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Spoiled by PsycINFO

31 May

Ted and I are in the process of showing our house to potential buyers, meaning we spend a lot of time vacuuming and wondering what possessed us to choose long-haired cats instead of more practical pets like naked mole rats.

Oh wait, now I remember.

As per the holy wisdom of HGTV’s Designed to Sell, we’ve put a lot of time, money, and effort into staging our house (thanks again, by the way, to all the friends who helped us whip this place into shape!). Everything has been ruthlessly scrubbed, art and artificial plants are everywhere, the yard and garden look like someone actually cares about them,  the deck looks like someone actually uses it, all minor repairs have been made, and all evidence that real, slightly strange people live here has been erased as thoroughly as possible. There was no hiding my pet newt Spike, but hopefully people will just think he’s a deformed fish or something. Spike, UNLIKE our CATS, values our home-selling efforts and does not deposit hairs everywhere. Cats have a reputation for being imitative learners, so I make a point of complimenting Spike on his thoughtfulness whenever they’re around.

One thing I’ve realized as a product of house-staging is just how much I’ve come to rely on research to inform my decisions. Not just clinical decisions, although that’s where my research addiction began… we’re talking everyday, mundane issues. Should I be taking Omega 3 supplements? I’ll check PubMed. I don’t really feel like exercising. Is there any research that would justify me not exercising? (Not really, as it turns out. Maybe it’s just a matter of time?) This article says the “obesity epidemic” is overblown. What does the literature say? How does Ted’s and my retirement savings plan compare to the national average? Better see what I can pull up with Academic Search Premier. Don’t get me wrong – I’m as aware as anyone of the bias that can lurk in even the most objective-sounding study, and I’ve toyed with statistical software enough to know that you can often get the answers you’re looking for with enough prodding. Then again, “truth” is rarely clear-cut, and my faith in science as the best possible approximation of “truth” is still very much intact. My doctoral program has instilled a near-pathological need for empirical support in my brain, and with anecdotal methods still yielding less-than-accurate information (for example, our realtor insisted that we remove a peacock feather from its decorative location in our house because it would “bring bad luck”), I have yet to find a better source to guide my choices.

So you can imagine my disappointment when my search for controlled studies of how different house staging techniques affect buyer response yielded nothing. The only stuff I was able to dig up involved surveys of realtors (I might as well just watch HGTV) or comparisons of sale statistics for staged versus unstaged houses… funded, may I add, by the completely impartial Real Estate Staging Association. How’s a girl supposed to maximize sale potential in a research wasteland like this? I’ve been baking cookies like a fiend to make the house smell nice, but for all science knows, that could be totally pointless. It’s times like this that make me want to abandon my position of being a consumer, not a producer, of research… to get out there and answer important questions with the crushing power of SCIENCE!

But then I think about how much I hate SPSS. And who would fund a controlled study of house staging techniques, anyway? (The Real Estate Staging Association, duh.)

Anyone out there with loads of extra cash and a keen understanding of stats feel like doing some studies on home staging? I can provide cookies.



Awesome Stuff That Happened This Week

12 Feb
  1. Prop 8 was overturned!
  2. Rep. Maureen Walsh made this speech.
  3. I submitted my rank order list for internship. I read a deeply inspiring article a couple months ago about a circus psychologist, so I put “Cirque du Soleil: Cavalia Rotation” as my top choice. Sure, maybe Cirque du Soleil isn’t officially participating in the Match, but once they find out I ranked them first, they’ll be so blown away by my go-getter attitude and sassy confidence that they’ll immediately create and accredit an internship just for me.
  4. TWO of my friends successfully proposed their dissertations this week. Way to go, Kasey and Matt!
  5. Although it’s too early to tell for sure, my friend Wesley appears to have beaten the odds and narrowly avoided death by brain-eating amoebas despite constant misuse of his NetiPot.
  6. I reacquainted myself with the cinematic masterpiece The Neverending Story.
  7. An eighth grader with autism described me as a “smokin’ hottie” and asked me to be his valentine. Watch out Ted, you’ve got competition. Among the middle school set… with serious social and behavioral difficulties. You know what, never mind.
  8. My cat demonstrated improved comprehension of the “play dead” command. Admittedly, this trick is pretty close to his usual preferred state.

2012: Pretty OK So Far, Minus All the Trips to Walgreens

4 Jan

Sorry for the posting hiatus – this holiday season has been a whirlwind grand tour of the Southeast, a distant region where most of my family members and friends insist on living. I just got home from a New Year’s celebration with my closest friends in North Carolina, and I can tentatively say that 2012 is looking good so far, although my friends clearly didn’t eat whatever food it is you’re supposed to eat on New Year’s for good health (turnip greens? pickled eggs?), since we spent an inordinate amount of time browsing the cold and allergy medication aisle at Walgreens. I’ve got a suspicious tickle in my throat and may need to seek out some turnip greens myself.

I make resolutions every New Year’s. I know that a long list of vague, undissected goals chosen on an arbitrary night  is not a path to behavioral success, but there’s something traditional and comforting about making that list, and I have an agreement with myself that I can say it’s been a highly successful year if I accomplish 60% of my goals.

Last year I only had 2 resolutions, which were:

1. Use canvas bags when grocery shopping

2. Defend thesis

I utterly failed number one. I think I remembered to use canvas bags once, after Ted reminded me. Full success on number two. You might say that puts me at 50% success, but in 2011 I also proposed my dissertation, successfully married off a sizeable proportion of my friends, and trained my cat to give me a high five, which officially puts me at 99% success or something like that.

Anyway, this year’s list of resolutions is a little longer, with separate divisions for professional goals and personal goals. Without further ado:


1. Accept internship match news with minimal drama if it’s not exactly what I want (or not an internship at all). I’ve got a good backup situation if I don’t get an internship, and if I do get an internship but it’s not one of my top choices, then I can still have an excellent year. There’s no need to flip out.

2. Complete my dissertation. I don’t technically have to have it done until spring of 2013, but I really want to knock it out before I move.

3. Write in blog at least once a week, excluding holidays/vacations. 


1. Use canvas bags for at least half of grocery trips. Clearly I was too ambitious last year. We’re going to shoot for 50% this time. This will be my anthem:

2. Do at least one fun thing a week with the friends I’ve made during grad school. If I get an internship, Ted and I are moving this summer, and I want to maximize the time I have with the awesome people we’ve gotten to know here.

3. Stage and sell our house (internship dependent). Depending on how the housing market behaves in our area over the next 6 months, this may be the toughest one on the list. I should probably spend more time watching HGTV.

4. Try at least one new recipe a week, excluding weeks when I’m traveling. I’m mostly trying to trick myself into cooking more with this one. It makes me feel less depressed than making a resolution like, “Make all meals at home except on weekends.” I like cooking OK, but I like eating out a lot more. We’re not even talking vaguely upscale dining here; I could happily eat the same sandwich at Subway for multiple meals a week. (And sometimes do. I have no explanation for myself.) Unfortunately, my bank account demonstrates a definite preference for cooking. And since I’m married to someone who is also willing to cook and knows how to make fancy-pants things like creme brulee, and I have a large box of plastic straws to put into my Diet Cokes to simulate the restaurant experience, there’s no good reason for us to eat out so much, unless we’re celebrating something or going out with friends.

5. Get a puppy (internship/job/house-selling dependent). If I get an internship, Ted gets a new job, and we sell the house, we’ve agreed that  we will finally get a puppy. We’d like to have a giant or semi-giant dog, and our current living situation and frequent travels are not conducive to giant puppy ownership. But if all goes according to (admittedly complex) plan, we’re getting that puppy this year, suckas!

6. Contribute to my friend’s startup nonprofit in a meaningful way. I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about the nonprofit before it goes public, but you can trust that it’s awesome and that details will appear here eventually.

And that’s it. I hit the ground running by taking my canvas bags to the supermarket this afternoon, which was much more appealing than sitting down to work on my dissertation. What resolutions have you guys made?

The Grad Student’s Week-Before-Christmas Guide to Cheap, Awesome Gifts

16 Dec

You meant to do your shopping early this year, you really did. But grad school reared its ugly head, the ol’ bank account isn’t looking too hot, and they say that Christmas is happening next week. Not that you would know – your perpetual presence in your windowless basement office prevents you from accurately judging the passage of time.


1. Panic! Panic hard!

2. Check out the ideas on the following list.


Modified board game. I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end for this one, and it makes a pretty hilarious present. Here’s what you do: Go to a thrift store, buy an old board game, and use craft supplies to modify it in a way that makes it specifically pertinent to the recipient. A couple years ago Ted and I replaced all of the faces on the tiles of a Guess Who board with small, glued-on pictures of our friends’ faces, and voila – a version of Guess Who that was instantly way more fun and special than the original. We are also the proud owners of a fabulous version of Apples to Apples that some  friends made for us, modified to include words that remind us of inside jokes and experiences we’ve had together.

Magazine subscription. Many magazine subscriptions can be had for as little as $10, and there are magazines out there for just about every interest imaginable. (Case in point: Sheep! Magazine)

Cupcake making set. A cute gift idea for the budding baker in your life. Pick up a cupcake-related book from the bargain section of Barnes & Noble (there’s always at least one, usually for $6 or so), and then go to a craft store like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby to buy a set of cute cupcake liners, an icing tip or two, an icing bag, and if the price is right, a cupcake pan. The whole thing can be done for $15 or less.

A lovely handcrafted item, Dollar Store Style. If you’re the crafty type, check out the craft ideas at Dollar Store Crafts. While some of the projects on the site look… well, like they were made from stuff from the Dollar Store, there are also some surprisingly clever ideas. I especially like this Deluxe Superhero Fort Kit.

Striped umbrella. What I Wore has a cool tutorial for an easy DIY striped umbrella.

Book of Ph.D. comics. A no-fail gift for any fellow grad student. If you can’t find a book at your local bookstore, use your Amazon Prime student account to get one shipped to you in 2 days.

Pretty sugar cookies. If you’ve always wanted to try making those beautiful sugar cookies you see every year on the covers of magazines like Martha Stewart Living, I totally recommend going to your local library and checking out Cookie Craft by Janice Fryer and Valerie Peterson. This book is packed with simple step-by-step directions and gorgeous pictures, and it’ll have you making pretty gift-worthy cookies in no time.

Chocolate mustache pops. The last time I was in Hobby Lobby, I noticed a super cute chocolate mustache mold that could be used to churn out funny, tasty gifts. All you’d need is the mold, lollipop sticks, and a couple bags of candy melts, all of which can be purchased at Hobby Lobby or Michael’s. Better move fast on this one, though. I think the ironic hipster mustache’s days are limited. Next year it’s going to be all about the sideburns.

The gift of your skillz. Got a relative who might like to learn to use Facebook, use Skype, or start a blog? Can you cook a gourmet meal? Do you know a secret hiking spot? Do you have the brawn and experience needed to do a home improvement task your grandmother can’t manage? Are you good at babysitting or pet-sitting? If yes to any of the above or you have other valuable skills that were not mentioned, then for goodness’ sake, you’re golden. Go write up a voucher right now.

DIY coasters. Two Girls Being Thrifty have a great tutorial for beautiful, easy coasters made from tile and scrapbook paper.

Local beer. If you go to school in a city blessed with a lot of microbreweries and have a beer-loving friend or family member back home, find a liquor store that does build-your-own-six-packs and bring them a variety of your favorite brews.

Donation to a charity your recipient cares about. Giving this one is like double-giving, and most organizations will let you donate as little or as much as you can afford.

Fancy bulletin board. Tea Rose Home has a great suggestion for sharp-looking DIY message boards that will dress up any office. All you need is a thrift store frame, some spray paint, and corkboard. Anyone else have ideas for quick, inexpensive presents?
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