Gas station without pumps

2016 February 7

Another male professor behaving badly

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 15:51

It seems that yet another prominent scientist has been caught behaving badly—this one hit a little closer to home for our students, as the professor was not “safely” in another field, but was one whose lab they might have joined as a postdoc:

A prominent molecular biologist at the University of Chicago has resigned after a university recommendation that he be fired for violating the school’s sexual misconduct policy. His resignation comes amid calls for universities to be more transparent about sexual harassment in their science departments, where women account for only one-quarter of senior faculty jobs.

The professor, Jason Lieb, 43, made unwelcome sexual advances to several female graduate students at an off-campus retreat of the molecular biosciences division, according to a university investigation letter obtained by The New York Times, and engaged in sexual activity with a student who was “incapacitated due to alcohol and therefore could not consent.”

Source: Chicago Professor Resigns Amid Sexual Misconduct Investigation – The New York Times

As I’m sure most of my readers know, sexual harassment is not mostly about sex, but about power and the abuse of power, which is why most universities now have regulations prohibiting even “consensual” sex between faculty and their students.  Sometimes the rules seem to be written in an overly puritanical way (apparently prohibiting any sort of romance between anyone who might at sometime in the future have some sort of professional relationship), but the intent is clear—those who have power over others because of their professional relationship should not be allowed to abuse that power for sexual favors, even if the victim seems willing.

In a post about sexual harassment, Dan Graur points out

In summary, Big Money that comes from Big Science allows people the “opportunity” to exercise power over subordinates in the form of sexual harassment. Of course, the majority of them do not take take advantage of this “opportunity,” but a few do.

In recent years, all the people in the academia who were exposed as sexual predators and were protected teeth and nails by their academic institutions were either Big Money/Big Science people or athletes who bring even more money to their university than Big Money/Big Science people.

The only person who in recent times was dealt with in an expeditious manner was an English professor from the University of California Riverside. Some people think that in this case “the system worked.” I don’t know the circumstances, but the fact that he is gay and an English professor, who does not bring millions to the university, makes me doubt that “the system worked.”

Luckily Dan Graur was only partly right in his assessment here—Jason Lieb was passed from institution to institution for a while, with unproven charges against him, but U. of Chicago did the right thing finally when there was strong evidence of his misbehavior and did not sweep his sins under the rug, as has been too commonly done in the past with him and with others.

I have no intention of ever sexually harassing anyone, nor of cheating on my wife, so I’ve not paid a lot of attention to the nuances of the rules about harassment and sexual assault, but I’ve often wondered how one distinguishes between sexual harassers and clueless dudes in love.  Is it a matter of intent? of the reaction of the victim/loved one? Of the existence of a power differential?

In the case of faculty/student relations, the definition is usually based on the power differential, which makes for fairly simple, clear rules, but for student-student harassment the definitions must be different, as there is usually little difference in power.  The basic notion driving the law and adjudication of sexual harassment cases appears to be “consent”, whose legal definition appears to have changed over the years.  Right now in California, there is a big push to change the culture of students to affirmative consent—”yes means yes”, so that any sex without explicit consent of all parties is considered sexual assault.  This change has required a considerable social shift from 40 years ago, when it was considered shameful for women to give more than subtle indications of consent.

If the new rules include a matching shift in what people consider polite behavior, it will be a great benefit for shy and socially awkward individuals, who could not accurately read the subtle signals of 40 years ago (which were already much clearer than those of 100 years ago).   No longer will well-meaning but socially inept kids blunder on reading subtle signals and be accused of major crimes though procedures that give them little in the way of due process. It will still be difficult for shy kids to ask for consent, but at least the answers should now be comprehensible.

I’m a little worried, though, that rules of politeness have shifted more slowly than the legal definitions, and shy kids will simply be cut out entirely—increasing their isolation in a society that already regards shyness and introversion as flaws that need to be eliminated (look at the almost universal insistence on group work and team spirit in schools).

I’ve also wondered about the “incapacitated due to alcohol and therefore could not consent” standard.  I’ve never drunk enough to be so incapacitated—I drink only enough to get a mild buzz and slight lowering of inhibitions—so I’m not sure how young people are supposed to distinguish between someone in that state (which many seek in order to lower inhibitions enough to have sex) and someone who is too drunk to consent—particularly if they are somewhat (or very) drunk themselves. Extreme cases are easy—someone who is passed out, vomiting, or incapable of coherent speech is obviously too drunk to consent—but drunkenness is not a binary phenomenon—it is a continuum.  There will always be a grey region where some will claim “too drunk” and others “not that drunk”, and I expect that many of the sexual assault cases under the “yes means yes” rule will hinge on this sort of judgement.

On an individual basis, it is probably best never to get so drunk that consent (and determination of others’ consent) is impossible, but drunken youth is baked into our culture—whatever we set up to reduce sexual assault and punish transgressions should not fall apart or become massively unjust  in the presence of alcohol.

2016 January 31

Thirteenth weight progress report

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 20:48
Tags: , , , , , ,

This post continues the series of weight progress reports from the previous one. Even after I adjusted my target weight range, to gradually relax the upper limit and allow it to increase at 0.6 lbs a year, I’ve still fallen outside the target range several times this month.

At the end of the month,I barely made it into my target range, and I still want to lose about 3 pounds.

At the end of the month, I barely made it into my target range, and I still want to lose about 3 pounds.

My exercise for January was fairly high (averaging 4.9 miles/day bicycling), and I was pretty good about my raw-fruits-and-vegetables-for-lunch diet.  But there were several faculty recruiting and grad student recruiting dinners, at which I ate too much high-calorie food.  There are still three more faculty recruiting dinners in February, so I’ll need to watch myself.

If I could bring back the strict discipline I had last year at this time, I could lose the remaining three pounds in three weeks, but it is hard for me to stop snacking and to leave the supper table before I feel full—I did it for 5 months last year, but I’m finding it more difficult this year.


2016 January 27

Good deed thwarted

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 10:55
Tags: ,

I got an email a few weeks ago, announcing a blood drive on campus.  It has been a few years since I gave blood—the last time I signed up for a blood drive, I got a bad cold and had to cancel. Several other blood drives I’d had to skip because they were scheduled on days when I had no spare time. When I was a grad student, I gave blood fairly frequently (3 or 4 times a year), but there was a Red Cross blood donation center near the Stanford campus, so I could schedule donations at my convenience, not waiting for a blood drive. It is much, much less convenient here, where there are only one or two blood drives a year.

I figured it was past time to give blood again, and so I signed up for an appointment, scheduled for 10:30 this morning.  I picked the time as a compromise between having to get up extra early and my afternoon scheduled classes and appointment.  Also, by the time I signed up, it was one of two appointment times left.

Yesterday, I got scheduled for an extra meeting about the design of a new course for 11:30 this morning, but I figured there was just time to give blood, recover for half an hour and make it to the meeting.

I got up a little early this morning, so that I could drink the extra 16 ounces (475ml) of liquid that they requested, and cycled up the hill to the Stevenson Event Center where the blood drive was located. I was 10 minutes early for the appointment, and feeling pretty good—I was actually going to be able to give blood this year!

Before I signed in, though, the man at the sign-in table warned me that they were running an hour behind schedule (that’s right, by 10:30 in the morning, they were already an hour behind schedule). So the slot that I had available for the blood drive was not, in fact available.

What is the point of Red Cross scheduling appointments for a blood drive, if they aren’t going to keep to their schedule?

I can understand having a first-come-first-served system, with no appointments.  I can understand an appointment system where every slot for giving blood is scheduled ahead of time.  I can understand having an appointment system and taking walk-ins when there is a spare station available and no one with an appointment waiting.

I can’t understand having a system that takes appointments then makes the people who have appointments wait an hour.  That is just incompetent scheduling.  Either they should have made fewer appointments, or they should have asked the walk-ins to wait.

I had to leave without giving blood, and I’m irritated with the incompetence of the Red Cross blood drive.  It may be several years before I attempt to give blood again, because it is clear that I’ll have to dedicate at least 2 and possibly 3 hours (to compensate for their incompetence at scheduling), rather than just one hour.

Perhaps the reason that there is a perennial shortage of blood donors in the US isn’t because people are unwilling to give, but because those who collect the blood are incompetently managed.

2016 January 21

Santa Cruz Shakespeare—Oregon Shakespeare

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:31
Tags: , ,

Santa Cruz Shakespeare (SCS) is organizing a trip to Ashland to see the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) before the SCS season starts. It sounds like fun, but …

  • The trip is March 16–March 19, 2016, at the end of exam week, with grades due on March 22.
  • It costs $1250 a person (a bit high for a bus trip, 3 plays, and 3 nights of hotel—a lot more than the AFE trips my son took that saw 4–5 plays and several workshops).
  • Deposits have to be made before Feb 6.
  • They are going all that way by bus and then only seeing 3 plays.
  • My wife is not excited by the plays they plan to see:
    • an adaptation of Glibert and Sullivan’s Yeoman of the Guard
    • Twelfth Night
    • Great Expectations

I must confess, I’m not particularly excited by those choices either. Yeoman of the Guard is not the best of G&S, and I’ve no idea what OSF is doing in the adaptation. Adding country music does not sound appealing to me.

I think my wife and I both like Twelfth Night, but my wife is afraid that I’ll be comparing it to a performance that I saw in Berkeley when I was a grad student at Stanford (so almost 40 years ago). That performance included the a capella group Oak, Ash, and Thorn singing all the songs that are alluded to in the script (there are a lot of them), in addition to good acting and staging. I doubt I’ll ever see as good a Twelfth Night again. What amazes me is that the band is still together and still (sometimes) performing in the Bay Area.  (Hey, maybe Santa Cruz Shakespeare could hire them to do a great Twelfth Night performance!)

Great Expectations is not my favorite Dickens story (actually, I’m not sure I have a favorite Dickens story—it’s been a long time since I’ve read any of them).

Of course, so early in the season OSF only has 4 plays running (the SCS trip doesn’t include River Bride, which seemed the most interesting of the 4 plays running early.  Later on the OSF season gets more varied and more interesting, but SCS will be in rehearsal or production then, and unable to run a tour bus up to Ashland.

Maybe some year SCS will do the trip during UCSC’s spring break and OSF’s first plays of the season will be more enticing—then my wife and I might find the prospect more alluring (though going up later in the season, when it would be possible to see a wider variety of plays, is still more appealing).

2016 January 19

Reading switches with ADC

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:49
Tags: , ,
Circuit for reading 4 switches.

Circuit for reading 4 switches.

It is often necessary to read the pattern of a large number of switches using few pins on a microcontroller—this problem came up for my son and me in planning to read 9 switches of a DIP switch for setting a DMX-512 address on theater lighting.  There are many ways to do this, but I’ll only talk about one today—using an analog input to read a voltage provided by a voltage divider.

In the circuit to the right, each switch can be open (1) or closed (0). The resistance of the pulldown is the sum of the resistances associated with each switch, and the voltage is Rsum/(Rup+Rsum) Vdd.

To make this work, all the pulldown resistors must be different, so that each combination of switches makes a different voltage. We want to make sure that the values are all easily distinguished by the analog-to-digital converter of the microcontroller, even with worst-case tolerances of the resistors and noise on the ADC input.

I wrote a little python program to optimize the values for different number of switches, selecting optimal thresholds and measuring how close the worst-case resistance values come to the thresholds. I used only standard resistor values from either the E48 series or the E24 series, all with 1% tolerance, and assumed that the ADC had either a 10-bit resolution (like Arduinos) or a 16-bit resolution (like Teensys).  The resolution matters, because the thresholds are integers, and so rounding may reduce the tolerance for noise when the ideal threshold is halfway between integers.

E48 resistor series, 1% tolerance. 10-bit DAC

pulldowns pullup minimum distance to threshold
 1,1.62  1.62 58.322
 1,1.87, 3.48  6.49 19.772
1,1.96, 3.83, 7.5  14.7 7.187
 1, 2.05, 4.02, 7.87, 16.2  30.1 2.016

E48 resistor series, 1% tolerance. 16-bit DAC

pulldowns pullup minimum distance to threshold
 1,1.62  1.62 3704.975
 1,1.87, 3.48  5.9 1239.316
 1,1.96, 3.83, 7.5  14 430.585
 1, 2.05, 4.02, 7.87, 16.2  31.6 103.930

E24 resistor series, 1% 10-bit ADC

pulldowns pullup minimum distance to threshold
 1, 1.6  1.5  56.952
 1, 2, 3.6  4.7 18.586
 1, 2, 3.9, 7.5  12 6.993
 1, 2, 3.9, 8.2, 16  33 1.804

E24 resistor series, 1% 16-bit ADC

pulldowns pullup minimum distance to threshold
 1, 1.6  1.5   3644.94
 1, 2, 3.6  6.2  1181.525
 1, 2, 3.9, 7.5  13  425.540
 1, 2, 3.9, 8.2, 16  27 103.065

Note that a 10-bit DAC with ±2LSB of noise can decode 5 switches only with the E48 series—the E24 series does not allow values to be tweaked sufficiently (and ±2LSB on a 10-bit ADC is unusually low noise—it probably isn’t safe to put more than 4 switches on a 10-bit ADC). A 16-bit ADC with <±100LSB of noise should be able to decode 5 switches with no trouble.

I was not able to find a 6-switch solution with 1% tolerance resistors, even assuming a high-precision ADC.


Next Page »

The Rubric Theme. Blog at


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 335 other followers

%d bloggers like this: