Archive for: June, 2012

"Respect my authority! (And put down the beach ball.)"

Jun 26 2012 Published by under Academia, Passing thoughts, Personal

My fellow university faculty, have you ever felt that your official commencement faculty marshal badge is just too pedestrian to command the respect it deserves?

Me too.

Luckily, it's the kind of thing you can remedy. Observe:

For those of you muttering "Free-Ride has finally gone round the bend," let me put a few more facts into evidence:

1. All the graduating students at commencement who commented on my badge embellishments were also quick to comply with the lining-up, filling-out-photo-cards, and marching instructions I issued. (And, since they didn't look scared while so complying, I assume it's because they respected my marshaling authority, not because they thought I was about to snap.)

2. Two full professors in my college (both male, if that matters to you) borrowed similarly embellished badges from me so they could step into the faculty marshaling fray. (Bringing extra credentials to commencement is always a good idea so you can deputize other faculty members on the spot.)

3. Neither of them have yet returned these embellished badges. I'm betting I'll see them again next May.

(My better half, of course, insisted on referring to my spiffed-up faculty marshal badge as my "flair". We'll be meeting at Flingers for lunch to settle the matter.)

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Friday Sprog Blogging: You've made it clear "it's a girl thing," but is "it" science?

If your Tweeps have been hashtagging about the same things mine have today, there's a good chance you've already seen this video from the European Union:

Ummm ... yeah. As science outreach, this would never have worked on a younger time-slice of me. But maybe I'm not the target audience.

In the interest of generating empirical data from the two possible members of the actual target audience to whom I have access, I showed the video to each of the Free-Ride offspring (both daughters, as related in my newly-published story at Story Collider) separately, then asked for their reactions, which I've transcribed below:

From the elder Free-Ride offspring, almost 13 years old:

I didn't really see those women doing science. Plus, they were trying to act too sexy. Yuck.

Me: Did you find any of the visuals engaging?

Some of the sprays of orbs were cool.

Me: How about the glassware?

Sort of. But we don't actually see how any of it is used to do science.

Based on this teaser, I would not watch the full music video.

Me: Um, I think it's supposed to be a teaser for an outreach campaign rather than a music video, although it's interesting that it read to you as "music video."

Or whatever. I feel like I've seen enough of this.

Me: Did you feel like it conveyed any information about science?


Me: Did you feel like it conveyed any information about what kind of people do science?

The only clear scientist in that video was the man. The women in that video didn't come across as scientists. They were more like giggly models with scientific props.

Me: If it were you, what kind of strategy would you use to get girls interested in science?

Don't show me make-up, lipstick, and high heels. Show me an actual scientist at work.

* * * * *

From the younger Free-Ride offspring, 11 years old and no stranger to feminine accoutrements:

Why the high heels?

It was bad. I didn't like it. And science isn't just a girl thing.

Me: What didn't you like about it?

How the guy was all seduced by the girls. And the girls were acting too girly -- abnormally girly.

I didn't feel like anything in the video had anything to do with science. It was just lipstick and stuff -- that's not science.

Me: Well, there's science that goes into making cosmetics.

We didn't see that in the video. We saw make-up exploding on the ground and women giggling.

I don't think this is a good science outreach strategy except to girls who want to have exactly that image.

* * * * *

It appears the sprogs aren't the target audience either -- or, if they are, that this video is 53 seconds of highly produced FAIL.

UPDATE: While the original video was reset to "private", there is a mirror of it:

Because you want to know what the fuss is about, right?

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Meditations on a sprained ankle.

Jun 13 2012 Published by under Passing thoughts, Personal

Two Fridays ago, I was poised to jump into what I hoped would be a very productive summer. I had submitted spring semester grades with time to spare (and then submitted the change-of-grade form for the one I had computed incorrectly). I had gotten my online course ready to be switched on for the summer session. I had gotten through some necessary committee work and made a plan to keep the rest from encroaching too severely on my research and writing schedule.

And then, walking my younger offspring to the car after swim practice, I turned my ankle, fell hard, watched it swell up for awhile, then looked away when the pain and nausea got to be too much.

I found out the next afternoon at Urgent Care that it wasn't fractured, just badly sprained, and that probably, if I was good, it would be better within four weeks.

I found out that if you injure yourself after 7:30 on a Friday evening Urgent Care will close before you can get there. I also found out that it doesn't matter much if Urgent Care opens Saturday morning when the only other licensed driver in the house now has to be two places at once (owing to my inability to get the kid to the swim meet and work our shift timing the heats, since being upright still provoked nausea).

I found out that it's worth hanging on to that old pair of crutches, but that propelling myself on them is a lot harder than I remember it being 20 years ago.

I found out that most of the tasks that were part of my daily routine are a lot harder on one leg than on two, especially when my hands are busy clutching the crutches for dear life. Making breakfast for the kids, or packing their lunches, suddenly requires serious planning just to get food items from the fridge to the work surface without mishap.

I learned that a bath feels less like a luxurious indulgence when a shower is not an option.

I learned that I have a hard time asking for help, or remembering that an egalitarian household arrangement probably shouldn't require that one do 50% of the labor when one is incapacitated.

I learned that my offspring are capable of operating the washer and dryer (and changing the settings as appropriate for different loads of laundry). I also learned that instructing them to avoid overloading the washing machine by leaving an empty space big enough for a particular stuffed animal will lead my younger offspring to use that stuffed animal to do quality control before starting each load.

I found out that using FaceTime to participate in a committee meeting from home is a mixed blessing.

I found out that my relatively high pain threshold makes it harder to remember to take regular doses of ibuprofen for inflammation.

I found out that making a serious effort to stay off my ankle has made the muscles and joints in the rest of my body angry with me. This week, as I eased back into Pilates to avoid total bodily collapse, I discover that it only took a week and a half to develop serious asymmetries that weren't there before.

I found out that I have some gnarly bruises that may persist even after my mobility returns.

I found out that my sprained ankle doesn't interfere terribly with doing tasks that don't require too much thought, like grading, or editing pieces of writing that are close to done. However, it seems to have made it harder for me to write anything new, or to do any coherent project planning. I found out that I feel bad about this because there doesn't seem to be an obvious physical reason why my messed up ankle should mess with my head.

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