Monday, February 28, 2005

Faculty/Staff divide, part 2

So, I've made my complaints as I see them from the staff perspective, but there are certainly ways that the staff also accentuate the divide. Some of my colleagues are with David Horowitz on the issue of faculty work and salaries. Some think that faculty only work when they're teaching. Some think they get paid a ton of money. I can say that I make more than some of the incoming t-t faculty. They don't understand the intense pressure of being on the tenure-track. They don't understand that it's not just that they may not have a job at this institution anymore, but their entire career as a faculty member might be over as a result of not getting tenure here. So I find myself educating folks a lot. I described faculty in a meeting once as independent contractors. It's not that they don't care about the institution, but until they get tenure, they often must put their own issues first. This may not be entirely accurate, but it was a metaphor most people could understand. I also describe to them the process of preparing for classes and doing research and explaining that Mr. Geeky often works until the wee hours of the morning writing and programming and writing again. And that this is typical. It's also typical to work on the weekends.

It's also true that we staff members sometimes aren't as responsive as we could be. And sometimes we're rude. We're small. There's one of me for 100 faculty. I also serve the staff (400) and students (1200). With those kinds of numbers, it makes sense that we get asked the same questions over and over again. I sometimes have to remind myself that before I put some good documentation and outreach in place, I got 250 Blackboard questions in one day at the beginning of a semester (and that was only e-mail, not phone calls). This year, that was down to about 20. I can deal with 20 and I should do so happily. Sometimes the 21st will put me over the edge though. :)

We often promise too much. We think it will only take us a minute or a day to do something and it takes longer. A problem arises or we get interrupted by more immediate problems and next thing you know, 3 days or a week can go by. We could be better at estimating how long something will take to do.

And, while I stated in my earlier post that many staff view their jobs as careers, as making a contribution to the educational mission of the college, many others see their jobs as just jobs. They come in at 9; they do what is required of them and then they go home at 5 and don't think about it. There are days when I do that--and I'm very glad that I can--but most of the time, I'm thinking about things, reading things, writing about things that have to do with my work on my own time.

There's no easy solution to these divisions and the longer I work at my current institution, the smaller the gap becomes, at least for me.

My first real podcast!

Okay, this is going to totally blow my pseudonym, but I'm going to point you to it anyway. We only did one take--which you can totally tell. We tried doing a second take, but we're in a construction zone and they decided to start doing noisy stuff right as we got started, so in the interest of expediency and because of the snow, we just edited it a little and stuck it up.

So here it is.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Book Recommendation

I don't expect to actually make money off of my little amazon thingy. I just thought it would be something fun to play with. The book I'm highlighting now was actually written by a guy in my writing group. It's based on a story told to him by a Holocaust survivor. He's also written a screenplay based on the book. It's a really wonderful story and I know the guy and he's a really great guy, so if you're in the market for a good, short book, take a peek. This will probably be my only plug, unless my other friends start publishing--or if I do. :)

The Faculty/Staff divide

I realize this is a risky post topic considering my audience, but it's something I've been wanting to write about for a while. This also may be a figment of my own imagination and/or unique to my insititution.

A while back, I mentioned that I felt like I was being treated like slave labor and this is the root of the faculty/staff divide as I see it. I have the good fortune of having known many faculty before I took this job through association with my husband who is a faculty member at the same institution. These people know I am an educated and thoughtful person, capable of understanding a research agenda and what it's like to teach (having taught myself at the college level for nearly 10 years). I also have the good fortune of having worked with many faculty who didn't know me before but who have gotten to know me and respect me for my competency and intelligence.

Still, my days are too often punctuated with rude requests that are often just barely within my job description. I'm asked to add students to Blackboard courses (something faculty can do themselves). I'm asked to print out Blackboard documents for students that aren't enrolled (this really isn't within my job). I'm asked to fix hardware and software problems. Once I was asked to deliver a check for a personal computer to the purchasing agent (who is housed in another building). Someone's asked me how to create fancy-looking e-mail announcements (is this instructional technology?). I'm being asked to help an alum with an online chat.

Not all of these things came from faculty, but most of them did. One of the underlying issues is simply that we're a small department and job descriptions often overlap. We also have too few staff, in my opinion, so some of these requests come through me because going through "proper channels" means waiting too long. I also have a hard time saying, simply, "That's not my job. It's so and so's job." And often these requests are piggybacked onto legitimate requests, so it's even harder to say no.

The most frustrating requests are those for which there is documentation and which aren't that difficult to figure out how to do. If students came to these same faculty and asked what the readings were for next week, they'd say, "It's on the syllabus." I once got e-mail from someone claiming there was no documentation. The giant help button wasn't obvious enough apparently. Basically, I get treated like the outsourced tech help.

I've had this version of myself (the tech help, the Blackboard person) brought to my attention in quite public forums. I was on a search committee for the head of one of our branch libraries. At the initial planning session, one of the faculty said that she wasn't entirely sure why I was here since she didn't see that the head of the library needed to understand Blackboard. In front of me! I diplomatically kept my mouth shut and finally by the end of the search, she understood that I was more than the Blackboard person. I asked questions about digital assets and creating online learning objects in conjunction with the library's digital collection, about balancing the need for physical objects with the demand for 24/7 access to collections. I think the faculty were somewhat shocked, not by my questions, but by the fact that the candidates themselves inspired these questions by their focus on "going digital" in their job presentations.

Yes, I changed minds during that process, but too often I am dismissed in someone's initial contact with me. Too often, it is assumed that since I'm not faculty, I must not be as smart or as interested in academia. There's that condescending tone they use, the obvious expectation that I can drop everything and help them with the most mundane of tasks. Most of the people who choose to become staff members at an educational institution do so because they like to think and like working with students and faculty who are smart and make them think and they believe in education. In our department alone, there are 3 ABDs and many people with master's degrees. I could make a heck of a lot more money in industry. I choose not to because I really believe that there's value in figuring out how to teach and learn in the 21st century. If I worked in industry, I would expect to be treated like a lackey occasionally. I expect to be treatd with a little more respect in an educational setting.

I really do love my job and most of the time I love the people I work with, including the faculty :). But some days, I get frustrated. Our uber boss said of our group that we're somewhat like an academic department. Our group was talking about setting a research agenda. Granted, there's disrespect all around among and between the real academic departments, but just for once, I'd like for people to realize that we might be more like them than they may want to admit.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Memories you don't remember

Jody at Raising WEG posts about "living in the moment" as parent. I commented there, but it also made me think about the memories my kids are starting to share with me. For example, Geeky Boy said he remembered when we first moved into this house. Just a few hours after the movers left us with a jumble of boxes and furniture, we needed to have dinner. Geeky Boy remembers that we laid out the purple blanket, brought home pizza and sat on the floor and ate. I have no real memory of this. I'm sure it's true, but it has left my mind to make room for other things. Who knows what was on my mind instead--probably the unpacking of boxes and arranging of furniture.

Last night, we all sat on the couch together and watched "America's Funniest Home Videos." For the longest time, we've had movie night on Friday night, but with Geeky Boy's basketball and various illnesses and travelling, we haven't done this much lately. We were missing Mr. Geeky, but still it was nice to all be together for once. So often, we all have other things on our minds--projects to work on, papers to write, the need to be alone and unwind. Soon, I imagine, Geeky Boy will be going out with friends and then on dates. Same for Geeky Girl. In some ways, I confess I'm looking forward to at least some nights alone with Mr. Geeky in our own house. But I know I will miss lying on the couch in the dark with just the flicker of the tv and the warmth and weight of small bodies.

Instead of regret or sadness, I simply hope it becomes a memory we can all share, one that won't slip out of our heads to make room for the nitty-gritty details of living.

I forgot to make coffee

For a whole hour. Geeky girl slept with me last night. She woke at 3:00 a.m. needing more medicine and some water. Then I couldn't go back to sleep, worrying about her. I actually got up and looked up croup on the internet. It was reassuring just to know what the really bad symptoms were and that Geeky Girl didn't have any of them. She was sleeping, breathing just fine. Finally I drifted off myself, not waking until 8:30 when Geeky Girl woke me up. I was so caught up in helping her get medicine, juice, and breakfast that I forgot to make coffee. As I was serving up breakfast, I realized that I hadn't made coffee. Shocking, you just don't know.

I might actually do some real housework today. Or not.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Two-hour delay

The snow has caused a two-hour school delay, so I'm still in my bathrobe at the usual bus time. Geeky Girl has a nasty cough, so I've decided to drag her to work with me, like Scrivner. She's had croup a few times in her young life and when she gets a cough like this, it freaks her out because she feels like she can't breathe. So, even though she doesn't have a fever, I'd rather be there for the freak-out. She does well when I remind her to breathe through her nose. We just ran out of cough medicine and I'm planning to swing by the drug store on the way to campus and get some more, plus some snacks and maybe a coloring book to get her through the day.

This will be the first time in a long time I've taken the kids to work with me. I could stay home, but I have quite a few things on my plate and Friday's a slow day so it should be fine. Plus, we're recording our very first podcast today! Hooray! We're calling it "Click and Double-Click." It's a tech-help "show." We wanted to prove the usefulness of podcasting so we decided to last week that we were just going to do it. I'm pretty darn excited about it.

I'm going to have to get ready soon even though the bus won't be here for two hours because I have to shovel the walk and the driveway (Mr. Geeky being out of town and all). Let's hope I don't keel over because I'm not in the best of shape these days.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The state meme

Okay, okay. I give in. Someone (Prof. Goose!) was writing about the south today. Note that I have visited or lived in every southern state (I think).

bold the states you've been to, underline the states you've lived in and italicize the state you're in now...

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C /

Go HERE to have a form generate the HTML for you.

Snow, glorious snow!

Well, the snow came and school was cancelled and I've spent the day lazing around. I think I still have the kid's attitude toward snow--snow day! No work! No school! Hooray! Plus Mr. Geeky is out of town so the routine is thrown off completely.

Before the snow hit, I went to the doctor about a weird leg thing I've been having. This weekend, my left leg started tingling, like it had gone to sleep. It kept me awake. It did this all weekend and eventually turned into a burning sensation, mostly in my calf. So I called the doctor on Wednesday and even though it feels better, less intense and more isolated, it's definitely still there. The doctor has no idea what it might be, so she's sending me to a neurologist. I go in a week and a half. By then, the pain/sensation will probably be gone, but still . . .

We've also inherited another kid for the afternoon, which is fine because usually they inherit my kid.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Why I have a job

So Friday we ran a "How to get your web page up and running" workshop. Basically, we thought we were going to show people some basic FTP tools, set up web accounts for them and talk about the index page, etc. What happened, though, was that the people who showed up barely knew how to turn on a computer, much less navigate an FTP client. Here are a couple of conversations:

Flustered Professor: "Oh, my gosh. You're going too fast. I'll never remember this." (Pauses to write down steps as I dictate them.) "Wow, this is really complicated."
Colleague: "Yes, thus why we have jobs." (It was hard not to laugh.)

Crazy Lady who comes to every workshop we have: "Where did the other picture go?"
Me: "What other picture?"
CL: "The one on the other page."
Me: "Oh, the one we linked to?" (clicking on link we'd created to a picture to demonstrate linking to files versus linking to web sites)
CL: "Oh, there it is. Now go back."
Me: (Clicking the back button).
CL: "Now click it again."
Me: (Clicking the same link again).
CL: "Where is the other picture?"
Me: "What other picture?"
CL: "You know, the one on the other page."
Me: "You mean the one embedded in the page?"
CL: "Yeah. Why doesn't it show up when you click the link a second time?"
Me: (Dumbfounded)

On Saturday, my mom calls--actually my stepfather, who talks to Mr. Geeky first before putting my mom on the phone.

SF: "Just tell her to leave the computer alone."
Mr. G: (Listens to my mom explain the problem). "Ummm . . . let me let you talk to Geekymom."
Mom: "The computer is running really slow. I think we might have a virus or spyware or something. I can't remember what programs to run. And my e-mail's not working."
Me: (Tell her what programs to run).
Mom: "Okay. I'm gonna do that and call you back."
(15 minutes go by. Mom calls back).
Mom: "It says some file called something, something, something dot c-a-b is infected but it's write protected."
Me: "Uh, I think that's part of the operating system. You may need to re-install."
Mom: "Oh, crap."
Me: "Yeah, I don't know of anything else to do. I'd call AOL about the e-mail thing. Maybe they can help you with this too."
Mom: "Yeah, I'm gonna back up my files now and call them."
Me: "Okay."

What I should have said: "If you'd tell SF to quit downloading porn through limewire and visiting the porn sites with all the popups, you wouldn't have this problem."

Total randomness

I'm tired because I was writing in my head again last night. Unfortunately I don't remember what it was. I was thinking about sexism and motherhood and technology, so perhaps it was some version of the Stepford Wives. I don't know.

I remembered the previous night's writing and actually got the article down on paper. I'm writing a sort of general piece, something that might be appropriate for The Chronicle or a journal in Instructional Technology about technology and the liberal arts. If anyone has any ideas about that they'd like to share, leave me a comment or e-mail me.

I actually had a very good day yesterday. I was all worked-up about something and it got resolved yesterday. I was worked-up for nothing. I did some more work on CSS. I worked on the article. I did some reading for the grant I'm working on. At the end of the day, I met with a faculty member to work on his computer and help him do some video editing/dvd burning. It was quite productive. While we were waiting for the DVD to burn, we had a nice talk.

The morning is going to be filled with meetings but the afternoon is wide open. I've been ignoring a lot of my IT blogs lately and I'm hoping to . . . OOh I just remembered what I was writing in my head. I have a presentation on blogging to the board of trustees; right after that, I'm doing one on blogging and teaching writing. I was writing that in my head last night. Cool! So maybe that's what I'll do this afternoon.

At some point I'm going to write about some things I've been thinking about in regard to my particular institution's culture. A few of the people at that institution read this, but I don't think I'll be writing anything risque. I'm finally starting to solidify some ideas about some institutional problems, some things I think I've contributed to, but that I can do something about--maybe.

How's that for totally random?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Kevin and Larry and Mommy doesn't matter

I'm not going to speak intelligently here and I'm not going to link to Kevin Drum, who I think brought this whole thing up because his traffic was getting low and he was going to slide down a level in the Ecosystem--not that he isn't really a slimey mollusk anyway--but I wish these people would just come out and say what's on their mind. They're not wondering why there are so few women in science or in the blogosphere, but they're wondering why they're there at all. Bitch, Ph.D. put it nicely in her metaphors about family values because that's what it's about. The women should be at home obsessing over their fucking color-coordinated party plates and leave the science and polticking to the men.

At least that's what I read between the lines. And if I weren't so tired from cooking dinner and doing laundry, I'd go hit them over their heads with a frying pan.

Stressed out

I think I'll take a page from Jimbo's book and say that I'm in some kind of weird emotional state, a cross between manic and depressive, though I don't think mine's anything truly serious. I did not do much this weekend which should have left me feeling refreshed, but it did the exact opposite. I now feel overwhelmed somehow.

First, there's money. Taxes are not looking good at all. I'm planning to take our forms that we filled out online to an accountant this week. I also re-filled out my w4 so this won't happen next year. It's also travel season for Mr. Geeky, who does not plan well, so we're having to purchase plane tickets and hotel rooms up front which puts a squeeze on us until we get reimbursed. I tried to talk to Mr. Geeky about some belt-tightening, but he kept saying, "It won't help." Well, I happen to think it will, so I can't make Mr. Geeky go along, but I'm tightening where I can.

Then there's the writing, which is just silly to stress about because I don't have to do it at all. However, last night, I was writing bits of project 2 in my head (I had worked on it quite a bit this weekend) and that kept me awake. Then I started writing an article that I've been thinking about for work in my head. That kept me awake longer. I think I'm stressed about this because these are the things that are really worthwhile in the long term, but I'm burdened by the nitpicky things which are keeping me from really focusing on them--especially the work article.

Speaking of work. I've had kind of a bad attitude about it lately. We had a small reorganization--which did not affect me at all--but others are a bit put off by it. I think that's rubbing off on me. Plus I have lots of little things to do. Things I don't like.

You remember Gulliver and the Liliputians? I feel like all these things are like the Lilliputians, tying me down, keeping me from my bigger purpose. And so the manic (a drive to get all the crap done) and the depressive (a feeling that it's impossible to do so and that it might not be worth it).

Monday, February 21, 2005

What my kids do when I ignore them

I took the day off work today since the kids were off for president's day. We had a pretty lazy weekend. I wasn't feeling 100%. It was like the flu without all the full-blown symptoms. So I felt crappy without any real reason to. It was odd.

So there was a lot of sitting around, trying not to feel crappy. While I was doing that and Mr. Geeky was programming robots, the kids entertained themselves.

Geeky Boy went to a friend's house (dribbling star) on Saturday. He went to another friend's house on Sunday and then used his allowance money to buy some new video games. We never saw him again after that. He did take breaks to eat and to play a game of chess with his father.

Geeky Girl set up a book fair, using the many, many books we have around the house. She also created a couple of her own books. When I asked her if she wrote them, she said, "No, Geeky Girl did." "Ohhhh," I said. After the book fair, she turned her crayons (used to create the books) into people. These crayons/people ride in the bus/crayon box to school. Some of the crayons/parents go to work or run errands. This all takes place on the floor just behind Mr. Geeky's office chair. She's currently doing this. She did this for hours on Saturday and Sunday. She did a little bit of video game playing with Geeky Boy, but essentially, she's been playing this crayon thing for three days! With no signs of boredom. I'm truly amazed by this. I also don't know why we bother with buying toys when a $2 box of 24 crayons provides this many hours of entertainment.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Tweaking the template

I'm doing a little tweaking, so some things might get out of whack. Let me know what you're seeing and what browser you're using if it's totally screwed up. I'm just trying to shift some content around.

YAQ: What obsolete skill are you?

Via Ancarett
I wasn't going to post the results, but seeing how I have geeky in title . . . and this game below--QBasic Gorillas, I used to play it all the time. QBasic is probably the last programming language I knew anything about.

QBASIC screenshot
You are 'programming in QBASIC'. This programming
language (of which the acronym stands for
'Quick Beginners' All-purpose Symbolic
Instruction Code'), which is so primitive that
it cannot easily be used for any purpose
involving the Internet nor even sound, was
current more than a decade ago.

You are independent, in a good way. When something
which you need cannot be found, you make it
yourself. In writing and in talking with
people, you value clarity and precision; your
friends may not realize how important that is.
When necessary, you are prepared to be a
mediator in conflicts between your friends.
You are very rational, and you think of things
in terms of logic and common sense.
Unfortunately, your emotionally unstable
friends may be put off by your devotion to
logic; they may even accuse you of pedantry and
insensitivity. Your problem is that
programming in QBASIC has been obsolete for a
long time.

What obsolete skill are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Burned out mommy

I just posted this comment on Raising WEG. She has some really good posts on the Mommy Madness stuff with lots of good commentary.

I admit I'm burned out on the Warner thing too. It's a losing battle really because it's all generalizations. I'm just gonna be a mom the best way I know how and sometimes that means I'm gonna be lazy and blog when I could be doing housework. And maybe the kids won't be stimulated by my presence sometimes. I don't really care. I do wish it were cheaper and that they had some kind of prenatal counseling that warned you about all of this. Oh, and maybe some counseling for the dads. Cause mine's good, but some of em . . . they need some laundry lessons.

I was thinking about this whole thing some more because, you know, I gotta obsess about something, but realized I was tired of thinking about it. I like what I'm doing with my kids. It works for me and it seems to be working for them; they're happy, healthy, doing well in school, doing well socially. What more can I ask? Well, I'd like to get rid of the guilt, I guess. And that's what the article raised for me, the ugly guilt I feel when I run into other moms who seem to be doing more. I also realized that I wrote about this a couple of times before. Even one of my earliest, maybe first?, posts has a little point about how I don't fit in with the other moms. Obviously, it's a sore point with me.

I'm tired of feeling guilty for wanting to have something for myself and have kids--and that's what makes parenting and working hard. I'm doing it--all of it--and sometimes it stresses me out, because something always falls through the cracks. I'm okay with that. I'm just waiting until everyone else is.

Why boys bug me

Not all boys, mind you and not all the time. Mostly boys bug me in organized sports situations. I confess that I hate going to Geeky Boy's sports games because I hate dealing with all the macho postering. Yes, it's true. At nine, they're already taking this whole sports thing too seriously.

Right now, Geeky Boy is playing basketball. I don't usually attend the games because they play them in their tiny gym where there really isn't room to sit or stand. You're basically on the court. Last night was the game to determine whether his team would be 3rd or 4th. Yeah, they're not that good. We had a mix-up on the times, so when I went to pick him up, he was actually just starting, so I stayed to watch.

First of all, it was clear from the practice that no one on the team is that great. There wasn't a single boy who you just thought, "Wow, he's got some talent." On the other hand, no one was particularly bad either. Probably, if you put them at the free throw line and calculated their statistics, they'd be at the same level. But reality and perception are two different things. The team had basically decided that two boys were the stars. This perception was encouraged by the coach, a reprehensible thing in my book.

Basically, the two stars have developed a cool sports "attitude" which is why I think the team considers them stars in the first place. They play aggressively; they're willing to take some chances. They're in it for the coolness factor. Neither of them pays attention to form or to what might be the best play or who's open. Their goal is to pass it to each other. The other kids might be wide open and they'll pass the ball way over their heads just to get it to the other star.

One of the stars' key strategies is simply to dribble the ball down the right side and hopefully take a shot. Inevitably, every time he did this (and he did it on almost every drive) he got trapped in the corner and couldn't even pass. The other star's strategy was to run down and stand under the basket and hope that someone would pass it to him. If he was covered, he did not move.

One of my favorite plays of the game was when dribbler star dribbled down to about the free-throw line and then stopped but was too heavily covered to shoot. There were no teammates down the court yet, so he pivoted around and my son was right there, completely open. It would have been a quick and easy pass; he could have moved into position and my son could have passed it back. He didn't want to pass to Geeky Boy. So he keeps pivoting and looking for shooting star, but he's not coming. While he's looking back down the court, he shifts the ball behind him and someone from the other team comes up from behind and snags the ball. I smirked a little at that, thinking, "Ha! That's what you get for being a ball hog."

At the end of the game, shooting star cried, because of course they lost. He is not a good sport. I caught the end of their last game and he threw a fit, saying that the other team didn't play fair.

I wasn't at all feeling sorry for my son because no one was throwing him the ball. Instead, I was simply irritated with the boys who were being coached already that winning is the most important thing and that there's always going to be a star and the rest of the team is there to support them. Thankfully, my son doesn't feel that way and the sports he loves the most--soccer and lacrosse--don't foster the same attitude.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Mad Moms, Money, and More

Alliteration is great, isn't it? I've been thinking a bit more about the mommy madness thing and reading a few posts here and there and of course, haven't come to any grand conclusions. Something Purple Elephant raised was the class issue and I think that's a big one. Elizabeth at Half-Changed World also raises the issue of the difference between the women who are struggling to just get the basics done and those who are trying to cram in way too much (whether at home or working). The Newsweek article in particular focuses on women who are decidedly upper middle class. Though specifics about the spouses combined incomes and work schedules were left out, one got the distinct impression that their combined incomes were above that magic $200,000 level. One woman was a tv news anchor; that's gotta pay pretty well.

What's interesting to me are the people who react to the article so negatively (there are more but I can't find them right now) and say that we can't expect "society" to fix this and that it has nothing to do with culture. While I think they have a point in that the article obviously focuses on a group of women who may be creating this situtation through their own sense of perfectionism, there are an awful lot of women out there who are disappointed with the culture that makes raising children more difficult.

No one seems to be looking at the way tv, print media, and movies shape what we think mothers should be. What about all those laundry and cleaning product commercials where they never show men cleaning? What about the sitcoms where the dumpy man sits in the recliner drinking beer while his svelte wife deals with the kids, cooks dinner, and folds laundry and she's been at work all day? Isn't this a way of sending women a message?

I'll agree that maybe there isn't a government program that's going to save us from this problem (if it is a problem), but I think we need to question the values that are being pushed at us from all directions. So maybe the upper classes have Martha Stewart in mind, but I guarantee you that those who can't afford everything she has are trying to or they try to create that same perfection with less.

And all that family values talk that comes around all the time. There's always a message in there that women should be doing something different--not working usually or homeschooling or something. It's never good enough.

I'm not sure we can say that it's society's fault, but as someone who believes that we are shaped by subconscious cues given to us by society, I have to believe that society/culture has played a role.

I have a long post about money but I've rambled on long enough, so I'll post that one later.

Here's the More: Everything on my list, I got done. Did the thing for the prof. Had a good wine and cheese (over 30 people showed up!). Good off-campus meeting. I'm feeling much less like an indentured servant after having some really good conversations with faculty at the reception. Hugged and kissed the kids, who decided to put themselves to bed tonight. And tomorrow's Friday!

Meme from Dr. Crazy

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

Here's mine from Organizing Plain and Simple:
"Or find a way to make it more pleasant." It is bill-paying. How apropos!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Random bedtime thoughts

First, I'm cranky. For these reasons:
  1. Didn't sleep well last night.
  2. Back-to-back meetings from 10-4.
  3. There's something I need to do for a professor that I didn't get to yesterday and I'm not sure if she needs it tomorrow or not and it's something that's going to take a while. Her e-mail was vague.
  4. I'm feeling like an indentured servant at work (more on this when I have energy).
  5. I'm hosting a reception tomorrow for which I have to pick up beer and wine (are liquor stores open at 8:30?); however, doing it in the morning conflicts with #3 above. Couldn't do it tonight because we had talent show rehearsal (more on that later, too.)
  6. I have a meeting at another campus--1/2 hour commute each way.
  7. Basically, I need sleep. Thus, why I'm saying goodnight at 9:49.
Remind me tomorrow and I'm going to write some more about money. Because apparently everyone wants to talk about it. Not as good as writing about sex, but a good second. Lots of good political blog posts our there, especially re: Dean, Democrats, and pro-choice/abortion rights. But, too tired to comment or link. Tomorrow, I promise.

If I can read two books at once . . .

. . . can I write two books at once? I cheated. I admit it. I cheated on my book by working on another one. But the other one is easier. It had been running around in my head trying to get out for weeks. I had to let it go. Will I get back to the first book? I know I will, cause it's running around in my head too.

None of the advice I read to writers says anything about writing two books at once. Everyone seems to assume that you just plow through one project at a time. I just don't function well that way. Probably yet another reason why I couldn't finish the Ph.D., all that energy focused on one narrow thing. I like change, freshness. I'm not exactly bored with the first project, but I'm rewriting large chunks of it--the first 100 pages, so I'm not writing new stuff, just making the old stuff fresher. So, I needed to have some fresh stuff to write, thus the other book.

I think I'm crazy. I must lack focus or something. The thing is, I've been working on the first book for almost two years now. I can only write at night and on the weekends, very piecemeal, because not every night is conducive to writing. I would like to finish just one project even if it sucks, just to say I did it. I think the second book is more likely to be finished before the first one. We'll see. Of course, if I win the lottery, I might be able to quit my job and finish both.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Yet another work-family post

Update: There are now quite a few posts about this out there. Found by doing a search on the author's name. Will try to read some tomorrow and post.

This one with actual resources and links. The cover story of this week's Newsweek features an article called "Mommy Madness," explaining the overproduced way women approach motherhood. The author, Judith Warner, explains that despite the feminist movement giving women lots of choices, most find they don't have any:
Yet as mothers many women face "choices" on the order of: You can continue to pursue your professional dreams at the cost of abandoning your children to long hours of inadequate child care. Or: You can stay at home with your baby and live in a state of virtual, crazy-making isolation because you can't afford a nanny, because there is no such thing as part-time day care, and because your husband doesn't come home until 8:30 at night.

These are choices that don't feel like choices at all. They are the harsh realities of family life in a culture that has no structures in place to allow women—and men—to balance work and child-rearing. But most women in our generation don't think to look beyond themselves at the constraints that keep them from being able to make real choices as mothers. It almost never occurs to them that they can use the muscle of their superb education or their collective voice to change or rearrange their social support system. They simply don't have the political reflex—or the vocabulary—to think of things in this way.

And we're damn tired, too. She offers some really good solutions, like tax credits to businesses for providing "family-friendly" work conditions. While she emphasizes problems that are more societal in nature--the need for quality daycare, good public schools, and more flexible work schedules--she also places some onus on the women themselves to stop overscheduling their kids, to quit being so perfect.

I started thinking about why I feel so guilty for not being perfect and it's the peer pressure that does it. When I'm out at the bus stop and a mom asks me which camps I'm signing my kids up for, I suddenly feel horrible for not signing them up. When my kids are in the after school daycare and no one else in the neighborhood has their kids in daycare, I feel like I'm dumping them, like I wasn't "mom" enough to make arrangements to be home with them. If I don't have those interactions, then I'm clueless and as long as my kids seem okay, then I'm okay with what I'm doing. But as the world shrinks and we know more and more about what other moms are doing, we begin to measure ourselves against that. It's human nature to do so (it's something Gladwell points out in the Tipping Point as well).

I did a little skipping around the blogosphere to see if there was even a blip on the radar about this issue. Not in the top 100. Interestingly, the blogs that I found that are writing about it are saying mostly that it's not their reality and that the women in the article are overprivileged and whining. That may be true to some extent, but I live in a very middle-class neighborhood. No one drives fancy cars or sends their kids to private school, but there's still enough pressure to make some of us (me) feel like they're not doing enough.

Then, there's this sentiment: "We're now living in a world that has rolled back many of the gains tht feminists made in the 70's. Women are now, once again, responsible for being June Cleaver but more so."

If I just kick back and become the slacker mom (a good read), will they be okay? I think so. I know I will be. "The Yellow Wallpaper" haunts me at times. I certainly don't want to become that.

Despite what I know is good for me--not worrying too much about cleanliness, not overscheduling the kids, not being a supermom--I still think much can be done to alleviate the workload. Americans have the longest work week in the world. Flexible work schedules including part-time opportunities with benefits don't just help families. They can help whole communities. Everyone needs time for a life, whether that life is with kids, other relatives, art, volunteer work. If people have time for a life, there's more time to participate in their communities and/or contribute to it. That makes life better for everyone, don't you think?

Monday, February 14, 2005

5 going on 13

This makes me feel a little better:

In the car, Geeky Girl (5), explains that she was watching Static Shock and the bad guy was "smiling too hardly and it was really freaking me out."

Then, I asked her if she was ready to be tucked in and she said, "Uh, hello . . . I'm not ready yet." (You have to imagine the condescension yourself).

In the doldrums

If you've ever read the Phantom Toll Booth, you'll know what I mean. In the doldrums, no one can go anywhere. Everyone is just stuck. I sort of feel that way today. I had no real direction at work, nothing pressing and nothing interesting I wanted to work on. At home, the house continues to deteriorate, although we do have black socks now. I definitely have some sort of illness, not as bad as what the boys have, but I've been fighting it all week. Right now, I feel like I could pass out on my keyboard. I have lots of little things I need to do, but feel beaten down. I keep putting these little things off, hoping for a burst of energy. Not happening. The way out of this in the Phantom Toll Booth is that they start thinking about stuff and that gets them going. Right now, I don't even think I have the energy for that.

Monday Random Thoughts

That 43 folders thing--not gonna work for me. I know what's in those folders and I don't want to deal with it.

Taxes suck. Must remember to change W4. What tax cut is Bush talking about? Cause I'm not seeing it.

When you spend the weekend relaxing and organizing your work area, you end up without any black socks to wear on Monday.

Valentine's Day. Don't really celebrate it anymore. Never really did. It has now become a day to buy little cards and candy and try to remember all the names of all the kids in two classes. Or at least remember where you put the list they gave you.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Blogging to you from . . .

my new desk! I promise a picture once I get to the finishing touches. We literally just finished setting it up. It's huge--but I'm so happy. I don't really care if IKEA isn't real furniture. It's so great for small places. I have my printer and scanner on the desk and there's still room for books and papers as I'm writing. Yippee!! Have I done any writing this weekend? Well, no. But next week--you bet. I did do some much-needed reading which gave me some help with some parts of the book I was working on, so that's good. And I spent a good deal of time with the kids, also good.

Lord of the Rings

I'm watching Two Towers with the Geeky Kids. We've all seen it before--twice maybe. We're all enthralled with these movies. We're planning to read the books as well. When I was younger, I was enthralled by King Arthur. I read every version of the tales I could. My first R-rated movie was Excaliber when I was 12. What is it about these fantasy tales that captures our imaginations so? When I watch the movie again, I see so many parallels to the big questions of our time. What is worth fighting for? When do you join the fight? What is it that we all have in common that binds us together? How do you ward off evil? What is evil? Is it that the time and place is far enough away that we can begin to contemplate these questions? Or am I the only one who sees these questions in the movie? Does everyone else simply see a story, a fantasy?

Just now as the movie comes to an end and Frodo threatens Sam with his sword, my kids hold each other's hands. "There's some good in this world and it's worth fighting for."

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Creating a space

I'm continuing to think about my space and have made some tangible efforts toward creating a better space to work in. The first step was getting AbiWord, which I'm liking, btw. Next, I'm working on the physical surroundings. I purchased some poster adhesive to put up pictures and posters. I like to change things around frequently, so I want to be able to do that easily. I went to IKEA today and bought a new chair and a lamp. I was going to get a desk, but couldn't decide. The desks that I liked were about 1/2 foot deeper than my current desk and I was worried that I wouldn't have enough space. When I got home, I measured and discovered there's plenty of space. So Mr. Geeky is going to got back with me tomorrow and help me decide. I looked online at some "real" desks from "real" furniture stores and they're all like $800. Can't do that. The stuff I'm looking at at IKEA is about $150.

Of course, considering my money post, I feel pretty guilty about spending the money on this, but I'm planning to get all the money stuff sorted out in the morning. That's what I do instead of going to church; I pay bills. Sad, but true. So tomorrow is bill-paying day and if it works out okay, I'll get the desk and be on my way to real authorship.

Arthur Miller

I listened to the NPR report on the way home last night. I'm saddened to hear of his death. After reading "Death of a Salesman" in high school, I bought and read everything else he had written, one of my favorites being "The Crucible." After that, I read Tennessee Williams, Harold Pinter, anything else I could get my hands on. It was really my first introduction to contemporary drama. I already knew I liked Shakespeare, having been entranced by Othello the year before, but I didn't know until Miller that I could be just as entranced by contemporary plays. I went to see a contemporary play shortly after discovering Miller. When you live in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, opportunities for such experiences are slim. I have been remiss, now that such opportunities abound, to take advantage of them. Perhaps this will be a reminder to appreciate this art more.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Friday Random Ten

I usually don't do these--cuz frankly I'm embarrassed about my music. I really want to improve that, but not until after taxes or maybe I'll reward myself for writing or something. But here goes:

Here On Earth (I'll Have My Cake)--Crash Test Dummies
Marianne--Tori Amos
Beale Street Blues--George Lewis And His Band
Light Up My Room--Barenaked Ladies
San Francisco Bay Blues--Eric Clapton
Where The Streets Have No Name--U2
Piece Of My Heart--Janis Joplin
Woody Woodpecker Song--Kay Kyser
Empty Hands--Lenny Kravitz
Blue and White--Beth Waters

This one's not too bad--some days (shiver).

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Let's Talk about Money

Tax time is here and that's when I always think about money. Specifically, I think about how bad I am with money. No one ever talks about money, not in very specific ways anyway. No one ever says, "Well, I have $10,000 invested in stocks and here's how I did that." Or, "I have .23 left to cover my expenses for the next week. Looks like mac and cheese and pancakes." I could use some of these conversations. I'm not one of those people who's going to hire a financial planner--though I should--because I just don't know what to do with one. Ironically, I'm very good with my work budget. I have a measley amount now, but at a former job, I managed $1.3 million. No problem. My own money, forget it.

Here's the thing. We make decent money, but we have a lot of debt--credit cards, car loan, school loan. And we weren't so good in our previous credit lives--late payments abound. As a result, we don't save much. A great deal of "extra" money--beyond basic needs like food, housing and utilities goes to pay off our debt. We could skip some gratuitous spending--on books, music, computer gadgets--and save that money for something else, but we don't. We choose not to and it's not a huge amount, maybe $200 or so. I'm not good at belt-tightening unless it's absolutely necessary. Another reason I don't want to see a financial planner, I know s/he's just going to tell me to quit buying books, eating out, etc.

The internet has saved me a little in terms of finances. I've been banking online since 1997 or 8 and have automatic payments set up for nearly all of our bills. It's actually pretty easy to check on what's been paid and what hasn't. So we're not late on payments anymore. And I even have a small amount of money directly deposited into a savings account. But we're still bad at planning. Big things--like taxes. Not only do we pay our income taxes in April, but our property taxes are also due. Because we got a wonderful mortgage deal through the school, we don't escrow our taxes, so we have to plan for those. Which we don't do very well.

So basically, as April rolls around, I start to feel a little ill. Will I be able to scrape enough money together? How long will I have to make these huge chunk payments? Why don't I start saving a year ahead? Oh yeah, cause I'm making these huge chunk payments.

There's a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, however. I have managed to save some money (less than $1000), which will either cover income taxes (if we're lucky), city taxes or half of the county taxes. Also, I have been paying down the credit cards, so those payments are getting smaller. I am also nearly finished paying off my student loan and the car loan. In addition, child care costs for next year will decrease by $500/month. That's a huge deal for us! Now, of course, I need to do something good with all this extra money instead of running off to the Carribean. By this time next year, I expect to not be pinching pennies so much and saving a little more--only 8 more years until oldest hits college.

Even when things are more flush, I prefer not to deal with it. I am truly wishing for the Star Trek days when no one uses money anymore. Wouldn't that be a good Social Security plan?

Googling for fun

I am the number 1 hit for "total breakthrough." How funny is that?

Update: I'm in the top 10 for "Enjoli braces". What is that? The first hit scares me.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Dilemma Solved--for now

I think I've got a solution. I went to versiontracker, one of my favorite places and did a search for word processor. Third on the list was AbiWord, so I downloaded it and installed it. I had considered this option before but it only worked on 10.3 at the time and I didn't have it 10.3 yet, but now I do. Better yet, they've actually got it working on 10.2. It's free. It looks nice and so far, does everything I want. I used AbiWord briefly on Linux and liked it. It looks much less clunky than OpenOffice--even in Linux. I think I'll stick with it for a few days and make sure I like it, but it looks very promising. Mr. Geeky will be happy. Mr. Geeky is out being a true geek and building a Beowulf cluster.

My next step in this whole process is to clear the area and do some rearranging. I fear I'm coming down with the illness that hit the boys. I can feel it coming. I think I'll be able to combat it though. Knowing me, I'll just choke down some medicine and work. Then I'll crash on the weekend and won't be able to do the fun things I want to do. Isn't that the way it always is?

A Philosophical Dilemma

About software. In working on getting my space the way I want it, I've been thinking about my computer. I have an iMac, which I absolutely love. I wish I had one with the larger screen, but this one suits me fine. Mr. Geeky has purchased several add-ons for me for various occasions--more memory, usb hub, 250 gig hard drive, iPod--so I'm quite happy on the hardware front. The problem is software--specifically word processing software. The house is officially an anti-Microsoft zone, has been since 1997 or 8. It's a political thing. Mr. Geeky, truly the uber-geek around here, is opposed to Microsoft's business practices and a big proponent of open source software. He's a Linux man. I used to be a Linux person. I had a laptop with Linux, wrote my Master's thesis on it and started my dissertation on it. As I started doing more web development, the laptop quickly lost its ability to keep up. So we considered another machine and settled on the Mac. I get a stable, non-Microsoft operating system, plug-n-play, and games. Mr. Geeky feels good about still being anti-Microsoft.

The first year of my job, I didn't really do any writing. I was adjusting to working full-time and was trying to decide whether to finish the Ph.D. Then I started writing in earnest. I used Apple Works for a while and it was okay. Then I looked for some alternatives out there and actually purchased Mellel, which is also just okay. Open Office doesn't really have a good native version for the Mac. What I want is Microsoft Word. It's what I use at work. I've been secretly writing on the PC laptop I've borrowed from work. I like the look and feel of Word. It does all the things I want a word processor to do. I can actually purchase (really lease) the whole Office suite through the school for $55. Mr. Geeky would freak out.

The thing is, it's my computer, my space and I have my own money, thank you very much, so I can do what I want. But I've tried to be supportive of Mr. Geeky's political views. I don't want to disappoint him with my weakness. If anyone knows of a just-as-good alternative, please tell me (and don't say Nisus; I've tried it, don't like it much).

While I've been debating this--the house is falling apart around me. While the boys were sick, I didn't do much. I blogged. I wrote. I did not clean house. My house is now a pit of dispair. I'll dig my way out this weekend--and I'm going to set up the office space (including some word processing software).

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Sharing cute stories

David invites us to share our cute stories about our kids. I'm all for that, and for those of you with pets instead of kids (those are the ones I can think of), I like hearing those stories too (I miss my pets).

Here's mine--and it's just a peek of what I'm missing by working:

I went to Geeky Girl's play on Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Geeky Girl and 2 other girls played the part of Mama Bear. Geeky Girl was excited because she had the most lines. All the kids had on their bear ears, except for the kids playing Golidlocks, who had on long blond hair. They were very cute. Afterwards, the Mama Bears all served Teddy Grahams (yeah, yeah, I know. sexist division of labor).

After the play, I met with the teacher, who gave me a glowing report while Geeky Girl cleaned up the whole room.

As I was watching the play, and driving home, I was thinking how excited Geeky Girl was to see me there. It really just made her day. I had almost not gone to the play. It was a five-minute play. Was it worth it to drive the 15-20 minutes from work? You bet.

Florence Nightingale, I'm not

The boys are still sick. Mr. Geeky is very sick. He was up in the middle of the night. It's not pretty. I do not do well in the caretaker role. It's actually quite amazing that I took on this whole mom thing which implies that I have a nurturing personality. I do not. I did "take care" of my stuffed animals when I was younger, but that was after I operated on them. I had a distant bedside manner. I still do.

It's not that I don't feel sympathy. I do. It's just that I don't like being depended on that much. I don't like having to cart drinks and meals up to the sickbed or making people feel comfortable. I don't like making sure people are taking their medicine and checking temperatures frequently. I think it's partly because that usually when I get sick, no one really takes care of me. I take care of myself. I get my own drinks and medicine. I tend to myself. I also don't get sick that often.

I'm taking a half-day today, not because the boys are sick, but to attend a school play and a conference. I guess I'll have to do my best to play Florence Nightingale during that time, too. Sigh. Survival of the fittest, indeed.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Dads who are feeling the stress

Total pages this week: 1.8
Running total: 7

I just had to post again because I've run into yet another post by a dad who is feeling the work-family pinch. The first one I found is from Jimbo over at Cul-de-Sac. And the second is Rob at Big Monkey, Helpy Chalk.
I'm not pointing this out to say, wow, look, how rare is that. It's not for these particular folks and I should mention David at Scrivenings, who often posts about juggling work and family. If you know of anyone else, send it to me. Can we have a carnival of posts about the stresses of juggling work and family (and I mean family loosely, not necessarily just kids)? Can we forward all of our posts to someone? Look at all of us, struggling to do what we're called to do and be parents. Help us, please. Something like that.

Monday misery

Well, let's see--the Eagles lost--not that I'm that depressed about that, but still. Mr. Geeky became sick during third quarter. Geeky Boy came home from his friend's house (Super Bowl party of his own) sick. Geeky Girl woke up in the middle of the night sick. Mr. Geeky and Geeky Boy stayed home. Geeky Girl seemed fine.

At work, I was faced with 3 back-to-back meetings which meant that it was 2:00 before I could do anything. I dealt with something that wasn't really my job, but has been a lingering issue for weeks and somehow I've ended up in the middle.

On a brighter note, I picked up 3 books from the library that I need for my novel. I picked up some adhesive (for putting up pictures) to begin working on my space (bad note: Mr. Geeky is in bed and using my computer as his personal movie watching machine). I've also whored myself to Amazon (joining Bitch Ph.D. and profgrrrrl). I am now listening to my iPod (currently One More Time by The Cure) in order to tune out the kids. I'm at the dining room table; they're in the adjoining living room playing video games. I'm about ready to have some apple pie (because I can) and I'm planning to spend the next hour reading blogs, then putting the kiddos to bed, then writing.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Some thoughts on reading and writing

Total pages this week: 5.2
Running total: 5.2

Yes, I actually got some writing done this morning. I'm planning another round this afternoon. I took yesterday off instead of today. I had one too many beers Friday night, which left me not exactly hungover, but definitely tired. I'm not sure I'll reach my goal of 15 pages this week, but by god, I'm going to try. I got a little over 2 pages this morning and can probably do a little more than that this afternoon and maybe after the Super Bowl game (go, Eagles!), I can get another few pages done. The count starts at zero again tomorrow.

Some things have struck me over the last 24 hours while reading for my writing and reading The Tipping Point. First, I had been contemplating the lack of having a room of my own a while back. It really does affect my ability to write. I was thinking how stupid this was. I should just get off my kiester and write, desk be damned. But it does matter and Malcolm Gladwell confirmed that for me when writing about the power of context. In the first section that he writes about this point, he simply points out that context, our physical environment can affect our psychological state. He uses the disarray and degradaton of the New York subway system in the 80s as one example of a context that made people feel that committing a crime was okay--because it looked like the kind of place where one would commit crimes. He also used the experiment at Stanford where they created a prison environment and showed how quickly people began acting like prisoners and guards.

Now I don't feel like I'm in the NYC subway of the 80s or a prison, but the dark, cramped environment is not conducive to good work. I'm never going to be neat, but if I have the space to move the piles off to the side and keep the mess at bay until I'm ready to deal with it, I can function quite well. I do this it at work and I'm fine. Purple Elephant commented thus:
Is there any way you could make that little corner 'yours' in some way? Maybe hang some pictures / photos that inspire you, or some scented candles, something like that. I've also heard that Basil, Rosemary and Peppermint essential oils are good for concentration.
What a wonderful idea! Mr. Geeky is ready to help assemble some better space for me, including perhaps a new desk, but in the meantime, I think I can begin to take a little more control over the situation and create a better context in which to write.

Interestingly, the novel I'm working on has as its main character a woman writer (from the 17th c.). I was re-reading some sections of The Book of the Courtier to help me with a dialogue section where several characters are talking about whether it's appropriate for women to write (talk about context!). Here are some key passages that interested me. Amazing how these ideas are still around:
Now that women are unperfect creatures and consequently of less woorthiness then men, and not apt to conceive those vertues that they are, I pourpose not to affirme it, bicause the prowesse of the Ladies were inough to make me a lyer. Yet this I saye unto you, that most wise men have left in writinge, that nature, bicause she is
alwaies set and bent to make thinges most perfect, if she coulde, woulde continuallye bring furth men, and whan a woman is borne, it is a slacknes or default of nature, and contrary to that she would do. As it is also seene in one borne blinde, lame, or with some other impediment, and in trees manye frutes that never ripen: even so may a woman be said to be a creature brought furth at a chaunce and by happe, and that it is so, marke me the woorkes of the man and the woman, and by them make your proof of the perfection of ech of them.
i.e. woman is an aberration
Whens commeth it that naturally the woman alwaies loveth the man, that hath bine the first to receive of her, amorous pleasures? And contrariwise the man hateth the woman that hath bine the first to coople in that wise with him? and addinge therto the cause, affirmeth it to be this: For that in this act, the woman receyveth of the man perfection, and the man of the woman imperfection: and therfore everie man naturallye loveth the thinge that maketh him perfect: and hateth that maketh him unperfect. And beeside this a great argument of the perfection of the man, and of the imperfection of the woman, is, that generallye everye woman wisheth she were a man, by a certein provocation of nature, that teacheth her to wishe for her perfection.
My favorite part is that a woman wishes to be a man. Geez. There's lots more. I have the Penguin version which has a little bit more modernized English. It still captures the essence well.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Fear and Loathing in Las Techno

In working on this grant, I have come face to face with the fear of technology among professors. At a small liberal arts college, I had assumed this was rampant, but seeing it in the flesh is quite fascinating.

Some background. I am an abd. My primary field was Early Modern Literature, but I was minoring in Composition and Rhetoric with a focus on technology and writing. Had my department offered a full degree in Comp. and Rhet., I'd probably be doing that instead and I'd probably actually be finished. So obviously, I like technology; I use it everyday for things not work-related (like blogging and listening to music). I'm an Instructional Technologist (translated by some as the mechanic who fixes their Blackboard problems), but I also have an authentic academic interest in its use for education, especially in writing (which is the focus of the grant). I don't flaunt this background very much--perhaps I should.

Background on the PI. He tends to be our advocate for technology among the faculty. He has a laptop. He's not opposed to technology. He uses it fairly frequently. However, he is about 5-10 years behind current trends.

Anyway, in the early days of working on the grant proposal, I had sent some links to the PI related to some work people were doing on our grant topic as a way of suggesting that we might contact these people to speak at our planned workshop.

At the meeting after these links are sent, PI is flabbergasted by the sheer newness of the stuff these people are doing. Do people really do this stuff? It seems so impractical. I just want my students to write a good paper. And I said something to the effect of, well, the students are reading stuff online (complete with sound, pictures, video) and we should help them be critical of those rhetorics and one way of doing that was to have assignments that make them construct such pieces themselves. His eyes popped out of his head and then we moved on.

I won't go into too much detail, but basically this person is stuck in ideas that are 5 years old and while I don't think our 5-year old technology ideas are worthless, considering this guy is about 5 years ahead of a heck of a lot of our faculty, I do think that it's worth recognizing that you're 5 years behind and maybe make some effort to catch up.

This whole thing got me to thinking about the way some faculty (anyone really) approach technology. Most of the people I work with seek me out. They're interested in using technology and want some help in doing so, either with how to incorporate pedagogically or just simply how to use it. But when I run workshops or talk to people in informal settings, I'm often confronted with this latent fear/loathing of technology.

Some of this, I can appreciate. There's a lot of technology that isn't easy to use. As Jane was commenting, the interfaces for a lot of the technology faculty are required to use is nearly impossible to figure out. For older faculty, it's downright maddening. They don't use technology regularly. They don't even have a vcr. It's a foreign land for them. And I'm very sympathetic to that kind of fear.

But sometimes I get the weirdest comments that reveal the hatred, couched often as fear, of technology. In a Blackboard workshop, for instance, here's some gems:

Why would I have an online discussion? I have small classes and good f-to-f discussions.

Why would I use an e-mail list? I see my students all the time; they can just call me or stop by

When I respond to these, their looks of puzzlement are often revealing. The look is either a) I have no idea what you're talking about (have never seen a discussion board or been on an e-mail list) b) why would anyone do such a thing?

I'm never going to reach these people. No amount of evidence put forth is going to change their minds. They think any technology is bad--tv, email, cellphones, stereos, the internets. What's good in their minds are books, pencils, papers, people.

And they think those that like technology hate books, pencils, papers, and people and would like to see robots take over the world. So not true. I love all of these things. And I know people think this way because when I start a conversation with, "I was just reading fiction book x . . . " or "I just finished, fiction book y . . ." I get the look again: "You read books?"

My point is that this fear and loathing sometimes creates a real barrier to communication. It's hard to have a real discussion about the sound pedagogical uses of technology when the person on the other side hates technology. I am no proponent of technology for technology's sake. I often say, sometimes the best technology is a piece of chalk. It's also hard when your biggest support is five years behind and starting to exhibit some of these fear and loathing behaviors. But I guess this is why my job is interesting.

P.S. See this post at digital digs for another interesting view of technology integration in the humanities.

Friday, February 04, 2005


Seriously. I got up at 6:35 this morning, but I couldn't bear to write. I think, like profgrrrl, I work in bursts. Plus, I was downright tired. I think I can still make my goal of 15 pages this week, perhaps tonight and tomorrow. I wrote 27 pages one week, so I know I can do it. I'm taking Sunday off.

I'm going out with colleagues tonight, but am going to try to keep it tame so that I can work. Today looks to be relatively calm at work. There's a coffee hour at 9:30 which I enjoy going to. That always gets the day off to a relaxed and collegial start. I'm not having to run today's workshop (I organize the series and often lead the individual workshops). Yippee! I'm hoping to work a little on my blog presentation and a few other more research-y things like that.

I have some better posts in my head that will have to wait until the weekend. One in particular about dealing with fear of technology that turns to disdain.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Google bombing for choice

Just joining in:

Roe v. Wade

At least some people didn't ignore the state of the union

Yeah, I ignored it. I watched my Tivo'd Amazing Race. Thankfully Bitch Ph.D. didn't ignore it, and what she says sums up my reasons for not watching it. I feel completely powerless. And not just because the dems lost the election and now we have Bush again (that should be enough, but there's more). I feel like a lot of dems are rolling over, moving right, whatever you want to call it. I write my senators and my congressman (repubs all), but it's doing no good. Gonzales has been confirmed, headed next perhaps for the Supreme Court. Social Security is going away. Corporations are getting away with god knows what. Health care? Who knows. It's being run over with a steam roller.

I think I'm gonna go watch Spongebob now. At least until the cable gets cut off.

Morning Writing

Total pages this week: 3
Running total: 3

I managed it! I didn't really want to get out of bed this morning. I was all warm and cozy, but coffee was waiting for me and so I dragged myself out and down the stairs. I re-read the previous page and made some minor edits. I think I will continue to do this as I go along. I have a tendancy not to re-read and sometimes I lose my train of thought.

I think I need to get up even earlier--maybe 6:15. That will give me a few minutes to rouse myself before I have to be coherent. We'll see how I feel after a full day of work today. I'm also going to try to exercise this evening. So many goals!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

To Write or Not to Write

Well, here I am again, feeling too tired to write. I might still do it, but as of right now, I'm thinking I'm going to get up in the morning and do it. I was thinking about this yesterday. If I just got up 1/2 hour early, I'd have an hour before everyone else rouses to get some writing done. Though I'm not a morning person (see previous post), I do okay if it's calm and I'm alone with my coffee and a glowing screen. Some nights I have plenty of energy, but lately . . . hard days at work and tonight I had to make a grocery store trip. Ugh. Anything extra tends to put me over the edge.

I've been off the exercise kick since I fell down the stairs (butt is still a little sore), but I'm more likely to exercise at night than to write at night. I feel energized by exercise. Writing wears me down. You'd think that just the opposite would be true, but not so.

I have always tried to assess my body's natural rhythms and work accordingly, but sometimes I also think it's just hard. The writing is especially hard. I want to do; I don't want to do it. And there's no external motivation. It all has to be me. I have some very supportive friends who are helping me along, but it's still hard.

I think I need to declare a whole day off the way profgrrrrl did. I have a tendancy, when the weekend comes, to fill the time with things I have to do that are kind of like work. Perhaps I'll declare Sundays a day of rest.

The Morning Rush

Call me selfish, but I really don't like getting the kids off to school in the morning. Somehow, I am the one responsible for getting everyone going, including Mr. Geeky. I've grown to resent it. None of us are morning people, so you can imagine what a daunting task this is. I much prefer to ease into my morning, lingering over the online news sites with a cup of coffee and a bagel. So here's how the morning goes:

7:00--I get up, make coffee and a bagel or toast. I read blogs, write a post if there's time.
7:30--I wake up the kids, who stumble out of bed and down the stairs. They make their own breakfast. I get in the shower.
7:45--I get out of the shower, get dressed and wake up Mr. Geeky. I go downstairs for a second cup of coffee, warn the kids that they need to get dressed.
8:00--I attempt to read some more news or blogs, but it's just too crazy. I'm constantly asking various people if they're dress, if they've brushed their teeth, gotten their shoes on, have all their homework--about every minute.
8:15--Geeky Boy goes out to the bus stop (right in front of our house). I make lunch for Geeky Girl (my least favorite task).
8:30--The three remaining Geekys leave arriving at Geeky Girls before school enrichment program around 8:45.
9:00--Arrive at work. Feel very relieved until I check my e-mail.

Often during this entire process, Mr. Geeky shouts out things (to me, not the kids) like "Does Geeky Boy have his homework?" or "Shouldn't those kids be getting dressed?" Sometimes from the comfort of the bed. In my less bitchy moments, I think this is his way of being helpful, of trying to help curtail the chaos. Those moments are rare since I'm not a morning person and if I'm going to be bitchy, it's probably going to be in the morning. He actually does quite well when he's on his own in the morning, so I know he's capable.

How would I prefer this to go? I'd prefer for everyone to wake themselves up--by alarm clock, magic, whatever. I'd like to have the confidence to know that the kids don't need to be reminded about all their little hygenic tasks and I can just tend to mine. I think this would make the morning more pleasant. I'd also like it if Mr. Geeky got up shortly after me. Maybe we could have coffee together, even if we don't have a conversation, but just sat and drank coffee and read the news. Or maybe he could help the kids with breakfast--some kind of more physical presence. This is not likely to happen. Neither of us like to get up in the morning. Heck if the noise of everyone running around in the morning didn't bother me so much, I'd probably stay in bed, too.

It might also be nice if school started later. This whole routine is just going to get earlier and earlier as the kids get older. That, I'm not looking forward to.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Some sense of accomplishment

Total pages this week: 1
Running total: 1

Today, I did the following:

-Finished redesigning a site--about 100 pages altogether--which entailed doing some screenshots, resizing and figuring out some css (I'm still bad at css).
-sent emails to lots and lots of people about various projects that I'm working on (which means responses will be waiting for me in the morning)
-organized reception
-bitched to colleauges about the can't-find-the-pickles-in-front-of-my-face people

I'm exhausted, so no writing tonight. My brain just isn't functioning well. I have a hard enough time getting the vision in my head onto paper without the vision being a little blurry to begin with. My goal--did I mention this--is to get 15 pages per week. That's 15 single-spaced, btw. I'm charting the total here as a way of having some sort of accountibility.

I am planning to do a bit of work on one of my presentations--just some reading and note-taking. The rest of the week looks booked at work, so I think I'd better get moving on it. I only have a month. Did I mention it's for the Board of Trustees?