Saturday, September 29th 2007

Why the hell am I not posting more?
posted @ 8:29 am in [ ]

Well, it’s like this. A lot of what I’m doing right now is working. I’m teaching two graduate courses in the program where I’ve been teaching for the last few years, as well as a new undergraduate course at a nearby small university. I think about all those a lot (and I also work on all of them a lot, because it’s a lot of prep work: two writing classes and a very new global affairs class with strong original epistemological content), and I have a lot to say about them (all positive), but as you know, I don’t blog about work, so I’ve kind of said all I can about that.

I can talk about the two articles I’m working on, both of which have their next round of revisions due in the next few days, but I think I’ve already said about as much about those as y’all care to hear. I can say that the thank-you-sir-may-I-have-another model of academia I’ve endured, lo, these many years, as well as having been a writer and editor for so long, has made me pretty thick-skinned about my work. It didn’t crush me or make me angry when editors got back to me with either requests for largish cuts or what looked like a lot of changes. Eh, I thought, none of these things messes with my ideas, and these folks are investing a lot of time and effort in making my submission perfect for their publications, so that’s actually pretty flattering. They all liked the substance a lot. I know I never would have thought about it like that 10 years ago. I would have grudgingly made the changes, and maybe even cried a little when I saw the initial comments. I would have focused a lot more on the huge list of tiny edits (that now, as an editor, I don’t think are a big deal at all) rather than the really nice praise they came with. Now I reread the praise parts, and the edits: eh [insert shrug here].

I’ve also been having a lot of saucy dreams and fantasies (and sort of a saucy life for that matter). Additionally, a joined a gym this week and have been spending a bunch of time there on the body project. Mostly it’s because getting a good amount of regular exercise makes everything else fall into place for me, but a bunch of regular exercise also tends to pump up the ol’ libido (which didn’t need the help to begin with) so most of my mental time not taken up with grading or working or whipping my articles into shape is taken up with things I am, er, hesitant to post. I’ve been thinking about setting up a side (anonymous) blog devoted exclusively to sauciness. I’ll have to decide whether I think I have the mental time and energy for yet another blog.

Anyhow, that’s the story.

Wednesday, September 26th 2007

Secretive? Who, me?
posted @ 1:45 pm in [ ]

A few years ago, I took an inkblot test. I don’t remember exactly why. Maybe I was procrastinating and curious, or maybe I was thinking about something in particular. What I ended up doing with it, though, was using it to teach detail writing in a class that was really struggling with it. I wrote a brief account of it in January of 2005.

My results on the test called me secretive. I was pretty surprised about that, and I guess I’ve thought about it off and on since. Was I secretive? I thought I was pretty open. Recently, though, I’ve been observing how compartmentalized and decentralized I like my life to be. It’s as if each little piece is sort of its own splinter cell and they rarely interact or act in concert. I think that could be considered secretive.

Earlier today, I was involved in a conversation where differences in male and female communication were being considered, and one thing that came up a few times was the idea that women communicate verbally as part of their bonding experience. It made me think about how I mimic that behavior by volunteering personal, sometimes salacious, details of myself, when really I’m giving away surprisingly little. Nothing fits together or completes the picture — it’s just entertainment. Yes, I think that’s secretive.

Monday, September 17th 2007

Wherefore art thou, Roessler?
posted @ 6:22 am in [ - ]

Since I told the chaos society to which I belong about my brand new sick ink, I’ve gotten a lot of support, curiosity, and interest in it, which is nice. One colleague asked whether my choice of design was mathematical or artistic, and what significance it held for me, adding, “Often we choose tattoos as anchors, to remind us of one of the characteristics about us, that we have tendency to forget, and the body location is an indication of how private or public we want to be about that characteristic.” I hadn’t fully articulated those things until I responded, but I kinda like how it came out.

Sure, it’s a pretty personal thing, but I announced it to this community in no small part because y’all share this whole part of my intellectual life that most other folks don’t. It’s low enough on my back that I’d have to expose myself a bit (but not pornographically) in public to show it, but high enough that the point peeks out of my waistband like the tip of the iceberg.

Not surprisingly, it was both a mathematical and an artistic decision. I’ve always dug strange attractors, and how much more descriptive they are than, say, the “worm” of a line diagram. In practical terms, they’re also simple and contained enough to draw, which would not be the case with, say, a good, bold, graphical representation of a Julia set. This particular one is the graph of a wave, and those of you who know me well know what an ocean-enthusiastic creature I am (yeah, in that way, living in Denver is a little rough: tidal-wave free for 70 million years, whoo-hoo!). I’ve even occasionally used the alias “sea-girl” when writing saucy poetry, a reference to my favorite poem in the English language, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” including the ending, “’til human voices wake us and we drown,” a reminder that the primal ocean voice within can keep us afloat and that sometimes faith/belief/illusion/truth/mythmaking is the more beneficial side to our nature — that sometimes what we choose to believe is what keeps us buoyant (true, the overall context is that the speaker is afraid of death and loneliness, but let’s face it, he probably wouldn’t be if he could just leave himself alone, stop worrying about what other people think of him and accept death, often symbolized by the ocean, including Odysseus’ “wine-dark sea”…) — a sentiment that has kept me from being swept under in the more traditional halls of academia as I pursue my faith in nonlinear dynamics. Given its orientation (spike to the top, fold-above-bump to the right) and center spiral, it also looked a little like a seashell to me in a conch-meets-nautilus kind of way. Given that general shape, I think its placement alongside my favorite curve also accentuates it nicely.

Saturday, September 15th 2007

At long last, Roessler
posted @ 8:37 am in [ ]

Some of you know that, for years now, I have been looking in vain for someone to put a tattoo of a Roessler attractor, one of my very favorite chaotic objects, on my lower back. You can see what one looks like here, second picture down. The one I wanted is oriented a little differently, sort of from above, with the point facing up and the fold below it. I finally found the right artist last night, in my very own neighborhood, while I was waiting for a cool coffee shop, where a friend was DJing, to open. So yes, readers, friends (and mom), I got some wicked sick ink last night. I’ll post a pic when it heals up a bit.

Did it hurt like a bastard? Eh, it wasn’t too bad. I thought it would hurt more than it did, and after a while, the skin got a little numb like it does when you pluck your eyebrows a bunch. It hurt a lot less than my early pointe classes, and it definitely hurt less than getting my ears pierced (although it was much more sustained). There were a handful of moments where it hurt enough to make me kind of squeeze my eyes shut, but never enough for any crying, screaming, or bite sticks or anything. I read a book through most of it, and the pain wasn’t enough to adversely affect my comprehension. Before they started, I asked the inky staff if they had any pain management advice for me, and they basically suggested I go to my happy place and breathe through it. I thought that turned out to be entirely sufficient. All in all, I’ve asked people to do things to me that were more painful than that. It stings a little bit today, but it’s nothing like the deep tissue bruises I’ve sustained from the occasional bike crash.

Am I sorry? Nah. I’ve wanted a tattoo nearly half my life, and I’ve wanted this Roessler for the last 8 -10 years, so I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on it. I think there are people who get tattoos and people who don’t, and that I’ve always been one of the former, but just couldn’t find the right artist until last night. One of the first things I did when I got home was email the chaos society list I subscribe to.

Thanks, Dave at Celebrity Tattoo, for showing the sack to do it — and for doing a kickass job at that!

Monday, September 10th 2007

Gender critiques
posted @ 11:06 am in [ ]

I haven’t been writing enough lately because my brain is full. Sorry about that. I will, however, pause long enough to pull my scribely head out of my butt and impart a recent conversation I had with a highly-valued friend and colleague. He wrote to me:

Do you have a moment to read something? Since this is somewhat up your professional alley, I’d be very interested in hearing what you think about this essay:

I think the idea of different distributions is interesting, and probably true, but because my area of expertise is genetic, I can’t imagine a system for transmitting the forcing vectors he’s talking about to subsequent generations.

In the immortal words of Thomas Aquinas, “I SAY:…”

Hmm, interesting stuff. I buy the extremes principle, and I think I may want to assign this baby to my “Into the Future: Global Trends and Forecasting” course this fall.

As you know, I’m often curious about theories about this gender politics business, because, let’s face it, I’m a socially strange woman. It is incredibly obvious to me which gender differences are social/learned and which ones are actually based in biology/genetics, because I am without the former. That is, I was never “taught” to be female or to do feminine things, and during adolescence, when I was trying to figure out how to “be a woman,” I didn’t have much handy to emulate. Stuff I needed to figure out to function as expected in society, like, say, putting on panty hose, I had to research and figure out on my own (or not). Still, I wouldn’t say I’m remotely unfeminine. Unladylike, maybe, but not unfeminine. To me, the line between what biology does to make me female and what social groups do to encourage women to behave in a certain way (albeit usually without conscious intent) is very sharp and clear. It seems really broad and blurry to the guy who wrote the essay.

So as much as I appreciate his underlying points about distribution and selection and I think he’s onto something, I think he’s suggesting that the “motivations” he observes are much more deeply ingrained than they are. Even his arguments about sex — arguably the most purely biologically-based urge there is — smack of social assumptions. Men are hornier than women he says, and his evidence looks good. On the surface, it does seem that on the whole, the male is to the female sex drive what shooting bullets is to throwing them. However, if one has never been conditioned to think of sex as romance with flowers and candles and masturbation as unnecessary and dirty, the female drive can be every bit as primal and, er, urgent, as the male one. I discovered when I posted some of my sexual fantasies on my blog (as an exercise for getting past writer’s block when my mom discovered it) that even my sexual thoughts were NOT like those of my female readers and friends.

[Here, I refer him to posts 184, 185, and 175 -- let me know if you need the passwords or anything.]

The women I knew thought about the setting and maybe about kissing; I thought about “the act” and didn’t care what else was in the room–it was incidental to the chick-a-wah-wah! action. They (and universally the women in this guy’s essay) cared about intimacy. I think it’s totally separate from sex, and on some levels, it freaks me the F out, suggesting to me that the intimacy “gene” is in reality a learned value. I have all the biological womanstuff installed as standard equipment, so if it’s biological, why is it conspicuously missing from my genderkit? I think he also discounts the kind of intimate friendships men form with each other, and the kind of supportive broad social networking women participate in. Additionally, if certain traits fade out after a few generations as he suggests, why are these reproduction-urge traits still a factor at all in this age of birth control, when reproduction itself is no longer the motivation it used to be?

I also think he’s missing one key point with regard to the motivation argument, and that is this: It is our expectations of ourselves, and not our choices per se, that determine where we go in life and what we do there. How do you know what your possible choices even are if your expectations of yourself are somehow incorrect? If 19th-century white bourgeois women didn’t invent musical forms, it is likely because they didn’t think they could — and for primarily social reasons, women buy the hype of limitation much more than men do.

[My particular rants about the women in math and science bits can be found in posts 164 and 239.]

So I guess I would say: I buy the distribution arguments, but I need some convincing about the motivation arguments. So yeah, I’m with you, buddy.

Monday, September 3rd 2007

A nice commie holiday
posted @ 9:19 am in [ ]

More than the day that the white shoes and clothes are ritualistically put away until spring, Labor Day is a worker’s holiday. There seem to be a bunch of different accounts about how it started, but I trust PBS as a good source. If only the concessions to those upon whose backs progress and prosperity of the nation were built didn’t end there!