Friday, July 29, 2005

Break-time


We are off to a wedding tomorrow. Since it is at the beach, we will stay a few more days. No online access throughout.

And after we come back I am going back to Dissertation-writing with renewed energy, thus blogging will remain light and infrequent. Come by sometimes, just in case....

posted by coturnix @ 12:47 AM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

How To Become A Biologist...


I was just thinking today what a long and winding route I took in becoming a biologist. So, why not write a blog post about it?

As long as I can remember I loved animals. I have no idea where that came from. My family mostly had to do with theater, art, language and literature. I think they thought I was going to become an actor. My grandfather was a famous architect and I certainly have talent - I can draw a floor-plan of an appartment or a building from memory. If I ever get filthy rich I will probably try to play a big role in the design of my house. My great-uncle is a chemical engineer. But none of them were particularly in love with nature or animals. None of them felt really comfortable out in the wild. There was nobody in the family who could take me out camping in the woods and show me where to look for cool critters, to teach me the ways of nature and to nurture my "naturalistic intelligence" which is still woefully inadequate no matter how hard I try. I am still a city-slicker.

I grew up in Belgrade, a grey city with three native species: pigeons, rats and cockroaches. Nothing there for me to observe. We lived in a small appartment on 7th floor so pets were out of the question no matter how hard I tried.... I did have a little turtle for a few months, though. His name was Aeschillus. I loved other people's pets and they mostly loved me back. I also enjoyed summers in the country. The local boys taught me some cool stuff about animals and I spent a lot of time in neighbors' barns observing the behaviors of farm animals (I got really good at imitating animal voices - I can fool a goat with my call). And of course, I started riding horses when I was about five, so there was one species I could hang around with for extended periods of time on a regular basis.

So, from very early on I knew that my career was going to have something to do with animals. But what can an animal-lover in Yugoslavia do for a living? Here are some ideas that I toyed with at one time or another.

Join the circus. There are lots of circuses in Europe and one or another would pitch its tent in Belgrade several times a year. I always went. I had to go. I begged my parents to take me when I was little and I went with friends once I got old enough. I loved the circus. I read books about circus life. Recently my mother sent me some artwork that I made as a kid and it struck me that ALL depicted scenes from a circus.

When I was about 18 I seriously considered joining a circus. Serious. Dead serious. Don't tell my mom. OK, you can tell my mom - obviously I did not join the circus then and it is too late now. As crazy as I am now, I am not THAT crazy to join a circus now. But then, I was thinking I could get a start with liberty horses, then move on to elephants. Strange species also crossed my mind. I have seen zebras, giraffes and rhinos perform every now and then. They did not do great tricks but, being able to get one of those to enter the ring, take a couple of laps around the ring and leave without going berserk and killing a bunch of people is quite an accomplishment. Perhaps, I thought, if I was lucky, I could get to do the Great Cats one day!

I usually went to the circus with friends from the stables - all horse nuts. During the break we would sneak back to the barn and the menagerie and chat with stable boys or whoever was there. Still, I never gathered enough courage to actually inquire about apprenticeships. I was too young to leave my family, school, friends and horses behind. Whew! Now I'm glad I did not do it....

Work at the Zoo. Some of my friends worked at the Belgrade Zoo for a couple of years. I went there to help them out occasionally (and they showed me how to get in for free). As a little kid I loved the zoo, but as I grew older, and especially once I got to go behind the scenes, I did not like it very much any more.

Belgrade Zoo is very old. It has too many animals and too little space. Poor animals are stuck in tiny cages and display all sorts of neurotic behaviors. Once the wars started it got saddled with even more animals as small local zoos had to evacuate. Those were mostly wolves, foxes, bears and boars - all unknown to each other, thus neccessary to keep in separate enclosures. What a mess.

The Director of the Zoo realized that the Zoo had to move to a bigger piece of land. He tried to get the powers-that-be in Belgrade to relocate the zoo, to no avail. So, he decided to start on a campaign to get the people en masse to the zoo, to start liking it again, to start fighting for it. He did all sorts of publicity stunts. He spent what money he had on visitors' comforts, e.g., restaurants, everything painted pretty, pony rides for kids, etc. in order to draw in the crowds. He was successul, but this approach did nothing to make life for animals any better. Frankly, there was not much he could do about it with the limited space he had and he could not get rid of half the animals to make more room for everybody. Then, the war started and zoo became a very low priority item on Belgrade's list. It probably still is.

Although I could have easily got a job there, I had too much of a bad taste in my mouth. I was not going to be happy there. Helplessness to do something for the animals would be just too frustrating. Now, if Belgrade Zoo was half as good as Asheboro Zoo which was designed from the beginning to provide as naturalistic habitats as possible, I might have ended up working there.

Join the pet industry. There is no pet industry in Yugoslavia. People there are much more pragmatic about animals - they either do something useful or they are meat. Very few people had pets (compared to the US or UK), especially small fancy stuff like parrots or hamsters.

Dog owners were a special type. They were either veterinarians or good friends of veterinarians. They mostly had expensive pure-breds, they took them to dog shows, prepared their own dog food and generally took pet ownership far too seriously. I think there were pet shops there, but I am not really sure. It certainly was not a profitable thing to do.

Dog breeding, on the other hand, could be profitable. A good friend of mine made his fortune as a dog breeder. Once he got rich, he sold all his dogs, built factories to make money and started building his dream - an amusement center of sorts, with a little zoo, a stable full of fine Arabian horses, sports fields for soccer, basketball, volleyball and tennis and a restaurant on the lake. Since his land did not have a lake he dug one up and built a restaurant on it. I worked for him - taking care of the health and training of his horses - for about a year, just before I left for the USA.

I never thought I could go anywhere with dog breeding. First, comptetition is tough. One needed quite a lot of starting capital to buy bitches with spectacular pedigrees, to pay for mating with Champions, to pay for all the veterinarian care and supplies, and, importantly, to build a beautiful kennel and keep it immaculately clean. I did not think I could even start, even less make it.

Become a biologist. Nope, not in Yugoslavia. As an animal lover I have read every book about animals I could get my hands on, which, as I grew older, included more and more science. Thus, while I have read the complete Dr.Dolittle series (the old racist version) as a little kid, I later moved to people like Brehm and Lorenz. When I was about 13 I tried to read, in my still beginner's English, Darwin's Origin of Species. It was too difficult for me at that time and I never managed to finish it, but I was impressed with what I could understand. And I read everything about science and nature in newspapers and magazines.

In school, I think Darwin was mentioned in fourth grade for the first time, then again almost every year. By the time I finished high school I had behind me eight years of biology, a year of bio lab, a year each of botany, zoology, microbiology, biochemistry, molecular biology and ecology. Good old times of science education dominance by Eastern Europe, now diluted by westernization, provided me with a good background. I could have gone on to study biology at the University, but why? What could a biologist do there? Nobody there was doing cool experiments like Darwin and Lorenz did. They pretty much spent their time drinking coffee, smoking and gossiping with colleagues in state-owned institutes that could not afford to buy test-tubes. There was no future there.

Work at the Racecourse. Well, I spent most of my days there anyway, so I tried and actually worked there for a couple of years. I could have become Racing Secretary and Handicapper if I wanted to. But I was sick of politicking, money-grabbing, and the lowlife humanoid creatures inhabiting the place. My showjumping friends were intelligent, educated and civilized people. Doctors and engineers and commerical pilots etc. The people involved with trotters were mostly farmers. They were actually quite nice people and I was really good at supressing my disdain for their conservatism and sexism and getting them to like me and accept me. I could have been fine working with them. But the people involved in racing (gallop) were a mafia. Every jockey had a file in the local police station and knew how the jail looks from inside. I did not want to get knifed in a dark alley just because I made somebody's horse carry an extra kilogram of weight.

Not-so-obvious careers. Why have nobody told me then about some other alternatives?! How about nature photography? Or a career in science journalism, or becoming a science policy advisor to the President? Writing, editing and/or illustrating science textbooks? Writing popular science books? Those all look interesting to me today, but those never occured to me when I was younger. Today, I make a point of mentioning all of these choices whenever I talk about careers with students. And who knows, I may end up actually doing one of those things if I don't manage to get a decent job in the academia.

So, what did I do? Well, I read James Herriot and decided to become a veterinarian. Not a country vet like James - I knew that was a thing of the past - but an equine vet. There were very few good equine vets in the country at the time and I could make it a good career.

So I went to vet school at the Belgrade University. My knowledge of evolution proved really important during the entrance exams - almost half of the question during the oral portion had something to do with evolution! I took my time with classes but that was not unusual at the time - the average graduation time was 10 years (for a five-year school). It was tough. How tough it was? In its 100-year history, there was only one student who finished vet shool with grade point average of 10 (equivalent of straight As). He taught the pathology lab, became a good friend of mine and found my second horse for me.

The school accepted about 300 new students every year, but allowed only 52 into the final fifth year. Why? Because the bus had 52 seats so that is how many students they could take around to farms, slaughterhouses etc. for practical exercises (I heard later that they sold a centrifuge and used the money to buy a second bus).

In order to cut down the number of students from 300 to 52, they instituted one or two extremely difficult exams every year knowing that multiple failure to pass those exams will force many people to quit. In the first year the killer was biochemistry (though biology, chemistry and physics were not easy either), second was histology (with anatomy as a backup), third was pharmacology (with pathology as a backup).... It usually took people two years to finish each year of school. But those who survived were good - really good.

A few years into vet school I already had my "region" - a couple of towns and surrounding villages north of Belgrade where I took care of everybody's horses, made sure that all vaccinations and deworming were done on time, did one spectacular treatment of a rare type of pneumonia that the local vet (not a horse expert) treated ineffectively for months, and started building trust with the locals. I also designed a fitness training program for an Arabian stallion who went on to win a big international show (and consequently brought his owner heaps of money in breeding fees).

I was already eyeing a great (and cheap) piece of land there. It was cheap because it was "tainted" as in "the guy bought it and built a house on it in order to have a get-away place with his concubine". I didn't care about the taint, but I loved the price. And I loved the way all the neighboring land was owned by some very old people whose progeny did not care about the land at all, so I could have expanded in the future by buying the surrounding parcels cheaply as they came on market.

I was planning to build a vet clinic on that piece of land, plus a barn for my own horses, a few brood mares, perhaps some ponies for a riding school. I was even considering saving one of the local girls from patriarchy by asking her father for her hand, then introducing her to the beauties of gender equality. It could have been a good life.

So, what happened?

But then it became obvious that war was about to start. I sold my horse and saddle and bought a plane ticket to the USA with that money. I left Belgrade one week before the war broke out. I found a job in a local horse barn and remained there for about two years until I got all the papers straightened out (i.e., green card).

Then, I had to start thinking - what next? I inquired at the vet school here if they would let me just finish the last year here. Nope. I would have to start from scratch. Oh horror - anatomy and histology all over again!? I did not like that idea. I also did not like what I heard from the veterinarians who came to the barn - it appears that the veterinary business in the US is a different animal altogether. A glut of vets makes for harsh competition. It is difficult and expensive to get started, and even more expensive to pay insurance in this litigation-happy society.

But, then I remembered where I was - in America. The best place in the world to do basic science. By far the best. We may complain about the cuts in funding for federal granting agencies, or difficulty in working on sensitive stuff like stem-cell researh, or attempts by political hacks to shut down particular types of research (mostly in sexuality) or to discredit particular scientists whose findings the current administration and their coroporate cronies do not like. We may bemoan Right-wing assault on science, resurgence of ID Creationism, horrendous state of science education prior to college. But still, compared to anywhere else in the world the US system is ideal. Not just the most money available for grants, but also relative ease of getting a job in the academia, relative ease in advancement and gaining tenure, top-notch laboratories and equipment, fantastic people to start collaborations with, often within one's own department. Not to mention that it is easier to publish in a respectable journal if you are from the USA than if you are working in a developing country.

So, I remembered my old love of basic biology and evolution. I found it easy here to find books on the topic and swallowed them by the bushel. I applied to Biology/Zoology departments in the area (we were not able to move anywhere at the time) and got into NC State. My vet-school background made it easy for me to get a teaching assistanship for various anatomy/histology/embryology and physiology classes.

But there was another reason why I wanted to do some physiology first. I was distressed by some evolutionary theorizing that sounded good on paper but completely ignored the way organisms actually work! I wanted to do better than that. I did my Masters in pure circadian physiology, then broadened my PhD research to encompass molecular, cellular, developmental, behavioral, ecological and evolutionary elements. Early on in that endeavor I realized that my data coudl make sense only within a multi-level selection context, so I read everything on the subject (pro and con) and spent some time talking with people who gave the most thought to the question (Bob Brandon, David Sloan Wilson).

So, though I agree with Razib that experts in one field are not automatically experts in another, he picked on the wrong guy this time. Fellow bloggers may trust me not because of my liberal pedigree but because multi-level selection is my domain of expertise. And I have realized that opposition to multi-level selection is now reduced to a few die-hards who have either invested too much of their careers opposing it to be able to now back down, or people like Razib who oppose it for ideological reasons.

Past year and half, election and all, derailed my dissertation writing. I felt that defending the country and the world from the scourge of the anti-rational forces of the Right was more important than a year of my own personal career. If Kerry had won on November 2nd, I probably would have continued with my dissertation-writing on November 3rd. But since he lost, I needed a few months of reading, thinking and blogging to try to understand how so many apparently normal, nice, smart people are capable of voting for Voldemort. I needed to figure out how people get recruited to the Dark Side, how is it possible for so many Americans to become Dubya's Willing Executioners.

But now, kids need to eat, wife needs to continue to love me, so I better get on with the business of writing. My department just moved to a brand new beautiful building. I am going there tomorrow to install computers in my new office. I hope that will be a nice motivation to get this thing done. And what next? I don't know. Let me defend the dissertation first, I'll think about the next step afterwards. Postdoc somewhere? Probably. I have a lot of ideas what experiments I want to do next. Marrying my interestes in science and politics in some kind of journalistic or advisory role? Perhaps farther into the future I might just do something like that. Just wait and see.

posted by coturnix @ 11:47 PM | permalink | (6 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink



Tar Heel Tavern - call for submissions


The next Tar Heel Tavern will be held on Snort The Sprocket. Send your entries to scott DOT parkerson AT gmail DOT com. Try to avoid using the Universal Submission Form (only this week) as it sends entries to me and I will be out of town and out of touch over the weekend.

If you want to host a future Tavern, let me know at Coturnix1 AT aol DOT com.




posted by coturnix @ 3:29 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink



Science Bloggin'


Tangled Bank is up on evolgen. The best of science writing all in one place. A delicious collection.

posted by coturnix @ 12:08 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

CoTV on Pratie Place


The brand new Carnival of the Vanities is up on Pratie Place. I rarely link to CoTV, but this time I will - for two reasons, one selfish, one not.

First, I have an entry there - only the second time I sent something there, I believe.

Second, Pratie Place is a great blog and I WANT you to go there and look around and dig through the archives, bookmark it, blogroll it and put it on your feed. It is an un-political blog full of delicious stories, curious facts and amazing pictures. Melinama and her daughter Melina have a surprise for their readers every day.

Pratie Place is also one of the most visually appealing blogs I have ever seen and that is no mean feat on the basic Blogger platform! Oh, almost forgot, Melinama is one of the few bloggers I have met in person as she is a neighbor, fellow Chapel Hillian and fellow NC blogger, so of course her blog is the best!

posted by coturnix @ 10:19 PM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink



Grand Rounds - all things medical


Grand Rounds #44 is up on Pharyngula. Great medical blogging!

posted by coturnix @ 2:10 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink



Circadiana Make-d It!


Thanks to Anton for heads-up that my other blog, Circadiana got mentioned and prasied on the Make Magazine. I noticed a rise in hits although I am not posting there very frequently over the summer. You can see a screenshot here and the whole article here.

posted by coturnix @ 1:59 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink


Monday, July 25, 2005

Carnival of Bad History - First Call


Carnival of Bad History is a quarterly carnival devoted to misuses and abuses of history in the media, politics, popular culture and everywhere else. The next edition is slated to appear on or around September 1st. Several entries have already come in and more are needed.

Also, the carnival needs a host! As a host of the previous issue I can tell you this is a lucrative deal! I don't know who of the Bigwigs-of-the-Blogosphere linked to the carnival's homepage, but I got tons of hits the first week and I am STILL getting daily hits to this day - two months later! After all, it takes three months until the next edition is posted - in the meantime you are the King Of Bad History!

So, if you want to host (or if you have written a post since the last issue that you want to submit to the next Carnival) let Archy know about it ASAP.

posted by coturnix @ 2:28 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink



Carnival of the Godless


Carnival of the Godless is up on St.Nate's blog. Go say 'Hi' as Nate is about to quit blogging for a while. I hope the blog remains online as the archives are worth rummaging through every now and then....

posted by coturnix @ 12:04 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink



Carnival of Un-Capitalists


Carnival of Un-Capitalists is up on Bionic Octopus.

posted by coturnix @ 12:02 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink


Sunday, July 24, 2005

Meta-Carnival #6


It is time for a new (approximately monthly) round-up of all known blog carnivals. If you want to trace the history of carnivals, see how they are born, grow, metamorphose, mature, reproduce, age and die, as well as more about them, compare this one to the previous Meta-Carnivals: One, Two, Three, Four and Five. All of those (and more) are also collected here.

For entering many of the carnivals, you can use the Universal Blog Carnival Submission Form over on Ferdy's blog. It is an extraordinarily useful tool. Harvey of Bad Example has written a tutorial how to use the Form to enter various carnivals.

If a carnival is missing from this list, or if I messed up a link, please let me know.

In these meta-carnivals I tend to just list the carnivals and provide the links to the homepage, last issue and next host of each. This time I will do something different and editorialize a little. I have hosted various carnivals about a dozen times so far and have written several times about the carnival phenomenon. I have founded one carnival and co-founded another one. Putting all this together with doing a regular meta-carnival I fancy myself an expert on the topic and have recently been invited to talk about carnivals at the next big BloggerCon.

For a longer essay about carnivals, see here (this essay has been, with minor editing, re-published here, here and here).

Here is, in a nutshell, what I think. Imagine that you are a historian, a journalist or a student in, let's say, 2055. You are interested in finding and documenting public reactions to an event in 2005. Where do you look? Not in books or MSM as that does not reflect 'public' reaction. You naturally go to the Internet and look for blogs. But there are millions of blogs and each has many, many posts in 2005, most posts irrelevant to your query. How do you find the best, most relevant posts? How do you find blogs that cover your topic in depth? Search engines cannot help as they are sensitive to your choices of keywords and will invariably provide too many irrelevant hits, while missing some important ones. What you need is a single central place that contains the most important material and links to other relevant material which in turn links to other relevant material and so on, so you can follow these radial spokes out of the center as much as you want. And ALL the links are on the topic of your interest and limited to 2005. There is only one such kind of central place - the blog carnivals.

There is currently a huge proliferation of blog carnivals - a very positive development - so I would like to list a few criteria for what makes a carnival, and then a few criteria for what makes a carnival useful to a future historian. The latter, IMHO, are also the criteria that make a carnival succesful in the long run - something that can be tested by looking at the carnivals that are already dead. Perhaps in the near future the second list of criteria will also become defining of a carnival (no matter how a linkfest calls itself).

First, what currently defines a carnival?

1) A Blog Carnival is a series of blog posts. It is not a single post, or a series of websites, or forum threads.
2) Each edition of the carnival is a single blog post. It is not a series of posts, or a website, or a forum post.
3) The overarching theme and format is well defined.
4) All issues are posted with predictable frequency. Some carnivals are daily, some quarterly, most appear once a week, but they do not appear on a haphazard random schedule. A break for summer or Christmas is reasonable (even some MSM does that).
5) There is some editorializing by the host of each issue - at least a brief introduction. There have been some very creative (and successful) examples of thematic editorializing recently, most notably on Grand Rounds, Skeptic's Circle and Tar Heel Tavern.
6) Each issue of the carnival is a collection of links to other blog posts (almost never to websites or forum posts).
7) Each link is suggested to the host by other bloggers (usually people submitting their own best posts). While the host is likely to include his/her own entry, as well as perhaps some "editor's choice" entries, if most or all the links are chosen by the host it is not a carnival.
8) Participation in the carnival is open to every blogger, i.e, it is not limited to card-carrying members of a particular group/ring/coalition. Though some carnivals will be somewhat limited thematically or geographically, every new blogger who satisfies a basic criterion is automatically eligible.

Now, from the perspective of a future historian, what really makes a carnival, or at least what makes a carnival useful?

1) It has a central place (a blogpost, a blog, or a webpage) that contains the mission statement and, most importantly, contains the complete archives of the carnival - the links to every single issue. After 50 years, the archives will be very big and need to be easily accessible and searchable. Ideally, the carnival homepage is incorporated into a larger community webpage that provides additional information and links that can be useful to the future historian.
2) It regularly rotates hosts. The non-rotating carnivals have a smaller chance of surviving 50 years, they are less likely to be perceived as "their own" by a bigger blogging community, and are less likely to represent the broadest swath of the bloggers writing about the particular topic.

Let's see now how the current carnivals stack up against these "rules". I assume that some of you will disagree politely and some of you will disagree impolitely, but this is my current view and I welcome your comments. Also, keep in mind that I am not judging the theme or the content of the carnival - only the format and the technical aspects. While collections of Right-wing rants are not my cup of tea, I certainly want all carnivals to have a long life and to grow good and popular. More the merrier (and better for the scholars of the future). Perhaps these suggestions here will help you in making your favourite carnival become even better than it is now.

Perfect

Here are some carnivals that are doing everything right and more:

Carnival of Un-Capitalists (economic and labor topics from a Progressive/Liberal/Leftist perspective) has been incorporated into a bigger community page - The Uncapitalists Journal which also includes a blog, a forum and a newsletter. The old carnival homepage is still up and is a good example how to do it right: Carnival of Un-Capitalists. Here is the last edition and the next one will be found here.

Carnival of the Godless (a skeptical look at theology and religion) has recently become a part of a broader coommunity effort at UTI. The last edition was posted here and the next one will be here

Blawg Review (law and legal scholarship) also has a spiffy homepage and blog and well-organized archives. Here is the last edition and here is the location of the next edition. While the posts come mostly from conservative bloggers, they are trying to cover the whole spectrum, so, if you are a liberal blawgger, please submit your entries there.

Tangled Bank (science, nature, medicine, environment, and the interface between science and society) had its homepage rebuilt recently, adding a blog and making it look better and be more functional. It has become really big lately. While Tangled Bank is always going to be the compendium of the very best science blogging (like "Science" and "Nature" in the real world), more specialized "journals" have spawned off of it. Most of the critique of creationism has moved to the Skeptic's Circle and the Carnival of the Godless. Medical blogging has moved to Grand Rounds and Nursing Moments. Indian scientists have Scian Melt. The birders have started I And The Bird. I am fully expecting new carnivals starting soon, more narrowly focused on mathematics, physics, astronomy, geology, climatology or cognitive science. I would also love to see a carnival of social science - where are the anthropologists, archeologists, sociologists and psychologists? Yet, the best posts by those same bloggers will always go to the Tangled Bank. The previous issue of the Tangled Bank and the next host are here.

Raging RINOs have started RINO Sightings. This is the official carnival of the Raging RINO Community ("Republicans who have not swallowed the whole party line, who are not into religion, or who disagree with some of the standard platform planks"). The last edition is #3. This may be the best place to look for updates.

Carnival of Liberty (archives are here) (libertarians) is always cross-posted here: Previous
Next. Thus, it is also a part of a greater online community effort (if only the Progressives would do this on DailyKos...nah, wishful thinking).

Everything Just Right

Here are the carnivals that "obey" all of the above rules for what makes a good carnival:

The homepage of The Tar Heel Tavern (North Carolina blogging) is also soon going to get incorporated into a broader community, fusing with an aggregator, blog, information abour meetups, teach-ins and BloggerCons, etc. Previous edition is here and the next host will be .

Skeptic's Circle (debunking pseudoscience and quakery) Previous Next.

Grand Rounds (medicine, nursing, health-care), Previous; Next

History Carnival (history) Previous; Next

Carnivalesque (early modern history): Previous; Next

Carnival of Bad History (debunking misuse of history) is a quarterly carnival. Previous edition is here and the host of the next one will be decided soon.

Philosopher's Carnival (philosophy) Previous Next.

I And The Bird (birdwatching): Previous; Next.

Music Carnival(music, podcasts): Previous; Next.

The Scian Melt (Indian science) was declared dead but has risen back from its ashes:
Previous; Next.

Karnival of Kidz (children: pictures and stories) Previous; Next.

Carnival of the Balkans (blogging in, from, or about the Balkan countries) is on summer break. Here is the last edition

Smarter Than I (best posts selected by readers, not self-selected) is also on summer break. Previous Next

New Blog Carnival Showcase Extravaganza (introducing new, young blogs) Previous Next

Carnival of the Cats (cats) Previous Next.

Carnival of Recipes (yummy) Previous Next.

Carnival Of The Gamers (computer and video games) Previous Next.

The Rundown (formerly Carnival of the Runners) (running) Previous Next.

Carnival of Revolutions (freedom movements around the world) Previous Next.

Bharteeya Blog Mela (Indian blogs) Previous Next.

BritBlog Roundup (British blogs) Previous Next.

Carnival of Personal Finance (personal finance): Previous; Next.

Carnival of Capitalists (economics from a Conservative perspective) Previous Next.

Carnival of Cordite (guns) Previous Next.

Bonfire of the Vanities (the worst blog posts) Previous Next.

Carnival of Comedy(supposed to be funny stuff, but most entries appear serious): Previous Next.

Catholic Carnival (Catholicism) Previous Next.

Missing a Homepage with Archives

While it is fun to enter these carnivals now, and most of them have great content, the lack of the homepage/archives will make these useless for future scholarship. Perhaps they will build homepages soon - sooner the better, before the number of issues becomes too large! Even for a more short-term outlook - I keep getting hits to carnivals I hosted several months ago, all coming from the archives: it is a gift that keeps on giving.

Carnival of Vanities (the first, oldest, biggest - the original carnival of best blogging). Searching Silflay Hraka for the Carnival can allow one to find the links to all issues, but it is a major pain to do this. Previous Next.

Rascal Fair (Montana blogging) downgraded to a monthly event for the summer in order to be more inline with Montana's rafting and backpacking nature.

Carnival of Education (education): Previous; Next. Each edition has a list of links to all previous editions on the bottom - something that will become unyieldy soon.

Storyblogging Carnival (stories writen by bloggers) Previous Next

Nursing Moments (nursing): Previous; Next. A very new carnival - I am assuming that they will build a homepage.

The Carnival Of NBA (professional basketball) Previous Next. It is difficult to find issues without a central place and archives.

Haveil Havalim (Vanity of Vanities Initiative) (Israel and Jewish blogging) Previous Next.

Christian Carnival (Christianity) - there is a home-post but not a real archive. Previous Next.

Celebration of the New Christian Fiction (Christian stories) Previous Next.

Not Rotating

While not having a homepage/archives is easy to fix, lack of rotation is a more serious problem. It tends to tap into a narrow sliver of the blogosphere and excludes people who are not seeing eye-to-eye with the host - thus it is not representative enough for the purposes of the future historian. It prevents a wider community of bloggers from feeling "ownership" of the carnival and investing time and energy into it, thus leaving a single person to do all the hard work. Once that person quits doing the carnival, or quits blogging, or dies, the carnival is kaputt.

Carnival of Tomorrow, (blogging about the future) has a great topic and excellent issues so far - I hope they start rotating hosts soon (I want to host!): Previous, Next.

Friday Ark (animals of all kinds) serves a very specific role and would be difficult to start rotating and have it turn out well every week: Previous Next

Advocate Weekly #9 is the latest edition of the carnival devoted to the support of public education. It is archived in ocasional posts here.

Carnival of Dogs (dogs) Previous Next

Blogging For Books (about books) Previous Next.

Digested Readers (book reviews): Previous; Next

Carnival of the Walkers (walking, as in 'exercise'), Last, Next.

Blog Of The Day (daily carnival showcasing one blog per day) - being a daily carnival, perhaps it is impossible to have this one rotate hosts.

Funny Stuff (jokes etc.) is another daily carnival: Previous.

Carnival of Cars (automotive blogging): Previous; Next.

Carnival of the Optimists (optimism) Previous Next.

Watcher of Weasels (competitive, "Survivor"-like, "best of" carnival) Previous Next.

Carnival of the Liberated (Iraq and Afghanistan) Previous Next.

The Best Of Me Symphony (guest-edited best of older blog-posts) Previous Next.

Hillbilly Carnival #1 (West Virginia bloggers) and Hillbilly Carnival #2 so far - a brand new carnival with room to grow.

Carnival of New Jersey Bloggers: Previous; Next.

Items of Interest (one of many Left-bashing Right-wing collections): Previous, Next.

Carnival of Classiness (yet another Right-winger sneering at the Left): Previous; Next.

Carnival of the Clueless (another collection of clueless Right-wing bile targeting liberal strawmen): Previous; Next.

Carnival of Crazy #1 (another crazy collection): Next.

Carnival of Insanities(the most insane of them all): Previous Next.

Christian Views Symposium (answering questions on Christian topics) Previous Next.

CarnivAOL just started. It highlights AOL blogs.


Not Really a Carnival?

Blog Tower (best writing of the Progressive blogosphere, thematically not limited to politics) Previous Next. Hosted on a website instead of a blog, with no predictable frequency, without links (entire posts are copied) - it is just not a carnival....which is a shame because the posts are exceptionally good.

I am still trying to figure out the Cotillion, a distributed carnival-like thing that is hosted by several people simultaneously. It appears that sometimes they collect links, sometimes read books, all women, all Rightwing....

Asia By Blog (Asian blogs) - host posts a lot of links, then publishes the list of "Top 10 most clicked of the week" round-up.

Sneak's Wide World of Blogging - links chosen by the host. Previous Next.

Red Ensign Standard (Canadian Conservatives) Previous Next. Another strange case: the hosts pick links from a limited pool of blogs (the members of the group). Thus, every weekly round-up of posts (e.g., the Friday Round-up of the Liberal Coalition) would count as a carnival. I don't think so. See criterion #8 at the top of this post.

It is exactly the same reason why Homespun Bloggers Symposium is not really a carnival although it is a great idea. It is limited by the membership requirement. Previous Next.

Vox Apologia (Christian apologetics) is experimenting with various formats, including Dies Apologia and TheoMeme. Developing...

Also, some people invite trackbacks and call the resulting post a Carnival of Trackbacks. Here is another one, the lates issue being here. Apart from the fact that the whole institution of the trackback is a dinosaur that has outlived its usefulness in today's blogosphere, just having people throw links in does not a carnival make!

Dead Carnivals?

Let me know if these are not dead, i.e., if they have just moved to another venue, changed the name, or are on hiatus.


Another good one appears to have ended: Cavalcade of Canucks (Liberal Canadians).

Also unfortunately, Carnival of Sin (seven deadly sins) is quite dead, too.

Carnival of Poetry, Poetry Carnival and Carnival of Poets are all dead. Dead Poet Society?

Carnival of Videos - just one edition?

Speaker's Corner (liberal blogs): Previous.

Kissing Booth

Carnival of the Families devoted to woman's rights apparently never took off.

Cul-de-Sac, somebody's own carnival started with the first issue here and ended with the last issue here.

Carnival of the Rugrats

Carnival of the Pajamas apparently had ten issues.

Carnival of Consumers is officially dead.

Carnival of Solutionshad two issues.

Bush Bloggers could not be found since the election.

Big Blue Bash Previous - is officially over.

Carnival of the Commies (Rightie look at Leftie blogs) Previous Next - appears to be dead.

Biblical Studies Forum

Pro-Life Carnival

From The Edge.


Again, if I have missed a carnival, or messed up a link, or pronounced a live carnival dead, or you disagree with my opinions, let me know in the comments.

Update: Thanks to Richard Chapell for alerting me to the existence of the Kiwi Carnival (New Zealand blogs). It belongs in the "Doing Everything Right" group. Previous; Next.

UPdate 2: I see that New Jersey bloggers have started rotating their carniva. That is good. I hope they also make the homepage soon.

posted by coturnix @ 1:34 PM | permalink | (8 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink


Saturday, July 23, 2005

Tar Heel Tavern


The karaoke edition of the Tar Heel Tavern is now up on Poetic Acceptance. It is very well done and funny.

Please volunteer to host!

posted by coturnix @ 9:34 PM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink



Hermione For President!


According to a Zogby poll, Hermione wins the presidential election hands down, most people see themselves as Ravenclaws, and place Bush and Hillary in Slytherin.

posted by coturnix @ 1:04 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink



ConvergeSouth


According to Ed Cone, Atrios is coming to ConvergeSouth blogging conference in October in Greensboro, NC.

I hope bloggers from around the country (world?!) understand that ConvergeSouth is not just for local bloggers, i.e., the word "South" just indicates where the conference is taking place, not who is supposed to come to it.

I am still assuming that I will be part of a panel, but still do not know the details. I am supposed to talk about blog carnivals, but do not know if the whole session is about it or is this a sub-theme of a broader topic. Last winter, Silflay Hraka - the founder of the very first carnival - explained what it was. I am honored to be asked to do it at this conference.

How about a session on the role of expert/science bloggers in the reality-based community?

posted by coturnix @ 1:03 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink



Nationalism is not Patriotism


Why is there a widespread belief that the difference between patriotism and nationalism is one of degree: loving one's country versus loving it even more? I think that the difference is not quantitative but qualitative - the phrase "love for one's country" used by the two kinds of people (patriots and nationalists) is based on very different meanings of the words "love", "for", "one" and "country".

I am assuming that this confusion arises from the fact that nationalists tend to refere to themselves as patriots, at least in modern history, as the term "nationalist" has a negative connotation. Their opponents rarely contest such self-definition. The confusion is evident also in this harmless online Quiz (on which I got rated as only 41% American patriot!) which, I believe (or hope), is intentionally satirizing the difference between patriotism and nationalism.

Michael Parenti is quite smart, actually, in his attempt to avoid knee-jerk rejection of his thesis by completely ignoring the term "nationalism" and using Superpatriotism instead. His book is thin, cheap, and well-worth your time and effort. His language is forceful, often funny, clear and to-the-point. Read his book. Yet, the term superpatriotism, no matter how vividly Parenti describes the stark differences from patriotism, suggests the quantitative difference (super + patriotism). Thus, if you have not read the book, you may misunderstand what Parenti's book is about.

Here, I will go beyond Parenti, and try to explain the differences using Lakoff's scheme, as well as the extensions of that scheme that I have developed here over the past year on this blog.

Please don't make me write seven long paragraphs explaining who I am talking about. I am trying to keep it simple here. A third of the country is 100% conservative, i.e., Strict Parent. They have only a nationalist frame and are incapable of comprehending the patriotic frame (though they erroneously use the term to describe themselves). Those people unashamedly reveal their true proto-fascistic colors on Little Green Footballs and Free Republic.

Another third are 100% liberal, i.e., Nurturant Parent (NOT Permissive Parent or Neglectful Parent). They are patriots who are incapable of comprehending the nationalistic mindset - an inability for which there is a price to pay in politics - yet due to a habit of non-thinking about this sometimes exhibit nationalism themselves. You can find such Feng-Shui liberals over on Democratic Underground (DailyKos is much more of a mix/range of ideologies).

The rest of the country are a mix - people who posess both frames and are capable of not just comprehending both, but also switching between the two. It is the mastery of fear-mongering by the GOP last year that constantly invoked the nationalist frame, coupled to an unwillingness or inability of the Kerry team to invoke the patriotic frame, that led many of these "middle of the road" people to vote for Bush though they had no particular liking for him or want Social Security privatized or the country becoming a Christian theocracy.

So, I am talking about people who always, or sometimes, harbor either patriotic or nationalistic feelings - nothing more. I am not naming names, or attaching this to any particular Party (both harbor nationalists to some degree, though ultra-nationalists tend to converge in the GOP), or any particular event (e.g., 9/11 or Iraq). Both worldviews can result in isolationist foreign policies or interventionist foreign policies (a taxonomy of which I proposed here and still wish people would critique, modify or build on it in the comments).

Here, I am looking only at a psychological scaffolding of the two different understandings of what it means to "love one's country". While I may use some concrete examples of American nationalism/patriotism, the same scheme should apply to any country in the world. I have certainly met many a Serbian nationalist when I was younger and still living there. Actually, if the psychological analysis is NOT universal and is applicable only to the American case, this would automatically invalidate the thesis.

The Strict Father worldview is based on Moral Order. Moral Order is an essential element of the hierarchical view of the world. A part of that order is a sense of superiority of one's country in comparison with all other countries.

Both patriots and nationalists want to be proud of their country and want for their country to be "good". What does it mean "good"? In a hirarchical mindset, the only way to be good is to be "the best", and the only way to be the best is to be better than other countries.

A nationalist starts with an a priori assumption that his country is the best. A patriot starts with an assumption that his country is good but it can be made better. In order to make it better, the patriot will take a good hard look at his country in order to find deficiences that can be fixed. Also, a patriot does not see the need for his country to be better than others in order to be good, or even the best it can be. It is perfectly OK for other countries to be as good or better - it is not a zero-sum game.

The conservative worldview is competitive. The liberal worldview is cooperative. A nationalist sees all other countries as competitors and potential enemies. A patriot sees all other countries as potential collaborators and friends.

A nationalist believes that the world is a dangerous place that will always remain dangerous. Thus, he is always suspicious of foreigners. A patriot believes that the world is a beautiful place with some problems and dangerous spots, and that hard work by diplomats and good will can make the world a better and safer place.

A nationalist has as his goal a global order in which his country is on top and dominates all other countries. Attempts by other countries to develop their economies, military capabilities, or even sports teams is seen as a threat and as something that has to be squashed immediately, including by force.

A patriot sees his country as one of the leaders in a global order in which all countries and peoples are equal and each try to help each other improve. The goal is the greatest prosperity for the greatest number of people worldwide, and the "goodness" of one's country is measured in the way it contributes to the improvement of the world and it actively helps others develop. An interactionist mind-set is at work, i.e., the state of the world is not determined by one commanding state, but is a result of interactions between all states.

The role of the UN is to set and enforce the rules of interactions between states, not a competitor for the title of "world controller" - something that a hirerachical mind-set, brought about developmentally through Dobsonian strictfathering, cannot comprehend. This is also why the notion of the "world government" is abhorrent to conservatives - it not just displaces the US from the top of the hierarchy, it also abolishes hirerachy, an ambiguous notion that nationalists have trouble with.

A nation is a social group. A citizen is a member of the in-group. Both patriots and nationalists are angered when the non-members (foreigners) insult the in-group. This is the same as the way only Black people are allowed to use the N-word and only Jews can tell Jewish jokes.

But, while a patriot will listen carefully to the well-meant criticisms from the others, the nationalists equate criticism with insult. Everyone who points at a weekness of one's country is insulting it and has to be punished for it. While patriots will carefully look at criticisms, no matter where they come from, as tools for improving their homeland, the nationalists instinctively recoil or lash out. They, thus, miss the opportunity to actually do something to make their country better. A corollary of this knee-jerk response is that even members of the in-group, if they voice a critique, are labelled as traitors and advised to leave the group (i.e., emigrate, e.g., "go to France!").

Nationalists tend not to travel abroad as much. What's the purpose? Home is the best place on Earth anyway. But when nationalists do travel abroad, they tend to take guided tours, stay at Hilton Hotels, have coffee at Starbucks and food at McDonalds. In other words, they are not allowing themselves to get immersed in a foreign culture - they are afraid of it. They travel within a sealed American capsule with windows through which they can observe the natives the same way they observe animals in a zoo. They have a disdain for the natives and it shows. Those are the kind of people who give "American tourists" such a bad name everywhere - the spoiled, self-important jerks with superiority complexes.

The two groups also have a very different definition of the world "globalization". The patriots think of globalization as a process of intensification of interactions between states that leads to development of all players and the world as a whole. The process would lead to the leveling the playing field and closing the gap between the world's richest and poorest countries.

The nationalists think of globalization as "Americanization", i.e., the forceful opening of borders of other countries so US megabusiness can enter, steal the natural resources, rape the environment, and enslave the people while indoctrinating them with American mythology and culture. The result is a rigid hierarchical structure in which the USA gets richer and the poorest countries get poorer and ever more dependent on the USA for help, thus more pliant and obedient.

In Europe, nationalists of various ethnic stripes tend to play the game of "who was there first", implying that the total duration of a culture equals quality of that culture. It got so ridiculous in the Balkans in the 1990s that a new terms was coined - Serbamoebas - to mock this race to the origins in the more and more distant past. Serbs are the best because they have been there since the Primordial Soup! You get the joke....

The US is often viewed from Europe in this light - a new kid on the block, thus not someone to be taken seriously. "Immature", "cowboys", "3-year old with an atomic bomb" are some of the ways I have heard Americans described by the Europeans. The best way to counter this is with freshness which comes with youth, liberal mindset, openess to new ideas, disrespect for irrational traditions (including religion), thumbing one's nose at the stodginess of European aristocratic mindset.

But do the American nationalists do that? Hell, no. Instead, they idolize the Founding Fathers, think of the period immediatelly after The Revolutionary War as the Golden Age, treat the Constitution as if it was a sacred text that is to be interpreted strictly the way its authors have meant, ignoring the centuries of history and progress that happened in the meantime (don't you dare suggest that it should be revised every ten years or so the way all the other countries in the world do). But that is to be expected - the conservative mind thinks of history in terms of decline, thus the earliest period in one's history was the best and yearning to turn back the clock comes naturally.

Since the Founding Fathers lived hunreds, even thousands of years AFTER the founders of most other countries in the world, the "duration of culture" argument works against the US supreme moral position in the world. What can nationalists invoke instead? The only remaining things are "we are the richest country in the world" as if wealth has anything to do with moral authority (of course it does in Strict Father mindset) and "we have the most powerful military in the world and will kick your asses" (the might makes right argument) - an American myth that is being shattered in Iraq and Afghanistan (as well as in recruting offices of the Army) right now.

Yes, the US military force is stronger than any other single country's force, but it is not stronger than a combined force of two or more countries, not to mention the whole world (which is disturbed by our behavior and is thinking about Plan B: the Russians and the Chinese have already discussed mutual defense against guess-who). It is also a professional military which means that soldiers want to come back home "after work" - they are fighting for abstract ideals or political goals thousands of miles away from home while their spouses are watching "Desparate Housewives" in full safety of their homes. The motivation is low. Those people who are actually fighting to defend their own homes and families have nothing to lose - they are willing to die to defend it, and no amount of glitzy technology can overpower the willingness of a soldier to die.

There is also a sexual component of nationalism which Stephen Ducat explores in depth in his "The Wimp Factor" in which it is essential for an anxious male never to be perceived as a "bottom" and much of war rhetoric has (homo)sexual connotations, i.e., turning the foreigner into a "bottom".

Taken in light of Lakoff's scheme, there certainly appears to be a qualitative, not quantitative difference between nationalism and patriotism. Any thoughts?

posted by coturnix @ 2:30 AM | permalink | (6 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink


Thursday, July 21, 2005

Harry Potter - no spoilers


I got my copy of HP #6 on Saturday afternoon. Real Life intruded, so I could not get to it until Sunday, but on Sunday...nothing could get in the way. It took me almost 12 hours to finish it. And, I know, I know, I am no hi-fallutin' lit critic, and I loved it.

I have also sent a copy to a friend back in Yugoslavia. She'll have to wait a bit, but that is better than waiting months for a Serbian translation - English is better anyway.

Unlike some other people, I did not bother re-reading #5 just before the release of #6 so it took some time and effort to remember the events from #5 and some minor characters from it (e.g., Tonks), but I did fine.

The beginning was a little slow and uneven. I cringed a few times when I sensed that the descriptions were made to fit with the movies. Particularly jarring was a short description of Uncle Vernon - Rowling did not describe her fictional character, she described the actor playing Vernon instead!

But, as the book progressed I got gripped into JK's pincers and she did not let go of me until she was done with me on the last page...after which I saught solitude, peace and quite for a while.

I heard on NPR a few days ago some lit critic comparing Rowlings to Dickens. Not so fast! At the age when most kids today are reading Harry Potter, I was reading (unabridged) Dickens: David Copperfield (twice!), Oliver Twist, The Pickwick Papers... Perhaps Rowlings is performing the role for current generations that Dickens filled for some older generations, but still, she's no Dickens.

That same critic was also positing that the book is about 1930s England, with obvious parallels between Dumbledore and Churchill, Voldemort and Hitler, Fudge and Chamberlain, anti-Muggles with anti-Semites... but such paralells could be drawn for other periods and other countries just as easily. Of course, there is nobody on this planet who is not going to make parallels between the Prime Minister in the book and the real Tony Blair (as well as The President, who MUST be Bush).

Who is going to wait for #7!!!! And what are we all going to do afterwards? When is the next movie coming out?

Of course, blogosphere is discussing Potter a lot (in-between much posting about Rove/Plame, Roberts etc.). If you have not read the book yet and want to avoid spoilers, go and comment on Respectful Insolence, Archy, or Berube blogs, or do it in the comments of this post here.

On the other hand, if you have finished the book and want to compare your thoughts to others who have read the book, thus you do not mind spoilers, you can do that on Lance Mannion or my older post here. WARNING! While those two posts do not contain spoilers, the comments do and you are free to add some more, but avoid the comments if you do not want spoilers.

posted by coturnix @ 8:36 PM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink



Calling NC Bloggers


I hope you are having a good summer. We have had 21 editions of the Tar Heel Tavern so far, and I have a feeling that the carnival really took off and now has a life of its own. A number of bloggers are now enthusiastic about it, regularly send entries, volunteer to host, post announcements, have links on the side-bar. The carnival has become a part of the community and a number of people feel a sense of ownership over it. That is exactly as it should be - it would never survive if it remained just a little project of mine.

Thus, I invite people who like the Tavern to join me and become co-editors of the Tavern. The homepage (with archives) is crying for someone with an artistic bent and technical know-how to develop into a kind of homepage that a good carnival deserves. Check out the homepages of Tangled Bank or Carnival of Un-Capitalists (old home or new home) for examples of a well-designed homepage/archives.

Our homepage is currently just a single post on a Blogger blog on a standard skin. Do you want to play with it and make it beautiful? We can even move it to a different platform if you want.

Let me know ASAP. I'll be away from computers/Internet for most of the next week (roughly July 29th - August 5th) so I hope someone can join in before then and make sure that the carnival for that weekend has a host and appears on time.

In the meantime, send your entries for the upcoming issue on Poetic Acceptance and let me know if you want to host next week.

posted by coturnix @ 6:16 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink



The Sorting Hat got it right!


Want to Get Sorted?

I'm
a Gryffindor!

posted by coturnix @ 5:10 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink



Carnivalia


The Thirteenth Meeting of the Skeptic’s Circle is up at Respectful Insolence.

The I And The Bird #2 is up at Charlie’s Bird Blog.

The next Carnival of the Godless is in just a couple of days on St.Nate's Blog.

The Tangled Bank is next Wednesday on Evolgen.

Next Grand Rounds willl be hosted by PZ Myers on Pharyngula.

Send your entries for the next Tar Heel Tavern to Poetic Acceptance by Saturday. Also, please volunteer to host next week....

posted by coturnix @ 12:31 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink


Monday, July 18, 2005

Carnival of Un-Capitalists


Brand new Carnival of Un-Capitalists is up on Mutualist blog. It is excellent.

posted by coturnix @ 4:43 PM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink


Sunday, July 17, 2005

Don't Miss It


Tar Heel Tavern is up at Blogging Poet. There's no blogging here anyway until I'm done reading the new Harry Potter, so hurry up and see what Billy's got for you.

posted by coturnix @ 1:58 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink


Saturday, July 16, 2005

Blogging Nurses


HypnoKitten at Mediblogopathy has assembled an impressive blogroll of nursing blogs! I wish my wife would post sometimes or start her own blog. She is a great story-teller and I love to hear her stories when she comes home in the morning. I wish she would write them down and post for everyone to read.

posted by coturnix @ 2:20 AM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink



If you are not sure if you know, but are quite certain that someone else does not know....


Next Carnival of the Godless will be hosted by Saint Nate, and the next Skeptic's Circle will be hosted by Orac at Respectful Insolence. Write something smart and send your submissions. Knowing their previous carnival hosting efforts, both Nate and Orac are bound to do something creative and really, really cool. You WANT to be a part of it!

posted by coturnix @ 1:35 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink



Carnival of Education


Carnival of Education No. 23 is now up.

posted by coturnix @ 1:27 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink



Bible as textbook, No.2


Since the ordination of Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Church has split into its "liberal" faction and its "conservative" faction. I did not pay much attention to this, but recently I heard something disturbing.

There used to be an old Episcopal school here. After the split, the school also split - which apparently involved erecting new buildings, etc. I recently learned what is being taught in the "conservative" school. Wanna know?

In the English class, they read the Bible.

They teach History by using the Bible as the textbook.

The basketball coach (of the, of course, all-white team) refers to opponent's players using the "N" word.

Wonder what is taught in Biology? Genesis, of course. Last year, the biology teacher said that men have one less rib than women. One student asked "What do scientists believe about this?" The teacher said "Scientists believe that men have one less rib than women". The girl asked again "But what do real scientists believe about this?" to which the teacher, now almost visibly angry, responded "Scientists believe this". Another student then, with obvious sarcasm in his voice, said "Scientists believe that male monkeys have one less rib than female monkeys, too".

In order to protect the identities of the kids, I will stop with the examples here.

These kids are smarter than teachers, it seems. At least some of them are not buying the BS and will grow up with a deep understanding of the way fundamentalists think. I hope they all go into politics....

posted by coturnix @ 1:03 AM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink


Friday, July 15, 2005

Is This Blog A Liability For My Employment Prospects?


The bloggers' responses to the Ivan Tribble's article about academic discrimination against bloggers are numerous and varied. My initial reaction was short and to-the-point. But I have been thinking about it a lot since then, and this post by Bitch PhD, in which she writes:
Her division, summarized, is: (1) blogs that focus primarily on public events or public affairs; and (2) blogs that focus primarily on personal events and thoughts. (Obviously there are other kinds of blogs as well.)


led me to this post by an academic blogger. She says:
On the other hand, I, probably like many other non-pseudonymous academic bloggers, don't post every random thought or idea on my blog. My rants are confined to the Mexican bureaucracy and ugly eyebrow piercings, never my colleagues or other academics.

[...which leads me to another observation I've thought about lately. There seem to be two (maybe three) types of academic blogs:

1. Non-anonymous blogs that usually focus on public issues with only occasional mention of personal events (the birth of a baby, maybe a movie). Would any of these really hurt an academic on the job market? According to Ivan Tribble, yes. But it shouldn't be so.

2. Anonymous blogs by academics that usually focus on personal rants, pets, and strange goings-ons, but that have little academic content. There's a reason these are anonymous.

3. Anonymous blogs that blend #2 with #1, and here, I'm thinking specifically of Bitch, PhD.

What I think is more interesting is that blogs of the #1 type tend to be by men, while blogs of the #2 and #3 type tend to be by women. In part, this is why I decided to try the #1 route, though the academic commentary has been lite of late, given our move back to the states.]

I think Dan was right when he said that non-bloggers over estimate the amount of time a blog takes. Once you get it up and running, it becomes much easier. In my case, the blog hasn't taken time away from my article writing mainly because it has taken the place of TV watching or novel reading. I blog when I can no longer work and seldom instead of work. It's also been a useful way for me to keep up with Mexican politics for my research and comment on what was happening in Mexico while I was there. It's even suggested new areas of research (non-blog research) for the future.
So, here is a longer version of what I meant to say originally but was too angry to think straight.

When I first started blogging, I did it pseudonymously. Someone really Internet-savvy and with lots of time on their hands could have traced "coturnix" back to the Kerry/Edwards forums (and a couple of blogs, like Legal Fiction) where I was "Liberal Zoo", and from there to the Edwards primary blog and JREG.org, where I posted under my real name.

About six months after I started this blog, I decided to start another one, Circadiana, a blog with a very different concept from this one. Circadiana is devoted to science: posts range from educational, i.e., explaining the basics, to highlighting current research, to analysing how media reports on it. That is a kind of blog that can be used as a teaching tool - why would anyone decide not to hire me for developing such a tool?

There is nothing personal or political on Circadiana. But, it is a kind of blog that is often referred to as an "expert blog", and for the expertise to be acknowledged by readers, I had to write it under my own name. I was thinking about starting Circadiana on a different platform, or at least start a completely new Blogger account. But I thought it was fine to switch Science And Politics to my real name, too. Is that going to lessen my chances of getting hired in the academia? I don't think so.

If you dig through the archives of this blog you will see that I have only 5-6 posts that are in any way personal, something about myself or my family. I have no skeletons in the closet, so those posts do not reveal any dark sides of my personality.

I have written a few book reviews and a couple of movie reviews. Big deal?

There are also 5-6 posts about blogging and about blog carnivals. Writing those certainly does not make me a techno-geek who will spend all the time playing with computers and never getting any research or teaching done.

I have hosted several carnivals, I make the Meta-carnival every now and then, and I often post links to new editions of various carnivals. Again, there is nothing compromising there, nor especially time-consuming.

I also don't often post about current event or news. There are many bloggers who do that much better than I do. If I have nothing original to say, I don't say anything at all. I may post a link to a couple of bloggers who have done a good job covering the story, and then I move on. If I cover the story, it is usually AFTER the whole thing has pretty much blown over and I write a single summary of the event from my idiosyncratic perspective. You are not going to see me posting five posts a day about Downing Street Memos (though I am following the story on other blogs and in the MSM). The exception may be the current Rove/Plame story - I have not waited for the affair to come to an end and I have already written two posts about it, but this is probably the most important story (since the election) and I feel like I do have something to contribute that other bloggers do not cover.

Yet, I have never on this blog called people names (e.g., Chimpy for Bush, or Turd Blossom for Rove). I try to keep the blog serious and dignified, at least most of the time. I mocked Dr.Roper recently, and an occasional wingnut blogger gets skewered, but the only person I used offensive words to describe is David Horowitz - which should endear me to anyone in the academia.

So, what kind of blog is this, if it is not in any of the categories described by Bitch, PhD or Profesora? It is not predominantly current events and public affairs. It is not predominantly personal, either. Circadiana is science/academic/educational blog. What do I do here, at Science And Politics, and can that screw me up for positions in the academia?

Most of my posts are longish (and sometimes reaaaally long) essays trying to understand America and Americans, and the current political environment. So, it is a political blog, but not in the sense of "following politics", but more in the sense of big-picture analysis. I have dissected and built upon the work of Lakoff. I have looked into historical parallels. I have looked into the history of marriage in order to understand the current struggle over gay marriage. I have looked into psychology of childrearing in order to understand the ontogeny of political ideology. I have looked into the mindset of religious fundamentalists, neo-cons, proto-fascists, I have looked into racism, mysoginy, femiphobia, homophobia, creationism, nationalism, xenophobia and other elements of a conservative/regressive wordlview. In short, I am trying to figure out how can people NOT be members of a reality-based community in the 21st century.

I would assume that anyone from the academia reading this blog and making decisions about hiring me would appreciate my efforts to be rational and yet to try to understand the irrational people instead of summarily dimissing them. What's there not to like?

posted by coturnix @ 11:36 PM | permalink | (3 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink



Do You Want Me To Biggie-Size That Rectal Tube For You, Sir?


Do you know what's wrong with the US health-care system? It was taken over by MBAs, meddling - again - in areas they know nothing about. They have implemented the "business model" of health-care, which is the most nonsensical way imaginable. Medicine never was, is not, should not be, and cannot be a business. It is an art, and a craft, and a higher calling, and a social service, with some science sprinkled in for good measure. One thing it is not is business.

But, because businessmen with their business attitudes took over the system, the inevitable happened. Hospitals are measured not by success in healing sick people, but by amount of money they earn. The patients are not treated as human beings in need of help but as - ah, heresy - "customers". How much more demeaning can it get? Here's an example:

Look at this article from The News & Observer from Jun 28, 2005:

If the public UNC Health Care system's earnings increase during the coming budget year, so could the fortunes of its chief executive, Dr. William L. Roper.

Under a proposed bonus program, Roper may receive an annual bonus of up to $130,000 -- about 30 percent of his annual base salary of $450,000 -- if the system hits financial targets. UNC Health Care also would have to score well on both patient and employee satisfaction under the program, which was developed by the health system but must be approved by the UNC Board of Governors.
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Roper's proposed bonus, and other aspects of his pay, could be controversial among faculty and staff at UNC Health Care, which is in the midst of a reorganization that so far has included eliminating 200 positions.
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Roper's bonus would be largely tied to operating income under the proposed program. Financial results would account for 60 percent of the total bonus; employee satisfaction and patient satisfaction each account for 20 percent of the total bonus.
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For the chief executive to get the maximum bonus, UNC Hospitals would have to make operating income of nearly $13 million. UNC Physicians & Associates, the 800-doctor group that is also part of the health system, is expected to lose money but the system hopes to keep losses in check. It could lose as much as $3.1 million and Roper would still get the maximum bonus.

Hospital operating income could drop as low as $8.56 million and physician group losses could be as high as $4.6 million and a bonus would still be paid, though it would be a fraction of the maximum.

Patient satisfaction may prove a more elusive target. UNC would have to score in the top 10 percent among academic medical centers nationally for patient satisfaction for the maximum bonus to be paid. But during the budget year that ended June 30, 2004, UNC just barely scored high enough on patient satisfaction to be in the top 25 percent. McCall said patient satisfaction scores haven't changed much since then.

McCall said a performance bonus has been part of the chief executive pay package since the state officially established the UNC Health Care system in 1998. "No one has ever gotten the maximum," she said.


So, if the hospital improves, this rich white man gets a nice chunk of money. Ahhhemmm, .....but, excuse me, does he do diddly-squat in the hospital? Is he going to share his loot with people who actually work to improve the hospital scores (as ridiculous those scores are)? How about throwing a few bucks to each nurse, clerk and janitor, Roper?

Anyway, how is Mr.Businessman going to improve his hospital's scores on patient satisfaction, you may ask. Since he doesn't know shit about health-care, is he going to ask people who know, like, for instance the nurses at his hospital? Hell no. He is also Mr.Genius. He knows everything. Smart by birth, ya know. So, he is going to TELL the nurses how to behave!!!!

And what is he going to tell them? How are they to behave? Well, Mr.Brilliant came up with a set of phrases that nurses will have to use when addressing the patients. Yup, just like at McDonalds. Would you like a catheter with this?

So, Mr.McHealthcare forced all nurses to attend a seminar this morning to learn the phrases. I am not shittin' you. I have the print-out of the (typically atrocious MBA-style) PowerPoint presentation given to the nurses this morning. It is entitled "Great Expectations for Improving Customers Satisfaction". Did he hire Frank Luntz to come up with the name? It appears that Frankie is out of work, as I don't see his signature work in the current GOP Talking Points.

There are several pages here, each targeting a different situation, e.g., "admission", "when entering room", "nurse manager's daily rounds", "discharge discussion", "telephone etiquette" and "desk etiquette". Each page has a list of phrases, starting with 1."Hello Mr/Mrs______", 2. I'm [name] and I'm the nurse who'll .....", etc. and ends with the ubiqiutous "Is there anything else I can do for you?", and a list of "cues to remember".

But, the most revealing page is "responding to complaints". There is a table with "what not to say" column on the left and "a way to say it better" on the right. How about this example from the left column: "Oh, that doctor never calls back". Or this one: "The equipment around here never works right". Or this: "Well you know how this is, it's a state/teaching hospital..." Where did they come up with those examples, I wonder? From daily experience? So, they are going to do a better job by carefully shielding the "customers" from the truth. Hello?

Well, my wife works there and, yes, she went to this morning's "workshop". She works 12-hour night shifts all the time. She buys, with her own money, soap and shampoo for her patients. She brushes the patients' teeth to prevent infections from respiratory tubes (one of the leading causes of hospital-induced deaths), she wipes their asses, she holds their hands when they are dying, she hugs the bereaved family members. She is a fantastic nurse. And now, she is deeply insulted by Roper's phrase-list. She is incensed. So are all the other nurses. How does Mr.BicMac think he is going to attract and retain good nurses, I wonder.

Of course, this whole thing is going to backfire and explode in Mr.KnowItAll's face. Treating patients like customers (at McDonald's, no less) is going to make 'patient satisfaction score' sink even lower. The anger felt by nurses for this kind of treatment is going to lower the 'employee satisfaction' scores, too. I doubt he's going to be getting that fat bonus any time soon. Is he just dumb, or a self-important white male, or is he a Republican?

posted by coturnix @ 7:33 PM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink