Friday, December 30, 2005

I love my kids

This may seem like an obvious statement coming from a mom, but it's not something I say out loud that often, except to Mr. Geeky. I tell my kids I love them all the time too. But not anyone else. It's like it's our little secret, the love we have. A friend once told me I was the most unsentimental mom she'd ever met. And that's true. When my mother in law gave me a sappy poem about how quickly childhood passes, I didn't bat an eye. I generally don't fall in for that sappy sentimental stuff. No, it's the every day stuff that gets me.

It's the way Geeky Boy plays video games with me and suggests strategies that "play to my strengths." (Yes, he really said that.) It's the way Geeky Girl volunteers to scrub the walls and complains about not having enough boy Barbies to play Star Wars. It's when I watch Geeky Boy go out the door for a museum trip dangling his camera from his wrist. It's when I'm standing in the grocery store debating whether I really should buy another bag of chocolate chips and thinking about how Geeky Girl explained she wanted to make the round ones this time.

I don't get all choked up at the times when I'm supposed to--when they go off to school for the first time or score their first goal in soccer. Something catches me off guard--a word, a smirk, a cock of the head--and suddenly I realize how fleeting this is and I want to remember it forever. Some moms would, at such moments, rush over and hug their offspring and gush over them. I don't. That's just not who I am. Instead, I smile. I choke back the tears and just continue on, comforted by the knowledge that other such moments will come if I'm willing to watch for them.

Vacation is hard work

No, I'm not channeling W. I'm feeling very tired. For no good reason. Yes, I've been working on my proposal and doing a little grading and a little tidying up. But I've mostly been lying around on the couch. I haven't been exercising. I'm thinking about doing that today or tomorrow. I'm really not looking forward to going back to work. It's not that I don't want to work. It's just that I don't like the idea of going to a specific place and doing "work" for a certain amount of time. It has been blissful to be able to work for a couple of hours and take breaks. I may have to institute this same kind of working method at work.

In looking ahead at all the things I want to do over the next semester, I'm wondering how I'm going to fit it all in. I want to exercise regularly, write the dissertation, and of course, maintain my regular life. I'm not sure I can do it all. I've been thinking about the best schedule for dissertating since I have to fit it in around work. I'm thinking I might be able to do some time early in the morning now that it's getting lighter. I think I will have to try it and see if it works. I feel a little like the Little Engine That Could. I keep telling myself, "I think I can. I think I can." And then I just have to do it. If I think about it too much, I get overwhelmed. I have thoughts like, "I know someone's out there doing this better." But then I have to remind myself that that doesn't matter. All that matters is that I do it.

Tomorrow, I planning a no screens day. I might even extend that to Sunday. I may spend a little time writing on the proposal, but otherwise, I'm not going to look at a screen. I may have to go buy a book. :) I've read all the ones around here.

I leave you for the weekend with my resolutions:

1. Finish the dissertation
2. Finish the dissertation
3. Have fun.

Kind of simple this year.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Video game regulations

Congress and videogames: A bad mix - Glenn Reynolds -

Ever since I saw some congresspeople on a PBS show years ago talking with William F. Buckley about the need to regulate computers, I've been pretty much against it. My main reason for being against it isn't a legal one, though there are certainly legal arguments to be made, as Reynolds points out, such as the violation of free speech. No, my main reason for being against it is that these people so obviously don't understand what they're regulating. The congresspeople on the PBS show mispronounced DOS and showed a lack of understanding about the basic functioning of a computer. I'm not saying you have to understand the technology intimately, but you need to understand the basics. You need to know, for example, that a web site does not exist on your own computer (usually) and that you don't have to have a screen name to get on the internet (something my mom thinks) and that Google is not AOL, though it now owns part of it. Reynolds is right in saying that the people proposing the regulations on violent video games have probably not played a game since Pong. Now, I wouldn't let my kids play Doom (the new version of which looks really cool, but very bloody). But I've let them play SIMS 2 even though there's a little bit of sexual content. And they're playing all kinds of games right now--Spiderman, Tony Hawk, Mario Kart. Yeah, I'm thinking it might be good to have a "no screens" day soon. I'd love to see SIM congress, as Reynolds suggests. But unless it can be like Homer Simpson's version of "Mr. Smith goes to Washington," it probably won't sell.

Geeks are sexy

Wired News: 2005's 10 Sexiest Geeks

Well, of course, I'd like this list. There are quite a few bloggers on the list, scientists, and even a judge.

Why I shouldn't have caffeine before bed

For an hour or two, I wrote things in my head--this post, my proposal, my annual review, a proposal I'm working on for work. Then I thought about things I need to do and how I need a better off loading system. Do I remember any of it? No.

Thank FSM for coffee. I'm going to need a gallon or two. I'm hoping to continue the good working spree. Yay! That way I can kick back and enjoy the weekend.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Geeky Mom: I'm off

The link above is to my list of resolutions from last year. I accomplished one of them completely, part of another and the other in a very limited way. I'm thinking about my resolutions for this year. Anyone else?


We ventured out of the house today. Shocking, but true. Everything was actually fairly quiet. We had breakfast out, got some necessities, including food and drink, and then back home again. We're planning another excursion later in the day. I think that's one thing I like about the holidays--not having to go anywhere if you don't want to. I have tea on, planning to tackle more projects, all around relaxing.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Chaos taming begun

Well, the house is still a mess, but I've managed to get some work done. I wrote another paragraph or two on the proposal. I edited an essay. I checked work email (almost all junk). I graded two portfolios (two a day and I'm done!). I am about to embark on a new writing project and I need to work on a presentation and make some hotel reservations (these last two on the agenda for tomorrow). Life just doesn't slow down, does it. I'm planning to reward myself with a bath. :)

Geeky Boy woke at 5:00 a.m. with a fever and saying, "I think I'm going to throw up." Not something you want to hear at 5 a.m. Mr. Geeky dutifully tended to him and then set him up on the couch with a trashcan and a cold washrag (a cold-hot, as we call it). Right now he's lying on the couch watching his new Mythbusters video. I hope he's better soon so he can continue to enjoy his vacation.

Later, I may begin shovelling out the living room. It really is a fright.

Pictures finally up!

originally uploaded by lorda.
I've finally gotten the pictures up. Here's us at Christmas Eve dinner. The kids dressed up of their own accord after they saw the table set. It was pretty cute. I think we had just enough food this year, not much left over. It was all pretty simple--peas, mashed potatoes, rice, and ham. Maybe next year, I'll go for something fancier. Or maybe for New Year's Eve.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Peace and contentment followed by chaos

It truly has been a wonderful Christmas. Everyone seemed to receive the gifts they wanted and then some. The Geeky Kids got electronics out the wazoo. Geeky Boy got both the Nintendo DS and the PSP (thanks to some overly generous grandparents). He also got science stuff--microscope, Discovery channel videos, and a "gross science" kit. I was really glad we balanced out Geeky Girl's "girly" gifts from the grandparents with the Star Wars action figures. My dad also got her a solar system kit to hang from her ceiling. She spent an equal amount of time playing with Barbies, playing Nintendo with her brother and playing with the action figures.

Mr. Geeky built his own computer, my gift to him (which he bought himself). I got a new coffee pot and speakers for my iPod. The living room is covered in toys and bits and pieces of packaging. Every time I go through I pick up more stuff.

Tomorrow, I begin taming the chaos and go back to work a little. It's been nice to lie around and not do anything. Now that there are no more errands to run, presents to wrap or dinners to plan, I can settle into a semi-relaxed routine until work begins again in full on Jan. 3. I have some things I need to write and some things I want to write. I can't tame all the chaos. The place was pretty chaotic before the added chaos of the holiday.

I haven't gotten pictures up yet because I can't find the cable. I could use the card reader, but it's in my office which is cold (no insulation) and has its own form of chaos that needs to be tamed (and that's what I'm going to tackle tomorrow). So, I promise I'll get something up tomorrow. Scrivener's got some cute ones up. Anyone else?

Happy Holidays!

I hope everyone is having a wonderfully relaxing day. I know we are. I hope to have some Flickr photos up soon.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Christmas Eve!

Mr. Geeky woke me up at 7:30 this morning because he's so excited. He's worse than the kids. Geeky Boy brought down his Playstation, another tradtion for us. We all play games together. Today will be filled with baking and cooking, Christmas music, puzzle working, video games, and general merriment.

Those of you who have time to stop by, I have a question. What's the worst gift you've gotten for Christmas? The best?

The worst gift I ever got was a shop vac. The best was a case of different kinds of holiday beer. Ironically, both came from the same person. Share away and I'll post the results later.

Update: Some results:

Best gifts:
tickets to Cirque de Soleil
dance lessons
stereo system
Pilsbury Dough boy magnets
pair of 1/4 ct. diamond earrings
part of a car
engagement ring plus proposal to go with it

Worst gifts:
automated change sorter
indoor electric grill
pizza-shaped tupperware
the flu
library book
pink t-shirt with rainbow of hearts
5 gallon tins of stale popcorn
an aquarium, completely empty
sewing machine with all the accoutrements

You have to read the comments below to see all the stories that go with these. Keep em coming if you wish. Maybe all you parents up late putting together toys would like to chip in.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas Random 10

I don't have all my Christmas music on the iPod yet, but here's a sampling of what I do have:

Jingle Bells (no artist listed)
Weihnachen - Christmas in Vienna IV
Frosty the Snowman - Bing Crosby
The Little Drummer Boy - Bing Crosby
Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy - Bing Crosby, David Bowie
I Wonder as I Wander - Christmas in Vienna IV
Christmas Dinner Country Style - Bing Crosby
Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey - Lou Monte
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - Dean Martin
Silent Night - Christmas in Vienna IV

RevGal reminded me of some wonderful Christmas music. When Geeky Boy was very young, I used to sing him Christmas songs to get him to sleep no matter what time of year it was. His favorite was "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem." I love singing that song too.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas Traditions: Puzzles

One year, when I was about 10 or 11 and my sister was 6 or 7, our neighbor across the street brought us a present. It has been a cold winter. There was snow. We'd been out of school for a few days, so my mom let us open it. Inside was a puzzle, Verticalville. My mother set up a card table for us to work on and away we went. Verticalville was the first puzzle created by Bob Martin. It is a cartoonish puzzle with crazy characters running all over the place. As you're working the puzzle, you discover more and more funny and interesting things. We were kept occupied for hours. Mom was happy and we were happy.

After that first year, it became a tradition to get a puzzle. We got more Bob Martin puzzles, but as we got older, we also got more challenging puzzles. There was one of Christmas candy that all looked the same. There was a Norman Rockwell Santa one that was huge. We had to do that one on the dining room table. Christmas dinner was held on only one half of the table so that the puzzle could remain undisturbed. The entire family participated in the puzzle-making, though usually not all at once. My sister and I were the most earnest workers and most often worked together.

One of my fondest memories of Christmas began as a disaster. Our house was an old house with oil heat. On Christmas Eve, we ran out of heating oil. No one could get to us until the 27th or 28th. Though we lived in the south, we lived in the mountains, so it got cold in the winters. Typically, it got down to the 20s and 30s at night and we'd had some winters that were colder still. Two rooms in the house that had been added on later had electric heat, the family room and my parents' bedroom. On Christmas Eve, my sister and I got to sleep in sleeping bags in the family room. We actually spent most of the day out there and my parents spent most of the day in their room, all of us watching tv and reading. My sister and I, however, were obsesssed with working the puzzle, which was on a card table in the living room. To go work on it, we donned our ski clothes, which were kept in the family room, and braved the cold of the living room to work on the puzzle. When our fingers got too numb, we'd warm up in the family room and then go back for another round.

Last year, we had our first real attempt at working a puzzle. We got a panorama of Philadelphia and we got a good portion of it done before we all had to go back to work and school. This year, we got a puzzle that resembles Bob Martin's Verticalville. It's full of crazy people playing soccer and cheering on the soccer players. There will be fun discoveries along the way and it will be another way to spend time together.

And now it gets lighter

Yay! Each day gets longer from here on out. That's why I love winter solstice. It means we're headed up.

I finished up some last minute shopping and errands. As I was paying for my groceries, my cell phone began ringing. Mr. Geeky calling to tell me that Geeky Girl is sick and needs to be picked up. Sigh. I get well, the kids get sick.

We watched March of the Penguins. What a cute movie. Though it did make me feel cold. Now I've got wrapping to do and dinner to make.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Dolls n shit (tm)

Several months ago, I posted about the AFA boycotting the American Girl line of dolls. Well, they're doing it. And tonight on CBS News, they interviewed a woman who is specifically not buying American Girl dolls because the company supports Roe v. Wade. The company also supports underpriviledged girls and encourages openness toward girls who are lesbian. Mattel has announced that they won't continue their partnership with them. A Catholic school cancelled a fashion show.

Here's a nice opinion piece in the Seattle Times that thinks the Christians aren't being very Christian. But then here is her counterpart, who's frothing at the mouth a little. Pro Life groups picketed American Girl Place in New York.

I'm not opposed to anyone protesting. Heck, I do it all the time. I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart. There are products I won't buy. Usually, though, I'm protesting something because small children are being paid 5 cents to make something or animals are being tortured or something. It just seems like the good of what Girls, Inc. does far outweighs the perceived (by the right) bad. Also, it's only one product that supports Girls, Inc., an "I Can" bracelet. It's not like a portion of the company's entire profits is going to Girls, Inc. I'm happy to say that we own one American Girl doll and another is under the tree. Wonder if my news-deprived and conservative mother-in-law realizes that she's purchasing products from the devil?

Nothing doing

I did nothing all day long. Nothing. Nada. Rien. Nichts. Niente. Actually, I spent the whole day on the f*cking xmas card. My initial simple plan didn't work out thanks to uncooperative computers and printers. Literally, all I've done all day is tweak templates and text and photos. Note to self: do not do this next year. Seriously, I don't see the point. Why? Why? [shaking fist at the heavens]

I was going to make cookies or something. Do laundry. Toy around with the proposal. Tweak a web site. Grade a portfolio or two. But no, the xmas card prevailed. It is the devil, I think.

And tell me, when you have two packages coming from UPS, and they're both at the same weigh station waiting to be delivered, why does one and not the other show up? Makes no sense. Will the other show up later today? It says it's due to arrive today.

On a positive note, my dad sent me an entire case of pinot from Oregon. So that will quell the whining.

The technology angle

You should really read these two Ars Technica posts about the possible technology behind this wiretapping. Like many people who don't really understand technology, the Bush administration assumes that it's a panacea and much more effective than human beings. I really do think it's important for non technical people to understand the technology and what it is and isn't capable of and the collateral damage it might inflict along the way. Not to make people fear technology, but to know its limits and to use it appropriately.

For your reading pleasure

More on the spy game:

The NYT explains that the NSA may have accidentally listened in on domestic calls, where both parties were on American soil.

A FISA court judge resigns in protest.

The Washington Times (!) thinks this spying thing is a really bad thing. Money quote:
President Bush presents a clear and present danger to the rule of law. He cannot be trusted to conduct the war against global terrorism with a decent respect for civil liberties and checks against executive abuses. Congress should swiftly enact a code that would require Mr. Bush to obtain legislative consent for every counterterrorism measure that would materially impair individual freedoms.
On the other hand, we've been here before, though I have to say the argument took place before any spying took place. Big difference there.

Even George Will is a little uneasy.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

This is where it starts

I've been reading with interest several posts about the lack of women pursuing Computer Science degrees. As you all may or may not know, Mr. Geeky teaches CS at Bryn Mawr, an all women's college. Part of why he wanted to come to Bryn Mawr was because he is very interested in increasing the numbers of women in CS. And then there's my own geekiness. I very well might have become a CS major if it hadn't been so hardware and serious code-oriented in the late 80s/early 90s. Also, I was the only woman in the one CS class I took. I nearly failed, both because I found the material simultaneously boring and incomprehensible and because it was an 8 a.m. class. What can I say? I'm not a morning person.

Mr. Geeky and I went Christmas shopping today. Though we have indulged Geeky Girl's propensity for pink and purple, we generally try to interest her in things that are not gender specific. Two days ago, Geeky Girl and I were home alone and I was making cookies. I asked if she wanted to help (Geeky Boy would have helped too if he'd been there). She said yes, but then she never showed up. I cut out all the cookies and baked them and had a pile of cookies to decorate. I harched upstairs to ask her if she wanted to decorate. This time she came down immediately. I asked her what had kept her occupied for the last hour.

"Barbies," she said.
"Oh really," I said. "What were you doing with them?"
"Playing Star Wars."
"I see." Geeky Girl has a slight obsession with Star Wars.
"Only, I don't have enough boy Barbies to play right."
"Oh really?"
"Yeah, I just have one and that's not enough."

So naturally, I decide she must have Star Wars action figures for Christmas. Mr. Geeky agrees. Now, the way presents work at our house is that there are presents from us, wrapped and then presents from Santa, unwrapped, that mysteriously appear after they go to bed on Christmas Eve. Mr. Geeky and I had already decided to get them each some kind of portable game unit from Santa since that's what they both asked for. (We settled on the Nintendo DS, btw.) For presents from us, we settled on the action figures for Geeky Girl and a microscope set for Geeky Boy.

After scouring the land for everything today, we wrapped what we needed to and hid the rest. Then we decided to open the boxes from Mr. Geeky's parents. They way overdo Christmas and I have big issues about it that I should probably have investigated at some point, but let's just say that every year, I have a conniption over the presents they send. At least this year, they wrapped the presents and in each box, they put a list of what what included and for whom. For Geeky Boy, they got a PSP (thanks for telling us; good thing we didn't get that and yes, that's part of my conniption). Geeky Girl's stuff is, well, girl stuff: dolls n shittm.

And that's why I say, this is where it starts. Geeky Girl is 6 and she's already gotten the idea based on what her grandparents and other relatives and friends give her that video games are for boys and dolls n shittm are for girls. I nearly had another conniption over that. I was lucky in that my dad never really thought of us as girls and my mom didn't really force us into girl stuff until we hit puberty, so we got pong and then intellivision and I spent lots of money at the arcade and I was the only person I knew who had their own computer at college (no hard drive, mind you). I want Geeky Girl to decide for herself, not to feel like something is a "girl thing" or a "boy thing." She already thinks that. She tells me what things are for girls and what things are for boys. Oh, and you can bet that Geeky Boy has been trained--by us, that is. He's great with her. He teaches her how to play his video games. He doesn't tell her that it's for boys.

This kind of shit drives me batty because it happens so early without you really realizing it. The world is quickly divided into pink and blue aisles and FSM forgive you if you walk down the wrong one. (Actually, the FSM probably wouldn't care, but whatever.) For what it's worth, Star Wars figures are in the blue aisle and the Padme figure is pregnant (because that's what women are for), but we got it anyway. *This* is what makes parenting hard, because you're not just fighting against your inlaws or a couple of backwards people, you're fighting and entire industry.

I think we're gonna need that 2nd amendment

Not that I want to take up arms or anything, but it's getting desperate. Thanks to David, who's been blogging up a storm about these things.

Someone remind me. Aside from the resolution about Iraq, have we officially declared war on anyone? I mean we've been in some kind of vague war since I can remember--war on drugs, war on poverty, war on crime, now war on terrorism. And maybe we're in an age where we don't wage war on a specific country, but you can't use this vague war to excuse spying on your own people or spying on organizations that are using their first amendment rights.

I think what creeps me out most about the whole thing is the vigorous defense by the administration. Methinks they doth protest too much.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Functional, but none too happy

Well, the cold is in full gear and oh, what a cold it is. It could be worse, mind you, but since this is the first cold of the season, I have nothing to compare it to. So, to me, it's bad. I am medicated, but it's pretty mild medication--sudafed and advil. Anyway, the medication isn't quite doing the trick and if anyone has suggestions that don't make me feel too wacked out, I'll take them.

So here was my day. Like you care, but I need to share. Kids have a half day, as I mentioned. In the two short hours they were away, I managed to write a little, read a little, and do some laundry. Then Mr. Geeky took us to Arby's for lunch. I know, he's a sweetie. He dropped us back home while he went to parent-teacher conferences (the reason for the half day). I do more laundry, a little blogging and when Mr. Geeky gets back, it's time to go out into the world. I have to go to the post office and the grocery store, which are pretty much right next to each other. Well, the line at the post office is out the door, of course. Oh, and did I mention I'm in sweats because all my clothes are in the wash. I also have on no makeup and my nose is running. Lovely, just lovely. I have two packages, one small, one medium. They're not too heavy but after what seems like hours, they start to gain weight. No one in the post office looks happy. It's not a pretty place to be. There's got to be a better way. And it cost me a fortune to mail that stuff. And I'm not done!

Okay, so I leave the post office and drive around the corner to the grocery store. It's before 5, but it's still packed. I hate going out during the holiday season because people who don't normally leave their house are suddenly out in droves because relatives are coming or whatever. I see this woman, age unknown, but likely beyond retirement age, who has almost literally painted her face. Her eyebrows are nowhere near where her real eyebrows should be and her lipstick goes way beyond where her real lips end and it's like a frosty purply color that looks horrendous. It looks like what kids do to those Barbie makeup heads. I was frightened. Oh, and people like her are wandering around the grocery store. Luckily, I'm so out of it, I don't notice too much.

Anyway, I'm wandering around in a daze with a list but with a desire to go down each aisle to stock up through Christmas. By about aisle two, my left eye starts watering. My nose is still running, not a tissue in sight. I sneeze every other aisle, at least twice. People are looking at me the same way I was looking at the painted lady. This is not good. I'm walking down the aisles sneezing, kind of hunched over, with my left eye half shut and watering. Could be bird flu, could be ebola. No one's getting near enough to find out.

Finally, my cart loaded up, I plant myself in a lane. Of course, I pick the lane with the guy who has no talent as a checker. There were two people in front of me. He screwed up something on each of them. He almost forgot to charge me for my groceries. Rang them all up and then printed a receipt without completing the debit card transaction. I should have just left, but I bet that woman behind me would have been stuck with the tab. I had to bag my own groceries, too, which is what they do up here. By the time I was through the line, the entire store had cleared out.

Two hours later, I'm home. Mr. Geeky unloads and cooks dinner. I've declared a state of emergency for myself.


It's official. I have a cold. I've had it all weekend, but last night, I became a little stuffier, a little runnier. I actually don't mind having a cold as long as it's feverless (which probably means it's the flu; hey, I'm not a doctor). I don't get sick very often, once or twice a year. Ironically, it's almost always right before or during Christmas. There have been a couple of Christmas's where I have been very sick, made worse by the drugs I chose to take to keep the illness at bay. I think this will be gone by Christmas and even if it's not, it's not so bad. I can't smell the tree or the cookies, at least not until the Sudafed kicks in, but I'm still very functional. Yet, I have a good excuse not to be. Best of both worlds, really.

The kids have a half day today. I'm going to try to finish off the rough draft of my proposal this morning. I have presents to mail and a couple more to wrap. I have grading to do. Our grades aren't due until after break. My plan is to grade one portfolio a day. So I'll try to get that done today too. And I have movies to watch: White Christmas and March of the Penguins. I'm trying to distract myself from things like this and this. To quote my favorite singer, "Oh what a world we live in."

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Utterly chilling

This is exactly why people protest the Patriot Act and Bush's recent spying. Being visited by the FBI because of a book you've checked out reeks of a totalitarian and paranoid regime.

I say it again: Why aren't we rioting?

By the way, you can't spell patriotism without riot.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Turning consumers into criminals

Ok, the geek in me is pissed. The House Judiciary Committee has introduced a bill that criminalizes the copying of video through an analog source. For those of you who don't know what this means, here's a good explanation. Basically, it would make a good portion of what I do for a living illegal. My institution could be fined (well, we'd be exempt from the fine, but we could still be dinged). Worse, there would soon be no devices that could circumvent copy protection at all. The thing is, all these kind of laws do, and the technology that gets developed in order to support the laws, is make it harder for us normal, law-abiding citizens to mix and mash our content. The criminals always find ways around the technology. I've written the committee for whatever good it will do.

Grasshopper Pie Recipe

1 C. chocolate wafer crumbs
1/4 C. sugar
3 T melted butter
1 C heavy whipping cream
2 T milk
3 1/4 C. miniature marshmallows
2 T white creme de cacao
1/4 C. green creme de menthe
1 pt. vanilla ice cream, softened

Combine crumbs, sugar, and butter. Press along sides and bottom of 9 in. pie plate. Chill.

Whip whipping cream. Chill. Melt marshmallows and milk in pan. Cool. Add creme de menthe and creme de cacao to marshmallows. Fold this into whipped cream. Spread layer of ice cream on crumbs. Then spread marshmallow mix on top. Chill in freezer. Set out of freezer about 20 minutes before serving.

A Christmas Story: Family Traditions

One of the reasons I love Christmas (despite my atheistic ways) is because I have so many fond memories of the season. As a child, it was a time when everything was right with the world. We did nothing but hang around the house, make and eat cookies, work puzzles, play games, and enjoy each other's company. When Mr. Geeky and I got together, we spent many Christmas's with his family, who do it differently. They get up really, really early, open presents, then go down to his grandparents house, open more presents over punch and donuts, then they go to another relative's house for Christmas dinner, open even more presents and finally go back home. Each event involves increasing numbers of relatives, some so removed you barely know their names. By the end of the day, you're stuffed and exhausted from opening presents, remembering people's names, and being nice to old aunt Petunia.

At my house, we had Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, usually after our Christmas Eve service, which started at 5:45. I sang in the church choir for years and I loved singing in the Christmas Eve service especially. In fact, my first solo was during a Christmas Eve service. My mother was terrified on my behalf. After a lovely service, we would come home and we'd eat a great meal. My mother was an excellent cook. We almost always had a similar meal to Thanksgiving: turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, bread. But usually my mother would experiment with something and, unlike Thanksgiving, we had pear salad, a half of pear topped with mayonnaise (or sour cream) and shredded cheese. I know, it sounds weird, but I liked it. Then we had grasshopper pie for dessert: vanille ice cream, creme de menthe mixed with marshmallows and cream and creme de cacao on top of a chocolate wafer crust. It's really good. I'll post the recipe, really.

We also started the tradition of opening one present on Christmas Eve. This started when we were really young and antsy and my parents used this as a bribe to get us to bed. Eventually, though, there was a present specifically meant for Christmas Eve, usually new pajamas. Mr. Geeky and I have continued this tradition with our own kids. Since we'd done all our formal duties--Christmas dinner, church--on Christmas Eve, Christmas morning could be dedicated to opening presents and playing with them. My dad would make French toast sometime around 9 or 10 o'clock and we'd take a break from playing to eat. None of us were out of our pajamas before noon. Friends would stop by. We'd call aunts and uncles and grandparents and thank them for presents and tell them what Santa brought us. We'd run around the neighborhood showing off our toys. Occasionally, there'd be snow and we could sled, or we'd have new bikes or skateboards. All in all, it was a truly joyous and fun time.

The first time Mr. Geeky and I decided not to travel for the holiday, Geeky Boy was 5 and Geeky Girl was 1. Though we'd spent Christmas before with my family and Mr. Geeky knew how I usually spent the holiday, now we had the opportunity to decide what our own traditions would be. Since I was doing most of the planning and preparing, I went primarily with my own traditions, making Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, and leaving Christmas day to relax and enjoy our gifts. On Christmas Eve, after the kids had gone to bed, it began to sleet. The next morning, we got up, opened presents, and at breakfast. Shortly after breakfast, we lost electricity. The ice had built up to about an inch think on the wires. Thankfully, we had gas heat and most of the toys didn't require electricity. Mr. Geeky had received a James Bond DVD collection and had his laptop at home, so he spent the evening in bed watching as much of James Bond as his laptop battery would allow.

We only went to Mr. Geeky's family one more time after that Christmas and we all found it pretty exhausting, though there are parts of it that are really fun. Now, we all appreciate our own more relaxed traditions with its focus on the immediate family. I certainly appreciate having an extended family around and there are times when I miss the hustle and bustle of having all those people around, but there aren't too many other times when I get to really appreciate my husband and my kids. It took a few years, but I can say with certainty that we now have our own traditions.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Yay! Friday!

Not only is it Friday, but it's my last day until January 3rd. Hooray! Hooray! I will have a million things to do when I return, but I will do my best not to think about it. I'm trying to finish my proposal next week, which I think is completely doable. I'm feeling pretty good about it. I really appreciate everyone who stopped by and gave me feedback on my rough thoughts. Mr. Geeky was laughing at me last night because I was reading a collection of articles (most of which I have read before) and I said, "I can't wait to get to the one on audience. It looks interesting and I haven't read it before." He said, "You're sick. You deserve a Ph.D."

No one will be in the office today. It should be really quiet and low key. I have a few things to finish up, but not much. I'll listen to Christmas music--yay! People will probably stop by and chat. Actually, the whole week has been fairly low key. Though it's been a little busy, there has still been a lot of talking, mostly about our work at a high level. Various people have stopped by to chat about the future of technology and education. It's been fun. And that's really why I like my job. I get to have these conversations and call it work.

Next week, I'll write and bake and shop for presents. I'll watch movies and read. Finally, a real break.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Last chance to vote

For me
For Bitch, Ph.D.
For Atrios or Daily Kos

Or anyone else you know on the lists.

Teaching to the middle

This time of year, when classes are over, but I haven't yet graded, I start thinking about what I could have done differently. Inevitably, I think about the students I didn't quite seem to reach, the ones I could have helped more. Inevitably, those are students at either end of the spectrum, the top and the bottom. Without intending to, I often teach to the middle.

Sure, the students could have done more themselves. They could have come to class more or pushed themselves more, but often, they don't even know what to do. And that's where I think I could step in more and offer more guidance. Here are some things I might do.

There are two kinds of students (in my mind) who drift toward the bottom. There's the student who's decided my class is not a priority for them and then there's the student who is trying but struggles and never quite makes it. I'm not sure if my strategies would work for both types, but they might. Since I teach writing and I'm keenly aware of the psychological effect that my comments can have on a student, I try in the beginning to be mostly positive, giving the students one or two things to work on. For the weaker students, I think I should follow up better on those things. I should require a revision immediately (instead of in the portfolio) and check to see if they worked on the things I asked them to. I might require additional conferences with them to work on those things. I might insist on further revisions. I might make the writing process a bit more step by step for them, requiring, for example, a topic description, then an outline of their main ideas before they flesh them out into a full blown paper. I might have compared early papers to later ones to show where they were making progress and what they still needed to work on. In this last class, in particular, I would have insisted that they blogged more and better.

For the students who come into the class with better writing skills or who develop them quite quickly, I have a different set of problems. One student actually told me that she wished I'd been a little more critical of her papers. I think that might be a good strategy for the writers near the top. I could critique them as I might a colleague's paper. I could have them work on style and conveying more complex ideas. I could have suggested more complex topics or had them write slightly longer papers or include more sources. I could have had them share their strategies with the class, helping them to articulate how they go about writing. I could have them critique their own work, thus helping them become their own best critics.

The top students, I think, are less harmed by my inability to teach to them. They will push themselves anyway, if not in my class, in another class along the way. It's the students at the bottom that I feel like I've let down. And some of them, frankly, are not motivated and would likely balk at my strategies for helping them, or they would do the tasks in a half-hearted way. I could insist and insist, but ultimately, it's up to them to do the work. And, of course, that's how I justify not putting forth the extra effort, thinking to myself, well, they wouldn't do it anyway. Next time, I'm putting forth the effort. I don't like teaching to the middle and I think the whole class would benefit if I didn't.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Not a good start

My day is not off to a good start. My car wouldn't start. I was up too late. I'm freaking out a little over how much work I need to get done before Friday. I'm freaking out a little over writing my proposal. I have two more presents to buy and I need them to get shipped by, like, tomorrow. There's a cocktail party thing at school. Geeky Boy's music concert is tonight. I haven't worked out in a month. I'm cold all the time. I'm just generally not in a good space right now. Gah.

Will work for feedback

I know the last thing anyone wants to do is to read more potentially bad writing, but if you're interested and if you have the inclination, hop on over to Blogical Construction and leave some comments.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Things I wish were different

I wish that we could all get up whenever we wanted, work our 7 or 8 hours or go to school, instead of following someone else's idea of when school/work should start.

I wish that school were not about tests and standards, but were actually about exploring and learning new things and helping kids find their passion in life.

I wish that work were the same way. I wish that it was about results instead of about hours that were put in.

I wish I could work from home.

I wish that there weren't poverty, that everyone had the same opportunities available to them.

I wish that our government were open and honest and that the things that they said weren't carefully scripted bits of PR.

I wish I felt listened to.

Not too much to ask for, really.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Dramas of the day

Sick kid
Missed meeting
Mundane meeting
Good presentation
Hardware failure

Laundry is taking over my life

This is why the GTD system is not working. Right now, there are two loads of laundry sitting next to the couch ready to be folded. There are two more up in the bedroom and there's a fifth down in the dryer. Oh, and there's a random basket of somewhat folded clothes in there too. And there's at least one or two more loads of laundry that need to be washed in the first place.

I've tried a number of different systems. Washing a load every day. It's the folding that breaks down. There's not enough time during the week. What happens then is the random basket. It doesn't take much for it to break down. Too many clothes to hang up and I'll give up. I actually don't mind doing laundry, but if I get too busy, then it piles up (literally) pretty quickly. The kids are almost old enough to pitch in and Mr. Geeky does help, but there still seems to be too much of it. I think we should limit ourselves to 7 outfits, then we'd just always wash at the end of the week because we'd have to. Sigh.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

An atheist's Christmas

Of course, after I write a post about being atheist, I put up the Christmas tree. We celebrate Christmas as a midwinter holiday. We have most of the trappings of a traditional Christmas. Santa comes to visit and stuffs the stockings and leaves presents. Most of our decorations, however, are decidedly secular: snowmen, santas (semi-secular?), ice skating kids.

A great deal of Christmas has, of course, become mostly about buying presents. Every year, I become less and less inclined not only to buy stuff, but to receive it. This year, however, we got everyone books. It was much more fun to find books we thought people would enjoy rather than buying them yet one more thing they don't need. Last year, we bought things that benefited one cause or another. But that was kind of painful. At least the inlaws cut down the 5 boxes to 3 this year.

What I like about Christmas is being with my family, eating good food, relaxing in front of the fire. I don't need gifts for that, and I hope that one day, my kids won't either. For now, we just try to keep the gifts as a peripheral part of the holiday.

Raising atheists, tales from the front

I thought this might be an appropriate post for a Sunday. First, I want to say that my goals for raising my children generally are pretty complicated. I want them to be moral people, to be empathetic, to understand that what they do and say can affect people. There's more but that's the basics. First I begin with a couple of anecdotes.

We live in a very Catholic neighborhood. Those that aren't Catholic are definitely churchgoing. One day, Geeky Boy was playing basketball next door with a kid from down the street who'd just moved in. Here's the conversation as related by my neighbor:

NK: So what parish are you in?
GB: Parish?
NK: What church do you go to?
GB: Oh, I don't go to church.
NK's head nearly explodes as he tries to wrap his head around the idea that there are people who don't go to church.
NK: Then what do you do on Sundays?
GB: Oh, I don't know. Hang out, I guess.
NK eyes him suspiciously.

And then, just the other day, there was this conversation at our dinner table:

Somehow God has entered the conversation.

Me: So, do you guys believe in God?
Both kids: Yeah.
Me: Really?
Mr. Geeky: What's this God person like? Where does he live?
Geeky Girl: In heaven.
Geeky Boy: Yeah.
Mr. Geeky: Where is this heaven?
Both kids point up toward the sky.
Geeky Girl: Yeah, you have to sign up to get in.

There are two difficulties in raising atheists. One is dealing with people around you thinking that you're raising little devil children. The other is dealing with your kids' own fears about death. One thing that religion does is help to allay that fear by providing an afterlife. When you take that away, death gets a lot more scary for kids.

Dealing with others around here is not too difficult. Since it's a major metropolitan area, people have an understanding that there are lots of different religions and seem to treat religion as a personal thing. Now, in the South where I grew up and where I have lived as an adult for several years, this part of the equation is more difficult. Often, there is pressure to attend church and you are ostracized for not attending. If I were to live in my hometown, for example, I would be constantly having to explain why we don't attend church. Both my family and Mr. Geeky's family have expressed concern that we're not taking the kids to church. What would they get from that, we ask, that we're not already giving them? Most people respond with a sense of right and wrong. Well, as I stated above, that's a key component to what I want to inculcate in my children. And I don't need religion to do it. Mr. Geeky has expressed this in terms of understanding the world as an emergent system. Everything in it affects everything else. If you believe that, then you will think twice before you do something harmful. That harmful act may have repercussions on others and long into the future.

Instead of believing that you will be punished for doing wrong by some supernatural being, you believe that doing wrong has greater ramifications in the world and may, in fact, come back to harm you, because you are connected to everything else. I think anyone who meets my kids can see that they are moral. They are kind and empathetic. It is something we constantly work on as kids, of course, can be egocentric and selfish.

Now, for the second difficulty: the fear of death. This one is harder. Because, as it turns out, creating truly empathetic people means they're quite sensitive people. So Geeky Boy worries about his own death, our deaths, etc. Geeky Girl hasn't quite gotten there yet. What we try to do is encourage them to value their lives now and to value the lives of the people around them. When you think that you won't see people in the afterlife, it kind of changes the way you interact with them now. I didn't really learn this lesson until I lost my sister when I was in college. It's a lesson I constantly have to remind myself of, however. It's very easy, even as an atheist, to take people and life for granted.

What's really amazing to me about all of this--and think about this in terms of the "War on Christmas" that the wingnuts are complaining about--is that my children have absorbed quite a bit of the Christian mythology without ever having set foot in a church. Of course, the first year we were in this neighborhood, Geeky Girl asked who the baby on the lawns was. If my children decide that they want religion in their lives, then that's fine with me. I hope they choose one that is more open than some. And I hope they continue to have respect for other people's beliefs. And there's where I have problems with other people sometimes. I respect the beliefs they have even if I don't share them, but often, they don't respect my beliefs.

I'm not sure that's a nice, neat synopsis of how we're muddling through. And that's exactly what we're doing really, muddling through. So far, it has gone rather smoothly. Maybe it will continue or maybe we'll hit some bumps in the road. Either way, I think we have a good foundation to work with, even without a book of moral codes.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Why Students use Google, a mini rant

Okay, so have any of you used a library lately? Yeah, I know you have. I know Profgrrrrl has all kinds of issues with ILL. Obviously, writing a dissertation requires a little research. Before I answer the question, let me just share a couple of experiences. Keep in mind, I'm a skilled researcher with years of research work under my belt. Heck, I've even used a card catalog and those periodical indexes. Also, note that I'm not slamming librarians. Librarians are welcome to tell me who to complain to. :)

First, I go to the library web site. I'm an expert, so I know to look for articles in databases. Clicking on databases gives me a list of databases and, underneath those, subject areas. Luckily, I know what to do. I click on English. A list of more databases. Shew. I click on MLA. Shazaam! Another window opens. Okay, now I type in my search terms and get a nice list of sources. I find a source I'm interested in. I click on it to find out more. At the bottom of the citation, there's a button to indicate how I might retrieve this from my very own library. Shazaam! Another window opens. (Are you keeping track of windows? There's 3.) There's a link to check availability in my own library. Shazaam! Another window. (That's 4.) Okay now I'm seeing the journal title in the library database. Note that this is not a link to the specific source I found three windows ago. So, because I've come this far, I click the link to online access to the journal. Now I have to look up the specific article again, which means going back however many windows and finding the title, the author, or volume and issue. Half the time, the article wasn't available online. My favorite thing that happened was finding something they claimed was an electronic resource and they. didn't. have. a. link! I mean, come on! Another fun thing. When your library doesn't have the source, so you go to Google scholar to see if you can find it and you find out that the journal is available online for free! Hellooo.

Okay, look. I'm pretty patient, but sometimes I ended up 7 windows open and had to retype information only to find out the source was unavailable. And I'm not even going into the fact that I navigated here in the first place, knowing which database to use and what search terms might work. Most students would balk at step two or three--the list of databases. It's pretty frustrating. And since most students don't give themselves enough time to find information, they'll give up pretty quickly, I think.

Oh, and can we get federated searching, please? I hate, hate going to so many different databases to run the same search. That's another reason students use Google. They feel like they're casting a wider net. When doing interdisciplinary work, this is really an issue. Many of the databases are subject specific. So, for example, I'm searching in Language and Literature (aka English), Education, and Social Sciences. It would be nice to not have to go through all of that, but, unlike many students, I want to find the best possible sources.

There's got to be a way to make this easier. If we don't, students will continue to use Google.

Forget atheists and Google, I got Linda Hirshman

Linda Hirshman has an article in Inside Higher Ed today. I didn't read her article in American Prospect, but read much of the commentary on it. I don't entirely disagree with her conclusions that maybe men should do more housework and family care. I read The Second Shift. I read The Price of Motherhood. I know, I know. And so do most of my friends, both at home and working outside the home. What Hirshman fails to recognize, I think, is that it's not that easy. You don't come home one day after reading her articles or the books that point out how work is distributed unequally and say, "Honey, we're gonna divide up the chores."

Let's face it. Most of us in mid-thirties and early 40s (like me and my hubby) grew up in very traditional families. We learned early on that housework is for women and "real" work is for men. Neither my father nor my father in law played a very active role in childrearing (though my father did take care of me for about 6 months when I was 3). You can bet your bottom Mr. Geeky did. However, we're talking undoing eighteen years of training here (for both of us). Doesn't happen overnight. But the way it works in our family and I suspect the way it works in many academic families is that it's a kind of dance and a crazy juggling act. Academic work is not always stable. Most of the academics I know have gone through a couple of jobs. And those jobs have been separated by great distances. It's not like working for one company and then moving to the one down the road. Moving halfway across the country is disruptive. And what are the choices then?

Let me use myself as an example, a working mother, and my friends here, most at home moms, to show why I think Hirshman is being a bit harsh. First, Mr. Geeky and I met in graduate school. We were both in graduate school, me in Creative Writing, he in Computer Science. We thought we would be finishing at the same time, but stuff happened. First, I lost my funding. Second, his first proposal failed, setting him back about a year. I proposed to him and decided that if he said no, I'd move on and pursue another career. Since he said yes, I had a decision to make. Certainly, I could have just pursued whatever career I was going to pursue wherever that was going to take me. But I kind of like living in the same city with the person I love, so I took a corporate job. I made the money. Mr. Geeky finished his degree and cared for our first child during part of that time.

Mr. Geeky went on the job market. Though I enjoyed my corporate job, it was just a job, not something I wanted to pursue as a career. I thought I might want to go back to graduate school, but I wasn't sure what field, possibly English, possibly Education, possibly Computer Science. My only request to Mr. Geeky in his job search was that he had to go somewhere where those options would be open to me, either at the institution where he worked or nearby. He landed at at research institution with all those options. I spent a year at home with our son and deciding what I wanted to do.

For five years, Mr. Geeky worked as an assistant professor and I went to graduate school. Both our kids were in daycare. We were very lucky that there was excellent affordable daycare available. Mr. Geeky often took care of the kids. Geeky Boy went to many a faculty meeting. Mr. Geeky was not happy in his position. It looked unlikely that he would get tenure and he wasn't sure he wanted to. That meant we had to look for another job. Like I said above, it's not like you can just move to the next company down the road. There were no other schools within an hour's drive that was of the same quality. So we ended up over here in the Northeast.

What were my choices in that case? I had passed my exams. I could stay there and finish. The kids could have stayed with me, but that would have been hard without Mr. Geeky there to help take care of them while I worked. The kids could have gone with Mr. Geeky and I could have stayed there. I had at least two years of work ahead. Two years apart from my family. I know many people make this choice, but it wasn't something I wanted to do. Besides, I had greater resources available here. So I disrupted my life and moved here.

The cost of living here is crazy. Daycare costs tripled. Housing costs went up by a little, but the cost of buying a house tripled, meaning we would need to save a lot in order to get into a house. I took part time work, the kids were in daycare and aftercare. Many of my at home friends moved from similarly low cost areas and were faced with the same issues we were. If we both worked and the kids were both in daycare, we wouldn't be able to save money for a house. We chose to eat the cost of daycare and find savings in other places. But many of my stay at home friends chose not to do that. We were all living in two bedroom apartments with two or three kids. That kind of life is difficult to live for very long, so home ownership was a goal we all had.

In this area, among the women I know, it's not about whether their husbands do housework. Most of them do. Most of them do childcare. And they do it willingly. And no, it's probably not 50/50 in households where the mothers are at home, but it works for them. What it's about is the money. It's about the fact that faculty salaries are low. The women I know are not lawyers or doctors. They could pursue careers that probably are exciting and make a huge contribution, but the hours are possibly long. They have decided that that's not what they want. They feel it's important for a parent to be there when their children get off the bus.

Do I think part of that decision is a result of society's guilt trip on women? You bet. But that's a problem that's not going to go away any time soon. We're working on it. So what needs to happen to even things out? Lots of things and none easy. Hirshman offers some decent options, reducing the work load on faculty, so that male faculty can more easily be coerced into doing their fair share at home. How about better salaries for faculty, so that the decision for their spouses to work is a little easier since the family pot will be a little larger? How about a huge change in the tenure system that doesn't make faculty feel like they have to work a million hours? Hirshman says, "It’s not only the tenure clock that’s the villain here; it’s the guys on the couch 12 hours a week while faculty mom does the wash." I disagree. Mr. Geeky is not on the couch while I'm doing the wash. He's in front of the computer, programming, researching, writing, grading. He's freaking working!! And I know from talking to other faculty spouses that that's exactly what their husbands are doing too. I never hear them say they're stuck at home while their husband's out drinking with his buddies. I hear them say they're suck at home because their husband's in the lab. So, pardon me, but it's the tenure clock and the pressure to produce, produce, produce. It's also the school schedule that ends at 3, the inflexible work hours, the perception of at home moms as not contributing.

The decisions that I've made, that most faculty spouses make are complicated. They are affected by societal pressures, by their own ideas of the best way to raise children, by financial issues, and by the stark realities of their lives. So quit blaming them for not taking on challenging work. Working at home is darn challenging. Yes, it would be nice for many of these smart women to be in the workforce. God knows I'd love to have more of them in my own office, but the work world is not always a nice place for parents, men or women. I think we need to change the system, not our husbands.

Snow Day!

No work, woo hoo! I should do a snow random 10, but that would require me to move. Instead, I offer you two post possibilities:

1. Raising atheists, tales from the front.
2. Why students use Google, a mini rant.

Which one? Vote now.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Third place

Okay, so I'm barely holding on to third place for best parenting blog1. I know I can't beat Dooce, but maybe I can at least snag third.

Did you know that you can vote once a day? Well, you can. :)

1 Funny, considering the distinct lack of parenting posts on here. Personally, I think most of the other parenting related blogs I read are much better.

Ends and beginnings

Today was the last day of my class on blogging. We had pizza. They filled out a survey. We did a kind of post-mortem on the class and then we left so they could do the official evaluations. Many of the students said they would continue blogging, and I hope they do. It's a weird kind of thing to end a class. I really enjoyed teaching it and, with the addition of the blog, felt pretty connected to most of the students. It's such a small place that I know I'll see them around campus over the next three and a half years, but it won't quite be the same. Today, we were all a little frazzled. The students were finishing up papers and exams, surviving on just a few hours of sleep. We have been grading and attending meeting after meeting. It didn't quite feel like we paused enough to say goodbye properly. As always, I feel like there are things I would do differently, but all in all, I think the class was a valuable experience for them and for me as a teacher. Honestly, I almost always learn as much from them as they do from me.

And then there are beginnings. As I begin formulating my proposal and thinking about my dissertation, I have both the excitement of new beginnings and reminders of endings. As I was digging out some articles that will be useful in writing my project, I ran across the letter I received from my former advisor in response to my first chapter of my original dissertation. When I received it the first time, I cried. And it still stings to read it again. There was maybe a sentence of positive feedback and it was at the end. No wonder I quit.

I hope I can keep those stinging comments at bay. They are a reflection, probably common among dissertators, of the fear of failure, fear of disapproval, fear of not being good enough that sometimes prevents us from doing good work. I've buried that letter back in the box I found it. Now I have to bury it in my mind and begin afresh.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


So, it's official. I'm reinstated as a grad student. Weird, I must admit.

Over on the dissertation blog, I've been constructing a bibliography. I've been through my furled items. I still have a stack of articles in a folder I need to enter, a collection of downloaded pdfs from the library, and of course, a selection of books.

I've also begun writing the proposal. Tonight, I'm going to try to take the two posts I have and mesh them into something resembling an introduction. The goal is to have a proposal sent away before Christmas. That way, I can start working in earnest right after. Five months seems like a really short amount of time now.

Is it Friday yet?

Today's agenda: back-to-back meetings until 4:00. This seriously sucks. It's the end of the semester and people are trying to cram everything in I guess. At least one of these meetings, I called myself. I also have phone calls I need to make--first thing, I guess, before the meetings start. Gah. I realized that tomorrow, the kids get out early and neither me nor Mr. Geeky can get to them until about two hours after they get out. Will have to call a neighbor. Double gah. Parent-teacher conferences tomorrow and Friday, which will be filled with homework issues--yes, again. And can I say that my reaction to the homework issues is not good? Given that I don't think homework really helps Geeky Boy learn, I just kind of blow it off and think the teachers have their panties in a wad and just want to make sure their school ranking doesn't drop. Cynically, I think they don't really care about whether he's learning, but about whether he's following the rules. I don't want a kid who just works because someone else tells him to. Did I mention that he aces tests, including the state ones? Remind me again why there's homework? Work ethic, my butt. Geeky Boy has a better work ethic than most of his friends as far as I can tell, so there.

I started thinking about next semester when I woke up this morning. I have a major project/event every month. Witness:
  • January--conference presentation
  • February--conference I'm organizing
  • March--SXSW (fun, but still an event)
  • April--online conference presentation
  • May--summer program I run begins
Gah. Oh, and I'm writing a dissertation. Right. Okay. Moving along now. It'll be okay.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Honest yet diplomatic

Yesterday's issues required diplomacy and tact, but they also required honesty. Too often, I have erred on the side of diplomacy and gotten walked all over in one way or another. I'm not one to bring on confrontation. Hard to believe, I know, but true. I am learning, slowly, that confrontation does not always have to be an emotionally wrenching situation. Yesterday, I was trying very hard to be honest and articulate my needs, but I felt like I wasn't being heard or I wasn't formulating my thoughts very well. Writing the emails this morning allowed me to reflect on what I really wanted out of the situation, what was really at stake and what needed to be heard. Whatever the outcome (in one case, the outcome won't be for months), I feel like I've been honest. I need to do more. If I'm in this for the long haul, and I believe I am, then I can't afford to be crushed. As our friend W would say, "This is hard work." And man is it draining.


Yesterday was not a good day. And as I was *trying* to sleep last night, I was stewing about it more and more. Not good, I know. I wish I could share everything that's going on with the blog world right now. It would be nice to have semi-objective viewpoints.

This morning will be spent writing carefully constructed emails to at least 3 people. Knowing my luck, I will open my school email box and there will be more yuck to deal with. Oh wait, just thought of a fourth email. Sigh. For the record, I have not done anything wrong; I am trying to deal with some fairly sticky situations, some of which might have a big impact on me on down the road if I don't speak now or forever hold my peace. Suffice it to say, I'm not a fan of office politics.

I'm hoping that once I get these emails off, it will be like restarting the computer. I can say that I've done what I can and move on. Mr. Geeky leaves today to go to a conference where he's been invited to speak. I have not exercised in about 2 weeks (for various good reasons), so I was trying to think of a way to get some exercise in even though he's gone. I have decided that the kids and I will go for a walk around the neighborhood in the snow and look at the Christmas lights. Another way to restart.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Vote Early Vote Often, or Good News, Bad News

Good news:
  • This little blog is up for a little award .
  • I'm feeling pretty good about the disseration
  • It's almost time to go home.
Bad news:
  • Minor freak out over job stuff.
  • Lots of stuff to do.
  • Snow (which really could be in either category).
I think bullet points are all my little brain can manage right now.

Monday Random Thoughts

  • Why do Mondays always suck?
  • Why does something weird always happen on Monday?
  • Is it bad that I'm hoping there's enough snow to warrant staying home?
  • Why am I so easily upset/angered?
  • Does anyone have the answers to these questions?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

I did it!

The dissertation blog is up. One thing that I see is going to be good about this is that it's accessible from anywhere. Since I'm almost always at some computer or another, I can write anytime anywhere. Feel free to drop in and comment, but be warned, I'm just warming up for now.

Good to get out of the house

The concert kicked! Death Vessel opened. Just the lead singer and a guitar. Really awesome voice. Then Calexico came on. And they were really awesome. I loved the blend of different music styles, ending with a full on mariachi number. Then Salvador Duran, a guy they picked up in Tuscon (just found a kick ass musician by the side of the road), did a few more mariachi numbers. He was really good. I think I could have listened to him all night. Then Iron & Wine. They were really good too. About half their set was just them. Then the other half was with various members of Calexico. At one point, there were 13 people on stage. Three full hours of really good music. Definitely worth it.

By the way, you can download the concert at NPR. I'll be doing that as soon as I get on my other computer.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

GTD, the 12 step program

I backslid a little on the GTD plan. At work, all is well for the most part. At home, not so much. What I began to realize was that the kids' stuff was taking over the world. So this weekend, they're doing a big cleanup of their room. When they have no place to put their stuff, it ends up on the dining room table, the coffee table or the floor. My goal is to get to a point where a setback--an illness, a holiday, work busyness--doesn't mean that the house goes to pot. And anyone who says that managing and maintaining a household isn't a fulltime job is crazy. And Dr. B is right, being the one who tracks what's going on--the level of food in the house, where the kids need to be, whether laundry needs to be done--is as difficult as being the one who actually does it. It's all work.

There was a marathon of Clean Sweep on TLC and I was watching it while folding clothes. I honestly do not get why some of these people hold onto their stuff. My problem is getting it out of the house. I have bags and piles of stuff to be donated, but it's not an easy process. These people have a whole crew coming in to help them get rid of stuff and they still won't. I'd be all for it. Send em on over. Take all my stuff. I really don't care.

Anyway, I've admitted that this is not going to be easy. It's one step at a time. But I'd like for it not to be one step forward, two steps back.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Metablogging and the Culture of Sharing

I've been thinking about this whole setting up the dissertation blog thing, not a lot, but thinking. I'm planning to begin writing the proposal up this weekend. If I start a blog, I would write the dissertation in the blog. I would not use it to distract myself from the actual writing though I might, in addition to writing the actual dissertation, add notes or less organized thoughts.

In thinking about writing the actual dissertation in blog format and sharing it with the world, I was reflecting on this whole concept of sharing as it relates to the internet. When I gave my first talk on science blogs to a group of scientists at my school, the issue of blogging about research came up. I had mostly focused on scientists blogging about issues in the news--intelligent design and peak oil--to provide the scientific background that is often lacking in the news reports. Some suggested that blogging research might be an interesting way to collaborate. I said, yes, that sounds like a great idea and I started to get excited. But then, someone raised the issue of getting scooped. One woman was working on a new molecule structure and she said, what if I write about my progress and it gives someone an edge over me and they don't give me credit. And further, what if that keeps me from getting tenure.

Similarly, someone else in a completely different context, was also worried about being scooped. He said he closely tied his research and his teaching. If he made his research work publicly availabe and thus, available to students, he might get scooped and then where would he be. Yet, the issue of needing to share resources continues to come up as budgets and staff are slashed.

It seems to me that the whole tenure process mitigates against this kind of sharing. Academics in many fields seem reluctant to share because of what's at stake if someone steals their work. Copyright might protect them, but pursuing a copyright case doesn't help you get tenure.

I admit that I worried about this a little myself. What if someone does steal my work? What ramifications would that have for getting my degree? For me, however, I think my squeamishness comes from a different place. There aren't a lot of hard lines in my life. What you see here on this blog is pretty much what you get. But I do try to polish my more professional work and frankly, I'm a little embarrassed to put it out there in its unpolished form. What if my ideas stink? What if my writing sucks? Will my blog friends still love me? It's one thing to think out loud here about politics, my life and my work. It's quite another to try to write seriously about something that I know others have more expertise in. Seriously, these things are going through my head. Ironically, I spent years in creative writing programs where I basically bared my soul to my classmates and that did not bother me that much, even when some criticism got particularly vicious. I think I felt pretty confident in my writing ability. I wasn't the best by any means, but I enjoyed writing and wanted to improve so I withstood the criticism.

For some reason, I cannot muster up the same confidence with my academic writing. There's that erudite air about academic writing, all the jargon, the big words, the references to people I've only heard of in passing, that makes me feel like I'll never measure up. I can't spew forth all of that. Somehow I have to find a way to write academically and still be me, Geeky Mom.

I'm going to do it, start the dissertation blog, because I feel like I need to get over this squeamishness. If someone scoops me, so be it. Maybe I get the EFF to represent me. If I'm embarrassed, so be it. My goal is not the write the greatest dissertation ever, but just to write it. And I would love to have my blog friends there to give me feedback if they so choose. And I believe in the culture of sharing. Isn't that what we tell our kids all the time? Share. I want to support sharing and open access to information and all that goes with it. And yes, it's kind of scary. But it's kind of exciting too.

Random 10: Iron & Wine Edition

Cause I'm going to see them tomorrow!! Yay!

Cinder And Smoke
Each Coming Night
Fever Dream
Free Until They Cut Me Down
Freedom Hangs Like Heaven
Gray Stables
Love And Some Verses
Naked As We Came

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Blog against sexism

Sexism and racism are related, right? There are quite a few good posts around laying into various mainstream media articles to which I will not refer. Phantom's on a real roll. If you haven't read what she has to say, I highly recommend it. I was going to point to Laura at 11D's single post, but she's got a few plus links to others. Just go there. And Bitch, Ph.D. has an awesome rant, mostly related to housework. Elizabeth also chimes in, riffing off of Dr. B. And Amanda at Pandagon has written a virtual book on the issue.

I have one question (which Laura at 11D already raised): where are the men? Are there any men writing about this? Let's go see. BRB.

Not much. There's Rebel Dad and he's quite reasonable of course. There was one that was, as you might expect, blaming the feminists even more (imagine that kid in the Simpsons who says, "HA HA" in that really annoying way). And there's this one, which is interesting. And there's Atrios, who reminds us that raising kids is hard work. Um, that seems to be it.

Seriously, why is it in these isms that the oppressed always get blamed. It's the feminists who failed, the civil rights movement or the people it was supposed to help who failed. It's never a problem with the whole system. Remember Lawrence Summers and 80 hour work weeks?

Honestly, if I could work 30 hours/week, my life would be significantly better. Doesn't seem possible, does it? It's true. I could be home in time to meet the bus, work with my kids for a while. Actually Mr. Geeky is planning to do this next year if he gets tenure. In terms of housework, yes, we often fall into fairly traditional roles and sometimes the work is unbalanced, but we do often renegotiate and try to arrange things so that there's more balance, but it's a constant battle. There are strong forces pulling us into stereotypical roles and workloads. I'm actually working very hard on these issues on my own campus. There are some seriously entrenched attitudes in the workforce, even (maybe especially) in the ivory tower.

Blog against racism

I blogged against racism here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I'm still here

Really. And barely. Just did a marathon paper commenting session. Have been trying to get to it for two days. On the agenda for the next two weeks:

Call for papers for conference I'm organizing (yes, I'm crazy)
Open house for tablet pc project
Floor plans for revamp of New Media Lab
Several proposals for other stuff that will happen in the summer (can be put off until after break)
Dissertation proposal

I think I'm forgetting something. Am I forgetting something? Where's my brain?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Dissertation blog?

So if I'm really going to do this dissertation thing and the topic is related to blogging, shouldn't I have a dissertation blog? Maybe?

Not going to make it

It's official. I will not make it to 50,000. I made it to 30,000. My story is done and I just don't have the time to go through and fill in in order to make it to 50,000. I don't feel like I failed though. I wrote pretty complete story, something I might be able to work with later on.

On another front, I think I'm coming down with something. I had a massive headache when I got home yesterday (really about an hour before I got home). I could not drag myself out of bed at the usual crack of dawn hour. I feel kind of queasy. Bleh.

Only 2.5 more weeks until Christmas vacation. Sigh.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Blogging and community

A lot of people around here have announced they're quitting the blog thing, or they're going to. It makes me kind of sad, actually. It's like a neighbor who up and announces they're moving halfway around the world. I can see why someone would quit. Blogging is time-consuming and can take away from other things one might do or want to do. It can feel like an obligation rather than something fun to do.

I find blogging very grounding, actually, and quite helpful in thinking through some of the many crazy things in my head. I write this blog for myself mostly, but have come to immensely enjoy the other blogs I read and the people that stop by here and comment. I completely appreciate the connections I've made through this blog. Though they are tenuous and far flung, they are real nonetheless.

I wish everyone who chooses to move on the best. Know that you will be missed.

Welcome to the Working Week

A quick post from work. Hey, I've got to ease back in, right?

I have a lot of exciting things on the horizon. Then why do I feel so bogged down? How does one focus on the positive and ignore the negative when it seems to intrude in everything you do? I'm serious. If you have advice, I want to hear it.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

They shouldn't spring an ex-boyfriend on you like that

When I walked in the door of the mini-reunion, I felt almost exactly the way I did in high school, uneasy, unconfident, but expectant. Did I look okay? Who would be there? Would they think I looked okay? Would they accept me for who I am? Right away I was greeted by my oldest friend, a girl I've seen every year or so since I graduated. That put me a little at ease. And she also knew and remembered Mr. Geeky, and asked briefly after the kids. Then the hostess greeted us and gave us the lowdown on where we could find drinks and food. Then the two of them scurried off and Mr. Geeky and I were standing there in the entryway. I scanned the room and didn't recognize a soul. There were people there who weren't from our high school, so this was not terribly unusual.

Finally, we did the only thing that seemed natural and went to the kitchen for beer. There we were greeted by more people from high school, some of whom I recognized and some of whom I didn't. We chatted with them about their jobs, about kids, about where they lived, who they kept up with. We shared stories about dealing with kids, about ill parents and grandparents, about our own health issues. A guy came up to me and said hello and I said (as I'd been saying almost all night), "Please tell me who you are." It was my first high school boyfriend. I had not seen him since 1984 when he was 18. I almost passed out on the floor. (Mr. Geeky told me later that I really did look quite shocked. I feel bad because it wasn't that he looked bad, just so different.) Mr. Geeky left shortly after that and I spent the next few hours talking to various people.

All of these encounters with old friends--the college reunion and now this--have really caused me to do some thinking. Both in high school and college, I felt seriously inadequate (I know Phantom, that's your schtick, sorry). The people at the Friday night affair were fairly popular people. Some were cheerleaders and football players. Others were student council presidents. Some were soccer or tennis players. All of them were in the "beautiful people" class. Even though I was friends with many of them (and dated one of them), I never felt like I measured up. Of course I was measuring against a very narrow scale. I looked at their clothes, how many friends they had, how good-looking their dates were. I didn't think about whether they were smart or not, what their plans were for the future.

When I think back to those days, I think about the stupid things I did to try to run with the popular crowd. And I think about how much time I pissed away doing those things instead of studying or participating in an extracurricular activity that might have been a ticket to a better school (or a bigger scholarship). I also think about how stupid it was for me to feel inferior to these people. It wasn't like they were treating me badly. Then, as now, they were perfectly nice. No, the boys in that crowd didn't always ask me out and I wasn't on the phone with a lot of the girls. But it wasn't like they were purposely leaving me out of parties or anything. I just had blinders on the whole time. I had a certain perception of myself and I let that color all of my relationships and all of the decisions I made.

And now, talking to them again, I realize that I had nothing to worry about. I may not have a spectacularly better life than they do, but I have achieved a measure of success that I'm perfectly happy with. And I'm continually seeking out new challenges for myself while many of them seemed to have gotten as far as they're going to go and are perfectly content. Most of them went off to nearby colleges that weren't particularly challenging. They got really ordinary jobs, settled down, got married, and had kids. And I think that's exactly what they wanted to do, no more, no less.

I had a really pleasant time, though, sharing stories about high school (some of which I didn't remember) and laughing and trying to find common ground.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Mini Reunion

A couple of my high school friends live across the street from my dad. My dad has actually moved twice since I left and this neighborhood is kind of on the outskirts of town--or at least it used to be when I was growing up. This evening, they're having a little gathering of high school people and of course, we're going.

When I graduated from high school, I was really ready to get out and get away from the people I'd grown up with. I grew up in the kind of town where you spent 12 years in school with the same people. I went to preschool with some kids I graduated with. I went to college eight hours away while many of my friends went just down the road, at most 3 or 4 hours away. Many of my friends came back on weekends or arranged trips with old high school friends. Not me. With the exception of one or two people, I really had no desire to see any of my high school friends again. Ironically, I met Mr. Geeky at my old high school boyfriend's wedding and I still see him and his family once or twice a year since they now live just a couple of hours away from us.

I feel least comfortable with the friends who stayed here or came back here. I have absolutely no understanding for why someone would want to stay here. Not that I don't understand someone wanting to stay near friends and family, that part makes sense, but there isn't, as far as I can tell, much to do here in terms of work. Many of the companies that largely supported the economy of this city are gone or so depleted that they're cutting jobs, not hiring. The downtown comes and goes, but mostly looks spent. There just doesn't seem much going for this place. And so, I feel like I'm denigrating their choice to stay. I recognize that my sense is purely personal and superficial, based on driving around town and noticing more dilapidated buildings than new or remodeled ones.

And then there's always the inevitable academic factor. My friends generally have jobs that are quite practical--doctors, lawyers, teachers, auto mechanic--things that make sense to them. But Mr. Geeky is one of them there college professors and I work with computers. We may as well be from another planet. And I feel bad, I really do, that we can't explain what we do in three words or less. I don't like it either, but that's the way it is. There are friends I could see who would understand us even though they also have "practical" jobs. But these friends aren't among them. Oh, and there's the stay at home mom factor. All the women I went to school with who live here are all at home. Yet another alien factor. I hate that I understand why they chose to stay home, having done it myself for a while and having moments where I still want to, but they never seem to get why I work. And god, I hope politics doesn't come up with our minivan emblazoned with its Kerry/Edwards and FSM stickers. Let's just hope there's alcohol cause obviously, I'm getting myself worked up into a frenzy over all this.

The thing is, I didn't know these people that well in high school. We had friends in common and it's a small place so you kind of know everyone. I can't even fall back on stories from high school because we have none in common. Perhaps I'll be pleasantly surprised. I mean, last night, I talked to a woman who told me if she had it to do over again, she'd be a lesbian. I swear there's something about turkey that makes people crazy, including me.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Turkey Day 2005

So far, so good. Dinner isn't until 6-ish. It's basically an all-day party. Some people have already arrived and are helping coordinate the deep-frying of the turkey. I've made apple pie and green bean casserole (I have a weakness). Bloody Marys have been consumed. There's more to come. I hope everyone is having a wonderful day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Free Wireless Rocks

I think wireless should be free everywhere. It's crazy that it's not. We're in a relatively cheap hotel somewhere in the middle of Maryland and we've got free wireless. So last night before bed, I caught up on blogs; Mr. Geeky caught up on blogs (I've hooked him on Pharyngula unfortunately; damn you, PZ!). I even worked out this morning. Now we'll see if I can write in the car. I didn't manage it last night. So now, the goal is 5,000 today and 2500 every other day. Sigh. I think I had a few times in college where I felt this way, needing to read hundreds of pages in one night because I stupidly put it off.

I'm not sure what kind of internets I'll have over the next few days, so if I don't "see" you all, have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Why am I working today?

The plan is to leave after work. It's actually kind of silly for me to go to work today, except that I'm teaching. I'm looking forward to the class actually. I have most of it planned out; I will likely spend the morning finishing that up. Half the students will be gone. But it'll be fun anyway.

After class, I'll eat lunch and see if there are any pressing emails. Because really, is there anything that can't wait until after the break? I didn't think so.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Because it's almost Thanksgiving


That's how many words per day I have to write to make it to 50,000 words. Totally doable. Do you know how many pages 27,000 words is? Well, I didn't, because I was writing in a text file that doesn't paginate. It's over 100 pages. Do you know that I have never in my entire life written more than 100 pages? It's true. The longest two things I've written were 1) my master's thesis at around 80 pages and 2) the start of another novel, also around 80 pages. 80 pages was my wall. Now I'm past it. Maybe. My motto is "show, don't tell." Because that takes more words.

My crappy office

I know academia isn't known for its luxurious office spaces, especially for support staff, but my office has been especially crappy of late. When I first started here, I had my own office. Then, because of some staff shakeups, I was asked if I minded vacating my office to make room for a newly minted manager-type. I said sure. They put me in a room with the sysadmins, in a cubicle. Then construction on the building next to us invaded our space and so we all moved up to another, smaller, space, supposedly temporary, at least for me. Finally, they carved out new space from the prevously construction-invaded space and to make the best of things, we named the space the ETC, or Educational Technology Center.

All was good for a while. Then the fumes started. And the noise. Well, right now at this very moment, I can hear a very loud conversation from the office next door (the wall is quite thin; this happens quite often) and banging, drilling and other construction noises. It is nearly impossible to concentrate under these conditions. I've been listening to my iPod for the last 6 months or so and didn't notice all this. Today, I forgot to bring it. I don't see how anyone without headphones can get any work done.

Obviously, I'm not.

Monday Rambling

Not much to say this morning. I'm sliding into Thanksgiving. We'll be traveling by car this year. I like long car rides. There's something fun about not knowing exactly what's going to happen, where you're going to stop. Even though the route is familiar, there are so many things that could happen--the traffic, finding a different restaurant, noticing something you didn't notice before. And you get to talk to your family or listen to a book you've been meaning to listen to.

Going to my dad's is usually fun, but part of me wants to stay home out of laziness. Plus, my kids told me they really liked my cooking. I don't hear that too often. :) I'll probably cook something at my dad's but I can't step on my stepmother's toes too much even though she really hates cooking. And that's really the only downside to going there. Thanksgiving will be the only meal that's prepared. Which is okay.

I pretty much finished the plot of the novel at 27,000-ish. Which means I have some things to fill in. I got one idea this morning, but over the next week, I'll be going over the whole thing and adding lots and lots of crap.

All I have to say is that I'm glad this is a short week.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


Words and things to do. I hit 25,000 last night. That's the good news. The bad news is I think the novel will be over before I hit 50,000. Which means I might be going back through it and adding stuff to hit the 50,000 mark. I'm hoping to squeeze in a long session at Starbucks today.

The house is falling apart at the seams. Laundry is everywhere--clean, dirty, and somewhere in between. And we're going out of town on Tuesday, for which we'll need clean clothes. The kids rooms are catastrophe areas. This morning, I realized that we have a birthday party to go to at noon, for which we don't have a present yet, so we'll be rushing over to the store right before and then to the skating rink. Gah. Then there's basketball practice right after.

Yesterday, we went to see Harry Potter. Then Mr. Geeky locked the keys in the car. In the five years we've owned the car, we've never done that. Thank God for AAA.

It's amazing how quickly one's life gets filled with the nitpicky details and complications of just making it through the day.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Dr. Geeky Mom?

On Monday morning, Mr. Geeky and I were riding to work together and he says, "You know, I think you could finish your degree." He went on to explain how, mainly by switching topics and advisors. He also promised to do laundry. So I emailed a friend of mine back at my home institution and she said, "No, you're not crazy. Besides, you could write the dissertation in your sleep at this point; you've done so much work in this area." So I called my potential advisor. He didn't think I was crazy either. So it looks like it might happen. There are some practical considerations that might prevent it from happening. I have to get special dispensation from my department (not a problem at all) and the graduate school (potentially more problematic, but not impossible). So there is still a chance that something could prevent me from doing this on that front.

When I was attempting to finish my degree before, I really didn't have my heart in it. I didn't like my topic. I had been kind of pushed into it--mostly peer pressure. I also felt a lot of pressure to make the dissertation really good since I needed that work to get me a faculty position. Now, I have no desire to get a faculty position. I'm really doing this for myself. What a difference that makes.

This is so right, it's scary

The Movie Of Your Life Is An Indie Flick

You do things your own way - and it's made for colorful times.
Your life hasn't turned out how anyone expected, thank goodness!

Your best movie matches: Clerks, Garden State, Napoleon Dynamite

via APL