Sunday, 27 March 2011

Living in America is creepy.

In the last week, some poor bike mechanic got shot, and somebody opened fire at a gig. Suddenly pretty happy I went for the house in the "nicer" part of town. My housemate went on a Critical Mass ride in memory of the dead bike dude. He says the cycling community is pretty shook up.

However, luckily I pretty much work all the time, and our participants are unlikely to shoot us because being associated with the lab is pretty lucrative for them (longitudinal studies pay well and usually include travel costs, and you're guaranteed that money as long as you show up to be tested every six months). I've finally, FINALLY started testing and have two participants run, although not without a lot of drama. The first girl turned up with braids on Monday, meaning we were not able to fit the EEG cap on (it fits like a swim cap, so no room for giant bunches of hair). We rebooked her for Wednesday at 6pm, after she had taken her braids out, and her mom was there by 5.45. Said her daughter was on her way. 6.30, no sign of the kid. It's getting dark and mom is freaking out. 6.45, still no sign. Mom is calling every relative she can think of, but they won't pick up because they don't recognise the number. 6.50, kid finally appears. Luckily her hair is down. We run her anyway, since she seems up for it, getting the net on as quickly as humanly possible. Study ends, we pay the participant, and mom starts yelling - "What do you MEAN we don't get travel costs?!" eek.

Thursday, participant is half an hour late. No, make that an hour late. No, make that cancelled entirely. Rebooked for next week. Friday, I'm calling around trying to get people in for next week. Mom says her kid could come - if we can fit him in that day. Check the schedule, there's a tiny one-hour slot available in the testing room. Book him. Luckily he showed up braid-free (perfect hair actually: very short!) and was a nice, cooperative kid. However, the person who needed the room ahead of me ran late and so had to spend 15 minutes trying to make conversation with a taciturn adolescent. However, data is data.

I did make it out to a performance of the Bach mass in B Minor in support of Japan last night, though. We got there late and got pretty bad seats, but luckily could see the conductor, who was very entertaining. Complete with flying white hair and hopping on his toes and giant arm gestures. Everything was sung in Latin, so I was kind of losing focus until out of desperation I read the liner notes, which explained the similarity between Baroque architecture and music - both were obsessed with symmetry. It used the Palace of Versailles as an example. After that it was easier to know what I was listening to, and I was much less fidgety.

In other news, now that the snow has melted there are three blue jays, two robins and countless squirrels hanging out in my yard. Much more fun to watch them than do my marking, although I'm trying to make inroads. I have never encountered more whiny students than with this course. They seem to think that "Distance Ed" = "Don't have to work", and they send extremely nasty emails should they get a lower mark than they thought they should have. Highlights have included, "I don't know if you realize, but I'm a 90% student and you just gave me a 70%", and "I don't agree with the mark you gave me. I technically did the bare minimum requirements, so clearly deserve a high mark" and slagging me off in a series of public posts on the course forum, claiming I should not be doing the re-grades. Luckily the prof has supported me 100%, but it ain't the most fun I've ever had.

Ah well, it pays the bills... sort of.