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From the mouths of babes

February 24th, 2006

“It’s backwards and inside out day.” Last night, a very sweet little girl dressed all in pink said that to me with the most angelic smile on her face. This little girl was filled with the perfect fearlessness of childhood. Her smile says that she knows she is safe and loved. She knows it so deeply that it has never occured to her that things might be otherwise. She was talking about her clothes, but her comment perfectly described how I am feeling these days.

The world is backwards and inside out.

South Dakota’s efforts to outlaw abortion are just the latest symptom of this problem. The social conservatives are taking over my country, and my womb, for reasons that I do not understand. If this trend continues — and how I wish I could believe in the hope behind that if, but I do not — women will die. And for what? Someone else’s principles? Someone else’s beliefs? Someone else’s insecurities? None of those things are important enough to risk the lives of real, living women.

There’s clearly something going on that I do not understand. Last night, in the dark hours when I could not sleep, I prayed for that little girl in pink. I prayed that when she grows up, she will never be in a situation where she needs an abortion, but that if she ever does, that she be able to get a safe and legal one. Because she deserves to be safe and loved, no matter what obstacles life puts in her way. I also prayed that one day all children might be as safe and secure and loved and wanted as the little girl in pink is today.

But then my prayer was over, and I was left with the reality that everything is backwards and inside out. And I despaired for the little girl in pink.

Moopiness

February 22nd, 2006

Here’s one of the biggest reasons I love my husband: after I went on and on and on for about 20 minutes about something I had read that involved identity, gender, sexuality and social structure — which separately are my very favorite topics, but combined? Wow! — I said “so, anyway, sorry to go on, but it was all just utterly fascinating,” and he responded with “I can see how that would fascinate you” which he managed to say in a way that was loving, supportive and indicated that he’d been listening and knows me very well, rather than in a way that was cutting or ittitated.

That’s a tough thing to do. And since I frequently go on and on and on about those sorts of topics, I’m quite experienced at hearing that sentiment expressed the other way.

So just in case you’ve ever wondered: that’s why I love him.

UPDATED to add: among other reasons.

Preparedness

February 21st, 2006

For those of us (myself included) who have not been following the Iran situation very closely, the Seattle Weekly has published a useful overview of the Bush White House’s build-up for some sort of military action. It’s a chilling story:

What Bush is playing with

Follow Up

February 17th, 2006

After discussing the ANOVA pronunciation issue below with a few of my friends in the biological sciences, I want to revise my description of how ANOVA should be pronounced. I’m not very good at representing sounds this way. In the post below I said it should be pronounced like “an ova,” but that’s not really what I mean. There’s no pause between the n and the o — it’s more like “anova” but the sounds are pronounced like “an ova.” Also, as my friend B pointed out, the n is very soft, so it’s more like AnOVA.

I’m really hoping this is my last comment on this issue, but really? You never know. They might mispronounce something else next week!

So Annoyed

February 15th, 2006

I should warn you: this entry is a rant. Not only that, but it is a rant about something so insignificant that it really doesn’t even deserve comment, but it is annoying me and I can’t sleep. So I’m commenting.

I have recently become a fan of the show House, M.D., which is full of more silly medspeak than E.R. ever was. I usually assume that most of it is near nonsense and enjoy the show. But tonight — oh tonight — the show really pushed my buttons.

There was a lecture scene where a supposedly eminent scientist (I’ll call him Lecture Dude) was speaking in an auditorium, and two of the show’s regular characters were sitting in the audience carrying on a side conversation. The shot switched back and forth from the lecture to the conversation, with the research-babble creating background noise for the conversation.

As part of his babble, Lecture Dude said “ANOVA analysis showed that….” The problem is that he pronounced ANOVA wrong. It should be pronounced “an ova” (as in an egg, with equal stress on both syllables). He pronounced it “ainova” (the closest I can come to reproducing this is “this ain’t ova” with the t left out and the stress on the first syllable).

Scientists pronounce science words in many ways — most of us just say the words with confidence and hope for the best, and no one really comments. In fact, some interesting social networks can be identified by how certain words are pronounced (because someone heard it said that way by their advisor who heard it from their advisor who heard it from their advisor and so on and so on and so on).

But mispronouncing ANOVA is different. ANOVA is short for Analysis Of Variance. If you know what ANOVA is (and it was clear from the context that the writers’ intention was to convey that the lecture dude did know his stuff), then there’s one and only one way to pronounce it.

A smaller, but in my opinion less irritating mistake, followed when Lecture Dude said “my results are significant with p equal to point zero zero one.” He even wrote “p=.001″ on the white board and underlined it for emphasis. He should have said “at the the p equals point zero zero one level” or — even better — “with p equal to less than point zero zero one.” This error is arguaby more egregious than the ANOVA mistake. However, I’m ok with it. It’s the kind of error I see and hear all the time, from scientists and non-scientists alike.

But mispronouncing ANOVA? That’s wrong. Wrong AND irritating.

(Also, since I’ve already taken this stroll down the path of obsessive pedanticness, I might as well start running. I’m not a medical researcher, but based on my limited knowledge, it appeared that while ANOVA was appropriate for the fake study Lecture Dude was describing (which sounded like a randomized controlled study of a new medication, based on what little bits of description I caught), it wasn’t the best choice. Lecture Dude’s sample size was large enough — he said it was an impossibly high 500 — that he should probably have used some other kind of analysis. Here my knowledge of medical research fails, because I can’t suggest what the other technique might have been. But in my own research, I definitely wouldn’t waste a sample size of 500 on ANOVA. Given the kind of outcome Lecture Dude was studying (getting a particular illness), I would have done a logistic regression, or if time-varying covariates were available, a survival analysis. But I know that ANOVA is very ingrained in certain research areas where sample sizes tend to be small. So maybe Lecture Dude felt that another technique would be so non-normative that it wouldn’t get past reviewers, even though it would be mathematically and substantively appropriate. Still, it would surprise me if someone used ANOVA in this situation in real life).

Oh, and I need I remind you? I did warn you ahead of time that this was a rant over something of the barest consequence. It’s not my fault if you read this far.

Still irritated

February 14th, 2006

I’ve written about this before, but I am moved to say it again. My husband and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. The reasons are unimportant, but basically, it’s just not a meaningful holiday for us.

What makes me crazy is the number of people who have asked me what we are doing to celebrate. I try my very best to dodge the question, because I don’t want to deal with the inevitable follow-up. A few years back, someone asked me if we were having trouble in our marriage after hearing that we don’t celebrate the day. Seriously! This person could not believe that we just might not be moved by this holiday.

I’ve finally hit on the response “we’re spending the evening at home” which feels vaguely dishonest, but is good enough for passing aquaintances.

Dreamy

February 14th, 2006

I had the most delightful dream last night. In it, this story turned out just like this story.

Of course, then I woke up and realized that this guy is not really any better than this guy, and then I couldn’t get back to sleep.

FLDS

February 2nd, 2006

I stumbled across Cult News a weblog run by the person behind the Rick A. Ross Institute For the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups, and Movements (RRI). The institute, which seems legitimate, also seems overly focused on providing expert witness testimony in various court cases.

Cult News, which is very well put together, is a fantastic resource of information about various cults, which RRI is careful to say are not always destructive. The most recent entry is about the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints community headed by Warren Jeffs’. Jeffs is on the FBI’s most wanted list for arranging polygamist marriages of older men with very young girls — as young as 12 or 13. There’s a $50,000 reward out for Jeffs, who is building a troubling compound on a ranch in Texas — it reminds everyone of Waco. I’ve been following this story for a while, and the summary on Cult News is very comprehensive.