Saturday, April 30, 2005

Sometimes rain is good

It's raining and will probably be raining for the rest of the day. I'm relieved, actually. It's a nice spring rain and it's sort of nice to be sitting inside, listening to it drip onto the sidewalks and leaves and hear the cars driving by, sprays of water springing up and cascading onto the curb. This might mean that lacrosse will be cancelled and it definitely means I don't have to work in the yard. I've started a huge project, which is nearly finished, but I haven't had the motivation to work on it.

I really need to hit a coffee shop and do some writing and there's grocery shopping and laundry to do. Mr. Geeky wants to go see The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe this weekend. That would be okay but I'm sort of worried about this writing thing.

Last night, I played video games with my son. We're playing an old Lara Croft game together, one that we played together a long time ago. It's really been fun. We're constantly saying, "Oh, I remember how we figured this out!" He still has to cover his eyes for some parts. It's pretty funny and sweet. He is really a very non-violent person. This is the most violent video game we own and we only have it because we bought it for me. He got intrigued by the strategy aspect of it when I first started playing it. I think he'd like something like Myst, though it might be over his head. If it continues to rain, perhaps we can continue our gaming.

I started taking thyroid medication yesterday and am feeling much better. I don't think I've mentioned this here, but back in September, I had half my thyroid removed with the possibility that it could be cancer. That turned out not to be the case and in fact, the doctors thought that the remaining half thyroid had been doing all of the work for quite a while. Well, that turned out not to be true. The symptoms: fatigue, depression, among others, but those were the main ones for me. I think I'm also relieved to know there's a medical explanation for my feeling out of sorts. The symptoms weren't strong enough to really be overly concerned about, but I just didn't feel right. And I think this has been true for 10 years. Signs of trouble I ignored.

I think I'm back to blogging more regularly. I'm still not completely caught up with reading, but getting there.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Who knew work could be fun!

I know this isn't fair to those who are buried under papers right now, but I've been having a blast at work lately. Oh, I've had the occasional frustration, like not being able to get the large format printer to cooperate properly, but generally things are going very well. I can hardly believe I wrote this, or this, or this. Just two weeks ago--man, that's sad. Someone remind me of these last few days when I go back into the funk again.

Today, Jean-Claude Bradley from Drexel came and gave a presentation on podcasting and screencasting lectures. If you do lectures at all, you should check it out. It was very interesting and several of the faculty who attended are interested in giving it a try.

Tomorrow is the last day of classes. Monday, I'm attending three students' thesis presentations. They've all worked closely with Mr. Geeky and two of them worked for me last summer in what I call a semi-slumber-party atmosphere. So we're close. :) Soon things will be gearing up for that semi-slumber-party atmosphere again and though it's hard work to get things set up for that, it's really fun. Basically, I've hired 6 students who will spend 10 weeks learning and developing multimedia projects. They work very closely together and rely on each other and me for lots of help and support. I'm looking forward to it!

I just feel like a lot of things are falling into place and I really have some direction. Let's hope it lasts for at least a little while.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A Question

I've been attending some local events--lectures, presentations and whatnot--in addition to hosting my own. Attendence is small at most of them, less than 15 people. Jimbo had mentioned a while back that he was disappointed in attendance at his Big Gorilla sessions.

My question is do you think that the increased tenure and promotion requirements at most institutions actually squelch participation in such community activities?

I was wandering across campus today thinking that this place is supposed to be a community, but how much of a community is it? Are there separate communities? And are these presentations, lectures, colloquia, etc. ways of forming community and if no one attends, does it mean they don't want to be a part of the community? What is it that we are trying to foster on college campuses--especially smaller campuses?

Okay, that was more than one question.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Random late-night Monday thoughts

This is going to be a crazy week; blogging might be light. I am bringing in a speaker this week. I have a writing deadline Sunday. I have multiple personal obligations. I will come up for air next Monday, but I'll try to stop by.

I love everyone's comments on the health post below. I especially appreciate pg's suggestions on quick meals. Isn't it funny how you think, yeah, of course, but advertising convinces you that hot dogs or McDonald's is better?

Should I be worried that I have some people's url's memorized? Do those of you who discuss your blog with others ever get looked at like they're thinking of calling the cops? Is blogging any weirder as a pasttime than watching tv?

That is all for now. Good night.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

In which I write about food, fatness and health

This week, the Journal of the American Medical Association published report showing that overweight people might live longer than underweight people. Really, it's main point (from my brief reading) is that there were fewer deaths as a result of being overweight than as a result being underweight. For some more detailed quotes and links, go here. While I was at Drexel, I talked to the Dean, who told me about a study on mice that showed similar results. I haven't seen anything about the mouse study, but I've seen plenty on the other research.

John Tierney writes about the connection between body weight and class (completely unscientifically).

In four-fifths of the societies studied by anthropologists, people have sensibly considered a plump pear-shaped body to be the female ideal. Subcutaneous fat was traditionally a sign of fertility and health, a status indicator showing that a woman was not too poor to afford food.

But as food became cheaper and more available, the ideal changed. Avoiding temptation in the midst of plenty became a virtue and a status symbol of the rich. Thinness became a form of conspicuous consumption, what might be called conspicuous conservation. . . .

As long as it's more expensive to be thin, fat will not be fashionable, no matter what scientists find.

No matter where I've lived, it's been expensive to be thin. Yes, you can always get out and walk or run for free. But there's the food and there's the time. Healthier food (aside from some of the basics like beans and rice) are almost always more expensive. Fresh fruits and vegetables are more expensive than frozen or canned (and take longer to prepare). Exotic fruits and vegetables in most of the country are really expensive or non-existent. Soy products are often expensive. Lean meat is more expensive than fatter meat. Healthier meat (like chicken or fish) is more expensive than beef (aside from really good steak cuts). And then there's the prep time for fresh food vs. buying prepared versions. And most of those prepared foods are less healthy (more sodium and saturated fats). Sure, once you learn some tricks or prepare ahead, maybe the time won't matter, but so many people are used to making quick meals (myself included sometimes) that they don't know those tricks or want to invest the time to learn them. And let's not forget about the people who don't even know what's good for them (thanks to the new pyramid).

And then there's the exercise side of the equation. I struggle to find time to exercise. Imagine if I'm holding down two jobs to make ends meet. I think there'll be Hamburger Helper for dinner and no workout. And yet, the CDC and the FDA and agencies of their ilk, recommend healthy eating and 60-90 minutes of exercise a day. The average American just doesn't have that kind of time. Interesting how this fits into work-life balance, isn't it?

Then David Brooks had to chime in and be all weird about it. Both Tierney and Brooks use the study to give middle-aged men an excuse for their middles (Brooks more so than Tierney) and that's just weird. Now I don't have a perfect figure, but I've been blessed with a small frame and a high metabolism, so I am considered thin by most of my friends. I do not feel healthy though--and that's what I think is more important--and it should be the take-home message of a study like this. The message should be extreme anything is bad--too fat, too thin. I do think our culture is obsessed with thinness and that that obsession is tied to class and race issues.

I have been trying to improve my health without worrying about my figure. As I said in another post, I just don't want to feel tired when I do basic things. I have been gradually increasing my exercise though it's hard to keep up with. And I've been thinking lately of going back to vegetarianism. I'm not going to rule out meat entirely yet, but just take it a day at a time. I'm thinking of starting with a no meat at home policy but if we're out, we'll have meat.

It will be interesting to see what the real fallout of this study is for the food and diet industry. I suspect nothing. Until you get the thin people off the covers of magazines and off tv and out of the movies, thin will still be in. It takes a cultural shift to change people's eating habits. They're part of our lifestyle not just sustenance. That's what someone needs to figure out how to change. How to change our lifestyle. If Heading Out and Prof. Goose are right, peak oil may have us living off the land soon enough.


Because that's easier to write about than being fat or promoting science to the public (but those are coming, really!) and because jo(e) asked. Laundry is coming along nicely. Bills are paid (including real estate taxes!).

We made a trip shopping yesterday, mostly to get Mr. Geeky some clothes and shoes. We went to a mall nearby, slipped into all the stores that had men's clothing and were disappointed. We saw a few things we liked, but a lot of stuff was way too expensive or just a little too "out there" for Mr. Geeky. He's Geeky, not particularly stylish or unstylish, prefers not to stand out. The Queer Eye guys would not be horrified by him, but he would also not be their model. We ended up with a pair of good-looking, kind of funky shoes for him and then headed off to Target. (Please tell me Target is better than Wal-Mart, cause I love it.)

We split up and I picked out some workout clothes (yay!). I also tried to ignore a woman who was yelling at her kid.

So my new pajamas. This past winter, I reinvigorated my pajama collection which had made a turn for the old lady category thanks to some gifts from my inlaws (they mean well). Now, I don't do sexy lingerie (I got over that in my late 20s); I want to be comfortable, but not to the complete detriment of style. So I got some mix and match sets--pants, tops, boxers--at Target. I would say, sexy in a cute way. They're fitted and don't try to hide much of anything. So my winter nightwear is looking up.

Summer nightwear is another story. Basically, it's been a collection of ratty t-shirts, most of which I hate. There are two, however, that I will never give up no matter how ratty they get. One is a Steve Dallas shirt that I bought my sophomore year in college (which means it's almost 20 years old) and another from shortly thereafter from a Bob Dylan concert (1988, I believe), a concert I went to for the opening act, The Alarm (iirc). So, I was starting to look dumpy.

I spotted at Target a quite nice collection of jammies with lightweight cropped sweatpants and fitted very soft t-shirts. The t-shirts were almost as soft as my well-worn beloved Bob Dylan and Steve Dallas shirts. I got a denim blue set, the pants slightly darker than the shirt and they are so comfy. I wanted to buy more, but I restrained myself and noted that Mother's Day is around the corner and perhaps the spouse and children can be convinced to return and purchase some in different colors.

There's just something nice about padding around the house in a pair of pajamas that is comfortable and shows off your figure. Oddly, I feel like I can take on the world in a good pair of pajamas much more than if I'm in a business suit.

Sunday's Projects

What I need to accomplish:

Laundry--out the wazoo
Bills--mostly under control, but need to check up on a few--need to check on some leftover tax stuff, but that's pretty minor
Writing--real writing, maybe even at a coffee shop (if Mr. Geeky will lend me his laptop)

Then I have several posts in mind: a public science post, something about being fat, then another poem. Meanwhile, I'm going to fold clothes and watch political pundits (cause that's what Sunday's all about!). Also, I will have to tell you about my cool new jammies or pajamas (and that's with the second a pronounced "ah"). Before any of that--more coffee.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Importance of Audience

You've all made Geeky Boy's day by posting comments on his blog. I was a little leery of posting his link here, not that I don't trust my regular readers, but this is public and the news has done a great job of scaring the bejeezus out of me about internet crime and whatnot. He was very excited to see your comments and feels compelled to keep up more with his blog. He promises pictures of the hamster(s) (little sister gets one too) when he gets them--probably in two weeks. Thanks again, everyone!

Poem of the Day: A Geeky Mom original


Children's drawing of a Christmas tree, the bottom
boughs of the pine curve perfectly, and beyond
the tree, the white house, the tiny window facing

always a light in it, reddish from the thin curtains.
My hands dip into the sink, the warm water. Once
I told my father I wanted to be a professional football

player. Later, I imagined myself carrying a briefcase rushing
across a street-the perfect haircut-slightly late
for an important meeting. Where is the story

I told to myself as walked through the yard? I have narrated
myself into a corner, deleting what no longer seems true. Neither
the football player nor the executive exist when I look

out the window, watch a squirrel dart across
the roof of the house, leap to the pine; I wonder
why can't I do that? It is something else,

before anyone asked for definitions. When I rinse the dishes,
placing them neatly into the rack to dry, what
keeps me from leaving them, from standing
under the pine to look up its length or from running down the road

until the house is small behind me, from rewriting
what I insist is finished? Somewhere
my childhood spirit still wanders, drinks in the smell

of rotting leaves, climbs trees and presses her palms
together, sticky with sap. I have let her go,
kept from her the chore of washing dishes

and now she will not come back. I might never find her.
But sometimes when I walk home, kicking the leaves,
I imagine myself as seven and trudging from school,
dictating to no one, the story of my life.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Ephemeral Nature of the Internet

Rob points out in a comment on my science blogging post that one of the problems related to using a blog as a document of research is the non-lasting nature of work on the internet. I have seen arguments and have made the argument myself that it's possible to ensure the longevity of blogs, but it is not entirely without risk to rely on a blog (or other internet source) as a stable source. As luck would have it, there's an interesting article in Inside Higher Ed that discusses the same problem.
Our time here may be fleeting — “Out, out brief candle!” — but footnotes are not supposed to be. When online citations extinguish, every discipline is befouled, because replication, at the heart of the research process, becomes difficult without stable archiving, which libraries used to provide.
It is probably risky to rely on a service like Blogger--which is free and offers no real assurances that your material won't disappear--as a permanent record of any kind. And this may be a greater problem than copyright as more and more material goes online openly. There are ways of retrieving older versions of web sites (The Way Back Machine, for example) but they, too, are volunteer efforts and not reliable. While I've seen some discussion here and there about libraries attempting to do some archiving of resources that are only available online, there doesn't seem to be good policy in place for how to deal with this. It's up to the librarians to select what should and should not be archived.

And this can also be an issue for hard copies of materials as libraries run out of physical space and make decisions about what to keep and what to put into offsite storage or get rid of completely. An example of something someone might not think to keep came up in the last 24 hours. Intel was seeking a pristine copy of the issue of Electronics magazine that first published "Moore's Law." A British man found a copy and received the offered reward, but one could easily imagine that all copies disappeared or were trashed to make space for newer material. Disaster can also strike (Library of Alexandria anyone?).

Online sources seem less stable and permanent, but it's certainly possible that we can find a solution to that problem. But hard copies are not immune to instability either.

Friday Random Ten: Heavily Played Edition

Today, a list of the songs I have played most often. What's funny is I almost always randomize, though I do skip songs. Still, I don't think this is entirely representative of my favorite songs.

Torn & Frayed The Rolling Stones
Never Is Enough Barenaked Ladies
Talking To Myself Let's Active
Theme From Flood They Might Be Giants
How You've Grown 10,000 Maniacs
New World David Wilcox
Contact The Police
Find The River R.E.M.
Movin' Out (Anthony's Song) Billy Joel
Everyday Buddy Holly & The Crickets


Thursday, April 21, 2005

Some fun kid stuff

I know I've gotten lame on the poetry thing. I have been exhausted and well, preoccupied with work stuff (in a good way) and I think I've got some kind of illness or allergies or the plague (like SBFH, but without the black tongue). So I'm filling in with some kid stories. I think I have some kids around here somewhere?

Geeky Girl was watching NOVA with Mr. Geeky a couple of nights ago. We record it regularly via Tivo (season pass), but he was making a special effort to watch it because an alum was on. The alum, a woman, is a scientist, so Mr. Geeky is trying to explain what's going on. Here's the conversation:

Mr. Geeky: So, Geeky Girl, this scientist, she . . .
GG: She?
Mr. Geeky: Yeah, she. You know girls can be scientists.
GG: Yeah, Dad, I know that. But I've never seen one before.

Tonight, Mr. Geeky was preparing Geeky Girl's bath and I was puttering around the house. Geeky Girl is getting something out of her backpack. I'm reading blogs when she comes into my room in tears.

GG: My flowers are dead.
Me: Oh, I'm sorry. It's okay. Let me see them.
We trot downstairs, GG in tears the whole way. Mr. Geeky pokes his head out of the bathroom and asks what's wrong. I whisper, "Her flowers are dead." He looks at me funny. GG digs into her backpack. I'm expecting a small bouquet wrapped in a paper towel or something. She pulls something out and puts it in my hand. I look down to see the closed up blossom of a dandelion with hardly a stem at all. GG bursts into tears again.
GG: It was a dandelion. And it was big and yellow.
All I could do was hug her and promise I'd keep it.


Finally, Geeky Boy made me promise to link to his blog. So I did. And if anyone says anything mean or tries to lure him away with candy, I'll come beat you up. And this link will be gone soon. The blog is cute though. :)

Complete frivolity

Which Family Guy character are you?

via Angry Pregnant Lawyer

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Talking about Blogging

So I took the blog talk on the road. My head is exploding with ideas. First, I chatted with the person who invited me to give the talk. Did the talk--a little fast, I think. Then lots of conversation afterward. Lunch. Met with science librarian, talked about her blogs, blogging for the library, information, library instruction, all kinds of interesting things. Then met with a chemistry faculty. Talked about blogging, screencasting, podcasting, issues of electronic scholarship, the reward structure and how it precludes developing technology-based teaching, getting scooped, rethinking teaching as a result of incorporating screencasting, and more. Then met with the engineering librarian. Talked about blogging, rss feeds for searches from library databases (very cool), starting a regional group blog for issues surrounding blogging and teaching and the library. Met with the dean. Talked about using blogs to get students interested in subjects, talked about the time factor for both faculty and students, talked about how to make going to class valuable for the students when lectures are podcast/screencast.

So let me dump some of my thoughts here--loosely categorized:

Classes/Students and Blogging
  • How do you incorporate student blogs and make it worthwhile while still having some parameters?
  • What about privacy issues?
  • What about the issue of having the lectures available completely publicly? Does that mean that someone is saving money/shorting the U. money by "taking" the class online?
  • If the students have access to the courses online, including complete lectures with audio and powerpoint, will they come to class? Do faculty really want them to come? If so, how to you make the class valuable?
  • What about copyright issues--i.e. using diagrams or problem sets from a text which then get screencast publicly?
Scientists blogging their research
  • Who will your audience be? Other scientists, the general public, your students?
  • How do you protect your intellectual property? Is a Creative Commons license enough?
  • What if you get scooped?
  • In what way do you blog your research? Do you try to connect it to the "real world"? Do you stick to the science?
  • What needs to happen to make sharing of information via blogs possible, and credible?
  • Can blogging "count" as research/service/teaching?
Reading blogs
  • How do you know when to trust a blog? Links to research? Links to other credible bloggers?
  • How do you tell students to deal with reading blogs? Do you vet them all first? Do you let students find them on their own?
  • How do you treat a blog in comparison to mainstream media? a scholarly journal?
  • Can reading blogs counter "bad" journalism about science?
I think that's all that's in my head now. I'm thinking I need to work up some more ideas. One thing that's hard for me is that I'm not a scientist, so I don't know how this compares or what real value it might have for scientists. I can see the value for regular folk like me who need more than what Newsweek or NYT gives them, but can't digest a scholarly article (I've tried.). Thoughts greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Search poem?

Following Rana, I thought I'd list some search strings. Think of this as a poem. I'm too tired to turn it into something and I'm too tired to pull a real poem out.

drinking poem (lots of these)
bored "stay at home wives" (is that me?)
mom poem
seamus heaney mid-term break (lots of variations on this)
florence nightingale play
when mom had laryngitis
geekymom (definitely me)
getting rid of stuff
alvin greenberg breathing
mom blogs
things left undone
going from two incomes to one
mom drinking poem (maybe I should write one)
drinking (poem)
monday thoughts
mom sex (we have sex? who knew?)
thick mom (wtf?)
visiting best friends sexy mom
absent mothers
monday random
music against divorce
pennsylvania + politics
is mom gay (this is my absolute favorite)
celebration of family
what kind of alcohol are you
dali steps
a good mom poem
stress in dads
marvin bell, poetry
mom soccer (like the inversion here; are the moms playing soccer?)

and to top it off, the best one ever:
twinkies banana happy meal "fear factor"

A Convert!

I convinced one person to start her own blog after my presentation. Have a visit.

Have you noticed I'm becoming less and less anonymous? Oh well.

Walking Vignette

The air is warm without a hint of chill that was here just a few days ago. The flowers on the trees have burst like fireworks and are spreading their petals like confetti on the ground, their pinkish-white turning to brown as they are trampled on and crushed. Others are out now that it's warm: a famliy pulling a wagon and pushing a stroller, two men jogging, their middles sloshing over the elastic of their shorts. The houses stand bathed in the sinking sun, pink and orange and red; they are full of possibility. From the trees that line the street, the sweet smell of flowers and the near-rotting smell on new growth, like the rotting floor of a forest, waiting for new trees to grow.

I am alive to all the different colors--the yellow of forsythia and daffodils, pale pink, bright reds and purples of tulips, all the different greens of the budding trees and pale red of red maples. All of them set against the background of the pale blue sky. I think I might take my mother on this walk with me and what would she notice? Perhaps the way the houses grow larger as we move west and spread further apart. Perhaps the manicured lawns--smell the fresh-cut grass. Down one street, rows of twins on one side huddled close together with more of the same down each side street. On the opposite side, the expansive lawns and solid brick.

I sometimes long for these houses, it's true. I always note the tudor style house with the tree house in the back. I note the lovely blue trim on an expansive brick house and the quaint stained glass windows on another. But as I walk past them, turning back toward where I came from, I am comforted by the way the houses once again seem huddled together like a line of defenders on the soccer field. And I wonder what they are defending against.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Poem of the day: Sharon Olds

I've always loved Sharon Olds and I especially like this poem.

The One Girl at the Boys Party

When I take my girl to the swimming party
I set her down among the boys. They tower and
bristle, she stands there smooth and sleek,
her math scores unfolding in the air around her.
They will strip to their suits, her body hard and
indivisible as a prime number,
they'll plunge in the deep end, she'll subtract
her height from ten feet, divide it into
hundreds of gallons of water, the numbers
bouncing in her mind like molecules of chlorine
in the bright blue pool. When they climb out,
her ponytail will hang its pencil lead
down her back, her narrow silk suit
with hamburgers and french fries printed on it
will glisten in the brilliant air, and they will
see her sweet face, solemn and
sealed, a factor of one, and she will
see their eyes, two each,
their legs, two each, and the curves of their sexes,
one each, and in her head she'll be doing her
sparkle and fall to the power of a thousand from her body.


Science blog talk is up

Check it out!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Poem of the Day: Mowing the Lawn

Sorry to take up so much blog space today, but one last post--the poem of the day by my former teacher, John Bensko.

Mowing the Lawn

Saturday Morning,
lying on my couch, I think:
a boy like an angel will save me.

He comes up the hill on a ten-speed bike,
dragging his mower. He parks them
and comes up the walk to the door.
Looking through the peephole
I see the small, freckled face . . .

if it were that easy. If the boy,
the angel that he could be,
weren't just like us, worrying

about the time, the wear and tear, the cost,
we could negotiate our dreams:
one lying on the couch;
the other following a new,
self-propelled mower
into an even greater machine.
A Honda? A Corvette? God knows . . .

Our ways part. From his bright,
perfect lawn my neighbor scowls
at the boy's leavings, at the shaggy
threat of windblown seeds.

But we're all just alike.
On the couch we lie secure
in the knowledge. We imagine
the well-manicured lawn
spreads in all directions.

Feeling Inadequate

I have been thinking all weekend about why I feel so inadequate all the time. Who am I comparing myself to? Scrivener is always chastising me for not giving myself enough credit. Dr. H writes about feeling like you have a good life and being grateful for it, while New Kid writes about blog envy and conversely, her feeling that she's too presumptuous in her advice. And buried within a post about abortion, Dr. B made an offhand comment about women not being able to toot their own horn. And, I could also point to Prof. Synecdoche's post about choosing an academic program which is fraught with comparing the goods and ills of one's future based on the name of the program. After reading Paradox of Choice, I know this problem of feeling inadequate is not a problem unique to academics, but one wonders why we all seem to so often ponder why we don't measure up, or if we feel we do, why we can't just be satisfied with that. Is it because there are so many hoops, so many times your measured--MA exams, Ph.D exams, dissertation defense, conference papers, journal submissions, the job market, tenure, full professor. How many times in a career can you reasonably be asked to measure your performance?

In my position there are no yard sticks. I have nothing to measure myself against except my own imagination. Yet, when I think of myself as being successful and perhaps getting promoted to be, say, Head of Academic Computing, I think, "Could I really do that? What if I totally screwed it up? What if I hate it?" And I also think about how one would measure my success--by the number of attendees at my workshops, by the number of faculty using Blackboard or "smart" classrooms, by the number using technology to teach? I hate such outcome-based assessments. They always seem flawed. And yet, somehow, I feel the need for some tangible proof that I'm doing a good job.

And then there's the rest of my life--what I do as a mother, a wife, a writer, a human being. There are plenty of comparisons to be made there. When do I just stop, step back and say, "This is good enough? You're happy, satisfied. Everything is okay." Maybe because part of me is not satisfied. Part of me is still thinking about those roads untaken, and the many possible futures. Somehow, I think this is hard to stop, that there are always moments of reflection where you look backward, forward and around and think, "Am I doing okay? Did I make the right decisions?" But hopefully, there are an equal number of times that you stop and think, "Things are pretty good right now. I really don't need much of anything. I have people who love me, appreciate me and what I do."

I think that this kind of writing--blogging--can often lend itself to that more reflective mode of thinking, because at those moments, we need to reach out and we need reassurance and we need to just think out loud. In the other mode, we might feel like we are bragging or being too self-indulgent.

I still haven't answered my question except to say perhaps, that I shouldn't feel inadequate, that I'm only inadequate in my own mind. I can't eradicate the feeling completely, but I can start looking at it more analytically when it comes upon and take more control over it. Maybe.


I have a lot of things in my head and I've given up making it all into something coherent.

Domesticity: I've been single parenting this weekend. Which means I've become slothful. Mr. Geeky definitely takes on 50% of the work and when he's gone, instead of ramping up to 75 or 100%, I stick with my 50%. So this weekend, I managed to get a good deal of the laundry done, though it's likely we'll end up in our usual mode of digging through baskets and the dryer. Even though the kids spent most of yesterday at a friend's house and generally running around the neighborhood, I used my time to catch up on blog reading and relax on the couch. There are all kinds of projects around the house I'd like to tackle, but that would require 110%. I did manage some time in the garden, such as it is.

Money: Filed the taxes. Will be paying them for long time to come. I managed to pay property taxes outright. My hope is that with my revamping of my W4 (the reason I had too much to pay in the first place), the taxes will be paid off by this time next year.

I note with sadness and anger the passing of the new bankruptcy bill. Though I don't think we're on the verge of bankruptcy, I could certainly see something drastic happening to put us in that boat. One lost job, one medical emergency and there ya go.

Writing: I haven't written for more than a week. I haven't even really written a good blog post. When things are hectic at work either for good or bad, I find I don't have the emotional energy to write.

Exercise: Ditto. Work has sucked up all my energy. I think I managed one walk this week.

Work: Though I'm feeling better about work, I've set some goals for myself that are going take up time and energy. I'm also feeling better about the new addition to our office. I think the dynamics will work out okay. I note, however, that I am the only woman in the office now and much as I hate to admit it, it makes a difference.

Soccer Mom to Lacrosse Mom: Geeky Boy is playing lacrosse this year and it's much more extensive than last year. We've shelled out lots of money--about $150 so far. They're asking for more--ugh. Plus the time--one practice during the week, 2 games on the weekend. Today we're travelling over an hour to a game. I like that Geeky Boy is involved in sports, but sometimes it's hard to keep up with. I mean I'm giving up a much-needed haircut to cart him around this weekend. :)

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Kiss me, I'm Irish

I just had to post this. I thought it was funny--especially the drinking under the table bit--which is kind of true. I'm 5'2" and tiny. People often underestimate my drinking ability. (via Julie)

Your Inner European is Irish!

Sprited and boisterous!

You drink everyone under the table.


The weekend always brings housework. Laundry, bill paying, and, now that spring is here, gardening and yardwork. Today, I did the ultimate housewife task and cleaned the oven. Just to prove that I am really a geek, I used the self-cleaning option and was just amazed by how it turned out. Seriously, it was totally cool. I've also happened upon a couple of posts today about housewives, desperate and otherwise (via SBFH and Half-Changed World, I believe; great one at Pish Tosh). What the hell is a "real" housewife these days anyway? I think the single guy across the street (who reminds me of Rob from Survivor) is a better housewife than I am (if you use some kind of 1950s definition). Can't we all just admit that men and women run around and do these crazy house maintenance chores? Are there really households out there where the woman is slaving away and the man doesn't lift a finger? Please tell me there aren't.

There's no good way to segue into this, but today's poem is "The Young Housewife" by William Carlos Williams, which I am not sure how to interpret. The fallen leaf comparison really gets me, something about the idea that becoming a housewife causes death. And isn't the speaker crushing her? His going to work means she must stay home? But maybe the poem isn't meant to be that depressing and maybe I spent too much time with my head in the oven (which means I need to bring out the Anne Sexton).

At ten AM the young housewife
moves about in negligee behind
the wooden walls of her husband’s house.
I pass solitary in my car.

Then again she comes to the curb
to call the ice-man, fish-man, and stands
shy, uncorseted, tucking in
stray ends of hair, and I compare her
to a fallen leaf.

The noiseless wheels of my car
rush with a crackling sound over
dried leaves as I bow and pass smiling.

Science blogging

Yesterday afternoon, I gave a talk on science blogs and bloggers for our Science and Society group. I know next to nothing about science, though I was good at it in high school, by college, science disappeared from my brain. However, I married a scientist and I'm always interested in the science that bubbles up to the news.

In my talk, I had to explain what blogs were and gave some statistics on blogs and blog audiences. Then I featured Pharyngula extensively. By the end of the discussion, they were all ready to blog. I'll let you know if any of them do. Mr. Geeky is on the verge. He's at a conference right now, but he's set up the software and he's itching to begin.

It was a pretty fun talk and I'm giving it again next week at another university. I should go to these and give these more often. It was really energizing.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Poem of the Day: Robert Herrick

by Robert Herrick

GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying :
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer ;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may go marry :
For having lost but once your prime
You may for ever tarry.

tags: poetrymonth

Friday Random 10--with 3 hours left in Friday

Miss You--Rolling Stones
Take me the Long Way--Po' Girl
Walkin' on my Dreams--Hacienda Brothers
Walking Back--The Cranberries
So What Could I Do--The Cranebuilders
Battlefield--Nanci Griffith
Light up my Room--Barenaked Ladies
did you see the sun?--Julian Coryell
Angel--Sarah McLaughlin
Until the end of the world--U2


Thursday, April 14, 2005

Looking Up

I am feeling better about my job frustrations in large part because of the supportive comments from all of you. I think venting is good simply because it's helped me pinpoint what the real problems are and start figuring out how to deal with them. In terms of the tasks I typically perform, I'm quite happy. I spend my time mostly tinkering with web pages, reading about new technology and its application to education, talking through technical possibilities with people, making plans for equipment purchases, solving technical problems, writing about technology and education, creating multimedia projects and helping others do so. All those things are fun and rewarding and generally lead to more fun and rewarding things. In terms of the people I work with, I feel pretty good too. My immediate supervisor is a hands-off kind of person. We meet periodically and I update her and she makes suggestions for what I might pursue. If I disagree, she hears me out and generally trusts my perceptions and my ideas. I have colleagues in the office that I like and they work very hard and are always willing to help out.

All that's good. And I've decided the real difficulties lie in not having a clear idea of my priorites, not having appropriate support (no one reports to me and/or there's no group of people all doing the same thing), and not dealing with the politics well. I can't really direct my colleagues and I'm not entirely sure I would want to. But I often feel like we are all working at cross purposes or are repeating each other's work rather than really collaborating. Partly that's because we're all pulled in a million directions. If we had some sort of direction, that would make me feel better.

In fact, the structure of our entire department lends itself to this kind of confusion. Faculty don't often know who to go to for what. Sometimes people accept projects that eventually fall on my desk or start projects and throw them to me when they get stuck. We're trying to filter everything through a central location, but it's going to take time for that to work. I think eventually, this is all going to get better, but there's still some things that need to be worked out. It all feels willy-nilly from my end right now.

I also realize there are some turf issues among my colleagues and I include myself in the turf wars. It's weird to realize that yes, you really do want control of x and that you're a little upset that so-and-so took it over without consulting you. And then you feel petty because it's not a big deal and you should be grateful that someone's helping you out. Crazy. I've either got to get over that or learn how to stake my claim.

And I've gotten some great feedback on my survey about the faculty workshops I've been offering. I think it will go through some major revamping, along with some sprucing up of some documentation and some more podcasting and screencasting, of course. :) I think if I can stay focused on what's going well, learn to deal with the politics and be patient while our departmental tweaking continues, I'll be much more satisfied.

I think Academic in Exile and I have been drinking the same kool-aid lately. I swear we're in a weird sync.

Poem of the Day: A Geeky Boy Original

Today I asked Geeky boy to write a poem since he was out of school. Here's his result:

I'm a robot.
I'm very mad.
Dad makes me do stuff.
My best friend is Thad.
I don't like Dad.
He didn't give me a bed.
He makes me do stuff
like stand on my head.
I'm a robot.
I'm not very mad
Because my friend is near me.
His name is Thad.

Blog meme

Seen at brina's

blog meme

Of the blogs you read/have on your blogroll...

Who do you know in real life & how?
Tim Burke--teaches at a nearby school; has worked with Mr. Geeky; officially met him at a party at his house.
librarygrrrrl--works at same college as Tim; officially met her through the a reading group
Think Thunk/Perpetual Off Night--same as librarygrrrrrl, but met him at some Blackboard meetings when I first started working at my institution
Atrios of Eschaton--used to work at my institution and talked to him on the phone in that capacity, just met him for the first time a couple of months ago through mutual friends.
One of the Unfogged guys--to protect his identity, I won't say how I know him.

What five blogs do you usually not go a day without checking?
Honestly, pretty much everything in the Academic list. But if I have to pick five . . .
Profgrrrrl, Cul de Sac, Bitch, Ph.D., Pharyngula, Scrivener, Pilgrim/Heretic, jo(e), Phantom Scribbler

I couldn't do it--really, I feel deprived if I haven't checked on every single one. I read brina and Rana every day, oh heck--really the whole academic blogroll.

What five blogs send the most traffic your way?
bitch, ph.d, learning curves, angrypregnantlawyer, scrivenings, Just Tenured

What are your top five keyword searches this week?
cute stories, definition of mom, geeky, geeky photo room, heaney mid term

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Poem of the day: Wordsworth

A little romanticism, surreptitiously posted from work:

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

I WANDERED lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

In a funk

Sometime between lunch and 5:00, I fell into a hole of despair. Perhaps I was walking backwards, talking and gesticulating (as I am wont to do). However it happened, here I am. It must have been on the horizon the whole time and I just didn't see it. It's the usual stuff--work crap. I don't know why I can't seem to focus on the positive. Lots of good things are going on. I have done good things:
  • Three presentations on blogging and education, one invited
  • Setting up blog software for campus-wide use
  • Coordinating a weekly series of technology workshops/discussions
  • Starting a tech support podcast
  • Coordinating the third year of the summer multimedia program through which we have developed 40 multimedia projects--websites, dvds, cds.
  • Helping to coordinate a redesign of a login page for Blackboard which incorporated a wiki-driven faq, the content of which was primarily developed by me
  • Consulting on a technology and writing grant, which is coming along quite nicely, I think
  • Developing a new course on blogging and its effects on society
What's keeping me from being excited about this stuff and forging into new areas? A few things:
  • Lack of recognition. No one is saying, "Wow, this is pretty cool stuff you're doing." And worse, many are flat-out ignoring it. Total faculty attendence at the workshops--less than 10 all semester.
  • Petty politics. It seems to seep into everything. I can ignore it for a while and then it's like running into a brick wall.
  • Tension between work and family life. When things get difficult at home, I tend to feel work is less satisfying. A kind of "is this all there is" feeling wafts over me and I think I could be at home, writing, and be there for the kids to help them through their difficulties. Sigh.
The first two things are really difficult and somewhat beyond my control. I'm doing a lot to publicize my work on campus. I could do more and have some ideas for that. But increasingly, I'm beginning to think I can't change the culture of the campus. I feel like I've been sucked into a vortex or something. Maybe I just need to pull myself out, but the vortex is strong. (God, I sound like Darth Vader).

The politics is impossible. Some of it changed as people left, but it's still there and will always be there. Maybe I need a book or something for how to deal with all of it. Obviously, I'm not dealing with it well if it's dragging me into a hole of despair. And I was peppy this morning--really!

Poem of the Day: Wallace Stevens

I haven't seen any of these out there.

Emperor of Ice Cream

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal.
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.


Monday, April 11, 2005


Lisa writes about her neglected garden patch. My whole yard is neglected. The person who owned our house before we bought it died of AIDs, so the yard had fallen into decay. Then it was trampled on by construction workers while the house was remodelled.

Last year, I made attempts to dig out the weeds in the front of the house that used to be a garden. Shrubs were dug up, stumps ground up. I never completely finished and my yard looked pretty pathetic for the rest of the year. I also failed to plant bulbs in the fall, so nothing sprouted in the spring.

Yesterday, I began the process again. It was slightly better than last year, but I didn't mulch. (Did I mention I'm a half-assed gardener?) I got about 1/3 of the way across and then I quit. I put in top soil. I planted some seeds. I'll get back to it after work today, but part of me so doesn't care. I do like to see flowers blooming, but I prefer it to look like they just naturally grew there rather than the carefully planted flowers I see around my neighborhood.

In honor of my half-assed gardening and my shunning of order, an Amy Lowell poem along the same lines:


I walk down the garden paths,
And all the daffodils
Are blowing, and the bright blue squills.
I walk down the patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
With my powdered hair and jewelled fan,
I too am a rare
Pattern. As I wander down
The garden paths.

My dress is richly figured,
And the train
Makes a pink and silver stain
On the gravel, and the thrift
Of the borders.
Just a plate of current fashion,
Tripping by in high-heeled, ribboned shoes.
Not a softness anywhere about me,
Only whalebone and brocade.
And I sink on a seat in the shade
Of a lime tree. For my passion
Wars against the stiff brocade.
The daffodils and squills
Flutter in the breeze
As they please.
And I weep;
For the lime-tree is in blossom
And one small flower has dropped upon my bosom.

And the plashing of waterdrops
In the marble fountain
Comes down the garden-paths.
The dripping never stops.
Underneath my stiffened gown
Is the softness of a woman bathing in a marble basin,
A basin in the midst of hedges grown
So thick, she cannot see her lover hiding,
But she guesses he is near,
And the sliding of the water
Seems the stroking of a dear
Hand upon her.
What is Summer in a fine brocaded gown!
I should like to see it lying in a heap upon the ground.
All the pink and silver crumpled up on the ground.

I would be the pink and silver as I ran along the paths,
And he would stumble after,
Bewildered by my laughter.
I should see the sun flashing from his sword-hilt and the buckles
on his shoes.
I would choose
To lead him in a maze along the patterned paths,
A bright and laughing maze for my heavy-booted lover,
Till he caught me in the shade,
And the buttons of his waistcoat bruised my body as he clasped me,
Aching, melting, unafraid.
With the shadows of the leaves and the sundrops,
And the plopping of the waterdrops,
All about us in the open afternoon --
I am very like to swoon
With the weight of this brocade,
For the sun sifts through the shade.

Underneath the fallen blossom
In my bosom,
Is a letter I have hid.
It was brought to me this morning by a rider from the Duke.
"Madam, we regret to inform you that Lord Hartwell
Died in action Thursday se'nnight."
As I read it in the white, morning sunlight,
The letters squirmed like snakes.
"Any answer, Madam," said my footman.
"No," I told him.
"See that the messenger takes some refreshment.
No, no answer."
And I walked into the garden,
Up and down the patterned paths,
In my stiff, correct brocade.
The blue and yellow flowers stood up proudly in the sun,
Each one.
I stood upright too,
Held rigid to the pattern
By the stiffness of my gown.
Up and down I walked,
Up and down.

In a month he would have been my husband.
In a month, here, underneath this lime,
We would have broke the pattern;
He for me, and I for him,
He as Colonel, I as Lady,
On this shady seat.
He had a whim
That sunlight carried blessing.
And I answered, "It shall be as you have said."
Now he is dead.

In Summer and in Winter I shall walk
Up and down
The patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
The squills and daffodils
Will give place to pillared roses, and to asters, and to snow.
I shall go
Up and down,
In my gown.
Gorgeously arrayed,
Boned and stayed.
And the softness of my body will be guarded from embrace
By each button, hook, and lace.
For the man who should loose me is dead,
Fighting with the Duke in Flanders,
In a pattern called a war.
Christ! What are patterns for?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Poem of the day: Richard Cecil

Today's poem, another sonnet by a former teacher. There's a story behind this former teacher, which he probably doesn't know--and probably won't since the likelihood of him finding it here is zilch. My junior year in college, Richard Cecil came to my school as a visiting professor to fill in for my regular professor, John Bensko. John Bensko was the coolest professor one could possibly have. He was incredibly tall, maybe 6'4" or so with long hair that often dangled in front of his face. He exuded writerliness which is what I had been wanting in a teacher my whole life. But then Richard Cecil showed up and he taught me how to write. He taught me how to take all those crazy images and words in my head and put them into lines on a page in a way that would make them transferrable to another person. And though I may not write poetry anymore, I am forever grateful for what he has taught me.

I chose this poem because I think it fits nicely with the Saturday one. And have I mentioned how fun it is to read everyone's choices? I loved Scrivener's for today.

Fame and Fortune Cookie

"You've got talent but you lack ambition"
is not exactly what I'd call a fortune,
but as I hold it up to candlelight
I wag my head and chortle—That's me all right!
Whoever stuffed this message in my cookie
must have known it would be served to me
instead of to some self-promoting jerk
with zero skill, but lots of will to work:
someone like youknowwho or whatshisname
who plugs away so constantly for fame
they have to ask the waitress for a fork
to shovel up their sweet and sour pork,
while I, with chopsticks, can pick up a dime.
Their fortune reads, "You never waste your time."

Cecil's most recent book


For some reason, I was thinking about kairos and blogging as I drifted off to sleep last night. Given that I have only taken one rhetoric class in my life, I don't have as much expertise as many out there do, but I've been thinking that perhaps kairos might be the most important element of rhetoric in the blogosphere.

Kairos is the context or situation within which someone speaks. It is the time and space within which a speaker is situated. It is closely related to audience and decorum. In the blog world, it seems to me, we create our own context. We fashion our blogs through their design, both colors and style and the elements we choose to include--pictures, ads, links. The links themselves--our blogrolls--may also set the context.

It occurs to me though that there are lots of Kairoses (pardon the butchering of that) that form on any given blog. Unlike, say, the State of the Union address, the kairos on a blog is constantly shifting. Someone who starts out on the main blog page will have a different context than someone reading a single post who will have a different context still from someone who reads a post through an aggregator. The context can further shift on any given post by the comments that are made. The commenters shift the focus sometimes, taking a single element of a post and expanding on it or even making a tangential comment that takes the conversation in a different direction entirely. Blogs can also be redesigned--as this one often is--to create a different context for the blog. A regular reader of a blog may get a better sense of the context in which a single post is written by understanding to some extent the ethos of the person writing. They will begin to understand the circumstances under which the person writes, the personality of the blogger herself.

Blog posts are somewhat disembodied in terms of time and place. Despite the time stamp on most blog posts, a blogger cannot control when someone will read the post. It might be an hour later and it might be a week later (by which time the kairos will have shifted perhaps). The place is also less under the blogger's control even if they try to create a sense of it through design. A reader may be more aware of their real physical surroundings, their own mood, etc. instead of the atmosphere the blogger is trying to create--especially true if the reader reads through an aggregator. And then it must be the language itself which creates the kairos.

I suppose this is also true of journalism, but big media outlets like the New York Times have a built-in kairos while an individual blogger does not--even someone like Atrios. The average person has a better idea of the context within which a NYT writer writes than Atrios' context. And sometimes, of course, misconceptions about context (that the NYT is liberal) can overrule the language which tries to set a kairos.

I haven't really seen anything else written about this, but perhaps I'm missing something. I'd love some references if anyone has them. I'm really just thinking out loud as I try to organize my thoughts about blogging and education and the course I'm teaching in the fall.


You Are Independent Sexy

You drive men crazy with your "playing hard to get act"
Except, it's really not an act at all.
You're a strong, sexy woman with her own life and interests.
And makes men even more interested in you!

What Kind of Sexy Are You? Take This Quiz :-)

Find the Love of Your Life
(and More Love Quizzes) at Your New Romance.

I took this last night with Mr. Geeky and ended up as Fun Sexy. I only changed one answer.

Saturday, April 09, 2005


Profgrrrl was talking about purging 1 the other day and it got me to thinking about my own purging. This weekend we began the process of swapping out winter clothes for spring clothes. I usually get rid of a few things in this process--from both seasons--and the kids' stuff gets purged too. Mr. Geeky is less of a purger because he doesn't really involve himself in the process. Once, I finally convinced him to purge his t-shirt collection when I stacked them all up on the bed and the stack was taller than him.

In my ideal world, I would spend a few days every couple of months purging everything. The problem with purging in general is not any emotional attachment I have to things. That happens sometimes, but not very often. Side note: Those shows where people won't get rid of back issues of random popular magazines because they're emotionally attached to them . . . I don't get it. No, emotions aren't the problem. It's the actual work of getting rid of stuff. Here's the weird thing. When we lived in a poor, rural state, there were plenty of places to get rid of stuff. We had Salvation Army, Goodwill and any number of smaller, local places. And we could always have a yard sale. Around here, a thrift store is hard to find. The nearest Goodwill or Salvation Army is 45 minutes away. I once took some stuff to a local thrift store run by Junior League. They only take "high quality" stuff, the woman told me. I don't know if my stuff qualified or not. Even if I could manage to sort everything out and decide what to get rid of, I'd have a hard time getting rid of it.

We have a lot of stuff and a small house. We do this to ourselves partly. Mr. Geeky and I love books and are bad library patrons, so we buy what we need or want. We tend not to deny the kids much of anything, though we reserve large purchases for birthdays and special occasions. Our big problem is relatives--well-meaning and wonderful relatives, of course. They send us lots of stuff. I know they're trying to make up for being far away, but stuff doesn't make the heart grow fonder. In fact, I'd say it makes the heart grow harder (mine, at least). My inlaws, especially, send a box of stuff for every occasion. Besides Christmas which is monumental, they send stuff for Easter, birthdays, July 4th, Halloween, and Thanksgiving. Plus, whenever they travel, they send a box of souvenirs--shells, jars of sand, t-shirts, shampoo from the hotel, coffee from the hotel, knick knacks, photos, postcards, you name it. It's meaningless stuff.

The Christmas stuff is sitting on the landing of the stairs, waiting to be put away. It has not been played with. Much of it is in its original packaging. Since Christmas, we've received three other boxes of stuff--two trips and Easter. I hate thinking of gifts as a burden, but that's what they've become.

And we have tried explaining this--to all the grandparents--but it has not helped. There are two more grandchildren on Mr. Geeky's side of the family and I am hoping that keeping up with 5 grandchildren will be too much and the amount of stuff will start to decrease. I keep telling them to put money in a trust fund or something. But the request falls on deaf ears.

Purging has become nearly impossible. I am truly hoping to manage a yard sale or something because otherwise I will drown in stuff.

1It took me forever to find this post. She's gonna think some weirdo was over there spying on her or something. Plus, I zipped over to Hedgical Trevor's blog so Geeky Boy could see the latest pictures.

Good poem for a Saturday

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

James Wright

Friday, April 08, 2005


How do we navigate this precarious time, a time when they are pushing and we are pulling? How do we explain that we have mapped out a road but we want them to find their own way? How do we help them when we haven't even cleared out the brush from our own path yet? And we keep looking behind and seeing them and seeing all the paths we didn't take covered over now with fallen trees and underbrush. We can see the gaping gorge ahead but we do not know which path leads to it. We see the mountains and can't tell them whether they should try them or not. Will they fall? Will they have to stop halfway up and turn around and take another path?

We want to put up signs--arrows and markers--that will lead them to safety, wonderment. We don't even know. But we are afraid they will get to a point, stop, put their hands on their hips and yell, "Why didn't you put up a marker or something? Why didn't you tell me about the ditch, about the rough terrain?" And we yell back that we did put up something we thought, but maybe it disappeared, maybe it fell down, a branch grew in front of it. We promise we meant to help.

But maybe they don't believe. Maybe they spent a while in the ditch, working hard to get out. And we didn't even see them because now they are a speck on the horizon. And they're off the path anyway.

Friday Random Shuffle

Here goes:

Milkcow's Calf Blues--Robert Johnson
The Take Out--Widespread Panic
Rip This Joint--The Rolling Stones
Respectable--The Rolling Stones
Watching the Detectives--Elvis Costello
So Wrong--Patsy Cline
Black and Blue--Lyle Lovett
Leavin' on your Mind--Patsy Cline
All Around the World--Paul Simon
Route 67--Let's Active

A Drinking Poem!

Too much work, and no vacation,
Deserves at least a small libation.
So hail! my friends, and raise your glasses;
Work's the curse of the drinking classes.

--Oscar Wilde

In honor of drinking with the work buddies tonight!

, ,

Thursday, April 07, 2005


I should be preparing for a discussion I'm leading on Social Software.
I should be finishing revisions to a chapter of my book.
I should be working on my Science and Blogging talk.
I should be folding clothes and putting them away.
I should have gone to the store.
I should have checked on the bills.
I should have done the laundry last week.

Yikes, how did all these shoulds get in my head.

Seamus Heaney: Mid-Term Break

I sat all morning in the college sick bay
Counting bells knelling classes to a close.
At two o'clock our neighbors drove me home.

In the porch I met my father crying--
He had always taken funerals in his stride--
And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow.

The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram
When I came in, and I was embarrassed
By old men standing up to shake my hand

And tell me they were "sorry for my trouble,"
Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest,
Away at school, as my mother held my hand

In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.
At ten o'clock the ambulance arrived
With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses.

Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops
And candles soothed the bedside; I saw him
For the first time in six weeks. Paler now,

Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple,
He lay in the four foot box as in his cot.
No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.

A four foot box, a foot for every year.

I used to read out loud to my students a lot. I read this one and my voice caught in my throat. I had read it many times before, so I knew what was coming, but I couldn't help it.


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Poem of the day: Elizabeth Bishop

This is for Pilgrim/Heretic, who is beginning to lose things.

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

---Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Bonus point: Do you know the form of this poem and do you know of others? I do.

Some thoughts on exercise

I plan to exercise every day. I made that a New Year's resolution. But it's been rough going. First, the cold got to me. Then I fell down the stairs. Then it was just hard getting back to the routine. I'm still not in the habit of exercising every day, but I think about it every day. I think every day about when I will fit it in. Now that it's daylight savings, it's going to be easier. I prefer to go after dinner since I can't seem to wake myself up earlier in the morning. I was doing really well last week, walking or doing other exercise and though I skipped Monday and Tuesday, I still feel like I'm in some kind of routine.

Madeline commented on one of my many posts lamenting my poor habit that she considers herself a runner even if she goes for weeks without running. That was the best thing anyone could have said. I still consider myself exercising even if I go a few days without. Of course, she ran a marathon. I'll be happy if I just quit panting when I go up the stairs.

Still, I'm beginning to feel that exercise is mostly a state of mind.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Poem of the day: Alvin Greenberg

With a bit of explanation. My Ph.D. exams were on sonnet sequences. I have to admit that this was the most fun part of taking my exams, finding all kinds of new sonnet sequences. Someday, I'd like to hunt down some more. This poem I heard at a reading in Minneapolis at a writer's conference of some kind, a big one that I now don't remember. Stanley Kunitz was there. Hearing him read raised the hair on the back of my neck. Anyway, those of you who have pets should really get this book, Why We Live With Animals by Alvin Greenberg. It's funny and touching and they're all sonnets.


why is that grown man standing about
at the end of a leash, watching an animal shit?
is that the sort of life he ought to be leading?
shouldn't there, somehow, be something more to it
than standing around on the edge of the park pleading
with a dog to be done with its business without
attracting the attention of the neighbors?
these are serious questions. you've got to admit
that tying yourself to an animal while it shits
in public, hoping, meanwhile, that others will ignore
you, seems a little odd. the poor dog labors
with its back hunched up, while you stand around
pretending it's
just another lovely day--and that's
in spite of the rain. say, oh say, there's more.


I am awake. I hate it when this happens. It's rare, thankfully, but still. I was lying in bed thinking about the 3 good book ideas I'm sitting on and how I'm going to find the strength and motivation to bring them to fruition. One is about 25% there and completely outlined. The other two are simply electronic post-its. I have issues with implementation. I am easily set off course by obstacles. Look at the dissertation. And see? This is what I do. I have three book ideas and all I'm thinking about is past failures, past inabilities to see a project through.

I'm also thinking about the stuff in the way at the moment. There's work--hiring six students, helping to coordinate a grant, coordinating a 10-week summer program, blog tinkering, giving talks (two planned so far). There's home--taxes, bills, laundry, summer camp sign up, fall after care sign up, other crap I'm forgetting right now.

I want to forget all of that, just for a while and slip away to Starbucks or the library every night and write.

And then, there's bigger issues, like, what if I actually do this and succeed? Could I quit my job? Or, what if, because I like my job, I decide to move on? And when should I be contemplating that? In a year? Two years? But then, there's the 3 books that need to get written and tossing and turning isn't helping. Sigh. Where's my full-time cook, maid, and secretary? Mr. Geeky? Anyone?

Maybe it's just time for bed.

*I realize this is early for someone like Scrivener or even Profgrrrrl, but for me it's pretty late.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Poem of the Day: Mary Wroth

[Come darkest Night, becomming sorrow best]

Come darkest Night, becomming sorrow best,
Light leave thy light, fit for a lightsome soule:
Darknesse doth truly sute with me opprest,
Whom absence power doth from mirth controule.

The very trees with hanging heads condole
Sweet Summers parting, and of leaves distrest,
In dying colours make a grief-full role;
So much (alas) to sorrow are they prest.

Thus of dead leaves, her farewell carpets made,
Their fall, their branches, all their mournings prove,
With leavelesse naked bodies, whose hues vade
From hopefull greene to wither in their love.

If trees, and leaves for absence mourners be,
No marvell that I grieve, who like want see.

(My once, not future, dissertation topic.)

More good search strings

I wasn't going to do this again, but I've got some good search strings, possibly rivaling even Bitch, Ph.D. :

photos of women's butt hairs
quizilla static shock
"soccer mom" definition "what is"
bad mom sex
mom birthday greetings--I'm number 1 for this; maybe I should start selling them
geeky pictures of people
monday thoughts
echnide--hope they found her
fume diesel
genetics and sexism
choices are made..

Quite a variety, dontcha think?

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Poetry Month: Marvin Bell

I was once a poet. I still like poetry, but I tend to like poetry from 400 years ago. In honor of poetry month, I will display a poem here--some of my favorites. At the end, I promise to show you one of my own. Here's the first, one of my favorites, found here.

Jane Was With Me

Jane was with me
the day the rain dropped a squirrel like that.
An upside-down embrace,
a conical explosion from the sky,
a thick flowering of sudden water –
whatever it was,
the way it happened is
that first the trees grew a little,
and then they played music
and breathed songs and applauded themselves,
and that made the squirrel
surrender to nothing but the beauty
of a wet tree
about to shake its upper body like the devil.
And of course, of course,
he went out on that tree just as far as he could
when things were not so beautiful
and that was it: hard onto the roof of our car
before he could set his toes.
The flat whack of the body.
He lay in the street breathing and bleeding
until I could get back,
and then he looked me in the eye exactly.
Pasted to the concrete by his guts,
he couldn’t lift, or leave, or live.
And so I brought the car and put its right tire
across his head. If in between
the life part and the death part,
there is another part,
a time of near-death,
we have come to know its length and its look
exactly – in this life always near death.
But there’s something else.
Jane was with me.
After the rain, the trees were prettier yet.
And if I were a small animal with a wide tail,
I would trust them too. Especially
if Jane were with me.

Search strings

Recent search strings--be afraid:

Liliputians free porn sex--I might like to see that
digital revolution--yeah, let's go!
littlest bird tab--huh?
yet mom--again, huh? This was from a foreign google search, did not recognize the language at all.
job anxiety--apparently I'm not the only one--but pretty high up the rankings
cute mom stories--does that mean I'm cute? I'm afraid my mind goes to the gutter on this one.
geeky mom--of course, I'm number 1!!
Qbasic Send Me Your Programs 2005--this is just weird.

How Laura Ingalls, Bing Crosby and Helen Keller became my playmates

Because Psycho Kitty asked . . . here's how my head worked when I was 9. Warning: I was obviously already a geek, so for non-geeks out there, this might be a bit disturbing.

When I was 9, I had a very active imagination. A year earlier, when I was 8 and in 3rd grade, the school had an assembly where some guy came and told us that the sun was going to supernova and swallow all the planets. Boom--no more earth! Well, I was already freaked out about death, having discovered it from a Looney Tunes cartoon, where the mouse gets tired of eating cheese and asks the cat to eat him. This freaks the cat out, so the cat seeks out the dog to beat him to death. Naturally, the dog freaks out in turn and the cartoon ends with the dog chasing the dog catcher, cat and mouse trailing behind. My little logical 7-year-old mind reasoned that eventually, someone would come ask me to off them and I would then be required to find someone to do me in. This made me wake in a cold sweat and go crying to my father.

Somehow I managed to deal with the idea of death by thinking that I'd be somewhere around on planet earth somehow even if it was just buried in the ground and generating flowers. But this new wrinkle of having the planet disappear entirely disturbed me greatly. My friend, Robyn Gonzales, and I decided the best way to handle this was to believe in ghosts and that we could go live anywhere we wanted, some other universe or something. The problem was, both of us being kind of science-oriented, we needed some proof. Well, I didn't want to wait around, having tried to prove the existence of God a year earlier by asking him to make the big pine tree in the yard fall over. Invisible beings like God and ghosts tended not to follow orders in my experience, so I needed to convince Robyn and myself that ghosts existed without real ghosts.

First, I needed some dead people. No one I knew had died, so I couldn't pull from my own immediate family. I needed some dead people that I knew enough about to convince others that I was really speaking to them. (I really missed a career in channelling, no? I could have given that John guy a run for his money.) As it happened, I had just finished reading all the Little House books, so I knew Laura well. Then Bing Crosby died. I only knew him as the guy that sang White Christmas, but my teacher that year was a fan and told us all about him. We had also just finished studying Helen Keller and watching a movie about her. So there I had it: three good dead people to work with.

My first clear memory of playing with the ghosts occurred in my back yard under the big maple tree. We loved to climb this tree, but the branches were also low enough that the area around the tree was somewhat enclosed and we treated it much like a house. So we were playing and I suddenly declared that Laura Ingalls was among us.

Robyn: "Really, where?"
Me, gesturing toward "Laura": "Right here. She says hello and that she's glad to meet us."

Robyn did not seem surprised and all nor did any other neighborhood kids. They just went along like it was completely normal to have a ghost among us. Bing and Helen (who was still blind but not deaf) showed up quickly and we all (ghosts included) would play merrily in the yard for long periods. Sometimes we would do things out of the Little House books. We'd go pick apples or find syrup or something appropriately frontier-like. Or we'd play school with Helen, who liked to teach us things. Bing was always kind of on the periphery since we didn't know him very well. We just thought it was nice to have a guy around.

Bing, Helen and Laura remained our playmates for quite a while. They showed up on the playground, in our houses, even at the swimming pool. But it all came to an end when we started reading about "real" ghosts. Robyn and I checked out every book we could get our hands on about ghosts, initially to enhance our experience playing with Bing, Helen and Laura. But these books were creepy. They did not depict the friendly, Casper-like ghosts we had conjured for our play. These ghosts scared people. Sometimes they didn't have heads. Sometimes they did horrible things like break things in people's houses or try to suffocate them. We began to think of Bing, Helen and Laura in these terms.

I don't know if Robyn experienced this, but I began to "see" these scary ghosts at night as I was drifting off to sleep. One would be in my closet. Another would be hovering in the nook in front of the window. I might catch a glimpse of another in the hall. They were always so ephermeral, unable to be seen completely and that's what scared me. They weren't definite the way I'd imagined Laura, Helen and Bing. This also ruined the comfort I had taken from the idea that I, too, might become a ghost. I did not want to be this indefinite creature who scared people.

So we let Laura, Helen, and Bing go and moved on to believing we had super powers. It was really the beginning of the end of our ability to immerse ourselves in imaginative play. We didn't realize it at the time, of course, but we were growing up.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

While I'm thinking about books . . .

Two book reviews at once.

I just had a group discussion of The Tipping Point and just finished reading The Cluetrain Manifesto. Both were good books. The Tipping Point examines what makes something tip, mostly the little things that make a big difference (subtitle of the book) while The Cluetrain Manifesto examines a particular "tipped" phenomenon, the internet, and how it will affect the way we do business (and the cluelessness of most management to leverage the internet appropriately).

It's interesting to think of both at once. I do not consider myself an extreme early adopter, one of those people who goes out and buys something the minute it comes on the market just because it might be the next big thing! For most things, especially technologically speaking, I am in the next wave of early adopters. It's been tested and used and found useful by the early adopters, but not yet picked up by the mainstream. Blogging is a good example. I've been aware of blogging for a long time. I tried to start a professional blog a few years ago, but didn't really make the time to make it work. Blogging has kind of tipped in that the mainstream is at least aware of it and some mainstream type people are reading and writing blogs. I'd say I became really involved just before that happened (at least reading; took a little longer to commit to writing one). So now I'm promoting blogging as an educational tool and doing lots of presentations on it. I know I'm not the first to do this, but I'm the first in my community to do this. I'm trying lots of little things, a la The Tipping Point, to get the community interested and to hopefully make it take off within my community. But I'm also facing resistance (not much, but a little) from administrative types, a la The Cluetrain Manifesto, who are worried about liability, about "internet speak" taking away from academic discourse, about support issues (who maintains the server? who helps the users?).

In our discussion of The Tipping Point, we were all talking about how we haven't exactly gotten technology integration into education to "tip" yet. I wonder if The Cluetrain Manifesto doesn't offer one possible answer for this. The point of the book is that the internet is a place where conversation takes place; it is where we become human again and where our individual human voices can be heard. The authors' metaphor for this is the marketplace of old, where vendors sold meat and baskets from stalls and people milled around and talked to each other; the vendors told stories of places far away while customers talked about the lives of local villagers and their families. It's also a place where ideas get exchanged, where real communication can happen. What the authors suggest is that big business managers are too interested in controlling the message and are afraid that allowing their employees to speak freely in public will damage their image, or decrease sales.

I wonder if there isn't some "controlling of the message" going on in a classroom. Is there a fear that if students are let loose on the internet to explore a topic, they might come back with misinformed ideas or might form ideas that are different from the ones presented in class? Or perhaps, as someone suggested in a comment to an earlier post, it is just a general fear of change? It's interesting because we're interviewing students (22 of them) for a summer internship. One of the questions my colleagues ask is about a class that they haven't enjoyed and what they would do to make it better if they were teaching the class. Everyone who is asked this question (and 99% are) says something to the effect of "I hate being lectured to. I want to be able to express my ideas or to get some hands-on experience working with the material." I suspect that the professors in question would like to provide that kind of class, but don't have time to do so or maybe don't even know how to begin that kind of re-structuring of what they do. I'm raising my hand to offer assistance. I can think of all kinds of ways to help that situation without changing the lecture format at all.

So back to the books. I also see a real sense of "controlling the message" going on in the upper-level administration. I actually would love to see someone from every department (admissions, resources, facilities) start a blog and just write about what they're working on, including the frustrations they're having. Imagine what that would do for communication. The best thing that happened to me was getting moved into an office with other people. Finally, we could share information, discuss projects, find out what the heck was going on in different divisions. The internet could be a place where more of that happens. We have a list of services we provide and who provides them. That list is not available to the public. When I ask why, I am told that we don't want people calling those people directly. I know that many people don't want to be interrupted in their work. Well, don't answer your phone. Pick a time during the day to deal with those calls and e-mails that come directly to you. I actually think that the calls and e-mails wouldn't necessarily increase. What I think would happen is people would realize all the services we do provide. Something very interesting could result from that.

My take home message from thinking about both the books together. If you keep a tight fist around communication, no tipping will ever happen.

Psycho Kitty's meme

If you had to pick five fictional literary characters who would best embody you (in some aspect, either now or in the past), who would you choose?
Laura Ingalls
The Dark Lady
Mrs. Dalloway

This was a hard question. I tend not to identify with characters, a habit I picked up when I was reading mostly books with male protagonists.

Which five books (any genre) have had the greatest influence on you?
Othello (this is what got me hooked on Shakespeare)
1984 (scared the crap out of me)
Women of Brewster Place
Meridian (both of these books allowed me to explore the issues of race and racism in a way I hadn't before)
One Hundred Years of Solitude (first real book I read in one gulp)

What is your favorite commonly censored book?
Huck Finn

If you would ever burn a book (God forbid), which book would it be? Why?
I would never burn a book on principle even if I hated it. But . . . Gravity's Rainbow--yuk!

Are you a monogamous reader, or do you like to read around?
I'm usually reading two or three at once, but if I get really involved in one, I'll put the others aside.

Last one, and be honest: Do you skip ahead to the ending?
Never. And I probably should have when I was in college.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Negativity and Trust

This has been a rough week. I've also been thinking about my "negative" attitude at work. I see a lot of positive things, but I'm also by nature a very critical person (not critcal in a bad way, but in the way of critique). I also often play devil's advocate to make sure that we consider all sides of an issue. And I also am not afraid to say when I think something isn't working. I think this comes off as negative sometimes. I think this is only a problem if I just sit around and complain, which I don't. When I think or express something negative, I'm usually doing so to solicit solutions to the problem. And I myself often try to come up with solutions.

Yesterday, we had a big discussion of The Tipping Point and toward the end of our discussion, we were talking about how to work within our communities to encourage "tipping." Most of the people in the group are librarians and work primarily with students. I work primarily with faculty. I was discussing how I felt that the faculty didn't trust me as an expert, wheras people in similar positions to mine at other institutions felt they were completely trusted. I'm wondering if it's my critical nature that's causing either real distrust or the feeling of distrust on my part. So I'm resolving to go out among the faculty more and build that trust--even if it really already exists.

The other thing that sometimes causes me to feel this way is my colleagues. When I do offer a solution, sometimes it's shot down as being unappealing to the faculty, as something they won't want to do. And I'm thinking, how do you know until you try? I think we need to have some real discussions with people before we jump to such conclusions.

Over the next few weeks, I'm really going to make an effort, which I hope to continue into the summer and fall, to make myself more visible and more available. I will, of course, document some of that here.