Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Powerpoint, or how it loses something in the translation

I am busy with all sorts of upcoming conference presentations on all sorts of random unrelated topics. I loathe Powerpoint but it's pretty much the only way to present data at a conference in my field. Actually I should say that I loathe Powerpoint presentations as generally developed and delivered but don't actually have a problem with the software itself.

One of the problems I have with PP presenatations is the incredible dumbing-down that has to occur to get information to fit into bullet format in the small blank space not filled with a garish template. A lot can be lost in the translation to this format. Just take a look at one interpreatation of how the Gettysburg Address would have looked like if Abe Lincoln had PowerPoint.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Statistics and Computing for the Humanities

When reading Natalie Bennett’s blog Philobiblion today I learned about something called the Digital Companion to the Humanities. Sounded intriguing so I checked it out.

As far as I can tell the DCH is basically an overview of the field of humanities computing. Ok, so what does that mean? Well, they give a history of the field and provide some information on principles, previous applications, and new directions for computing in fields such as music, art history, classics, lexicography, literary studies, archaeology (not something I typically think of as a humanities discipline, but blame my social sciences background for that one), linguistics, multimedia and performing arts.

Also on something called Robotic Poetics. I haven’t had a chance to look into this yet and the truth is that it’s unlikely that I ever will.

Veeeeeery interesting.

I started randomly clicking around and found the damned coolest thing Look below. The figure shows you some of the output from a simple principal components analysis (PCA) of plays. The author referred to this type of study as a stylistic analysis. Yes. OMG. What fun!

For the uninitiated, PCA is a type of linear stats that can help you simplify your data or with a similar statistic, identify latent variables within your data. Say you take an online survey to rate your own sexiness. (Come on, you know you’ve done it. It probably happened around the same phase of your life in which you posted your picture to Hot Or Not) The survey includes 100 questions (which due to your total unsexiness you had nothing better to do than answer them) and takes about 20 minutes to complete.

If the survey writers has used PCA they might not had to include 100 questions. If they were smart and wanted to increase the number of sexy people who would have the time to take the survey, they could use PCA! This would allow them to use fewer questions but still get a representative measure of sexiness, assuming they had one to begin with.

I do want to mention however that I disagree with the author’s use of PCA in this instance. There are two types of exploratory factor analysis, of which PCA is one and principal axis factoring (PAF) is another. Ideally, PAF should have been used to determine the underlying factors of “sexiness.” There are important underlying statistical differences. So the ideal applications of the two methods are actually unique. Though it’s very common to see these statistics misused--even in fields in which they have been well-established for decades. I would have used PAF for the example the author provides. If anyone cares to ask me why I will be happy to explain it to you.

Given that, is there anyone out there who is looking for people who can apply PCA to fun things like art, music, literature…? Seriously I’m available. I have a hunch that it’s a pretty wide open field, although I could be wrong.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Bourgeois (Be)laboring The Oppressed: Nancy Levant, Feminism and the Control of Womanhood and Power

Just read the article Feminism and the Control of Womanhood by Nancy Levant in the American Chronicle.

Wow. Despite her very shrill and panicked laundry list regarding the dangers of feminism, Ms. Levant is actually pretty funny.

Apparently, feminsism, along with the overwhelmingly hostile "global education movement," is nothing but a social re-engineering tactic "used to forward the take over of all world governments, economies, and cultures, and to force all commoners into the custom-made livelihoods and service of corporate-based governors."

To dear Ms. Levant: Damn, girl! That's something else!

But wait, I'm still confused. How is it that feminism fits into this global hegemonic movement? Unfortunately my meager intellect can hardly keep pace with Ms. Levant, but after carefully reviewing her piece, I have gathered that it has something to do with the men in Industry and Banking who created the feminist movement to prevent the "commoners" from overthrowing them from their power. The movement gained momentum, causing vast swaths of "depopulation" across the world via the Mental Health Industrial Complex,Big Pharma, and Women's Healthcare.

Here's the bottom line. The Feminist Movement has created a teeming mass of female laborers who are too stoned on anti-depressants and too busy laboring for Big Business to be birthing babies. Which is what we should be doing. Obviously.

Honestly, I was a little stumped as to how to respond to this idiotic thesis. So I turned to the handy dandy Po-Mo Title Generator, to create the title to this blog entry and to get me started. Works like a charm, every time.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Drug Use and Intelligence

Just spent the last 30 minutes looking at associations between self-reported grade average, school performance, and self-rated intelligence,with the use of various drugs among a representative sample of 12th graders across the U.S.

No surprise, kids with lower grades are more likely to have smoked, to drink, and to have done most drugs. Kids who perceive themselves as more intelligent (whether they are or not), however, are more likely to have done LSD or other hallucinogenic drugs.

Hmmm. Ground breaking stuff.

Don't I have a dissertation to write?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Most Liberal Education

So I was reading one of my regular blogs re: academia , and saw a link to an article discussing the results of the Dirty Dozen survey. The Dirty Dozen is a survey of the most P.C. and bizarre college courses in the U.S. Well, honestly, I haven't done my background research but I would like to raise a concern about this survey. As a disclaimer, I don't know anything about their methodology but several of their classes are hardly bizarre or especially p.c. In fact, the U.Dub. class Border Crossings, Borderlands: Transnational Feminist Perspectives on Immigration is hardly bizarre or p.c. Actually this field of inquiry seems pretty commonplace and I am hardly a sociologist or feminist scholar. If I have come across this sort of thing in multiple journal articles before I wouldn't really call it bizarre.

Anywho, I wonder who composed this so-called survey. I would assume it's students from Occidental.

Listen, I am the queen of bizarre research. If I haven't done it, it's not because I didn't want to. There's such a think as limits on federal funding.

But I am also a graduate of The Evergreen State College . And I really don't understand why great Evergreen classes such as Working the Waters (Working the Waters: Maritime Labor History, maritime labor history, quantitative and symbolic reasoning, maritime literature, leadership theory and group dynamics) or Imperialism (self explanatory) or Puppetry and Poetics: Arts of Distraction (poetics, experimental puppet theater, performance, creative writing and literature, subject to specific student work) or Feminisms: Local to Global (also self explanatory, well, to some...)or whatever somehow missed the top 12. As much as Evergreen might have mellowed in recent years it still offers some cutting edge classes and deserves some recognition on a list such as this.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Productivity Note

After a whole lot of laziness over the past few weeks I was inspired to finish a manuscript evaluating the Texas Safe Haven policy that allows for the legal surrender of unwanted and unharmed infants to designated locations. Well it's not really an evaluation but who's being picky (besides me)?

So I did a sorta-okay but not-perfect job on it (which I find is the ONLY way to actually accomplish anything in academia). All that really matters is that it is completed.

I have been working on this manuscript in one form or another for YEARS now. And I just now submitted it to a top-tier journal. I look forward to the rejection, which will hopefully come quickly. Actually the onlyarticle I have previously submitted to this journal was turned around with a resounding "NO" within 24 hours. At least that gives plenty of time to send somewhere else!

My Two Front Teeth and Happy/Crappy

I have been busy avoiding my responsibilities. Yesterday I watched 2 Law and Order re-runs, one soap opera, 2 sitcoms, and one talk show. Needless to say I never made it into the office.

The discerning reader will note that this blog now includes a list of books I am currently reading and have read over the course of the year. I'm not including those books piled up on the bedside table know the ones. The dusty ones that have been there for 6 months? That I am too stubborn/proud to dismiss outright? This list is intended to give me a sense of accomplishment. I may not be publishing, I may not be graduating, I may not be impacting the world in a meaningful way, but damnit, I can prove to myself and the world that I am a great reader of NOVELS!

Oh, and I got lotsa fun stuff for XMas and my birthday. very own website. It's not up yet but when it is, you, dear reader, will be the first to hear about it.

To conclude, let's do a run down of the Year-to-Date a la Happy/Crappy:

Tomorrow I am going skydiving for my 30th bday.

After 4 1/2 months of review, an article that I have spent an excessive amount of time writing has been REJECTED.
I can't seem to sit down and write my dissertation proposal. It just isn't working.