Day 7: Back to Daily Grind

Happy Friday the 13th (oogly boogly).

I did actually make it back into town on Tuesday, which was a relief, and the flight was only a little bumpy on the way back.

It’s not that grinding being back at school, but it is much darker than it was at home. It’s also much sunnier than when I left though; the daylight is now 4.25 hours long! hell yeah!

looking northwest at some snowy mountains
some snow coming in sideways on the walk back from school this afternoon, looking a little like warp-drive from Star Trek

The first class of the new semester is Applied Methodology, which mostly means talking about different ways to count things, different ways to talk to people, and research ethics. Science is, as ever, mostly counting things. We spent a long time talking about survey design and how to ask good and clear questions, and a lot of it common sense: short sentences, clear vocab, only ask one question at a time. But there is a point where survey design feels a little like divination; well people could interpret the question like this, which might skew the results like that. and it drives me a little nuts. Just hit them with a hammer to see if they have a weathering rind, that will tell you how old they are, and you don’t even have to worry about bin size. (don’t do that, that’s rude, and a rocks-only approach)

The social science people are also far more willing to entertain having the survey respondent write in answers, and having seen my dad build very clever search engines to deal with the nonsense things people type into open text fields, this just feels like a bad move. I remember he was writing a date parser at one point, and it threw up an error, which when he poked, the error was that the date of creation of this document was ”potato”. ‘Potato’ as a calendar date is still one of my favorite things, but it has ingrained a wariness of anything other than drop down menus in surveys.

Research ethics is also largely simple things like ”don’t accept money to lie about your conclusions”, and ”please password protect information you get about humans, that’s private”. Today we talked a little bit what science was like before we developed ethical review boards, which meant a rundown of the greatest hits of buckwild and evil psychology experiments of the 20th century. I was surprised there were people who weren’t familiar with the Milgram Experiment, and there was at least one whispered ”what the fuck” when the experimental setup was described (which is an extremely fair reaction). As we standing up to take a break, I muttered, half to myself, ”huh, we didn’t even touch on the wire mother experiments that drove a bunch of monkeys insane” which got me a Look from a couple classmates, so there goes any reputation I might have had as not actually a mad scientist.

I also made a wobbly “eeeeehhh” noise in class a couple days ago (to indicate uncertainty, as you do), and three separate people asked me about it afterwards in a Why on earth did you make that noise kind of way. So really, I have no idea what people find surprising at this point.

A couple days ago my elder sibling sent me a picture of a modular origami Thing that looks kinda like a pomegranate.

the origami pomegranate in question. so twirly!

As with a lot of cool looking origami on the internet, it is nigh impossible to find decent diagrams or instructions or god even a crease pattern. I have been wading through utterly unparsesable blurry Russian diagrams for days now. I’m incidentally finding a lot of other interesting looking actually readable diagrams, which is fun for me. and I think I’m getting close to a diagram that is more than 8 pixels on a side, but we’ll see.

I’m having fun being back in school, but I’m also looking forward to a couple of days that I’m not spending either getting up for class or on a plane or stuck in a hotel room in the wrong city. Travel is such a fraught process.

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