Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rooting for the bad guy

Graduating definitely has perks.
1. I have more free time, I can watch tv, or movies, or read, or hang out with kids, or... whatever.
2. I make (a little) more money), I can actually afford Netflix.

I've lately started watching some of their instantly available stuff, and it's good fun. I'm not much of a tv watcher. While I don't shy away from the tv, my repertoire is pretty limited to watching Jeopardy!, House and Numb3rs.

About a week ago I started at season 1, episode 1 of Dexter. A pretty daring concept if you ask me. The series definitely causes some (ok, I admit, even me) to root for the serial killer.

I heard (probably on NPR) recently someone quoted as saying something to the effect of "bad guys do what good guys only dream of doing." I suspect there is some truth to that. I don't buy into the idea that someone is inherently evil. I think people make choices. We may all have murderous intent sometimes, but what separates most from those who act on these feelings is the choice. We as a society (and as a species) have decided (quite intelligently, I might add) that killing another human being is not in the best interest for our collective survival. We raise our cubs, our horcruxes, our kids with those values and hope they stick. Most of the time they do, but sometimes things go wrong. As a society we've set up a system to deal with those who stray from the right path with the purpose of 1) removing a dangerous, destructive individual from our midst to prevent further calamities, 2) punishing said individual, and 3) creating a deterrent for others who might have the same murderous streak.

In setting up this system we have decided that it is more important that we never make a type I error (convicting someone who is innocent), and we therefore choose to increase the risk of a type II error (letting loose someone who is guilty). And so, at some frequency, simply as a result of our choice to err on the side of caution with respect to type I errors, the guilty walk.

In Dexter, the writers examine these cases. And Dexter has turned (helped by the man who adopted him) into a one-man jury, judge, and executioner. So, the show sets up this hierarchy of good, not-so-good, bad, really-bad, and really-really-bad people, and argues to the case of the bad and the really bad people taking out the really-really-bad people, because the good or not-so-good would never do such a thing (even though they might fantasize about it), and our error II prone system has a tendency of failing.

So, you find yourself silently rooting for the bad people, lament the naivete of the good people, and consider it a good thing that the really-really-bad-people. And of course, because it goes against the grain of the morals we've been raised with, we feel guilty for rooting for a serial killer. I find this contradiction fascinating, and keep on going back for another episode trying to analyze my reaction to the story, conscious of the instances where I'm rooting for the bad guy.

The scientist in me can't help but pick out the mistakes Dexter makes. Like wearing gloves inside the house where he captures his next victim, after having opened the door with his bare hands. I'm finding the show oddly addictive. I've watched 5 episodes so far, and as much as I try to stay away from it, when I find myself with an hour of spare time, I click around and move on to the next episode.

Even though killing is the theme throughout the series, I can honestly say that if you can stand a little blood it's not that bad. I really dislike violence, and I don't mind watching this. There is a very limited amount of fighting, shooting, and the like, it's all rather civilized and carefully executed. I wouldn't be surprised if there are those that say they can't stand to watch. However, I would wonder if it is because they can't stand to see themselves rooting for the bad guy.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Job offer

Did I mention that I love, love, love my job? If I didn't, I should have. I can hardly wait to get to work in the morning, and if it wasn't for the family, I'd have to be chased out at the end of the day.

Of, course, when you're not looking for it, you get all these job offers. I already declined a rather attractive job offer. It wasn't an easy decision. The week after I declined that offer, I received another one. The principal investigator (PI) who made the offer is relatively new to the department, and wanted a presence in the lab, to make sure the lab space wasn't lost because of lack of use. The research subject wasn't quite my thing, and I didn't think it fair to accept the job for three reasons:

1. Being a new faculty member, the PI really needed a post-doc who could get results soon. Since it wasn't my exact field of expertise, I would face too steep a learning curve to satisfy those requirements.
2. I can't guarantee being in the lab early in the morning to late afternoon. With 3 kids, at some frequency I'm going to be called out for picking up children that are ill, and I'll have to stay home with them until they get better. I wasn't about to make promises I knew for a fact I couldn't keep.
3. Points 1 and 2 would end up disappointing the PI who I like and respect.

So,I declined. Again, it wasn't easy. After benefits, the job would have paid $11,000 more than what I currently make. That's not insignificant, and I've wondered whether I made the right decision ever since.

Meanwhile the PI hired someone else, and has been wondering the same thing, whether the right decision was made. I suppose I'm a known evil, compared to the unknown evil of the incoming post-doc. Now the PI seems determined to hire me one way or the other. E-mailing other researchers to try to come up with joint research proposals that would fund my position, and even asking me if we should maybe write a proposal together.

I must say, I'm flattered. In my dreams, I had always imagined a position that would allow me to visit home once a year or so. The most recent ideas would involve me being *required* to go home for work at least once a year. I can live with that.

Really, I love, love, love my job. But as I've discovered, there are limits to my loyalty. $11k wasn't enough. But $11k with mandatory trips back home, might be impossible to resist.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ongoing legal battles

After the judge ruled that F1-1 gets to live with us, his father left. Even though he could have had F1-1 accompany him for the better part of the remaining summer vacation if he had postponed his trip for a couple of weeks. We thought he might even come to negotiate some kind of arrangement, but he hasn't yet. I'm not complaining.

A few weeks after his departure, my attorney received notification that F1-1's father he filed a petition to rehear the case. In essence: "Your Honor. Can you set your previous ruling aside, so that we can start from scratch?" It was a little scary while we were waiting, but the judge responded in short order: "No."

It's unclear where we go from here. The order specifically said that both parents had to attend negotiations in person, but it did not specify in what time frame negotiations had to be completed. At what point do we stop waiting?

Meanwhile, I dread the day that I get the bill for legal service. Mind you, my attorney was amazing, and we got everything we could have possibly asked for on behalf of F1-1, but still. The thousands of dollars this is going to cost will take many years to pay off. I hope that he and his firm partners have patience.

Permission to make a mess

This evening's conversation at the time that F1-3 announces she's done in the bathtub.

Makita: Oh! Look at the mess you made. There is water all over the floor and a huge pile of toys. Why did you do that?

F1-3. I was doing science and that why it's a mess. I was doing science. This is how you do science.

Makita: Oh. Okay.