Bulleted Lists and Seriation

Commas Save Lives

I often run across numbered lists, bulleted lists, and in-sentence lists, known either as seriation or enumeration, depending on what style one uses. The three major style guides (APA, Chicago, MLA) are very clear on how to do these.

APA resources:

APA Style Blog: Lists (a 6-part series including both lists and seriation within a sentence)

Purdue OWL: APA Lists

For those disciplines that require Chicago or Turabian, as well as non-academic manuscripts:

Middlebury College: Vertical Lists (Chicago style)

MLA format does not recommend the use of vertical lists; rather, seriation by comma is suggested.


Positive and Negative Correlation

Let’s assume for a moment that we compared number of hours studied by a group of college students to their final exam scores. We might assume that those who studied longer hours would score higher on the final exam. That is considered a positive correlation.

Now, let’s think about hours exercised per week by a group of college students, and how that might relate to percent body fat. More hours exercised would reasonably lead to a lower percent body fat, right? (Actually, that’s more of a thesis question, but for the sake of my example let’s say yes.) That is considered a negative correlation.

Further reading here.

Rivalry Week: Clemson Football

This is the week that most residents of South Carolina will spend their time talking trash about either Carolina or Clemson, depending on their allegiances.

Rather than say anything negative about USC, I’d like to draw attention to one of the greatest entrances in college football. Last year’s home opener against Georgia featured a pregame segment on ESPN that documented the bus ride the players and coaches take from one end of the stadium to the other. It’s a tradition that began when the team dressed in the old Fike Fieldhouse then walked to the stadium and ran down The Hill. The facilities are now on the other end of the stadium, under the West End Zone, but the tradition remains. It’s part of the pregame pageantry that makes Clemson’s entrance “The Most Exciting 25 Seconds in College Football,” to quote Brent Musberger. I have to say, as a Clemson alumnus and football fan, there is nothing like this. Being in the stadium while this is going down, after singing the Clemson Alma Mater with my dad and 80,000 others, is a memory I get to relive every year for all the home games.


Normal and Non-Parametric Data


Yes, you really have to do all those tests.

Much of statistical analysis is based on the assumption that you have a lot of data to work with and the data follow a normal distribution. Beyond that, though, there are reasons we can’t just work up a t-test and a Pearson correlation without examining the data set first.

Non-parametric statistical tests are appropriate in different instances. This article from Boston U School of Public Health is a good place to start if you’re wondering.

In any instance, it’s always a good idea to run a normality test (Kolmogorov-Smirnov or Shapiro-Wilk, depending on sample size) before further analysis.


Plath at 82: A Life Rearranged


Sylvia Plath would have turned 82 last month, and this article in The Atlantic makes some observations on Ted Hughes’ editorial contributions to Ariel‘s arrangement.

After her death, Plath’s husband Ted Hughes rearranged her manuscript to reflect his wife’s biographical arc: Placing her strongest, most outwardly masochistic poems (“Ariel”) at the beginning, Hughes filled the middle in with optimistic work, then punched up the end with poems about female death and a writer’s obsession (“Contusion,” “Edge,” and “Words”). After his editorial contributions, the oven was the logical conclusion to the collection’s tale of downward spiral, the final defeat in its losing battle.

In 2006, I had an article published in Lifewriting about the inevitable difficulties biographers had, and would continue to experience, with the Hughes estate. It was based on one central thesis:

Regardless, with respect to her suicide, Plath and Hughes are not two separate individuals. They are one concept, fused together by their mutual experiences and held in an infinite moment.

I also questioned Hughes’ dual roles as both widower and what appeared to be puppeteer. Despite passing the executor role to his sister Olwyn, there was little doubt that he was still acting by proxy. His actions, detailed in the Atlantic article, certainly suggest a certain level of manipulation.

Sinatra at the Sands: “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”


This version is the definitive reading of the song. Period.

I’ve heard both the studio and concert versions of this song, plus the Reprise version, and I always come back to this one. “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” is the third track of the 1966 album Sinatra At The Sands with Count Basie and his Orchestra. In 1966, Sinatra had been through enough to sing most any song with authority. He’d been to the top, bottomed out, and back up again – and that’s just professionally. Personally, one might argue that he had a tendency to get someone under his skin. I always think this song could be applied at any point during his life.

The original recording in 1956 (Songs for Swingin’ Lovers) with the Capitol orchestra and trombonist Milt Bernhart is a standard, but lacks the intense emotion of the concert performance. Bernhart’s solo there is fantastic. Don’t get me wrong. But Basie’s trombonist really puts raw emotion into it.

The music is in keeping with the album’s mood…breezy but focused. Basie’s signature sound is there. The orchestra is at ease with the chart but adds an underlying sense of urgency not present in the ’56 version. This is important, given the song’s subject matter.

Sinatra starts with a simple declaration, matter-of-factly but with what I imagine as a knowing smile on his face. Basie’s brass punctuates the admission that the song’s muse is “really a part” of the singer. From “I’ve tried so, not to give in” to “never will go so well” grows in urgency slowly, but is resolved with “But why…” — as though he is giving up, but will enjoy giving in. Sinatra drags the next line, emphasizing “skin” with a warm, sensual tone that leads to the first run of the repeat verse.

Now we’re to acknowledging the pangs of sacrificing anything to have one near, and Sinatra sounds almost joyfully complacent in his anguish. He’s okay with being led. But the “warning voice” comes after the orchestra builds–a small crescendo for what’s coming, the pounding heart, the futile attempts. The orchestra drops back to a basic riff as Sinatra, as the warning voice, forcefully orders to “use your mentality,” as he “never can win.” His voice softens and the woodwinds transition us as he again acknowledges the recurring thoughts of his muse. Basie’s orchestra throws in a perfect punctuation after “stop.”

A major transition occurs here. Sinatra’s voice decrescendos and warms as he sings “’cause I’ve got you / under my skinnn” — holding the last syllable for several beats and diminishing. The orchestra builds, this time the woodwinds stepping aside for the solo trombone, other brass, and rhythm.

The trombone solo itself seems to channel what the singer couldn’t form into words. Of Bernhart’s studio performance, Will Friedwald (Sinatra! The Song Is You) writes, “the trombonist plumbs the depths of emotion that, at the end of his sixteen bars, we tell ourselves that no mere words could ever reach.” Basie’s trombonist outshines Bernhart in this regard.

Sinatra outdoes his studio performance as well. He comes in after the orchestra resolves the angst of the solo, but it’s not fully put to rest. The orchestra ups the tempo and dynamic and Sinatra dives in. His catharsis comes at the last “But you know” and “wake up, step up” — again, the warning voice, but now spoken as the singer being warned. You can hear the pain and heartache, and the logic. He continues in the singer’s voice, bridging the line with a long “and,” as though he’s taking time to think–or emphasize his own resolve.

Either way, his fate is set. A percussion emphasis is made at “each time” as though to make clear this is how it’s going to be. A pause after “just the thought of you,” then a quick run through “makes me stop” — it’s time to stop deliberation and let things be. The orchestra rests long enough for FS to breathe (just as his vocals on the collaboration with Antonio Carlos Jobim) “because I’ve got you” — a drastic shift from the high emotions of just a few measures ago. He’s wrestled with it, thought it over, and now turns to his muse to surrender. The remainder of the phrase is accompanied by soft rhythm and instrumentation. A quick bass run and a piano chord to say, “That’s all,” and the song is over.

It is swing, longing, machismo, turmoil, acceptance, and resignation.

Choosing the correct statistical test

Statistical test flowchart

Wondering what statistical test to plow through in R, SPSS, or STATA? Here’s a handy decision flowchart and matching instructions for these software packages. I use it sometimes to double-check my thought process (much like I still use Andy Field’s introductory SPSS textbook, dutifully marked up and full of Post-It Notes).

No matter how accomplished you might be in statistical analysis, it’s good to have something to jog your memory.