Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I'm still here

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Dissertation blog?

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

Not going to make it

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

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

Only 2.5 more weeks until Christmas vacation. Sigh.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Blogging and community

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

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

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

Welcome to the Working Week

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

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

Saturday, November 26, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 25, 2005

Mini Reunion

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Turkey Day 2005

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Free Wireless Rocks

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

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Why am I working today?

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

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

Monday, November 21, 2005

Because it's almost Thanksgiving


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

My crappy office

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

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

Obviously, I'm not.

Monday Rambling

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 20, 2005


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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Dr. Geeky Mom?

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

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

This is so right, it's scary

The Movie Of Your Life Is An Indie Flick

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

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

via APL

Friday, November 18, 2005

So, so glad it's Friday

It hasn't been a particularly tough week. Slow, actually, which might be worse. I've been tinkering with a few things, but haven't had enough blocks of time to fully concentrate on anything. I've been trying to schedule an appointment with someone. We were supposed to meet Monday. First she cancelled and rescheduled. Then I had to reschedule. Then she rescheduled again. Finally, she emailed me and said, "I completely forgot what I had wanted to meet with you about. Let's reschedule for next week." Sort of sums up my week.

Plus, I've been staying up really, really late every night. I have been writing. I'm only up to 22,000 words. I will write again tonight and then I plan to spend a few hours at Starbucks this weekend. I should probably try to make it to at least 30,000 or so by Monday. Ugh. I can always write in the car on the way to my dad's for Thanksgiving. Yeah, that'll work.

Last year at this time, I was dreading visiting my mother. I'm thankful I'm not doing that this year.

I'm working on some potential life-changing things and I think that has me up in arms as well. As soon as I can let everyone in on them, I will. Also, it seems everyone around me is working on life-changing things. Kind of stressful, really.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Romantic evening with evolution

Mr. Geeky and I spent a romantic evening in bed reading PZ's takedown of Scott Adams' ID vs. Evolution rant. Adams' response to PZ is even scarier than the original, if that's possible. He's written even more, which I skimmed this morning, but it looks just as bad. I was reading the response out loud to Mr. Geeky (no, it was not a Bull Durham moment!). We both said, "Oh my God, he's like our students." He's like our students in two ways (and students, if you're reading this, don't be offended; these are common mistakes for beginning writers, acceptible for freshman, not for supposedly intelligent grownups). First, he takes a source, the ID folks apparently (though he doesn't cite them really) and uses their argument to argue the other side. When he gets called on it, he claims he was misinterpreted and hey, aren't ID people a credible source? As PZ and many other scientists told him, "No, they aren't and here's why." But he refused to accept that.

The other way he was like our students is his vehement response. Instead of addressing the actual arguments, he falls into a "I'm just right and you are wrong and besides, you're mean" stance. Not effective at all.

Sadly, my respect for Adams has fallen. I think PZ's response should have been a badly drawn cartoon to show that he's as good a cartoonist as Adams is a scientist.

This post has me truly baffled. Adams says:

Many of your comments suggest that there are plenty of credible scientists on the topic of Intelligent Design and evolution. Some people asked who I would consider credible.

Let me point out, by way of background, that all of the intelligence agencies of every major country believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. That was based on lots of data that all pointed in the same direction. It's probably safe to say that those agencies had a preconcieved notion that Saddam had WMD, and so they saw all of the data as consistent with that view.

Further, let me point out that there are 17,000 mutual funds being managed by highly qualified financial experts. They'll tell you that investing in a managed mutual fund is a better idea than buying an index fund. But on average, managed funds underperform the indexes, and you would have no way of knowing which ones won't. Each of those financial experts has a financial incentive to mislead you about the odds.

I would consider credible anyone who didn't have a preconcieved notion or a financial/career incentive. When you're talking about the cause of life itself, I submit that no one can pass that test (especially people who write books on the topic). That has been my point all along.

It's not enough to understand what the experts tell you. You also need to understand cognitive dissonance to understand how the experts and even you could be completely wrong about something that seems so completely true.

Now how many of you read what I just wrote and interpreted it as a defense of Intelligent Design or an attack on Darwinian evolution? If you experienced either of those feelings, you had a little taste of cognitive dissonance.

It's this slippery definition of evidence that has the scientists in a tailspin. Scientific evidence is a very different thing from say, evidence in a text or stock market evidence or even evidence for the war in Iraq. Scientific evidence involves observable fact. Stock market evidence, war intelligence, those involve educated guesses. There aren't facts; there are a lot of interpretations and predictions.

Most scientists, and I suspect PZ himself is among them, don't have much financial incentive. I'm disappointed that Adams has such a complete misunderstanding of how science.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

My skewed reality

Mr. Geeky called me yesterday and said, I'm reading some woman's blog about "The Last Abortion Clinic" and she says that it was her idea to watch the show. When he got home, he said, I don't remember anyone treating you badly. Your reality is a little skewed.

Well, of course it is. I fully realize my version of events is just that, my version. It's filled with interpretation, misperceptions, and sometimes, embellishment. To me, it's perfectly real and truthful. If I felt scorned by some faculty, whether that was my misinterpretation or their real scorn makes little difference. I don't hold a grudge or anything. I'm merely describing how I felt at the time. Anyway, if I asked them whether they were looking down on me because I didn't have a Ph.D. or because I was a faculty spouse, would they admit to that? In most cases, I think the disdain was subtle and unconscious. I also freely admit that my own feelings of inadequacy might have played into my interpretation of events, but those feelings might have just made me more sensitive to certain signals.

It reminds me of something Bitch, Ph.D. wrote about a long time ago. Maybe she'll dredge it up for us. She wrote about how women experience sexism differently than men. Men may not perceive something as sexist when women do. I remember the comment thread on this got very heated. Lots of women were saying, yeah, I feel like I experience things differently and some were saying they weren't sure that was fair and some men were throwing up their hands and some were saying absolutely, women experience the world differently. It's tough to decide how much you privilege individual experience of the world because, of course, each one of us brings a different background to everything we do. When you think about it, it's amazing we communicate at all.

I actually welcome the differences. I find it fascinating when someone's experience of something--even the exact same event--is different from mine. When we discuss why we interpret signals and language in different ways, sometimes we come up with a completely different view of things. I think the frustration in the Bitch, Ph.D. thread had to do mainly with some people not listening to others' experiences. Some were saying, no you don't experience the world differently from me. I see a lot of that in a lot of areas right now, all the way up to the top of our administration. Doesn't it seem a little bit like that, like the administration thinks everyone experiences everything the same? Sure, people are different, but they still want freedom, they still can pull themselves up by their bootstraps, etc. Recognizing that you can't know someone else's experience is the first step to trying to understand it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The writing slows

Nano writing is slowing down a bit. I made it over 20,000 today, but in theory, I should be at 25,000 by now. I'm not that worried. I still haven't made it to the scene that will write itself. Almost there. It's not that I'm tired of it. It's just that there's more going on, more things I have to keep in mind as I'm writing: where I've been, where I'm going. In the beginning, it's an open road and lots of directions to go in. Now the road has narrowed and there are twists and turns that you have to keep an eye out for. I just hope I don't run into a dead end or worse, go over the edge of a cliff.

Class and Abortion

Sunday night I watched my tivoed Frontline episode, "The Last Abortion Clinic." I was a seething ball of anger the entire time. I don't think it was good for my health. Mr. Geeky kept patting my leg and saying, "I'm sorry I made you watch this." Of course, it was my idea to watch it.

The episode profiles the last abortion clinic in Mississippi. Yep, that's right, there's only one clinic left in Mississippi. As I watched people singing and praying outside of the clinic and shouting things to the women who were walking in, I literally wanted to do them harm. It angers me that they care more about the fetuses, the group of cells residing in those women's bodies than they do about the women themselves. One woman they interviewed at another clinic across state lines explained that her boyfriend, the father of her first child and the one she was carrying had died in a car wreck. She didn't have a job. She felt like she couldn't handle having a second child. That seems like a good reason to terminate a pregnancy, and I'm glad they showed it, but to me, it doesn't matter what the reason is because it's her decision. What you do with your life and your body is your decision and I want the praying, singing idiots to leave those people alone and let them live their lives.

The single biggest conclusion I took away from the episode (aside from the anger) was that restrictions being placed on abortion harm the poor much more than they harm the middle class. As the clinic director explained, transportation, child care and time off work all tend to prevent women from being able to visit the clinic. They might be able to arrange all three for one visit but because there is a law requiring a 24 hour waiting period, they have to return a second time and sometimes it's difficult to arrange all three again. For those of us in the middle class, not a problem. The episode also highlight the high incident of teen pregnancy in the area, which, because of restrictions on abortion leads to more teen mothers who don't finish high school, can't get jobs and thus, live on welfare, a vicious cycle indeed.

Like many pro-choice advocates, I do not want there to be more abortions. I want there to be less. But unlike the pro-life contingent, I don't think the way to decrease abortions is by getting rid of the clinics or putting increasingly heavy restrictions on abortion. What we need is better sex education, easy access to birth control (including Plan B), and better education more generally so that many of the poor teenagers who see pregnancy as their only option can see a future for themselves.

At the end of the episode, the clinic director said of the pro-life movement: "They're only pro life while the life is in utereo. After that, they really don't care." When I was reading Jody's response to the NY Times article on children in restaurants, I thought of this. At the end of her post she says:
The real problem, as I see it, is a society that sees child-rearing as an individual pursuit. I'll raise my children, and you raise yours, and those folks over there will have nothing to do with children whatsoever. The kind old woman on the bus who tries to calm my rambunctious four-year old is just an interfering old biddy, and the young man who tries to divert my impatient six-year old with a story while we wait for our tables at the restaurant is just a pervert in the making. Families are on their own in this dog-eat-dog world, and you can only rely on yourselves.
I agree with what she says, which is why I'm so baffled by the pro-life's unusual interest in preventing abortions when they have no desire to deal with the children that result from their own policy. They don't really think there should be more children in the world, just less "murder." There's a disconnect for them between cause and effect and that disconnect drives me crazy.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Feed of the day

Cool! I'm Feedster's feed of the day. Welcome Feedster visitors! I put the little icon in the sidebar with a link to the complete list of feeds of the day. Thanks for recognizing this humble blog.

Being the Faculty Spouse

When Mr. Geeky got the job here, I sat down with my advisor to tell her I'd be moving and attempting to work long distance on the Ph.D. (you all know how that worked out.) She said, "It'll be interesting to see how you handle being the faculty spouse." And I thought, Isn't that what I've been for the last four years? I have been a faculty spouse for almost 10 years now. For 7 of them, I was associated with the same university where Mr. Geeky taught. I have always chafed a bit against the role and am continually surprised by the sexism that often surfaces as a result.

There are unwritten rules about being the faculty spouse and for some reason, these rules only apply to the female (heterosexual) version of the spouse. I'm using the institutions I've been at as sole example, so if you have other experiences, I'd love to hear them.

1. Preferably, you will not have a job. This is so you can deal with everything from children to housekeeping to making doctor's appointments and arranging travel for the holidays so that your spouse, who needs to keep his mind uncluttered from such things, won't have to.
2. You will be patient about the long hours of grading and writing, of work on the weekends and over holidays.
3. You will attend social events and be gracious, especially to those who have power to grant (or not grant) tenure.
4. If you are smart, you will not show it unless you are a faculty member yourself either at this or another institution. I have no idea what the reasoning behind this is, but it seems to be the case.
5. You will be willing to host faculty and students in your home.
6. You will be willing to give up your own ambitions, at least until he/she gets tenure.

Now some of these obviously come from a bit of bitterness and are a little tongue in cheek. We're in the home stretch here in the Geeky household. Ten years of pursuing tenure have meant a lot of sacrifices on both our parts. The tenure process is extraordinarily difficult on a family. Even if the individual spouse recognizes this and tries to reduce the difficulties as much as possible, the institution itself just doesn't. In fact, it pushes even harder, creating a situation where it's much less stressful to strive for tenure if either a) you're not encumbered by a family or b) you have a spouse at home tending to it.

Mr. Geeky and I discussed this when we noticed that many of the men on his tenure schedule had wives who didn't work. We noted that it would be easier for him if I didn't work. Instead, he occasionally dealt with the children's days off from school or doctor's appointments. He was always home for dinner and helped put the kids to bed. Even if I do a little more housework than he does, it's still something that's been negotiated and not just automatic.

Other faculty tend to react to me in a way that says they don't really want to know about Mr. Geeky's personal life. They know, perhaps, the sacrifices made by a faculty spouse and don't want to be reminded of them. Or, I get looks along the lines of, "Hmm. Didn't think she was smart enough to marry a professor." (This usually from people who know me as a staff member and are truly shocked to find out I'm married to one of their own. I literally have gotten gasps.) I can't always put my finger on the pariah nature of the way I'm treated sometimes. Many people are, of course, quite gracious, but others, mostly men, react to me as if I have some kind of disease.

I suppose I would be more comfortable in my role (and would make others more comfortable as well) if that were my only role, but I have a job and worse, I have a job at the same institution. They're not sure sometimes, whether to deal with me as Mr. Geeky's wife or as the staff member they know. And, unfortunately, they wouldn't deal with me in the same way for both roles, which I think says something pretty significant about the way they view those roles. In many ways, they see both as inferior, but one is more inferior than the other. Which one that is depends entirely on the person's perspective, but makes no difference to me. I'm still not on equal footing with them or with my husband (in their mind).

Sunday, November 13, 2005

A day with Geeky Girl

I have a huge post brewing about being a faculty spouse, but until I get it all worked out, I have to tell you about my adventures with Geeky Girl today. We went shopping. It was mission shopping. We had specific things on our list to get: leaf blower, cds, sweaters. We had to be efficient because we needed to be back in time to meet Geeky Boy after basketball practice. (Yes, this is my real life.)

We score a leaf blower at Lowe's along with a bird feeder and birdseed, then we hit Best Buy for cds and dvds. Here's the conversation that ensued:

GG: Here we are: disctopia.
Me: (grinning) Yep. (thinking, of course: how clever is that; I must blog it.)

We pick out the requisite cds and dvds.

Me: That wasn't so bad.
GG: Well, things are always easier when you work together.
Me: Yes, they are.

A little short of the goal

Bleh. I fell a little short of my word count goal this morning. I'm at 16,500. I had wanted to get to 17,500 with an ultimate goal of 20,000 by the end of today. The good thing is I'm getting to a part that's mostly already written in my head. It is, in many ways, the scene that inspired the whole project to begin with. So I'm expecting that to basically write itself.

You know, it feels really good to be doing this, no matter how bad I think the results are. I think I'm learning a lot about myself, about what I think I can accomplish. There are so many big projects--degrees, novels, dissertations--that I haven't finished. Like a marathon, the goal is to finish, not to place. Just think what might happen if you decided to do this every other month. Is that possible?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Poetry for Veterans' Day

There are many poems I could put here, that both honor the veterans and the sacrifices they made and question the motives of war. I want to put here a poem I've heard read a few times, written by an old teacher of mine (and of artichoke heart, I believe). I have a quite distinct memory of the beginning of the first gulf war. I was running to the student union, on my way to bridge club of all things. On my way in, a couple of people on their way out told me the war had started. The next day, I rode the elevator with Professor Komunyakaa up to about the 10th floor of the library where our class was held. "I can't believe this," he said. I knew he had been in Vietnam. I hadn't yet heard the poem below, but I had read it. We talked for the ride up about how crazy waging war was. I was twenty-two. At the time, I thought the gulf war might turn into Vietnam. Little did I know, it would take another 15 years for that to happen.

I was inspired to do this, in part, by Bright Star's posting of poetry. I especially like the one she posted today.

Here is "Facing It." You can hear it read here.

Facing It

My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn't,
dammit: No tears.
I'm stone. I'm flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way--the stone lets me go.
I turn that way--I'm inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap's white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman's blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird's
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet's image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I'm a window.
He's lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman's trying to erase names:
No, she's brushing a boy's hair.

Writing, writing, writing

13,800. Getting there, slowly but surely. Actually, I got about 2500 words written in an hour. Geeky Boy came down with his friend and Geeky Girl.

GB: How's it going, mom? How many words do you have?
Me: Hmm, let me check. (clicking on profile)
Friend: What are you doing?
GB: (positively beaming): She's writing a novel.
Friend: Really? What happens if you finish?
Me: Fame and fortune. (giggling a little) You guys could write one.
GB and Friend: No way, huh uh. (general denial)
GB: I can't get the words out of my head.

They're so cute. I couldn't convince either of them to try it.

The problem with motherhood

There is an extraordinary situation that's developed over one of Nels' students published papers. If you haven't read about it yet, you should. It is a good example of how contentious this whole issue of parenting is. There's a real subtext here of how parenting is not valued in any context.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A moment of fame

I got a little write-up on our college news site. Very exciting. Mr. Geeky gets a mention at the bottom, but most importantly, Michelle, of Culture of Chemistry fame.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

NaNo Update Week 2

As you might imagine, I've slowed down a little because of yesterday's election. I went to bed early Monday night since I had to get up at 5:30. Then last night, after 14 hours of poll working, I pretty much crashed. So two nights in a row of not writing. I got in 1000 words tonight, putting me just over 11,000 total. I'm still pretty tired and my brain is even more tired than my body. My plan is to write every night this week and then do a really big push this weekend.

Some observations about this whole experience so far:
  • Writing every day is useful. Even though much of the writing is bad, it feels much more like progress and the story itself feels much more contiguous than when I'm writing in snippets. I'd like to try to continue this pattern.
  • Writing gets harder after the first rush. For me, there's a nugget, a scene that gets me started. Once I've gotten past that initial spark, I'm much less motivated.
  • That said, just writing helps keep me motivated. I find myself saying, "Okay, write just 500 more words." And sometimes that leads me into another scene that I'm interested in and I'll write much more than 500 words.
  • People think I'm crazy for doing this. Maybe I am, but I don't care.
Audience participation part:
  • Any name ideas for the internet startup that my main character works for?
  • Any thoughts on whether my main character should get the guy or not?

Democrats make strides locally

Yay! Here's an article about some of the races we won and how close we were to winning some others.

Election day observations

First off, I won. Sort of. The way it works is, there are two of us who run for inspector, one R and one D. Whoever gets the most votes gets the title of majority inspector and the "loser" gets minority inspector. Kind of the way the presidential election used to work. I got 148 votes out of a possible 452 total. That's about how the district breaks down in terms of democrats vs. republicans. We have an extremely republican district. In the primary, which I wrote about here, the split was 50/50. My math was way off in that post, so ignore it.

It's a weird position I'm in, working the polls. There are two of us democrats in there and we're both pretty laid back. The people working outside the polls are not. And it creates a lot of tension. I want to follow the rules but I don't want to be mean about it. So when the candidate for commissioner creeps a little too close to the polling area, I would have asked him to move back politely instead of, as our poll watcher did, getting out the tape measure. Likewise, the republican representatives who sit inside the polling area crossing off voters are not allowed to touch election materials. My democratic and republican colleagues would often repeat names to the elderly gentlemen who were handling this task. I would not--and didn't. It's not against the rules but I think it's definitely a gray area. And it certainly doesn't help the democratic party to assist the republicans in their campaign. But it also doesn't help to doggedly enforce the 100 feet rule.

The other kind of creepy thing about the polling area is the general attitude of the men who run it. As I said a year ago, they exude very 1950s kind of attitude. My across the street neighbor came in to vote and started talking about how she'd quit her job. The judge of elections said "Good for you" in a way that was like, "Thank god another woman is in her place." Even the woman kind of looked at him funny. Same guy also blamed the riots in France on socialism.

So I spent the day yesterday feeling physically and emotionally uncomfortable. I think what tends to happen to people like me is that they move to an area that has people in it that are more similar to them. Instead what we should be doing is 1) convincing people to vote these old cronies out of office and 2) encouraging more like-minded people to move here. Neither task is simple.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

All politics is local

There are local elections in lots of places. This is a PSA to go out and vote. I, myself, am on the ballot here. Woo hoo! I'm up for minority inspector. No one is running against me, so I think I might win. Here, the biggest race is for ward commissioner. Our current commissioner is up for re-election and he's a good ol' boy with lots of cronies, so naturally, he needs to go. I don't think he'll lose, but it's been a tough fight for him. We'll see.

Monday, November 07, 2005


Sometimes I look forward to Mondays. I'm well-rested after the weekend and I'm ready to tackle work first thing Monday morning. Sometimes I dread Mondays, especially if there are boring meetings scheduled or some unpleasant task to deal with. Quite often, I just wish I had another day in the weekend. This morning, I'm kind of feeling that way. This weekend wasn't completely packed or anything, but it was quite busy. Soccer games, laundry, retrieving Mr. Geeky at the airport. I could use a day of quiet. By all accounts, though, I should be looking foward to today. My schedule is completely clear. I'm planning on tackling two projects that I'm nearly finished with and perhaps digging into a third. And it's likely that once I sit down at my desk with a fresh cup of coffee and actually start working, I'll be engaged and happy. It's in the abstract that I don't like work, not in the particulars. Well, at least not in most of the particulars. Some of the particulars, they send me into a tailspin.

Last night, while writing my NaNo novel (which still sucks), I suddenly realized that I had gotten so lost in it that I didn't even know what day it was. It was a really weird feeling, kind of like waking up in the middle of the night and not being sure where you are. I can't even remember the last time I had that experience, or if I've ever had it. I write a lot. I write at work. I write in my spare time, here and elsewhere. I love it. Hell, I was a creative writing major. What do you expect? I run into so many people who find writing painful and just don't understand how I can write so much. It's so much work, they say. I agree. It is. But it doesn't feel like work to me. And that's why work is sometimes a pain in the ass. Even when I'm doing something I generally enjoy, it still feels like work.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

NaNo Writing

I made it to 10,000 words! Woo hoo! My secret? Don't read it. I suspect it's tripe. Do I care? At this point, no. I'm thinking if I make it to 25,000, maybe I'll read it. Then again, it might make me not want to continue. Maybe I should just hold off until it's done.

Searches that lead people astray

i.e. to me.

I haven't looked at these in a while, but over the weekend, I was bored and starting looking at the search words that lead people here. Generally, I get standard searches like "mom" and "geeky mom" and of course "sexy mom" but sometimes I get funny and odd ones. So here's some that I think fall into those categories.

  • you know you're tired when--I can't believe I'm not #1 for this
  • annoying things my mother does--what are people looking for? mothers with worse habits than theirs?
  • anti sexuality--hmm--I'm actually #3 for this!
  • spy dress room--okay, obviously related the halloween costume, but who is looking for this and what are they looking for?
  • 1950s housewifery--wrong place for that unless you're looking for a rant against it
  • the ambivalent view about the plight of the poor in HARD TIMES--I am the number one result for this! Shocking!
  • where does devil mom live--here maybe?
The top searches that bring people here?
  • geeky mom
  • mom
  • laura needs
  • drinking poem--wtf?!
  • geeky
feeling inadequate is also common and I happen to be number 4 on the list--sad.

Legislating morality

Okay, my panties are in a wad. Last night before I went to bed, I read this column by Eleanor Clift where she tells me that I shouldn't get my panties in a wad over Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court. After all, she says, the public wants women to be required to notify their husbands before getting an abortion:
The votes aren’t there, and moderates don’t have the stomach for an all-out war over spousal notification. By a margin of nearly 3-to-1 according to a Pew Research Center poll, the public sides with the position Alito took in 1991 when he upheld as constitutional a provision in a Pennsylvania law that required women to notify their husbands before obtaining an abortion.
I think the public doesn't quite know the slippery slope such a notification could lead us to.

Then, this morning, Krauthammer weighs in on the issue. He, too, thinks we're being silly to protest this. Both Echidne and Amanda at Pandagon have taken him to task. They both point out the way he equates women with children and ignores the idea that women are supposed to be equal in the eyes of the law.

I am so tired of the way people in power don't comprehend the way a system keeps them in power. Krauthammer assumes that most people have a marital relationship based on equality and free from abuse, physical or psychological. There are a million scenerios I can imagine where a woman might not want to inform her husband that she's getting an abortion. Obviously, in the best case, an abortion decision for a married woman would involve her husband, but it doesn't have to. And people like Krauthammer should quit trying to put into law their own sense of morality. The message a spousal notification law sends is simple: women are not able to make their own decisions.

Every time I get into an argument with someone over abortion, I remind them that abortion is a medical procedure. Did I get permission from my husband to have thyroid surgery? No. That decision was made by me and my doctor. I realize that abortion is slightly more complicated than that to most people. But I think we are better off thinking of abortion as a medical procedure than some kind of moral issue. That's why people like Krauthammer follow the logic they do. They're attempting to impose some kind of moral code on us. Same goes for issues like gay marriage. Instead of thinking in terms of personal rights, they think in terms of their own morality. They don't see a problem with it because if their wife wanted an abortion, they would either a) let her have one because they're such nice guys or b) beat her into submission. Either way, they get to be morally superior.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

From Sideways to 13 going on 30

It's a Saturday night. I'm tired. Mr. Geeky is out of town and the kids are down at a friend's house. I've got an hour and a half to myself. So I put my jammies on, even though it's only 7, make some hot cider, and pop in my Netflixed DVD, Sideways. I'm just starting to get into the movie when the phone rings. It's Geeky Boy asking to stay the night. One kid down. He brings Geeky Girl back. She takes her shoes off and settles in on the couch with me.

"Let's see if there's a good movie on," she says.
I flip through the 522 channels and notice 13 going on 30 started just 20 minutes ago, so I stop there.
"Hey, it's Sydney!"
"Oh, yeah, it is."
"Let's watch this."

So we watch the whole thing, and yeah, it's cheesy. But we both cry (Don't ask; my emotions are easily manipulated.). At the end, Geeky Girl gives me a big hug and says, "I love you, Mom."

What are Saturdays for?

Apparently Blogger is down for a couple of hours. Dang! I had all these things bookmarked and was all ready to share with the world. Well, the world will have to wait a bit, I guess.

Let's see. There are riots and violent protests.

We have an extraordinarily conservative nominee to the Supreme Court.

Let's throw in some torture.

In a sort of good news/bad news kind of way, there are a couple of items about the regulation, or lack thereof, of the internet.

Of course, I'm not even including the war in Iraq, the Valerie Plame leak, the poor handling of natural disasters which continue to have repercussions for everyone, and the avian bird flu scare.

No, what I'm concerned about now is that I developed an insta-cold last night which I'm keeping in check with sudafed. I've adopted a child for the afternoon, so there is an extra voice in the house. I'm awaiting the delivery of my groceries because I only had enough coffee left for a single. cup. of. coffee. I spent the morning at a soccer game and I have to do it again tomorrow. A woman spent ten minutes complaining to me about the coach's wife. Like I care. I'm also trying to figure out where the plot of my nanowrimo novel is going. I have tons and tons of laundry to do. What I want to do is take a bath and then a nap. Oh, and did I mention I have plans to take the kids to the movie tonight. I'm insane.

Update: Movie is out; we all decided we were too tired. The cold seems to be gone; what's up with that? Groceries arrived. There will be coffee in the morning. Good thing since none of the laundry got done.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Fall Random 10

In honor of the trees being absolutely gorgeous, I thought a fall mix was in order, plus a picture or three. There are more at Flickr.

Orange and green

"Will She Just Fall Down" 'Til Tuesday
"Fall Over Me Satellite" Aaron Booth
"When I Fall" Barenaked Ladies
"Fall With You" Lava Hay
"I Fall To Pieces" Patsy Cline
"Fall on Me" R.E.M.
"A New Leaf" Global Soul
"Autumn" Cousin
"Peach Trees" Rufus Wainwright
"All the Trees in the Field will Clap their Hands" Sufjan Stevens

Sleep and Rest

I've made an executive decision to come home at lunch time today. This has been a crazy week. I got a good night's sleep last night, but I'm just feeling half-crazy. There are house things that need to get done before it gets out of control. And I'd like to do it today instead of between soccer games this weekend. I have a lot to do next week too. I guess this is the sprint to the finish. I had started a couple of projects at work and I haven't had time to get back to work on them. People keep interrupting me and making me do stuff--geez. :)

So I'm going to attempt to work at a more relaxed pace at home today. Maybe I'll even get some writing in. :)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

NaNo Update

I'm up to 5,648 words so far. I've finished one chapter and started the next one. I was hoping to get to 6,000, but I'm functioning on 5.5 hours of sleep, so there ya go. I am trying desperately not to think about how awful and boring what I'm writing is. I'm just trying to slog through it. I'll read it when I'm through and maybe it will be worth doing something with. Just to finish it will be enough.

Geeky Girl is Watching You

When I was a tween and through my teenage years, I was perfectly content to spend long periods of time alone. Some of my strongest memories involve me sitting by myself reading a book or writing. In fact, when I went on vacation with my family, I was often referred to as "The Mole" because I would separate myself from my family, again, usually to read or write. Part of why I wanted to be alone, of course, was that much of my life was spent in the presence of others--at school, at the dinner table, etc. I think if I had been an only child, I might have felt differently.

I still have the same longing for time to myself. I usually get plenty of it, thanks to my new semi-private office and my own discipline to sequester myself there for at least an hour after the kids have gone to bed.

Still, it seems that my time alone is being constantly infringed upon and worse, time alone with Mr. Geeky. I get up at 6:30 in the morning in order to have an hour to myself to drink coffee, read blogs and generally get my mind around the day. Well, my children have taken to getting up at 7:00 now, which wouldn't be an issue if it were just Geeky Boy, who I think has my same privacy needs, but it's Geeky Girl too. And, gosh, I love her, but she has the need to tell you every last detail of what's going on in her head. It's pretty funny if you're in the mood for it, but if you haven't had enough coffee, well, you get the picture.

So there's one area of alone time that's been cut off. And last night, I wanted to have a private conversation with Mr. Geeky, so I went into his office and closed the door. Not ten seconds later, Geeky Girl bursts in, grabs a piece of paper and pencil and plants herself at the little table.

"Can you take that downstairs? I need to talk to Dad for a minute."
"But Geeky Boy is watching a show I don't like."
"So, you can ignore it. Can you please just go downstairs for a minute?"
"No," she said in a horrible whiney voice.

I gave up. I went and changed the sheets on the bed. Later, I tried again. Geeky Girl again burst into the room. This time I didn't even try. I simply said to Mr. Geeky, "It would be nice if I could get more than 30 seconds alone with you."

Sigh. And there were other incidents yesterday and over the last few days as well. Part of me wants to yell, "Just leave me alone! For five minutes! Please! I can't take it any more!"

But I don't. I try to politely suggest that she go do something else or that I need some time to myself. I know that in ten years, she probably won't even talk to me, so I'd better cherish the constant flow of information now. Even now, as I type this, she's getting dressed and there's a constant narrative flowing out of her and there are bulletins from Geeky Boy upstairs. I have no need for a telescreen. I have the children.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

My imaginary world

One thing about writing a novel, you tend live in the novel world quite a bit. Without the radio, I'm thinking about plot and character on the way to work, writing little scenes in my head. At 2079 words (yay!), I'm not really to the good part yet. I can't wait. I think I'm going to make it. It's certainly motivating to be doing this with a whole bunch of other people.

I much prefer living in the imaginary world right now. In the real world, there are Supreme Court nominees that scare me, indictments, a war, and government mismanagement. Then there's work, with its meaningless meetings and well, work. It's good right now, but busy, and I'm, of course, distracted a bit by my little novel project.

You know, I would really like to go to a cabin in the woods and write my novel there. As long as I'm living in an imaginary world, I may as well take it all the way and imagine I'm single and an established writer who owns a cabin in Maine. Oh, and I jet around the world doing book signings and readings. That works, right?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Cognitive Dissonance?

Jody, at Raising WEG, has a great post about the disconnect between her memory of her childhood and her mother's memory of it, and worries that that same disconnect will happen with her own children. I worry about this pretty constantly myself. I have been known to do a reality check and ask my kids what they remember most. So far, I've been pleased with those memories. Geeky Boy, for example, doesn't really remember how sad he was when we moved here and how he would cry almost every night. And how I would cry almost every night as a result.

When I went to therapy in graduate school, I began describing some of the things my mother used to do. When I finished, my therapist said, "Sounds like she was a good mother." I was horrified. In truth, what I had described was the "typical" good mother. She made me breakfast; there were snacks after school. But what I was trying to tell her is that she went through the motions; she didn't really connect with me. She thought that doing these things would make her a good mother. But they made me resent her instead, resent that she didn't see that I needed more than snacks and breakfast. And, later, when I was a teenager, I especially resented the breakfast because it impeded my ability to be independent. I have never talked to my mother about how she remembers things. She never brings it up. She's brought up a few things about my infancy that make my blood run cold. I'm not sure I want to know about later memories.

My dad was not a perfect parent either. He was often absent during the times I needed him. So my mom was there, but not emotionally there and my dad just didn't show up. He actually brought this up himself once when I was in college. And I said, "Yeah, I felt like I didn't have a parent available when I was a teenager." And he said, "Yeah, you're right. I'm sorry. I'd do it differently now." Kind of hard to argue with someone who admits they made a mistake. I have a feeling my mom would respond with, "But I made you snacks every day."

I think I'm doing a good job as a mother. I'm not perfect. And I think if my kids later, said that I was unavailable (always on the computer!) then I'd probably agree with them. Sometimes you just don't know when your kid needs you. They don't always ask for help. You try to guess. You try. You keep trying. That's all you can do. And that's what I'd say. "I was trying. Maybe I didn't try hard enough." Sometimes with my mom, I didn't feel like she was trying.