19 April 2007

several more

1. danblim wrote in comments to the last entry, which wondered why shootings at virginia tech seem so jarring to americans: "My sense is we get captivated by the unexpected deaths. We expect people to die in a war zone. We expect people to die in the inner cities. We don't expect it in a classroom."

this is an interesting take. the question i would ask is whether it's relevant to the question. at one level, of course it is: true that we expect people to die in wars and inner cities, rather than in german class. at another level, it begs some questions about priors. if expectation is going to be key, we should ask whence the expectations. why do we expect baghdad to be a war zone? how have we reconciled ourselves to that? similarly: why do we expect gun violence in west philadelphia? (after all, there are -- or were -- german classes in both of those places too.) in irritatingly circular fashion we arrive back at the usual beef: somehow certain lives just seem more important than others.

2. as anne points out, thursday april 17, 1997, was not actually evacuation day. thursday, i ditched school (!) and helped nancy devine clear out her house. given that it's now the 19th (the *actual* day we left our house), i'll just say it again: it is very funny to realize that ten years have passed. anne used the phrase "colored by something that feels like nostalgia" to describe those remembrances, and i wholeheartedly agree.

3. about this women in (possibly computer, but pretty much any) science thing. i should point out that i mostly posted it because i felt that the article i had linked to took an incredibly naive view: as if the reason women didn't enter computer science in larger numbers was their aversion to pocket protectors, rather than a magnified version of all the structural factors that keep women out of top-flight academia more generally. because: at least at the upper levels of the bell curve, the problem with getting women into computer science isn't that they don't take the intro classes; it's that they (1) don't find mentors and colleagues who look like them (yes, it matters) and (2) are wearied by the combative atmosphere that pervades a lot of science-y environments and (3) are tasked with too much domestic/femininity-maintenance labor to maintain the sort of singular focus required at the very top.

however, andrew points out that a couple of these things are pretty inseparable from that stupid phrase, "the nerd factor." hmmm. there's also the question of whether i meant "computer science" or "science" or "academia" and, honestly, i haven't figured that one out yet. put it this way: i think that there's a certain inattention to the constructive part of "constructive criticism" that seems to get worse the "harder" the science. on the other hand, i don't have enough evidence to really support that.

4. summer funding reconstituted! from an email sent by my director of grad studies to the relevant dean: "I approve for Amelia to receive funding this summer. She is working hard on her research and training and it is entirely appropriate that she is eligible for funding." have i mentioned before that, aside from being a completely fantastic scholar, our DGS is a completely fantastic person? no? well, my bad.