Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Self-Control and Maturity in Action

I am very used to people being wrong on the Internet, but to misattribute the poem "The Emperor of Ice-Cream" to e.e. cummings instead of Wallace Stevens --- that's just really wrong.  And it is, I believe, just about the only assertion in that entire thread that nobody took issue with (and somebody even "liked" it).  Of course, I'm sure no other readers were their state American literature champion in high school or, like me, they are just mature and self-regulating enough to avoid pointing out the error.  But on my own blog, I have no compunction about obnoxiously observing that making a sort of demonstrative, gratuitous literary allusion but fucking it up = signaling FAIL. 

I really like Wallace Stevens' poetry and find it kind of inspiring that he published the majority of his work rather late in life (his first major publication was at age 35) and while holding down a demanding full-time job as a lawyer (and later, a VP) for the Hartford insurance company. 

Done for Now

Had my presentation today so the semester is officially over.  I'm not planning to do any more school-related stuff until Dec 28 (unless I get an email from one of my profs to do something for my RA-ship, which could happen).  Of course, I got home around 4:30 this afternoon and felt a bit like, OK, jeez, what do I do now?  Oh yeah, I need to turn my apartment into a place that does not look like a paper factory exploded so that my visitors tomorrow can sit down.  Hmm...suddenly I have the desire to read one of the books I picked up at the public library on my way home.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

That's the Spirit

I've put together my research proposal presentation for tomorrow.  It's always nice when it's timely (about gift giving to children), you can mention one of your pet peeves (the "one big gift" swindle that started with the wise men and has become a hated tradition for millions of kids), and you can illustrate not just one but two of your points with lolcats.

No one can question my holiday spirit after sharing these lolcats with you. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Two Down

I finished my second paper today.  Now I only have a 10-slide PPT presentation to put together on my research idea for my third class, and that shouldn't take very long to do.  I'll probably start it tonight and finish it in the morning.  (Obviously it does not take that long to create a short presentation when you have worked out the content, but my content is not entirely worked out.)  We do our presentations on Wednesday, then I'm done for the semester.

Friday, December 16, 2011

One Down

My end of the semester items (for classes) included two research proposal papers and one research proposal presentation (do you detect a theme here?).  I turned in one paper earlier this week, and I'm up to my ears in the other one right now.  I'm thinking I might actually survive.

Of course, my three week winter break is already feeling oversubscribed with research projects, but one thing (or maybe two things) at a time.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hermit Thrush

Jen bought me a gorgeous hermit thrush painting, so I thought I would share with you this video of a singing hermit thrush.  I find the song amazing.  The hermit thrush is the state bird of Vermont, where the painter lives, so I'm guessing she knows this bird well.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Lonesome Billy

The funniest rabbit video I've seen in a while (courtesy Disapproving Rabbits).  Who knew the Dutch were so violent?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

More Like in Our Dreams

I dream all the time about my teeth falling out, so I was tickled by the inclusion of that element in this nice Flight of the Conchords song.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Theory of Dreams

OK, I'm going to tell you about a dream I had last night, that I woke up from at 5 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep again, but this is going to be relevant and instructive for the greater point I want to make.

Tam and I are in grad school together, and I'm taking a math class with her for which all I have to do is show up and pay attention and I will earn my necessary grade.  But I fall asleep during class and when I wake up at the end, Tam's like, Uh oh, you really missed a lot.

After class, I want Tam and me to do something together, but she's going over to a girl from school's house to play doll army instead.

I go home - to my parents' house, where I live in a room that isn't really a room, it's like a tent that doesn't even have solid sheets on the side but mesh where the cold seeps through and I can't be sure if other people can see in.  It's been raining, so the wooden door to the room/tent has not only swollen but the rain has worn much of the wood away, and my grandmother comes by at odd hours to stare through the gaping holes at me.  It's also cold.

I go to my mom, planning to tell her that I demand that I get a new door, a thick metal one that can't be destroyed by the elements, but my mom is too busy helping my sister with a princess costume [or something I already can't remember...I think I totally am making up the part about the costume, actually].

I go back to my room/tent and lie on the bed/sleeping bag on my back.  And I look down at my left side and Tiger is there.  "Oh there you are" I say and start petting him, and he purrs.  And I accidentally call him "sweet bunny" but he doesn't care, and I call him "sweet kitty" too, and kiss his paw.  After a while, he gets up and wants to jump up on shelf at the head of my bunk bed, but it's covered in things, so I move them and he jumps up on the shelf and from it disappears up onto another bunk bed that is both there and isn't.

I notice that the things I've moved for Tiger are unfamiliar.  There are lots of little pieces (some pink plastic flowers that vary slightly from each other, a diamond ring, a metal triangle) and I start trying to re-arrange them because if I put them in the right configuration..............

When I woke up, I was smiling and I also had tears streaming down my face because I love and miss Tiger, the BEST CAT EVER, to this day.  (My mom's brilliant lover boy cat Belle does not read my blog and is not the kind of cat who would take this obviously completely subjective assessment as diagnostic of anything but my deep and abiding love for Tiger.)

I will now beg your patience to read about the single most important dream of my life, which I had when I was just a kid.

My sister and I are walking through a castle made of grey stone and I don't really know where we're going but I know I need to keep us safe.  This goes on for a while [I don't remember what happens].  At one point, we're in a room with two open doorways at either end, and a football team in their uniforms comes running through one door (like teams do when they burst onto the field at the start of the game and the fans cheer them) and out the other.  As the last player leaves, that doorway closes up behind them.  Then I notice that my sister has disappeared, and I know she got caught up with those football players and won't come back.

When I woke up from that dream, I was sobbing uncontrollably.  I was utterly bereft.  It was biblical in its intensity.  I had the feeling (which I can still weakly recreate and feel in my chest) that people describe as having their heart ripped from their chest.  It was unquestionably the worst-feeling experience of my life.  I think that I have dreamed that same dream, or a version of it, again several times since then.  I know that I have remembered it quite a lot of times over the years, esp. the years right after wards but fairly often even into my early 20's, and occasionally even these days.

One of the mysteries of life is why we dream.  Scientists aren't even totally sure why we sleep, though there is good evidence that one purpose of sleep is to facilitate the consolidation of memory.  Feel free to read or skip this explanation that I wrote studying for a neuroscience exam:

"Consolidation refers to the processes that continue after learning and stabilize, transform, or enhance the newly-encoded memory trace.  Consolidation makes memories more resistant against interference and decay.  During system consolidation, neural memory representations undergo a reorganization so that they become represented by different neural networks.  We consolidate memory more effectively when we are asleep because we use the same processes for taking in (encoding) information and consolidating memories.  Therefore, there is interference in the consolidation process when we are awake (and we are also taking in information) but not when we are asleep.  During sleep, the covert reactivation of the networks that were involved in encoding the information leads to improved memory consolidation.

REM sleep appears to be important for procedural memory (skill at a task).  Depriving people of REM sleep makes it harder for them to learn tasks, and people who have practiced a difficult procedural task tend to engage in greater levels of REM sleep afterwards.  The first stage of procedural memory consolidation, stabilization, appears not to be dependent on sleep, but can be improved with sleep.  The second stage, enhancement, might require sleep.

Slow wave sleep (SWS) is involved in the consolidation of hippocampus-dependent declarative memory (explicit memories of facts and events).  Studies have shown that retrieval performance is better when tested shortly after a period of night-time sleep than daytime wakefulness, even after controlling for differences in fatigue and eliminating circadian rhythm confounds.  However, some studies examining memory over a longer time span, such as one week, do not show a benefit to post-learning sleep.  Because consolidation of declarative memory may occur over several nights, sleep in the subsequent nights might compensate for the lack of sleep the first night.  During SWS, newly encoded representations are repeatedly activated in the hippocampus in conjunction with thalamacortical spindle activity (which propogates to the entire neocortex).  These coordinated activations could achieve a transfer of information and a strengthening of weak memory traces.  During sleep, lower levels of ACh (enabling a feedback of information from the hippocampus to the neocortex) and cortisol (reducing interference with memory retrieval) create an environment favorable to memory reactivation and consolidation

People appear to need REM sleep specifically.  If people are deprived of REM sleep (e.g., are awakened whenever they enter the REM state) for several days, they experience an REM rebound when they are allowed to sleep undisturbed.  They will spend a higher proportion of their sleep time in REM sleep proportional to the duration of their deprivation.  However, most studies have not found that REM deprivation causes any physiological harm.  Dreaming is a feature of REM sleep that has been addressed by Hobson’s activation synthesis theory.  While we are awake, we experience brain activation based on the stimuli we encounter.  The cortex tries to synthesize this activation in a sensible manner to make sense of things and tell a coherent story.  During REM sleep, the pons activates the cortex via the thalamus, which elicits well-known images or emotions.  The cortex tries to synthesize this random activation in a sensible manner, but the result is often bizarre due to the random nature of the information the cortex is trying to make sense of."

So maybe dreams are the result of the brain trying to make a coherent narrative out of random firings of the brain, incorporating recent experiences into well-known images.  Let's apply this to my dream from last night:

Tam emailed me about signing up for a class that only involves going to math talks --> the class we were taking in the dream.

It snowed a few inches yesterday.  When we got home from lunch, I was momentarily surprised that the floor of the underground parking garage at our apartment wasn't wet.  Robert said, If it's wet in here, we've got bigger problems than snow.  I'm sure it was also cold in bed last night.  As a kid, my actual bedroom door did expand when it was humid and wouldn't close --> my tent/room with the weird door.

My parents replaced their front door with a nice metal one that was sturdier and less vulnerable to break ins/people peering in because it didn't have windows like the old one --> my desire for a metal door.

I watched an episode of Big Bang Theory yesterday morning in which Sheldon and his girl friend broke up and he ended up with 25 cats in his bedroom --> the reappearance of Tiger.

So that's all good.  But I can't help but ask the question, But why are we conscious of (at least some of) our dreams?  Psychologist John Bargh has famously proclaimed that "99.44%" of our mental life is unconscious, and Roy Baumeister, the King of Consciousness within the social psychological community, has made the case that even if we are unconscious of 95% of what's going on in our heads, that 5% that is conscious is important.  (He makes some interesting, pretty compelling claims that it's because we're such social animals.)  So perhaps we're talking something in the range of <1% to 5% being conscious.  What's up with our awareness of our dreams then?

When I posed the question: Why do we dream? to my evolutionary psych class, people were like, Oooooh.  After class, lots of people were talking to each other about dreams they've had, etc.  It's a compulsion, isn't it, to share your dreams, even though you know that it can be a tedious, annoying thing to do?  And of course it's not just modern Americans who have a fascination with dreams -- lots of cultures have placed a great deal of emphasis on understanding and interpreting dreams.  Is trying to make sense of them just a waste of time?

Well, quite possibly, but I'd like to propose (just for fun and under the influence of too much evolutionary psych reading) a functional theory of dreams.

When I think about my dreams (those dreams I remember, anyway, an important caveat), there are two primary features:

(1) They evoke strong emotions that can linger for a time even after I'm awake (and in the case of the famous Football Dream, feel powerful years and years later).

(2) The plot/content of the dream fades very quickly - so that I sometimes forget details immediately as I am trying to remember them when I wake up - and/or are bizarre, magical, nonsensical, impossible, flat-out ridiculous and just clearly not true.

Tam and I going to grad school together, while I'm living in a tent/room thing at my parents' house with holes in it and Jen is still there and Tiger is there but then not there and huh?

Of the many things our brains do, constructing false memories is an impressive one.  I can't believe I've never recounted on this blog my stunning false memory: When I was a little kid (under age 4, I think) my parents had a little dog named Sandy.  I remembered this dachsund very well.  It came up in conversation with my mom a while back and she said, Sally, Sandy was a chihuahua mix, not a dachsund - you're thinking of my friend years later who had dachsunds.  And she was totally right.  Even if I had resisted believing it, there is clear evidence - for many years, up to this exact moment, I have had a photo of Sandy in a photo collage hanging over my bedroom dresser.  He looks like a chihuahua, not a dachsund.  I clearly conflated Sandy with those dogs my mom's friend had.  But before that conversation with my mom, I would have bet big money that Sandy was a dachsund - I remembered it so clearly!  Who knows how many other dozens of memories I have are flawed or wrong or totally made up for that matter.  (Research note: Elizabeth Loftus has done fascinating work on false memories in many contexts and became famous/reviled for criticizing the "recovery" of false memories of child abuse during psychotherapy.)

Given how easily we get confused about what has really happened to us, and how powerful the emotions of dreams can be, what if the fact that the details in these dreams are elusive and/or totally bizarre is actually a good thing?  Whatever else may happen today, I am not going to get an email from Tam and think, "Oh now she wants to talk to me after shitting me off to play doll army.  Screw you, bitch."  I am not going to feel angry at my parents and sorry for myself that I had to live in a room that is both a room and a tent with a bed that is a bed and a sleeping bag and a bunk bed with another bunk bed above it that is both there and not there at the same time and had a door that fell apart from the rain such that pieces of wood were suspended in space where other wood surrounding it had rotted away and left me cold and exposed to the elements and my sneaky grandmother [in whose basement I actually did briefly live and where my uncle would irritate the shit out of me by staring in the window in the morning to hassle me into getting out of bed and my grandmother would come down and start the washing machine because my being in bed at 6 a.m. was a sin or something].  As much as I was effected by the Football Dream, there is a 0% chance that I will ever find myself crippled with agony and guilt remembering the time I was walking my sister through a castle and let her get caught up by a football team and taken away.

These emotionally-evocative yet patently unrealistic dreams are kind of interesting.  They make us experience these feelings that are extremely realistic and are linked to causes that do make sense -- like failure or abandonment or the presence of the BEST CAT EVER -- and do happen all the time in the real world.  But the details are too crazy for us to confuse them with real experiences (usually - I'm sure mistakes are made).

So I will propose that the functional purchase of (this type of) dream is to make us feel things, and make us think about it a bit while we're awake, so we will either know for the first time or be reminded of what these feelings feel like when we have them.  Emotions are, pretty much, motivators of behavior, so these dream-evoked emotions can provide us with motivation to act in ways that help us avoid the bad and feel the good.  I don't want my best friend to not like me anymore, so I better not take her for granted - I need to keep up the relationship.  I feel grateful that my parents didn't abandon me or shit me off when I was a kid and I am going to be good to them, too.  When I find something interesting in the world and it seems safe to explore, it's satisfying to try to understand it.  Dreams that expose us to the embarrassment of violating social norms (going to school naked anyone), the thrill of power and control (let's fly over NYC and look down on the skyscrapers), the good clean fun of sex, the contentment of eating a feast, etc., provide their own motivation.  And above perhaps all other things in the world, this critical lesson:  When a very young, small, vulnerable person (who shares with me 50% of the genes that vary among humans) is dependent on me, I will not get distracted and let her be taken away.  Fuck.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

An Early Start

Woke up at 3:45 this morning with ideas for one of my research proposals, so I stayed in bed and worked on that for a couple hours before breakfast with Robert.  Then I sat in my comfy chair and read journal articles all morning, took a shower, and am now here to present to you these two videos in the spirit of "positive affect replenishes self-regulation" before I eat lunch. 

From the brilliant Flight of the Conchords TV show (season 2), following the exploits of a two-man band from New Zealand trying and failing to make it in NYC, supported by the well-meaning but generally incompetent assistance of their band manager, Murray, who is the deputy cultural attache at the New Zealand consulate. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


UPDATE: And of course the second thing I see on the Internet this morning is this interview with Professor Ego Depletion himself.   (The first thing was this rabbit.)

Wow, this has been a really pathetic month for blogging.  We stand at 3 weeks short of the end of the semester.  In addition to normal week-to-week stuff (today my officemate and I pulled our hair at the prospect of reading, as one of five papers for Monday's class, a 73-page paper about how people react to frequency versus percentage information), and a monster data analysis I started today, I have two 20-page papers (research proposals) and a research proposal presentation to put together in my spare time.  It's kind of scary.

You can see why I don't have a lot of time for blogging, and that the time I do have I don't want to spend writing about school when I could be reading REAMDE.

So instead, let us briefly (not 73 pages worth) consider a favorite EQ topic - ego depletion.

This past Saturday, I read the book Why Everyone (Else) is a Hypocrite by the evolutionary psychologist Robert Kurzban.  Like me (and many others), he does not believe that the performance deficits observed in the second task that follows the initial "depleting" task result from the actual depletion of a resource (though, interestingly, we have different intuitions and a somewhat different evidence base for that belief).  In his discussion of the ego depletion model, he makes the following (meticulously referenced) observations about the idea that glucose in the brain is the limiting factor for effortful self-control based on studies that show different performance from people who drink a glass of sugary lemonade versus a glass of Splenda-sweetened lemonade

"Consider that the entire brain uses about .25 calories per minute.  If we suppose that the "self-control" task increases overall brain metabolism by 10%--a very large estimate--then the brains of subjects who do one of these tasks for five minutes, who are categorized as "depleted," have consumed an extra 0.125 calories.  Does it seem right that you need 100 calories from lemonade to compensate for a tenth of a Tic Tac?" (p. 175).

I thought the glucose idea made a lot of intuitive sense but ... yeah.  When you start looking at actual research into brain physiology, not so much.  I think the resource metaphor is so immediately plausible and appealing that it's almost "too good to check," even to a lot of psychologists.

I am pretty much convinced by the current evidence base that "depletion" is about motivation, not any actual lack of ability (at least in the typical ego depletion lab experiment - perhaps in some very extreme cases a person could truly not continue a task, though whether that is willpower "depletion" or some other kind of physical or mental fatigue would be hard to distinguish).

It's a strange case: it's a terrifically interesting phenomenon that has been studied a lot, and applied in a lot of different domains of psychology, and yet we don't really know what it is.  I guess that means there's lots of work left to be done to understand what's really going on.  Stay tuned.

Anyway, next time you're feeling depleted, don't reach for a sugary snack - my best guess is that most any "reward" should do the trick.  May I suggest looking at a fuzzy bunny with a Groucho-esque moustache?

My friend in the next cage is so depleted he's flopped.  Boring.  Are you interesting?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Collecting Questions

OK, people, share with me -- What are some phenomena that you think are puzzling from an evolutionary perspective?  Perhaps the classic examples of this are "Why do people commit suicide?" and "Why do some people have same-sex sexual orientations?"  I will be presenting some of these enigmas to my evolutionary psychology seminar.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rabbit-Style Psychological Science

From Greenwald et al. (1986):

"Fragile and misdirected though they are, theories are the essential containers of scientific knowledge and the necessary vehicles of scientific progress.  As suggested by the metaphors of containers and vehicles, criteria such as storage capacity and speed of progress--criteria that are appraisable without having to speak of proof and disproof, or of truth and falsity--are most appropriate for evaluating theories.  The work of science may best be regarded as approving and disapproving of theories, rather than as proving and disproving them" (p. 226; emphasis in the original).

So what do you think, bunnies?

Do you approve?
Or disapprove?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Beloved Universe

Thursday I went to the city library web site to request a book my mom recommended, The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz, the first Sherlock Holmes novel to be endorsed by the Conan Doyle estate and apparently a most worthy successor -- a "no-shit Sherlock."

And as it happens, this week is Alice in Wonderland week at the library, timed to coincide with the staging of an Alice ballet in town next weekend.  So this afternoon, Robert and I walked over to hear a quite nice lecture on the theme of Alice's transformations (both within the text and across different takes of the story) by an English professor at the university (and to see a clip from a 1933 live action version of the story I'd never seen before and that, as the professor pointed out with amusement, showed us a surprisingly early example of people in photographs talking to us, a phenomenon that we of course associate with Harry Potter). I'm really glad that I didn't miss this.

Sherlock Holmes' London and Alice's Wonderland are two universes that I love to spend time in, and despite being huge fans of the original texts, I also enjoy seeing other spins on these worlds.  What fictional universes do you love?  Do you consider yourself relatively tolerant of different versions or do you take a more purist perspective on them?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Day 1

Although I'm not getting all neo-paleo like Tam with my diet, I did re-start my old wheat- and corn-free diet today.  I've been feeling sick a lot lately, and since I know that my digestive system isn't happy with these foods, and these foods (grains in general) are pretty much not that great anyway, I thought it was worth trying to go without them for a while and see if I improve.  Although there are a lot of limits to self-experimentation (and my approach is obviously confounded), I don't really care.  I'd just like to feel better and I'd happily give up these foods to do it.  I was wheat-, corn-, yeast-, and lactose-free for two years during college (which was NOT an easy environment for weird food restrictions), so it shouldn't be too hard to do.  With rice and oats still on the table (so to speak), I won't have to make too many changes to my diet, I don't think.  We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Head?

I have just now emailed my professors my discussion questions/reactions based on the papers for this coming week's classes.  They are due on Sunday night and Tuesday night.  It feels weird and awesome to be a little bit ahead on that (as well as already having finished my research proposal for the third seminar over a week in advance, though I still need to develop my presentation for the class). 

Tomorrow's big job - get my stimuli prepared for my (second) experiment I'm running later this semester.  (By stimuli, I simply mean the materials that the participants are going to look at and react to.)  It seems very straightforward in my mind what I want to do, but as Robert could attest after talking to me about it for a couple hours this afternoon, it's turning out to be very confusing and tricky when I sit down to actually write the damn things.  It's like I know I want to do X and Y, but it's really surprisingly challenging to figure out how to do both of those things at the same time, while worrying about this possible Z confound in the back of my head.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Roast 'Em

Now that the temperatures are more like autumn than summer, it's vegetable roasting season!  Today I made this lovely salad--I roasted half a can of chickpeas and a red bell pepper in olive oil for 20 minutes at 425 degrees, served over 2 cups of raw baby spinach with about 1/2 T. of balsamic vinegar and salt/pepper to taste.  Delicious.  (I ate it with a cold hamburger patty on the side.)

Right now I'm roasting a bell pepper and a handful of baby carrots for a snack.  It has yet to be determined whether it is even possible for me to get tired of roasted vegetables, but I'm thrilled to discover that roasted chickpeas are amazing in texture and flavor and a way to liven things up.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Neuro Word Cloud

Apparently I never did make a word cloud for my neuroscience paper last year.  So here it is.  All about food and rats, it seems.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

One Thing Done

Yay, I have just now finished my research proposal that is due in the last half of October.  Next I need to produce a brief presentation for class.  Here's what the proposed study is about.  (Note that the words "depletion" and "monkeys" do not appear in this proposal!)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Getting Old

I'm starting to run out of comments for (or perhaps patience with) my research methods class readings, which frequently involve a couple of papers from a long time ago, more recent papers addressing the same fundamental issues, and in general researchers talking past each other or disagreeing but getting nowhere with it.  Each week we have to submit 2 (or more) substantive discussion "questions" (usually a paragraph each) on the readings.

This week I pretty much want to say, "You know what [other woman in the class] wrote about the first set of readings -- that these issues seem more relevant to the discipline as a whole than to individual researchers? Ditto. While it feels nice to have grad students reading about these philosophical debates, they never seem to be resolved decade after decade, and in any case they seem quite far removed from the issues that are of primary concern to graduate students, post-docs, and assistant professors - to any academic without tenure who is attempting to get it. What we do is what is rewarded, i.e., what gets us published as much as possible in top journals (and/or what gets us grant money and/or what gets us the attention of policy makers, depending on our specific field and orientation). Who controls publication? The current crop of tenured academics who are editors for these journals.  Why don't you guys make up your friggin' minds and let us know what's what here or just admit this is all for funnies or something.  In the meantime, we have our hands full with the many throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks, underpowered, under-thought studies that our advisers are pushing us to complete this semester to use the warm bodies (undergrads) who are easily available to us in the lab."

The prof is pretty much great - enthusiastic, smart, inviting of energetic discussion, all that.  But there are moments like today when this stuff seems about as relevant to my actual work over the next 10-15 years as taking a course in ancient Greek philosophy.

[Note: in case it's not obvious, research methods does not equal stats.  Although there is a great deal of knowledge of stats necessary to understand both the framing of and the details of various debates - e.g., over how various methods lead to biased estimators under various conditions, the issues about Bayesian versus null-hypothesis-testing approaches - we are not learning how to do stats, we don't have math-type homework of any kind, or that kind of thing.  This is all at a higher conceptual level regarding how to do science, if that makes sense.]

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bizarrely Appropriate or Inappropriate?

Robert spotted a guy wearing a t-shirt proclaiming

"Polar Bear Plunge for the Special Olympics"

and commented, "Yes, support the Special Olympics by doing something --------."

I suppose this could also be an appropriate/inappropriate fund-raising choice for a psychiatric facility as well in the "support the X Psychiatric Center by doing something -----" line.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Preparing for the Onslaught

UPDATE:  I've received my boots and they are awesome.  I'm not exactly feeling all "bring it" about the upcoming winter but at least I have a better chance of surviving with all toes intact.

I spent about $500 today ordering my winter gear - a down-filled coat, down-filled gloves, a bomber hat, silk longjohns (all from LL Bean), and extremely serious snow boots.

These are Cate the Great boots from Sorel, and customer reviews promise that they are warm enough for Minnesota winters.  I guess we'll see.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Just in case you're feeling all, Man, I wish I were going to grad school in a reading-intensive field, here's an excerpt from what I'm reading today:

"...but a second intrinsic desideratum is the opposite characteristic of internal contradiction, which is an asset from the Hegelian viewpoint that intrinsic contradiction between thesis and antithesis is ubiquitous in the Ding-an-sich being represented and can be a source of creative synthesis both in the actuality and in its knowledge representation" (McGuire, 1989).

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Work of an Academic

One of my current pet peeves is when people think that college professors don't work very much because they only teach 1/2/3 courses per semester and "have the summers off!" and so forth.  A favorite statement on these lines was when I read a commenter on a blog discuss having been to the gym at 2:00 in the afternoon (over the summer) and met another person there who is a college professor -- see!  It's the middle of the day and this professor is at the gym instead of working!  (The commenter could easily have encountered a waitress, factory worker, nurse, call center supervisor, or other working person who does shift work; would they have drawn the same conclusion?  Also, what the hell was the commenter doing there himself at 2:00 p.m.  Highly suspicious.  Obviously a slacker.)

Clearly, some professors work a lot harder than others.  Some certainly do not work enough, such as the many professors in Robert's department who were getting in trouble with the administration because of it.  There is also a huge divide between tenured and untenured professors.  Assistant professors are under incredible pressure to publish at the same time they are teaching classes (generally 1, 2, or 3 preps) that they do not already have all their lectures, notes, project assignments, exams, etc., written for.  Many of them are thrown into serving as advisors for undergrads or grad students undertaking research projects.  The typical assistant professor is in the same situation as the grad student of deciding which 60-80+ hours per week he wants to work.

Some academics (professors and grad students) try to accomplish as much of their work as possible in the office.  People like Tam basically live there.  But a lot of people like to work elsewhere, and the nature of the work is such that it isn't always obvious to others that work is going on.

For example, I spent four hours in a restaurant yesterday with Robert talking about my self-control research project (that I am doing as part of my RAship) and generating ideas that I am presently going to transfer from the napkin I covered in ink to my computer.  Then I need to start developing (and completing over the next couple days) the design of five or so experiments to test these ideas.  This development will happen while I'm walking to school, riding the bus, eating lunch, folding laundry, etc.

It's too bad people seem think that doing scholarly work always involves typing furiously at a computer keyboard or looks like this.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What We Need Less of is Philosophy of Science

Today I walked on my treadmill then read 10 articles regarding philosophy of science issues as applicable to psychology.

That really felt like a lot of reading and it took approximately forever.  I'm not sure I'm going to be able to maintain this level in the coming weeks so I guess I will have to do what so many of my classmates at My Masters University did in our program - skim and/or just flat not read some papers, start getting some grades below an A.  (Fortunately I have reached the point where nobody ever again will care about my grades except to know that I am meeting the minimum GPA required to stay in good standing in my program.  I don't remember this standard off the top of my head, but it is clearly below a 4.0.  GPAs do not mean squat when going on the academic job market.)

One good thing is that I kept taking notes with ideas for the short paper I will need to write for this class by early October.  (And thankfully my writing is faster than my reading.  I seriously do not know how people who struggle with their writing do PhD programs in the humanities/soft social sciences.)

I am going to finish one more article (marketing) before bed and go to sleep with the pleasant feeling of being done with the readings for 2 of my 3 classes next week.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The City Bus

About 6 blocks from my apartment, I can catch the bus - there are three different bus routes I can take from there to within a block of the business school and during most of the day they run every 5 minutes or so.  This morning, I got to the bus stop, waited under 90 seconds, got on the bus.  The elapsed time from the bus stop to my entering my office: under 8 minutes.

This afternoon I figured out how to catch the bus from school - I have to make a sort of downward spiral around some buildings and down a ramp to the road (the campus is basically astride this major east-west road).  I waited for less than a minute and got on the bus.  The place where I get off the bus is even closer to my apartment - about 2.5 blocks.

So far, I'm loving the bus thing.  Of course, once the winter weather hits, I might want to take a different bus that picks up and drops off about one block from my apartment, but it runs much less frequently, so I'll have to actually consider the timing of it.  (Right now, with 3 super-frequent buses to choose from, I pretty much can get on a bus immediately from that other bus stop so at any normal time of day, thinking about timing is utterly unnecessary.)

No classes today.  I sat in on the undergrad CB class again and met with the second prof I am RAing for (who also teaches that undergrad class) to talk about research ideas.  Let's call her B.  As opposed to the other prof (let's call her K.) who is putting me to work on an idea she's been interested in for a while, B. is encouraging me to come up with my own project (with her input, of course).  I have several very general ideas for things that would fit with the work she does and one in particular that I want to consider first.  There is an extensive lit review in my near future as I try to figure out what the state of the science is, so to speak, in this area.

Tomorrow, I have nothing taking me to school, so I am looking forward to spending the day churning through as many as possible of the very many articles I need to read for next week's classes.

My officemate is a quant, so her life is about pushing her way through problem sets in econ (which is basically math and is especially grueling at a top-10 econ program like ours).  As a CB person, my life is like those in the "soft" social sciences and humanities - astonishingly long reading lists.  So even though we're both in marketing, our work is very, very different.  (We will both be taking the core seminars in marketing, of course, which will sometimes play to her strengths and sometimes to mine.  This semester, it's mine.)  It might seem like reading some articles is a lot easier than doing a bunch of proofy math problems (and the gods know I prefer it) but in grad school, professors often assign a nearly impossible amount of reading, and the reading is generally not easy because of the content or the poor writing or both (and the readings are especially grueling at a top-5 psychology program like ours).  And because my classes are at least nominally seminars, we have to show up ready to discuss the papers (and we have to submit response papers in advance every week). 

So, basically I guess I'm saying that grad school is tough all around.  That being said, it's also awesome.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Day 2

I calculated that yesterday I walked to school averaging over 4 mph.  Today, I left about 15 minutes later and took the same (river trail) route a little bit slower, about 3.6 mph.  I wore a pair of the cheap, cushy backless mary jane shoes I am hoarding and was surprised by how comfortable they were.  No rubbing, no soreness on the bottom of my foot.  (I did notice when I got home that my feet are turning into two gigantic calluses from all this walking, but I guess that's OK.)  I got to class with time to spare. 

This "seminar" has about 18-20 people in it, several of whom are also in my class from yesterday (including the woman from the psych department whose first + last name is the same as mine only without the leading "S" and the two second-year marketing students).  Our first set of readings is "And monkeys" in a big way.  For example, did you know that rhesus macaques, like humans, automatically distinguish between members of their own social group and others, spontaneously associate novel objects with specific social groups, and implicitly evaluate ingroup members positively and outgroup members negatively?  And did you know that capuchin monkeys, like humans, show different levels of risk tolerance depending on whether the outcomes are framed as gains or losses? 

This afternoon, I printed approximately 3 gazillion articles (and read about 1.5), but my office was unbearably warm and stuffy, so I left at about 3:00 and walked home the shortest route (down the major street) with a short side trip to the public library to pick up the last two books I requested before school started.  (The rest of my request list is on a Netflix-like "hold" for now.)  It was extremely sunny and warm (in the upper 70s) and I was glad to get home, change some of my clothes, take off my shoes, turn the A/C fan from low to high, and crack open a cold can of Diet Coke. 

This evening I have a bunch of reading to do so I can meet with the other professor I am an RA (research assistant) for this year.  Good times.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Day

Today was the first day of classes in my PhD program.

I walked to school this morning in the very pleasant weather (sunny and temp in the 50's) - I was about 20 minutes early (class starts at 9) and easily found the room.  But nobody else showed up.  About 5 minutes before 9, a fellow marketing student (a 2nd year) came by and I found out that the professor emailed us that the room had been changed.  And when we went to the new room, we found out from a psych student that the email also said that on this first day, we were meeting at 10 instead of 9.

I went outside, sat at a table, and started reading an article for another class and was soon joined by a guy in my marketing cohort.  We chatted about the fact that the stats courses at the university are basically all using R as the statistical package instead of SPSS, SAS, Stata, etc.  (The aforementioned 2nd year student told me later that this switch in the educational psychology stats courses is extremely recent; her course used SPSS.)

So anyway, the class (research methods) sounds like it will be interesting but a lot of work - there is a significant amount of reading of sometimes very difficult articles.  (This course neither teaches stats nor provides information about various experimental design options, but is more of an overview of current controversies in the field.)

This afternoon, I also sat in on the first lecture of the class I'm going to be TAing for next year.  I finished up printing some things in my office and decided to try taking the bus home, but I wasn't able to easily find the bus stop, so I walked instead.  (I've now looked at it on google maps and think I understand where it is; I'll try again tomorrow or Thursday.)  Rather than take the scenic route I used this morning, I walked down a major street through downtown for a change.  It's about 5.5 miles round trip, and it was pretty easy (though my shoulders do feel a little tight after carrying the backpack so long and I rubbed a spot on my left foot so it's a bit sore).

Now I'm home so I can start doing some actual work.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

When Winter Comes

How will I like Snow City once winter comes?  A fair question.  I don't think I can even imagine how cold it's going to be. 

I am collecting characterizations of Snow City winters - like that it's snot-freezing cold or gasoline-freezing cold.  I also like the comparisons people make between the winter here and other places.  It's already been established from several people that it's colder here than many places in Canada, for example.  This week, a guy told Robert and me that he used to live in the Swiss Alps and it was cold there, but it wasn't as cold as it is here.  I am still waiting for the person who used to live in Siberia to tell me that the winters there are not nearly as bad as they are here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Big Shop

Now that the weather is starting to turn cooler here (sorry readers in TX and OK), I have been dreaming about snow and thinking about needing to pull together actual fall and winter wardrobes.  To get a sense of what I'm talking about - Robert found out that if you take the coldest day of the year in Austin, on average, we will have days colder than that for over 6 months of the year.

So today, we went to Goodwill to start getting some fall weather clothing.  Here's what we got:

1 pair of boots
1 heavy jacket
2 light jackets
6 pairs of pants
1 pair of jeans
2 skirts
10 sweaters
7 long-sleeved shirts

For a total of 30 items.  Any guess on the total price?

2 @ 8.99 and 1 @ 6.99

Calvin Klein jeans, Target jacket for Robert, Mystery boots for Robert

5 @ 5.99

Beige Kenneth Cole pants for Robert, grey Eddie Bauer wool pants, striped Target wool sweater, black Ann Taylor pants, grey J Crew wool sweater

6 @ 4.99

Strange stretchy/fleecy black Studio Works pants, brown Casual Corner pants, brown quilted jacket, grey Point Zero skirt, grey Charter Club cashmere hoodie, black Sanskriti tunic

And perhaps the coolest thing about this Goodwill store?  Tuesday is 1.49 day for items with a particular color of tag.

16 @ 1.49

Red Vanity Nordic Gear sweater, green Eddie Bauer sweater, fuschia St Johns Bay sweater, salmon Eddie Bauer cardigan, blue Express sweater, burgundy Liz Claiborne sweater, green Mod-O-Doc cardigan, blue Target fleece

Red Target shirt, black striped Worthington shirt, red Style Co tunic, blue American Eagle shirt, plaid TDK pants (men's but they fit me), brown Apt 9 skirt, black Ann Taylor shirt, green Lands End shirt

Plus, I purchased a pad of unlined recycled paper for $1.

With tax, it was under $110 (e.g., the cost of two new items from Ann Taylor).

There are still some expensive items we'll need to purchase for when it gets seriously cold -- the guy who checked us out said that it gets cold enough to freeze gasoline so you always want to make sure you don't have just a couple gallons in the tank -- but this should help get me through the first couple months of school.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Ego depletion makes people stupid in complex ways but leaves them intelligent in simple ways."

Baumeister, Schmeichel, & Vohs, Self-Regulation and the Executive Function: The Self as Controlling Agent

Monday, August 8, 2011

Central Library

Robert and I walked to the central library (1.2 miles, round trip) to pick up some books that I had requested.  Unlike the execrable Austin public library system, Snow City lets you create a request queue with a reasonable number of items (100 at SC versus 5 at Austin).  On the screen with the item details, it tells you what number you will be in the queue if you request it.  This weekend I put about 25 books in my queue, several of which I could see were immediately available. 

This morning, I got an email from them announcing that 8 of my books were ready to be picked up.  When we got there, the entire experience was self-service.  There is a holding area where you find your items on the shelf, then you check out using a self-service scanner like at the grocery store (which I fumbled around with quite a bit, actually).

The library is pretty neat looking, too.

Friday, August 5, 2011


The last couple of days have been spent mostly playing Fate: The Traitor Soul.  I would like to finish it before school starts (Sept. 6) because it and grad school are not compatible (as I discovered during the summer after my first year at My Masters U).  It's been so intense that one day this week I didn't even look at the Disapproving Rabbits web site.

But I have fit in a couple minor non-Fate accomplishments this week, like getting my local bank account set up and starting to organize information about the bus routes between here and the various places on campus I'll need to get to.  I've also figured out the route to math camp (which is on a different campus from the main one where my office and classes will be), but I hope Robert will be able to drive me most days.

Friday, July 29, 2011

You Have No Free Time

A very short, useful description of the "free time myth" for my readers not currently in grad school.  Allow this to help guide your expectations for my availability outside the 9-month academic year.

Readers still in grad school - you know the score.

At My Masters University, the professors were very upfront about the fact that they spent most of the summer trying to catch up on all the writing they did not get done during the school year, when they had to manage classes, advising undergrad and grad students, data collection, meetings/committees/service work, etc.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Understating the Case

The numbers presented in this blog post (on the interesting "100 reasons not to go to graduate school" site) are only part of the reason that I don't personally worry about the horrible prospects for newly minted PhDs on the academic job market.

The average salaries for new assistant professors in 2009-2010 were:

My relevant categories have been highlighted above (inadvertently in the colors of the local football team; perhaps I was unconsciously influenced by this recent post from a local fashion blogger -- who is not me).  (Also, I am very amused by how my clueless PrtSc method of moving this Excel chart to Blogger allows you to see that "plot area" box.  Yep, this is just another fine example of the high production values we at Empirical Question bring to you.)

The other reason, not shown here, is that there is also a lot of variation in the average number of job offers received by the graduates in different disciplines -- in some disciplines, over half of grads don't receive even one job offer (not even in a state where they have no interest in living).  So that new assistant professor of English, who spent 10 years getting her degree at Ivy League University and is now teaching at Podunk College or a regional branch of Directional State University for $51,000 per year, is among the luckiest English doctorates around.

The situation for marketing PhDs is pretty damn good (though not quite as good as for those finance and especially accounting PhDs entering the academic market).  The 2011 survey of new grads reports that marketing PhDs received an average of 2.6 job offers (from 78 applications and 15 interviews).  Actually, that report is a wealth of interesting information, and looking at previous years shows that these numbers are not a fluke.

I think the comments on the post are wonderful.  You can check out my (anonymous) contribution on the comment with today's date and 6:01 p.m.  (I initially wrote that the comments are "priceless" - hah!)

Hat tip: Robert, who sent me the link to this Slate article, from which I found the 100 reasons site.  I particularly liked this proposal from the article:

"Disrupt the graduate-school labor scheme. Independently verified information about individual graduate programs should be made freely available online. That information should include acceptance rates, financial support, teaching requirements, time-to-degree, attrition rates, and, most important, job placement, accounting for every graduate with specific details. (No more claiming that a visiting assistant professor—an academic temp—is "successfully placed.") This cannot be a one-time report; it must be updated continually. Even though college fundraisers keep tabs on alumni easily enough, many graduate programs will resist it, saying that the data are too hard to gather and that they don't have the time. (Also, the results will probably be damaging for most of them, including the most prestigious.) But pressure from the boards of accreditation, disciplinary and professional organizations, and, ultimately, the students themselves should bring most programs into compliance."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Feed the Freezer

On Thursday, Robert and I put 32 servings of chicken-based meals into our big freezer (as well as cooking another 10 servings for us to eat right now) using the Frozen Assets mini-session methodology.  We used our own recipes for this - chicken tetrazzini, chicken enchiladas, salsa verde enchiladas, and chicken & broccoli.  We packaged the (strategically under-)cooked and fully cooled servings in plastic wrap with an outer covering of heavy-duty aluminum foil.  In the past, we've used plastic (ziploc-type) containers but it seems that the tightly wrapped plastic/foil combination should do a better job of keeping out moisture and thus preserving the quality of the food.

Because I am cutting back a lot on my wheat intake, I made a tetrazzini for myself using rice spaghetti, which is not as flavorful as wheat pasta and tends to break down more easily and is thus just generally less desirable in every way.  However, a taste test of the tetrazzini demonstrated to my satisfaction that it is a reasonable substitute in this context.  The other recipes are wheat-free.

This kind of bulk cooking is obviously more time-efficient than cooking one recipe at a time, and it was also a bit cheaper because we purchased the boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the large packages at $1.99 per pound as well as a large (6 c.) package of shredded cheddar cheese.

Next: a beef mini-session.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Frugal Beauty, Eh?

This post about "looking good on a budget" on Get Rich Slowly cracked me up.  For example:

"I’ll tell you a secret: I haven’t washed my hair in weeks. I rinse it with water every morning when I take my shower (in my fancy, newly-repaired shower that now features hot and cold running water!). But I only shampoo and condition it about once a month. When I do, I use a 50-percent solution of shampoo and water. This means I’m using about 1/60th of the shampoo I used to use when I washed my hair every day with full strength shampoo. Needless to say, one bottle of shampoo lasts me a whole lot longer."

Where to begin?

(1) This really saves very little money.  Yes, reducing shampoo usage to 1/60th is a large reduction, but shampoo isn't expensive.  I really don't know how many bottles of shampoo I use in a year, but let's say a person uses one bottle per month, which seems like a lot, at a cost of $5 per bottle - that's $60 per year.  So this barely-shampooing tactic saves $59 per year, or 16 cents per day.  That's pretty damn trivial, in my view.

(2) OK, so you save your 16 cents per day (or whatever) but at what cost to your personal hygiene? I do not find it plausible that any but the very smallest proportion of people (if any) will have hair that is no oilier, dirtier, smellier, more unmanageable, or more generally disgusting when left unwashed 30 days out of 31. If you live a normal working-class or up existence in the US in the 2010s (and are not some kind of freak in the tail end of the distribution of scalp-oil production who never sweats, etc.), you do not have walking around in unwashed hair as a serious option.  And if you send your kids to school this way, the school will (at least they did when I was a kid) do an intervention.

(3) Does giving herself such an infrequent, low dose of shampoo actually do much good beyond the even cheaper option of never shampooing at all?

(4) And how about other needless expenses - deodorant, body soap, laundry detergent for cleaning clothes?  Why not eliminate all of these.  And live on the street while you're at it (I mean, you already will have the look for it).

It is not hard to write frugal living advice when all you're saying is, Don't spend money. Period. Even on things that all the people around you think are basic necessities of modern life. You know, like soap.

I admit that I think the idea of not shampooing is pretty much crazy, but I understand that some people argue that all this shampooing is screwing up the body's natural ability regulate oil production and whatnot.  (I don't know if this is an extension of popular heuristics like "natural is good" and "ancient practices [e.g., like before people started shampooing regularly] are good" or what.  I mean, yes, people used to not wash their hair (or bathe or whatever) as often as they do these days, but that doesn't necessarily mean squat regarding how clean they were. Maybe standards for cleanliness have changed and what was acceptable in those days is not acceptable now - you know, like dumping shit into the gutters to be washed away after a rain.)  Whatever.  If that's the case, the argument for giving up (or greatly reducing) shampooing should be about hair health and/or appearance, but the argument on that blog post is about the expense, and I don't get it.

I would also like to question the usage of the term "no poo" for the no shampoo movement.  Is the "poo" = "shampoo" equivalence intended for us to view shampoo in a negative light?  Cause it's hard to see this without laughing when people who don't wash their hair have hair that looks like shit.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I am happy to report that I have registered for my classes for the fall semester, 3 seminars --

Attitudes & Persuasion (marketing dept) - Monday afternoon (time not finalized)
Research Methods in Social Psych (psych dept) - Tuesday 9-11
Social Cognition (psych dept) - Wednesday 9-11

I have not yet heard which professor(s) I will be working with as a research assistant.

Welcome to Snow City

I've been in Snow City since Friday, and the weather has been unusually warm (highs in the 90s; readers in TX, OK, etc., can bite me) and very sunny, but today is wonderful.  Today Robert and I took our second morning walk along the Mississippi River on the hiking/biking trail (which is 2 blocks from our apartment) and the sky was overcast, the temperature in the upper 60s. 

Our move was pretty easy and straightforward (if such terms can apply to moving everything you own over 900 miles in a truck, including across a mountain range).  We're still unpacking, though I'd say that the living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom, and both bathrooms are about 80% - 90% ready.  My office is still a disaster zone, and we are waiting for the maintenance people to figure out our phone line situation downstairs (where the bedroom and office are) so we can set up my computer.

It's going to take some getting used to being in an apartment that is both smaller than the previous ones (we've downgraded in size on our last two moves) and is a townhouse.  We're also on a kind of interesting climate control system - the building generates A/C or heat (depending on the season) and each apartment can turn on a fan (with 3 levels of air) to bring it in.  The nice part is that we only pay for the electricity that powers the fans, not that changes the air itself, but we also have less control over the temperature.  On the warm days this weekend, it got up to about 83 degrees in the dining room (where our thermostat lives) in the late afternoons.  The downstairs is distinctly cooler than the upstairs (as you might expect).

The apartment building is of that style I associate with urban areas - you go into the building, then down the hall to the specific apartment, like in a dorm or hotel.  We are on the fourth (top) floor but are very close to the elevator.  (The climate-controlled parking under the building is an open plan, but we have been parking in spot K-9, which is close to the elevator.)  The trash situation is pretty much awesome.  There is a trash chute next to the elevator where you stick in your trash and it gets sucked away.  Large trash and recycling you can take down to bins next to the elevator in the parking garage.  The mail box is on the first floor of our building, though for some reason the mail drop off is only in the other building (so far as we can tell).

Some specific pluses, minuses, and oddities about our apartment:

Kitchen:  The refrigerator is surprisingly small.  The top shelf is too short for a bottle of beer (i.e., Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout) to fit, so our Brita pitcher is on the bottom shelf.  We do not have a pantry, so I set up my metal shelves from my old bathroom in the dining room, and this seems to be working.  There is a lot of counter space and there is a microwave pre-installed above the stove.  The stove top has two large burners (our previous one had only a single large burner, and it was annoying).

Dining room:  This is a combined Robert office / dining room space (luckily, it's pretty big).  Its most salient feature is the overhead light, which is a big metal monstrosity that Robert and I have both hit our heads on multiple times because it hangs so low.

Living room: The living/dining areas have large windows as well as a skylight.  In keeping with our vampiric habits, we leave the blinds on the windows closed, but we can't do anything about the skylight, which being oriented to the west allows a bright shaft of light to cross over the dining area during the late afternoons.  The vaulted ceiling is really high.

Office: Hard to say until we unearth it from the 6 gazillion boxes.

Bathroom: It comes with no storage space at all, but the combined bath/shower with the molded plastic interior (much better than tile) and the sliding doors are nice.

Bedroom: The closets are on either side of a short hallway that leads to the master bathroom, and they have sliding doors, so it creates a sort of dressing area.  The bizarre thing about the closets is that in the longer closet, there are two rows for hanging things (that combined hanging rod + shelf typical in new apartments) but the top row is so low that you can't actually hang shirts, pants, etc., from that rod without it bunching up on the bottom shelf.

Master bathroom: All the storage is in this bathroom, but it has only a shower stall, which is a bit cramped.

A cool thing about the townhouse layout is that we have what Robert calls a Harry Potter room under the stairs to use for extra storage space.

Oh, we also have a "powder room" upstairs but we have used it to store our packing boxes and other stuff.  Because the door is set back from the wall, we can close the door and use the inset space for our upright, stand-alone freezer.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Successful Experiment

I've been wanting to try some different necklines on my t-shirt refashions, so I made this one with a square neck.  It took several re-adjustments (because I was working without a template, just measuring myself and making it up as I went along) but I was pleased with the final result.  (I wore it yesterday with a black skirt rather than the denim skirt shown here.) I am still using up "scraps" so I didn't have a lot of big pieces to work with, but fortunately I had the bottom half of a big white t-shirt my mom got from the library that I could use as the main body of the shirt.  I supplemented it with basically the entirety of another too-small shirt I had incorporated into the giant baby shirt - it's serendipitous that the orangey-pink portion makes up a bit over half the front.

The cheap white t-shirt is kind of sheer, but I think it's OK for the back of the shirt.  No wearing a purple-and-pink zebra print bra without people knowing it, though.

I think I will make this style again (given enough fabric), and it should be pretty easy now that I have a working model to use.