Monday, February 28, 2005

My Evening as a Lab Rat

I took part in a psychology experiment run by someone at Rice University today. I left feeling even more disillusioned about the social sciences than I had been.


The experiment involved listening to four job interviews and commenting on each one. The four candidates were a white woman (4.0 GPA, her responses were the stereotypical over-rehearsed comments of someone who was clearly trying to give you the right answer instead of her answer), a black man (who was very well qualified, except for one fairly minor point), and two white males (one of whom was an aggressive, non-thinking Cro-Magnon, the other who seemed a little bit stoned). You were randomly given either instructions to include "Diversity" as a criteria for your evaluations or not.

After the mock interviews, I was given a questionaire about two of the candidates. The gist of the questionaire was whether or not I remembered one or both of the black candidate and the aggressive white candidates as violent/quick tempered/etc.

The hypothesis of the experiment was that being instructed to consider diversity would subconsciously reinforce stereotypes. Obviously the PC interpretation was that, as someone instructed to consider diversity, I would interpret the black guy was an aggressive troublemaker and the white guy was a good ole' boy.

Now, there were a couple of flaws in the study. The really big question was: what do they assume our stereotypes are? I grew up in a small town in East Texas where the only black people I knew were some very genial and nice people from church. I was also a geek as a child and persecuted by jocks. I was biased against the white guy, if anything (which, oddly enough, their set-up wouldn't detect--he was fairly unsuited for the job; bias against him simply wouldn't detect).

Friday, February 25, 2005

Scientists are Insane


1. A definition of insanity is doing the same thing multiple times and expecting different results.
2. Scientific measurements should be repeated so that noise will average out--i.e., because you'll get different results each time.

Therefore, in order to do science right, you have to be insane.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Indiana Jones Lied to Me

I thought being a scientist would involve trips to foreign lands, adventure, and a certain amount of panache.

Instead, I spent today in the basement writing.

Honestly, I wish I was Harrison Ford.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

The rat hath been bathed. He has been placated with offerings of towels and peanut butter while I apply generous helpings of antibiotics to my hands.

It's really hard to wash something that is really fast, can jump over 2 feet, fall at least 4 without being phased (and is fully aware of that fact), and has a massive dislike of being held under a faucet.

As if that weren't enough excitement for one day, I have 13 hours of a state holiday left. I need an adventure. Hmmm...

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Title Explained

A friend of mine once told me "Dustin, things happen to you that just don't happen to other people."

I am a bit of a magnet for things unusual and unorthodox. I hesitate to ever go see Old Faithful because I fear that I will cause it to cease functioning. I once was once given potted plants by four people in one day. They didn't collaborate.

This trend led me to once comment to a friend that I supposed that karma could only be described in terms of complex numbers. In additional to the familiar "morality" component, there is also an imaginary "weirdness" component. Apparantly, at some point in my life I committed a horrific sin of normalcy and I must spend the rest of my life repaying the balance.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

If My Life Were...

So on tonight's Scrubs, the main character spent the last half of the show pretending that his life were a sitcom (as opposed to the rest of the series, where his life is a sitcom). I like that idea, so I'm starting an occasional series, If My Life Were...

If My Life Were A Comic Book

First of all, I would have superpowers. I'm not even guessing what kind of powers I'd have, but the traditional best guess is that I would somehow derive my powers from Hawaiian shirts. Hmm...I work with radioactive materials. There could be an accident, I could put on a radioactive Hawaiian shirt, and I'd get the ability to turn any situation into a luau. Hey, it could happen.

Second, I would have a much more active social life. Why? Because you have to have the cross-overs.

Third, I would need some arch-nemesi. We already have The Evil Dr. Goka, of biochem fame. Maybe one of the MDs is secretly an evil ninja mastermind...that'd work...

Oh, and I'd be like Spider-Man, in that whenever confronted with a problem I would make a sarcastic and amusing quip before confronting it. As opposed to now, when I'm just cynical.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Solitaire Halloween

I'm trying to pick out my costume for tomorrow. I could lose a few pounds, so maybe I should show up to work as a chubby cherub with a bow and arrow? I mean, Valentine's Day has a creepy quality to it that that exceeds All Hallow's Eve.

We all know that the scariest part of a horror movie is when you're all alone in an empty house, and there is nothing like having an entire day that reminds you of that situation. To be honest, red and pink balloons strike me in a more visceral spot than any pentagram.

And it certainly is a day when the monsters in your head get a little bit more fearsome.

Notice: This post has no warrenty. I make no guarantee that I'll have this same opinion at any future date. For that matter, I'm actively trying to make sure I don't.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Kudos to the Little Bro

My brother just won his district-level depate tournement, and he got perfect speaker point.

This is the guy who walked into a school board meeting, took on the local Mr. Potter, and managed to arrive a nigh-impossible compromise between local business interests and the interests of the student body.

Kudos to him,

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Your Tax Dollars At Work

Today I discovered that the library at my place of work has an online subscription to "Cabinet Makers", a British trade magazine.

I work at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, funded by the state of Texas. While the life of a scholar often requires a certain familiarity with tools, we don't build many cabinets. Or sofas. Or beds.

Deja Vu

I am sitting at my computer. I've let my pet rat out of his cage to run around for a while, and he curls up my feet, looking very comfortable. He let me rup his back with my toes for a while before scurrying off to eat some nuts.

When I was a kid, my dog Mario used to lie underneath my feet while I was writing papers for my high school English classes.

It's a memory I'm happy to recall, I think.

Unravel My Nefarious Plan for World Domination

I am a nice, easygoing, Sunday school attending person.

However, if the female gender ever drives me utterly insane and into a life of Supervillaindom (TM), I could probably cause a bit of trouble.

So, while I am still an upstanding member of the community, let me give you the key to defeating me: whatever my token Doomsday Device is, the password will be the number that the harmonic series converges to on a double prescision computing device. Yes, math geeks, I know that the harmonic series doesn't converge. But it does when you have a smallest possible number that can be represented--any terms after that will be zero, and the series will artificially converge.

If anybody knows what this number is, feel free to tell me ;-)

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Challenge Resolved

Well, I solved my problem by dividing the abstract into two parts. Of course, this could be an extraordinarily bad idea, because I run the risk of having to make two posters. Or, worse yet, give two presentations. *Shudder*

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


For those of you who do not know, I am a graduate student doing research here in Houston. Last fall I submitted an abstract to a conference (for the non-geeks, I wrote a one-page research report and submitted it to a professional society's meeting).

Sadly it was rejected.

When this happens, you revamp the abstract and submit it to somewhere else. Sadly, the "somewhere else" has vastly different requirements. Specifically, I have to trim the word count from 671 to 300 and take out all of the pictures--did I mention that I work in medical imaging?--and somehow not lose any actual content.

It's times like these when I could use the word "accurization" instead of longer phrases that actually exist in English, such as "improve the accuracy of". That'd be a reduction of at least 3 words a pop!

If you Google "accurization", you'll find that it actually does get used, but only in the context of gun enthusiasts and scale models of the starship Enterprise.

I doubt I should use it in a formal paper.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Groundhog's Day

This morning I could not sleep, so I got up fairly early and worked on a lab report for 2 hours before I came in to work.

So I ask you: if you should awaken and find yourself repeating the same day over and over again like Bill Murray, please call me and tell me. I don't mind working on my lab report, but I'd rather not do it 5,000 times while you search for enlightenment. I'd rather have an extra cup of tea instead.

Thank you for your understanding.