Sunday, October 31, 2004

This you gotta see--vote online

Also check out Lawrence Lessig's post about this.

Happy Halloween!!

Sundays are my favorite days and a Sunday that is also Halloween is the best. I love Halloween. Today, there is a bright blue sky serving as the perfect background for the gold, orange, bronze, bright red, rust and yellow that is fall foliage. My computer desk looks out over my back yard--tiny though it is--and I can see all the great leaves from here. I can also see the ones that need to be raked. :) Oh well.

The children are excited about Halloween, planning their route and who they will go trick-or-treating with. My daughter, who is a little skittish, would like for one of her parents to be with her at all times and has declared that despite the fact that trick or treating with the other children (and adults) would be fun, she would feel better if one of us were around. My son has made no declarations as of yet. We'll see how this all pans out.

On the election front, we got a visit on Friday from Gov. Ed Rendell and Carole King and others--right on our campus! I didn't go, because I was too embroiled in spontaneous emergencies, but I walked by. It seemed like a good rally.

I'm gearing up for my duties as Minority Inspector. I should be working on my novel, but it's really hard for me to transport myself to the 17th century when I'm really worried about the 21st.

Here's a few political links for the day:

1. Cul de Sac discusses the use of emotion by the Bush campaign--and his disgust with the NY Times blatant placement of one of these ads.

2. Atrios links to Land's End CEO's anti-Bush ad.

3. And here's some poll stuff.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Playing with the Polls--Kerry Wins!

The New York Times has the coolest interactive map where you can create your own election scenerio. I used polls from RealClear Politics to figure out who was going to win. In my scenerio, Kerry wins it 272-266. Of course, something could go horribly wrong . . .

A Picture of Henry

Originally uploaded by lorda.
Here's a picture of Henry. There's more at flickr.

For I will consider my cat Henry

For my cat died last night, curled up in front of the fireplace.
For he was 14 years old.
For I had had him since he was born, the only surviving kitten from a litter of five.
For he started out in Memphis, moved to Indiana (3 houses), moved to Arkansas (2 houses), moved to Pennsylvania (2 houses).
For he had the loudest meow in 100 mile radius.
For he was a good cat who kept us warm at night, didn't complain much and was loved by the children.
For he will be missed.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Friday, the blues, and the internet

Quite a few people have been writing about being blue. I used to get depressed quite a bit. In the early years of Mr. GM, I was borderline insane. A lot was going on then--my sister had died just a few years earlier; my parents got divorced; I was poor and not liking my school situation (mean MFA program). Things got a little better when I took a corporate job--had some money, the people were smart and became my friends, not my competition. Then the baby was born, postpartum depression. Then we moved to Arkansas where again, I had no money, no friends, and worse, no job.

I had learned to cope with all of this back in Indiana--through therapy mostly. In fact, it was during that first year in Arkansas that I really discovered the internet and learned how to do html and hosted an IRC chat. Those skills paid off and I got the job I now have (because of course, I fell in love with the internet and continued working on skills that allowed me to take advantage of it.) That's all to say that I sympathize with those of you out there feeling down. I have had a couple of moments of those since moving here. Now, they last a month or so. I haven't had one in a while.

Today is Friday! I love Fridays because it's low-key at work and of course, the weekend is coming. What I used to do on Fridays was experiment with something new. I won't have time to do that until this afternoon, but I'll let you know how it goes. I used to find the coolest things this way.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Homework Hell

Not my own homework hell, but my son's. He's nine. He spends an hour to an hour and a half doing homework every night. It's a burden for all of us. I know that there is something important about homework--learning responsibility and all that. And my son doesn't really mind doing his homework. He's good at the work; he can do most of it himself. What he's not good at--what none of us in this family are good at is organization. He loses things; he writes things down incorrectly. And then he gets in trouble at school. It's hard for me to hover over him and around him, constantly asking if he has papers to show me, if he's sure he's done everything. In ten years, I don't think this will matter, or will it? Does this shape how he will approach his college work? How much should I really care? I'm pretty lax about it really. I don't obsess and worry that if his rock project isn't perfect--it isn't--that he won't get into Harvard. I want him to enjoy learning--even homework. I guess I feel that if I pick over every little thing, he won't enjoy it. I'm sure the teachers think I'm being a bit cavalier about the whole thing. So I ask in a lighthearted way if he's done everything, if there isn't something I need to see. I try my best to make him do his work before he does something fun--but I don't always stick to this. Sometimes something comes up and I don't deny him his fun just because he has one more page of math to do.

Next year, I'll be adding another kid to the homework grind and it will be even harder to juggle. It's things like this that make me honestly think about staying at home. I sometimes feel that if I didn't have so much going on in my own life, I could help my kids focus on theirs. The thing is, I won't know if I made the right decision for many years to come. It feels right so far to be doing what I'm doing, but who knows . . .

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Some political links

First, there's always Bitch, Ph.D.'s links. They are always interesting. I ran into some though that I wanted to share.

Crooked Timber discusses a 527 group's use of popup ads--which are currently unregulated--in the final days of the election.

For some lighter fare, but no less political, check out Tom Burka's blog. You gotta laugh or you'll cry.

And if you want to see something really fun, check out Tom Delay's "defamation" of Daily Kos here, here, and here.

Technobabble, or the story of the mechanic who thinks

That would have been a decent name for my blog--but alas, I wasn't thinking too straight when I named this thing--and really, I have talked more politics than techno. Tech has been keeping me busy lately. I usually get some time during the day to puruse the blogs, some of which are directly related to my work. I wear a lot of different hats at work. My official title is Sr. Instructional Technologist, which doesn't mean much really. In theory, I am supposed to support the faculty in their use of technology in the classroom. What I find is the faculty who are using technology don't need/want my help and the ones who aren't don't want to use it. Some of them end up being forced to use it, then call me when they don't know what they're doing. Although I have a lot of programs in place and I do a lot of outreach for the faculty, I end up with time to do other things--like web development and multimedia development.

Today my hats were more varied than usual. First, I attended a search committee meeting for head of our Art, Archaeology, Cities, and Classic Library. It was a discussion about the qualifications we wanted and the duties we wanted to highlight in the job description. The discussion was revealing because our CIO, who is also head of the library, wants the person to have some ideas about technology, meaning he wants them to be thinking about digital collections and tools to use those collections in research and teaching. The faculty at this meeting immediately jumped to the conclusion that he meant someone who knew their way around a computer and/or a course management system--a mechanic. I did not defend myself, but simply made my anthropological note for later.

That meeting was followed by a meeting with our college counsel to discuss the handling of our DMCA policy. I am the college's DMCA agent. Our policy is not clearly stated and even those of us who administer the policy are not always clear on what to do. We hammered out what we were required to do and went on to discuss satellite radio and how cool it was.

Then, I finally had some time to myself. I spent it writing up a Blackboard (our course management system) FAQ that I've been working on and that will be shared--via Blackboard--with the two other colleges in our consortium.

Lunch, followed by the meeting of our Curriculum Support group where we talk about things we're working on that are related to the college curriculum. Here is where we actually discuss pedagogy and technology. We spent the meeting discussing key points from the Educause conference--which I had to miss because Mr. GM was off at two other conferences. We also spent some time talking about results from a recent survey about technology literacy.

After that, I spent time talking to a colleague about our upcoming workshop on digitizing audio--from lp to cd.

Then I digitized some video, editing its sound and trimming it and exporting it into two different formats.

In between all of this stuff, I answer numerous e-mails and phone calls, usually about trivial matters.

A lot of hats. And this is a typical day--a good balance for the most part between the mechanical part of my job--using the technology and helping others use the technology and the Thinker part of my job--deciding how best to use that technology or discussing the broader issues surrounding technology and education. And that's what I like about my job--I get to do both. What I don't like about my job is when people think I don't think, that I have no idea what it's like to be in front of a classroom, that I'm a mechanic. Even the mechanic part of my job requires a lot of thought. There's a lot of problem solving involved in using technology effectively.

I guess I've had one of those days that I felt went really well but that I wish more people understood, especially the people I work with. I am more than just the person who knows the exact path of your web directory and who can help you add a discussion to your Blackboard course. I can help you think about why you'd need a web directory in the first place and how to structure your online discussion to effectively enhance what you're doing in the classroom. I have a brain and I'm not afraid to use it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Right Wing Rant

Why is it that so much right-wing commentary is full of conspiracy theory stuff, claiming that the news items that have come out lately were planned by the liberal media to support Kerry?

More polls

The American Research Group shows Kerry ahead in quite a few of the battleground states--including Florida. Bloomberg reports that polls in Florida are dead even or with Kerry in a slight lead. They also report that Kerry has gained about 4 points in Florida while Bush has lost 2. If Kerry gets Florida, life gets a little easier. There's still Ohio to contend with.

In other news, Andrew Sullivan has endorsed Kerry for president. Read about it here and read his essay explaining his reasoning here.

Honestly, I'm not sure how much longer I can take this. Is it just me or does the whole country feel on edge?

One week to go

I am anxious, nervous and excited. I'm sick that this election is boiling down to a few states. The Ohio polls are mixed, but all are close. The Wisconsin polls are a little less mixed but there are two results that are tied, so it's not out of the realm of possibility for Kerry to win there. It looks like Bush is gaining ground in Minnesota, but earlier polls showed Kerry with quite a lead, so that state is still up in the air. New Mexico looks a little scary.

The ABC poll has Kerry ahead by a point. I saw snippets of Bush from Good Morning America. Charlie Gibson asked him what his views on homosexuality were again. He conceded that it was within the realm of possibility that homosexuality is a natural state and that no one should be denied rights based on sexual orientation. Then he went on to support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Does he not realize that people would use the constitutional amendment to deny rights? Maybe he does, which is even scarier. I can't find a clip anywhere, but it was kind of interesting--and scary.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Being a Mom

Yesterday and this morning, I was pure mom. I cleaned house. I went grocery shopping. I made apple pie. You can't get much more mom than that. This morning, though, I put a roast in the crock pot--so I guess you can get more mom. Sometimes I think that it would be okay to be doing this stuff all the time. God knows, my house could use a full time mom around. There are piles of stuff everywhere. I can barely keep up with laundry and I'm doing good to make a meal that isn't partially frozen.

I could do it--work full time and come home and do everything. But I don't want to and I don't really have to. People make you feel like you do though. You can see it on their faces when they see the suitcase in the corner that's been there the last 10 times they've come to visit. It's true, I'd much rather the suitcase not be there. I'd much rather not be staring at the pile of still-not-put-away clothes. But if I did all that, if I kept my house clean--and even if Mr. GM did more than the 10% he now does--I'd never have time to read a book, to write anything, to even breathe. I know, because I have friends that do this--both at home moms and work outside the home moms. Their houses are spotless. They have nice gardens and cute decorations outside. But they haven't read a book in years. They're barely keeping up with the news. They're in bed by 10 because their kids get them up at 6. Maybe I'm lucky that I can stay up late, but I say it's a choice. At book club last week, one mom had made it through a bunch of books. I myself had read two books instead of our allotted one book. Another mom--a go-to-bed-with-clean-house mom--said, "How do you find the time?" And the book-reading mom said, "When you love something, you just do it, you find the time?" And I thought, "Yeah, you go girl." Because I don't love housework. I don't even really love a perfectly clean house. I love my kids. I love Mr. GM. I love reading and I love writing. And those things take up all my time outside of my job--which I also love--so the clean house, the stereotypical mom stuff is just going to have to wait. It'll happen occasionally, like it did yesterday, but only after the good stuff. Mr. GM really liked the apple pie--so it was worth the effort. :)

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Electoral College

The Electoral College bugs me. I understand why it's there--to prevent the masses from being swayed too easily by say, beer and twinkies if you vote for me. However, it doesn't really assure a fair election. Witness 2000. Gore won the popular vote, the electoral vote was contested and still, we ended up with Bush as president. It seems to me very likely that the same thing could happen in 2004. For the first time since I've been voting in presidential elections, my vote actually counts--because I'm living in a swing state. I voted for Gore in Arkansas even though I knew the state was going for Bush. I know lots of people probably didn't vote in Arkansas that year because they figured, why bother. Here's some information on that.

Anyway, I wanted to find out what the deal was with the Electoral College and whether anyone was trying to do anything about it. First, did you know that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is responsible for administering the Electoral College? I didn't. Hey, I have an M.A. in English, not PoliSci. So there's plenty of information there about how the Electoral College works and its history, including a list of all the election results.

More interesting to me was the Center for Voting and Democracy which explains how the college works, its pros and cons and possibilities for reform. I'm all for it. After the 2000 election, I remember there was a lot of discussion about reforming the system, promoting primarilty Instant Runoff Voting system explained on the Center for Voting and Democracy's website. Those discussions never really got anywhere as far as I can tell. Sigh.

Living wages and its consequences

If you're an academic who gets embroiled in budget issues, go read Tim Burke's discussion of fighting for a living wage for staff members at Swarthmore college. As a staff member at a nearby college, I found it quite interesting.

Political reading

Once again, let me just point you to Bitch, Ph.D. who has some great links for your political news. I haven't made it through enough coffee yet to find my own. I'm working on a whole electoral college thing. Keep checking.

Neighborhood Politics

I am the precinct Minority Inspector, not just a poll watcher. I spent last night with the neighborhood democrats, all of whom are in their 50s and 60s. I really felt like I was being handed the torch. I am positively giddy to be so involved in the election process. I get to run off thugs, candidates who try to campaign, decide when to use provisional ballots, and I get to count the votes!! I'm so excited. I'm hoping to become more involved in local politics which sometime affects us more than national ones. I'm still anxious about the national election but I'm feeling good about being more involved.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Campaigning a no go

I'm bummed, but I got stuck doing mom stuff and was too tired to fight it, so I'm at home and not campaigning for Kerry in the city. I feel bad, but there just was suddenly too much going on all at once and I couldn't deal. But . . . I am getting my poll watching training tonight. I really don't quite get what my affiliation is, but hey, anything I can do to help. My neighbor and I are the only ones with Kerry signs in our yard. The other neighbors are still talking to us though, so maybe . . .

Friday, October 22, 2004

Single parenting sucks

If you are a single parent, I worship you. I have been on my own since last Friday and I'm dying. I suppose I'd get used to it if I had to do this all the time, but I don't, so I'm pooped. Parenting is the one area where Mr. Geekymom actually wins points. He really does do 50%--at least--of the parenting tasks. It's just nice knowing that every other night I don't have to make sure the kids have brushed their teeth, had baths and are tucked in for the evening. On weekends, we trade off soccer games.

Today was hectic. Work was killer and then I had to pick up my son at chess club (future geek), then go to soccer practice, now he's on his way to Cub Scouts (which I don't approve of, but will let him figure that out himself) riding with a friend. Little Geekymom (aka my daughter) and I are going to have a girls movie night and watch Home on the Range. Thank you Netflix!

I know you don't really care, but hey, just had to share.

Tomorrow, I'll be out canvassing for Kerry. I'm working my polling location on the 2nd and I get my training this weekend--pretty excited. My neighbor is some kind of election leader and she wanted a Democrat on the inside. Apparently, the Republicans were up to no good last election. We're in a swing state, so I could end up being on tv, checking ballots for hanging chads--yes, we use punch cards.

Look for a new design this weekend.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Bored with look

I'm bored with my template already. I'm too lazy to make my own since I do a lot of html/css at work. Can't find any free ones I like. Maybe this weekend I'll make something.

Soccer Mom vs. Security Mom

BBC Newshour reported on the soccer mom/security mom issue. I usually admire the BBC, but this report was so shallow. I'm really starting to get offended by all of this--as if women can be categorized somehow.

Open Letter to Theresa Heinz Kerry

Dear Theresa,

I'm on your side, really. I don't think your comment about Laura Bush was meant to be mean. I think your comment says much more about our society than it says about you. The Republicans like to flaunt their family values agenda and claim that they value women like Laura Bush who choose to stay at home and raise children. But they don't put their money where their mouth is. There's no tax incentive for a woman to stay at home and while she does, she loses money because she puts none into Social Security and none into a 401(k). And the Republicans are constantly trying to make her into a second class citizen. We want you to stay at home, they say, but we don't want you to make decisions about your own body. The Democrats are not much better. They, too, haven't come up with any economic incentives for women who stay at home.

The fury over your statements reveal, too, that the media and the campaigns are still encouraging a rift between working moms and stay at home moms. Most of us (and I've been in both camps) have come to respect each other and understand the difficulties of both sides.

There's not much help for the working moms, either. Schools still function on the concept that someone is home at 3:00. Maternity leaves are still woefully short and often unpaid. The long hours required for upper-level positions and for elected positions means that there are fewer women as Executives, Senators, Congresspeople.

I hope that the Democrats can find a way to make this controversy into something positive, into something that fosters a real discussion about how to support women in their efforts to raise children and participate in our economy and our democracy. Don't let the Republicans spin this into another "family values" fiasco. Let's do something about it.

Laura, working mom

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

On the Mom/Woman Front Again

This week's Newsweek includes an article by a mom about the whole soccer mom/security mom. If you've read my posts here, here, and here, you know that women's issues are rather important to me. I think Leach, author of the Newsweek article, makes a good point. She says,
While political strategists play up the fear factor, the moms I know are worrying about how they'll pay for their kids' college education. We don't want our children to be burdened with five-figure debt from school loans. We want to be reassured that good health care will be available for our families. We work hard, and we are smart. We know that we are paying more in premiums but getting fewer benefits.

Most of the mothers I talk to have given up on the prospect of Social Security, so we try to put a little extra into our retirement accounts. We want to help take care of our aging parents when the time comes, but the money just isn't there. And we're saving for a trip to New York. We want our kids to see the Statue of Liberty and the Museum of Modern Art. We are not afraid.
(bold mine)

Sure the war on terror (defined differently by each candidate) is important, but it shouldn't be the only issue. If you haven't read The Price of Motherhood by Ann Crittendon, you should. This country doesn't do much for mothers, whether they stay home or work outside the home. We all (women, mothers and others) work hard, don't get paid enough and don't get enough general credit for our contributions.

Meanwhile, over at, there's a debate raging about women and blogging. As a scholar of literature, I think there's a subtext there about what women write about vs. what men write about. Private writing (women) vs. public writing (men). It also has that weird feeling of being back in the late 60s/early 70s feminist movement--the personal is the political. I feel a watershed coming. Stand back!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Women and Blogs

Very interesting post and comments at Burningbird's blog on women and blogs. (Link above). Also commented on at

Gay Marriage in Ohio

I am so horrified by Issue 1 in Ohio. I saw a report on it on the news tonight and then found this article in Salon. I just don't understand why these people are so insistent upon legislating our relationships. Marriage is a religious institution first and foremost upon which we have based certain rights like obtaining health benefits and inheritance. Whatever happened to separation of church and state? The worst thing about Ohio's amendment is that it makes it illegal to grant any rights to any unmarried couples. Which means that even heterosexual couples who choose not to marry can't get health benefits from their partners or may not be able to speak for them in a hospital. I don't live in Ohio, but as the article points out, many states are considering similar legislation on Nov. 2 and Bush seems intent upon pursuing a U.S. amendment to ban gay marriage. I feel like we're going backwards here to times when the government legislated our private lives. I also find it odd that a party that promotes smaller government when it comes to health care and economic issues wants to play big brother on issues related to our sexuality and our bodies (gay marriage and abortion). Do they not see the hypocrisy of that?

I'm canvassing on Saturday and poll watching on Nov. 2nd. I'm still anxious. Issues like these make me more anxious still.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Geeky Mom among the Normal Moms

It was book club night. First, let me just say that I feel a little weird being in a book club at all, but it gets me out of the house. I really like the women in my book club. They're fun, intelligent women, but they are definitely not geeky. They're not Martha Stewart either, obsessed with perfect houses, perfect children, etc. However, most of them would probably not think an iPod was a good anniversary present (my 10 year anniversary present). What's nice about this particular group of women is that we all have our oddities. I'm into gadgets and the internet, someone else is into reality tv, another writes, another is a little obsessed with cleanliness, another with organic food. I'm the only full-time working-out-of-the-house mom. Two others work part time; the rest are at home full time. What we all have in common is the experience of raising kids and the chaos that brings to our lives.

Book club almost always breaks down into conversations about this chaos, often because we read books about that chaos or that at least touch on it. We tend to read books with female main characters and sometimes those characters are moms which we always find something in common with. Somehow we always find a way to turn the book we're discussing into an opportunity to share the story of breaking down in the grocery store with our kids. "When she did that, it was like the time . . ." We know we'll get sympathy and not judgement

Since I'm surrounded by men at work, it's nice to share these stories with other women. Although they may not always understand my particular concerns as a mom who also works full time, most of the time, our situations are similar. We all have moments of guilt, moments of joy, moments of sheer craziness.

Despite the commonalities and the enjoyment I get out of their company, being with them does make me long for more women like me. I am sure they are out there, nearby; I just haven't found them yet. I want to be able to talk about the grocery store breakdown and talk about my iPod and the blogs I'm reading. Right now, I'm having the, "My kids are driving me crazy" discussions with the moms and the geek conversations with the men I work with--and my husband. I can live with that, but maybe someday . . .

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Food for thought--literally

New York Times magazine features several articles related to food in America. The first one that caught my eye confirms my own personal theory that if you enjoy what you eat, you won't gain weight. It also discusses the idea of Americans eating different food each generation rather than sticking to a culturally determined cuisine. This idea plays into a friend of mine's theory that you should eat the food of your ancestors. In his case, things like cabbage and potatoes. For me, beef and lamb. I have never felt guilt over food. Lots of other things, but not food. But then again, I am lucky to not have to worry about my weight. I just think about losing 5 pounds and it happens. My favorite evening out is to go eat a good meal with a good bottle of wine. I'll eat just about anything, though I'm partial to Indian and Thai food--since I can't make them easily at home.

The other article is about food on the campaign trail, the common foods eaten on the road as a way of proving your American enough to be president. Here in PA, we had a little battle of the cheesesteak vs. Primanti Brothers sandwich. I have a friend who hails from my home state, Tennessee, and we argue over Kansas City vs. Memphis style barbeque. Food can be just as partisan as health care plans--which you're gonna need after your cheesesteak.

Ah . . . Sunday

Sunday is a day of rest, a day to sit around in your bathrobe, drink coffee, and eat biscuits, and a day of frenzied political reading and watching. This morning, during Good Morning America, I discovered that (according to ABC), Bush leads Kerry 50-46. The Gallup Polls from a week ago show Kerry leading 49-48. The American Research Group provides better data, also showing Kerry leading, but their polls are from the 4th. Even the USA Today Poll shows Kerry ahead at the beginning of the month. I know there are rumors on the "internets" that these polls are inaccurate, but the average Jane pays attention to these.

UPDATE: Found this lovely site via The Volokh Conspiracy for an up-to-date view of the polls.

For your reading pleasure this morning, an article on Seymour Hersh via Bitch, Ph.D.. And this New York Times article, so appropriate for Sunday about how Bush lets his evangelical religious views guide what he does as President. You'll find some similarities in what Hersh says and what some of those close to Bush say about the way he runs the White House.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Soccer moms engage in healthy debate

In my role as soccer mom today, I was privileged to overhear a hearty debate among the other soccer moms. One mom started in on school vouchers and how that could cause the demise of the public school system. Another mom piped up saying she was a Bush supporter. These two moms then engaged in another debate about health care costs, which drew in a third mom. I didn't participate because I was just fascinated by the whole conversation. The mom who started the whole thing is a volunteer for the Kerry campaign. She really did a pretty good job of trying to convince anyone who was listening that Kerry is the man for the job. We're talking about a group of primarily working middle class, many of them finding themselves struggling to make ends meet, and many of them knowing people who've been laid off or have been laid off themselves, so it's not the usual suburban soccer crowd of Lexus-driving, stand around and discuss stocks crowd. It was interesting to see what Bush messages had settled into the Bush supporter's brain. She kept coming back to malpractice insurance. But she agreed with the Kerry woman's points on a lot of things. Anyway, I was just proud of them for having an intelligent discussion of the issues--and the men were nowhere to be found.

This should scare you

Thanks, Bitch. Ph.D., for scaring the crap out of me first thing in the morning. If you haven't read her post and her links, you really must. I feel anxiety every election over reproductive rights, but never more so than now. I really do feel we might be on the verge of overturning Roe v. Wade if Bush wins. I might have to quit my job and join a pro-abortion lobbying group. I had a male friend who told me once that he didn't feel that men had a right to even discuss reproductive issues--that the whole discussion should be left up to women. I told this to another male friend years later and he disagreed,but he's a dad and the other guy wasn't so I think he just felt like he had no stake in the discussion. Frankly, the conservative position on this, as several of the articles Bitch Ph.D. points to imply, is that the right-wing conservatives are really just terrified of sex. No one should be having it so therefore there should be no need for birth control or abortions or anything like that. Come on, people, we're animals. We have instincts. Oh, wait . . . these are the same people who don't believe in evolution.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Slacker all the way around

Okay, so I took this quiz a long time ago. Don't remember what I came out as. I noticed a slight bias toward this quiz being for men--i.e. the shaving comment. But here's the results anyway--kind of fun.

Which OS are You?

After I posted this, I took a wander around on the site and it just confirms for me why I am uncomfortable with the Geek label. It implies that geeks are all people with odd habits, no friends, weird collections, and even weirder taste in movies. That's just not me. Just because I really like Star Trek . . .

A Case in Point

As if academom had willed it, I had one of those days where my worlds clashed. It's like that Seinfeld episode where George's world with his friends is about to meet up with his world with his fiancee. I'm checking my son's homework this morning and find a note from his teacher that says he hasn't been doing his homework. Instant guilt. I find my son, begin giving him a stern talking to. He breaks down, misses the bus and I have to drive him to school which makes me slightly late for work. I bring this guilt and anger (a little) to work with me.

At work, I e-mail the teacher, apologize profusely for my slacker son (and his slacker parents) and promise we'll do better. I manage to put all of that aside and do real work until I'm sidetracked by a talkative co-worker. Post-lunch, life gets bad when I find out because of a programming glitch, several people have dropped out of Blackboard. I spend time manually adding them back in and dinging the programmer. I don't understand the programming and feel powerless--akin to the way I felt in response to the teacher's letter.

Flash forward a little, I'm plugging away again, getting ready to read some blogs and post something in my professional blog when I am dragged into the lab because a woman's life work has been erased. (The lab I maintain is a video lab and nothing is supposed to be removed without my permission.) We spend hours trying to recover the files--no luck. We will have to import over 100 clips again.

I go home defeated, thinking I should just have been a stay at home mom, so that I could make sure my son does his homework and I wouldn't have to deal with all of this stuff. Sigh. Do men have these tensions? It's not like I was angst-ridden all day about the homework thing, but it was there nagging at me. I know in my heart of hearts, I would not be satisfied staying at home, but I think about it. It's very tempting on days like these.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

IT Kitchen

Okay, this idea is really great--an online workshop about wikis and blogs. I have been talking about wikis and blogs for years. I only this year got around to really using them regularly, but as an IT professional who works with faculty, I've been trying to encourage faculty to use blogs and wikis for teaching and research. Aside from one famous blogger in our midst (who's now gone), the faculty seem to be averse to blogging. I held a workshop about wikis and blogs and only one faculty member came. Perhaps they'd look into this workshop from time to time and learn something. I'm planning to let them all know about it. I don't feel like I'm enough on an expert to contribute, but I'd like to try. I can't wait to see it in action.

Progressive Girl

Turns out--I'm neither a Soccer Mom nor a Security Mom--I'm a Progressive Girl.

Some of this stuff fits. For instance:

She drives: a small SUV but really wishes it got better mileage; once she can get a good hybrid, she will.

This is sooo true. I drive a mini-van and I've already declared that my next car will be a hybrid. Have to wait for the money, though.

Thanks to profgrrl's post for this little tidbit.

Security Mom

Apparently, I'm supposed to have morphed into a security mom. I have heard this term before, but brushed it off. For one thing, I was never really a soccer mom. I just don't fit the profile. For another, I am not obsessed about the security of my children, thinking that terrorists are going to attack their elementary school. I worry about other things--like whether they'll become drug addicts or become pregnant or get aids or get hit by a car or die of a horrible disease. Security moms apparently favor Bush because they think he'll protect us from terrorists. Well, as far as I know, Bush isn't doing a whole lot about the things I'm worried about.

During the debates last night, finally some mention of women, but nothing astonishing. And Bush didn't answer whether he would protect Roe v. Wade. That worries me. Though I hope I will teach my daughter well enough that this won't be an issue, I really don't want to even ponder the possibility that I would be searching for a back-alley doctor to perform an abortion for my 16-year-old (she's 5 now.)

Sign count yesterday between my house and work: 20 Kerry/Edwards; 11 Bush/Cheney.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Tired of Politics

I'm getting tired of the campaign. I have campaign fatigue. I also have general fatigue. I have been watching all the news, all the debates, reading the papers, reading the blogs and I'm tired. It's still a dead heat. I go to bed and the polls will show 47% Bush 45% Kerry and by the time I wake up, the numbers are reversed. My own neighborhood is a patchwork quilt of campaign signs--Bush, Kerry, Bush, Kerry. My daughter, who's five, can identify and keep track of the number of signs for each candidate as we drive along. On the way to soccer, 5 Kerry/Edwards, 4 Bush/Cheney. She thinks they're names though--so Kerry Edwards is one person and Bush Cheney is another. She wants Kerry to win. The name is just so much better. I've been looking at the lighter side of the campaign--it makes me feel better. I've been watching The Daily Show (recorded via Tivo), checking out sites like and the new Jib-Jab video. You gotta laugh or you'll cry. Frankly, I'm worried. Last election, I went to bed before all the results were in, and woke up to find we did not yet have a new president. I'm not sure I can take that again.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Crooked Timber: Women in computing

Crooked Timber: Women in computing As someone who works at an all-women's college, I appreciated this lovely description of the Grace Hopper celebration put on by Google. I'm constantly encouraging women to go into technology fields or jobs and so far, I'm 2 for 3. Not bad.

17th Century Sex

I spent some time working on the novel. I am somewhat stuck. I am writing about sex--not just any sex but 17th century adulterous sex, from a woman's point of view. Ugh. There is so little real information about what women were doing in terms of their sexuality that I am at a loss at times of how to describe it. Would they have been on top, for example, or was missionary style pretty much it? Would they have initiated sex or would they leave it up to the man? I just don't know. And acutally, I think my main character doesn't know either--how she feels about this sex thing. She wants it, enjoys it (with her lover at least) but worries a lot--about being caught by her husband, about being labelled a whore, about her lover just wanting her for the sex. Okay--probably not a lot different from the way women feel today. Glad we cleared that up. Now if I can just get that into a nice juicy sex scene that's not too corny, I'll be good.

I'm making a trip to the library tomorrow to get some books to read for the novel. Research usually helps me focus more. It's hard to juggle so many things. A job that has nothing to do with what I'm writing, a life that includes children and husband and me, and the mom thing. I was saying to myself today that I should just buck up and finish the novel, but it's hard. I've exhausted myself the last couple of days, reading and writing and thinking, that it's just hard. Okay, now I sound like Bush.

The writing is going slower though. I was on a roll the last few weeks and now things have slowed down. I had hoped for 10 pages this weekend. I got 5. I guess that's not so bad. I've vowed to write every night this week except Wednesday--the debates. And if anyone has suggestions for this sex problem, I'll take them.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

The Disappearance of the Soccer Moms

I was blogging away about the demise of the soccer mom as a political entitity that garnered attention (as a spinoff of my previous post) when I clicked the wrong button and poof! into the ether it went. I had lists going and everything so this won't quite capture the previous posting, but I'll try. I was pondering the fact that women's issues have disappeared from the campaign this year. We're talking about the war, the economy and health care. All issues that affect women in some way, but are not specifically about women. We're not talking about abortion, child care, the wage gap, sexual harrassment, rape, getting more women into executive and government positions, etc. So I thought, well, let's find out what the candidates are saying.

On the Bush side first . . . His web site makes it hard to find information about women's issues. I decide to go with a link under Agenda for America entitled Helping Families. Apparently, women only exist as a part of a family structure. The first 7 items have something to do with health care. I don't think all these things are bad, but I don't think they all have much to do with families necessarily or with women. It reminds me of when I was in sales and selling a product that didn't have a lot of benefits, so I'd take one benefit and spin it lots of different ways to make it seem like it had more to offer. Finally, we get to an item called "Creating a more Family Friendly workplace". Under it are two items--Flextime/Comp time and Telework. Neither of these promise that much and neither discuss making it into law. The next item is one that I personally found scary. Entitled "Keeping Children Safe," it discusses abstinence-only sex education, drug testing in schools, and internet pornography. All of these are extremely short-sighted programs. The final item on the family agenda had to do with Veterans.

On the Kerry side . . . Much easier to find information. Two clicks "More Issues-->Women" and you come to a page with a clear agenda for women: work/family balance, wage gap, reproductive rights, increased access to education. Very clear. There's also a section under communities for women to work together on issues that are important to them--and of course, to help elect Kerry.

So here's my list of things not addressed well--completely personal--and from the viewpoint of a married mother of two:

  • support women's rights at work--meaning everything from discrimination in reward and promotion to sexual harrassment to maternity (and paternity) leaves
  • support for women who choose to stay at home--a tax break, the ability to earn social security, I don't know, get creative (read The Price of Motherhood sometime)
  • fund education and encourage states and local school districts to reform education so that it fits with current families' real lives. After school programs are fine, but all-day school with the option of an hour or two (as much is needed) after that would be better. They system functions on this idea that somebody is home at 3:00. This would go a long way toward improving test scores, decreasing drug use and teenage pregnancy (less free time/more time studying).
  • While I'm dreaming . . . how about a required ratio of women in the senate and or house? Or at least some programs to encourage and support female candidates?

Well, that's my rant for the day.

From the Saturday Soccer Mom

Since my kids became soccer-playing age, Saturdays are no longer days of relaxation for me. I used to sleep in--sometimes until noon. I was blessed with late-sleeping kids and so even post-kids, I could sleep until 9:30 or 10:00 some weekends. Now, I'm up between 7:00 and 7:30, then it's shower, wrestle the kids into soccer clothes--shin guards, cleats and all, rush off to Wawa (local convenience store), get the 24 ounce coffee, bottle of water, banana (cause I never have food left by Saturday), then drive around to find the soccer field (it's never the same one), plop into a chair, sip coffee and watch 5 year olds try to figure out which way to go. It's pretty cute--but definitely not relaxing. After the 5 year old game, we have an hour until the 9 year old game which is much more exciting, but still not relaxing. When I get home, it's laundry folding, ironing, grocery shopping, dinner prepping, flower planting, Halloween decoration putting up, collapsing in front of the tv.

Funny how you never see the soccer mom and the geek mom at the same time. They can't possibly be the same person, can they? The soccer mom sits on the sideline and yells, "Go! Go! Go!" She worries her kids may be sitting out too much. She notices that she's better-dressed than the mom to her left, but not the one to her right. She grimaces when the dad stands in front of her and blocks her view with his butt--and it's a big one too. The geek mom, on the other hand, stares at her computer screen, shouts across the room to her colleague, "You gotta see this cool flash movie!" She worries she may be losing her tech knowledge by the minute. She thinks in acronyms--wiki, xml, html, pdf, php. She carries usb and firewire cables in her purse. She looks good compared to most geek women--and way better than the men who are really all that are around her anyway.

When she pulls into the parking lot at the afterschool care building, all of the acronyms fall away and suddenly, her thoughts are all peanut butter and jelly and Yu-Gi-Oh! She must wrap herself in these until Monday morning after the bus pulls away from the curb, its red and yellow lights signalling it's safe to change identities. With the drone of National Public Radio for the 15 minute drive to work, she slowly metamorphizes into geek mom once again. She arms herself with her smartphone, which begins to beep for the first meeting of the day, and her iPod, which she uses to drown out the smartphone.

Sigh. And that's just two of her identities.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Scanning the horizon

I've accomplished a few things from my list, though others don't look like they're going to happen--oh well. I managed to purchase a scanner and successfully scanned in one of my old poems with Abbyy FineReader (included with the scanner). I have version 5 here, but I have 7 at work, which is sooo much nicer. I did a quick search for some free or cheap OCR programs and there's not much out there. I'm guessing that OCR is pretty hard to do, so not many people are going to take it on as an open source project. I might have to bite the bullet and upgrade. Sigh. I will be scanning some pictures here shortly--to go with the poems. I think this will be a fun project. My poems have never been published. Frankly, they're not good enough. They're better than poems that might show up in Ladies Home Journal, but they're not Missouri Review material. But I'm attached to them for a myriad of sentimental reasons. They represent a slice of my life from college through graduate school. I'm thinking only a handful will make it.

I also managed to do a little writing--3 pages. No planting, no laundry. Oh well, there's always the weekend.

Having a Life--for a day

Today, I skipped work. In my former life as an adjunct professor, I usually taught on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I used Fridays to learn new things--mostly new technical things. I wish I could reinstitute this policy. I am sometimes able to do this at work, but not always. Because the phone rings, the e-mail comes in--someone needs me for something. And that's one difference between working a regular, 9-to-5 job vs. being in the academy. Oh, I know there are committee meetings, students at your door, letters of recommendation, etc. I'm married to a professor, so I know. But if you want to hide at your house one day a week, you can. Your time is your own to decide how to fill. You decide when the students can come visit (office hours) or when you'll write that letter. Committee meetings, faculty meetings, okay, but these are far less frequent than my phone calls--believe me.

So today I'm taking my life back. I'm really feeling pretty good about this. I've been gradually, over the past year, taking my life back. I jumped from the professor track to an I-don't-know-what track and am really starting to make it the Laura track. So here's the plan for the day:

  • Work on the novel--writing, not reading. I'm on page 87. I'm hoping to be to 100 by the end of the weekend.
  • Pull out the poetry again. My poetry is not so great, but it's mine and I'm thinking I want to work on posting it online in some sort of multimedia form.
  • Buy a scanner. I need to scan pictures for the above project.
  • Plant flowers. As I said, I'm not much into Mom/Housewife stuff, but I feel compelled to keep up just a little. Plus, I like looking at flowers.
  • Take housewarming gift to friend. Much belated.
  • Laundry--but I might wait until tomorrow. :)
  • Blog

Not a bad list. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Some Geek Moments

So I had a couple of geek moments today. The last and most astonishing, to me, was the sudden desire to have a phone/iPod combo. I was walking across campus to the car, listening to my iPod, Buddy Holly I think, when suddenly my cellphone rings. I yank my earbuds out, cursing because I almost step on them (I'm not very tall), then nearly dump out the contents of my purse trying to get to my phone (I really hate purses). So after talking to my husband, who just wants to tell me he's going to the hardware and that the kids are at the neighbors and could I order the pizza, I think, damn wouldn't it have been great if I just could have hit the "phone" button which would have paused the song, and voila, I'd be talking and then could go back to listening when I hang up? I tell my husband about this when I get home (he's a geek, too) and he says, well duh, don't you think they've come up with that already. And I'm thinking, where's the marketing campaign? So, of course, I Google it, which brings up on two items. A concept photo for the iPod/phone combo and the n-gage which is an MP3 player and a phone, but the site is so flashy that I can't tell if it would work in the way that I just described. I think it's a cool idea anyway.

My other geek moment came when my boss walked in and I was blogging away and I had to confess I was a little addicted. (I love my job, though. I mean, I got paid for that blogging. :) )Now this was work-related blogging. I've had a work blog on my server there for a while, but I've become increasingly obsessed with it. It's even better than usenet and listservs--other forms I was once obsessed with and still use. I'm a bit of an information hound, I guess--or maybe it's a communication hound because a lot of the blogs I read and enjoy don't necessarily provide information; they are often discussions of key issues related to topics of interest to me. There's just something nice about finding people who share my interests. I live in a big city, but aside from the people I work with, I don't regularly run into people who are enthralled with all things technological as I am. In fact, many of the people I know are kind of horrified by it--they hate tv, for example. Some of them are simply frugal--technology costs money and they don't rank it highly on their expenditure list. We do. I mean, we plan for computer replacement the way most people purchase homes and cars. We're working on a second Tivo purchase--with better tv attached--as I write. I have other obsessions. You'll find out about them later.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

What is a Geeky Mom?

Hello, my name is Laura and I'm Geeky, and a mom, thus Geekymom. I have been a Geek now, for, oh, about 25 years. I have a SmartPhone, iPod, and an iMac. I think Tivo is the greatest invention since the remote control. I'd rather play video games than go shopping. I learned how to design web pages on maternity leave. I don't do much in the way of mom things, and other moms I know look at me like I'm from another planet when I talk about the things I do in my spare time--like blogging. In geek circles, I'm like the woman who likes sports at a party. Thankfully, my job is geeky. I'm an Instructional Technologist. It's actually my job to explore new gadgets and software. I create web pages on a regular basis and train others how to do it (maternity leave paid off well). I get paid to blog and read blogs. What cooler job could there be?

I'm also a writer. That's what my original degree was in--Creative Writing. I'm working on a novel now. Originally, I was a poet. So you'll probably see some blogs about that, too. You can see by my previous two posts that I intended this to be my professional blog at first, but I'm letting the school host that and here, I can have some fun.