Thursday, July 31, 2008

Show Me the Test Scores

I am really getting sick of all the discussion about Janet Hyde's new data showing a lack of difference between the mean scores of males and females on math tests. Cool. But. I really don't give a flying fuck if the variance of the distribution of the males' scores is larger than that for women. And it pisses me off when people try to use that somewhat unreliable* statistic to explain why women are underrepresented in science and engineering.

The quote from Hyde's paper that some people seem to be having such an orgasm over:

If a particular specialty required mathematical skills at the 99th percentile, and the gender ratio is 2.0, we would expect 67% men in the occupation and 33% women.

Well whoop-dee-doo. However, I can't think of a particular specialty that actually does require that level of performance ON A STANDARDIZED TEST THAT YOU TOOK IN HIGH SCHOOL. Let's get real here. Anyway, the ratio is 1.2 at the most. And,

Yet today, for example, Ph.D. programs in engineering average only about 15% women.

They must be pulling from the EXTREME right tail.

Just to get anectdotal, I scored high on those tests, but not that high. Of course I did go on to get a degree in one of those fields that is supposed to require high levels of math abilities after spending years doing nothing more mathematical that learning polyrhythms. Somehow, after a few years of actually using teh maths every day, yes, I decimated the GRE quantitative section, which one would expect to be a reasonable analog for the types of tests that high school students take these days. Is that me trying to hint at an explanation for the increased variance in boys? No. Because I don't think it matters. You don't have to score on the extreme right tail in order to join the scientific community - it's not MENSA.

I would like to suggest that anyone who wants to make an argument suggesting that the reason that I was one of only four women in an entering class of fourteen, or that I work side-by-side with eight men and two women under a male PI is that, in order to walk the hallowed halls of the Academy, you have to have a score above the 99th percentile on a multiple choice test should be required to disclose the entire history of their standardized test results, and if any are found to have scores below the 99th percentile, they should be summarily kicked to the curb. Losers.

*For more substantive posts on this topic, see Janet's post on Adventures in Ethics and Science, and Jake Young's post at Pure Pedantry. The winner for the best headline goes to Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money.
h/t: Bitch PhD
Just don't read the comments unless you want to fume like me.
Edited to add: Also check out Academic's take on this.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Book Meme

I've been tagged by BikeMonkey for a book list meme. Yay! This is just what I need - a little divertissement before I start taking my work too seriously!

So, I'm putting the one's I've read in bold, the one's I've started but never finished in italics, the ones I love in another color, and the rest are left alone. Additional notations are at the Here goes:

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
- we have them all, in print and as audiobooks. As hubby says, they've been dripped into all of our skulls by Thing 1, who likes to listen to them at bedtime...
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
- I went to Catholic school for 12 years. 'Nuf said?
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman - I'm reading this with Thing 1
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
- and, yes, I actually own this, bound in red leather. Gotta love used book stores.
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams - I missed this somehow. Guess everyone else talking about it so much made me feel I had absorbed it by osmosis.
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis - I read some portion of these as a kid, don't remember where I stopped.
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis - read this one aloud, in entirety, to Thing 1. Then she lost interest.
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden - loved the movie, should get to the book someday
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne - I've got two kids, what do you expect?
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert - the trilogy, baby!
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov - I actually cry at the end. Every. Time.
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac - Never felt the need to read this one. Too many boyfriends quoting it all the time...
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville - believe it, or not, I was in a dance piece inspired by this one...
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens - probably had to read this for school, but I'm not sure
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett - aloud to Thing 1
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce - I tried...
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens - ha! ha! In a most inspired case of ridiculous casting, I played the Ghost of Christmas Present in a theatrical adaptation in middle school. Note that I was probably smaller than the kid who played Tim Cratchit...
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro - must get to this one
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White - another one read aloud to Thing 1
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
- I read this in French. Someday I will have to read a translation to find out what the hell it was really about.
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
- along with almost everything else by that author, aloud to Thing 1
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Wow. Well, I must say, I feel like I should read to Thing 2 a lot more, now. Or else I really should have taken Thing 1 to the playground more often when she was little...

I tag Academic, FlickaMawa, Julie R, Dr. Jekyll & Mrs. Hyde and Brigindo

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hardware Failure of the Month Club

Whoever enrolled me in this club, thanks, but no thanks. It's not that the club is not everything and more than the name suggests. Really. The first month, they even did a two-for-one what with the camera AND the computer getting fried simultaneously. And it's not that it doesn't drive plenty of useful interaction with my labmates. Desperation could spur me to spark up a conversation with just about anybody if I think they might have half a fucking clue about why all the sudden I can't see anything through a very expensive microscope objective that has a six month lead time for new orders. And my back really did need that bit of exercise that only stretching out over an enclosed optical table to reach that component way in the back while simultaneously looking straight up and back can provide. Not to mention the learning experience of taking everything apart and putting it back together again while anyone who could provide guidance is on vacation offers.

I am grateful for all of that, and I'm sure your intentions were good. But what I really can't handle any more of is the heart palpitations and stress that accompany each month's installment. I'm not kidding. When I looked inside that objective and saw the oil trapped between the lenses, I think my heart skipped about ten beats. And when I had to go share this discovery with my PI, I think my heart rate was about 200 something. There are only so many times a person can be presented with strange and unusual equipment failure and respond by saying, "If nothing ever broke in the lab, I would suspect that you people were not really doing the science." One day, it's going to be, "What the fuck is wrong with you that you can't take better care of your equipment?!?"

So, though I know it is getting toward the end of the month of July, I really hope it's not too late to stop delivery on this installment. Maybe we can put my membership on hold for a few months, you know, like a gym membership? Or maybe we can move to a biannual plan? I'm not asking for outright cancellation. Because I do appreciate the gesture. It's just that it's too much. Seriously. You shouldn't have.