Astro's Blog

Writing a Story

By: Astrometeor, 5:58 AM GMT on June 14, 2014

When people read books such as Paper Towns by John Green¹, they fall in three categories: (1) They love the story and its characters, (2) They hate it, or, (3) Ambivalence is king².

For me, the second option doesn't reign often. If I find disgust with the work either within the text/storyline, or merely the cover, I stop reading. To know the end of that particular story is nonessential- so much that I must renege on my earlier calling it a story- because it is not.

The other two are up to the reader. In my mind, to truly “love” a book is to read it over and over again, gaining new knowledge or insight each time you read that novel.


Having said all of the above, how do authors write these novels? Is it (as some infamous country singers/songwriters say) a burst of inspiration or a random thought? Or perhaps the story involves years of tedious research with the added motivation of purpose that comes to a summation?


I guess, my real question is this: How does one become satisfied with the work, and becomes brave enough to publish the work, or at least present it to others? How do my far more illustrious colleagues do it? How do my esteemed classmates (who are themselves published authors) do it?

I always feel as if no matter how well I construct something, there is always a hidden fault within my writing. For some pieces of writing, like opinions, I care less, the comments section allows me a chance at clarification or redemption (if I am criticized). But, in more personal works, such as my poems, I never feel fully at ease with my writing. And, even if people give genuine encouragement to me, or real gratitude at receiving the personal poem directed unto them, I always have nagging doubts about their true feelings.


Thanks for reading! I hope you liked it.

Notes:

1. As of the original draft of this piece, the author had just read Paper Towns and the book was still fresh upon his mind.-Ed.
2. Speaking of ambivalence, Astrometeor notes that he had an ambivalent view of Paper Towns after completing the novel, and as such, cannot recommend the book to others. However, he does not rate it poorly.-Ed.

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Writing Personal Miscellaneous

Gender Bias and Hurricanes

By: Astrometeor, 10:20 PM GMT on June 10, 2014

So, in case anyone does not know, several days ago a press release came out announcing a sociologist (Naga, correct me if you don't like that wording) study that seemed to have found a connection between gender bias/discrimination in the American populace and the death toll in a female-named hurricane. Halcyon19 brought up the article after he/she discovered it.

-----

Quoting 302. Halcyon19:

Interesting article:

Link

Apparently there is gender discrimination with hurricanes?


For me, that's not surprising. What is scarier to you? Hurricane Bruce or Hurricane Jessica? According to the study, the inclination is towards Bruce being perceived as the scarier storm.

My sister alerted me to the findings (she's a graduate student at ASU in planetary geology), and she sent this to mother and I. Mother forwarded the abstract of the paper to her boss, who forwarded it to her aunt, who is a sociologist. This is what she had to say:

Interesting.
Since I'm a sociologist, I was curious about the gender stereotyping aspect and began to look into their data (supporting information) and their methodology to see what they based it on. Mainly, it's a perception study having people respond to different hurricane scenarios using male versus female names.
They also said they based it upon 6 decades of death rates...(see below) so that sent me back to the statistics and data [I wondered how they got people's responses/recall information regarding whether or not they fled hurricane X or Y] but that part of the report was based upon college student responses to the fictitious scenarios, NOT the actual perception data from real hurricanes.

But to give them the benefit of the doubt, I began checking the proportion of total male names used in their data set vs female names. Loosely counting, I found 2/3 of the names in the set were female and 1/3 male. Then because I remembered that the alternate use of male versus female names for hurricanes began only around the 1980s, I googled it and verified that it started in 1979. I couldn't understand how they could say "We use more than six decades of death rates from US hurricanes to show that feminine-named hurricanes cause significantly more deaths than do masculine-named hurricanes." when the use of male names began only in 1979 - ~ 3 decades ago.

So I returned to their supporting information to see their statistics, began scrolling through the specific data file. It's okay that they had excluded Katrina since the high number of deaths would constitute an outlier. Then I revisited the data file, checked a few more things out. Wanting to re-check another bit of information, I went back to the google link and found this excellent review/critique (Yong) National Geographic Critique which examined the methodology as I was just beginning to do. They did my re-assessment for me!
-Then see the comments to that critique - See especially, the first comment at the bottom of the review. (Peter Apps, June 2, 2014)
-The original authors also provided a rejoinder and the piece de resistance that I particularly liked the comment by Will Holz, June 2:

"I want to test this!


Let%u2019s give a bunch of hurricanes really harmless names and then a bunch of others really scary ones.


If hurricanes Fluffy and Cuddlebutt end up killing far more people than Hades and Murder-Death-Kill then the data will be even stronger.


Also funnier. Except for the dead people part.


Bad fluffy!"

So what can I conclude: The report is a sort of amalgam of hard data (#deaths, pressure, $ cost) with an attitude survey of college students ranking of soft data (masculinity/femininity, attractiveness and intellectual competency of names) and how they somehow correlated. Gender stereotyping began lon-n-g-g-g ago when they first named them after women a la "Hell hath no fury..." "stormy" women, etc. It's interesting now that 'gender-ists' want to show how women aren't really given the 'creds' they should be given even when it comes to hurricane naming.
So, should we tell they they 'should have fear!!'


I should say this is already a few days old (sorry), and some members of the blog expressed disgust at the study. Not sure why, sociology is becoming an ever more important tool in meteorology. Meteorologists need to know how to communicate with the public. For example, no meteorologist would ever try to communicate a warning (in a similar way) to the public like this:



However, this is only one study. More should be done, along with some more interesting paths of study (like that one commenter on the Geographic review noted).

Also, more period of time is needed (unfortunately). The authors of study noted that they used 1950-2012 for the period because 1979 (when male names were introduced) -2012 is too short of a time frame for study. But they noticed the real potential for bias. The time frame was also a main source of disgust for certain bloggers here. Oh well.

-----

Naga5000, several hours later, adds some notes to consider about the way the study was conducted.

Quoting 346. Naga5000:



My issue, like with most of these types of studies, is that it is measuring the perception of gender by college students. It is not a representative sample, it tells us nothing about the population. We know that in general younger groups have a different perception of gender in comparison to other generations and that there are generational shifts in perceptions towards gender with younger groups becoming more progressive in their views. So what they are really measuring is college students perception and that perception means very little without a comparison. Is this sample more or less gender biased than the general population?

Working on a Ph.D. in Sociology myself, I see studies like this as fun practice, but I don't see it adding much to the discipline. There are many studies showing perceived gender bias in college students, this one looks like it just used hurricanes to drum up some attention.
This was from a marketing Ph.D. student, not a sociologist.




Please continue the debate/dissection of this study below, thanks for reading!

(Note: My 'response' was copied from my comment, #307, in Dr. Master's entry found here.

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Writing

By: Astrometeor, 1:57 AM GMT on June 10, 2014

What to write? I find myself asking that frequently. Should I write a love poem, to some unnamed person I know, have known, or have yet to know? Or should I write a short story about pain, love, truth, struggle, freedom? Should that story be fiction or nonfiction? Or a mix?

I don't think I'm a good writer, I'm clumsy, egotistical in style, mainly thinking about my own emotions than ascribing detail to other characters. I write about the strangest of things, from a wide of variety of topics. I'm young and inexperienced, what right do I have to dare and enter in my own opinions on this world?

Why do I write? Who cares what I think, I'm just a measly person in this great world, with measly aspirations compared to some other persons I have met. Or have yet to meet. I am a pathetic grunt in this vast place, not worthy enough to write upon these topics, yet I persist.

Does anyone actually like what I write? I post this to the internet, all I ever get is plus signs and “that was really good, Astro”. That could easily be sarcasm, I should know, I have been able to fake myself really well on the internet.

Ah well, might as well keep on with this. 'Bout the only good, clear, well-known side to writing is it provides an easily documentable path for memories, but writing these essays and poems have also served as an out (so to speak) for a young, emotionally troubled teenager.

Thanks to those who persist in reading my writings.

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Writing Miscellaneous Personal

Graduates' Choices

By: Astrometeor, 3:47 AM GMT on June 06, 2014

Here are where my fellow class of 2014 graduates are attending for college:


College #of students attending

Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University 2

Allegheny College 2

Amherst College 1

Austin Peay State University 2

Belmont University 6

Berea College 2

Carson Newman University 2

Clark Atlanta University 2

Columbia University 1

Cumberland University 1

Duke University 2 (salutatorian is attending here)

East Tennessee State University 1

Eckerd College 1

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University 1

Florida State University 1

George Mason University 1

Georgia Institute of Technology 3 (three friends attending here, one of the top engineering schools in USA)

Grenoble Ecole de Management 1

Harding University 1

Hollins University 1

Howard University 3

Illinois Institute of Technology 1

Indiana University 1

King University 1

Lee University 1

Lewis and Clark College 1

Lincoln Memorial University 1

Lindsey Wilson College 1

Lipscomb University 5 (site of graduation)

Louisiana State University 1

Loyola Marymount University 1

Martin Methodist College 1

Maryville College 2

Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2 (valedictorian is attending here, along with a close friend of mine)

Menlo College 1

Mercer University 1

Miami University 1

Middle Tennessee State University 13

Millersville University 1

Morehouse College 1

New York University 1

Northern Arizona University 1

Nossi College of Art 1

Oglethorpe University 1

Rhodes College 1

Savannah College of Art and Design 2

Sewanee: The University of the South 2

Smith College 1

Southern Illinois University Carbondale 2

Spelman College 1

Stony Brook University 1

Tennessee State University 6

Tennessee Technological University 14

Texas Christian University 1

The United States Marine Corp 1

The United States Military Academy at West Point 1

Trevecca Nazarene University 2

Union University 1

University of Alabama at Birmingham 3

University of Alabama Tuscaloosa 1

University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff 1

University of Chicago 2

University of Dayton 1

University of Kentucky 1

University of Memphis 2

University of Mississippi 2

University of Richmond 1

University of Tennessee Chattanooga 11

University of Tennessee Knoxville 29

University of Wisconsin-Madison 1

Vanderbilt University 7

Webster University 1

Wellesley College 1

Western Kentucky University 3

Williams College 1

Xavier University of Louisiana 2

Yale University 1


Total Graduates: 184

Total Colleges Being Attended: 77 (if I counted that right)

Go Class of 2014!

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Hilarious Misreading

By: Astrometeor, 3:34 AM GMT on June 04, 2014

This Blog's Focus begins here, at comment 710

Quoting 710. KoritheMan:


???

Pretty sure the scientific consensus agrees on 26F as being the minimum threshold. We've had major hurricanes develop over waters even cooler than the 27.8C made in that statement.

Highly misleading unless the consensus has made a drastic paradigm shift.



Look at that first temperature, KoritheMan states. 26F. Now, maybe that was just a small error on his part. I enter the scene and try to point it out to him, nicely:

Quoting 752. Astrometeor:



I would be really shocked if a tropical cyclone formed at 26F.

:-)


And, the great, all-knowing Kori responds with this:

Quoting 763. KoritheMan:



They can and do. They won't be the ones sporting the deep warm cores we see in cyclones forming in the deep tropics, but waters aren't everything. Lukewarm SSTs can work together with the cold upper troposphere over subtropical latitudes to generate instability.


Okay, now everyone can pile in the jokes. Clearly Kori is somehow missing the massive clue-phone that he wrote 26F not 26C. And so, the jokes do begin to come in:

Quoting 774. TropicalAnalystwx13:


Read carefully...26F.

26F.

F.


Fortunately, Kori manages to acknowledge his hilarious error right before Cody (TA) posts:

Quoting 769. KoritheMan:



Wait... did I really say 26F? >_>


Kori then proceeds to tell Cody to "shut up" which wasn't a very nice thing to say at all...

Quoting 776. KoritheMan:



Shh. My brother was just laughing at me when I pointed it out to him after I noticed it.

Shut up, Cody. lmao


So, anyone else want to laugh at Kori? Feel free to do so down below in the comments section.

:-D

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P.S. I also pointed the mistake out to Kori via g-mail correspondence, and let's just say the response was a little more colorful than his response on the blog.

Comedy Typo

Welcome to Summer!

By: Astrometeor, 3:40 AM GMT on June 02, 2014

So, today is the start of summer. But Astro, we thought summer starts on June 21/22? Correct! But, that's the start of summer via the astronomy calendar, which tracks the position of the sun and Earth by marking the equinoxes and solstices. This is the start of summer via the meteorological calendar, a more important calendar (in my opinion, because weather is awesome!).

Here's the way the astronomy-based calendar works:


Figure 1. Graphic showing the solstices/equinoxes based on Earth's position around the sun.

Excerpt from NOAA explaining the astronomical calendar:

The natural rotation of the Earth around the sun forms the basis for the astronomical calendar, in which seasons are defined by two solstices and two equinoxes. Both the solstices and equinoxes are determined based on the Earth’s tilt and the sun’s alignment over the equator. The solstices mark the times when the sun’s annual path is farthest, north or south, from the Earth’s equator. The equinoxes mark the times when the sun passes directly above the equator. In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice falls on or around June 21, the winter solstice on or around December 22, the vernal (spring) equinox on or around March 21, and the autumnal equinox on or around September 22. These seasons are reversed but begin on the same dates in the Southern Hemisphere.

Because the Earth actually travels around the sun in 365.24 days, an extra day is needed every fourth year, creating what we know as Leap Year. This also causes the exact date of the solstices and equinoxes to vary. Additionally, the elliptical shape of the Earth’s orbit around the sun causes the lengths of the astronomical seasons to vary between 89 and 93 days.


Well then. That's just peachy. Okay...but that doesn't explain why we have seasons that start of the first of every 3 months. Well, it turns out the astronomical calendar is messed up just enough to drive people with OCD about tidy categories crazy. So, the calendar that way is a little too complicated to keep track of important agricultural records and general weather and climatic data. Here's the other part from that NOAA site:

Meteorologists and climatologists break the seasons down into groupings of three months based on the annual temperature cycle as well as our calendar. We generally think of winter as the coldest time of the year and summer as the warmest time of the year, with spring and fall being the transition seasons, and that is what the meteorological seasons are based on. Meteorological spring includes March, April, and May; meteorological summer includes June, July, and August; meteorological fall includes September, October, and November; and meteorological winter includes December, January, and February. These seasons were created for meteorological observing and forecasting purposes, and they are more closely tied to our monthly civil calendar than the astronomical seasons are. The length of the seasons is also more consistent for the meteorological seasons, ranging from 90 days for winter of a non-leap year to 92 days for spring and summer. By following the civil calendar and having less variation in season length and season start, it becomes much easier to calculate seasonal statistics from the monthly statistics, both of which are very useful for agriculture, commerce, and a variety of other purposes.

So, yeah. There's the difference. At some point someone decided they like a nice, neat structure for records, and boom! Here we are. Two different start times for summer. My preference? The meteorological one, of course (oh hey, I stated this earlier. Just making sure you're reading the blog). As the NOAA explanation notes, temperatures correlate closer to the June 1 start than the June 21 start.

Source for the italicized text.

Thanks for reading, and again, Welcome to Summer 2014 and the Start of Hurricane Season!

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Summer Science (general) Seasons Temperature


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.