Your data is the wrong data.

“Quantitative or qualitative?” he asked in a loaded, hurried tone.

This question always exasperates me. Immediately, I think, ‘Oh, you’re one of those. Oh, brother!” and roll my eyes.

I was at a social for WordCamp St. Louis hosted by the local WordPress community. This gent had traveled all the way from Indianapolis. He said he wouldn’t be attending the second day, as he “found what he needed.” His goal wasn’t to learn anything, but to find a person to build him a WordPress site. I guess no one knows the WordPress in Indiana?

Ok, let me start at the beginning. This gent started the conversation with, “Oh, I thought she was your daughter!” when I walked up to where he and Chris were already conversing. I asked what brought him to WordCamp and what he did. He’s a consultant in the K-12 sector and teaches statistic part-time. Then he asked what I do. I said I was finishing up my PhD and before I could tell him about my study he blurts, “Quantitative or qualitative?”

You see, among researchers, there are two camps: qualitative and quantitative. Each sees their own research type as better than the other. A vast majority of qualitative researchers see quantitative as good foundation for qualitative. It informs the study and points to where qualitative method should be used to go deeper. On the other hand, a vast majority of quantitative researchers refuse to recognize qualitative research as actual research at all.

I ignored his jabs and explained my study, all while he poo-pooed it.

I love Seth Godin’s example in his article: Actually, more data might not be what you’re hoping for.

So, data gave us the Kardashians.

I imagine the survey went something like this:

On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is the least and 5 is the greatest, how much do you like spray tan?

On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is the least and 5 is the greatest, how much do you like unimportant drama?

On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is the least and 5 is the greatest, how much do you like rich people whining?

And the people interpreting the results viewed the data as, “By golly! People want the Kardashians!” *

But, did they ask questions like:

What are your favorite television shows?

What about those shows makes them your favorite?

Describe television characters you enjoy watching.

Tell me about how you decide on a new television show.

Do you see how the data both are valuable, but both will get you very different information? Data gave us the Kardashians, but maybe we could have had something cooler.

So, Dr. K-12 Qualitative Consultant, you see, my aim in life is to never stop learning and never forget how to listen. Maybe you have forgotten, or maybe you’re a republican and never learned how. Just crunching numbers together with some equations, or software, doesn’t give you the nuanced answers provided by the human condition. It takes critical thinking and continued learning about society to process that information.

*Yes, I know my questions are biased. I’m doing this as an example and to be funny. Relax, Mr. or Ms. Quantitative, there is room for humor amongst all those numbers.

Busier than thou

Sometimes I mention something offhanded like, “Oh, sorry, I got busy this weekend with yard work and forgot.” Or “I work full time during the day so I don’t have time to check Facebook or email until the evening after kids are in bed.” My comments spoken with the intent of informing people of when they can expect me to respond to them or complete a task are all too often met with a response something like: “I’m busy too!” or “I work full time too and have 2 small children at home!” or “Must be nice!”

While I’m sure all of us are convinced we would win the busy war if put head to head, I am not sure where this keeping up with the Joneses style busy battle started.

I am a school liasion. I am a room mom. I work. I am working on my dissertation for completion of my Ph.D. I operate a non-profit pet rescue I started. I have two kids, one of whom is on a competitive dance team, gifted, and plays guitar and cello, and the other is a defiant toddler. I am on committees at work. I volunteer with three professional organizations, of which I am a member. I have pets, chickens, and a house. I like to workout and shower daily…but none of that really matters to you. These are my commitments and my schedule and while it is impactful to others, it ultimately only matters to me. And that’s ok.

When I use my commitments to explain something, I am not expecting a “busier than thou” response. I don’t disagree with you that you’re busy too!

Elizabeth Kolbert writes in her article “No Time” for the New Yorker:

One theory she entertains early on is that busyness has acquired social status. The busier you are the more important you seem; thus, people compete to be—or, at least, to appear to be—harried. A researcher she consults at the University of North Dakota, Ann Burnett, has collected five decades’ worth of holiday letters and found that they’ve come to dwell less and less on the blessings of the season and more and more on how jam-packed the previous year has been. Based on this archive, Burnett has concluded that keeping up with the Joneses now means trying to outschedule them. (In one recent letter, a mother boasts of schlepping her kids to so many activities that she drives “a hundred miles a day.”) “There’s a real ‘busier than thou’ attitude,” Burnett says.

How do you respond to the busier than thou responses? Next time you hear from someone about how busy they are, respond with something new. Respond with empathy.

Racism is ‘punk ass bullshit’

I am so tired too. Tired that this sort of “punk ass bullshit” is happening in our country. We’re better than this. What a waste that someone decides to spend their life hating! What an absolutely worthless choice of how to spend time!

Beyond that, they take up our mental space and attention that we could be diverting to new issues in society. They just want attention and decide hating and bullying others is how to get it. How selfish!

We are fighting with each other when we all just want to live and be free and move forward in society.

I am so disappointed this has happened even on my own campus. We’re better than this. Billikens are for others – for the greater good. So many students, faculty, graduates, and staff are wonderful people with such giving hearts. What a shame this is how these particular students chose to repay their fellow Billikens!

Don’t stop talking about these issues – we shut up, they win. We shut up, it keeps happening, nothing changes.

Read more
Racist text messages lead to SLU investigation

St. Louis Post Dispatch: SLU officials promise ‘justice’

Vice Provost at University of Wisconsin Madison, Patrick Sims: Enough is Enough


You already belong.

I have no right to feel like I don’t belong, because in all aspects because of my privilege, I should belong. I am white, heterosexual, relatively gender conforming, so what do I have to say I don’t belong about?

This morning Chris and I were talking about Kari. She’s smart, funny, and an all around great kid, but this is why she has trouble fitting in. She won’t alienate the other kids who want to play. She doesn’t like games where kids have to do dares to be allowed to play. I worry for her.

I worry for her for a very real reason. I too didn’t fit in. I moved to St. Louis in the fourth grade. I was gifted, but not Star-Trek-quoting gifted, just regular gifted, so I didn’t fit in with them either. I was quickly the butt of every joke of the classroom bully and received loads of sneers from the popular girls, year after year. I didn’t have any friends, then I did in sixth and seventh grade, then a new bully arrived, and my friends left me for her since I “couldn’t get along with her.” I was so hurt I swore of trying to make friends and closed myself in, dedicating myself to academics. I graduated in the top 10 of my high school class of over 400. But I was lonely. I started college early at 15, and it was there I found friends, but those were fleeting. I think I was more of a novelty to them than anything. Even at work I wouldn’t fit in sometimes, and I read that as more my fault than the fault of others not being comfortable with me (always trying to do my best, ambition, integrity). I found I fit in the best when I was so burned out at my last job, which is sad to think about. I’m learning though. And sadly it’s taken me until my 30s to realize that not all social “situations” are caused by something I did. :)

I am really trying to not sound like a pity party here, but I’m stumped. I am struggling to find the solution to this, for Kari’s sake, so I can save my mini-me, our ‘Sheldon’ (read: The Big Bang Theory) from the heartbreak I so painfully experienced.

I am honest. I don’t gossip. I’m trustworthy, a hard worker, smart. I believe in true equality. I am a feminist. All these things alienate me, but why? I won’t change the good in me to be accepted by those who want less.

What I really feel: Be the good in you. Don’t change. Although it might not be where you are right now, and it can feel pretty damn lonely sometimes, somewhere you already belong. But to a pre-teen, that’s hard. I think it’s hard at any age.

My life depends on you

Sometimes when I’m driving and there is an open stretch of road ahead, I always feel like I’m on a motorcycle. Then I realize I’m in my SUV and my heart sinks. 😛

I do miss riding. I sold my bike a year ago in December, and it’s been 2 years since I’ve ridden. It was the first nice day of spring in 2014. My favorite days to ride are the days that are just slightly cool and overcast. Today is a day just like that, so it made me nostalgic.

Sadly, I don’t know if I’ll ride again. I love riding and I’m a good rider (or I was as of 2 years ago). What zaps my confidence is the inattention of other drivers on the road. Too often I see motorcyclists have to maneuver around drivers cutting into their lane, oblivious to their existence. Drivers may view this as the cyclist “losing control” or “horsing around.” Nope. They probably had to swerve to avoid a road hazard, or another motorist.

I too have had to do this. Once I was very glad my bike was equipped with ABS. I had to brake so hard I am sure if I didn’t have ABS, I would have thrown myself or had to have gone down to the right if I were on any other bike. Someone cut in front of me in an intersection to make their right turn. Never mind the safest move would have been for them to turn around at the next block.

My bike had a huge horn, and it saved my hide at least once each ride. It’s terrible I even had to use it, since my bike itself was pretty loud, and all my gear white and bright blue.

Please put down your distractions. Do not wear earbuds while driving. Do not text and drive. No selfies. No Facebook. No tweets. Look before you brake, turn, or change lanes. You can give driving 100% of your attention. Lives depend on it.