How long to make your dissertation

The best part about writing a dissertation is finding clever ways to procrastinate. The following appears in a blog located (identified?) as R Is My Friend.”The motivation for this blog comes from one of the more creative ways I’ve found to keep myself from writing. I’ve posted about data mining in the past and this post follows up on those ideas using a topic that is relevant to anyone that has ever considered getting, or has successfully completed, their PhD.images

“I think a major deterrent that keeps people away from graduate school is the requirement to write a dissertation or thesis. One often hears horror stories of the excessive page lengths that are expected. However, most don’t realize that dissertations are filled with lots of white space, e.g., pages are one-sided, lines are double-spaced, and the author can put any material they want in appendices. The actual written portion may only account for less than 50% of the page length. A single chapter may be 30-40 pages in length, whereas the same chapter published in the primary literature may only be 10 or so pages long in a journal. Regardless, students (myself included) tend to fixate on the ‘appropriate’ page length for a dissertation, as if it’s some sort of measure of how much work you’ve done to get your degree. Any professor will tell you that page length is not a good indicator of the quality of your work. Regardless, I feel that some general page length goal should be established prior to writing. This length could be a minimum to ensure you put forth enough effort, or an upper limit to ensure you aren’t too excessive on extraneous details. Continue reading “How long to make your dissertation”

Teaching to the test…and failing

It’s a terrible time for advocates of market-driven reform in public education. images-1For more than a decade, their strategy—which makes teachers’ careers turn on student gains in reading and math tests, and promotes competition through charter schools and vouchers—has been the dominant policy mantra. But now the cracks are showing. That’s a good thing because this isn’t a proven—or even a promising—way to make schools better.

Here’s a litany of recent setbacks: In the latest Los Angeles school board election, a candidate who dared to question the overreliance on test results in evaluating teachers and the unseemly rush to approve charter schools won despite $4 million amassed to defeat him, including $1 million from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and $250,000 from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Former Atlanta superintendent Beverly Hall, feted for boosting her students’ test scores at all costs, has been indicted in a massive cheating scandal. Michelle Rhee, the former Washington D.C. school chief who is the darling of the accountability crowd,faces accusations, based on a memo released by veteran PBS correspondent John Merrow, that she knew about, and did nothing to stop, widespread cheating. In a Washington Post op-ed, Bill Gates, who has spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting high-stakes, test-driven teacher evaluation, did an about-face and urged a kinder, gentler approach that teachers could embrace. And parents in New York State staged a rebellion, telling their kids not to take a new and untested achievement exam. Continue reading “Teaching to the test…and failing”

Happy Mother’s Day?

With Mother’s day approaching a number of analysts have calculated the equivalent compensation for a individual doing comparable work. As Huffington Post reports: “A mother’s hypothetical pay fell for the second year in a row, dragged down by stagnating wages in the United States, according to insurance information website

“A mom in 2013 was worth $59,862 per year, down from $60,182 in 2012 and $61,436 in 2011, said, calculating the salary based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data.
This was the third year released its data just ahead of Mother’s Day.

“By another measure, the “mom salary” rose slightly this year after experiencing a big dip in 2012.
The career website, basing its pay figures from businesses employing 25 people or fewer, showed a stay-at-home mom was worth $113,586 in 2013 versus $112,962 and $115,432 in 2011. The domestic work of a mother who has another job was valued at $67,435. “The hypothetical mom salary stagnated as U.S. wages fell to a record low of 43.5 percent of GDP in 2012. For many workers, wages have been stagnant for the past decade, according to the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute.  Continue reading “Happy Mother’s Day?”

Progress for transgender athletes

More than half a dozen states, from Washington to Massachusetts, have adopted rules to allow transgender students to compete on teams that correspond with their gender identities rather than the sex listed on their school records. Half a dozen more states are considering similar regulations, reports todays’s New York Times. “And a bill in the Legislature would make California the first to specifically guarantee by law that transgender students are allowed to play school sports.images-5

“Transgender students deserve equal access to everything in public education, including sports,” said Tom Ammiano, the state assemblyman sponsoring the bill. “You can’t discriminate just because you’re uncomfortable with a young man transitioning to become a young woman.”

“The push to include transgender students in school sports reflects the rapidly growing visibility of transgender people in all walks of society — like Fallon Fox, the mixed-martial artist who was born a man but fights women, and Chaz Bono, the child of Sonny Bono and Cher, who has transitioned from female to male — as well as shifting ideas about how to define gender. Continue reading “Progress for transgender athletes”

Smith responds to pressure

Smith College’s gender and sexuality advocacy organization Q&A recently delivered a petition with 4,000 signatures to the university’s admission’s office in support of a transgender woman, Calliope Wong who was denied admission because her Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA) identified her as male, reports Huffington Post.

“The advocacy group and Wong have been working with GLAAD to shed light on the difficulty that transgender women face when applying to Smith. They want the college to input an inclusive admissions policy.After receiving the petition signatures, Smith’s Dean of Admissions Debra Shaver said that a committee will be formed to directly address the issues pertaining to transgender applicants.images-4

“The committee is expected to start meeting at the start of the new academic year in September. Students involved in the committee say they were told that the private women’s college would stop using the gender marker on FAFSA applications when evaluating transgender students for admission. Continue reading “Smith responds to pressure”

Central American immigration to U.S. doubles

William Ordonez and his wife, Carolia, thought that starting a new business in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, was a great idea, reports NPRimages-3

“But just two weeks after they started selling chips, candy and soda, gang members showed up and ordered them to pay about $25 a week.”We tried explaining to them that we just opened, we aren’t making that much, we can’t pay you,” Ordonez says.

“The men didn’t care, so Ordonez went to the police. He says instead of helping, the police told the gang that Ordonez and his wife had complained. The next day, there was a note on the small store door that said: “We are going to kill you.” “The first thing we thought to do was to save our lives … we took off,” he says. Ordonez, his father, his wife and their 7-year-old-son all headed north. After a month of traveling hidden in the back of pickup trucks, in small boats and on the top of trains, the family made it to a small refugee center in a poor neighborhood in Mexico City. Continue reading “Central American immigration to U.S. doubles”

The Last Picture Show

Small-town independent movie theaters may soon be driven into extinction by digital movie houses. The LA times reports that “On the redwood-lined banks of the Russian River, dozens of local residents and tourists gathered in a grassy field on a hot Sunday afternoon, lining up to buy raffle tickets and $10 plates of barbecued chicken as a bluegrass group rehearsed a number for a Ramble at the Rio concert.

“It might have been a church social or a school fundraising picnic. But this event was to raise money to save a centerpiece of the community: the Rio Theater.images-1

“Built from a World War II Quonset hut and adorned with murals from local artists, the Rio has been screening films in this town of about 1,200 people since 1950. Located in the wine country north of San Francisco off the Bohemian Highway, a few miles away from the Bodega Bay filming location of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic “The Birds,” the Rio has survived fires, floods and multiple owners. Continue reading “The Last Picture Show”

How the Christian Right exploits adoption

When you think of adoption, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Maybe it’s the vague, rosy notion of a happy ending — of rescue, salvation or (more likely) some do-gooding Hollywood mouthpiece like Angelina Jolie adding kids of various ethnicities to her big, colorful brood.images carries a story that tells a different tale: “What probably doesn’t automatically come to mind is coercion, racism and a conservative Christian agenda that extends beyond mere abortion prevention. Award-winning journalist Kathryn Joyce describes all these issues — and, sadly, many more — as being shockingly rampant in the multi-billion-dollar adoption industry. And she delves into them, in somewhat jarring investigative detail, in her new book, “The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption.”

“Joyce details how the adoption industry has become overly enmeshed with the Christian right — how evangelical, pro-adoption church leaders have, in recent years, been creepily urging followers to adopt en masse, often internationally and from war-ravaged countries. Christian adoption booms are common in countries like Haiti and Indonesia after natural disasters and other crises — remember Laura Silsby, the Baptist church leader from Idaho who was charged with child trafficking after illegally attempting to smuggle 33 unauthorized Haitian children across the Haiti-Dominican Republic border in 2010? Continue reading “How the Christian Right exploits adoption”

Arts feminism considered

Sometimes people claim that we don’t need feminism any more. Women have rights, they argue, so what more could they possibly want or need?

A recent post from the UK office of Huffington Posts carries an essay saying: “One only needs to look around the world at the terrible situation for many girls and women to realise that feminism is still necessary and vital. But even once females have better living conditions and more rights, feminism still has a role to play as women try to shape careers.images-7

“Several recent news stories have made it clear that women are way behind when it comes to careers in the arts.

“VIDA’s overview of who got published in literary magazines in 2012 suggests that it is still – no surprise – overwhelmingly men. Not only is it men who more often get their literary work published, but it is also primarily men who get their work reviewed and who are the reviewers, too. Continue reading “Arts feminism considered”

Boomer suicides outpace auto deaths

These days more middle aged American are dying at their own hands than perish in car crashes, reports the New York Times. Topping the list are men in their 50s and women in their 60s.images-5

“Suicide rates among middle-aged Americans have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern that a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry and easy access to prescription painkillers may be particularly vulnerable to self-inflicted harm.

“More people now die of suicide than in car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which published the findings in Friday’s issue of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. In 2010 there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes and 38,364 suicides.

“Suicide has typically been viewed as a problem of teenagers and the elderly, and the surge in suicide rates among middle-aged Americans is surprising.

 Read more at:

Insurance gender-identity discrimination

In America’s increasingly expensive health care system, the costs of not having adequate insurance coverage are both financial and physical,reports the Center for American Progress.  Without coverage, many people must choose between struggling to pay exorbitant medical bills or going without the care they need.images-4

“Similar to millions of other Americans, many transgender people lack health insurance coverage. But even when they are able to find coverage, the promise of more secure access to care and protection from unaffordable medical bills often rings hollow. This is because the majority of U.S. health insurance plans deny coverage for medical procedures and treatments seen as specific to transgender people.

“This brief provides an overview of insurance discrimination against transgender people; the impact of the Affordable Care Act on insurance discrimination; and how some state insurance regulators are taking action to stop gender-identity discrimination in insurance.

“Currently, most private insurance plans, as well as many state Medicaid programs, incorporate plan language that specifically targets transgender people by excluding, for example:

  • “All services related to sexual reassignment”
  • “Sex transformations”
  • “Any treatment or procedure designed to alter an individual’s physical characteristics to those of the opposite sex”
  • “Care, services or treatment for … gender dysphoria or sexual reassignment or change … including medications, implants, hormone therapy, surgery, medical or psychiatric treatment”

These categorical exclusions are based on the false premise that the health care services that transgender people need are not medically necessary and are never needed by nontransgender people. In fact, however, the health care services denied to transgender people under these exclusions are frequently needed by nontransgender people as well.”


Story continues at:

Obama can shut Guantanamo

In his press conference Tuesday, President Obama repeated that he wanted to shut Guantanamo Bay but blamed Congress for stopping him, according to images-3 “They would not let us close it,” he said. But that’s wrong. President Obama can lawfully release the detainees if he wants to. Congress has made it difficult, but not impossible. Whatever he’s saying, the president does not want to close the detention center—at least not yet.

“The relevant law is the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA). This statute confirms the president’s power to wage war against al-Qaida and its associates, which was initially given to him in the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed shortly after 9/11. The NDAA also authorizes the president to detain enemy combatants, and bans him from transferring Guantanamo detainees to American soil.

“The NDAA does not, however, ban the president from releasing detainees. Section 1028 authorizes him to release them to foreign countries that will accept them—the problem is that most countries won’t, and others, like Yemen, where about 90 of the 166 detainees are from, can’t guarantee that they will maintain control over detainees, as required by the law. Continue reading “Obama can shut Guantanamo”

Court rules for abused mentally disabled workers

A US jury has awarded $240m to 32 mentally disabled men who suffered decades of abuse while working at a turkey processing company in Iowa, reports the BBC today. “Jurors in Davenport heard how the men had been kicked, verbally abused and denied toilet breaks by their employers from Henry’s Turkey Serviceimages-2

“One expert said the disabled workers – who were each paid only $65 per month – had been “virtually enslaved”. The verdict is in addition to $1.3m in back wages awarded to the men in 2012.

“On Wednesday, the jury determined that the now-defunct Henry’s Turkey Service had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. It said the company had created a hostile environment and discriminating conditions of employment for the men, who had learning difficulties and worked at the West Liberty plant under the company’s oversight since the 1970s. The award gives each worker $7.5m in compensation. The authorities say they will now seek to recover the award from the remaining assets of the liquidated firm. Continue reading “Court rules for abused mentally disabled workers”

Traumatic times

Each American generation has its characteristic psychiatric diagnosis, and, typically, a drug or medication that represents the times, states

“When the world was on the verge of blowing up in the Dr. Strangelove 1960s, we lived in the Age of Anxiety. Valium, the drug that symbolized that period, was celebrated in books and movies like “Valley of the Dolls” and songs like the Rolling Stones’ “Mother’s Little Helper.” The 1970s was the Age of Malaise, and the drug that attempted to mediate that malaise was cocaine. Starting in the Prozac-fueled late 1980s and 1990s, the omnipresent diagnosis was depression. Later, the diagnosis was attention deficit disorder and the representative drug was Adderall.images

“If this is so, the appropriate diagnosis of the last decade — since Sept. 11, 2001, to be exact — may be PTSD: post-traumatic stress disorder. Of course legions of American soldiers have received the diagnosis, and enormous resources, appropriately, have gone into its treatment. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that nearly 30 percent of the more than 800,000 Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans treated in veterans’ hospitals and clinics are diagnosed with PTSD.

“But in the past 10 years, even non-veterans have been engaged in an ongoing narrative of American trauma. After 9/11 came Katrina, then the economic meltdown and the recession that never seems to end. This past year saw Sandy followed by Newtown. Along the way there’s been the mass killings at Virginia Tech, at Northern Illinois University, and in a Colorado movie theater. There also seems to be a deepening sense that one can never fully escape from potential catastrophe, not on a Boston street on a promising spring day or in a Connecticut elementary school a few weeks before Christmas.

“In the popular perception, the locus, both psychologically and geographically, of the tragedies has shifted. They’ve gone from being “out there” — in, say, the remote parts of the South or West, or the inner cities — to “right here,” in respectable, suburban America. The latest chapter is the bombing in Boston, with its indelible images — the 70-year-old runner laid out on the ground; the impossibly innocent smiling face of the 8-year-old boy who was killed. And it further cements post-traumatic stress in the popular psyche and lexicon in a similar way in which depression, bipolar disorder and ADD — and the drugs to treat them — were popularized in earlier eras. Continue reading “Traumatic times”

Gillard’s disability gambit

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has pinned her government’s re-election hopes on a new welfare program for the disabled, proposing on Wednesday a new tax to better fund care for Australians with severe physical and mental disabilities, reports the Associated Press

“The tax would not be paid until July 1, 2014. Gillard said legislation to create the tax would not be considered by Parliament before general elections on Sept. 14.images-1

“Opinion polls agree Gillard’s center-left Labor Party government is unlikely to retain power. While the conservative opposition supports the concept of a new disability support fund, it opposes a new tax to pay for it.

“Gillard had rejected a new tax last year but said Wednesday the government could not fund the program through savings because company tax revenue was falling billions of dollars short of Treasury Department forecasts due to the cooling mining boom and a strong Australian dollar damaging business competitiveness Continue reading “Gillard’s disability gambit”


In his Sports Illustrated editorial,  Jason Collins wrote he wore the number 98 in 38 games this season while playing for the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards as a silent tribute to Matthew Shepard, who was beaten and left to die outside Laramie, Wyo. in October 1998.

Collins writes:

“My one small gesture of solidarity was to wear jersey number 98 with the Celtics and then the Wizards. The number has great significance to the gay community. One of the most notorious antigay hate crimes occurred in 1998. Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, was kidnapped, tortured and lashed to a prairie fence. He died five days after he was finally found.That same year the Trevor Project was founded. This amazing organization provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention to kids struggling with their sexual identity. Trust me, I know that struggle. I’ve struggled with some insane logic. When I put on my jersey I was making a statement to myself, my family and my friends.”


The Huffington Post carries a story about this: Continue reading “98”

The immigration bill’s new complication

The most serious threat to bipartisan immigration reform doesn’t involve border security or guest workers or even the path to citizenship. It’s about LGBT rights, reports Politicoimages

“Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has told advocates that he will offer an amendment during the bill markup next week allowing gay Americans to sponsor their foreign-born partners for green cards, just as heterosexual couples can. The measure is likely to pass because Democrats face pressure from gay rights advocates to deal with it in committee, rather than on the Senate floor, where the odds of passage are far less favorable.

“But by doing so, Republicans warn that Democrats will tank the whole bill.

“It will virtually guarantee that it won’t pass,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a member of the Gang of Eight negotiating group, told POLITICO in a brief interview. “This issue is a difficult enough issue as it is. I respect everyone’s views on it. But ultimately, if that issue is injected into this bill, the bill will fail and the coalition that helped put it together will fall apart.” Continue reading “The immigration bill’s new complication”