fool me once, shame on you…

So a while back I submitted an article to a journal, which we shall call the Drekistan Journal of Sociology.* In the meantime, as the months have gone by with the wheels of publication grinding inexorably onward at their usual glacial pace, I was tagged for two reviews by the same journal. I completed both reviews and submitted them as a good little hopeful journal publishee should and went about my business.

A few weeks ago an e-mail popped up in my inbox from DJS that included the phrase “notification of decision.” My pulse pounded, my blood warmed, I felt all feverish, and images of both success and failure swirled through my brain in a very close approximation of Schrodinger’s feline companion. And then I noticed that the full subject line was “Reviewer notification of decision”. Yeah, it was just the journal letting me know how things turned out with a paper I reviewed.

I got on with my life, continued with other projects, and time wore on until yesterday I received another e-mail from DJS. My pulse pounded, my blood warmed, I felt all feverish, I hesitated over opening the message. And then I noticed the same thing. It was a reviewer notification of decision. This time around my verbal response to this let-down was such that I cannot repeat it on a fine and elegantly crafted blog such as this.

Honestly I don’t know what should bug me more: that I over-reacted the same way twice, or that two papers I’ve reviewed since submitting my own have gotten decisions before me.

* Not its real name.

h1n1 blues

H1N1 is stressing me out. A wave of it is going through the local schools. Four kids in Hamilton are in the ICU (that’s half the pediatric ICU beds in the city), and one healthy young boy died recently in a neighbouring town.

At the same time, the vaccine is tantalizingly close to being available. The vaccines just started being administered this week, but only for high-risk groups, and there are long line-ups of hundreds of people at each flu-shot clinic the province has put together. The rest of us will have to wait as this group gets priority–so far, this week and next have been dedicated to high-risk groups.

That means 10 more days at the earliest, and of course it will be more like 20 or so days to get everyone, and then you have to add in the 14 days it takes bodies to respond to the vaccine to develop immunity. A lot of people will suffer before the vaccines can be administered. Some MPPs are calling on the Ministry of Health to move to 24-hour vaccine delivery. That certainly would move things along and make it easier on working families, but no plans to move in that direction so far.

How are things going down in the States?

perils of astroturf

Earlier this week I (and, as it turns out, many other North Carolinians) received a postcard from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina:

bcbs1(The rest of the mailing is after the break.)

I, like many others, was infuriated that a nonprofit–which, apparently BCBSNC is–was using either my premium dollars or my tax dollars, or a combination thereof, to lobby against legislation that might threaten its business.

Continue reading “perils of astroturf”

they paid the whole bill

So, I got sick at the ASA this year. It was the worst timing possible. I started feeling sick on the airplane to San Francisco, a flight that carried about 12 sociologists on it, one of whom was seated right behind me across the aisle. I spent the 5-hour flight contemplating barfing in front of a colleague, but fortunately, I stopped short of losing my lunch. It only got worse from there, and though I tried to tough out attending one session and even making it to the bloggers’ party, I was mostly laid up in my hotel room. I found myself facing the Canadians’ worst nightmare: seeking medical care in the United States.

Continue reading “they paid the whole bill”

i’m in detroit!

On my way to Toledo, OH (presently writing from the Westin Hotel in the Detroit Airport — they have free wifi, fyi). The plane here was packed. I wondered, as I checked in, “why? We’re leaving at 9AM from NYC to Detroit. I can’t imagine it’s that busy a route…” My answer arrived as I sat on the plane and saw people pour in. They were all wearing Michigan gear, with a couple of folks in Penn State sweatshirts. College football! How could I forget? Then again, as I remember Wisconsin, folks would drive into town on game day. But I don’t recall flights being booked. Perhaps Michigan fans are richer? I should have realized something was up when I was sent my itinerary (I’m at a conference) and the ticket cost so much. There were no fights on the plane. But when we got up to disembark, the woman sitting next to me noticed another woman wearing Penn State gear ahead of us. She looked at me, incredulous, as if she had just seen someone do something truly abhorrent. When I failed to respond appropriately, she was equally disgusted with me. I miss college football.

economists’ free riding really is caused by treatment, not selection! [more apologies to marwell and ames]

I do mostly think about things besides Freakonomics (my first two posts notwithstanding). But since I got this bee in my bonnet about the climate chapter I’ve been watching their blog to how they would respond to the avalanche of criticism. And I came across a gem today that shows why you should never trust a freakonomist, or at least why you should worry about one who took Daniel Hamermesh‘s “500-student principles [of microeconomics, I hope] indoctrination class” at the U of Texas. Continue reading “economists’ free riding really is caused by treatment, not selection! [more apologies to marwell and ames]”

ask a scatterbrain: unethical to assign your own books?

My colleague Neil McLaughlin has a blog post over at Canada’s Academic Matters that argues that it is unethical to require students to buy your own books, or at least to profit from the sale of those books:

There are, of course, good pedagogical reasons why a professor might want to assign a book they have written. The professor might genuinely believe it is the best textbook on the market, there is an advantage to going through the material that a professor knows well and has covered in a textbook she has written on the topic and there are few better educational experiences than reading a first-rate research monograph and having in-depth discussions of it with the author. But what possible justification could one give for keeping the royalties for oneself, as opposed to giving this portion of the proceeds to a student group or some such public good?

Frankly, this thought never even crossed my mind. Continue reading “ask a scatterbrain: unethical to assign your own books?”

Relevance, Mr. Coburn?

Since this hasn’t been said (at least not directly) here yet:

What I find disturbing about this whole recent spasm regarding the public relevance of political science is that the “hard” sciences are automatically assumed to have relevance and therefore are immune to critiques about exotic questions and lacking “obvious public benefits.” I spent about 30 seconds on the National Science Foundation web site and located this one study (among hundreds like it) in the chemistry division. I would like to challenge Senator Coburn to explain to me the public relevance of this particular study:

Femtosecond studies of the influence of solvent on chemical reaction dynamics


In this award, funded by the Experimental Physical Chemistry program of the Chemistry Division, Professor Stephen Bradforth of the University of Southern California and graduate students will continue their investigation of liquid medium effects on photo-dissociation, explore new avenues in photo-initiated bimolecular reactions, and develop nonlinear optical spectroscopic techniques that can probe reactions at liquid surfaces. The photo-dissociation studies will focus on solvent effects on the dissociation of molecules such as ICN, BrCN and H2O2, and especially subsequent femtosecond time scale rotational relaxation of the diatomic fragments (CN and OH) produced in the dissociation. Comparison of experimental data with molecular dynamics simulations will aid in the evaluation of solvent effects on relaxation dynamics. The study of photo-initiated bimolecular reactions will involve photo-generation of OH radicals (from OH- or H2O2) and observation of their reaction with Cl- and Br- in the femtosecond regime. These radical-ion reactions are of emerging interest in atmospheric chemistry as possible routes to the formation of tropospheric Cl2 and Br2. Second order nonlinear optical techniques, which can provide surface-specific information, will be developed in order to explore reaction dynamics at liquid or aerosol particle surfaces. While the initial focus will be on solvation and mobility of photo-detached electrons, these techniques may eventually be applicable to the study of halogen formation reactions on sea-spray aerosols.

In addition to the broad dissemination of research results through publications, conference and seminar presentations, Prof. Bradforth will also make available via his group website important innovations in instrumentation that may be useful to other groups working in ultrafast dynamics.

superfreakonomists don’t understand how to stop free riding. does anyone else? [apologies to marwell and ames]

Superfreakonomics is out. Well, one chapter of it is out because it sort of escaped. Levitt and Dubner have turned their professional contrarianism on climate change and — it seems — they were not so careful as they might have been with some of their facts and interpretations. Holy hell has broken loose in the blogosphere. People are not happy. Dubner has now responded to some of it. I can’t say I’m very convinced by what he has to say. I’ve read the chapter, and it seems to me that I’ve noticed a problem beyond the zillions that have already been identified. You see, Levitt and Dubner close with what has been described as a “silly analogy” but when you really look at it, it becomes clear that the problem isn’t that it’s silly. It’s that they don’t understand the implications of their own analogy. And they don’t understand them, I think, because they ignore basic sociology. Continue reading “superfreakonomists don’t understand how to stop free riding. does anyone else? [apologies to marwell and ames]”

ask a scatterbrain: qual data analysis software

Two questions really. One from a dedicated reader: “I am thinking about purchasing NVIVO 8.  It looks awesome.  Evidently you can code interview recordings directly, which I think would be an improvement on my usual method of taking minute-by-minute notes on an interview, coding the notes, and then transcribing selectively. Also, you can code PDFs, emails, all kinds of stuff that I use in my research. I haven’t used NVIVO before. I have used Atlas.ti for a few years (I don’t have the newest version), and I don’t really like it.  I have really only used it to code interview transcripts.  It’s fine, it basically does the job, but I don’t find it very easy or intuitive to use. I would really like to hear from anyone who has used NVIVO 8.  I would also be interested in other suggestions for qualitative data analysis software.  My institution doesn’t have a license for any of them, so I’m on my own.” Continue reading “ask a scatterbrain: qual data analysis software”

the etiquette must catch up with the technology

Say you walk up to two people having a conversation. It is obviously rude to just interrupt that conversation with whatever it is you want to talk about, and the norm is to hover about until you are acknowledged, politely apologize for interrupting and then say what is on your mind. Similarly, if you walk up to someone in their office who is on the phone, the norm is to wait quietly until either the person is off the phone or makes clear they can talk while on hold.

Yet, if you walk up to someone in a conversation with another person chatting on IM, the norm, as far as I can tell, is to assume they are doing nothing important, that there is no third person involved, start talking away right away. As far as I can tell, it is considered rude to ask someone to wait while you finish an IM conversation. And yet, that is a real conversation with a real person. That conversation started first and should take precedence. But somehow, because we are used to interrupting people who are typing, we haven’t caught up to counting this as a conversation in our etiquette.

I was the interrupted one today, and I couldn’t bring myself to tell the in-person conversation to wait, even though I wanted to, and even though I thought it was the right thing to do. Maybe the next generation will have a different set of internalized norms, but I am hopeless.