Question 1: Can I still graduate if I don’t have significant results?!

Question 2: WTF is this nonsense?  I have a statistical program that can do what I need to do but it’s brand new to me, and so I wanted to cross-check my work with a program I already know how to use (and for which my advisor provided syntax).  When I go to try to run it I realize that I need an advanced models add-on.  The add-on is $600!  On a program that by itself costs $200 for the student version and close to $1000 for the corporate/university version.

The geekery surrounding Stata continues.


Today I’m teaching myself to use Stata 13 SEM commands.  Generally in Stata I use the command syntax, because it’s faster and easier and I understand it.  They’re also very very simple (compared to SAS’s wtf command lines, which don’t make sense to me).

I started out learning how to do a simple mediation with the sem command and then a multilevel mediation with the gsem command.  Easy!

But Stata also has a graphical SEM builder.  Their documentation is SO handy, it tells you how to use it step by step.  Not only did I get the same results, but I also get a nifty diagram with the coefficients on it:


Which is fucking amazing.  I wonder if I can get it to flag my significant paths?  All of the paths in this diagram are significant, so maybe they just don’t show nonsignificant ones.

(This isn’t my dissertation data, btw; Stata has freely available datasets on their website that you can use to learn the techniques.  The best thing is that Stata can automatically download these datasets, so you don’t have to poke around looking for them.  You just type “use [url here]” and it GETS it for you.)

As for the lesson in this, I realized today that what takes a dissertation so fucking long isn’t the actual process of data analysis and writing.  That part is relatively easy.  It’s the learning.  I’m going to write a full post on this later, but the dissertation process is simply an alternative way of learning something – different from taking a class, kind of akin to taking comprehensive exams.  It’s struggling through the shit you don’t know that takes the longest amount of time.)

Grrr (recoding and cleaning)


For those of you who may be humanities scholars and/or don’t deal with datasets often, “data cleaning” is really just the weird misnomer quant scientists use for prepping the data.  Sometimes we have data that needs to be coded into groups, so we use statistical software to do that; sometimes we need to clean up the way the data is already coded, which was what my problem was today.  Data cleaning is the most tedious and usually the longest process when preparing to analyze data; I’d wager that as far as analyses go, quant grad students spend about 2/3 of their analysis time cleaning data and about 1/3 doing actual analyses.  (Of course, this varies depending on how complex your data is.

One of the things I hate is when I sit down to do some data work after I thought I cleaned my data and realize that there’s still a lot of cleaning and recoding to do.  It’s inevitable, of course; you always find that there’s something wrong or something you forgot to do once you begin to actually manipulate the data.  My goal today was just to explore my main variables, look at distributions and bivariate relationships (relationships between two variables, like race and age or race and scores on some measure) before moving on to constructing my model.  Of course, I found issues before I could do that.

First, I hate when scales are scored in nonsensical ways.  Let’s say that I have a score called “Skill at Underwater Basketweaving.”  I want higher scores on that scale to reflect more skill in underwater basketweaving.  I don’t want higher scores to be LESS skill, because that’s confusing.  Unfortunately I found out that three of my scales were scored that way (WTF?  In my defense, I did not score them myself).  I found out when I went to run bivariate correlations and found weird negative correlations I didn’t expect.  I don’t know if they were intended to be that way or if they were entered wrong in the survey, but I reverse scored them so that higher scores meant higher amounts of the thing the score measures.

Luckily I was using Stata (a statistical software package) which I have to say is awesome.  I just started using it – in the past I did all my data management in SPSS and then most of my analyses with SAS (both also statistical software packages), but Stata has an SEM package (the kind of analysis I am using in my dissertation) included in it now and so I was able to get my hands on it.  I imported the data into Stata – mostly clean data already – and when I found issues, it was so much faster to fix them in Stata.  Even just moving variables around was faster, although that’s likely because in Stata I am far more likely to look up the syntax to do something (and then fuck it up 4 times in a row, burning into my mind how to do it correctly*).

Then I started playing around with demographics to see if there are important differences between groups. I don’t want there to be differences between my groups because I am doing within-person analyses for my dissertation – I want to see if people change within themselves over time, and I’m not yet really interested in the differences between groups of people.  I am especially not interested – yet – in differences based on demographics, so thankfully I found on important indicators there don’t seem to be differences in the variables I am interested in.  I forgot to look at two particularly important variables, though, so I will save those for tomorrow.

So I did get something done today.  Yay! has been really slow lately.  I’ll type something and it takes several seconds to show up.  It’s annoying!

*As a side note, this is the way I learn statistics and/or a new software program, and in my opinion the best way.  You sit down with a dataset, and you do stuff to it.  You fuck up multiple times, and then you learn not to do that dumb shit again.  I recall syntax so much better when I’ve typed it slightly wrong 5 times in a row before getting it right (fucking capitals, how do they work) than I do when I just copy and alter it.

The Most Perfect Description of Procrastination Ever


I have been MIA for a while, and I wish I could say that it was because I was hacking away productively at my dissertation.  Alas, no.  I did do *some* work, but a lot of the time was spent procrastinating.

I am a chronic procrastinator, and if this GIF is any indication, it’s a trait that many graduate students share.  I think it’s normal to procrastinate a little bit, at least, on the dissertation.  It’s a huge project, bigger than any project that 99% of dissertators have done before, and with anything that daunting there’s sometimes fear involved.  I realized that the reason I am procrastinating now is because I have no idea how to do this structural equation model and it scares me.  Well, little idea – I’ve been reading a book on it, so I understand it better and honestly it’s an easy concept if you know multiple regression and have a decent grasp of statistics.

But I found this blog which I think has an excellent description of a procrastinator’s mind – so much so that when I read it, I thought “Holy shit, it’s like he’s inside my brain.”

Wait But Why: Why Procrastinators Procrastinate

Wait But Why: How To Beat Procrastination

The funniest thing is that he has a little note at the bottom saying “Most of you are in the Dark Playground right now while reading this.”  And it’s true, I am in the Dark Playground.  Time to enter the woods, though.

In the little dissertation related news I do have, I did write part of my literature review and have my data set up, finally, so I’m running analyses today.  Hooray!

Slumpy slump slump.


I’m definitely in a slump right now.

It’s something every graduate student experiences, I think – those times when for some reason, your world tilts and you don’t feel like doing anything.  There are always times that you don’t feel like doing work – but then there are those special times in which you don’t feel like doing anything – not work nor your hobbies.  Or maybe you stick obsessively with one thing that you do over and over.  Mine is usually reading books.  I get into a particular genre (historical fiction is my favorite; or sometimes, medical nonfiction) and I read book after book after book.  The time slips by.

When I first started sinking into these slumps I would become alarmed and stressed out.  “Oh no,” I would think, “you can’t be in a slump, not now, not really ever.  You’re a doctoral student and you have to work!”

But as I’ve learned through the years, graduate school (and life in general, really) is a series of peaks and valleys.  Sometimes you fight with your husband and sometimes you have warm fuzzies.  Sometimes you want red velvet cake every day and other days the very thought makes you sick to your stomach.  And sometimes you can bang out 9 pages a day and other days you don’t even want to think about your damn dissertation, or anything.

So I’ve learned that in long-term projects, I have to give myself space and room to breathe – room to go through the slumps, as it were.  It’s unrealistic for dissertators to think that they are actually going to work 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, writing writing writing and analyzing and in the library or whatever.  Or maybe there are some people like that, but the vast majority of us are not.  I consider myself an excellent writer – and have heard such from all of my advisers – and I am one of those people who writes for fun.  I spin stories.  But even I can’t sit at my computer and write, every day all day.  It’s just…eventually your brain gives out.  So some days I write for 4 or 6 hours, taking few breaks.  Some days I crank out 7 pages.  And some days I get a paragraph.

But that’s okay.  Dissertations are made up of paragraphs.

I’ve learned to embrace the slump – to just let it pass.  Trying to fight it just prolongs it.  Sometimes you have to give into it, and let it take you over for a few days.  But you have to remain calm – don’t panic, don’t give into anxiety.  Don’t ruminate oh my god, I am never going to finish anything or I am a failure at life because I don’t feel like doing work.  If you love your work, it will pass.  And for me, at least, the end of the slump always brings on a burst of energy and creativity.  I feel somehow renewed, refreshed, and ready to work again.  Today, I can feel the slump coming near its end, and I find myself looking forward to working on sections of my literature review and even maybe feeling like attempting this data analysis that I don’t yet know how to do.

I consider it training for an academic lifestyle.  I always said I didn’t want to be an academic because of the guilt.  It was one of the things I hated the most.  Grad students know what I’m talking about – the guilt that follows you around when you don’t work, even if you’ve been working all day or all week.  You feel guilty for taking the time to watch your favorite TV show or read a book or go to sleep.  Regular people things.  I knew I could be an academic, and potentially succeed in that career, once I got rid of the guilt.  These days I don’t feel guilty when I do things for myself, because I’ve realized that I am so much happier and more productive when I do do those things.

And the slump taught me that I love my work, too.  I find myself looking forward to writing – relishing the book on structural equation modeling I am currently reading, looking forward to uncovering the history of the construct I am exploring, even looking forward to rearranging the thoughts I dump on my paper to make a coherent tale, one that will convince my readers that my work is important to the field.  I like the process.  I keep waiting for that horrible misery to hit me – the one all the dissertators of yore have told me about – but it has yet to do that.  There are some parts I don’t like, but all in all it’s been a pleasant experience.  I write when I want and I don’t when I don’t – I do something else.


Warrior women don’t have to have long flowing hair.

Usually in the fall the subway walls are plastered with posters of new television shows, returning shows and the new movies coming out.  Today I’m walking through the subway and I see this poster for the upcoming movie Catching Fire in the subway:


I was instantly annoyed.

I love The Hunger Games trilogy.  I’m a huge fan and I just reread the books a few weeks ago in preparation for this movie.  I also really loved the first movie – I think that Jennifer Lawrence did a great job with Katniss’s character.

Why I am I annoyed?  In the book, Suzanne Collins (the author) doesn’t spend a lot of time on Katniss’s appearance.  We learn that Katniss is olive-skinned and has dark hair and eyes, but that’s about it.  Katniss doesn’t really dwell on her own appearance very much, which is interesting given that one of the central themes of the book is how she’s constantly being remade to look good on television.  But despite Katniss’s not focusing much on her appearance, she does take the time to mention – repeatedly – how she puts her hair up before she goes into any kind of action, typically in some kind of braid.

This is a pet peeve of mine.  My husband is consistently amused at how upset it makes me, even as he agrees with me.  Whenever I’m watching an action show or movie at home and a female character who is about to go into battle and KNOWS she’s about to go into battle runs in, hair a-flowing, I just get UPSET.

I’m a woman.  Currently I have short hair and as I am black with kinky locks, my hair doesn’t flow in the wind – something I’m happy about, as I never have to tie it up now.  However, I used to have chemically relaxed hair that fell straight down my back.  If I was so much as going to the gym or to run around with the kids outside, I would put my hair up into a ponytail or a bun with one of the many, many ponytail holders I always had on hand.  I only cut my hair about 3 months again and cleaning around the house turns up scores of stretchy ponytail elastics scattered all over the house.  Most women I know with long hair have the same thing going on.  When I go running in the park, every single woman I see with hair past their shoulders has it caught up in a ponytail or a messy but secure bun.  Most also have a headband or sweatband to hold back the wispy locks that fly free.  Watch any athletic competition involving women and most of them have their hair in buns or ponytails.  Go on, do a Google search.  Most women I know with longer hair usually have several pony elastics on hand.

Why?  Because free-flowing hair is annoying when you are moving in any significant way. First of all, it’s distracting – it flies into your face and your mouth, gets in your eyes, and you have to move it out of the way.  Second of all, it can be weaponized!  At best, it gets caught in the moving machinery you are swinging through or the branches of the tropical jungle you’re climbing the trees of.  At worst, your enemy grabs your hair and pulls it, causing you pain, or uses it to wrench your neck open for a stabbing.

Loose hair is the worst, but ponytails are kind of bad, too.  I’m of the mind that any serious fighter would keep their hair short first and foremost, or in a bun if that were not possible or desirable.  Braids are fine too.  Ponytails would be a quick, in the moment solution.  But no fighter woman in her right mind would just leave her hair flying free for no reason.

And Katniss, when she goes into an action scene, always braids her hair back.  In fact, Collins sometimes takes a moment to explicitly say that.  And her hair is usually intricately done for her shots in the Capitol; I don’t ever remember them saying that she wears her hair free, but if she does it would only be then.  Yet here she is, in a battle suit with her arrows strapped over her back, and her hair flowing behind her.

I will say that this is the second Catching Fire poster.  The first one has Katniss standing on a mountain, and her hair is braided in that one, which makes sense.  This is the third one:

jennifer-lawrence-catching-fire-poster-610x903 (1)

Who shoots a deadly weapon with their hair whipping around their face?

After I saw this, I started thinking about it more, reflecting, mostly…

One of my favorite new shows is Agents of SHIELD.  It’s based on the Marvel universe; it’s a show about the ordinary agents who do “superhero support” and protect the world from supernatural elements.  There are two female action heroines in the show:

 photo marvels-agents-of-shield_zps0e91eeab.jpg

The one in the purple shirt is Skye.  There’s a lot wrong with her, but she’s new to the force and to fighting in general.  Still, she seems to be capable of putting her hair in a ponytail for training but not for actual battles.  And yes, they are sometimes surprised, but usually they know some shit is about to pop off.

The one in the all black body suit is more egregious.  Her name is Melinda May.  Her nickname is “The Calvalry.”  She’s the pilot but also a weapons expert and a notable badass.  She also always wears her hair down.  Not once has she braided it or put it in a goddamn ponytail.  In fact, in one episode an enemy combatant actually DOES grab her hair and use it to bang her face against the dash of her plane and incapacitate her.  The next episodes?  Hair still flowing.  Dude.  Learn something.

This, in turn, reminds me of Colombiana.

Colombiana-poster MrsMiracle_DVD_Sleeve

These are the two posters for the movie, which came out in 2011.  It’s about a young woman named Cataleya (played by Zoe Saldana) who kills for a living.  The thing that bothers me about the posters is that Cataleya actually never wears her hair down.  In fact, she kind of makes a big deal about putting it in a bun before each fight.  The one time she does wear it in a ponytail, an enemy combatant grabs it and pulls it to cause her pain and also incapacitates her with it.  The only other time she wore her hair down or in a ponytail other than that, and in the scenes of her mundane life was in the final fight, and she wasn’t planning on doing much contact fighting with anyone.  (It involved explosives.)

I actually dug up quite a few movie posters when looking around for this article, and most of the ones I could think of for women who are action stars in the movie or television series depict the woman or women with long, free, flowing hair that would be utterly annoying in a fight.  This was regardless of whether the woman actually wore her hair down in the movie (most impractical, but many movies do depict women wearing their hair down like this in fights).  Elektra, Underworld, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xena the Warrior Princess, Kill Bill, Salt, The Walking Dead (I mean, you can barely see the female characters, but all of them do have their hair down), Charlie’s Angels (both the 1970s one and the early 2000s one), Mr. & Mrs. Smith, even the soccer movie Bend it Like Beckham (for Parminder Nagra’s character Jess, who never wears her hair down for a soccer game in the film but wears it either out or a very loose ponytail in the poster).

Do I have a point?  Kind of.  Mostly I’m just irrationally angry about this small thing, but I think it kind of makes comment on gender roles and the role of beauty and appearance.  Women must look beautiful at all costs, and part of that beauty is long, flowing hair, preferably blowing impractically in the wind.  And even warrior women who fight must be pretty, with makeup and perfect skin and waxed eyebrows.  Do I think Melinda May would actually get her eyebrows waxed?  Fuck no.  She’s too busy cleaning her arsenal.  I know the reality is that Ming-Na Wen does, and that movie posters of movies about women must showcase those women looking gorgeous because that’s what sells.  And it’s not that movie posters that primarily feature men aren’t also unrealistic, but they are unrealistic in a different way.  I mean, I look at the poster for The Expendables 2 and although the men all look like they had a party with steroids, they also look dirty and ready to fucking fight.  Except Maggie (Yu Yen).  When she DOES appear in a poster…she has her fucking hair down!

The one exception, of course, is this:

 photo lara_croft_tomb_raider_xlg_zps7a2d2b35.jpg

Because, yeah.


I almost forgot.  When I was looking for the posters for Catching Fire, I found this:

For the link-phobic, Cover Girl has got some kind of deal with The Hunger Games to release makeup themed after the movie.  Uhhhh….?  Okay, I guess I can kind of see the connection – the Capitol makes up all of the combatants for the games before they go in, ridiculous styles in the Capitol, etc.  Except that if you click, you’ll see that they created 12 different make up looks for each of the 12 districts, themed after the industry that the district is known for.

1. None of these looks, perhaps with the exception of District 9, looks like they have anything to do with the district theme at all.  For District 12, mining, they chose a look that has yellow eyeshadow in the corner of the model’s eyes and pink lips.  District 11, agriculture, has a model with red eyebrows and cheeks.  District 6 has a bold blueish lip…I mean, what do any of these looks (with the exception of the wheat-like eyebrows on District 9) have to do with their industries?

2. Are they forgetting that these books are about 24 children who are sent to their deaths in a horrific battle?  What about that inspires makeup?



Yay! A Chapter!

So today I sent a mostly completed chapter to my advisers!

Kanye snap

I wrote the methods chapter first because that comes easiest to me, and the data is already collected so I could spend a lot of time talking about how that was done and describing the relevant measures.  Plus, I could use large snippets from my dissertation proposal.

It took longer than I expected, and not just because I procrastinated (which I did).  There was a section that was actually difficult and tedious to write – a 5-page section in which I described my data collection method and the historical uses of it.  There’s actually a second section that I have to write about that – concerning latent variable analysis – but I have very little idea of how to do that yet so I left it aside for a bit later in the process.  I anticipate that that will take even later than the section on the first method.  Ugh!  Also my data analysis section is incomplete because duh, I haven’t done the analyses yet.  Haha.

Currently the section is 14 pages long without the references, and when I add the section on latent variable analysis and write/review my data analysis section, I imagine that it will be about 20 pages.  I think if I really think about it, including procrastination periods but counting from when I really started, it took me about 3 weeks to write the rough (and about 80% finished) draft I have now.  I didn’t really work much on the weekends.  I’d say on a good day I banged out 5 pages; on bad days (or days when I was writing that tedious section!) I could eke out a page or sometimes a few paragraphs within a writing section.

EVERY LITTLE BIT COUNTS.  The paper is made up of paragraphs, after all.

My next steps are to actually get through with the analysis and read all of the damn library books I have on the analysis method I am about to use (which I have never used before, and am learning somewhat from scratch, yay D:).  I’m also starting in on the literature review, which I’m looking forward to writing because I figure I’ll actually get a better look into all those books I read (or “read”) for my oral exams.  They’re sitting in the tiny bookcase I have in my desk.  I need a bigger bookcase, really.