Wednesday, April 30th 2003

posted @ 3:10 pm in [ ]
Oh, by the way: I named my entropy rantpaper, “Is the Universe Winding Down or is it Just Us? A Mathematical and Philosophical Challenge to Entropy”. I know, now you can get some sleep.

Wednesday, April 30th 2003

posted @ 3:07 pm in [ ]
Related to the “write a joke” question, here’s a top ten list of critical theory titles I circulated among my so inclined/similarly annoyed friends recently.

Top 10 Self Help Books from the Frankfurt School:

10. Adorno & Horkheimer, I’m OK, the Enlightenment Project is a Dismal Failure
9. Marcuse, Why You Don’t Deserve An Authentic Existence, or, Reify This!
8. Horkheimer, Living with the Disease of Reason
7. Frankfurt School Monographs, Letting Go of Class Struggle as the Content of History
6. Lukacs, Being Your Own Identical Subject-Object, A Manual for the Common Prole
5. Marcuse, Happy Consciousness and Your Shrinking Subjective Sphere
4. Reich, The Orgone Box: Porto-let of Love
3. Frankfurt School Monographs, How to Soak in Bourgeois Pretentions and Still Pretend You Have Something to Say About the Working Class
2. Fromm, You Don’t Need It But I Do
1. Reich, Mrs. Jones, You Just Need to Get Laid

Wednesday, April 23rd 2003

posted @ 10:26 pm in [ - ]
As you may remember from my posting of September 13th, the Arrow of Entropy really frosts my cachongas. I’ve decided to submit a rant about it for the upcoming conference I plan on attending. I think I can attack it from both a philosophical perspective, and because it’s based on linear statistics, a mathematical one as well. I’m a little stuck for a title, though.

In the meantime, I think a good way to test someone’s understanding of something is to make them write jokes about it. I mean, if you really get what’s funny about an idea or a particular thinker or whatever, it’s usually because you really get it. You can’t make fun of something in a clever way without understanding it. I think comprehensive exams for the Ph.D. ought to include a “write a joke” question.

So I’ve been running my early ideas about the paper past a friend of mine more knowledgeable than myself in physics and quantum mechanics, just to be sure I get what I think I get (and maybe a little bit because he has a very sexy brain and I want to play with it more). This of course prompted me to come up with several potential joke titles for my paper.

Why Entropy Frosts My Cachongas
Heat Death or Just Death Warmed Over?
God Plays Backgammon (Film At Eleven)
My Statistics Can Beat up Your Statistics
The Uniform Puddle of Radiation and You: A Guide to Heat Death
The Slaughterhouse Five Effect
Omelets: Entropy’s Community Service
Reassemble This
Is the Universe Winding Down, or is it Just Me?
We’re All Gonna Die (in several hundred billion years)!!!
Uniformity of Matter is for Sissies
F*ck Glue, The Wave Function Just Collapsed
You Won’t Need That Where You’re Going: The Arrow of Entropy Emergency Kit
I’m OK, Your Teacup is Smashed Forever

Of course, all this is really procrastination. I have to stick a real title on this thing and send it off…

Saturday, April 19th 2003

posted @ 11:47 am in [ - ]

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Wednesday, April 16th 2003

posted @ 2:44 pm in [ ]
I reckon I’m going to be a little sporadic on this ‘blog for a bit, as Lisa and I have started a second about my upcoming trip to Boston for an academic conference. You can read all about the road trip stage as it unfolds at

Should be juicy. In the meantime, I’m sure I’ll have many more non-travel-related rants over the coming months…

Saturday, April 12th 2003

Gee, why aren’t there more women scientists?
posted @ 6:58 pm in [ ]
So yesterday, I participated in the Sigma Xi poster session for gradaute students at my university. Sigma Xi is a sort of professional society, like Phi Beta Kappa, but for graduate students and professionals, and largely for scientists.

As y’all know, in the world of academia, I am in some ways a woman without a country. I am much more of a scientist than my field of international relations theory generally allows. I have a lot of friends and colleagues in the hard sciences, and in some ways, I feel more compatible with them and more welcome there. Yesterday, though, while I was hanging out with my poster that was about mathematical modeling in the social sciences using nonlinear dynamics, some scientists gave me some pretty thinly-veiled crap about not being a “real” scientist. So I’m not measuring something easy like temperature. Hey, nobody did that until Mr. Farenheit decided how to do it. Just because I’m quantifying something new and I have to be creative about it doesn’t mean I’m not being scientific. That is not the attitude that brought us down out of the trees, you know?

For the most part, though, I enjoyed myself, and got to have a lot of neat coversations with a lot of folks I wouldn’t otherwise have met. After the poster session was a wine-and-cheese social deal followed by dinner and a lecture. An altogether delightful event. A few things happened with the speaker, though, that really frosted my cachongas.

First, the young woman who spoke was a nuclear chemist. She gave an interesting talk, and really stressed the need for the government and the general public to be better versed about science. She took a dig at policy folks, which wasn’t really fair–she’s at least as ignorant about what they’re trying to accomplish as they are about her work, and less willing to learn about it. She also pointed out how few women and minorities were in the sciences and engineering and stressed the need for that to change as well. I am absolutely down with all that. She seemed concerned and puzzled by the lack of female participation, and ended her presentation with a list of all the foundations that support her research.

Being in the social sciences, I was pretty stunned by the list. You know who supports my research? Me, my husband, and Lisa. Her implication that the sciences were really hurting for money and talent in the face of all that public ignorance and all those stupid policy folks, is by comparison to the social sciences, humanities and arts, basically crap. True, this country needs to do a better job with funding education all the way around. But nobody but a “hard” scientist would have a list of a dozen big-name sponsors funding their research. It felt to me like Marie Antoinette complaining about the coconut frosting on her cake.

Secondly, after being called a non-scientist repeatedly that day for daring to do scientific research in the social sciences with the hope of raising the bar, I can tell you why more women aren’t in the sciences: because scientists aren’t nice to us. The women are threatened, the men think we’re not smart enough, and social skills are in short supply. Also, people who consider themselves scientists, and anyone who is not doing physics or engineering or whatever, act like scientific training is like that of being a professional ballerina: that you have to start when you’re a child, and practice every day, and publish this, and get that award, and blah, blah, blah. You can’t simultaneousy invite people in and slam the door in their faces if their backgrounds aren’t exactly like yours. Your field will be forever dominated by white boys.

Finally, the fiance of one of my friends made an unbelievably sexist comment to the speaker. He challenged her perception that sexism was going on in academia in even a subtle way and said he wasn’t involved in repressing her at all. I thought back to the first time I met him and how he sort of assumed, as many men do, that I was sort of an idiot until it became apparent that I was smarter than he was, at which point he became frightened of me and subsequently polite. I thought about how that was largely my experience: most men I meet assume I’m stupid and the onus is on me to prove I’m not. That to me is what repression and discrimination are all about: assumptions based on appearances and wrongheaded biases. Just in making that stupid comment, this guy ironically added to the speaker’s lifetime load of male repression.

While being grossly underestimated does sometimes work in my favor and an intellectual ambush is sweet indeed, there have been precious few folks in my life who assumed I was smart when they met me, even when I’ve been standing next to a self-authored scientific poster. And let me tell you, over time, that really makes my ass tired.

This “non-scientist’s” next project is going to be to expand my Arrow of Entropy rant and prove that it’s crap. In the immortal words of Einstein, you can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it. So, in conclusion, I’d like to invite the proprietary members of the scientific community to bite my sweet, shapely social-scientific ass.

Wednesday, April 2nd 2003

Everybody Likes Peanut Butter
posted @ 10:33 am in [ ]
Whatever sort of trap you’re baiting, whether it’s to get a kid to sit still for a few minutes, to distract a skunk you’re trying to get out of your basement, or to get that hottie of a repair man to stay around a few minutes longer, peanut butter always does the trick. Everybody likes it. Phillip, who doesn’t even like sweets, is a sucker for a peanut butter milkshake. Anyone from my generation will still eat a fluffernutter. The pickiest kid in the world will eat a PB&J. I have yet to meet a mammal who won’t partake of peanut butter given the chance. Even people who are terribly allergic would eat it if they could.

What is it about peanut butter that makes it so irresistable? Is it the gooey texture? The salty/sweetish taste? The nuttiness? The warm color? To some of us, it’s comfort food. But a mouse’s mom never made her a peanut butter sandwich, and she still likes it. Dogs will struggle mightily with the roof-of-the-mouth factor, but they still want more.

I don’t want to dissect delight, here–it’s enough to say that everybody likes it and it’s good stuff. But it reminds me of a great rant my father had on the phone the other night. One of his concerns with the current war is that it’s one of those turning points in history where everyone has had enough of a reigning power and they stop subscribing to it wholesale. The Delian League says the hell with Athens, it’s not worth the crap, like that. He’s concerned that people will start finding other ways to do things than the American Brand, and then we’ll all be out of work.

The American Brand, for all the beatings it takes, is essentially about youthful exuberance. Blue jeans, red Mustangs with the top down, pepperoni pizza, Spring Break, rock & roll music, video games, and, I daresay, even peanut butter. It’s all about being young and happy and doing things that make you feel young and happy.

The irony is that the yahoos currently in charge of American are joyless. When’s the last time you saw any kind of uncritical conservative taking joy in anything but the pain of others? The current administration is utterly incompatible with the American brand. No wonder we’re in a poorly orchestrated, ridiculous war. So says my old man, and he has a point.

I need peanut butter.