Archive for the ‘science’ Category

Morgan’s Flies

[HT: Toronto LJ Community]


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I wasn’t planning on writing about the sexist comments made toward Sheril Kirshenbaum on the Bad Astronomy Blog since other people have written some very good commentary on this shit. But after reading and commenting in the post on CPP’s blog (which is filled with awesome commenters, trolls, and clueless fools), I decided that I had some things to say that are probably a bit teal deer for a comment. I’ll probably be repeating some things mention in the posts linked above.

Point #1: This whole issue to me isn’t simply about people commenting on/judging Sheril based on her appearance. Because while that is admittedly a shitty thing to do, I think there is a deeper issue with the with the comments. The problem I see is that too often the metric for judging women is attractiveness ( defined: How much men should want to stick their penis in a particular woman).

This kind of judgement is often made based on what a woman looks like (it was in this case), but it’s not exclusive to appearances. Commenting on how sexy a woman is based one her intelligence, interests, hobbies, or a particular personality trait is not as widespread, but it happens and it’s still unacceptable.

I’ve mention before some of my interests. Most of the people who share these interests tend to be male and this means that if I want to talk about them the community I’ll be joining will be made up of 90% men. And such was the case on one forum where I post. Of course, I post under a pseudonym and it happens to be a masculine sounding pseudonym. This made a lot of people assume that I a man and I was treated as decently as anyone there can expect to be treated.

After a month or so of posting for whatever reason, I can’t remember, it came out that I was a woman. The response that followed was interesting. There was the expected reaction; some people insisted that I must fit their stereotype of a woman and therefore I would infect their precious community with feminine shit. There was also a response I did not expect. I did not expect to receive come-ons that ranged from the almost innocent to the obscene. These were from people who had no clue what I looked like and only knew that I have an interest in certain shows.

This doesn’t happen as often in real life, as it’s much easier to sexualize based on appearance, but it indicates that the problem with how many men treat women as sexual objects extends passed just finding them physically attractive. And this is what I find offensive about the comments. It’s that a women was treated as if her first, if not only, role is to sexually please a man. This kind of treatment denies us the ability to be fully human. This is even more troubling in the context of the history of women’s oppression. For thousands of years women have been treated as if their only possible role was to breed and be mothers.

Point #2: Some comments were made indicating that we where just overreacting to an innocent complement. I hope the above convinced you that the comments, while possibly made innocently, are not at all innocent. But lets assume that those comments are harmless. Lets assume that we are living in a historical vacuum. Even in that case I think that the people defending them should apologize and shut the fuck up.

Why? Well, that involves trying to understand what a goddamn compliment is. A compliment isn’t simply saying the X is a good trait of Y person. When I compliment one of my aims is to make the person being complimented feel good. I think that’s the more important part of compliments and that’s why I try not to offend people with inappropriate praise.

Now, if you read all the follow-up to the comments, you’d have realized that quiet a lot of women found the comments offensive, including Sheril. So your compliment failed. All you did was offend the person you wanted to compliment and therefore you should apologize and STFU.

Point#3: “When is it appropriate to comment on a woman’s attractiveness?” you ask.

I would say the best guidline is to think, “Would she want to know or care whether I want to bone her or not?” It’s really as simple as that. Well, unless you think that every woman is here as as your personal cockwarmer. But then you’re an irredeemable misogynistic waste of air.

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I’ve been shit with posting the last week or so because I’ve been busy writing lab reports, assignments, and memorizing the fucking nuclei in the brainstem. So as penance, I’ll post this gel from two weeks ago:

I my defense:

  • I wasn’t the only one responsible for this mess (four pairs of hands are rarely better than one)
  • It was my first time pouring a gel
  • I hadn’t slept the night before.

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Dear D. melanogaster,

I really do like you. You`re a pretty cool model organism. You mutate and you don`t afraid of anything. However, it would be really nice if you were bigger. I`m not talking Godzilla-size bigger. Something along the lines of a small rat or a mouse would be nice. Your distant cousin the Coconut Crab can get pretty large (see below) so it isn`t as though it`s impossible, you just need to try harder.

That biology undergraduate student whose eyes hurt after two hours attempting to count antenna duplications

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But it’s too hard…

Last Wednesday, I attended and event hosted by the Hart House Debate Committee on the friction between science and religion. The format was good, and I might steal it for a future events I plan, but otherwise it was boring. One of the two speakers on the religious side, Yiftach Fehige, was possibly the most vacuous person I have ever heard speak. Seriously, he had about as much content as cotton candy (i.e. sugar and air, lots and lots of very warm air).

From what I understood, the event was not planned as a debate, but even as a discussion there was way to much backing down and nothing remotely provocative was said by the speakers. The audience was a bit more daring in regards to provocative questions. When to topic came to the curriculum and what should be taught in schools, everyone agreed that science should be taught in science classrooms. One audience member, however, suggested that maybe when it comes evolution the topic is to “complicated” to teach in schools and so we should just stick to easier topics in science.

Personally, I call bullshit. School and learning, in general, are not about what’s easiest. Yes, evolution is not the simplest topic, but that argument could be used for not teaching anything harder than arithmetics. In fact, I’ve seen it used to argue that calculus, amongst other topics in math and sciences, shouldn’t be taught in high school.

Furthermore, I don’t think the problem is that it’s too hard to teach the basics. In my experience, the problem is that many teachers are ill equipped to teach evolution. If you don’t understand it yourself you’re hardly in a position to teach it, right? But then the solution to this type of problem isn’t to take the subject away. Not teaching evolution in primary or secondary schools will just mean that the next batch of teachers will know jack shit about it too.

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Lessons learned from mistakes have always stuck around in my memories the longest. A lot have been mistakes I made, but seeing other people screw up is also a great source “what not to do”s. This is especially true when you have to work with the results of the fuck-ups.

I spent most of my summer at Research Organization trying to clean up the ugliest database ever because the person who made it was really, really incompetent (Seriously guys, if you’re collecting data electronically you should never, ever let people enter whatever they want. Even [Especially?] if said people have an MD). I managed to clean it up well enough that we’ve already got 2 abstracts accepted for a meeting and there was talk of writing a manuscript. Along with these easily quantifiable achievement I also learned a lot of shit. I learned how to work with a particular statistical package that isn’t SPSS, ethical data cleaning, and how to politely tell people that they’re fucking nuts. However, the things I will remember forever and will hopefully never repeat in my own work include “Why yes, enter whatever you wish for the units” and “Hmm…contradictory information, nobody would ever enter that so why should we create measures against it?”.

Over the break, I started and almost finished making data entry forms for a different study. They’re nice, shiny and they are made to be as idiot proof as possible. But again other people screwing up is fucking with my work. This time it’s not the kind of mistake that leaves me with lots of interesting work and amused frustration at incompetent people, it’s the kind of fuck up that will most likely render 3 weeks of work a complete waste of time.

The gist of the problem: pretty science isn’t always practical science.

The study is a clinical trial looking at a novel use for a very common medication. The scientific justification is so simple and sensible that even a person with just a little background on the disease (me) can understand it easily. The study is also well designed for the most part. However, the problem is that the protocol requires a super strict time frame that allows for very little time between an occurrence of the medical event in question and seeing a specialist. This makes some sense as it would make the science better. However, the time frame is so ridiculously ludicrous that at the rate the PI is enrolling patients we’re probably going to have a case study rather than a clinical trial.

God, I hope that if (when?) I ever have to plan studies or even simple projects I’ll have the foresight to be able to tell when my plans are fucking impossible.

P.S. If none if this makes sense or follows a logical progression, I blame anger and Jagermeister.

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