Friday, December 29th 2006

I also suck at darts
posted @ 1:19 pm in [ - - ]

Earlier this week, when corresponding with a new friend, I was asked about my flaws. Rather than being flip and replying that I could tell him about my flaw, but then the lab where I was created might lose its funding, I referred him to the TISA category here. I highly recommend having a whole public list of stuff you suck at! I mean, it comes in really handy. He then contributed to the TISA project by reminding me of one more:

  1. Darts. It’s like pool: I’m good for one lucky shot per game, so then I stop in an attempt to cover up the general suckitude.

Amusingly enough, a friend of mine once convinced me to play, and then asked about my handedness as she moved some tables and stuff out of the way and arranged the space. I told her it didn’t matter, because I’m ambidextrous — I tend to use whatever hand is closest to the task for most stuff. She was skeptical.

I took my first round of shots — two of which actually hit the target — with my left hand.

“I thought you said you were ambidextrous,” she said.

I took my next turn with my right hand with a similar result. “I am,” I said. “I’m equally sucky with either hand.”


Another giant pile of snow in Denver today. Between this pile, and last week’s pile, I have never seen this much snow at once in this climate in the nearly 10 years I’ve lived here. I’ve decided to stop going out and inconveniencing the neighbors until the roads are clearer. I’m really relieved I don’t have to teach this week. I would be really hosed.

So what I am doing is, of course, finishing up that last chapter. I’d say more about it, but I don’t want anyone getting fish eyes. So here’s a quick encapsulation:

I’m using symbolic dynamics (a method of assigning symbols to qualitative data so they can be processed like quantitative data) to model sequences of violent behavior. Specifically, I’m using a procedure called orbital decomposition. With most nonlinear dynamics procedures, you end up doing three different procedures: one to test for the presence of chaos; one to do whatever it is you’re doing; and one to verify that your results are not just random noise. Orbital decomposition combines all three, plus adds in a few other useful analytic items, like being flexible about how the data are partitioned (some methods require that you determine exactly what constitutes a “stage” of a process, for example, and sometimes the data aren’t too cooperative about that) and determining how long a really good behavioral string is. So it’s very one-stop-shopping for the kind of work I’m doing. Basically, I have to code the data I have from the pattern studies (assign the symbols in meaningful way), then check statistically how frequently each combination of symbols comes up, then run the three sets of calculations. I’m coding right now, and downloading some software that should help me run the calculations.

I’ve had a couple of queries so far, and if I get one or two more, I’ll figure there’s enough non-icthy-opthamological interest to go into more detail. So lemme know.

Thursday, December 14th 2006

More TISA!
posted @ 10:09 am in [ ]

As some of you know, one of my ongoing projects here has been to list 100 Things I Suck At (TISA). This time of year reminds me of a major one:

  1. Gift wrapping! I don’t know what my frickin’ problem is. Even if the object in question is nice and square and orderly, it looks like poorly socialized howler monkeys wrapped it. I picture one of them thoughtfully putting its finger on the ribbon so the other one can tie a bow (maybe softly chattering in a helpful way), and the other one biting the finger instead — and of course, the screeching, flinging and general simeon consternation that would ensue.

Wednesday, May 3rd 2006

posted @ 12:48 pm in [ - ]

I haven’t talked about this in many moons, but a while back I had a running list of Things I Suck At (TISA). I was hoping to get to 100, but I think this is just #70. You can read the full list under the “TISA” category…

  1. Manufacturing discipline out of nowhere. Once I get a routine going, no problem, but changing the routine is really hard. I have a tendency to want to get all the little doodads out of the way before tackling the big project, even though intellectually I know that if I do that, I’ll fill my time with doodads and not even get around to the big stuff.

  2. Patience with long training/body reformation projects. Those of you who have been dropping by for a while know that I had a string of injuries a couple of years ago from which it took a very long time to recover fully. You’ve also seen some postings here about startings and stoppings and attempts to get back to a good cycling schedule. Well, I’m involved with doing that again, now that I’m finally physically okay (if annoyingly squishy). It’s coupled with a strict nutritional regimen that is really beginning to cheese me off (I say “cheese” because it’s one of the few things I can actually eat). I can stick to it, but man, I am not patient about it.

  3. Those first 5 miles. When cycling, it takes me a little while to find my rhythm — the next 35 are fine, but those first 5 miles are often like a garage sale.

  4. The 40-mile barrier. I understand a lot of athletes have a sort of training break point, and this is mine: the 40-mile ride. If I can do 15 or 20 miles, 38 or 39 is no problem. But for some reason 40 still kicks my ass. Once I get past that, though, 100 miles is no problem (I don’t think I’ve ever ridden more than 118 miles in a day). It usually takes me a few weeks to get past the 40-mile barrier, and it’s really hard work. Feh.

I know there’s another 27 things I suck at. Feel free to point some out, or add your own…

Thursday, December 18th 2003

And a few more things I suck at
posted @ 4:25 pm in [ ]
66. Making margaritas. I know, it seems like I should make really great ones, but I don’t. I mean, they’re terrible. Seriously, these hands have created the worst margaritas I’ve ever had. Feh.

67. I’m not a very good juggler yet, but I think I will be sometime soon. I say I suck at it, though, because I’m at that stage where you can actually tell what I’m trying to do enough to know that I’m doing it badly, and that’s progress! I mean, being a sucky juggler is still being much more of a juggler than a non-juggler.

68. Being in the military. Okay, I don’t have 100% confirmation of this, but I can’t imagine I’d be any good at it. It’s on my mind because I recently applied for a linguist job… with the Navy. It would be hard enough for me to work for the Navy WITHOUT enlisting, but it might be worth it to get paid to learn and use a whole pile of languages for a while. I’m waiting to hear if I actually have to join up, in which case, I’d have to give the Navy an emphatic f*ck no.

69. Respecting authority just because I should. Yeah, that’s part of the problem. The admiral, the president, the pope, my thesis advisor, whatever boss I end up with, they all just put their pants on one leg at a time, that is, if they can even dress themselves. I’m afraid my respect has to be earned by the satisfactory completion of respectable deeds. I know, it’s limiting.

Wednesday, August 27th 2003

And a couple more I just thought of…
posted @ 8:12 pm in [ ]
There are two things about interpersonal relationships I both suck at and can’t stand:

64. Drama.
I hate it. I don’t need it, I don’t want it, and I don’t want to get caught in someone else’s desires for drama. Oh, but I have a flamboyant personality you say, and I like attention. No no, when I make loud jokes or do something silly to get attention, that’s comedy.

65. Talking about my feelings.
Really, must I? Can’t I just keep them bottled up like a civilized person? It’ll pass, just leave it alone. This is another way in which I seem to relate a lot better to my male friends than my female ones. Other women seem to delight in exploring and expressing a full range of emotional stuff, but I would really rather not. Depending on your perspective, this may be another case in which I’m “as bad as a man,” like when I won’t ask for directions.

Speaking of which, I have a story to convey about that. When I was in Vienna in February with my friend Stuart, we looked high and low for the Albertina, the big heavy art museum. We couldn’t find it, in part because it was covered with a gigantic drop cloth, and in part because we couldn’t see the sign featuring Munch’s “The Scream” announcing that it was closed for renovation because it was 50 feet directly over our heads and not visible from our vantage point. In any case, to pass the time during our long search, I told him about how I’m apparently “as bad as a man” when it comes to asking for directions, and he caved and asked for directions before I would. Therefore, I am no longer as bad as a man, I’m WORSE than a man, an observation that kept me laughing hysterically (much to Stuart’s mild irritation) for about 10 minutes. Then we discovered a Starbuck’s on the Albertinaplatz and were sufficiently horrified to stop laughing.

Saturday, August 23rd 2003

And a few more…
posted @ 10:26 am in [ ]
61. Finding girl shoes.
With my big ol’ wide feet, I usually just wear men’s shoes, which last longer and are often better made anyway. Still, I can’t help but feel a little left out when shoe stores have gigantic sales and women with “normal” feet can stock up on really cute shoes. I’m sure if I had feet that were within acceptable parameters for shoe manufacturers, I’d have a million pairs. As it is, my girl shoes are usually European, which are cut wider but are a lot more expensive and usually somewhat frumpy. Recently, though, I found a few cool pairs in a rather mainstream discount store. I’ve never come home with so many shoes in my life.

62. Solving problems without a spatial map.
With my terminally spatial brain, often the only way I can sort out a problem (especially a logistical one) is to put in on a grid and sketch it out. I can’t just talk through it or imagine how it would work.

63. Expressing affection in a grown-up way.
This is really very juvenile, but I frequently resort to teasing to express my affection. In some ways, I think it’s sort of flattering: you have to know someone well in order to be able to tease them about something that’s funny about them, and it can certainly be done in a way that’s not mean. But here’s a revelation: I use teasing most when I’m attracted to someone but don’t feel like I can express that attraction openly. Worse, that’s when the teasing is at its most intense (which is to say, somewhat merciless). I know, it’s like I’m stuck in junior high school.

Saturday, August 23rd 2003

posted @ 8:45 am in [ ]
You know what I haven’t mentioned in MONTHS? Things I suck at! I’ll never get to 100 at this rate…

55. Auditory or visual learning.
Whatever it is, it doesn’t sink in until I can interact with it with my own hands and get a feel for how it works. It might look like I’m fearlessly jumping into whatever task I’m supposed to be taking care of, but really I’m just memorizing the instructions–which make absolutely no sense to me yet–until I can put my hands on the task at hand.

56. Selecting suitable meat.
Not having eaten meat during the time I’ve been shopping for myself, I have no idea how to pick out a reasonable cut of meat. I do eat the occasional piece of fish, and I can kind of go by what looks appetizing there, but I half expect the meat case in the supermarket to contain things like hands and feet–it all looks sort of bloody and horrible to me–nothing’s remotely appetizing. So I have no formal training and no instincts to fall back on. However, the prospect of spending a bunch of time learning about meat is just too yucky for words. I intend to just keep guessing.

57. Concealing my competitive streak during sporting events.
When we’re talking about ideas or success or love, or any of those other important things in life, I’m actually quite supportive of others and not competitive at all. I’ve even directly refused to compete for various positions and accolades with friends and colleagues. However, on some level, I have always thought of my participation in athletics as an outlet for aggressive behavior, and do I ever maximize it! For example, I played softball at school a few years ago, and being a good hitter but not very fast, I generally whack the ball as hard as I possibly can (often after waving the other team’s fielders in a little bit because after all I’m only a girl–how far over their heads could possibly I hit? Heh-heh-heh) and then as I’m barreling toward first base like a freight train, I make as much noise as possible and look as if I’m about to run over the first baseman, which I have been known to do with pleasure when he has gotten between me and the bag. He almost always gets rattled, and I frequently get a double or even a triple out of the deal. Even when I’m not playing, I’ve been known to heckle the other team. The funny thing is, I often don’t even care if I lose. It’s more like a therapeutic process (for me–NOT for the other team!).

58. Letting go when I know I’m right about something I think is important.
I suppose this is loosely related to the above, and also loosely related to my aversion to tolerating injustice. As a researcher, this sort of tenaciousness has served me well, but pushing the argument until I win is not always an attractive thing, even when I am right. At least it’s rarely about something trivial–I’ll usually cave or agree to disagree for those just to maintain civil relations.

59. Controlling others’ impressions of my personality.
I don’t quite know how to express this. I’ve known for several years that many people I meet are somewhat intimidated by me, sometimes even downright frightened, but I don’t know why and I can’t figure out how to fix it. I try to be funny, put others at ease, be complimentary, charming, polite, etc., but these things don’t always work. In some cases, I think it’s in my best interest to have certain people keep their distance and I don’t attempt to change their perception, but frequently, I work for months or even years to seem more benign, to little effect. It recently occurred to me that some people seem to have a hard time separating my personality from my character, and that that could be part of the problem. Beyond that, though, I have no insight as to how to keep people from being freaked out by me. I would almost always rather they weren’t.

60. Tanning.
As last fall’s treatise about redheads attests, I don’t have enough melanin to keep from getting char broiled, even with brief exposure to the sun. Going to the beach before 3:00 p.m. without being encased in canvas might as well involve A-1 Steak Sauce rather than sunscreen.

Wednesday, January 8th 2003

posted @ 3:17 pm in [ ]
I can’t believe I forgot to mention:

51. Parallel parking. Sheesh, do I ever suck at *that*! It’s gotten better over the years, but there are still some times when I back up and pull forward about a million times trying to get it right.

52. Not treating men like pieces of meat. It’s true, I objectify them all the time.

53. Restraining inappropriate fantasies accordingly. When I was tutoring (other grad students) last year, I had conferences with some of my tutorees, two of whom were notably attractive and brilliant. I had a really hard time paying attention to what they were saying rather than contemplating clearing the table with a single sweeping gesture and… [insert chik-a-wah-wah style porn flick music here]. I know, it was terrible. I was getting paid to care about their ideas, and I did, but one of them especially I just wanted to kiss hard and get in his lap.

54. Accepting bullshit generalizations about women. Being Such A Guy myself, I just don’t buy most of them. I don’t prefer shopping to football, for example (okay, except if Parcells is coaching one of the teams and winning. F*cker.) I accept generalizations like “women tend to have ovaries,” but even that’s not true all the time, and it can be a tricky assumption to make.


Freaktown elections update:

I reported the Poopy Boy scenario incorrectly. Apparently, Poopy Boy slipped in the dogshit and fell on his ass. Amy, who has great sense of occasion, attempted to use this mishap as a ploy to get him out of his pants (so they could be washed of course). In my mind, he’s still freaky, but I think that puts him behind Harry and Marcelo both.

Speaking of which, Harry and Matilda are reportedly doing quite well. With their movie date fast approaching, Harry has been being very sweet to Matilda. She is starting to feel more cofident about her decision to continue with the plan and beginning to believe that she will probably have a pretty good time with Harry no matter what they see. (No idea what I’m talking about? See Friday, November 8.) She may yet become the First Lady of Freaktown.

Tuesday, December 31st 2002

posted @ 2:49 pm in [ ]
Hey, kids, do you know what time it is?
That’s right! Time for more things I suck at!

For those of you just joining us, I started a list back in September of things I suck at, and I intend to keep innumerating until I get to 100.

46. Land speed. I’m quick in the water, but the only way I can go fast on land under my own power is on a bicycle, where torque = speed.

47. Climbing. Related to #46, those of us who are built for speed have a much easier time climbing hills on bicycles. Those of us who are built for endurance can haul ass on the flats, but have a harder time verticalizing.

48. Making a decision without weighing all the options. Oh yes, even if it’s just a decision about which black magic marker to buy. I want to see *all* my options and then I’ll know for sure which one is right. It makes me a little crazymaking to shop with, but I hardly ever return anything.

49. Containing my restlessness when distracted. If I’m distracted by some unresolved thing in my life, even if I can’t do anything about it at the time, I have a really hard time focusing on the task at hand, even when it’s really important. I must *go* somewhere or *do* something. Driving usually helps.

50. Sleeping when there is the slightest little thing out of order with my environment. Oh yes, it’s Princess and the Pea time. Heaven forefend the sheet should be crumpled around my feet or not fit properly. God forbid my hair should fall across the front of my throat, or *gasp* someone else in the bed with me should attempt to cuddle me while I’m sleeping and raise the ambient temperature in my immediate body space, or worse, drape some heavyass limb over me. I know, it probably makes me a bad mammal.

Whoo-hoo, halfway there!

Tuesday, December 10th 2002

posted @ 6:43 pm in [ ]
Hey, kids, it’s time for STILL MORE THINGS I SUCK AT!!!

38. Tennis. Man, I am about the crappiest tennis player alive. I couldn’t be worse if I only had one leg and significantly fewer fingers. I took tennis lessons for a little while when I was a kid, and the guy my parents were *paying* to teach me how to play suggested I try something else. (I did, but I was good at it, and this list is about what I suck at, so let’s stay focused).

39. Pool. I’m good for probably one decent shot per game. When I get sucked into playing a giant tag-team game, I quit after that great shot to keep up the illusion that I don’t suck, and then I go get someone else a drink, which makes me cool, too.

40. Confinement. This is a new one for me. I didn’t know I sucked at staying home until I had to.

41. Patience without distraction. True, I have been called pathologically patient. Some have even said I have a zenlike quality about it. What they don’t know, though, is that I’m really just distracting myself from the incredibly annoying thing that’s making me so damned impatient. I have not calmed the chattering monkey, I’ve just given it a banana.

42. Remembering which it is: 42 or 43. Every other number, no problem, I can keep straight. For some reason, though, mental block between 42 and 43.

43. Same deal. Douglas Adams fans will appreciate the irony of my predicament.

44. Not allowing myself to be distracted by sexual fantasies. It’s true, I’m like an erotic Walter Mitty. If I get a good sexual fantasy going, I’m pretty much locked in. Pocketa, pocketa, pocketa.

45. Concealing my nerdiness once I get comfortable. True, I can behave like a normal person for a little while with a new group, but as soon as I settle in, this big scarlet N on my chest gets awfully noticible.

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