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April 24, 2009

Universal Design: A Book Report

Ok so it's not a book report. Actually I don't think I've written a book report since 5th grade (ah but that last one was a goodie; it was a Beverly Cleary book and who can ever go wrong with Beverly Cleary aka my generation's Judy Bloom) but it's not really a book review because I can't be objective-- I love the whole universal design thing and I think the people at DO-IT rock and they are the editors (yeah, yeah I get the DO-IT thing and no I'm not going to explain it; you will have to click on it.)

Hmmm I am being more than a little bitchy today. Sorry I've been developing and refining data templates and stupidly told Tom since there were only 8 it would be easier for me to do it manually than for him to generate software to do it automatically. All I have to say is STUPID ME.

Anyway back to universal design. For any and all in higher education, you gotta read Universal Design in Higher Education: From Principles to Practice. It's good, really good. I know it is a whole book and most of us don't have time to read a whole book that isn't in our area; but if you are teaching students, it is in your area. Even if you don't read the whole thing, check out pieces like Table 9.2 on Universal Course Design Instructional Strategies which gives ideas that take less than 15 mins to implement and others that take 15-60 mins. For example under "Universally Designed Videos/Pictures/Audios" for the former they suggest "show all video presentations with closed captioning on". For the later they suggest "search for video clips on the Internet (use keywords such as "MPEG" or "video clips" in your search)."

Yes I've already suggested that they make these tips and suggestions available on line and hopefully they will. In the meantime, just buy the book and if you don't want to read the whole thing, flip through it.

April 22, 2009

The Earth Day 2009 resolutions meme.

This great meme came from Dave via Dr. Free-Ride.

I'd like you to take a minute or two to come up with three things that you can do to be more environmentally friendly. The first should be something that's small, and easy to do. The second should be more ambitious - something you'll try to do, but might not manage to pull off. The third should be something you can do to improve something you're already doing.

So here are mine:.

Small and easy: Only buying environmentally friendly cleaning products.

More ambitious: Fly less and/or figure out some way to reduce the impact of my flying.

Improve something already doing: I did an ok job hanging clothes out on the line last summer; I'll start doing that earlier this year (like now) and will check the weather before I do laundry.

Ordering up Scones & Science

I’ve written before about feeling like a fish out of water in the scientific world and I just found out about some events that might just help me get over that - Science Cafés:

“Science cafés are live events that involve a face-to-face conversation with a scientist about current science topics. They are open to everyone, and take place in casual settings like pubs and coffeehouses.”

You can find science cafés near you or start your own. What a cool idea! What would be your dream science café?

April 19, 2009

Good by and thank you Judith Krug

Judith Krug died last week and our right to make our own decisions as to what we read is a little shakier now. Director of the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom, Judith fought the good fight against censorship for more than 40 years. One of her favorite lines was “Censorship dies in the light of day.” I first met her in the 1970s when we were on a panel together--this very elegant, well made up attractive woman stood up and said the most radical things--I was in awe of her and continued be so. Reading is a right and the right to read what you want to is necessary for a free society and she made that right stronger.

Judith also started "Banned Book Week" to "celebrate the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them."

So please in honor of Judith, this week, read a book that has been banned. You have lots of choices Joyce's Ulysses, Whitman's Leaves of Grass, Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, pretty much anything Judy Bloom has ever written...

April 13, 2009

The Science of Eggs

So instead of working I'm sitting at my computer listening to Ziggy Marley singing Woody Guthrie live.

Where is this happening? Why at the 2009 Easter Egg Roll at the White House (there's live streaming). And along with Ziggy there is SCIENCE! Our friends at AAAS are on the White House lawn now doing "Egg-tivities." If you can't be there in person; AAAS has a handout so you can do them at home.

I was going to say that I was very egg-cited but feared you would throw things at me.

April 08, 2009

Running amuck, motherhood and old sperm

On March 18th I posted that I would run amuck if I saw one more article about why there aren't more women in science that concluded "it's the children". Silly me; what was I thinking? Now I have to decide which way I want to run amuck. That whole run in 'a murderous frenzy or rage' thing is not attractive. There has been way too much of that in the U.S. these days and it never makes things better; only worse. On the other hand, I'm not very excited about this Run Amuck either. Four miles of hills, a tire dash, and mud; not so much. That leaves me with behaving in "a wild or unruly manner" and let's get real, that's me in everyday life!

So what has lead me to this conundrum? Many things:

Well there's the Chronicle article, which was trying to be helpful, but quoted WITHOUT COMMENT, a graduate student in linguistics saying: "I can't think of an example of a successful female faculty member at our (or any other) top research university who has a 'normal' family situation. The only time these women appear successful both personally and professionally is if a spouse dedicates his career to helping his wife succeed." Right because what "normal" man would want to dedicate his career to helping his wife succeed? And heaven forfend (I always wanted to write that), that couples help each other succeed or get a little, or a lot of, help from friends and family.

Speaking of help; here's some. This Chronicle article's titled "Keeping your academic life separate from your family life at crucial times can help you succeed in both realms." My favorite piece of advice:

As much as possible, plan the timing of your children around the stages and milestones of an academic career.

Now that's a great idea and so easy to implement. Oh well at least the author expects you to have children; that's progress. If you read the column, let me know what you think; some of the advice is useful but it was so depressing.

And speaking of depressing, we now have the Goldilocks and the Three Bears syndrome as in "Hillary Clinton was too ambitious; Laura Bush (who?) was too retro; but Michelle has the woman thing just right." According to David Samuels:

There are clear limits to Michelle's ambition. She went to excellent schools, got decent grades, stayed away from too much intellectual heavy lifting, and held a series of practical, modestly salaried jobs while accommodating her husband's wilder dreams and raising two lovely daughters. In this, she is a more practical role model for young women than Hillary Clinton, blending her calculations about family and career with an expectation of normal personal happiness.

Oh goodie we are back to "normal" again. Don't you love how "normal" for women is never "go for your dreams", "expect support from people who love you" or even "good for you for doing what is important to you (regardless of what that is)?

Now about that old sperm. Turns out those biological clocks tick for men too. Sperm from older men, not so good for making a healthy, smart baby as sperm from younger men. Indeed “it turns out the optimal age for being a mother is the same as the optimal age for being a father.” Author Lisa Belkin's analysis of some of the societal implications of this is fascinating:

What if 30-year-old women started looking at 50-year-old men as damaged goods, what with their washed-up sperm, meaning those 50-year-olds might actually have to date (gasp!) women their own age? What if men, as the years passed, began to look with new eyes at Ms. Almost Right? Would men of all ages come to understand — firsthand, not just from the sidelines — the fear that the very passage of time will put your not-yet-conceived baby at risk?

It, she says, may not change everything.. "but it would be a satisfying start if men had to pause and see age as part of their biological equation, too."

Yes it would.

April 05, 2009

Dr. Isis rules and not just because I love her shoes

Sorry Isis and everyone else; I should have posted this earlier and I just forgot. Dr. Isis has two more weeks to go in her efforts to fund an APS David Bruce award. The more hits she gets the more money she raises. So folks start clicking. You won't be sorry.

You can't rape your wife.

Ah I thought that title would get your attention and it did. There has been a lot of outrage about the recent law that Afghan President Hamid Karzai just signed that, among other things, "guarantees that married men can have sex once every four nights and wives must submit. In effect, it legalizes marital rape." The outrage has lead, according to CNN, to Karzai saying his government will review a recently approved version of a law. Hopefully that will make a difference (if not let's keep up the outrage).

In the middle of reading about this I had a flashback; a flashback to 1978 where in most of the United States, it was legal (or at least not illegal) for a man to rape his wife. That was when Laura X started the National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date Rape and successfully led a campaign to make marital rape a crime in California (yes that California; in 1977 it was not a crime for a man to rape his wife there or pretty much anyplace else in the US). The situation was such that when the legislation was introduced, the then chair of the state senate judiciary committee said that while he wholeheartedly supported the measure; "the bill would have a difficult time passing the legislature, since there were those in that body with the mentality that believed "If you can't rape your wife, who can you rape?" ".

Thanks to Laura and her allies, the legislation passed and became law. Laura went on to work on 45 other state campaigns to make date and marital rape against the law. Now in the US, if you rape your wife, you've got a damned good chance of getting arrested and going to jail. Not only that, but folks are horrified, with the idea that martial rape might be allowed anywhere in the world. That is an incredible change in this country in just 30 years and it needs to be acknowledged.

Thank you Laura X; you've made the country and the world a better place

April 01, 2009

"Dramatic" Increase in PhDs to Minority Scientists

I know that " "Dramatic" Increase in PhDs to Minority Scientists" is not a typical title for the FairerScience blog, but hey it is the lead story at AAAS.org and I am very excited. (Stories on AAAS' front page change quickly so if you don't see it on the front page, go here).

I am totally excited because the article reports on work that we at Campbell-Kibler have been doing with AAAS for the past, hmm maybe- six years to help universities learn what, if any impact, their efforts to increase the number of African American, Hispanic and Native students getting PhDs in the sciences have had. All of the participating universities are part of NSF's AGEP (Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate and they are doing a really good job. As FairerScience friend Shirley Malcom says:

"We all want to do things that work. We're looking for programs and strategies that can make a difference. "We have had low numbers that have been languishing. So finally, here's some good news about a set of institutions that have set out to increase the participation of minorities within the sciences and they've done it."

My favorite part:

From 2000/01 to 2007/08, the percent change in the average annual number of PhDs awarded at the 66 AGEP institutions was much higher for URM than for all other U.S. citizens and permanent residents in NS&E (50.0% vs 31.0%)

That quote is from our report not from the story; which is a totally tacky way to get you to check out the report.

Anyway congratulations to all and keep up the good work!

PS In case you are wondering how we get all this data, the first university to submit their data each year gets, our best reward; lots of my homemade chocolate chip cookies.