Hank Green explains human sexuality in 4 minutes

There are some topics that anthropologists are prone to delve into and emerge hours or dozens of pages later, having expertly destabilized and challenged the consensus definitions, et cetera, without necessarily offering a new definition that can be easily digested by others.  This can make it difficult for us when it’s time to introduce said topics to new students–say, in an introductory course.  In this short video from the vlogbrothers YouTube channel, the ever-brilliant Hank Green provides a concise and insightful overview of human sexuality– differentiating sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual behavior, and gender roles– while even remaining aware of his own unique experience and the limited perspective that this has afforded him.  As with his excellent Crash Course video series, this one features helpful graphs and visual aids to help illustrate his points.  I really think that Hank and his brother John offer great examples of the potential for short, informative videos to enhance education.  While it’s no substitute for face-to-face discussions (e.g., seminar courses), it can be a powerful tool within lecture courses.

The overall goal of this video, as Hank explains, is to hopefully reduce hate–both between groups as well as self-hatred–by clearing up some of the confusion and lack of understanding of these issues.

“… when the world becomes one of infinite continuums and those false dichotomies break down and those two shiny boxes [masculine male/feminine female] break apart into 7 billion shiny boxes, that’s actually pretty beautiful.”

Quick tip: Fixing a slow Downloads folder in Windows

I recently had an issue with the Downloads folder on my Windows 7 desktop computer: although there were only about 50 files, it would sometimes take the folder several minutes to load in Windows explorer.  After some googling, I turned up the following solution: apparently at some point my OS had decided that the frequent presence of video files in the folder meant that it should treat it as a video folder.  This, in turn, must have triggered some kind of indexing of the files as if they were all videos, which is doubtlessly a very CPU-intensive, time-consuming process. Anyway, the fix is to tell Explorer to optimize the folder for “general items” instead. Navigate to your downloads folder, then go to the folder one level higher — e.g., if your folder is at C:\User\Downloads, then type C:\User in the navigation bar.  Then find Downloads in the folder list, right-click, and hit the Customization tab.  You should see options similar to the image below.  Just change the selection in ‘Optimize this folder for…’ to the appropriate content, i.e. general items, and from now on your folder should load and refresh normally.



Download folder ultra slow refresh – Microsoft Community.

Dropbox powertip: Word recovery and customized auto-correct files

(In an earlier post, I explained how I use symbolic links to make the most of Dropbox.  Read up on that process first–and install Link Shell Extension–before proceeding with the auto-correction tips below.)

I promised to demonstrate how symbolic links allow me to overcome some of the limitations of Dropbox–namely, the requirement that everything has to be located within the Dropbox folder, whereas some stubborn programs (I’m looking at you, Microsoft Office) insist on storing important configuration files in pre-determined folders on the root OS drive.  In this post, I’ll describe how to relocate several Word-related files and folders so that they will be synced by Dropbox–and why this could be a big time-saver for you.  The first two tips are relatively easy, and don’t require symbolic links because Word lets you specify the locations manually: autorecovery documents and custom dictionaries. The third tip–moving and syncing Word’s auto-correction database files–require symbolic links, but the potential payoff in your workflow efficiency makes up for it. (Note: I use Word 2007 on Windows 7 professional for both of my computers; your mileage may vary with other versions)

Part 1: AutoRecover documents


AutoRecover documents are the backups that are automatically created whenever you work on a Word document.  If something causes Word to crash before the file is saved, the next time you open the program it will prompt you to look at these AutoRecover documents and determine if they should be saved or trashed.  The most obvious reason for moving these to the cloud is to increase the chances of making a successful recovery of your work–e.g., imagine your laptop gets stolen while you’re in line buying a coffee.  It won’t do much good to have an automatic backup of your important chapter draft / paper / screenplay if that backup is stuck on a hard drive you no longer have access to.  It goes without saying that your most important final documents should already be saved to the cloud for safekeeping, so why not provide the same security to your drafts?  I know sometimes I’ve written several pages of text before I get around to saving the document, giving it a name and location and thus enabling Dropbox to sync it.  By relocating AutoRecover files to Dropbox as well, I know that my work is synced from the moment I start working on a new Word document (at least, assuming I have an internet connection).

The second, less obvious reason to move your AutoRecover files to Dropbox is that it enables you to make use of the automatic Previous Versions feature that Dropbox provides.  This is one of the neat, less-utilized features of Dropbox that can sometimes really come in handy–like if you screw up an important bit of code on your website and need to ‘roll back’ to an earlier version, or if you’re writing a paper and delete some reference or bit of info that you think you won’t need, and later decide it would be a nice addition after all.  If you’re using Dropbox to sync your files, you will find that you already have access to previous versions stretching back to the last 30 days.  For another $39/year you can get unlimited backups–previous versions of every file in your Dropbox, stretching back to the very first draft!

If you navigate to your files on the Dropbox website and right-click on a file, you will see a link for Previous Versions at the bottom of the context menu (For this and all of the following images, just click on them to see a full size version):

42813-Dropbox-versions-1If you click on that button, it will load a page showing links to all of the previous versions available, including the time and date they were saved and which synced device they were uploaded from:42813-Dropbox-versions-2jpg


Just click on any of the Versions to download a copy of the file. Cool, huh?

So let’s move those AutoRecover files! First, head to the Options panel in Word — in Word 2007, it’s a small easy-to-miss button at the bottom of the File menu.

42813-Word-menuNext, click on the Save tab.  This is a good time to set your AutoRecover to trigger more frequently than the 10 minute default.  I set mine to 1 minute, as you can see below. To move your AutoRecover file location, just click on the Browse button and select a folder somewhere on your Dropbox.  You can also set your default file location to your Dropbox, if you haven’t already.     42813-Word-save

That should do it–your AutoRecover files will now be backed up to the cloud!

2. Custom dictionaries

Another quick and easy modification, while we’re in the Word options menu, is to set the default custom dictionary to be located on the Dropbox.  If you set all of your devices’ copies of Word to access the same file, you’ll be able to save time by avoiding the re-entry of custom words every time you switch computers.  If you already have a hefty custom dictionary file, just copy it to somewhere on the Dropbox (maybe the same folder you set up for your AutoRecover files?) and then add it and set it as the default in Word on all of your devices.  First, click over to the Proofing tab in the Options menu:

42813-Word-proofingNext, click on the Custom Dictionaries button and you should see the following context menu appear:

42813-Word-customdicAs you can see from the file path below the dictionary list, I’ve already set my default CUSTOM.DIC file to a location on the Dropbox.  I use the same file for Word on my desktop and on my laptop, so I don’t have to repeat myself whenever adding new entries to the dictionaries.

3. Auto-correct database files

Finally, this last part requires the most work, but it can pay off if you use Word frequently.  I like to manually type up notes from books that I’m reading, including entire paragraphs that I think I may want to reference later in my own writing.  This requires a lot of fast typing, and I often make typos–in fact, I often make the same typos.  In cases where it seems safe to create an auto-correct pattern to fix these for me, I do so.  You can take a look at the patterns that are already built into the Word auto-correct database: just make a typo in Word, then right-click on it and select Autocorrect, then Autocorrect Options.  At the bottom of the context menu is a list of words (on the left) that will automatically be replaced by other words (on the right).  This is how Word is able to interpret (c) and turn it into a copyright symbol, for example–or create smiley faces based on emoticons.  But there are also a lot of obvious, frequent typos that Word recognizes and automatically corrects: teh becomes the, agreemnet becomes agreement, etc.  I suppose Microsoft could be forgiven for not including such typos as anthroplogy or hegmeonic–most folks probably don’t use these on a frequent basis, but I certainly do.  I found that over time, as I experimented and added more auto-correct patterns to my laptop (my primary note-taking computer), it was saving me time and cleaning up my most-repeated typing errors.  I wanted to extend this benefit to my desktop as well, but Word didn’t provide a way to relocate or specify the files where these auto-correct patterns are saved — they aren’t included in the custom dictionaries, described above.42813-Auto-correct


I did some research and found that the contents of custom auto-correct patterns are stored in a few files within the default folder on the C drive where Office likes to store configuration files: C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Microsoft\Office  These files are named according to a pattern: MSO(Language ID Number).acl, where the Language ID number is a 4-digit code corresponding to each of the languages that Microsoft has provided support for (a few dozen seem to be available).  MSO1033.acl holds the entries for English; MSO1027.acl holds the entries for Catalan, etc.  You may have more or fewer or different files depending on which languages you have installed support for in Word.  Since Word requires these files to be located in the default folder, the only way I could sync them to Dropbox and share them across computers was to make use of symbolic links (described in an earlier post).  I located the files on my laptop, copied them to a folder in my Dropbox, deleted the originals, then used Link Shell Extension to easily replace the originals with symbolic links to the synced copies in Dropbox.  Then, on my desktop computer, I deleted the MSO…acl files and replaced them with symbolic links to the same synced copies in Dropbox.  Now my desktop copy of Word draws from the same auto-correct patterns as my laptop, without my having to manually re-enter all of the patterns.  And as I add new patterns on either computer, the other computer automatically benefits. Time saved!

Sahlins versus Chagnon — at least anthropology is in the news?

The past couple of months have witnessed a modest uptick in popular media discussions of anthropology, thanks to a couple of noteworthy events: first, the National Academy of Sciences elected the divisive anthropologist and evolutionary biologist Napoleon Chagnon as a member.  In response–and also in protest of NAS’ support for military initiatives to incorporate social science into its warfare and nation-building aims–another famous anthropologist, Marshall Sahlins, announced his resignation.  The press has focused on the science vs non-science aspect of the story, but Sahlins and his supporters are quick to respond that they aren’t anti-science so much as they oppose bad pseudo-science. The National Academy of Sciences is a pretty elite club: there are 62 anthropologists in NAS, plus a few more foreign associates and emeritus members.  (I have to plug my own university, Washington University, which has a couple of members–an archaeologist and a specialist in Neanderthals. Neither of them have resigned.)  Chagnon recently became a neighbor of ours, taking a job at the nearby University of Missouri. David Moberg provides a nice overview of the situation for Dissent Magazine, followed by an interview with Marshall Sahlins. He includes this pithy quote from Sahlins, in response to a question about the relationship between the dual reasons for his resignation–awarding Chagnon and supporting military research:

“Chagnon’s view of self-aggrandizing human nature is the sociobiological equivalent of the neocon premise of the virtues of American imperialism: making the world safe for self-interest. It is the same native Western ideology of the innate character of mankind. A huge ethnocentric and egocentric philosophy of human nature underlies the double imperialism of our sociobiological science and our global militarism.” — Marshall Sahlins

I won’t recount the vast literature that has critiqued Chagnon’s evolutionary explanations for Yanomamo behavior, nor the ethical concerns over his research methods or the violent, often tragic consequences of his depiction of the Yanomamo as a “fierce” warrior people.  There are lots of other blogs covering those issues recently, as well as more scholarly texts (including the AAA’s own task force report on the ‘El Dorado’ incident) — some of which I may link to in a later edit.  I agree in part with Chagnon’s claim that he has been unfairly demonized–at the very least, most of the claims that Patrick Tierney made in his Darkness in El Dorado have been disproved multiple times by independent scholars and institutions (e.g., see Alice Dreger’s open access article here).

I just wanted to add some of my own thoughts, based on how I’ve encountered Chagnon during my own career and training as an anthropologist.  I was assigned Yanomamo: The Fierce People as a freshman in my very first anthropology course (thanks, Julian!), and we later viewed Tim Asch’s The Ax Fight in a class on ethnographic films and film-making.  Asch turned to Chagnon’s usual framework for explaining social relations within the Yanomamo world, namely the inevitable fission/fusion cycles that caused villages to break apart whenever the population rose to an unstable level.  The fight, thus encapsulated, was seen as a sign of competition for scarce resources, between groups that were defined primarily along genetic lines.

Apparently, Tim Asch himself grew somewhat disenchanted with Chagnon’s theoretical explanation as he went about editing the final cut of The Ax FightIn an interview with Jay Ruby, he responded:

“You know the joy of The Ax Fight…is that because Chagnon was so stuck in simple theories that, right away, the film became a real joke. It is funny with its simplistic, straight-jacketed, one-sided explanation….One of the things I liked about it was that it’s a pretty funny film. And it’s a very dated film if you are going to take it as a piece of serious work. It belongs in another era. But I think also that the film is harbinger of postmodernism long before we get postmodernism…and I was feeling, you know, halfway into making the film, this great suspicion of the whole field beginning to fall apart before my eyes as I was putting The Ax Fight together. I had a powerful piece of material and it was suddenly looking kind of foolish. But it was kind of fun.”

I always found it revealing that Asch came to doubt the explanations that his own film conveyed.

Finally, Chagnon has displayed impatience and possibly hostility toward the possibility that his presence–and the presence of a film crew–could have played a role in the Ax Fight, particularly, and in the violence that he recorded between and within  Yanomamo commounities more generally.  See his reaction in this 2007 interview with a BBC film crew for a documentary series about human nature.  On a broader, meta level, his abrupt departure from the set stands at odds with his assertion that the presence of a camera has no effect.

Just some more food for thought… what are others’ perspectives?

Guate news: the latest developments in Ríos Montt’s trial

rios-montt-grinThere have been a few noteworthy developments in the trial against former Guatemalan general / president / dictator Efraín Ríos Montt in the past week. The historical significance of this trial deserves a series of posts, which I’ll promise for a later date.  See the third link below for a great op-ed by Kirsten Weld that provides an excellent overview of the situation.

For now I’ll just comment on the two developments referenced in the Prensa Libre articles below.  First, Danilo Rodríguez, Ríos Montt’s defense attorney, argued that the judges in the case should recuse themselves because they had ruled in a trial last year involving the massacre of over 250 people in the village of Dos Erres in 1982.  In that trial, the judges found several defendants guilty of mass murder and sentenced them each to over 6,000 years in jail.  Rodríguez’s argument was basically that the judges’ sentence in the Dos Erres trial raised doubts about their impartiality.  In a ruling on 19 February 2013, the judges rejected this charge, arguing that the Dos Erres case was separate from the charges being pressed in this trial, which are focused on genocide and crimes against humanity in the Ixil region while Ríos Montt was president and de facto commander of the armed forces.  The lead justice, Jazmin Barrios, said that the cases were “absolutely distinct.”

I find it interesting that the defense would attempt this strategy.  On the one hand, it could be part of a larger scheme to portray the Guatemalan judicial branch as being radically anti-military, tying together all of the ongoing and recent trials of former military officials and setting the stage for a showdown between the judiciary and the executive branch (i.e., General Otto Perez Molina).  If this seems paranoid, you don’t know Guatemalan history.

On the other hand, in the short term it seems like a pretty dumb move. In calling for the judges’ recusal, Rodríguez seems to basically admit that his client is tied to the Dos Erres massacre as well, which isn’t even on the table in this trial. Importantly, Barrios’ response does not rule out that Ríos Montt could be held responsible for Dos Erres in the future; she just points out that this trial is about a different set of charges.

The judges and prosecutors charged that this was a stalling tactic by the defense, and as part of their rejection of the call for recusal, they stated that the trial would proceed  on the previously scheduled date of 14 August.

Then, just yesterday, the tribunal decided to move the trial forward to 19 March. They didn’t offer much explanation, other than saying that the schedule opened up and it was their duty to carry out the judicial process as speedily as possible.  Perhaps it’s their way of saying that the defense’s stalling tactics have backfired?  Regardless of when the trial begins, it’s already long, long overdue.


Quick note: Social cause gaming and female empowerment

Just a quick note for now: NY Times has an article about a new game, several years in the making, that promotes awareness of serious challenges to gender equality.  The developers hope to launch it as a Facebook game soon.



A Game Aims to Draw Attention to Women’s Issues – NYTimes.com.

Found tip: avoiding multiple instances of JabRef

Q: Is it possible to open files, e.g. from my web browser, in the running instance of JabRef instead of opening a new instance?

A: Yes, if you activate the “Remote operation” option under Preferences -> Advanced. This option allows new instances of JabRef to detect the instance already running, and pass files to that instead of opening a new window.

via JabRef reference manager.

Another dilemma I faced with JabRef was that whenever I tried importing directly from Google Scholar, it would open a new instance of the program instead of inserting the data into the instance that was already running.

Some explanation if this doesn’t make sense: An “instance” of a program refers to the running process; you can think of it as a window.  When you open a Word document, it launches an instance of Word.  If you open another Word document, a second instance of Word is launched to display that document.  The most obvious reflection of this is that you will have two separate ‘windows’ of Word open on your screen.  You can also launch the task manager (Ctrl+shift+escape) and see that there are two ‘WINWORD.EXE’ processes running.

With JabRef running and my desired bibliography database opened, I wanted to directly import results from Google Scholar.  However, before toggling the setting mentioned above, JabRef was opening a separate instance for each citation I clicked, and duplicating my database each time.  Now I have JabRef behaving nicely: each time I choose ‘Cite’ and ‘Import to RefMan’ for a Google Scholar result, it appends the data to my open database.

Of course, it’s also possible to use the built-in Google Scholar web search in JabRef, but I prefer using my web browser to get the ‘full’ experience. It also allows me to download PDFs if I don’t already have a copy.

anthropological musings on life, workflow, & academia