Monday, February 20, 2006
So there I was, just sitting down and formulating my thoughts about my previous post...not an easy task to sort out what, exactly, the author of the article was trying to say, and then come up with my thoughts prompted by it... When OmegaDad comes into the office and begins on his thoughts about a totally different issue. As a result, I am suffering from cogitus interruptus. It's kind of like when you know you're about to sneeze--the tickle is growing, reaching the "aah...ahhhh...--" point, and somehow your body manages to swallow the sneeze, and you're left feeling unfulfilled, because you really just wanted to get that damned sneeze out. OmegaDad has gone back to school. He decided, since I am an employee of Mountain University and have awesome educational bennies, to plunge into a second Master's program. But this time, rather than soil science and agriculture, he is swimming in "sustainable societies", philosophy, and various aspects of social science. He often says to me, "Physics was easy! This stuff is hard!" As a person who skated through classes on philosophy and social science by reading the Cliff Notes and B.S.ing my way through class discussions, I have to agree with him. He's actually reading these books--and he often erupts into discussions of the ideas, relating them to his knowledge of science and agriculture. This latest discussion comes from a book that he says is written in "protest voice" (a la "passive voice" and "active voice"). As a science type, he finds passages that wave their hands at studies showing that 30% of students in 12 schools in a city in China are obese frustrating. His gripe: One study. Only 12 schools. In a country that has a larger population than most other countries combined. Is it statistically significant? (The author was trying to impress with statistics showing an increase of obesity in non-U.S. countries being beseiged by Amurrican Big Foodservice Business.) But what really gravels him about this example is that there is no indication of what the figures were before. To him, you can't really draw any conclusions, because you don't have any data being presented. He bopped online to try to locate the studies themselves, but was only able to find references, over and over again, rather than the studies. So what he's left with is a feeling that the author is using scare tactics--trying to rouse the rabble with lots of figures that, when looked at critically, are chimeras. Show him the data, he proclaims! Then he allows as how "protest voice" is a useful adjunct to our society, because it does force people like him into thinking about it, and trying to locate the data... In the meantime, I'm left with a sneeze that has been stopped dead in its tracks. More on the sneeze tomorrow.