSU game

There are other things going on in the world. And it was a miserable football game. But every once in a while, I see something on a blog that everyone ought to read. So I'm going to ignore that it was written by a Penn State fan.
The world is not magic. The world follows patterns, obeys unbreakable rules. We never reach a point, in exploring our universe, where we reach an ineffable mystery and must give up on rational explanation; our world is comprehensible, it makes sense. I can’t imagine saying it better. There is no way of proving once and for all that the world is not magic; all we can do is point to an extraordinarily long and impressive list of formerly-mysterious things that we were ultimately able to make sense of. There’s every reason to believe that this streak of successes will continue, and no reason to believe it will end. If everyone understood this, the world would be a better place.

Of course, there are different connotations to the word “magical.” One refers to inscrutable mystery, but another refers simply to a feeling of wonder or delight. And our world is full of that kind of magic.


We shouldn’t feel disappointed that the march of understanding removes an element of mystery from the world; we should be appreciative of how much there is to know and the endless variety of ways in which our sensible universe continues to surprise us. The very fact that our world is comprehensible should fill us with wonder and delight. The world is not magic — and that’s the most magical thing about it.

Found at Cosmic Variance

ETA: I realized that we've cited Cosmic Variance three times this week. Any more, and we're going to need fan club hats.

Earthquake in South Asia

I don't really have much to say, except that for a region already beset by war, this is horrifying.

I still haven't heard whether family members of a good friend of mine are all right. I hope they are. In the meantime, the BBC (as usual) has good reporting on the huge earthquake, including reporters' logs (updated frequently throughout the day) and also an aid worker's log.

Cat in a box and all that...

Amended a bit after getting a comment from the (one) reader who hasn't really worked out how to use the pointer yet (point arrow at link, click)

Thanks to the fiendishly clever person at The Curator's Egg

Schödinger’s Cat in the Hat Box

When Heisenberg announced with pleasure,
“There are some things you cannot measure.
Not simultaneously at least.”
His irritating smile increased.

“The surer the momentum’s grown,
The less position will be known.”
“But that’s not all,” intruded Bohr.
(A name quite apt. I won’t say more)

“It’s observation perhaps
That makes the wave function collapse.
Until it does it’s all just smeared.
OK, I know it sounds quite weird.
But quantum physics can’t be knocked
-Its implications leave all shocked,
Except those, on the other hand,
Who simply do not understand.”

So Schrödinger, that studious gent
Devised a thought experiment.
A box, some acid and a jigger
Set off by a quantum trigger,
A cat, whose life or death would show
Emission had occurred or no.

You wouldn’t know until you looked
If that poor feline’s goose was cooked,
And it would be, or so he said,
Alive and at the same time dead.

Well so they say, but have no doubt
He actually tried it out,
And in a box set up like that
Securely locked his neighbour’s cat

That philosophical feline
Was to his fate quite unresigned
Though in the box he chose to linger
Mouthing curses at Schrödinger
Waiting for the Geiger’s chatter
Waiting for the phial to shatter
Waits till he can’t wait no more
(For waiting’s such a dreadful Bohr)

Until at last the lid was pried
Open and someone looked inside.
Relief! Survival! Best of men!
-But Erwin clamped it shut again.

And so the cat just lay there thinking
Tail just twitching, eyes unblinking,
“Werner says you can’t be knowing
Where I’m at AND how fast I’m going.

But I exactly know my speed
(Well, zero isn’t hard to read)
And that implies,” so thought the cat,
“Momentum’s nada - which means that
My position can’t be guessed
-There, I knew you’d be impressed
-So I don’t need to mess with locks
-It’s time to think outside the box.”

Well others here will understand
The consequences, though unplanned,
Of mixing up - that cunning devil!
-The micro with the macro level.

An hour passed. Erwin came back
And opened up the box a crack,
Then wider still and stood to stare
-The box was now completely bare!

And as he stuck his head inside
He caught a whiff of cyanide
And dropped down dead
(they say it hurts -I say it was his just deserts).

Thought our many readers would enjoy this.

ETA: The proper spelling on Priya's citation. She's never going to get published if she can't spell her sources--E

Are we an academic blog, part II

Umm...define "academic"

But, while you think about that, there are articles like these to read.

Check out the prize for peace. Locusts watching Darth and Co. How lovely. And how about economics and that clock, eh? I reckon I could do with one of those.

Also, do you think the entire biology team smelt all 131 species of frogs and then noted their reactions? And how do you put that job down on your resume? ("spent some time sniffing over 100 species of frogs. Won award.")

At times like these, I want to be a proper scientist too.

Maybe BigMeetinginOurField can have a similar award ceremony? Maybe we (c'mon readers!) can nominate awards for it?

Thanks to Cosmic Variance (and the Guardian, of course) for the link.


Weird. I never tried that one.

Your Hair Should Be Orange

Expressive, deep, and one of a kind.
You pull off "weird" well - hardly anyone notices.
What's Your Funky Inner Hair Color?

Via One Bright Star


I am spending the weekend grading papers. Do you ever wonder why, when given a choice of answering two questions out of seven, students almost always seem to choose the same two? Or at least two out of three? And those are the answers you really don't want to read? Well, they do. Does that mean it's a universal truth?

In between grading at the local B and N store, I decided to take a break and walk in the rain to go watch Wallace and Gromit. Considering the options for entertaining a child on a rainy day is probably rather limited around where I live, the line for tickets was huge and the film was sold out. So was my second choice. So, I ended up watching this (Sorry, E). No, I've never seen the TV show. And, I had a really hard time understanding the main bloke's accent (He didn't sound American to me). This made me think about an earlier conversation we were having on accents when I was told that I didn't "sound Nepali enough". As far as I'm concerned, I sound Nepali. Okay, when I'm pissed off, I sound more clipped but usually, I sound like other people from where I come from (well, those of them who can speak English). Or as Nepali as one sounds when speaking a non-native language. At our department at TUWSNBN, apparently there was someone else from Nepal and they sounded just like me too. What does that say then? It says, if there's an essential "Nepali-English", then I have it (yes, based on a sample of two).

But then, when I talk to my little sister (the only other member of the family I sometimes talk in English with), I sound different. So does she. Again, when speaking English in Thailand, we both sound different (slower, enunciating each word, not much swearing) compared to talking to friends here (faster, swallowing some consonants, lot of swearing). So, maybe the guy in the film was speaking some American dialect that I've not yet come into much contact with making it difficult to understand him. The rest were fine. It was just the main bloke (and, hey, since he was the main guy and looked absolutely fantastic, he didn't need to be totally understandable I suppose :-)). At times, he sounded almost like how certain South Africans and New Zealanders talk: swallowing vowels: "Git" rather than "get" and so on.

Still, it was a fun film with probably the best villain I've seen in a while (Why do villains in heaps of Hollywood movies have British accents or are played by British actors?). It wasn't Wallace and Gromit, though.

Back to grading.


Framing Huntington

One of the comments that I got back on a comp (not the one I agonized over last week) was that, while I seem to understand Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations?" argument, I failed to place the work in a theoretical framework.

I'm not sure what to make of this. I've been a TA for five classes that used CoC as a major source, I've read the original article at least a dozen times, I've prepared syllabi placing it in context, I've even read the book. If there is a theoretical frame for the CoC thesis, surely I would have run across it by now?

There's a context, sure. And other people have replied to Huntington's arguments (and taken issue with his methodology and findings). But that isn't the same as a theoretical framework that Huntington's work is coming out of. I'm not exactly sure where an argument that boils down to "the barbarians are at the gates, and they ain't carrying a jello mold" would fit in IR theory. It isn't realist, exactly, and it isn't critical, and it certainly isn't liberal. It's a mix of the things Huntington likes best from a variety of traditions, pick-a-mix for policy wonks, the sort of thing that gets 'deployed' a lot without being examined.

This may be an example of why I do so badly at comps. That and the total inability to sit still for six hours, and a weakness for discussions of meaning rather than answering the questions.

Are we an academic blog?

Probably not. But we are academics-in-training, and so I feel obliged to offer an academic-political-topic-with-international-implications post as penance for the cat photo.

Much of the debate surrounding Harriet Miers' nomination has focused on two things: her relationship to GWB, and her lack of relative experience. Priya's already noted the possibility that a similar crony appointment in a developing or non-democratic state would seem (at the very least) odd. And many opinion pieces and bloggers and other commentators have brought up previous attempts to place a close confidant of the President on the Court.

This is not the real problem. Politics works as a social network, and I don't really understand why we're all so surprised. Especially given other decisions GWB has made in his presidency. I honestly think we should be gratified that he's nominated an actual lawyer, rather than someone who ran a bar.

But there should be qualifications that we expect for those who sit on the Court.

Constitutional scholarship is one of them--the body of law interpreting the Constitution is vast and complicated. It isn't a field of scholarship to which every lawyer is suited, and it isn't the sort of thing you can pick up "on the job." Miers strikes me as a very good lawyer who has the determination required of a winning litigator. Litigators aren't known for their constitutional expertise, they're known for their ability to win cases. Law partners aren't promoted for their love of the 14th Amendment.

Without a judicial record, the probability that a nominee will be a capable (forget impressive) justice is much too unknowable. Examples from earlier Courts mostly obscure the issue--the role of the Court has changed, standards for the legal profession are higher (very few states allow admission to the bar without law school, and for good reason), and those justices who succeeded without experience are not the rule--they are exceptions. Being a very good attorney does not make one a very good judge. Some of the qualities required are mutually exclusive.

Whether commentary about Miers' law school is useful or not, her record of advocacy rather than legal scholarship begins there. She has shown little evidence that she aspires to be a scholar or a judge, and both roles are required for Supreme Court justices.

This should be the central question when deciding the result of her nomination. Not her gender, not who she knows, not where she went to school, not her hands-on role in crafting the War Against Terror, not whether she'll be a conservative or a liberal on the bench. Does she have the experience and the ability required to contribute to precedent in all areas of Constitutional law? From what I've seen (and it's my blog post, so I get to say this), she doesn't. And she shouldn't be confirmed.

My dad agrees, for what it's worth.

(Tangential note: I can't decide whether Gerber is consistent or not. Outside his expertise on Clarence Thomas, his concern seems to be one of promoting conservatism, rather than the diversity he applauds in his most recent Findlaw piece.)

ETA: I just love it when people start a paragraph talking about a legal issue with "I'm not a lawyer, but..."

Nobody starts a sentence "I'm not a political scientist, but..."

Evil cat blogging

Meet Kevin. Kevin wants to take over the world. I think.

ETA: No, I haven't forgotten that I promised to talk about TLG's new girlfriend. And I'm not putting it off in the hopes that they'll break up and make the question moot. But with all this Bird Flu in the news, it's on the back burner. I am taking suggestions for adjectives, though.


Flu Fashion

Fair warning--all of my friends with kids are getting Bird Flu onesies for Christmas.

I'm thinking of wearing the hoodie to the next conference. It really makes a "we're all going to die!" statement.

Ah, the enduring optimism of the capitalist system.

Marching in the Capital of the Free World, Part II

Yes, it's weeks ago. Yes, I forgot about it (and, really, after reading the zillions of articles and blog posts on it, got rather bored). So, here I go: just to make those of you waiting in anticipation to hear what happened happy.

Did I march? No. I ended up watching the Corpse Bride instead. Btw, if yous are going to watch it, the ending sucks.

Oh, I did go to the anti-war concerts after the Corpse Bride. One could say the anti-war concert was good fun. But then one would have to have imbibed various sorts of (illegal) substances and narcotics at that time. Since I hadn't, I can't say that.

I guess I knew it wasn't going to be very coherent or even have anybody making a good argument for getting out of Iraq when the first thing I saw, when walking towards the stage (well, maybe not the first but one of the earliest things anyway) was a giant, inflatable globe (with a diametre of about ten feet) with a gigantic mosquito on top, apparently using its proboscis to suck at something on the Earth. It had the warning of "Stop Global Warming" (or something similar to do with global warming. I was too traumatised by the enormous mosquito to notice and memorise the actual words). Now, I"m all for stopping global warming and in favour of reducing greenhouse gases and all that. I just don't see what a huge mosquito has anything to do with it. It's not as if mosquitoes are causing global warming with their use of proboscii. Mosquitoes play a minor role in global warming. In the list of major factors of global warming, mosquitos would be towards the end. Far behind United States and other countries, vertebrates like cows and sheep and all that. Any sign with "Stop global warming" having a huge mosquito on top of Earth means that invertebrates, as usual, get a bad reputation. Their representation in popular culture, even among the so-called liberals who should be working to uplift the oppressed masses (of invertebrates), is highly negative. Also, the people who made the display really hadn't thought of the whys and wherefores of the mosquito-on-Earth. Notice how it was an invertebrate causing this havoc? It wasn't a vertebrate (cows-on-Earth or even sheep-on-Earth) supposedly causing global warming but a small, tiny invertebrate (though magnified in this representation).

After that, the concert itself was a letdown. It was just a case of a lot of loud rants against the current administration, constant refrains of how the last two elections were "stolen" from the Democrats (enough already!) and how "people power" would get the soldiers out of Iraq. Nobody mentioned what alternative strategies might be, what long-term planning might involve or much about the Iraqi people (yes, okay, let's get "our" soldiers out. But, what about those people who get left behind in this mess?). When yet another bloke went on about the power of the people, it was time to leave. In between all this, there were a few good songs. Very few. And, by the time I left at around 8pm (though the concert was supposed to go on till after midnight), not many people were around.

I heard the march was "huge". I wasn't there. I don't know. The concert, though, wasn't huge. It wasn't even very big. It was fairly small. And, the arguments for bringing "our" troops back? Well, they need better ones if anybody except the choir is to hear them.


Wow. Who approved this?

I was all set to rant about the possibility of martial law in the case of public health emergencies.

This is so much more disturbing.

When in doubt, it's always best to recreate a previous pandemic flu strain. And hey, why not do it with a strain that killed millions (current estimates: 20-100 million worldwide) of people in 1918-19?


1. Having the live virus on hand makes it easier to study.

2. Study of influenza A H1N1 (yes, that's right, this is where they started the numbering. Does that tell us something?) could help with H5N1 (the one President Bush wants to call out the military for).

3. We'll be very, very careful with it.

4. We may have some immunity left over from the first time this made its way around the world. Twice.


1. The live virus can, you know, kill people. If past experience is any indication, lots of people. How badly do we need to study it?

2. If we're worried about working with H5N1, why isn't the 1918 virus also a little worrying? After all, our advances in bacteriology won't actually help us to prevent the deaths of young people that characterized the 1918 flu.

3. Less than a year ago, someone accidentally shipped a pandemic strain around the world as part of a test kit. With no special precautions beyond those taken for regular old influenza. That's how good our security is.

4. Immunity doesn't usually work that way. Anyone alive in the first pandemic would be at least 93 years old. So I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that herd immunity isn't going to do it. Exactly how immune do they think we are? Does anyone know, or is this the sort of thing that's said so that no one panics?

I was planning to re-sign the lease on our apartment. But guess where this fabulous experimentation is taking place? Go on, guess.

Rockville, Maryland. Just up the road.

hip. hip. hooray.

Yes, there is a more measured response to this news. But I've spent the summer researching the effects of the 1918-19 pandemic, and I prefer to engage in the blog equivalent of jumping up and down while screaming obscenities. I'm not convinced that this particular action meets the Learned Hand test. Or any test of "is this a good idea?"

ETA: The NYT does a better job with the discussion. And the article is by Gina Kolata, who at least knows the background well.


But, how would I convince the skeptics?

Just read (thanks to the Beeb) that one of the Nobel Prize-winning Australian doctors, when told that his and his colleague's views on bacteria (and not stress) causing ulcers were scoffed at, swallowed some bacteria himself to "prove his point".

Read the full story here. Apparently they were viewed as eccentrics (yes, I'm sure the swallowing of the bacteria did a lot to dispel that notion) so needed to convince the medical community of the seriousness of their discovery.

I'd like to say that social scientists already have enough trouble trying to justify their work without natural scientists going about doing dramatics of this nature.

Now, what can I do to convince the people who scoff at my research methodology? Should I start up my own state and then define its enemies? Notice how much more difficult my work is to convince people of. Especially, in a suitably dramatic fashion.

Though I think Elizabeth could infect herself (and others) with avian flu, thus starting a pandemic which will then allow her to show whether her model works or not. Not that this is a recommendation, mind.

The Great Loyalty Oath Campaign

This is like something out of Catch-22. And scary.

Party Like It's 1954

Yes, I also have an opinion about the new Supreme Court nomination. No, I'm not going to rant about it here.



New links: I Blame the Patriarchy and The Sharpener. Snark and more snark.

This Month's Featured Site: the Flu Wiki. Because the WHO is using data from the LEAST deadly pandemic of the twentieth century for its estimates. And I don't think they demonstrated that we're any better prepared.

And a whole new layout in honor of football season (go Bucks!) and the opening of hockey season (go Wings!)


ETA: Cosmic Variance (because physics is fun!) and a link to OxBlog, where you can find such gems as:

All those backups seemed a waste of play.
Now my chapters have all gone away.
Oh I believe in yesterday.

I...pushed...something wrong
What it was I could not say.
Now my thesis is gone
and I long for yesterday-ay-ay-ay.

There’s not half the files there used to be,
And there’s a deadline hanging over me.
Office crashed so suddenly.

The need for back-ups seemed so far away.
I knew my thesis was all here to stay,
Now I believe in yesterday.

Change the US for "small 'developing' country" here...

and see how it goes:

Leader of the country appoints close friend and personal lawyer to top government-level post.

Yes, well. Enough said.


Pandemic Flu Awareness Week

Go read Effect Measure.

I'm in the middle of a paper on Spanish Influenza and the end of the First World War, so I'll be posting some stuff once I get the model running. Until then, read Effect Measure, visit the Flu Wiki, pick up a copy of National Geographic, or spend some time checking out the WHO.

I have got to start writing faster.


Fishing for terrorists?

Okay, I know they aren't really fish. They are mammals. But, I'm always in favour of a title that is wrong.

Getting on to the point of this post though, did yous know that the US Army (Navy) had a Marine Mammal Systems programme? They use dolphins and sea lions to (I quote):
"...fulfill Navy requirements where hardware is inadequate or safety is an issue. "

The web site goes on to add:

"Dolphins are used in MMS because of their exceptional biological sonar that is unmatched by hardware sonars in detecting objects in the water column and on the ocean bottom. Sea lions are used because of their very sensitive underwater directional hearing and low light level vision. Both of these marine mammal species are trainable for tasks and are capable of repetitive deep diving. Fleet MMS are assigned to Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Units (EODMU)."

I'm not entirely sure this is not a web site set up by anti-war protesters. Does the US Navy really use mammals for surveillance? And can I add this to my ongoing project on Maritime Security in the Pacific Coast? It seems to me that if dolphins and sea lions are out there, helping to secure the US, we are pretty good hands (flippers?)

Sorry, I couldn't resist that :-)