Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu: My Contribution

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Thinking Too Much?

So last night (this morning, who am I kidding) I'm laying in bed and my anxious brain is in overdrive. And I think to myself, "Why the fuck shouldn't I just go to R2?" 

Many of you might think this is a cop-out and maybe it is, but I'm trying to think through all of my options with as much long-term awareness as possible. 

Here's the thing - I am not functioning at a high-enough level these days to dive back into this process. My husband will be gone all summer long, coming home pretty much just before I need to get into the heart of re-applying. While I told myself that his being gone would give me oodles of time to get stuff done, I did not account for the motivation factor. Currently, m=0. I won't be able to concentrate well enough to study for and re-take the GRE. I don't WANT to go through another year of uncertainty - not knowing where I'll be living in 2010. I don't want to have to spend the first couple months of my husband being back writing personal statements and getting application materials together. 

And what the fuck would I be doing it all for anyway? Name recognition??? WTF difference does it make if my CV says PhD, R2, or PhD, Arizona State? I just want to dive in and immerse myself in what I love - why does it matter where I go? 

I mean, there are a shitload of post-doc and faculty positions open right now in social psych programs across the country and around the world - I know this, because I get announcements for them on one of my listservs. Are they all going to suddenly fade away in 5 years? 

I LOVED R2 city. I LOVED the people there. I saw myself living there with my husband from the moment I got off the plane. The facilities aren't fancy, but no one is running around backstabbing peers either. And I have to ask, are these people I met, the potential grad students at other R1 programs, who were basically airheads who managed to get decent grades from mediocre schools - are they really going to have a better shot than me when it comes to getting faculty positions just because of WHERE they went? Sure, the Yale & Princeton students will - because the Ivies are incestuous and they'll all end up teaching at Harvard & Stanford. But what about the rest of them? The students at R2 are so much smarter and more passionate than the students I met at program #4. Doesn't that mean something?

I mean, I do worry about what my career will look like if I go to R2. Will I be able to overcome the name game and move into a faculty position at an R1? And if not, will I have had enough teaching experience to move into an R2 or a LAC? Will I be forced into industry because of the nature of the program - and if I do, would that be so bad if I still get to do research? 

I'm just starting to feel like I've pissed away enough of my twenties by being focused on school to the exclusion of nearly everything else. And all it got me was this position I'm in right now. Maybe it's time to start considering my life as a whole instead of just my career. Maybe I need to just get over myself and stop looking a gift horse in the mouth. 

There has to be a reason why my visit to program #4 made me hate a city that I spent my entire life wanting to move to. There has to be a reason why I loved R2 city so much when I was convinced I would hate it before I got on the plane. I think the fact I loved it so much freaked me out, and I started looking for reasons NOT to move across the country. 

But then again, maybe the idea of re-applying and facing all that rejection again freaks me out MORE and now I'm trying to rationalize going to R2 because it's the lesser of the 2 evils. 

I don't know. I'm so confused. :(

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mentors & Rec Letters

Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile are familiar with the story of Professor X - the recommendation letter writer who dropped the ball in terms of getting the letters in on time to grad schools. Professor X has largely fallen off the face of the earth as far as I can tell, so it is painfully obvious to me that I cannot count on this person to EVER do anything for me again, ever. 

Right now I have RA job applications in to my MRU and 3 into SFRSHS school. I have no idea whether I'll get any of these positions - which pisses me off because I have demonstrated qualifications for every single thing they're looking for in the damn job postings. But I digress. 

If I don't get an RA job, re-applying this fall will put me in a tricky situation. I have one amazing mentor from Community College who would jump through rings of fire for me if I needed it. That's rec letter #1. I have Rockstar Professor/Research PI who, ironically, has gotten to know me much better AFTER writing the initial letters for me. That's rec letter #2. 

(Btw, as an aside - I have copies of all the rec letters written on my behalf from this past fall. I have not read them, because they came into my possession sort of by accident. So if I needed to check if anyone sabotaged me, I could.)

So without the RA job, I basically have 3 options for obtaining rec letter #3:

1. Graduate Student mentor at MRU. She has worked with me for a year now, but I'm pretty convinced that a rec letter from a grad student is pretty much worthless. Correct me if I'm wrong. 

2. Former Professor at Community College (not Awesome Mentor) who absolutely supports me in anything that I do and knows me on a fairly personal level too. But, this person is not a PhD and is not in the social sciences. The risk is that it would be a glowing letter from someone who, quite possibly, doesn't matter at all to admissions committees. 

3. Boss's Boss at Corporation I Work For. Has known me for over 3 years, has given me countless awards for my work, has firsthand knowledge of how much my customer's love me and how hard I work. 2 possible risks - glowing letter from someone who doesn't matter, OR not-so-glowing letter because he has made it clear to me multiple times that he doesn't want me to leave the company. I think the former is most likely though. 

I need to have some kind of a back-up plan in place, because the MRU job is very, very competitive and SFRSHS school, well, hates me (or so it seems). I keep hoping that if I bombard them with enough applications they'll figure out how badly I want the job. We'll see if that pans out. 

Motherfucking Pharma Part II

I was so worked up about the cost of that gel yesterday that I forget to tell you about this little gem:

Yup, for $100 every six weeks you can have longer, thicker eyelashes via a prescription medication. 

And it works. The PA's in the doctor's office showed me their own before & after pictures. 

Someone, somewhere, took an assload of research $ and used it to develop a drug that would make our eyelashes grow, while I'm paying $400 for an antibiotic gel for my face. 

And the really sad part is? I kind of want it. 

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Motherfucking Pharma

I went to a doctor's appointment this morning. I was given an Rx for Ziana, which is clindamycin phosphate 1.2% & tretinoin 0.025%. (Long story short, I went in to make sure I didn't have skin cancer, turns out I have a mild problem with cystic acne - yay for being 26.)

Anyway - I go to the pharmacy to get the script filled. When I come back to pick it up, the pharmacy tech looks at the paperwork and goes "Yikes! Don't you have insurance?"

I was like "Hell the fuck yeah I have insurance, chica. Pretty damn good insurance too."

She goes, "Well let me double check on this for you."

Turns out that this MOTHERFUCKING gel costs $400!!!!!!!!!! For 60 grams of it!!!!!!!!!

MOTHERFUCKING BOTOX IS CHEAPER!!! (At least at this dermatologist's office anyway)

So she calls my insurance company, and they try to say that I am "over the age limit for this medication."


Awesome Pharmacy Tech manages to get a prior authorization or whatever and gets them to agree to cover it with a $50 co-pay. 

$50??? For a fucking topical antibiotic and what is essentially retinol???

The wonderful little receipt says "Your insurance saved you $346.95." How thoughtful of them. 

What the FUCK could possibly make this shit so expensive?? Someone, please tell me! 

Mind you, I have no problem with my insurance company on this issue. After all, one could argue that this type of medication is for elective cosmetic purposes. 

I mean, $400????? Who could blame them for not wanting to cover that shit??

I bet I could get it in Cuba for $1.75.......

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Free Speech Vs. Political Correctness

I heard the following quote tonight, and I thought it might spark some interesting discussion:
"What universities are saying by these codes, special protections, and double standards to women, to blacks, to hispanics, to gay and lesbian students is 'You are too weak to live with freedom. You are too weak to live with the first amendment.' If someone tells you you are too weak to live with freedom, they have turned you into a child."
I'd like to confine the discussion to colleges and universities, because when you start getting into the private sector things get awfully hairy and complex. 

But this is important. The general accusation is that "political correctness" is a left-wing concept largely confined to Democrats - who, as we all know, dominate the ranks of academia. Now I myself am a Democrat. I am also a die-hard liberal. But the need for political correctness at the expense of free speech is not something I think I'm comfortable with. 

I also heard something tonight along the lines of "People think that freedom means that they have the right to be free from being offended." 

This is an important issue. There are things that I find highly offensive in this world. Bill O'Reilly is a great example of one. I vehemently disagree with pretty much everything that comes out of his mouth. So, I don't watch his show. If I did, I'd probably end up a homicidal maniac. I have no problem changing the channel. 

Would I love to see him taken off the air? Yes, I would. But I don't think I could ever support an FCC-mandated censorship of his nonsense. We would have to (in my opinion) prove that what he does is actually harmful to the American public. NOT that what he does is offensive. 

At many times in my life I have been and very likely will be a complete hypocrite on this issue. I don't think that the University of Maryland should have shown a porno flick to its undergrads. I would actively work to have Bob Jones University and similar institutions shut down because of the hate and discrimination they breed. I would be royally pissed off and probably end up getting in a fight if I walked on my MRU campus to discover some kids shouting "Ban women from this university!" and passing out sexist literature. 

But who the fuck am I to say that my beliefs and opinions are "better" or more valid than that of others, and that the people who disagree with me should be silenced? I'd like to think that I'm more evolved than that. 

But at the same time, what about sexual harassment? Does freedom of speech extend to some asshole professor who tells me that I have a hot ass? If he never lays a finger on me, never makes any sexual advances or any offers of quid pro quo, should I have the right to sue over being offended? If I do, does that mean that the legal system treats me as a child who can't handle freedom of speech and expression?

This is a really, really tough issue for me as a feminist - as a person who believes in freedom and equality for everyone. If a bunch of female undergrads ran around campus with "Men suck" signs and lit up a bonfire of burning dildos, would a man be given the right to sue for being offended? Or would the response he faced be more like "Are you going to let a bunch of silly, crazy girls get to you??"

I wonder..... how much freedom and equality might be lost when we insist on political correctness? Yet, how much shit would hit the fan if we let everyone run amok in a free-for-all? How can we restrict certain things without restricting others? And who gets to decide?


Privilege Meme

Stolen from PhizzleDizzle, so I can remind myself of all the reasons why I am doing all this crazy shit to get into grad school. 

The items that apply to me are BOLD

1. Father went to college

2. Father finished college

3. Mother went to college

4. Mother finished college

5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor (a prof @ a community college)

6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers

7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home

8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home

9. Were read children’s books by a parent

10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18

11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18 see above 

12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively (this is more of a maybe - considering women's portrayals overall)

13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18

14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs

15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs

16. Went to a private high school

17. Went to summer camp 

18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18 

19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels 

20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18 

21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them 

22. There was original art in your house when you were a child (my grandmother is a painter - they were all her work)

23. You and your family lived in a single family house

24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home

25. You had your own room as a child.

26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18

27. Participated in a college entrance exam (eg. SAT/ACT) prep course

28. Had your own TV in your room 

29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College 

30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16 (always to visit my aunt)

31. Went on a cruise with your family

32. Went on more than one cruise with your family

33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up. 

34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family. 

From "What Privileges Do You Have?", based on an exercise about class and privilege developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. If you participate in this blog game, they ask that you please acknowledge their copyright.

I wonder if I could work all of this into a personal statement......j/k

Earth Month? Meme

The brilliant SciCurious has tagged me in an Earth Day meme. 

Now before I do this, y'all should know that, in general, I don't give a fuck about being "green." Yes, insensitive and selfish, I know. But when you do a little investigating, you find out that recycling doesn't actually do us any good (it's inefficient, it wastes more energy and creates more pollution than using new materials, and it doesn't even save us money). You also find out that the so-called "landfill crisis" is also bullshit. You also find out that you can get environmental activists to sign a petition to ban "dihydrogen monoxide" without lying to them about what it is, where it's found, or what it does. It's water, folks - H20. 

I've got an episode of Penn & Teller Bullshit! for each one of these, if you're into the watered-down, foul-mouthed analyses that I am so fond of.

All of this, of course, is incredibly ironic when you consider that I am married to an aspiring bio-environmental engineer who is very into water conservation and alternative energy. But I digress. 

So there are still things that I am willing to do under the premise of "saving the earth." But I am not a tree-hugger, I will never live off of the land or in a house made of trash, and I will never give up my mid-size SUV - I feel it is enough of a sacrifice to not be driving around in a Trans Am. Though I would trade it in for the hybrid version if I could afford it. I can't. 

My contributions to the Earth Day resolutions:

Small - I will stop using paper towels to clean every surface in my house and as the primary means for drying my hands every time I wash them. I will resign myself to using cloth towels and sponges (yuck!) for these tasks. 

Big - When it's warm enough out, I will start walking to the stores I frequent that are within a reasonable distance to my house. 

Biggest - JLK drinks a lot. Okay, not a LOT, like you don't need to worry about checking me into rehab anytime soon. But I do drink quite often. I will stop buying 12pks of glass bottles and instead will switch to the bigger sized bottles that contain more than twice as much liquid and don't come in cardboard boxes. If this means that JLK will be seen leaving the liquor store double-fisting forties of malt liquor - so be it. It will cut down my glass disposal by, well, like a lot. 

Just doin' my part. ;)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fuckity, Fuck, Fuck

I have spent the last 36 hours trolling through the comprehensive list of social psych doctoral programs in the US, found at the wonderful Social Psychology Network. This is the fucking second time I have done this, the first time was a year and a half ago. 

Someone needs to create a website (or add on to SPN) so that I can search for faculty members in social psychology PhD programs who share my research interests, with a little spot for them to update whether or not they are accepting grad students. Because clicking on page after motherfucking page of faculty members' profiles is boring, exhausting, and frustrating. 

While I was doing all of this, I was simultaneously checking the Carnegie classifications of these schools so I wouldn't waste my time looking through more R2s. 

All of this searching and clicking led me to a total of 6 Good-Best matches for research that I have not previously applied to, and they are as follows: Arizona State University, Boston College (I've heard they treat their grad students like shit), Northwestern University (I will NEVER get in), Penn State University, Purdue University, and UC Santa Cruz. The absolute best matches are ASU and Penn State. 

If any of you have experience with these schools and are willing to share, please email me. I will keep it confidential. 

I have not yet been able to muster up the motivation to go dig out my APA Guide To Graduate Study in Psychology to find out their average GRE scores and all that happy horse shit. I shoved it into a box somewhere when I was done with applications and really believed I would never have to look at it again. 

Regardless, I know I need to work on boosting my math score without losing the verbal skills that got me the score I obtained last time. I haven't the slightest clue where to begin, because the books were mostly useless last time and even the computer simulations didn't help me get faster. 

If any of you have tips, resources, etc., that you think might help, please let me know. I'm strongly considering taking the written exam rather than the CAT because it will give me a little more time, will allow me to skip around the section, and will not cause me to develop a headache from staring at a wavy computer screen on a monitor dating back to 1985. The disadvantage is that supposedly it is more difficult to obtain a higher score on the written exam because the number of high-points questions is fixed. So I haven't decided yet what I'm going to do. 

Last year I was really excited to go through this process. It was hard and it was stressful, but it was a hopeful experience. This time I am pissed off, bitter, and annoyed that I once again need to convince these fucking people that not only CAN I do it, but I WANT to do it, and that my ability and desire are stronger than everyone else's. 

I hope to achieve it this time around by networking in advance. I have no idea how to do this, really, but my mentality has changed. Instead of being afraid to say something stupid or annoy a rockstar professor somewhere, I have decided that they are regular fucking people who just happen to be doing the job that I want, and I have nothing to lose. I am not a lowly undergrad, I am a potential future colleague. I intend to approach it that way. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Anyone Who Can Help?

Does anyone out there have any experience whatsoever with the Oxford University admissions process? I wanted to apply last year (long story) but got so confused by the admissions and figured I would never in a million years get accepted anyway so I just gave up. 

If any of you out there can help, drop me an email:

For Comrade PhysioProf

***Caution: EXPLICIT language***

But it's fucking fantastic. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Grad School: Starting Over From Square One

When I started my blog here back in November I had already completed most of my applications, had what I thought was a good game plan and a solid overall package. I did not use this medium to get any kind of advice on anything dealing with the admissions process. *FAIL* on my part. 

So, I would like my readers to serve as my own personal committee - like a dissertation committee, only for grad school admissions instead. You can elect yourselves - I need as much help as I can get. 

But first, because most of you are not in the social sciences, a little information about how grad admissions *supposedly* work for psychology:

The first thing they tell applicants is to make sure you know what you want to research. Your entire search for a program is supposed to be based on that. You are not applying to a program - you're applying to a specific PI and his/her lab. Your goal, for most programs, is to convince that one PI that you are the perfect person to work with. In some cases, such as at Yale, you must first get past the Grad School of Arts & Sciences before the potential PI even sees your application materials. This is accomplished by your transcripts and GRE scores. If you aren't the cream of the crop when it comes to those, your personal statement, writing sample, and rec letters are completely irrelevant because no one ever sees them. (Which means you may have wasted a $90 application fee and countless hours perfecting your essay just for them. Do I sound bitter?)

The second thing they tell us is that research experience is THE most valuable part of your application packet. The more, the better. They also tell you that if you can get even just co-authorship on a publication, you are pretty much guaranteed to make it past the 3rd round of admissions cuts. A first authorship on a publication for an undergrad is nearly unheard of, and if you can get it, it will open doors for you that you can't even dream of. 

Now, here are the current qualifications that I've got to work with (identifiers, be damned at this point):
  • Graduated summa cum laude from MRU with cum gpa of 3.93, psychology major gpa of 4.0
  • Accomplished this through attending school full-time while working full-time at a "real" job - I was not a barista at Starbucks (no offense to anyone). 
  • Worked as a research assistant for a year now for Rockstar professor at MRU, resulting in second-authorship on a paper presentation at a conference. Currently writing a portion of the manuscript that is to be submitted for publication in May. 
  • Worked as a research assistant for Largely Unknown professor at MRU, basically was used for my ability to conduct thorough literature reviews, wrote a large one with annotated bibliography. This professor is completely unreliable for rec letters (remember Professor X?).
  • GRE scores: 96th percentile for verbal, 53rd percentile for quantitative, 88th percentile for analytical writing. 
  • One incredibly glowing recommendation from community college professor (PhD from my MRU) who would jump through hoops if it meant getting me into an awesome program. She is the Ultimate Mentor. 

Roadblocks for me:
  • I cannot pursue an independent research project because I am no longer enrolled at MRU. This was confirmed by Rockstar professor when I inquired as to whether it was possible. Therefore, first authorship on anything is not going to happen. Period. 
  • Unless I get the RA position I applied for, I have no means of getting additional research experience before this fall. If I do, it will be under Grad Student mentor, whose research does not allow me to get experience with things I have not done before. 
  • The GRE stresses me the fuck out. I have been out of high school math since 1998. I bought all the prep books, did all the practice questions and all that. I spent 4 months studying for this thing. It did not help me get faster at answering the ridiculously stupid way they have of delivering the questions. The reason my score was so low is because by the time I got to the stats questions (which means you're at the 700 mark), I ran out of time and had to randomly guess on the last 6 questions. This is what killed me. And I am generally a very good standardized test-taker. 
Obviously something was wrong with the way I went about this last time. Whether it was choosing the programs I applied to or something with my applications, I don't know. Ideally, I would like to write to the PI at program #4 and say, "Why was I the one who got waitlisted?"

I chose the programs based on the research interests of the faculty there, which was what I was told to do. The PI's whose research I admire the most, whose work has profoundly changed my field, are all retiring and not accepting grad students anymore. I feel like I'm not really sure where else to look for a program, and I am concerned that I will let my interests fall by the wayside just to get accepted. 

The problem is, and I understand this is unique to the social sciences, is that what you research in grad school determines your reputation when you go to get a job. Job listings for universities will specify "social psychologist with research in areas X, Y, or Z." Until you get that faculty slot and nail down tenure, you are basically committed to what you put on your applications in the first place. **This is important**

So, can I realistically do this? Can I improve my application enough between now and November when deadlines begin? I need a plan here, folks, and I need your help. No one in my offline circle of friends and family has ever even finished a bachelor's degree - they cannot help me. 

Would I love to go to Yale or another SFRSHS school? Yes, I would. Would I do anything I could in order to make that happen? Yes, absolutely. Do I know what to do to make that happen? Nope, not really. Because I thought I did everything I was supposed to last time, and it didn't work. 

It doesn't need to be Yale or another SFRSHS program. But it does need to be a program that will remove roadblocks for me, not create new ones. 

The R2 Situation or Maybe I'm Just a Snob Part II

I certainly am on a blogging kick today. Making up for lost time, perhaps? Who knows. 

Anyway, I talked to my husband today. He got a 20 minute phone call this week! Woo-hoo!

His preliminary decision about R2? "Let's wait a year so we can have some time to just spend together and more time to get the move organized."

I was kinda shocked. As you know, I expected him to say "Let's just get the fuck outta dodge."

I said I wouldn't let R2 know anything yet and that we'd discuss it on Memorial Day weekend when I get to see him face-to-face for a few days. 

I have had some in-depth discussions with several of you about R2, providing additional information that I was not comfortable with sharing here because it makes the school highly identifiable. All of you with whom I have had that conversation have said "Reapply to other programs this fall." 

Well, up until a few days ago I was fighting you guys tooth and nail - I don't want to re-take the GRE, I really loved the people and the place, I'd rather cut off my right arm than go through the app process again, etc., etc. 

But then I sent an email off to one of the faculty members there who I am most interested in working with. I asked her about a couple of things that are very important to me. The first question was about the likelihood that I would be able to serve as a reviewer for journal articles and books, because grad student reviewers require faculty sponsors. The second question was about an idea for a research project I have had that, even though her work is only marginally related, is closest to her area of expertise. 

I did not like her answers. First, she told me that students are discouraged from serving as reviewers because it is a time-suck. Second, she told me that students are not really allowed to pursue their own research projects for the first few years and instead are expected to work on multiple faculty projects while taking classes. 

This would be fine, except as I mentioned before, none of these faculty members are REALLY working on the things I'm interested in. There are parallel interests, but none that intersect. 

Actually, I'm lying. It's NOT fine. I will be walking into graduate school with at least 3 fully-written and conceptualized research proposals. If they're telling me that the only time I get to do my own shit is for my dissertation, that's just not cool. 

Now maybe my perceptions of what grad school is like are completely wrong. If that's the case, then someone needs to enlighten me. But I thought I would be encouraged to conduct my own research, writing grant proposals and securing my own funding, publishing my own work, etc., in addition to assisting on faculty projects. I guess this is another example of me not asking the right questions during my visit. 

This is an R2 without a reputation. Not a single graduate out of 90 PhDs has gone on to a faculty position at an R1. Not one. I would have a hell of a time overcoming the name game in job applications. Do I know I want to work at an R1? No, I don't. But the idea of having my qualifications discounted just because of the name of the U where I earned my degree pisses me off and there's nothing I can do about it. It's akin to Yale not looking at my grad application beyond my GRE scores when they saw my math wasn't over 700. It sucks, but I am not in a position to do anything about the way the system works. 

The other aspect of this (which I was reluctant to share previously) is that the social psych program is not taught by social psychologists. In fact, there is only ONE classically-trained social psychologist on a faculty of about 15 professors. Basically, the way I see it is that I'm being taught social psychology by people who aren't qualified to teach it. Does that make me a snob? Maybe. But you bio-med folks out there probably wouldn't want to be taught bio-med by a quantum physicist. 

I also, because of how the department is housed in the university, would not get the teaching experience I want. I would not likely ever get an opportunity to teach a psychology course. Sociology? Sure. HDFS? Absolutely. Apparently, if I want to teach psychology I have to do so under the table at the local community college. The other students informed me of this. 

I loved the people there, especially the students. I loved the environment there and the passion that the people have for what they do. I could probably excel there given the structure. But beyond the grad school experience, it would be an uphill battle for me in my career. And I feel like I deserve better. Again, am I a snob? Maybe. But I know that I am capable of doing more than this program will allow me to do. 

I really, really, really don't want to re-apply this fall. If I re-took the GRE I would probably be able to boost my math score, maybe to the point where the SFRSHS U's would notice. I really, really, really don't want to do that again either. But I am considering now whether I should. 

If I get the RA job at my MRU that I just applied for, and it starts sooner rather than later, and I am able to develop a good relationship with MegaRockstar PI, I probably will do all of that again. Without more research experience, better GRE scores, and a better recommendation from a higher-up faculty member, it is pointless for me to re-apply again. 

The other problem is that my husband is really excited about the idea of moving to R2. There is a great educational opportunity for him there. He is not the reason for my considering a second round of applications. Really, I would be doing it in spite of what he thinks about R2. He would support me in it, no question. 

But this particular decision is mine to make. And all I can do right now is hope that some circumstances arise that allow me to have a clearer view of what my options are. It's a waiting game at this point. 

Q&A #2 - Mrs CH's Questions

In my recent post asking for questions from readers, MrsCH offered up the following (my answers are beneath each quoted question):
1. One of my office mates just left to start a new job. The week before he left, he put up stuff around the office, gave everyone in the group a hat with the group's logo, and even gave us a framed copy of his letter of offer. What do you think possesses someone to leave things behind, while others don't?
I'm not sure that anyone has actually studied this, and seeing as my journal access is nonexistent right now, I can't answer you using any scientific basis. Disclaimer in place, I would venture to guess that it has to do with the level of connection a person feels to his/her place of work. He may have felt as though he was closing a chapter in his life that was very important to him, and didn't want to forget it or be forgotten. The people who did not leave things behind or make a big deal of their departure may have had more of the "Good riddance!" mentality. 
2. I bought a book recently called Women Don't Ask, and it's about how women are not as good at negotiating as men. What do you think about this?
This has been scientifically investigated, and there is some merit to this. Women consistently undervalue themselves. If a woman is asked to give her desired salary for a new job, for example, their $$ amounts are often significantly lower than a man would give for the exact same job. Women are also less likely to flat-out ask for a raise. 

Jost, J. T. (1997). An experimental replication of the depressed entitlement effect among women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 387-393.

Major, B. (1994). From social inequality to personal entitlement: The role of social comparisons, legitimacy appraisals, and group membership. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 26 (pp. 293-355). New York: Academic Press. 

Steil, J. M., McGann, V. L.,  & Kahn, A. S. (2001). Entitlement. In J. Worell (Ed.), Encyclopedia of women and gender (pp.403-410). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
3. I'm reading a book right now called The Female Brain, and it describes what our hormones do to our thoughts/actions throughout our lives. Do you think our thoughts/actions are governed more by our biochemistry or by our environment?
The Female Brain is bullshit. If you look up the referenced articles in the back of the book and read them, you'll find that none of them actually support any of her claims. It was a very ballsy move on her part to do that - assuming none of her readers would actually look up her sources.

The only part of her book that I found interesting was the idea that hormone exposure in utero might determine levels of masculinity and femininity. However, rather than consider that in terms of gender, I was made to wonder if it might have implications for sexual orientation. But there is no way to ethically test that. And even then, it would assume a link between sex hormones specifically and sexual orientation, which I'm not sure that's even remotely valid. 

But beyond that book, you're referring to the nature/nurture debate, which is moot at this point. It is always a combination of both influences, and it is ethically impossible for us to scientifically sort out the level of influence of each. For example, I would love to take an infant and raise it in a lab under controlled conditions to find out to what extent nature plays a role in determining gender. But no IRB on the face of the earth would let me do that. But it's the only way to really know the answer to that question. 

I have long been vocal against the idea that hormones dictate behavior, but I had no hard and fast evidence. Ambivalent Academic referred me to a scienceblog and the subsequent journal article it referenced dealing with this very issue. Find it Here. There is much more work to be done in this area, but this is a fantastic start. 
4. What is the deal with people one-upping each other when they talk about negative things in their lives?
I have no evidence-based answer for you here. But using speculation only, I would say that it might have to do with misguided attempts at expressing empathy. As in, "I know how you must be feeling, because I went through X, Y, and Z." In most cultures, a high value is placed on experience. People we believe to have more experience are sought out for guidance. It's logical. So maybe in our desire to help someone, to position ourselves as a guide and a mentor, we feel we have to demonstrate that we have more experience than they do with these negative events and emotions. But in truth, I have no idea. 
5. Why are women their own worst enemies? I find this to be the case especially in the blog world when sexism comes up - why do women have a hard time agreeing to disagree?
I think I need you to be more specific with this question. Otherwise I risk assuming what your question is about when I could be totally wrong. And the idea of women versus women is a very broad subject with tons of applications to different circumstances. 

Very interesting questions, Mrs. CH. I've really enjoyed answering them, and I hope that if you have more that you'll share them! :)

When We ASS-U-ME

There is a discussion going on over at Dr. Isis in response to a reader who asked how to respond when a senior male collaborator called her "dear" during a phone call. The context given was "Okay, dear. Sounds good."

I responded in the comments as follows:

"Definitely a tough situation.

But consider this, does he also have a tendency to use words like that for his younger male collaborators or students? Like "Kid, kiddo, buddy, son, etc?"

I don't think "dear" is marginalizing, sexist, or any of that. Is it gender specific? Yeah, if a male is saying it, because he would probably never call a male student "dear" for fear of getting labeled as gay. But what if it was a female collaborator or mentor who said it? Would you be offended then? Or would you believe it to be a term of affection?

We really have to be careful with this shit. If you make assumptions about his intentions based on his gender, then you're just as sexist as you imagine him to be. Period. Now, if you make the assumption based on his personality - not sexist. That's why I ask you to consider how you would feel if a woman said it to you. If the answer is the same, then consider speaking up and respond as you would to a woman who used the term.

Also, if you bristle at every pet name someone in academia throws at you, I have to imagine it's going to be a very long, hard road for you. Sometimes a pet name is just a pet name. I call my friends "sweetie" all the time, regardless of gender, and it is never meant to marginalize them. My husband gets pissed when I call him "kid" just like you would have every right to go apeshit if someone calls you "Little Miss." THAT would be offensive no matter WHO said it."

The parts I've highlighted in bold are what I really want to focus on here. 

I understand that in my head I live in this imaginary world where everything is fair and everyone knows the social psychological reasons behind everything and uses that information to make life better for everyone. I get it, but bear with me. 

Intention matters, folks. It's the difference between a Murder conviction and Manslaughter. (Well, there's more to it than that, but again bear with me.)

If a female mentor calls you "dear" or "sweetie" - do you have an immediate problem with that? If not, why not? If she starts calling you "sexy" or "little miss" then we have a whole different sort of problem. 

We can't run around assuming that men are being sexist when they use terms like "dear" to refer to a female. "Dear" is in and of itself neutral. We begin letters with it all the time, regardless of the gender of the recipient. The name that follows it depends on the perceived nature of our relationship with that person. 

When we assume intention using gender as our only evidence, we are being sexist. Making assumptions about anyone based on a group of which they are a member, whether it's men, women, a racial or ethnic group, an age group, etc. is the very definition of stereotyping. 

Some men are sexist. And if a particular man is sexist, a larger pattern will emerge where he consistently belittles and patronizes women he comes in contact with. We can then label him as a sexist. 


You may recall that I recently met with a self-proclaimed feminist department head regarding my possible enrollment in her graduate program. She assumed that, because of my dedication to my marriage and concern for my husband's prospects regarding the move, that I am not committed to my education and career. 

But if I was a male student who was meeting with her who was concerned about my wife's prospects and expressed dedication to my marriage, would she have made the same assumption? Probably not. In fact, she might have done whatever she could to help me figure it out, thinking how nice it was for a guy to be so concerned about his wife rather than putting her second to his career. 

That's not equality. That's not feminism. She made an assumption based on my gender. And it pissed me off. 

I am willing to bet that if the post-doc who wrote the letter to Dr. Isis called out the collaborator on his use of the term "dear" - he would be shocked. If she is truly uncomfortable with it and would be regardless of the gender of the person using the term, she should say something. And if a future female collaborator uses the term, she should say something then, too. 

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Q&A #1 - Hostile Environments for Women

Oh, Toaster Sunshine. You have brought up one of the most complex issues in gender research. 

On my previous post, I asked readers to tell me what they wanted to learn about with regard to human social behavior. Toaster asked the following:
"2) Men are socialized to think of women in terms of conquest and possession (e.g., "chasing tail", "she's my girl", etc.). Traditionally male-dominated workplaces, such as scientific research, are usually perceived as hostile by women due to the men still working in them. Could this be due to men not being able to dissociate their professional endeavors from the women-as-conquest mentality? At the same time, men have bluntly coded normative body langauges that reinforce group inclusiveness through communication forms homogeneity. Women have their own forms. Men don't always understand these. Could additional hostility in professional settings also be due to men not understanding women's body language or language subtexts and therefore prescribing stereotypical labels (e.g., "office floozy", "administrative bitch", etc.)?"
This question/issue deals with the very heart of what has come to be known as Objectification Theory. Objectification Theory was first proposed by Barbara Frederickson:
"Objectification Theory posits that girls and women are typically acculturated to internalize an observer's perspective as a primary view of their physical selves. This perspective on self can lead to habitual body monitoring, which, in turn, can increase women's opportunities for shame and anxiety, reduce opportunities for peak motivational states, and diminish awareness of internal bodily states.....Although sexual objectification is but one form of gender oppression, it is one that factors into - and perhaps enables - a host of other oppressions women face, ranging from employment discrimination and sexual violence to the trivialization of women's work and accomplishments."
(Frederickson, B. L. & Roberts, T. (1997). Objectification theory: Toward understanding women's lived experiences and mental health risks. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 173-206.)

The first thing I want to say here is that until recently, objectification research focused on the effects it has on women. We have since learned that men are affected by it as well. No one can clearly demonstrate that the effects are as strong or less strong than they are on women. So what I am going to do here is give you the answer that MOST researchers would give to this question. Then I'm going to give you my own answer, based on personal experience and the social psychological framework from which I, personally, operate. 

Generally, it is believed that men have a tendency to immediately evaluate women's attractiveness upon encountering them. Most of the time, this evaluation is sexual in nature. "Would you do her" is a question that men seem to pose to themselves and sometimes to their peers whenever they see a woman. Women know this. It is often referred to as "the male gaze" and has been discussed on many occasions here in the blogosphere, most recently at Comrade PhysioProf and the connected ScienceBlog pages. (See my post on Norah Vincent's book "Self-Made Man" for an example of this.)

The basic idea of how objectification creates a sense of hostility in a woman's work environment is this: a woman feels as though she is under constant scrutiny for something over which she has little to no control. She is an object rather than a person. Her appearance matters more than her accomplishments and contributions. 

I have a lot of problems with this. First, there is the problem of experiencing objectification as a woman considered attractive compared to one who is not. Second, there are many women out there who experience the male gaze and feel objectified in the workplace frequently, but would not describe their environment as hostile. Thirdly, it has been demonstrated that women objectify other women to almost the same extent, but how this impacts the workplace has not been explored to my knowledge. Fourthly, as I mentioned previously, we now know that objectification impacts men, but we do not have enough research looking at workplace interactions to throw discrimination of women under the umbrella of objectification. In other words, if both men and women experience it but only women are affected by it, there must be something else going on. 

Toaster brings up several other issues as well - differences in communication, in-group processes, and male cognitive dissonance. That's a lot of complexity for such a seemingly simple phenomenon. 

My own take on this issue stems from personal experience and from research I have done on women in science and their perceptions of workplace hostility and stigma consciousness. 

Women in male-dominated fields tend to feel pressure to conform to certain male characteristics - a way of communicating, a way of dressing, etc. In order to succeed, one might feel as though she needs to minimize obvious characteristics of difference. In other words, she doesn't want to stand out. Standing out leads to stereotype threat. Stereotype threat is when a person's performance is affected by their awareness of being in a position where they might be seen as conforming to a stereotype. Often, the performance deficit leads to BEING the stereotype that threatens them. It turns out that stereotype threat also has a physiological component (see Murphy, Steele, & Gross. (2007). Signaling Threat. Psychological Science, 18(10).)

The most well-known experiments dealing with stereotype threat in women have to do with math performance. If you prime women with information that females have lesser math ability than men, they will perform worse on mathematical tests than women who are given positive or neutral priming. Women under stereotype threat also show heightened physiological signs of stress. 

(I'm losing steam here, because I think my brain might explode from trying to organize my thoughts and translate them into coherent sentences. Bear with me.)

I believe that much of perceived workplace hostility can be boiled down to stereotype threat. It does not require an active component on the part of the men in the case of women's stress. It only requires an awareness of having the status of "other." Being outnumbered, in other words, can be enough to trigger stereotype threat and the resulting physiological effects. 

Being afraid to cry at work, dress in feminine clothing, communicate openly, etc., can be triggered or mitigated by the gender makeup of the group. If you are a woman in a large group of men, you are going to feel more on-edge and perceive a higher level of potential hostility than in a group that is more gender balanced. 

I do not mean to say that the hostility does not actually exist. It had to, at some point, to create the phenomenon of stereotype threat in the first place. But researchers can induce stereotype threat in imagined scenarios. It doesn't have to be real to have an effect!

Okay, I have to stop now. LOL. I know that there are things missing from this post, but if I keep going I will be writing this blog all day. So I will leave it to you folks to point out the gaps in the comments so that I can at least focus on the parts you find interesting and important, rather than what I consider to be interesting and important. 

Friday, April 17, 2009

Q&A Series?

Okay, folks. I need to hop back on the blogging wagon to help keep myself focused on something other than drinking and watching House and Fringe. (And Rescue Me, and Lie To Me, and the Daily Show, and......)

Ambivalent Academic and I have a very sexy series of posts coming up for you in May dealing with sociobiology and social psychology. We will be talking about sex. That's right - S-E-X. It's gonna be awesome. 

But in the meantime, what Hot Social Psychology would you like to hear about? Is there a question you have about human behavior that you'd like to know the current theories on? (I know you do........)

Test me, folks! The vast majority of you are not in psychology, but all of us have questions about the behavior of the people around us and sometimes about ourselves. PhizzleDizzle, for example, recently asked about the assumptions we make about people we have never met.  

I don't claim to be an expert. But I am a big fan of generating discussion and answering questions to the best of my ability. So lemme have it. If I can't answer your question, I will say so, but in most cases I should be able to provide you with a decent amount of knowledge on the subject. 

(In case you can't tell, I anticipate boredom this weekend.)

Blogger Shout-Out

Professor Anonymous is the funniest blogger in the blogosphere right now. If you haven't gone over there to check it out yet, you need to. 

I think every comment I've left over there has included at least one "LMAO" in it. If you need a good laugh, that's the place to go. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The R2 Experience

I'm going to warn you now, this is going to be a long post. I still don't know how to split posts. 

What a drastic, dramatic difference this experience was from my previous interview at Program #4 back in February. 

I arrived in Western City on Sunday afternoon to find beautiful, perfect weather and my ride waiting for me at the airport. Having never ventured this far west in the US before, and having lived my entire life in New England, I could not get over how vastly different the landscape and everything was. I was like "Wow, so that's what REAL mountains look like!" I was standing in 75 degree weather looking up at snow-capped peaks off in the distance. It was amazing. 

I was brought to another student's house for a homecooked Easter dinner that was de-lic-ious. The first couple of students I met were nontraditional students with spouses, kids, actual LIVES and experiences. Everyone was so incredibly friendly, warm, easygoing, and funny. They actually seemed really excited to have me there, and it was very cool to feel so welcomed. They spoke to me openly and frankly about the program, the faculty, and the students so I feel as though I got an honest assessment of what it's like to be a student there. One was a 3rd year, and the other was a 5th year. 

Before heading off to bed, I was fed homemade chicken and dumplings. YUM! I felt like a family member coming for a visit, not a stranger from the other side of the country or a temporary inconvenience. 

The following day I met with a bunch of faculty members beginning with the department head, attended a 1st year graduate class, was treated to a delicious lunch at the student union with a bunch of other grad students ranging from 2nd-6th year. I felt like the new exchange student in high school, with everyone scrambling to get a chance to talk to me. One of the students accidentally got pregnant around admissions time, and had her first baby in the first semester of her first year there. She was very blunt about it: "I don't recommend it. It was a nightmare. 2nd year, absolutely. But not your first year."

I got to spend time with a variety of students, with different people escorting me to each meeting, taking me on campus tours, showing me around facilities. Though I got sick of repeating the same information about myself twice an hour all day, it was fantastic to talk to so many people about their experiences there. 

The faculty there are fantastic. They are not intimidating, arrogant, or any of the things I experienced at Program #4. Many of them are quietly well-connected and networked to important researchers throughout the country, without tying those connections to their own reputations. I noticed that several of the textbooks used in the graduate courses were written by faculty members at my undergrad MRU, which was very cool to see. One of the professors I met with keeps a Wall of Fame in her office, where students put their name and a little blurb about a project when they publish it with her. It was a pretty big wall. But the important thing about it was the pride with which she showed it to me - it was blatantly obvious how much she WANTS her students to succeed. 

One of my biggest concerns about this program was that it was an R2, and there was a lack of major journal publications on the part of the faculty. I wanted to make sure that I would have adequate opportunities to publish so that I would be marketable in academia when I graduate. One 5th year student I spoke to has 8 publications, 11 presentations, and 7 more publications under review. A 3rd year student had 5 publications and 6 presentations. This was the pattern I saw. 

When I asked the students about the deficit in major journals, they brought up and issue that has been discussed over at ScienceBlogs many, many times - the Least Publishable Unit. They told me that if they wanted to go for a major journal, there was adequate support and knowledge there for them to do so, but most of the students prefer to send their research to high-impact niche journals where they feel it will make the most difference. 

I had a frank discussion about this with several students and a couple of faculty members. The general consensus (and I know this to be true from my own MRU), is that JPSP (the major journal of my field) has become highly politicized and incredibly difficult to get into. They keep publishing the same authors over and over and over again, and the material is becoming less and less accessible to readers. In other words, JPSP is putting itself into a position where it is a major journal because of prestige, NOT actual impact and visibility. I heard stories from students who had submitted there, received a "No thank you" email within 24 hours of submission, and a month later received a very excited message from a 2nd-tier journal saying "Yes, absolutely! We love this study!" I now have the understanding that the lack of JPSP articles has more to do with pragmatism than lack of quality research. 

The students are all very passionate about the work they do. Because of a specific, unique quality of this program, many of the students are working toward industry jobs rather than academia. About 1/3 are pursuing faculty positions. This means that the competition between students is simply not there. They are a pretty cohesive group, albeit quite large. You are able to work with any faculty member you want who is willing to work with you - there is none of that "You're MY student, you will study what I'M interested in, dammit!" Though you do choose a primary advisor, you can change that at any time and faculty members can also "pluck" you from another faculty member if they want to and no one gives a shit. I mean, they do, but not in the political sense. You know what I mean. 

This is a great quality for me in this particular program, because as I have mentioned before there is no single faculty member there whose research interests are perfectly aligned with my own. But the nature of the department is such that for any given project, I can consult with as many different faculty members as I need to in order to incorporate their specific expertise in my research. The boundaries there are nonexistent. 

The grad student body is pretty diverse. The ages range from 21 to 50's. There are married students, single students, divorced students. Students with kids and students without. When they do have kids, they range from age 2 to age 35. There is religious diversity and ethnic diversity, though I did not meet a single African-American grad student. This bothered me to some extent, but apparently there is a black male student who would be in my cohort if I decided to go there this fall. It is a politically liberal city that shares many of my personal views, though apparently the outskirts contain the gun-loving, homophobic, racist, Republican good ole boys that are common to rural areas pretty much everywhere. 

It was the cleanest city I have ever seen in my life. It makes New England look like a glorified trash heap. Especially if you compare it to Boston (no offense, anyone). It was absolutely fucking beautiful. Every outdoor activity you could possibly imagine is available to you in great variety. From the moment I arrived I could see my husband and I living there and raising our kids there. And here's the kicker - there's no TRAFFIC! I was like "Wtf? What do you mean you can be anywhere in the city in 15 minutes? What about rush hour?" Only the folks from LA knew what "rush hour" was. Everyone else just gave me a blank stare. 

Okay, so that about sums up all of the positive things. On to the concerns. 

The state economy there is in serious trouble. Jobs are somewhat hard to come by, because it is not an industrial city. When my husband was laid off from his job here a couple of years ago, it took him 4 months to find a new one. It would probably take a lot longer for him to get a job out there. My student stipend is not large (of course), though it is enough for both of us to live very frugally on. Under normal circumstances, this would not be a problem. But given my impending unemployment this summer, the recent news of my husband's military pay being much lower than previously thought, the dwindling savings under these circumstances, the incredibly high cost of moving to the other side of the country, not knowing whether the military will be able to transfer him out there and not knowing whether he will lose his signing bonus if they do, and not having a job for him when he arrives all combine to create an incredibly scary situation for me. 

The department head was not very sympathetic to this, saying "Well, our students do this all the time. I'm not sure I understand why it's any different for you." She seemed to take it as a lack of committment on my part, which I tried to dispel. I understand that I would be moving from a very high cost of living area to a very low cost of living area. But losing 60% of my salary and not having savings in the bank terrifies me. If my car died, I'd be fucked unless my husband was working. I get that people do this all the time with no problems. I GET IT. But I inherited from my father this constant anxiety over finances. I spent several years in my twenties living paycheck to paycheck, and I really don't want to do that again. I don't want my life to be harder than it has to be, and I don't think that's unreasonable. It's not about being able to spend money on frivolous things (I don't do that now). It's about having a cushion for emergencies and unexpected events. And in this real estate market, it is highly unlikely that my husband and I could sell our house and get any money back from the sale at all. 

The department head suggested that my husband return to New England when he gets out of the military and live here until he finds a job and gets his military transfer. My reaction was "Hell the fuck no." I did not explain to her that we had been separated last summer and that I am unwilling to be apart from my husband for a moment longer than I have to, because I got the impression that she would think of my marriage as unstable and me as being co-dependent. She said, "Who knows, maybe this could be a good test of your relationship." I told her quite bluntly that if I had to choose between my husband and my degree, I would choose my husband because there is always a way to work it out. If graduate school was such that I could NOT have both, I would choose the degree and be away from him for awhile. But the fact is that there ARE ways to have both and I will seek them out to the exclusion of the alternative. 

This led to my asking about a deferral of admission for one year. She wasn't sure if this was possible but said she would look into it, followed by telling me that she gets the impression that I am ready to jump into this right now. I told her I feel that R2 is where I definitely want to go, and while I would love to start the program immediately I also don't want to cause myself an unnecessary amount of stress. The whole conversation kind of left a bad taste in my mouth. I don't like it when my level of dedication to my field is called into question. I also don't like it when my dedication to feminist principles is called into question because I express that my spouse is important to me. I could not get her to understand that this is a timing issue, and one that was not anticipated because of changing financial circumstances. 

A couple students had told me that this faculty member doesn't seem to understand work/family issues. One student didn't tell her that she was pregnant because she didn't want to hear what she would say. Everyone there is apparently very supportive of family issues and balance, but this one person just doesn't seem to understand it on a personal level according to what they told me. So I'm not taking it personally, but it does make the decision more difficult. 

I should note that a seemingly-fantastic assistantship has been offered to me that incorporates both my experience and interests, but if I wait a year to start it will most likely no longer be available to me. There would be something else, but there is no guarantee that it would be as good or better than this one. 

Part of me wants to say "fuck it" and fly by the seat of my pants into the program this fall. But part of me is really enamored with the idea of taking the year to spend time with my husband when he gets back, get some money saved, and take on the move as a team - taking our time to get him transferred, find him a job, get him enrolled in their engineering program. Doing this would put off starting a family for another year, or going into my first year with an infant in tow. There is low-cost, on-site daycare at the campus, but it apparently has a very long waiting list. 

They are giving me plenty of time to make the decision, so I can relax about it somewhat for right now. I am still applying for the RA job at my MRU. I feel like if I get that job, I will defer for a year. If I don't, I will go this fall. But that's not set in stone. I really don't know what to do. I wish I could talk to my husband to find out what he thinks. He's more of a Jump In Headfirst kind of guy than I am, but it's possible that being away has made him want to enjoy some downtime with me when he gets back. He does not like to be without a job. I think he would go crazy in a new city with all new people and nothing to do with himself. I know he wants to move out there - he was more excited about it at first than I was. That's not an issue. 

So I don't know. What do you guys think?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Quick Update from the Wild, Wild West

I love it here. I have some concerns, mostly financial, but I love it here. I will elaborate when I get back.....

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Some Thoughts Before Heading Off

I'm getting my hair chopped off today, then going to dinner for my stepfather's birthday, then coming home and frantically packing, brushing up on some relevant journal article reading, and then hopping in bed with the desperate hope that I manage to wake up at Hellish Hour so I can make my plane on time. I don't anticipate getting to blog again until Wednesday. 

I don't think I even have time to play Tiger Woods. *Gasp!*

So, some thoughts I wanted to get down before heading off:

First, I am definitely clinically depressed these days. I have been good at forcing myself to do things like exercise, spend time socializing with people, doing things other than watching tv. But the fact that I am not sleeping well and yet it is still a battle every single day just to Get Out of Bed combined with an endless amount of naps every night on the couch, bad dreams, and overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopeless, helplessness, and complete apathy toward everything convinces me that yes, I am definitely depressed despite doing things to prevent it from getting worse. 

It will be very difficult to be in the company of strangers for the next 3 days and not let that show through. 

Second, the responsibilities of caring for the house, the finances, everything without my husband here are crushing me. I can take care of my own shit as I have done for awhile, but taking care of everything for both of us is a bit too much. For example, if something happens to my husband's Scary Pet Reptile, I will not be able to live with myself or face him. Same thing if the house burns down. If my car suddenly dies or gets totaled or something and I have to get a new one, I will have to make that decision on my own and hope it's the one he would want me to make. Not being able to talk about things as they happen really scares me, mostly because I'm one of those people who is perpetually terrified of making the wrong decision (which I seem to do over, and over, and over again). 

This trip is another example. Last night I was thinking that my husband's delayed departure for and return from the military, the separation last summer, the pay situation, the application outcomes, etc. seem to be stacking in such a way to let me know that this is NOT the time to go to grad school - that I need to get over myself and just live for a year. If I do end up dazzled by R2, it will be really hard for me to make the decision to go in the face of all this information. 

When I return, I will post my impressions about R2 as soon as I can - so look for that blog on Wednesday. I anticipate needing/wanting as much feedback as possible before 5pmEST with which to make my decision. You guys are all I've got right now to bounce something like this off of, so I will ask for brutally honest opinions only. 

So stay tuned, and in the mean time keep your fingers crossed that this will be an easy decision for me either way. 

Friday, April 10, 2009

Grad School Update

A few of you wrote in the comments on my previous post that you wanted to know what was up with my grad school situation. I realized I hadn't posted at all about it recently, mostly because I felt like I was being a whiner and needed to stop. But some of you guys apparently enjoy my whining, so here's the latest update for you. 

I leave early Sunday morning to go visit the R2 U where I have the tentative acceptance. When my plane lands back in New England on Tuesday night, I will have approximately 17 hours to make my final decision (by myself, as you all know). 

I am flying out with the most open mind possible. I really like the department chair who I have been emailing back and forth with for a month or so now. They seem to be pretty laid-back without being too laid-back, but we'll see when I get there. I learned a lot from my crash course in grad school interviewing back in February, so I think this trip is going to be a million times better. For one thing, it's just me - this isn't a group visiting day. My schedule has been personalized so I am meeting with only faculty members whose interests are at least somewhat related to my own. They're including a housing tour, and the overall trip is longer. I also did not schedule a weekday evening flight, so even if I experience an 8 hour delay, my plane will still get there by 9:30pm - plenty of time to get some sleep before interview day starts on Monday. 

However, new information has come to light in terms of my husband and I's financial situation, dealing with military pay structure and all that. I won't get into all the details unless you guys want me to in another post, but basically, unless something fairly dramatic happens we would be moving out to this R2 with NO savings left. It has largely to do with my job and its budget for summer hours, plus the fact that my husband is getting paid about half of what he thought he was getting paid. He would also be moving out to R2 with no job, no prospects, no nothing, because he won't be released from active duty until September. 

This (somewhat luckily) has freed me from any ambivalence I might have experienced after visiting R2. It means that unless I absolutely love the program, I will be waiting another year. I've decided that I'm okay with this. My husband is much more important to me, and it will be nice to have some time to spend with him again before all the distractions resurface. 

If I decide not to go, I will be actively pursuing paid RA positions. I have just applied for one at my MRU - keep your fingers crossed for me. If I get that job I will be all set - more research experience prior to fall applications and some really great opportunities working for this PI. 

If I am dazzled by R2, I will have to suck it up and do whatever I need to do in order to save up some money before heading out there. If that means taking a second job at Starbucks, I'll do it. I'll also have to look into housing and job opportunities for my husband so he's not left hanging when he gets back. That's the really scary part - being on our own in a new city, me on a grad student stipend, and him likely unemployed for 3-4 months once he gets out there. Our family-starting plans will most likely need to be put on hold until the health insurance situation is under control, because benefits are currently through me and my employer. Cashing out my 401k will help a little, but not enough. 

Literally, up until 2 days ago I thought all was fine on the financial front and this came down to a decision based on personal preferences. This new information has reduced my stress in one area, but has significantly raised it in another. It means that if I choose to go to R2, it will be because I really, really love it there - and that's how it should have been all along. 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Oh, Man

I have so many things I want to blog about, and just haven't really had a chance to do it. 

I anticipate being able to get 1, maybe 2 posts up tomorrow night, so I want you guys to tell me what you want me to blog about. I'm too lazy to set up a poll, so y'all are gonna have to vote with comments. 

Possible Topics:
  • Thoughts on the Faludi book thus far (issues of women and fashion, television, and movies)
  • The psychology of experiencing pain
  • Evolutionary Psych (part 3 of my 3,454,986-part series)
  • Guest blog at Labness on money issues in couples
  • Spin-off post on the effect of sex hormones on behavior

I'm pretty sure I had more, but I forget what they were. I've really got to get better at writing them down when they occur to me.....

Monday, April 6, 2009


My husband was able to call me today. For 10 minutes. It feels like my Freak-Out Meter, which was approaching dangerous and foreboding shades of red, has been reset to near zero. 

Nothing else in the world matters right now. 

Sunday, April 5, 2009

I Hate Being Ignored

JLK's outbox (not actual quotes):

To: MRU Psych Dept Admin
Subject: Psi Chi


      I recently received your email regarding Psi Chi inductions. I intended to pursue Psi Chi membership at MRU, but the timing of my psychology courses did not allow me to be eligible until this past December when I graduated. Am I still able to join, or is it too late because I already have my degree?


(Sent over a month ago. Still no response. Deadline for Psi Chi inductions has passed.)

To: Professor X
Subject: Grad School Update

Dear Prof. X,

       I hope all is well. I recently checked the status of my application at Southern U, and it appears that they never received your letter of recommendation. I recall seeing a "received" status back in December when you confirmed with me that you sent them all out. Did you receive a confirmation email from the submission system that you could forward to me? I am concerned that they never reviewed my file because it was incomplete. Blah blah blah, other people have received word from SU, blah blah blah. Thank you again for writing on my behalf, blah blah blah.


(Sent over a month ago. No response. Also no response to a follow-up email letting Professor X know the status of all my applications including SU.)

To: Grad Student Mentor
Subject: Manuscript

Dear GSM,

       In order for me to complete my portion of the article manuscript, I need to know if you are intending to include all of our data. At the conference, we only presented part 2 of the study. Are we including part 1 in the submission? Also, when would you like the draft completed by?


(Sent 3+ weeks ago. No response.)

To: Rockstar Professor/Research Advisor
Subject: Research Project

Dear RP/RA,

      In your book, _____, you mention that no one has examined Z within framework Y. I would like to pursue this experimentally and I have an idea how it can be done. A recent review of the literature did not bring up any contributions to this issue. Do you know if I would still be able to do this at MRU, and if so, are you willing and able to serve as a guide to me during the creation and execution of the project? I would not require funding, but I would need access to resources A, B, and C at MRU. Upon completion, if the findings are relevant and significant, I would like to aim for submission this fall to Journal W or Journal S if you think that is a reasonable goal. 


(Sent 3 weeks ago. No response.)

I know that my email is working just fine. I'm starting to think that people look at the sender in their inbox and say, "Eh, not this chick again."

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Answers

Here are the research-based answers to the questions I asked in my previous post. It's Saturday and I don't feel like digging up all the citations, but if someone wants them drop me an email and I'll be happy to give you that info. 

In the meantime, I think you'll find it interesting to look at what the science has to say versus what you and the other commenters believe to be true - especially when contemplating why that might be the case.

1. How do the infertility rates compare in women in their twenties versus in their thirties? 

    Infertility rates in women in their twenties are no different from those of women in their thirties until you reach your late thirties. Interesting to note - fetal Down's Syndrome rates for women in their early twenties are higher than for older women. Second interesting note - women in their twenties also seem to have growing rates of infertility at younger ages. Some suspect that at some point it will equal the rate of the late thirties, making late twenties and early thirties the easiest time to conceive in a woman's life. 

2. When women are asked what brings them the most satisfaction in their lives, what is the #1 response?

Career. Every single time this question has been asked since women entered the workforce in huge numbers. The second highest f response is friends. Interestingly, spouse and children are often much, much lower on the list than one might suspect. ***Keep in mind however that this data is nearly always colored by the fact that most respondents are white, middle-class women with "careers" and otherwise nuclear households.***

3. Which group reports a stronger desire for marriage, men or women?

Men. For a very, very long time. There is data that suggests after the first time having sex with a partner, a surprising majority of men report their first thought as "I wonder if this means the relationship is really going somewhere." Men also report higher desire for children, and more of them, than women. There are much higher rates of men on dating service sites such as, and higher rates of personal ads placed by men in newspapers and magazines. Nowadays, the majority of women report that marriage is not a high priority for them, as cohabitation rates climb. 

What might surprise you - while marriage has been shown time and time again to have resounding positive effects on nearly all aspects of men's lives (socially, emotionally, financially, physically, etc.) and married men make up the 2nd healthiest, happiest group - marriage has the opposite effect on women. In terms of mental health issues, the two groups in America who are in the most trouble are single men and married women. The healthiest and happiest groups are married men and single women. 

Think about that for a second. Now think about the original question I asked you and what your answer was. For those of you who said women, what factors led you to that answer? Why do you think that might be?

4. How do women's prospects for marriage fare when they have higher levels of education and career achievement while still single?

They are better. Marriage rates in women compared to education creates a U curve when plotted. There are a bunch of women who get married right out of high school, and a bunch of women who get married in their late twenties and early thirties. The statistics can get a little muddled here based on agendas, though. You need to look at rates of "never-marrieds" to get an accurate number. And there are very, very few people in this country who have never been married. And of those who haven't? The majority are men. 

It seems to me that the reverse of the general belief is true - it is the men who have worsened prospects for marriage the older they get. Haven't we all been fed the idea that a man in his 40's who has never been married must have something wrong with him?

5. What effects do you think divorce has on women versus men in American society?

Emotionally/mentally: Women's mental health dramatically improves almost immediately. They initiate more divorces than men, report higher life satisfaction, and are less likely to say that the divorce was something they regret. Men, on the other hand, report plummeting mental health after a divorce. Higher rates of depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide attempts. 

Financially: In the short-term, women experience a mild loss financially while men experience a small gain. However, it has been shown that within 5 years of the divorce, women's financial status equals out (and in many cases exceeds) what they had when married whereas the man's financial growth tends to stagnate.

In all aspects, men have been shown to be affected much more negatively by divorce than women, including socially and physically. 

And finally, a question that occured to me today while I was putting gas in my car:

6. Why might women be told from a very early age that men are dangerous, only after "one thing," have sex drives that they are unable to control, want to avoid marriage, and are presented as a group that needs to be "tamed" by women?

This is the one question I don't yet have a full answer to. Those of you who were surprised by the answers I provided above - would you change your answer to #6 at this point? I want to hear if anyone has anything to add or change before I post my thoughts on this question. 

Friday, April 3, 2009

Food for Thought

I am currently reading a book that I should have read a long time ago - Backlash by Susan Faludi. In my defense, my study of gender has tried to focus on work by scientists and scholars, not journalists. 

But sometimes, I think, the journalists can be more comprehensive in their analysis than researchers. Why? Because scientists are trained to narrow their scope, which might explain why Faludi's book is soooo fucking big, whereas most gender texts tend to fall a bit short of 300 pages. Backlash is 460 pages long - large pages with small fonts. I'm a pretty fast reader, but 2 hours or so of effort has only got me to page 53. 

I will do a full review of the book when I am finished reading, but for now I wanted to get a discussion going about some questions I find interesting. I will also get to her book Stiffed, but I have another text that will come in-between. 

First, a quote from page 8 of the text that I find to be incredibly important:

"The statistics the popular culture chooses to promote most heavily are the very statistics we should view with the most caution. They may very well be in wide circulation not because they are true but because they support widely held media preconceptions."

I want to ask you folks some questions, and I don't want any of you to look up the answers. I just want you to answer based on your own beliefs. I will provide some answers in future posts. Think of it as an informal survey so I can see where current belief systems lie. 

1. How do the infertility rates compare in women in their twenties versus in their thirties? 

2. When women are asked what brings them the most satisfaction in their lives, what is the #1 response?

3. Which group reports a stronger desire for marriage, men or women? 

4. How do women's prospects for marriage fare when they have higher levels of education and career achievement while still single?

5. What effects do you think divorce has on women versus men in American society?

And finally, a question that occured to me today while I was putting gas in my car:

6. Why might women be told from a very early age that men are dangerous, only after "one thing," have sex drives that they are unable to control, want to avoid marriage, and are presented as a group that needs to be "tamed" by women?
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