30 March 2006

Funny, interesting, beautiful women in my tool safety class last night. We're getting ready for the all-women's build in Chatham in May.

On using a circular saw: "Just think of your sewing maching - it's just like following your seam allowance."

On funny buttons on power tools:
Woman #1: "Mine has a little black button, what's it do?"
Woman #2: "It does your nails."

There's a contact list of over 300 women who are interested in working on the build. How cool is that? It seems clear that women are interested in getting these skills in a non-threatening environment. Several women have been building Habitat homes on the cape for years, but have only done things like painting and landscaping because they didn't feel comfortable doing the heavier-duty construction work. One woman wants to learn how to build a staircase so she can put a staircase up to her porch. I'm a little bummed to learn that several of the workshops will be taught by men, but I guess that's how the knowledge transfer needs to start.

I've considered doing construction for the summer, but think I like the idea of it more than the actuality of it. Saws scare me, even if that is a girly thing to admit.

I have conflicted feelings about pink toolbelts.

20 March 2006

I finished my poster today for the annual arctic LTER meeting next weekend (and yes, I did use standard error bars to emphasize small differences). I'm quite pleased with the product - graphs and pictures attractively spaced, my standby comic-sans font to make it approachable. I'm better at doing color schemes than science.

I finally have a product to show for the hours of mind-numbing lab and field work I've done over the last 9 months. This poster, with it's bar graphs and light curves, allows me to make several (small) statements of truth about the world. Which made me wonder: are there fundamental differences in the way writers and scientists understand the world?

Writers of fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. depend on their emotions, instincts and other sentiments to interpret the world. No replication, no attempt at objectivity, which science at least attempts. Science, at least good science, doesn't take fleeting emotions and publish them as universal truths. But maype all of this is OK as long as one doesn't pretend to be the other.

And what difference will my little truths about the world make when no-one is even going to look at my poster after being in meetings and listening to talks all day? I would worry about this more, but the truth is I'll be soaking in hot springs in Albequerque next weekend, and the little life discoveries that I've missed in the lives of 4 dear girlfriends will leave room for thoughts of little else.

06 March 2006

I have never been able to pull together a respectable set of statistical skills. Even basic things, like the difference between standard deviation and standard error, are eternally confounding. I end up scouring biology websites and message boards every time I have the most basic statistical question and only manage to pull together a dim fog of understanding for all my efforts.

I liked this advice I found today:

"When you are trying to emphasize small and unimportant differences in your data, show your error bars as the standard errors for the groups and hope that your readers think they are standard deviations.

When you are trying to cover-up large differences, show the error bars as the standard deviations for the groups, and hope that your readers think they are a standard errors."

It was on a research biostatistician's website no less.