Further Musings

Beauty smote his heart, he looked up from the forsaken land & hope returned to him

Archive for February 2006


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On Monday I sat in my carrel, high up in Davis Library, staring at eight separate articles on state failure and state collapse, the topics upon which I am endeavoring to write a thesis. As I looked at them with despair it occurred to me for the first time that perhaps my 11th grade teacher was onto something when she forced me to write up endless index cards on whatever topic I had written about.

But index cards didn’t seem like they would do the trick unless I could tack them up on the wall in front of me and reorganize them again and again as I try to sort out the ideas that other academics have written about in regards to this topic, but the wall is to small for a thesis’ worth of ideas and I don’t think the library would be enthusiastic about the process.

Thankfully there are programs out there that function as a means of visually organizing brainstorming and today I broke down and ordered a copy of MindManger Pro 6.


Last year I read about it in the NYTimes and tried the free trial version. I was able to map out some cool ideas using it, including this one.


Written by furthermusings

February 28, 2006 at 10:38 pm

Posted in Political Science


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When I first began reading blogs I happened upon Ten Years of My Life, which is a photo blog by a software developer who has been attempting to take and post a photograph everyday for 10 years. He has quite the eye and his shots are often amazingly beautiful, though since his baby (see below) was born he has been posting has been understandably sparse.

The one below is interesting visually and puzzling to me philosophically. He captions the original saying “Fiona loves to look at images of herself. I just got a new iPod and soon figured out a slideshow with the keys locked makes a nice way to capture her attention.”

Functionally I’d bet it’s great, but I’m not sure what to think of the idea of a child being amused by endless pictures of itself . . . I can’t help but think of it being used in 20 years by a social commenter on the effect of technology on society.

baby watches self.jpg

Written by furthermusings

February 20, 2006 at 4:23 pm

Posted in Pictures

Differing Natures of Graduate Study

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"In the sciences and laboratory-based social sciences, research is done in teams. Students enter research groups early in their graduate careers. The subject matter is vertically integrated. Students can develop a clear picture of their graduate programs and the type of work they need to do to complete their degrees.

By contrast, research in the humanities and in most social sciences is done individually and in isolation in libraries, archives and in the field. Because dissertation-related research often does not begin until students have passed their qualifying examinations, students in these disciplines can delay entering into an adviser-advisee relationship until late in their graduate careers. In addition, the subject matter in these disciplines is horizontally integrated. Students are required to make sense of a large body of disparate information, which often has only a tangential relationship to their research interests.

Thus, by virtue of the structural and cultural organization of the discipline, students in the sciences and laboratory-based social sciences are provided with more opportunities for academic and social integration with members of the departmental community than students in the humanities and nonlaboratory-based social sciences.

Consequently, the probability of attrition for students in the sciences and laboratory-based social sciences is lower than for students in the humanities and nonlaboratory-based social sciences."

From Leaving the Ivory Tower: The Causes and Consequences of Departure from Graduate Study by Barbara E. Lovitts, page 260.

Written by furthermusings

February 7, 2006 at 11:50 am

Posted in Political Science

Sitemeter and the Readership

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If you’ve ever wondered (and I know you have!) what the small square at the bottom left of the blog is it is a sitemeter. When LN designed my blog she included it in the html and I hadnt paid it much mind until recently.

Originally it would provide me with information about the last one hundred hits on the homepage: ip address, server provider, and referral page. An example might be, unl.edu, and theonegrand.com. While mildly amusing, the only functional outcome was that I was convinced that Charity admired me greatly because of my frequent hits from a UNL server. Only later did I realize that other friends worked for the university as well.

Recently, after posting a comment on a popular economics blog, I began to check sitemeter again and see if people had been linking over to my blog from it. If they are wanting to read economics they would find that they have wandered into a different genre of blogging.

But as it turned out I was the one surprised when I found out my site had been viewed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. I’m curious what I did to merit a look by a government agency. Perhaps posting a picture of a large, burning Christmas tree? Equally interesting is how they found my site as it is not indexed by Google or any of the other major search engines.

sitemeter.jpg Since then I’ve been checking to see if I will get more hits from the government. So far nothing has shown up, but it is interesting to use the new features sitemeter has provided to see the geographical distribution of hits. Can you find yourself?

There are occasional European and Californian visitors and once a hit from Australia. But for the most part these dots are the regular viewers of this blog. On the actual sitemeter site I can mouse-over the dots and see the server and city name.

I wonder if it is a surprising thought to anyone that I can know that someone from a particular location has viewed the site. Of course I only make educated guesses as to the identities of the visitors (knowing that someone on an AOL server viewed the blog isnt very informative) but I have a good guess on Texas, Lincoln and NYC. Some of the other viewers are mysteries.

The biggest effect of discovering this new geographical mapping of hits is that it has demystified a bit of the blogging process to me. Even if I dont know who my California reader is, its the same reader on a regular basis, not random internet wanders.

While there is always the chance that someone else will wander on, since I disabled Google I think that my readership is more regular. Perhaps it was always this regular and I just had the illusion of and love is not the easy thing being a bit like a book on a shelf that people at Borders walk by and thumb through. From the stats I believe that I am writing to a regular audience of about 30 or 40.

As I think about it, it makes me grateful that you (both the known and the unknown) take the time to read my thoughts . . . thanks for reading. Im glad that people stop in to hear my voice.

Written by furthermusings

February 6, 2006 at 10:30 pm

Posted in Reflections

Two Experts?

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Last night Charity and I had an earnest discussion before bed. The topic? Nighttime snacks.

It was an interesting discussion, not so much for the topic or the points of view (Charity argued that it is harmful to have a snack before bed. I argued that a nighttime snack doesn’t hurt and probably helps one to sleep), but instead I thought it was noteworthy for the way that we argued about it.

Perhaps it is because we are both in the process of completing our Master�s degrees that we both felt at liberty to argue a topic that we have no legitimate knowledge about with such sincerity. In our 15 minute discussion we each appealed to biology, chemistry and thermodynamics. We know little these topics in general and almost nothing about how they explain the process of our bodies digesting food. But that didn’t prevent us from earnestly employing those theories to clearly support our points. (Especially me as I touched on thermodynamics as an undergrad.)

At a certain point I started laughing at what our friend Scott, the nutrition Ph.D candidate would think about our theories of digestion. Just how absurdly wrong were we?

That conversation has me thinking about the different things that we believe that we are either completely wrong about or explain using totally misapplied theories. For example, can you explain why the earth has seasons? Or why the moon looks different on different nights?

Last August I sat at a table where four Ph.D candidates confidently explained to me it was summer because the northern hemisphere was tilted towards the sun. Sounds right eh? Then I asked them why. Their unanimous answer? Because the tilt makes the top closer to the sun and therefore North Carolina is warmer than when it is further from the sun in the winter.

Most of the time it does bother me that people have totally mistaken views of scientific questions (The above instance did because everyone had just finished ridiculing someone else�s equally mistaken answer).

But Charity and I�d discussion has me thinking about the possible scope and consequences of our ignorance. What about things that are more weighty but we don�t have real evidence or thoughtfulness about and yet we stand so strongly for or against: the evolution debate; what happens to people when they die; or whether or not there is are evil spiritual beings that roam the world.

What would happen if we laid out our theories and implicit assumptions about these things in open argument? I won�t even try with evolution and have tried recently with the other two and I felt pretty humbled by the experience. It all makes me wonder how important understanding really is.

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February 2, 2006 at 8:30 pm

Posted in Reflections