Thursday, December 30, 2004

I'm off

I'm off to Richmond, VA today and alas, there will be no blogging. I might be able to read blogs via my Treo, but I doubt there will be posting. I suppose a break is good, but when I return it will also be time to return to work. I hope I will be looking forward to it by then. I've been so enjoying my unstructured time.

Since I will miss New Year's, I'm posting my resolutions here:

1. Walk at least 30 minutes per day (may be substituted with other exercise)
2. Write at least a page a day.
3. Cut my debt in half. Ideally, I'd eliminate it, but I think that's unrealistic.

Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Walking did not happen today

I got up rather late, drank coffee, read the news and blogs, did laundry. Then my friend at the MLA called-hi Deb-so we arranged for lunch. Since I hadn't showered yet, I pretty much had to rush around getting ready. I rode the train in and met her in the lobby of the Marriott.

We had a wonderful lunch--both the same--of Chilean sea bass atop shrimp risotto. Conversation was aplenty and discursive as always--from the mundane to the academic to the political. I always like hearing about what she's working on and it's nice to have a conversation about literature again that's on a whole different level than the book club I'm in. Then we wandered over to the Reading Terminal Market and had cannolis at Termini Brothers. And we had to get coffee at Old City Coffee, too. Much indulgence and much fun.

So walking is out because it's dark now and I must pack for my trip. But I'll be exercising at the hotel. They have a nice workout room there. I've learned that it's best to do this exercise thing first thing in the morning, because it's too easy to let the day get in the way. So now I think I'll be ready when I get back from the trip.

Blah . . .

Feeling very blah today. It's gray--again. I'm supposed to meet some friends for lunch or dinner today but I haven't heard from them. We leave tomorrow to go visit my dad which will be good. I need to go back to Macy's and finish my Christmas returning, but I don't feel like it. I'll have to go back to work sooner rather than later, which I'm not looking forward to. The umph has gone out of my holiday vacation. Had to happen, I guess. I think I'll go watch tv and fold laundry. Yippee!

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Observations of the walk

1. Starbucks is a little far. Took almost an hour.
2. My butt was cold. Need warmer pants or warmer underwear.
3. Wear hat and gloves.
4. Gaggles of teenagers are hard to pass gracefully.
5. The reward is good. Pumpkin spice latte.

I wish there were a pond or a creek or something I could walk to. Then I could walk there, throw a few rocks in or feed the wildlife and walk back. But there's no such thing around here. I'll keep looking for a better destination.

Heading out . . .

for a walk in the tundra. Ok, not quite tundra, but it's 30 degrees and I'm from the south. So, it's a tundra. This is part of my New Year's resolution--to walk everyday. I need to do other types of exercise, but I'm starting with walking. I think I'll be warm enough, but I'm not sure. If I stick with this for two weeks, I'm buying more workout clothes, maybe new shoes. Today, I am destination walking. I'm going to try for the Starbucks. I'm a reward person. I need to know there's good at the end of the pain. Once school and work begins again, I'm going to have to come up with a schedule. Do I drag my ass out of bed at 6:30 or do I walk the minute I get home, leaving dinner until 7 or so? Late dinner isn't bad for me, but I think the kids will starve. I'm thinking I can do 6:30 if I remember to set the timer on my coffee pot and have hot coffee waiting for me. I'll try it after I get back from my trip. If you're wondering why I'm writing this post and not running out the door, it's because I'm waiting for my iPod to update. All that "new" 80s music, you know. Speaking of which, here's a list (don't say I didn't warn you):

Birthday--Sugarcubes
Dragon (Icelandic)--Sugarcubes
Arthur--Hoodoo Gurus
Three Little Birds--Bob Marley & The Wailers
Tennessee Jed--Grateful Dead
Waiting In Vain--Bob Marley & The Wailers
Walk Like A Man--Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
Here, There And Everywhere--The Beatles
Love You To--The Beatles
The Boy In The Bubble--Paul Simon

Who are we?

I've been reading up on the tsunami this morning and it's just devastating. The death toll is reaching 40,000. What is the west contributing to the relief effort? Not much.
The United States prepared a $15 million aid package to the Asian countries, and the 25-nation European Union promised to quickly deliver $4 million. Canada promised $4 million with more likely to come.(found here)

Either someone needs to tell me that these are significant amounts and that it just looks insigificant on the surface or we are just pathetic. As a point of comparison, note that $882 million was spent on the 9/11 disaster (More interesting reading here). Or the $13 billion in hurricane relief. In watching the Business Report on PBS last night, a reporter noted that insurance costs wouldn't amount to much because the majority of the victims were poor. This was the good side of the disaster. It's like when Dick Cheney said that the most horrible thing about AIDS in Africa was the loss of generations of production. Because, by God, we need those diamonds.

I have been focused on myself of late too, but couldn't we scrape together at least half a billion or so. And the combined EU countries could only come up with 4 million? Who are we? Do we only care about people of the fairer skin?

Monday, December 27, 2004

On the 3rd day of Christmas

I went to Macy's. I'm insane, but I really wanted to get rid of the brown sweaters. 2 down, 1 to go. I've got nothing against brown, really. I have some oatmeal pants and an espresso sweater that I like, but in general, I don't wear brown. Plus, these were wool. I do not live in Alaska; the Northeast is pretty cold but not that cold. And, while one was really just a shirt to be worn under one of the sweaters and was plain, the other two have wretched designs on them. People who don't see me very often should not buy me clothes. Gift certificates, people. Okay, sorry to be all scrooge and ungrateful but . . . I went to Macy's. Two days after Christmas. The parking lot was enough to make anyone cranky. Then, after the return, which was painless, I had to spend the money in the store and they only give you 4 days to spend it. I bought some workout pants (Mr. Geeky was afraid of getting the wrong size), but Macy's is not known for its athletic wear. And there was only one pair of smalls and I got them. I also got a new purse, but I don't think I like it. It's a Kenneth Cole and it's purple, which is okay, but I'm not thrilled. I was feeling pressured to buy something, anything. I still have $35 left to spend so I have to go back tomorrow or the next day. Ugh. Once again. Gift cards. Or nothing. Seriously. I don't really need anything.

On a brighter note, I'm importing my entire bad 80s CD collection which I found in a box recently. It's weird and bad. I'll do a random list tomorrow so you can see how bad. Music just isn't as important to me as it once was. I figure when the kids become teenagers, I can catch up again.

On vacation, but still working

Kind of. At least I'm doing things that I might do if I were at work. For Christmas, Mr. Geeky got me iLife '04. I have it at work, so I wasn't necessarily all gung ho to use it, but I thought now might be the time to organize the over 1500 pictures I have. The new iPhoto automatically creates a separate import folder for each year, so I thought I'd make a slide show for each year and put all of that on a DVD. It would be a good gift for next Christmas. :) I'm a trial-and-error kind of person so I decided to start by importing the individual pictures into iMovie to create a better slide show than I could by simply exporting from iPhoto. Well, it was very time consuming. I applied the Ken Burns effect to all of them (the same settings) and I had to put a transition between each one. Then I had to wait for all of that to render. Took a couple of hours to do all of that. So I tried a simple export from iPhoto and stitched that together with some music using Quicktime. It flashed between photos--very annoying. So then I used iDVD's slideshow feature. I liked that option the best, but you can only have 99 slides per show. I found out by downloading a patch that you can make a playlist to use as the background music. I'm betting you can do that in iPhoto too, so I'm going to try that today. Ideally, I'd like a whole year as a single show. Right now, I have two years done and they're each in three sections.

My next big task is to go back further and scan in pictures from before 2001. It'd be great to have a batch scanner for that. Maybe I can buy one for work, so I can use it. :)

I had a totally geeky Christmas. I got a usb hub with card reader, 250 gig hard drive, iLife, and workout clothes. Of course, we also got ourselves a digital video camera and I got Mr. Geeky a digital camera of his very own.

Yesterday, instead of getting back to routine, we were all slugs, but it was fun. We played video games, watched movies and played with Polly Pocket. We ate leftover ham and Christmas cookies. Today we might actually leave the house. I have some brown sweaters to return. I'm thinking of getting new sneakers. :)

Sunday, December 26, 2004

The Day After

And so begins the road back to normal. The living room must be shovelled out, the decorations must come down, gifts returned, rooms cleaned, new calendars hung up. I actually like post-Christmas better than Christmas sometimes. After all the excesses of yesterday, it's nice to start getting back to moderation. Here's just some of the excesses:

1. At least 10 laser tag games--some inside, some outside.
2. Holiday Inn.
3. 2 bad action movies (Mr. Geeky).
4. 2 games of civilization.
5. 1 round of I Spy word scramble.
6. Leftover ham sandwiches, chex mix and cheesecake.
7. Many, many cookies.
8. A long bath.
9. Several games of Lord of the Rings on PS2.
10. Sly Cooper 2.
11. Blogging.

A good day, all told.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Happy Holidays

6:30 a.m. That's when the Geeky kids got us up. I think there will be naps later--at least for me there will be. Christmas went off well. We can no longer walk in the living room. I have escaped to the computer for a while and I'm thinking I need to play some Civilization. I love the idea of There, but it's incompatible with our computers (sigh). Not that anyone would be there on Christmas morning. I hear a laser tag game brewing downstairs. Where did I put the Tylenol? I hope everyone has a wonderful day.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Waiting for Santa (apologies to Clement Moore)

Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring not even a mouse,
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes they'll be filled with more than just air.
The children are nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of video games dance in their heads.
And Mr. G in his boxers and I in my pjs
Have drunk too much eggnog and are snoring away.

When up in the kids' rooms, there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the couch to see what was the matter.
Up three flights of stairs, I flew like a flash,
Twisted my ankle making such a made dash.
The moon on the mess that lay out below,
Reminded me there are some things I'd rather not know,
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I thought for a moment I just might be sick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
So I whistled and shouted and called out each name;
On Douglas and Thaddeus and Stephanie too,
If you don't get in bed, Santa will surely skip you.
Put on those pajamas! To the beds right this minute!
Dash away, dash away! Close those eyes now I mean it!

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I ran down the stairs and made way for the kitchen,
I heard a moan from the couch and saw a foot twitching.
He was dressed all in green, from his foot to his head,
And his clothes were all cover with a blanket from the bed.
A bundle of toys he had hidden all around,
And it looked like they might never be found.

His eyes how they twitched! his dimples not merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose he had buried!
His droll little mouth was drawn up for a snore,
And the beard of his chin proved shaving a chore;
The glass of champagne he had left on the floor,
And the bubbles came out eat time that he snored;
He had a quiet face and a peaceful smile,
That made me want to leave him for a while.

He was happy and content, a right jolly old geek,
But I poked him and prodded, "Get up, you freak!";
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And pointing his finger up into the air,
And giving a nod, he climbed up the stairs;
He sprang to his bed, to his wife gave a shout,
And under the covers they both headed out,
But I heard him whisper, ere he slept for the night,
"HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT."

Stolen from Unfogged: A good holiday game

Type a letter into the address bar and see what comes up. (I'm too lazy to make these links; just cut and paste yourself if you're interested.)

A: ancarett.com, adviceatyourownrisk.blogspot.com
B: bitchphd.blogspot.com
C: www.cheekyprof.com, www.crookedtimber.org
D: dmorgen.blogspot.com, drvegeta.blogspot.com
E: elb.typepad.com/halfchangedworld, www.echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com
F: faculty.deanza.fhda.edu/jocalo, www.furl.net
G: geekymom.blogspot.com, www.google.com
H: www.haloscan.com
I: infavorofthinking.blogspot.com, ianqui.blogspot.com
J: jmp.typepad.com/jmp
K: www.kurrasplace.com/MT/mandy
L: learningcurves.blogspot.com, www.liliputianlilith.com
M: madeline.typepad.com/academom, mousewords.blogspot.com
N: newkidonthehallway.typepad.com/new_kid_on_the_hallway, www.noradsanta.org
O: offnight.blogspot.com, www.ospolitics.org/blog
P: playingschool.blogspot.com, permanentred.com
Q: quizilla.com
R: roughdraft.typepad.com/dotmoms, redbirdblogs.typepad.com/red_bird_rising/
S: sitemeter.com, sbfh.blogspot.com
T: theculdesac.blogspot.com
U: www.unfogged.com
V: www.videohelp.com (from my troubles with dvd burning yesterday)
W: whatnow.blogspot.com, wolfangel.calltherain.net
X: nothing--wow!
Y: www.yahoo.com
Z: www.zephoria.org/thoughts

That was fun! My favorite is noradsanta.org. Worth checking out.

Happy Christmas Eve

I have always enjoyed Christms Eve. For my family, it is on Christmas Eve that we had a formal meal, usually something quite different from what we had normally--like cornish game hens. We also opened a present on Christmas Eve. We used to pick one at random, but later, my parents got us pajamas that we always opened and then promptly put on and went to bed. We're continuing that tradition with our kids. I'm looking forward to it. Growing up, I sang in our church choir so I always participated in our Christmas Eve service. The choirs would stand at the back of the church and the girls from the youth choir would begin the service by singing the first verse of "Once in Royal David's City." The rest of the service was a series of carols and lessons, quiet and unassuming, about the only time I ever really liked church. I sang my first solo at a Christmas Eve service to a packed church. I think I was in 7th or 8th grade. I was a tiny person, 4'11, less than a hundred pounds. My mother was terrified my voice wouldn't be loud enough to fill the church. It did. The service always ended with the congregation singing Silent Night while holding candles and then processing out of the church. As we milled around the hallways, still hearing the music, we would wish each other a Merry Christmas. The kids would exchange their hopes for what Santa would bring. I felt very much a part of a community then.

I miss this aspect of Christmas Eve somewhat, but I still try to maintain the unassuming and quiet manner of the service. We will spend the day relaxing, working on a jigsaw puzzle, watching Christmas movies, and drinking hot cocoa by the fire. After dinner, the kids will open a present and after they go to bed, Mr. Geeky and I will share some champagne before putting out the presents. It will be a quiet day and evening.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Things we do for love

I'm not sure I'm really doing this for love, but . . . I got up at an ungodly hour, a little before six. Mr. Geeky and I have spent the better part of the last two days converting his late grandfather's 8mm film to digital format (his gift to his family members). We finally got it all edited and started burning the DVD. It was burning into the night. I woke at 3 am to see that progress was stalled with 41 min. to go. So I didn't sleep well for the next few hours thinking I was going to have to redo this whole thing (it takes many hours to burn one dvd). Finally, because I couldn't breathe and was worried about the status of the dvd, I got up, and had to reboot the computer (completely frozen). To my surprise, the dvd appears to have burned correctly. It's playing right now in our dvd player. I'm checking on it every 15-20 minutes. If everything is okay, we'll be making 3 more copies and fed-exing them off. Nothing like the last minute. I should note, however, that we haven't received gifts from either of Mr. Geeky's siblings; it's a family of procrastinators.

Today is the last day of school for the kids. Tomorrow I can sleep in without worrying about anyone's gift or the class party, etc. A true vacation, finally. I'll have to cook dinner for Christmas Eve, but I've gone the really easy route this year: ham, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, walnut salad and bread. Last year I made a really elaborate meal of roast beef and yorkshire pudding with a variety of exotic side dishes. This year, I asked the kids what they wanted and this is what we got. I am making one more batch of cookies. I made chocolate gingerbread people yesterday. Today, I'm making those peanut butter, hershey kiss cookies--so easy and yummy.

Mr. Geeky has gotten my illness and toward the end of yesterday, we were feeling completely puny, probably both of us running a slight fever. Hopefully, this too, will pass so that we can enjoy the vacation.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Children's books and isms

Elizabeth, at Half Changed World has an interesting post about the problems with charming older books that contain elements of racism, sexism, classism and other things that we might not find so charming now. Though I commented there about issues with my own children, this was actually a problem for me growing up. I was in a feminist theory seminar a while back for which we read Huckleberry Fin. I had never read it and had, in fact, avoided such classics as these (including Catcher in the Rye, Catch-22) because the protagonists were male. I did read Pippi Longstocking, but once those ran out, I resorted to books with animals as protagonists. I was charmed by the idea of animals having lives similar to humans, with feelings and struggles akin to our own, but also they seemed more equitable to me. When I told my professor about this tendancy of mine, she was concerned for me. She was sad that I had missed out on some good literature because I was turned off by gender issues. Even now, I tend to be drawn toward books with female protagonists though I don't exclude ones with male characters as I used to. I wouldn't call my reading chick lit, but perhaps it is in some way. And is that such a bad thing? Isn't it okay that I want my imaginative life to be lead by women?

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

In the deep mid-winter

Two links today to point us to the traditions surrounding this time of the year. First, from Grumpy Old Bookman, a reminder that a celebration has existed long before Jesus did. And then, from Sharon, at Early Modern Notes, shares some links to various traditions, old and new.

Both of these help counter some of the "put the Christ back in Christmas" arguments as described here. (nyt; registration required). I'm an atheist myself, but I really love some of the religious carols (Silent Night, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear). I wouldn't object to my children singing them in school, but I think it would need to be clear that there are other holidays to celebrate. There should be balance, I think, and perhaps a discussion about all the various traditions, in order to give everything context.

Heaven is . . .

. . . a bubble bath, gingerbread latte and the new Newsweek (a double issue no less) all at once.

You know it's time to get up when . . .

. . . you can't breathe through your nose. Yes, I have another cold. If I were a scientist or something, I'd probably marvel at how my symptoms are completely different from the last cold and wonder if I could compare the virus strains under a microscope and figure out what causes these differences. There's a dissertation there I'm sure. One of the lovelier symptoms I have is laryngitis. I have no voice. Do you know how hard it is to yell at your kids when you have no voice? I mean, really, Hurry up! You're going to be late for the bus just doesn't sound as good when it comes squeaking out in fits and starts.

This morning was filled with more than its share of annoyances. I am the queen of the morning. I get up before everyone, have a cup of coffee, blog, and then wake up the kids. They eat breakfast while I shower. Then Mr. Geeky gets up and showers so basically we're all kind of getting ready at the same time. One thing I absolutely hate--and when I'm tired it rankles me even more--is when people yell for me but do not include in their yell what it is they need from me. It goes something like this:

"Moooooom!!"
"What?"
"Moooooom!!"
Me, stopping what I'm doing, moving closer to the vicinty of the yeller, "I said, what!"
"I need a glass of milk."
"Well, you're gonna have to wait. I'm naked."

Then, when I finally get dressed. "That took you forever. I yelled three times."
Some days, my children are lucky I let them live.

This scenerio happened at least 10 times this morning including a couple of times from Mr. Geeky. It drives me insane--really. I have to stop what I'm doing, go to another location, listen to the request, and fill it. And people wonder why I don't wear makeup. I'd only have time to do one eye--and that would not be an attractive look.

Oh, and guess what I was up late doing which led to me feeling cranky. Making Dutch colonial architechtural elements out of construction paper. (Yes, Geeky boy forgot an assignment again--forgot to write it down.) Do you know how hard it is to make a porch with railings out of construction paper? I'd snap a picture and show you, but frankly, I think my work is on about a 2nd grade level, 2 levels down from Geeky boy. It's going to be a rough day.

I could so work at Best Buy II

Mr. Geeky and I went out to buy some Christmas presents for ourselves. This is our tradition for almost every holiday that requires gifts. We get a joint big present, usually a gadget or appliance. Last year we got our smart phones. This year, we decided to get a digital video camera. We also decided we needed an external hard drive to hold the video and some other accoutrements. So I did my research on the digital video cameras. As always, Mr. Geeky and I try to get the biggest bang for our buck. Mr. Geeky left me to figure out the video cameras and wandered off to look at some other stuff. So I find the one recommended by David Pogue and start poking around on it. It's a nice camera, but I don't see a firewire out and I need firewire or it won't work with my Mac. So I ask the worker dude. The guy is 12. Okay, he's maybe right out of college, but he looks 12. I ask him about the firewire port on the camera. He points to the usb port and says, well, you can use that for both. It's a 4-pin port. I say, no it's not. I'm thinking I know what a 4-pin port looks like and that's not it and you cannot use one port for two different types of data transfer you ding dong. I point out that there's a little dv label on the front, but I don't see how to get to it. Finally, he figures out that the opening is impeded by their security device, so he takes that off and sure enough we find the real 4-pin firewire port. Told you so, buddy.

Later, the guy redeemed himself somewhat by giving us three different cameras that he thought were the best in our price range. We went with the cheapest and he seemed somewhat disappointed, but hey, we're living on academic salaries here. I think we'll probably be buying a new camera in 3 years, but by then I figure they'll have hard drives instead of tape.

On the way home, I noted to Mr. Geeky that no women work at Best Buy and that it's scary that I know more than the worker dudes about most everything. I mean, I really don't know everything even if I pretend I do.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Random Monday thoughts

1. Must do some housewifery today: clean up my own desk, clean Geeky Girl's room (really organize it), get laundry under control.
2. It's really cold--10 degrees. Miraculously our bathroom pipes didn't freeze. We're trying to figure out what the root of the problem is.
3. I should also do some writing today. Which project to tackle? Forge ahead with the one I'm stuck on or work on the one I'm more interested in or a little of both.
4. Feeling inclined to do some baking, but I don't think this will fit into the schedule.
5. Things I've asked for for Christmas: usb hub, shelving, hard drive, warm workout clothes.
6. Things I will probably get for Christmas: clothes I don't like, a kitchen gadget I don't want or need, money (the only good thing).
7. Need to send out the remaining Christmas cards.
8. David Pogue (NYT technology guru) recommended either a Kodak camera or the Canon model above the one I got--am I cool or what?
9. Must charge the iPod and import some more of the CD collection (horrible though it is--ok, maybe eccentric).
10. Should probably pay the bills, check the finances. I hate doing this. Can't we just go the Star Trek route and live without money? Sigh.

An even 10. It's more of a to-do list I guess. Oh well.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Christmas Fire Truck

The Christmas Fire Truck
The Christmas Fire Truck,
originally uploaded by lorda.
I thought half the neighborhood was burning down their houses as a result of faulty wiring and dead Christmas trees. It turns out the fire department was going around handing out candy. The truck went up and down all the streets in the neighborhood. It was drizzling, so Geeky boy didn't feel like going out, but we snapped a few photos. You can't see the elf on the front or Santa, another elf and a clown (I guess they ran out of elf outfits) on the other side of the truck. Pretty fun.

The personal and the political

This women blogging thing has gotten under my skin. I don't know why. It's come up before and didn't bug me so much then. There's this assumption out there that in order for women to become "good" at blogging, they must be serious. They must stick to politics or some other topic that isn't personal. Personal bad; impersonal good. Apparently, we've stepped back to the 60s and we need Gloria Steinem again. At one point in my blog, I said something about considering the personal to be political and that I would try to find the political in the personal stories I tell.

I don't think I can do that with every single post I've made, but I can with many. If I wanted, I could turn the posts about Christmas present purchasing and receiving into something about the commercialisation of Christmas, about stores like Wal-Mart, Target, etc. exploiting their workers and the workers who manufacture the products they sell so that middle class folks like me don't have to spend too much money. It's an issue I care about, but it hasn't led me to boycott Target or to even write about. Mainly because I don't know what to do about it. I feel helpless so I just continue to shop. Maybe I should have said that instead of what I did say.

On writing Christmas cards, I could have noted that I'd fallen into a gender role where it is assumed that the female partner maintain the family's personal relationships and generally manages all things personal having to do with the family. Really, if the work world is going to change, men are going to have to start taking on these responsibilities. They are time-consuming drudge work. But what man is going to say that they need a half day off work to write Christmas cards or go Christmas shopping. No one blinked when I said this was what I was doing on my days off. They probably would have looked at my husband like he was from outer space. The other route to go is to not place so much importance on this kind of personal work. I've done that before--no cards--but then I feel disconnected. What do same-sex couples do? I've never asked the ones I know. Perhaps there's more equity. I'm certain there are more heterosexual couples where there's more equity.

My story about Best Buy could be slanted as yet another sign that men think women don't know anything about technology. It's happened to me soooo many times. Sexism is rampant in the technology world--at least in mine. It's part of why I enjoy working at a women's college and teaching the students how to navigate the technology world. So they can go to Best Buy and show up some smart-ass sales clerk. Seriously. I have never seen a woman working in the technology heavy areas of Best Buy. And the students I teach are headed for computer science programs and engineering schools, so they're going to be way beyond those Best Buy boys very soon. But somehow, the Best Buy boys still think they're better than them. Why? Perhaps because they wear their geekiness on their sleeves. Do women? I certainly don't--until I open my mouth.

So maybe I should include in my posts some facts and figures. Would I be more serious if I pointed out that the number of women entering computer science programs is on the decline? If I pointed out that while men are contributing a little more to household duties than they did 20 years ago that women still work more hours on domestic chores than men do? Perhaps. But isn't it more fun to read a story, to connect that story to your own life? I think so, but I do think that there is a political underbelly to nearly every personal story out there.

What's in the stories about students and grading (which I love reading)? What's in the stories about departmental politics? About the struggles to write and get published? About the struggle for tenure? About dealing with school teachers who just don't get why your child is the way he/she is? There's a little bit of political in all of those and just because you express it as a personal story doesn't mean it's not political.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Women, Academics, and Blogs, Oh My

First, there was the Chronicle article (found via 11D) about the lack of women in academia. Then, there was the discussion about the lack of female academic bloggers on Crooked Timber. The originals of both of these are pretty tame on their surface, simply trying to analyze an observable fact. In the comments, however, is where all the action is. In those comments, people say things like women aren't interested in politics or their politics are more related to domestic issues or they're more interested in domestic issues. I hate it when people speak for me. So I'm not going to speak for other women, just for me, but maybe my specific example will give some of those "women are only interested in . . ." commenters some information.

First, my blog contains a variety of topics, from the mundane to the esoteric. If I had to blog about politics all the time, I'd be bored. That does not mean I'm not interested in politics. It means I'm interested in a lot of different things including politics. My blogroll is reflective of those interests. Of the 71 links I have on my blogroll, 41 are women bloggers, mostly academics, 22 are men, 4 are unknown and 4 are group blogs. I have blogs that are more personal in nature, some related to my work, some political, and some parenting blogs. I have a gender gap the other way. Where these people get the idea that there are fewer women bloggers, I don't know. Near as I can tell, there aren't any definitive numbers on this yet. Perhaps when I teach my blog class, this is something we will try to quantify.

Now the politics. Nearly everyone in the Crooked Timber post assumed that women were most interested in the work/family divide issue. I admit that this is often a big issue for me as it's the most immediate. The fact that I live in a society that values work over mothering, that values production over service, that creates a culture where men don't feel compelled to contribute to domestic life, that does absolutely nothing to reward women who stay at home, and that does very little to help women balance work and family life directly affects how I live on a day-to-day basis. When I think about why it is that I'm cooking and grocery shopping and doing the laundry, there certainly are personal and relationship-related reasons that the burden falls to me, but there are also cultural reasons. For example, if Mr. Geeky doesn't spend a little extra time on that article while I'm working on dinner, he might not have a job in a couple of years. That is an attitude and work habit he has that has been cultivated by the environment he finds himself in. He once said to me that his male colleagues who have stay-at-home wives seem to be so much more productive that he is. He followed that up quickly by letting me know he did not want me to quit my job so that he could be more productive. It just seemed an unfair balance to him, that the system he found himself in was basically built upon the notion that someone was at home dealing with the mundane details of life, upon female oppression perhaps.

So while the work/family issue might be the most pressing because it affects me every day, I'm interested in many, many other political issues: abortion, civil rights/liberties, copyright, the war in Iraq, Social Security. I may not blog about those as much because they are further removed from my daily life (although I have a Social Security post in my head right now).

On the women in academics issue, I think it is an issue no matter what the commenters on the Chronicle article say. When I was getting my degree, I read Women of Academe which was an interesting but scary read. Plus there was plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that women had a difficult time in academe. When I started looking for an academic position at either a community college or in a non-tenure-track position, I realized very quickly that the work load would be too much for me (4 classes of 20-25 students each). I would likely be working a minimum of 60 hours a week. With my husband already in a tenure-track position and with two children, that just wasn't going to work for me. Maybe someone else can juggle all of that, but I knew I couldn't. And that's just the practical side of things. In certain fields, there are all kinds of subtle ways women are kept at bay, often beginning in undergrad. Although most of the women academic bloggers I read do not post much about the gender issues in their fields, there is the occasional post--about male academics sleeping with female students--that suggest that there are issues related to gender that continue.

I noted in counting up my blog links that all the blogs related to my work are by men. I have a link to my professional blog, but that's the only one I know of that's by a woman. I haven't run into them very often. I'm happy to be corrected on that point. It's interesting to me that here we are in 2004, almost 2005, and we still have problems dealing with gender in many realms of our lives. And it seems the current administration is taking a few strides backwards in this regard, so I expect it to be an issue for years to come. I don't plan on being complacent.

Friday, December 17, 2004

On my own

So I'm on my own this weekend without Mr. Geeky or Geeky Girl, but Geeky boy will be here. Mr. Geeky and Geeky Girl are headed to Virginia to hang out with some friends of ours--actually my ex-boyfriend from high school, his wife and their kids. Geeky Boy and I are feeling a little under the weather and, quite frankly, a little anti-social. This shing-dig is an outdoor party and neither of us felt up to standing out in the freezing cold (there is a bonfire, but still). I just get this way sometimes. I want to be alone. I've had a lot of holiday parties this week, the most recent being the college-wide party last night. I can't take much more socializing. I want to hang out and watch bad tv. I finished Christmas shopping. I just have a few more cards to send and then I'm completely done.

I also have no car this weekend, but luckily, we live a block and a half away from the main town center. Food, drink, and supplies are just a brisk walk away. I have some reading to do and perhaps some writing. And I really want to tidy up my desk. So it's going to relaxing, finally, with no work until Jan 3.

I'm so proud

I'm number 6 in a google search for "geeky."

Thursday, December 16, 2004

I could so work at Best Buy

Because I'm a technologist and all-around geek, I spend a fair amount of time in computer/technology stores. Usually, I have done my research; I know exactly what I want down to the last bit. Despite this, because I'm a girl, I often am treated as if I know nothing. And sometimes I don't, but I know a lot about technology and can usually make pretty good decisions. On this particular trip to buy a digital camera for Mr. Geeky for Christmas, I hadn't researched my options because I decided to do this at the last minute. I have a digital camera, a decent one in fact, but Mr. Geeky is always borrowing it and it's only a 2 megapixel one, so I thought it would be nice to upgrade. I knew I wanted at least a 4 megapixel camera, preferably with compact flash memory (since that's what our old camera uses), and I knew my price limit. Armed with at least those qualifications, I wandered around the display, looked at the specs and the prices and made a choice. I decided to go with a Canon A85, mainly because it was the cheapest 4 megapixel camera they had without looking like it was going to fall apart. I trust Canon to make a halfway decent camera.

So I'm waiting for the worker dude to get the camera out from the locked cabinet. He's in the middle of a spiel to a middle-aged man buying his first digital camera. He's explaining all about how you need more megapixels and the rechargable cameras are better. He does say that he likes the Canon cameras the best. When he stops, I ask for my camera and the middle-aged man asks me why I chose that camera. Well, I didn't really have a good reason. I mean, "it was the cheapest" was my main reason. So I explained that I wanted 4 megapixels and that I was happy with my old camera and just wanted a bit of an upgrade and I threw in something about zooming.

So worker dude says, well, yeah, but this uses AA batteries that wear out and cost a fortune. Well I happen to know that I've only changed the batteries in my camera about twice a year. I use the regular duracell batteries that cost about 5 bucks a pack. Well worker dude says I should use lithium batteries, blah, blah, blah. The middle-aged guy asks how long before the batteries run out. Worker dude says about 12 hours. You can see middle-aged man thinking, I never use my camera for 12 hours straight. This guy is full of shit. Then I say, don't the batteries in the rechargeable cameras die eventually too and then you have to buy a new camera or pay a buttload for those fancy batteries. He says, yeah, but not for two years. I say, well, I've had my current camera for five years. Middle-aged guy is doing the math and it's working in my favor. So the worker dude finally gets my camera out and starts walking me over to the cashier. Middle-aged guy thanks worker dude, but especially thanks me. Ha!

On the way to the cashier, worker dude asks me if I need memory. I say no, I've got a 64 mb and a 32 mb card at home. What about a card reader? No, I've got one that reads 7 different kinds of cards. How about batteries? Nope, got those too. Dude, give it up. I'm better than you.

I find out at the cash register that not only is the base price good--and the cashier is waaaay nicer than worker dude, complimenting me on my choice--but I get a $25 gift certificate and a $50 rebate. Very cool.

Later, I'm relating this story to a friend and she says, yeah, I did all this research and decided that the Canon A85 was the best bang for the buck. Ha! I'm good even without my research.

List of done things

A la Dr. B, here's a list (keep in mind, I was *not* working). A more interesting post will come later.

1. Old navy--new coat and hat for geeky girl who's going to an outdoor party this weekend.
2. Kohl's--mittens for Geeky Girl, pjs and bathrobes for both kids (xmas eve present)
3. Borders--books and calendars for both kids
4. Home for lunch and wrapping the above
5. Jiffy Lube for the works (about an hour here)
6. Best buy for Mr. Geeky (will post details about this later)
7. Target for some random forgotten stuff.
8. Home to wrap. 20 minutes later, had to pick up kids and Mr. Geeky.

For someone who was avoiding consumerism, I'm sure consuming a lot. Shew!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Nostalgia for a person you no longer are

I was catching up on my blog reading and I ran into this post at Ravings of a Corporate Mommy about missing her best friend and her support, missing the flirting, the wild abandon of youth. In very recent years, I have been nostalgic for the person I was in college and just beyond, when men regularly bought me drinks and I felt like I turned heads (at least a few) when I walked in a room. There were few consequences for staying out late and getting drunk. No kids to wake up with. As I've aged, I have turned fewer and fewer heads. People don't flirt with me, partly because I never initiate anything and I used too--a lot. And I don't get drunk every weekend, maybe just once a month. :)

I kind of got over this nostalgia on a recent trip to Key West with my sister-in-law. We've been twice together now. We have rules about this trip. No elaborate planning, no fancy clothes, no makeup. We stay out late and sleep late. We drink a lot. In a way, we get to be those youthful people again. My sister-in-law is single so she picks up guys sometimes. On this last trip, I realized for the first time that I was no longer attracted to men under 30. They all looked the same to me somehow, sort of like paperboard cutouts. Now I don't look too bad for my age. I'm still wearing the same size I wore in college, but I'm not in shape and of course, I have the requisite smile lines and gray hairs (which I cover, btw). But still, not bad. But the twenty-something guys I used to be attracted to are not looking at me anymore--at least not that I've noticed.

For the last night of these trips, I make a bet with my sil to see if I can pick up a man. The deal is sealed if I can get a guy to dance with me or buy me a drink. If I can do both, woo hoo. (I realize the anti-feminism of this whole thing, but stay with me for a moment).

On the first trip, I failed miserably. The best I could do was a fat park ranger in flip flops. We danced. While we were dancing, I glanced over at my sil who's with another guy. We I turned back, my guy was gone . . . because he had fallen down like a weeble. Back up he popped and we finished our dance. We left expeditiously.

This time around was different. We went to a better bar--more locals, less park rangers. This time I was picked up by a man in his 50s at least, possibly 60. We danced and boy, could this man dance. I was twirled and dipped and two-stepped all over the floor. Afterwards he bought me a drink. He wanted to take me out on his boat and show me the sunrise. He told me I was amazing. I managed to semi-politely work my out of the situation without revealing my married status. But it was nice to garner that kind of attention. And it was the first time I thought about men much older than me and thought of them as attractive. It was an odd shift for me, from thinking of myself as a twenty-something who considers twenty-somethings, maybe thirty-somethings to thinking of myself as pushing forty and realizing that sixty is not that old. And you know what, I liked it. It was good not trying to be twenty-something again.

The Greater Good

So I finished up my shopping at Greatergood.com. Really a worthwhile experience and if you feel a little down about Christmas, this will make you feel better. Really. They have really neat stuff, a lot of it fair trade and handmade. You can also simply donate to one cause or another. I purchased things for my father and stepmom through the breast cancer site. My purchase contribute 5% to a mammogram and a certain percentage also went to breast cancer research. For my mom, I shopped at The Hunger Site and at the Animal Rescue Site where my purchase contributed a fair amount of food for both humans and animals. Also, a percentage went to The Nature Conservancy. I came really close to buying 25 trees in my mom's name to help preserve the monarch butterfly's habitat. I'm definitely doing this again--for birthdays and other occasions too. The big downside is that there's no gift wrapping and I didn't order in time to have the stuff sent to me for wrapping. It took me so long just to decide what I was going to do. Next year, I'll be better prepared. Oh, and the shipping was only 2.95.

Monday, December 13, 2004

A rare post about the kids

I don't really blog much about my kids, mainly because I don't define myself by them. It's actually odd that I have "mom" in my blog title because I usually don't define myself that way. When people find out I have kids, they are sometimes surprised. Apparently, I don't look very mom-like. I think I do, but I'm not good at being objective about my looks. I blog about parenting as a rather abstract concept when it's a very tangible and real part of my life, but I'm interested in parenting as a social construct more so than my own methods of parenting.

But my kids do amazing things and say amazing things and I'm often quite proud of them.

Geeky Boy has a blog. I'm a bit concerned about this since he's only 9 and I worry about weirdos on the internet. It's a slim possibility I know, but still. Anyway, for now, I have the username and password and his blog isn't listed anywhere. I was reading it tonight. There are only four posts, but it's amazing how he's picked up the genre. He has clever titles, my favorite being "the day after yesterday = today was the busiest day of my life". He has a sense of audience, like someone might actually read his blog. He must have been in a writing mood today because he also created a newspaper for his class which was also really cute.

Geeky Girl, on the other hand, threw up on the bus today and I had to retrieve her from the nurse's office. There she was, happy as a clam, with a large blue bowl in her lap (just in case). She came home and sat on the couch, watched "Grandma got run over by a reindeer" for the millionth time and ate voraciously. I write the whole thing off to motion sickness. This is the second time she's thrown up on the bus and she used to throw up in the car on the way to preschool occasionally. But Geeky Girl does cool things too, just not today.

Random Monday morning thoughts

Well, I think I'm in Christmas card purgatory now. I'm not up on my Dante or I'd put myself into some more interesting level. I finished the letter ones, have them addressed, mostly stamped and ready to mail. I have a few others to send to immediate family that will include the kids' school pictures and some other snapshots.

I stayed up way too late last night making photo books on Shutterfly for my parents. I did the softcover variety, but it only cost me 10 bucks so I think I should have gone for the hardcover. Maybe for father's day or mother's day.

Purchasing of other Christmas presents still needs to be done, and will be by this afternoon. Mr. GM gets home in about an hour from his trip to his folks and he'll probably begin working on his project for his family's presents. He's converting a bunch of old home movies (the 8 mm variety I believe) into DVD's. I'm helping with the editing part. In order to do this, we have to buy our Christmas present early--a digital video camera. The problem with being early adopters is that when you buy something and then the next great thing comes along, you can't afford it. We've had an analog video camera forever and have converted a good portion of the footage to digital format, but we haven't invested in the newer technology yet. I can't wait! I'm thinking of getting Mr. GM a digital camera as well since, once again, we got one of the first digital cameras and it is sooo outdated now.

I'm glad to not be working today, but I swear I've been busier on my days off than when I'm at work. I haven't done any writing. I'm even a little behind on my blog reading--heaven forfend! But the Christmas madness is almost over and I think I'll be able to resume a somewhat normal life soon.

Oh, and did I mention? There are 7 boxes from the inlaws, not just 5. I'm horrified. I talked to my mother-in-law and joked--sort of--that I was taking it all to Salvation Army. I am going to go through the kids' stuff and donate some of it--really! I mean, there are duplicates of things, so it doesn't make sense for us to keep it. But ugh, it really is a burden. I should just send it back and make her deal with it. Bah humbug!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Christmas Card Hell

That's where I am, where I have been almost all day. What possesses me to put myself through this torture? And why, oh why, can't software people make anything that works on something besides a Windows maching? First, I had trouble printing the letter. Then, I had problems with the pictures. Ran out of paper, photo paper and ink. Went to Staples. They are out of the original paper I had purchased months ago. In fact, their entire Christmas stationery display is empty. I have to dig through the remainder bin. I drop $100 on paper and ink. Then I'm trying to print labels. Apple Works will not cooperate. I can't get it to open a simple comma-delimited file without crashing. So, I hope over to the Linux box. I set everything up. I do the mail merge. Labels are off. I make some adjustments. Still off. I use Avery's handy-dandy online printing utility. Still off. Finally, I download a shareware program, Mail Factory and it works on the first try. I've got labels with "printed by Mail factory" on them because I haven't paid for the program yet, but I don't care. I want out of the hell I'm in. I had plans for the day. I was going to accomplish stuff dammit. But no . . .

Poll and other goofy things

So I added an official poll to settle my virtual graphic identity once and for all. Please take the poll so I can feel some sort of satisfaction. Feel free to comment here too. For some reason, I'm feeling the need to be official. :)

Also, I added the kid quote of the day in the sidebar which I doubt will be daily since my kids aren't *that* clever. Sometimes what they say amuses me so much, I just have to share.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

They're heeeere . . .

The presents from the inlaws, that is. Let me preface what I am about to say with the statement that my inlaws are nice people. They have treated me like a member of the family from the very beginning. I believe they always have good intentions. Now.

Yesterday, five very, very large boxes arrived from them. I decided to open them and put the presents under the tree. Except that they weren't wrapped! So, I could wrap them myself, which I'm thinking about, or I could put them out as being from Santa (that's our tradition; Santa's presents aren't wrapped). Mr. GM, who happens to be at their house right now, said we should go through them and donate some things to toys for tots or something. So we have three options, kind of. I'd like to wrap them cause dammit, if anyone's gonna be Santa around here, it's gonna be me and Mr. GM. But there is also too much stuff, so I'm all for donating some of it. I've seen Geeky Girl's box and there's at least one thing in there that she already has two of (given to her by the inlaws, of course).

We've discussed this with the inlaws sooo many times. We've argued everything from the practical: our house is too small for this much stuff; you really should spend the money on savings bonds or something to the moral: we don't want to teach our kids that this is what Christmas is all about; there are poor kids who might like to have this stuff. The first year we put our foot down was when we had just moved here and had to take a two-bedroom apartment. We used the practical angle. We just don't have room. We made my mother-in-law cry. Every year our arguments decrease because we're obviously not making headway. So we argue between us about how to handle it with the kids.

My feeling about all this is, you've had your turn, already. Give it up. We're the parents and we get to decide how many presents to give, what's from Santa, etc. I feel like I'm being usurped. I also believe that my mother-in-law especially equates love with presents. The more presents she gives, the more she shows she loves the kids. More importantly, she feels that if she only sends one or two things (as we've asked her to do), it will signal that she doesn't love the kids. My mom often sends money and tells me to buy something unless she's thought of the perfect gift. My dad calls and asks for one thing they might want and he goes and gets it. Occasionally, he also thinks of something on his own. The point is, they get one thing from each of my parents (who are divorced and remarried) and about 20 from Mr. GM's parents.

By the way, we settled our own gift giving dilemma. Mr. GM is making something for his whole family and I am buying things for my family through the sites where part of the money goes to charity. Next year, we've agreed to plan further in advance and make something for everyone.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Party Menu

In the spirit of David's post and resolution to have more dinner parties, I wanted to post my own menu (which isn't nearly as impressive as his) for my soiree on Saturday with a few of my students. It's an hors d'oevres and snack thing.

meatballs with chutney sauce
italian deviled eggs
assorted cheese and crackers
hummus with veggies and pita wedges
gingerbread
assorted christmas cookies
eggnog
wassail

I'll try to post pictures later. The house is finally coming together too. And if I stick to my resolution (thanks, David), it can only improve things.

To Ph.D or not Ph.D.

There is quite a discussion going in various places around the blog world about one single person's decision not to pursue the Ph.D. (I found it via wolf angel). The comments to the original post by this woman have gone way beyond reasonable. I do find her a bit whiney, but hey. Whenever I read about people deciding not to go on, not to finish, I take notice. I am an ABD myself with no plans to finish. I did a little bit of the sour grapes stuff myself--my advisor's not supportive enough, etc., but really what it comes down to is I'm not determined enough to get the degree in spite of many obstacles in the way. Despite not getting the degree, I feel pretty good about what I did accomplish. I have a master's degree where I had to write a thesis and take an oral exam covering the entire scope of literature from Beowulf to the present (we actually got to Hemingway). I took classes toward the Ph.D. while also caring for an infant and a child in kindergarten. I took both my written and oral exams (aced the orals), the written on Early Modern literature generally and the orals on Mary Wroth and sonnet sequences. I then spent a month in London doing a theater course. Then we moved and that's when it ended. When we moved, I had originally planned to finish, but after spending a year adjuncting and writing my dissertation (50 pages), I started looking at the job market and decided it just wasn't worth it. My degree would have been from a third-tier university and I knew going in that that put me in the market for the really bad jobs. Originally, I was thinking of teaching at a community college or something, but the pay is so low and the work load so high that again, I decided it wasn't worth it. I just don't like teaching *that* much. In addition, we were now living in a place where things cost so much more that I needed to get paid pretty well.

With the job outlook looking grim and my generally feeling lonely and discouraged, I received the final blow. I got a fairly negative review of my initial chapter from my director. I cried and cried and cried. I don't know why. I was already considering not finishing. I think that I had hoped for a really positive review which would have encouraged me to finish even if I rejected going on the academic market. About a week later, I began looking for jobs in my current field. I spent the week really thinking about where I was and what I wanted to do, what I was really drawn to doing during the days that I didn't teach. I was in front of the computer screen. I liked html coding, figuring out how gadgets worked, playing with new software, etc. In teaching, I incorporated all of this into my courses. I now need a job that would allow me to continue to do that.

Within two months, I had my dream job--honestly. When I saw the description for the job at the college where Mr. GM teaches, I said that's exactly what I want to do. I didn't think there was a snowball's chance in hell of my getting it, but I did and here I am. I love what I do and it helps to have the background I do even if it's without the extra 3 letters. I know what it's like to be in front of a classroom. I know what it's like to do real research, to be in front of an audience at a conference, etc. I like supporting those efforts. I get compliments regularly from people thanking me for the resources I provide. And I still get to think and do research and go to conferences and even teach. It's just that my career doesn't depend on those things anymore. So it's enjoyable again. And I make real money, which makes my life a lot easier in a lot of ways.

So I'm happy where I am, but I do think sometimes about what I might be missing out on. If I wanted to move up very far, I'd probably need those three letters. But life isn't about moving up for me. It's about balance. So far, things are balancing just fine.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Why I don't clean more often

Because it's boring. And, ironically, messy. As I dig through clutter, I can never decide what to keep, what to throw out. I usually err on the side of throwing out and so far have no regrets. I'm cleaning now mainly because I have the time and I'm having people over on Saturday. Coming on the heels of my we-should-have-the-choice-to-stay-home-or-not post below, it's amusing that I find myself bored with my day off pretending to be a housewife. I just don't find a clean house all that rewarding. For one thing, it doesn't last. And for another, no one really sees it. Is this what I would do all day if I were at home? I hope not. I think that my house would stay a little neater since I probably would spend some time tidying up. Hopefully, I would do things like volunteer at school and other places, write, read, something. Who invented housework anyway and made it necessary for women to keep a clean house? Was that Martha? Or Harriet? Or June? I have a good friend, a mom and a lawyer, who also doesn't keep a clean house. It makes me feel better about the piles of clutter in my own house. It does get overwhelming to look at after a while. You begin to think, "What's in those piles? Is it something important? Is important for me to know? For the surfaces of the counters to be seen?"

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The two-income problem, absent parents and music

There's a wonderful discussion going on at 11D as a result of a three-part review she did of Home Alone America by Mary Eberstadt. I was going to post a comment over there, but I had too much to say, some of it personal (as an absent mom myself). I found an excerpt of the book which kind of outraged me (and reminded me how out of touch I am with contemporary music).

I'll get to the excerpt in a minute. First, I wanted to say a few things about the discussion of the book as a whole. I haven't read the book but from what I can tell, based primarily on Laura's review, Eberstadt raises the issue of absent mothers and its affect on children. The parents not being at home apparently causes obesity, depression and suicide among children. As Laura points out, some of Eberstadt's data is a little shady and she offers no solutions (the commenters do, however, and they are worth reading!) Working mothers have been seen as problematic for as long as I can remember. My first real memories of this were of the Murphy Brown episodes and the ensuing Dan Quayle commentary. I'm sure it had been raging before this, but I was just starting to think about having children then, so it hit home more then. As the commenters to Laura's review point out, the blame often gets unfairly placed on the mothers and solutions often center upon providing something for the mothers (tax breaks, subsidies, etc.) instead of reorganizing work life around the family as a whole allowing a family to make choices about how much they work and how much they are at home.

If any of you have read some of my earlier posts on the subject, you know I agonize over the lack of time I feel I have to do simple things like help my children with their homework. I often find myself asking questions like, "Am I being selfish to work just so we can have more stuff and force my kids to be in daycare?" Yes, I probably am to some extent and maybe some would argue that either a) I should have stayed home and accepted a life that would be less fulfilling (for me because I've done this and did find it less fulfilling) and less financially stable or b) not have kids. I agree with what a lot of people have said about there needing to be more part time work. I work 35 hours a week which is considered full time. I could cut back to 30 and arrange my hours to be at home in time to meet my kids at the bus stop. I would lose my full-time status and thus, my benefits: life insurance, a tuition reimbursement program (50% up to the value of an education at my institution), 401(b) plan and pension. That's a lot to lose just so I can be home. Now it's possible I could negotiate for some pro-rated benefits, but my human resources department certainly isn't advertising this as a possibility. Should I consider being with my kids more important than a benefits package? Perhaps, but I happen to think I shouldn't have to choose between the two.

Harry, in his comment at 11D suggests that two-income families have allowed middle america to pursue "the american dream" (my phrasing, not his) of bigger houses, more cars, college education for their children, vacations, etc. And that what might be suggested by some of us, to encourage somehow a parent to stay home, might cut of that upward mobility. No one really likes downward mobility. It's a difficult thing for people to buy into. I admit that this is part of why I work. I wanted to get out of my two bedroom apartment that I was sharing with my husband and two children and into a house. We couldn't have done that without my having a decent income. We also live in an urban area with a high cost of living. We could easily live on my husband's salary alone if we lived in the midwest or parts of the south (we've live in both areas before). But we have a lot of extras that we could probably live without and that might make it possible to live on a single income: cable, internet access, two cars, lots of books and gadgets. It's just that I've gotten used to being able to buy books without first balancing my checkbook to the penny. I like that we have a little financial breathing room and I'm not ready to give that up. But I've thought about it because I do think it would be better for my kids (not necessarily anyone else's) if someone were home after school. And together, my husband and I are planning for it. It's likely that he will be home if he gets tenure.

At any rate, back to the excerpt. I have to say that I found the whole thing read like a halfway decent composition assignment (I'd have to give in an A- for a freshman; a B for a junior or senior). She had a lot of examples to show that contemporary musical lyrics are full of rages against divorce and absent parents, but she didn't back that up with any real data to show that divorce has increased dramatically in the last 20 years. In a very quick search, I found one statistic that shows that since 1991, the per capita divorce rate has actually decreased (update: this page actually shows that the divorce rate was at its highest 20 years ago). This may be too late for the point she is trying to make, but at least it's some hard data instead of her conjecture and long list of examples. I would also like to have seen some hard data on the real effects on kids. Instead she uses fan letters to support her claim. Perhaps the answer is not to try to force people to stay together, but to provide more support for marriage and for families who do split. Help them stay involved as families.

A lot of good discussion going on out there. I hope it continues. I'm not sure we'll find an answer, but perhaps we can work toward some possibilities.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Two down

Got the other one finished. Now my back hurts and I'm exhausted. And yet, there's more to do. Like getting the stuff that goes in the new furniture into it and putting lights on the tree . . .

One down, one to go

I built a fire. See? I put on the Christmas music and I built the tv stand. And now I need a break. My camera malfunctioned again and wouldn't download the pictures but because Geeky Mom is married to a geek (of course), I was able to "borrow" his card reader and download the pictures. It is rainy and gloomy out, the perfect day to be home. Now I have to contemplate lunch. There's not much here--eggs, egg noodles (notice a trend here), bread. I don't think there's even soup. I will need some sustenance to venture out to the produce store in this weather and I'll have to scrape together some cash. Hmm. We'll think about that later.

Vacation land--day one

So here I am with the day off. I'm still in my jammies. I'm trying to decide if I should shower now or wait until later. My housekeeper is here. Yes, I have a housekeeper. A lovely woman who probably makes more money than I do. I have the IKEA furniture to put together, some decorations to get out, a trip to the produce store and the five and dime planned, and some bill-paying. A full day. I'd also like to find the time to write a little, but am feeling compelled to get organized today, leaving me time to write on Thursday and Friday.

I'm looking around at all my various piles and hoping to make them at least smaller. I also have this weird desire to organize the kitchen cabinets--scary. I see everyone is kind of in a slump, dealing with grading, cranky students, and dumb meetings (I'd link, but choose pretty much any link to the right at random and you'll find something). I feel for you all. Been there and now must listen to it in person regularly from Mr. GM.

I think a shower is definitely in order. I need to be clean before I start cleaning the house.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Neptune--just one planet off Pluto





You Are From Neptune



You are dreamy and mystical, with a natural psychic ability.
You love music, poetry, dance, and (most of all) the open sea.
Your soul is filled with possibilities, and your heart overflows with compassion.
You can be in a room full of friendly people and feel all alone.
If you don't get carried away with one idea, your spiritual nature will see you through anything.




It's pretty darned accurate. I'm not sure about the psychic ability.

via Profgrrrrl

Vacation land for me

Hooray! I'm only going to be working 3 days between now and January 3rd. This may not seem that exciting to those of you in academia who will enjoy an entire month off, but I'm a 9-5er and I'm excited. I went to my boss (who's really great, btw) and said I have a problem, I have 9 days of vacation left (even after rolling over 5 and counting some time I had alread planned to take off). She got out her calender, corrected my math (I only had 6 days left it turned out) and said "well, there's parties next tues and thurs so you'll want to be here for those. This Wed. you're running a meeting, so I guess you're taking the rest of the days off." And so you have it. Free time out the wazoo. I can finally do some decluttering, baking, writing, and other fun stuff.

We ended up getting our tree tonight and as we rearranged the living room to accomodate it, Mr. GM decided it was time to replace the tv cabinet. So he went to IKEA. He said I needed some things to do tomorrow on my day off. So nice of him.

We still haven't decided exactly what to do about the presents, though we divided our tasks up. Mr. GM is going to think about what's best for his family and I'm going to think about mine. He likes the donation idea, but has the same dilemmas I mentioned in my earlier post. Everyone I mention this to says that it's such a nice idea, but. So I'm pondering it more and will decide something in the next few days.

In the meantime, there is a xmas letter to write. I really am not fond of these, but people have actually asked for them because we don't see the family very often. So I'm sending one with a nice picture of the kids in front of the xmas tree. Last year everyone made fun of my sil's letter. It was sooo over the top. We try to keep ours short and to the point and not braggy. Hers was 3 pages long, gushed about the most banal things--like a cupola they built themselves. She was on the verge of giving birth, so I write some of it off to hormones, but she comes by some of it naturally. So I'll try not to go there.

After I put the IKEA furniture together, I might have a chance to blog tomorrow. :)

I love egg, xmas version

So, sbfh hooked me up with "I Love Egg." But then I found the Xmas version--so cute. Here's a link to all the animations.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Pros and Cons of Donating versus Buying Presents

I'm toying with the idea of donating to causes in people's names rather than buying them presents. Even in poor years, I've managed to do presents, often by making them. I have less time now and honestly, I think the levels of consumerism has at least tripled in the last 10 years. So here's some thoughts I'm having.

Pros:

1. Good causes get some money.
2. I don't have to go shopping or shop online.
3. I don't have to agonize over "the perfect gift" for everyone.
4. The process would be finished--probably today.

Cons:

1. No one gets presents.
2. Guilt when I do get a present from someone and I've not gotten them anything.
3. No one gets presents.

I'm having trouble thinking of cons from a completely selfish point of view. The worst thing that could happen is that someone gets pissed off at me for not getting them something. It will certainly cause more of that "wacky liberal pinko commie" talk among the relatives. If my relatives need stuff, I'd be more inclined to buy presents for them, but everyone has everything they could possibly want and/or can afford to get things that they want. And I have good ideas for appropriate causes too. Look:

Sil # 1 (optometrist specializing in low vision patients)--donation to Institute for the Blind or some vision impaired organization
Bil (sil #1's hubby who is diabetic)--donation to American Diabetes Association
Sil # 2 (hubby's sister and only other dem in the family)--NOW or some other women's rights organization
FIL & MIL (joint gift; mil was a reading assistant in the classroom for 25 years)--children's literacy program
My dad and stepmom (joint gift; stepmom is breast cancer survivor)--Breast Cancer Research Institute
My Mom (smoker and alcoholic)--I'm tempted to donate to Lung Cancer Research; she might need it
Stepfather--no clue here

While I was making sure I had the names right, I found yet another cool organization that makes giving to charity easy. Just Give. Their site is a bit slow, but seems like a nice idea. You can create gift baskets of charitable giving. So I have to get Mr. GM to agree to this idea and decide for myself. It seems logical and like a nice thing to do. I have another Christmas dilemma which I will blog about later. I'm just feeling so bloggy today. :)

Some highlights from yesterday

We went out for breakfast (at noon) as a family. On the way there, Mr. GM and I were discussing China and its 9% economic growth rate and its demand for oil and the debt that the US owes it. I had read something about it in the morning and couldn't recall all the details. My son, 9, chimed in and wanted to know why a dollar wasn't a dollar. We explained how the dollar works--as best as two non-economists could--when it comes to buying foreign products or buying products made with foreign parts. Basically, we had a little macro-economics class. Kind of cute.

Kids eating at restaurants. My kids are well-behaved at restaurants. We've been taking them out to eat since they were tiny. I am completely annoyed when I have to sit next to ill behaved children at restaurants. Some kid was rattling continuously some game and it was really, really loud. The parents did not seem to be trying to stop him. It was loud. Admittedly, I had not had enough coffee.

Laundry rant. Why is it that I'm the only one who notices laundry? The pile in our room can be 5 feet high (no kidding) and Mr. GM will not say, "Hey, looks like we have a lot of laundry. Need some help with that?" No, the pile just magically gets lower and lower.

Watched Elf. It was a very cute movie. We all liked it. Made fun of lots of Christmas specials at the same time as it was a Christmas special itself.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Not that I didn't know it already





You Are a Liberal for Life



You've got a bleeding heart - and you're proud of it.

For you, liberal means being compassionate, pro-government, and anti-business.

You believe in equality for every person, and you consider yourself universally empathetic.

Helping others is not just political for you ... it's very personal too.




Writing for other people

I'm in a writing group and tomorrow night is our monthly meeting. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this group. On the one hand, it got me to start writing a novel based on my dissertation topic, a novel that is now about 100 pages long. On the other hand, I now feel obligated to write. Sometimes I just don't want to. But I can't show up with nothing when it's my turn to hand something in. I'm not sure I even like the novel. I'm not really a novelist--a writer, maybe--but not a novelist. The thing is it's a historical novel which means lots of research. I was realizing in the shower this morning that I really need to read another biography. It's a lot of back and forth between writing and research. And the research is hard to find. So I get easily frustrated. After all, I'm usually writing after the kids go to bed. I have a few books out of the university library, but I'm not sure they're that helpful and I'm planning to take them back. Most of my research ends up being poking around the internet. Mr. GM keeps saying I just need to finish it even if I don't like it that much or it ends up not being good. My friends in the writing group say it's pretty good, but I just can't see it yet. There are parts that are good--other parts not so good. I'm just not that compelled by it. Just before Thanksgiving, I gave myself permission not to work on it until after the holidays. And I think that's just fine. Not a good way to get a novel finished, but a good way to survive. Sometimes I feel like a fraud in this group because sometimes I just don't care about the writing that much. A couple of them seem so motivated, writing every spare moment. I'm just not like that. If I have a spare moment, I want to catch another episode of the daily show or take a bath. Or read blogs. :) I think I like looking at it as a hobby, something I'm pretty good at, but not good enough to be professional and I do it when I feel like it. If it's not enjoyable, why do it at all?

Sometimes I think I should quit the group and just write when I feel like it--even it that's never. Would the world be a better place with or without another crappy historical novel? And sometimes I get overwhelmed because in reality, being in the group creates more work for me. I have to read stuff and write stuff. Do I need that? I guarantee you that after I attend tomorrow, I'll feel all warm and fuzzy about them again because they are a really supportive group of people. What I probably need is more support, not less. If I could give and receive feedback more often, I might have a better chance. There are lots of times when I just want to bounce ideas off people and the people that come to mind are the people I'd be most embarrassed to know that I'm writing a novel. I'm also afraid to put anything substantial out there on the internet. The idea is a good one even if I don't execute it that well and I'm not sure I want someone to run off with it.

And . . . I have an idea for another book that I'm feeling more compelled to write than the current one and it requires no research because it's not historical. This has been a big problem for me historically. I get knee-deep in a good project, then just can't finish it because I get distracted by something new. I think I might just have to force myself to finish the first project before starting (wholeheartedly anyway) on the next. The funniest thing about all of this is that I don't *have* to do any of it. I don't need it for tenure or have an editor clamoring for something. Yet, I'm still managing to stress about it. And really, I'm a pretty laid-back person. Odd.

Firefox--some geekiness

I finally got around to downloading and installing firefox. I love it! I'm a mac person, so I've been using Safari for a while and there are things I like about Safari that Firefox still can't do. For instance, I sync my bookmarks between my home computer and work which I like very much. However, since I've started using Furl, that somewhat makes up for it. My favorite thing about firefox is the RSS bookmarking ability. Whenever you're on a page that has an rss feed, a little orange box shows up at the bottom. Then you can click on it and add it to your bookmarks. What I've been doing is setting up folders for the things I want to save rss feeds for, so there's blogs and newsfeeds, for example. The coolest thing is I've been putting my bookmarks in the sidebar, so I can very easily see headlines. I never have to leave my browser again. :)

There are all kinds of plugins and themes for firefox. I haven't tried too many of them, but they look interesting. So I'm all geeked out this morning and actually looking forward to bookmarking more things. What a cool world we live in! (Does Bush even know what an rss feed is?)

Friday, December 03, 2004

Education, Boredom and Challenging our Kids

There's a great discussion over at 11D about how much should we want our schools to challenge our kids. If our kids seem bored with school, should we say something? Should we just let them work it out on their own? Lots of interesting comments over there. I have two really smart kids. I think they're definitely going to be smarter than me. When we first moved to the area, my older son had just spent a year in kindergarten in a state that's ranked 49th in the NEA's rankings of "good schools." His school was excellent and his teacher was wonderful, so he'd learned a lot. She'd managed to make kindergarten fun, but also challenge the kids to learn letters, numbers, basic math, reading and even science. We ended up in a school here that was a public school but in competition with the private schools because its student body was primarily drawn from the most affluent neighborhood around. There was too much pressure. Though my son did well his first year, thanks to an understanding teacher, the second year was horrible. Things had to be perfect. Answers had to be correct and written neatly. I don't know any 8 year old boys who write neatly!

We moved (bought a house) and ended up at a school with a much broader spectrum of socioeconomic backgrounds in the student body. And I'm happy about this. Someone over at 11D was talking about learning to deal with boredom and I think that's very important. I may feel like moving my children to a more challenging school (possibly private) when they're in high school, but at the elementary level, I'm satisfied with them learning social skills, and being challenged, but not being pressured to be absolutely perfect. They can relax a little. Besides, my son asks questions that we encourage him to find answers to by looking it up. He's already learning to fill in the gaps. And that is as important as what he learns in school.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Abstinence-only sex education

I'm feeling spunkier today so I thought I'd start in on this topic. The Bush Administration has allocated nearly $170 million to promote abstinence-only sex education. This is more than the NEA gets ($120 million). Here's a good summary of the pertinent issues in the Bush Administration's policy. The thing is I'm not opposed to teaching abstinence per se, but only abstinence is just silly. Yes, it's true that abstinence is the best way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, and it is 100% effective. And yes, I would prefer for my children to wait until they're in a committed relationship before they have sex (note I did not say marriage). However, we have to be realistic here. Hormonal surges in teenagers do not usually lead to rational thinking nor are they necessarily conducive to saying no easily. I would much rather my children know about condoms and birth control if they end up having sex before they should. I do plan to discuss these things with them, but it will be helpful to have the school backing me up.

The other subtext to this whole argument is that sex is somehow something special that should be saved for someone special. I just don't buy that. Sex is sex. It can be special, but it's an animal instinct primarily. The people who promote these programs are often (but not always) the same people who want to promote teaching creationism or intelligent design (more on that another time). If you make sex into this "special" event that can only be shared with a "special" person then what happens when your first time sucks (as it often does). Do you feel like you've ruined something?

The Washington Post has an article on it today. One of my favorite facts--61% of all graduating high school seniors have had sex.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Note to self

When I'm well and can think straight again, must blog about abstinence-only sex education, aids and intelligent design/creationism being taught in school.

Sickness has set in

Well, it's official. I have the first cold of the season. Maybe the flu. I feel rotten, left work early. Didn't even have the energy to blog. The good news is Mr. GM took care of me, went to the store and made me egg noodles with butter and salt. Don't ask; it's something I've always craved when I feel low. He's a good man really. I'm lucky to have him. This is actually a pretty good time to be sick. I don't have that much to do. The end of the semester slows down for me as faculty and students are busy writing papers and preparing for exams and grading. So it's good.

Hopefully, I'll be better in a day or so and can start the Christmas preparations--decorating, buying presents (for good causes), writing Christmas cards, baking, all the stuff I love about the holiday season. It gives me comfort to think about sitting by a warm fire with some hot cocoa, smelling cinnamon and pine, watching the lights sparkle, and feeling all warm and cozy inside. I can't wait. For now, I'm going to sit back, take some more sudafed, and get some sleep.