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I'm working a 12 hour day here at the NY store, and another full day tomorrow.  It's only our fourth day open, so things are slow.  The store looks good, but there are lot projects to work on before we're ready for the grand opening.

My mom is apparently running a fever of 102 F (44 C) and has gone back to Holy Family Hospital.  I'm starting to grasp that she's really ill, and that this won't be over soon.  :(

New York is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy.  I'm staying with usakeh, and many roads in her town are still blocked off by fallen trees and severed power lines.  There a long lines at every filling station.  I fear this is just the first taste of our societal collapse as climate change accelerates, but it's great to see the way people here are rallying  to meet the challenge.  They're even excited to see a new comic book store. :)

I think I'm finally figuring out what I want from Grounded, so I guess all the driving around has been helpful.

I just saw a short video by a Mount Holyoke professor in which she discusses correcting a congenital vision problem she had, and how she trained her brain to correct it in her 40s.  

The big election is on three days away.  I hope the candidates I support win, but more than anything I fear that no matter who we elect, we won't do what we must to save ourselves.  It's frustrating that years of Bible-thumper ranting and cynically poisonous Republican rhetoric have made scientifically valid warnings that we're on the brink of disaster sound like just more political bloviation.
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The human explorer with the most unique claim to fame ever has died.  The torch he lit for our species has been dropped by us all, my generation in particular.  I hope we go to the moon again one day.


His official NASA obituary )
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Here's an article from the New York Times, summing up what the scientific press has been reporting for years, that the extreme water shortages of the past decade should not be seen as a drought, or as below average.  They are, rather, the new normal, and this only the beginning of how bad it's going to get for our world.  Our society's only hope is some crazy mad science.  Write your congressman.

Seriously.
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NYT article on negative consequences of placebo effect.  I'm especially intrigued by how much negative side effects increased depending on the level of information given.
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I left myself a note the other day to post about my monthly accomplishments. Now that I'm trying to do it, I'm staring blankly at this screen, wondering what the hell I could possibly have had in mind. Still, never let it be said I won't blindly follow the orders of a small-minded tyrant....

1) Negotiated a 10% raise at my job, and chose a career path.
I guess that's pretty big. I'm still making 20% less than the average for Sales & Related employees in my area. But, as I mentioned in another post, I like what I'm doing, who I'm working with, and why I'm doing it. And I think it's enough for my needs.

2) I got Howard Cruse to come to the store last week for book club, and it was fantastic. (Read more on the store's Facebook page, if you like.)

3) I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and went to the Burlesque show a couple of weeks ago. It was fun, and I got to socialize a bit with new people, which I'm not doing all that much. I wonder if I should try joining another game, or perhaps starting one?


Eh, this doesn't seem all that amazing to me. Still, I did do these things, and I'm proud of them, so what the hell.

OH, and these aren't MY accomplishments, but they're still pretty cool:

Time lapse photos of star formation.

Some clever buggers at UC Riverside have figured out how to convert acids into bases. Assuming that isn't a mistake, that strikes me as the kind of fundamental discovery that wins Nobel prizes. (But I'm not a chemist, and maybe it will just be a parlor trick.


EDIT TO ADD:
A fish that lives on land! (With gills and everything.)

A diamond planet! (Please, Doctor, can we go?)
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Two great family interactions I'd like to memorialize before bed.

Last Monday, M and I went out to Andover to visit and make supper.  My cousin (not sure what alias to give her) was visiting for a couple of days between a summer internship and a flight home before the fall semester.  I hadn't seen her in four or five years.  I was nervous that I'd be really dull to her, or that she'd be kind of hip, popular girl who never liked me when I was a lad.  (I had no basis for this fear, other than my cousin has the looks to be one of said girls, and my own insecurities.)  Happily, we got along swimmingly.  My cousin was delightfully smart, chatty, and even geeky.  (I wish she'd told me more about her studies, though.)  She also laughed nervously a lot, though, and I hope that was just about staying alone for a couple of days with unkown quantity relatives, which might have been agonizing for all she knew.  She's really cool, and I hope she's more comfortable in more familiar venues.  I really hope that we will see her again soon.


This weekend, my mom came out for an extended visit.  I picked her up on Friday, drove her out here, and we had supper at the home of MAMEd and family.  Little Caitlin was charming as always, and it was a great, relaxing visit.  Afterwards, we chatted and watched two episodes of Mad Men, which I have decided I quite like.  The rampant sexism of the period weirdly fascinates more than it repels.

Saturday we went to the house warming party of Sundart, Anzovin, and [profile] space_craft , and got to see lots of cool people.  Supper at Mulino's, followed by more Mad Men.

Today was PARTY for mom's birthday, a low key affair with a few of my friends whom I know Mom likes, plus my brother and dad.  (Not all of my friends whom Mom likes, but I didn't want to overwhelm either of my parents.)  Special shout to [livejournal.com profile] sydneycat  for playing raconteur while the Team made sandwiches and finished up the party spread.  Thanks, as well, to another friend for home-made carrot cake!

Mom had a good time, and I'm so glad that she got to go out and have some fun on this adventure.




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One of the people on my friends list posted a long piece about the US army and the trouble its running into as the war in Iraq saps resources and drives recruitment numbers into the toilet.  Part of the entry discussed the falling scores on the army's placement test for new recruits and turned to discussing IQ tests for a bit.  That inspired me to share the following:

I took an IQ test in third grade, and I did well, and I found it to be an irritatingly stupid test.  In fact, it's the first time I remember dealing with a grownup and thinking that they (the test administrator) was an idiot.    One question, that I recall finding so bizarrely stupid that I still recall it to this day, went something like this:

A man is walking in the woods.  He sees someone hanging upside down from a tree.  He calls the police and they come and arrest the person.  Who did he see?

The answer that they wanted was 'a criminal'.  I considered that answer, but I rejected it, for two reasons: first, how does this man walking the woods know that the man in the tree is a criminal, just from looking at him?  Second, why is the man in tree hanging from it upside down? 

Considering the matter, it was clear to me that the man in the tree had to a) obviously dangerous and b) comfortable hanging upside for prolonged periods.  I knew that bats liked to hang upside down, so from there I made the logical leap that person hanging from the tree must be a vampire.  I was told that this was the wrong answer.

I demanded to know what the right answer was, and the irritating woman wouldn't tell me.  The question kept bothering me, and I kept coming back to it throughout the test.  Finally, I blurted out the 'criminal' answer, and was told that that was, indeed, the answer that they wanted.  I demanded to why he was hanging upside down, and was told that it didn't matter.

Thirty years later, it still baffles and angers me.


Anyway, that experience (and later taking the SATs) made me leery of making too much of IQs, and of tests in general.  Sure, I did well, but I didn't see how the test really demonstrated that I was smart, just that I knew stuff and didn't crack under that particular pressure.  Then I read Stephen J. Gould's book, the Mismeasure of a Man, and since then I try to explain to people why they should drop the whole concept of IQ from their thinking.  [If you haven't read this book, you should.  It's one of the best science books ever, and it's written for a general audience.]

Personally, my experience leads me to think that far too much is made of being 'smart', and that smart people make mistakes as easily, and as often, as everyone else. All too often, in fact, the 'smart' people carry on as if needn't explain themselves to anyone, and thus, they do not.   That, in turn, is the express lane to nonsense.  Moreover, I think that the concept of 'stupid people' is a myth.  There are stupid ideas, and there are people who embrace them, but I think anyone can be smart with sufficient nurturing and motivation
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[profile] I saw the film of Al Gore's slide show tonight with [profile] sydneycat and [personal profile] millari.  It's an excellent presentation in itself, and the film adds a personal, reflective dimension, which at times felt odd, but which in at least two places improved Mr. Gore's message by interleaving events from his life and family history with his message about climate change.  (Specifically, the scene from 1989, when he was holding Senate hearings on global warming, and his account of the death of his sister and how that led his family to stop growing tobacco.)

The earth's climate is, of course, an immensely complicated system which we'll never completely understand, but Mr. Gore does a fine job of making clear what we already know, what that clearly indicates for our future as a species, and, happily, holds out hope that we can still make a positive difference.  I hope everyone in the US sees it.  I hope that we are all convinced by it, and that we, and the rest of the world, act now to save ourselves.

Seeing it, I am reminded of something that struck me late in my stint in grad school.  Starting in the 70s and on into the 90s, many scholars (such as Latour and Woolgar, Shapin and Shaffer, and Sandra Harding)in the history of science worked to explode the idea that science was a privileged viewpoint, that it was uniquely truthful, all-encompassing, and authoritative in its pronouncements on all things, by its very nature.  It's thanks to these scholars that people like W. W. Rostow are historical artifacts and not mainstream thinkers today.  However, the baby that's been lost in the bathwater, that critics like these assholes have also missed, is that scientists are, first and foremost, people who care deeply about evidence.  Rhetoric matters,  Experience matters.  Funding sources matter.  Politcal ties matter.  Class, gender, nationality, theoretical commitments and all sorts of other things shape the questions asked and frame the debate over the answers given all matter, but the professional culture of science with its sedulous concern for data matters, too.  And while that sub-culture is just one among a vast multitude, its practices are designed toward one goal: understanding the universe better than we do now.  And that means that scientific expertise, while it can be bought, bent and broken, nevertheless has a resilience and insight into the world that we ignore at our peril. 

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