February 22, 2009

Forward moment-choo-m

When my mind has strange inclinations, I sometimes anthropomorphize my mental state: "Oh, gee, isn't it interesting that my brain cannot make the connections I usually can, or it's making very strange connections. I wonder why it does that." I don't worry about the recursion there, because the technique is largely a way to stop being worried about my mental state at the moment.

Case in point: head colds. I should head to bed soon (it's a little after 10), and while part of the motivation is to heal a little faster, there's also a role to stop wasting energy on thoughts that are going to look far less clever in the cold light of day (or at least a day when I don't have a cold). It is only during a head cold that a full chorus of an as-yet-unwritten song about research ethics could come into my brain mostly unbidden:

Your momma told you not to be rude to the evidence.
When your brain takes a hard right turn,
Listen to the data and you just might learn (why)
Your momma told you not to be rude to the evidence.
Now that you've made a bold prediction,
Looking at data better be your addiction

(For the record, the tune in my head is far less country than it is '70s upbeat pop. And "hard right turn" is there less as political ideology than as a phrase that rhymes with "might learn." And yes, I'm willing to take suggestions for alternatives!) Yeah -- I know what you bold and persevering epistemologists are going to say. Nonetheless, there is something to be said for this perspective. Or so my brain says tonight; I don't have verses, and I'm probably going to wince at this on Tuesday or Wednesday.

My philosophy on such days is to maintain some forward momentum; concentration is going to be limited, so pick out tasks that require less. (That, and take naps between spurts of work, at least when home.) This is an important sanity-saving maneuver, because I had hoped to use yesterday and today to get a lot of no-internet reading time that I need to catch up on. Instead, I did a portion of the tasks I had hoped to accomplish before my sinuses controlled my fate, and I just kept picking small chunks. If I'm feeling more like myself tomorrow, I'll pick up the pace, having gotten some of them out of the way.

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Tags: research ethics
Posted in The academic life on February 22, 2009 10:07 PM |