Friday, July 29, 2005

Beach blogging

Blogging from the beach is hard and not that much exciting has happened. The kids are exhausted and it's starting to show. The extreme weather broke today so it's not ungodly hot. We'll make one more trip over to the beach, surf a few wave, collect a few shells. Then we're going out for seafood. It's been fun, but I'm honestly ready to go home. There will be more interesting blogging then.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Beach, day 2

My kids were basically in some body of water all day. Geeky boy, especially, loves the ocean. I'm amazed at how much I worry about him while trying not to look like I'm worried. It is amazingly hot but generally there's a nice breeze. Today we're planning a major sandcastle and lots of body surfing. Yesterday, I went for a walk but today didn't get up early enough. Maybe later. One more cup of coffee and I'm off.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Halfway there

Nearly halfway to the beach. Some observations.

traffic sucks
men in tank tops creep me out
i've seen more accidents in the last month than in my whole life
hotel coffee sucks

Friday, July 22, 2005

Racism in the family

Some conversations I have with my extended family contain an element of racism. My inlaws, too, often make racist comments. I don't think they always mean them in a racist way. They just say things without thinking. These comments are not the blatant racist comments one thinks of from around the time of the civil rights movement, but more subtle. Generally, they take the form of an observation about one or two people of a particular race which gets generalized across the whole race.

For example, my mother made the comment to me that she's noticed a lot more hispanic lawn crews in her neighborhood. "They're doing the work blacks used to do," she said. Because, she goes on, "Blacks are too lazy to do it." What has she based this theory on? The fact that the kid she hired to do her lawn work is lazy (and black). I suggest that maybe blacks have found better jobs as they've gotten more educated. "No," she says. Again, she bases this on the fact that her yard worker hasn't gone out and pursued a job actively. I suggest that he's 18 and not sure how to pursue a job, might need training or guidance and has nowhere to turn for it. Maybe, she concedes.

This kind of thing drives me crazy. And it sweeps under the rug the institutionalized racism that is rampant in many southern areas. Not to mention the history of segregation and racism, the aura of which has not disappeared. And I never know what to say to these kinds of comments. I'm never armed with enough information to diffuse the argument. And I'm usually blindsided since I'm just not around racism that much anymore.

No one in my family or Mr. Geeky's is going to tell a racist joke in front of us. (We're considered the wacky liberals who actually take recycling seriously.) But they will make these broad comments which are hard to respond to. It's hard to diffuse these comments with a discussion of the complexity of the socio-economic fabric in America. My relatives nod politely without really listening. And it's even harder to answer the kids' questions. What's a conscientious mother to do?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Vacation

Tomorrow I leave for vacation. We're going to the same beach I went to my whole life. We haven't been in 15 years. Man, I feel old. We're meeting my father and stepmother there.

When I was growing up, vacation was the one time I got to bond with my father. Especially when I was little, he was always working, first in a big law firm and then, trying to establish his own practice. He ate dinner with us, but then often had to work afterwards. (Actually, come to think of it, Mr. Geeky follows the same pattern). He also worked on the weekends. But at the beach, I got my father to myself.

My dad liked to fish in the surf. My job was to catch bait for him. I would go out about thigh-deep and dip into the sand for the wiggly little burrowing crabs that he used for bait. I'd put my catch into the bait bucket and I'd sit next to him while he fished. Sometimes we talked, but a lot of times we just sat there enjoying each other's company.

We also played in the pool together. He'd throw me, drive me around and generally encourage my budding swimming skills. And at night, the whole family would play hearts, and my dad and I were often on a team together.

Even into high school, I enjoyed hanging out with my dad at the beach. My first boyfriend broke up with me while we were on a beach trip and it was my dad who comforted me in the dark when it seemed like my world was falling apart. If he could have flown back home and beaten the guy up, I think he would have.

And the beach was where my taste in fine dining got started. We went to a very nice restaurant when I was 16 and my dad let me and me sister sit at a table by ourselves right next to him. We got to order our own food. I still remember the duck in mustard-brandy sauce from that night.

The last few years, we've either not gone on vacation at all, visited various relatives, or gone to the beach with friends. I like going to the beach with my friends, but there are so many kids and the whole trip feels more like a trip for grown ups rather than time to spend with your family. One of the things I liked about my family beach trips as a kid was that it was time our family got to just let go and be ourselves. The beach was where we formed inside jokes and created the stories that we still tell like the year my dad accidentally dropped an entire fish down the garbage disposal and we all started yelling "Bass-o-Matic! Bass-o-Matic!" That's the kind of thing I want for my kids and I'm glad that this year, my dad gets to be a part of it.

Whining

I love, love Phantom Scribbler's Wednesday whining. She's just about one of the best bloggers out there, imho.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Click and Double-Click

This is what I get to do at work. What a great job I have!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A guy? He picked a guy?

Lord help us.

We don't need no education

I don't know why, but I'm thinking about the Pink Floyd song when I think about the way social software--especially blogging--threatens education as we know it. Things move so slowly in higher ed that I don't think anything radical is going to happen in the next 5 years or even 10 years, but it might. Just this weekend, the NY Times reported that high school students are dissatisfied with their educations, that they weren't being challenged.

I am not an education expert, but I play one at work. I think that in many high schools and colleges, courses are still being taught in the "sage-on-the-stage" method. A teacher stands at the front of the room, imparts some information interspersed with pauses for discussion. Students are required to read and write papers, maybe take essay exams. All of these are very linear enterprises and very passive. Students do not learn well this way. Study after study shows this (although there's always a few who do learn well and others learn to adapt to this method).

Books like Everything Bad is Good for You and What Video Games have to teach us about learning and literacy point to a different kind of learning, learning that is more active and hyperlinked and most importantly, controlled by the learner. Which brings me to blogging (or pretty much any technology where one must relinquish control to the students). Blogging allows students to have more control over their own learning. They get to decide (within parameters) what to read, what to write about, what to comment on. They get to grapple with material in a way they can't in a controlled classroom or even in a paper.

Teachers are also often afraid of the public nature of blogs. What if their writing or thinking looks unformed and I've sent this link to lots of people? Won't that reflect badly on me? And what if students decide to start personal blogs and they write stuff that isn't very flattering to the school?

And then there's the issue of creating more work. "How do I grade this stuff? And I have to learn about blogging before I use it? I don't have time for that."

Here's an example of the kind of activity I'm planning with my students in the fall. Some faculty I've mentioned this to are freaked out by it. And it's pretty tame and it's really a re-hash of stuff librarians and writing teachers have been doing for years.

One of the concerns I hear from faculty all the time is that students don't know how to do research. They resort to Google (a quick google search shows millions of articles on this topic). In a recent survey, faculty stated that they expect their students to learn research skills, but often do not want to take class time to teach them. I'm stepping back to a more general view of research, of simply learning how to evaluate information, a skill that I think comes primarily not just from being told that a library database is a better source of information (because it's not always), but from comparing lots of different sources and through analysis of those sources making some judgements about what's better, based on the information presented.

So, the activity I have in mind is to have students search using the same keywords in about 5 different places. The keywords need to be unique enough not to generate millions of results, but general enough to have some results to choose from. I envision that they would search a library database that they think (based on the information given on the library web site) is most appropriate, a search engine, google scholar, technorati, and perhaps a social bookmarking site like CiteULike or furl. They will blog this whole process. It's a big assignment. It could lead anywhere from talking about evaluating sources to the technology of search tools to the future of libraries. I want them to blog their whole experience--how easy was it, what kinds of frustrations did you have, what was the best experience, what was the most interesting resource you found and why. Anything.

I can envision setting students loose like this, blogging their experience of reading a book, attending a lecture, participating in an online discussion, reporting it on their blog. I know I have readers who've actually used blogs, so they probably have more to say. I'll be experiencing this whole phenomena in the fall.

Setting kids (even college kids) loose to construct their own knowledge freaks some people out. I still think we need teachers and college professors, but not as sages who fill their students with information. They show students how to find information. They help them figure out how to present information, how to incorporate their own ideas into that information.

Increasingly, students will expect to incorporate social software type things into their classes. They'll do it on their own or with the assistance and guidance of teachers.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Blog power

Dr. B has a couple of good posts about blogging, anonymity, employee-employer relationships, and more. Whenever I mention to people that someone got fired for blogging, they almost always say, well, they deserved it for being so stupid. And, like Dr. B and many of her commenters, I think more needs to be done to examine the responsibility of the employer in such situations. There are endless accounts of bloggers being fired for what seem like small offenses. There's even a Technorati tag for it. And there are advice articles. Most of these articles advise you to suck all the life out of blogging. "Be safe," they say.

I have to say that I think most employers fear bloggers and blogging. Otherwise they wouldn't be firing and/or suing employees for doing so. There is a power in blogging that most people don't have at work. In your blog, you can say that comeback that you wish you could say. You can speculate about why co-workers said certain things. Or you can simply report the goings on at work because they're interesting or funny or pathetic. How often have you been in a meeting and wished you could just say, "This is the dumbest meeting I've ever been in. There's no agenda and we'll never make a decision because so-and-so won't let go of X project because he's a power-monger." Social convention makes you sit there and keep your mouth shut. But you can write about it on your blog and it makes you feel better.

What are employers afraid of? Are they afraid they'll be embarrassed? Have their secrets revealed? Afraid they'll look stupid and some client will dump them because they read something bad about them on a blog? Afraid an employee will reveal their unethical behavior? Afraid they'll lose their position of power, which is really held only because of social convention?

Frankly, I'm a proponenet of more openness, more honesty, which is what bugs me about the Bush administration. Blogging begins to shed some light on what was once hidden. Bosses are afraid of this. It's like the secretive family not wanting people to know they do strange things in private. I'm all for privacy except when it comes to the employer/employee relationship and business policies and practices. I think employees should know their rights. I think employees should know what's going on in a company. If employees feel that their superiors are being honest with them, then there's no need for them to speculate on their blogs.

I see a lot of fear of blogging and other kinds of open content like wikis among journalists, employers and educators*. They're losing control of the message. I would like to see those in power think, not of controlling, but of partnering with their employees of letting their employees expose problems and propose solutions--perhaps via their personal blogs.

Like the nanny story Dr. B related, I think too many employers not only want to control the message, but want to control the very identity of their employees. They want to prevent them from having any individuality. They project their hopes onto them or a packaged image.

I think we can't be squelched by all these stories. We have to keep scrutinizing these situations and start to turn the spotlight, not on the bloggers who were fired, but the employers who fired them.

A tangent, of sorts. Want to read some interesting employee blogs? Read some by people who work at Walmart.

*I have more to say on educators' fear of blogging later.

Monday Random Thoughts

To whomever made coffee at work this morning: you are a saint. Unfortunately, had to settle for fat-free non-dairy creamer.

Last night, the electricity went out. I had drifted off to sleep when all of a sudden, I heard screaming and loud beeping. The kids had not yet drifted off to sleep and started screaming bloody murder when the lights went out. Mr. Geeky's back-up electricity for his computer started beeping to let us know that the electricity went out. As if we didn't know. The kids piled in bed with me and I spent the night fighting for the covers and avoiding elbows, knees and feet. As I said, the person who made the coffee is a saint.

Writing is hard. (You must say this with the same intonation as "Math is hard.") While tossing and turning last night, I was revising what I'd written yesterday, thinking of new ways to frame things, more details to put in. The hardest thing about writing memoir is creating a good story arc. Some events in my life lend themselves well to this; others, not so much. I'm looking forward to sitting down at the computer tonight.

I am counting down the days to vacation. I leave on Friday. This is the latest I've ever gone on vacation. Usually I go the last week of June/first week of July, about the halfway point of the summer (by our academic calendar). When I return, things will be beginning to gear up for the school year. I'm going to try not to think about that for now. I have a light schedule this week and I'm not planning to tackle any big projects. I might go over to the library and do some reading.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Writing strategy

I have printed out 25 pages. I will revise it. When I'm done, it should be longer.

Simple strategy.

Keep your eye on the ball

Very good article by Frank Rich this morning. Go read it.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

To-do list for tomorrow

In (hopefully) sequential order:

blog
write
go to grocery store
eat
revise
laundry (which can happen concurrently with other activities)
more writing--need to get away from it! tomorrow.

Harry Potter and Valerie Plame

Yeah, I know these two people don't seem related, but you never know. Last night, Geeky Boy and I went to the requisite Harry Potter festivities at the bookstore. Last time we did this, we ran into an old schoolmate of his, whom he proceeded to run around with the whole time while I sat with her mother and drank coffee. This time, there was no one he knew. It was actually nice because we got to spend some time together just the two of us. We browsed for other books, looked at games, worked a crossword puzzle, ate snacks. Geeky Boy had a great time watching the magician. He knew how all the tricks were done because Mr. Geeky used to do magic shows and he's showed him all the tricks. But he thought he was funny anyway. And he got to pet a bird and a rabbit.

I bought a couple of memoirs as a way to get some ideas for putting together my own and I realized I am at a huge disadvantage since I wasn't abused, didn't have an affair with my father, or have a drinking or drug problem. Also, I'm not gay (a trait that often accompanies one of the previous situations or causes them), or famous. So you know, I may have to be a little creative.

At midnight (actually 12:30-ish), we queued up for our book. We'd collected a few other purchases while standing around and waiting (being sucked into the corporate marketing). So we bought everything and headed home.

On the way home, Geeky Boy announced that he thought Valerie Plame had revealed herself to some people at the White House in order to discredit Karl Rove and hopefully get him fired. What I said about him not understanding the inner workings of politics? By George, I think he's got it!

Friday, July 15, 2005

Friday Random Ten: Late College Edition

Regular readers might remember that I'm leafing through my old journals. I found this entry from sometime in August, 1988.

Songs that Might Make You Cry
If I Laugh--Cat Stevens
Alison--Elvis Costello
Message in a Bottle--Police
All My Love--Led Zeppelin
She's Always a Woman--Billy Joel
No one is watching you now--'Til Tuesday
With or Without You--U2
Just You n Me--Chicago
Last Night I Dreamt that Somebody Love Me--The Smiths
Ship of Fools--Robert Plant
MLK--U2
Coming up Close--'Til Tuesday

I don't know if I wrote these down to remind myself not to play them or what. Some of them I didn't even own--like Chicago. Underneath this list is the following:

Stuff You Wouldn't Listen to Unless Forced
Stuff I think You'd Like

But there's not anything listed. Why did I make this list? Odd.

,

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Raising little Democrats

This evening after dinner, Geeky Boy suddenly launched into a discussion about the whole Karl Rove/Valerie Plame affair. I'd reproduce it, Bitch, Ph.D.-style, but it was way too complicated. At first, GB didn't quite get how Karl Rove was in trouble; he didn't seem to have anything to do with it. Then I explained how leaking a CIA agent's name to the public was illegal and I explained the basic history of the story. Then he said, "Why isn't Bob Novak in jail? How is it that a woman who didn't publish anything is in jail, but Bob Novak isn't?" A good question. I explained a little of Scrivener's theory. That kind of confused him and he ended up thinking that they should all be punished.

Do you know how hard it is to explain to a 10-year-old the inner workings of politics?

On being alone

I love my family, but honestly, I think I could have lived alone. When I was a senior in college, I lived in an apartment by myself, largely thanks to my boyfriend dumping me, but still I think it was the best thing that could have happened to me. It's sort of ironic because I really, really like people. I love being around people at work, for instance. But I like retreating from them and being isolated for a while.

I may be romanticizing this whole idea since obviously, I haven't a clue what it's like to be alone at my age. I mean 22 is one thing, but 37 is quite another. My sister-in-law lives by herself, but she has friends, goes out with men from time to time and seems, for the most part, quite happy. There's so much pressure on women to find a mate and early. Or at least there was for my generation. It's so obvious in my journals that I was desperately afraid of being alone, of not having friends, of not having boyfriends. If only I could have accepted that it's okay to be on my own. I suppose that's asking a lot of a preteen/teenager.

Yes, I know there are studies that show that people are happier and live longer if they are married and have friends, but have they ever looked at whether there aren't some people who live alone and are perfectly content? There's rarely a tv show, book, or movie that shows a character living by themselves quite happily. They're always depicted as quirky, odd, slightly sad. And I think that's too bad.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Writing journal, day 3 & 4

I don't know if you've notice the page count going down over there, but it is. Writing is going. There will be no revising until the weekend. I only look back a sentence or two to pick up the story. There is no editing.

I turn this piece in to my writer's group on Sept. 11. That's a big motivation. I'd like to have a big chunk of it done by then. I've basically been writing every spare moment, blocking out stuff with the headphones. Knowing my own work habits, which are sporadic--a spurt of activity followed by a period of non-activity--I'm taking advantage of the motivation.

I'll be interested to see how the revising goes this weekend.

Feeling better, but still at home

So I'm feeling a little better, but thought it best to stay home. Feeling faint and nauseous at work is not good.

Since my comments are not showing up, but I can see them at haloscan, I wanted to thank everyone for their well wishes. And delegar, especially thanks to you for the advice. I'm supposed to go to my doctor next week anyway to check on my thyroid hormone levels. I haven't missed any doses, because I feel so much better when I'm taking it. So it's odd.

Anyway, I've been sitting here reading through my many journals and chuckling. I had one where I wrote a big long story about a relationship I was in in college. It was a sorted story where there was a guy who was in love with my roommate, but then I fell in love with him, but had to keep it to myself. So I had this whole lead-up about the friendship developed as a result of this crush he had on my roommate. I sat and listened to him talk about Greek poetry and the Big Bang Theory (what a perfect combo :) ) and my roommate was bored. We'd be up for hours, lounging on the shag carpet in my dorm. My roommate would fall asleep and we'd still be there talking away. And, of course, we ended up together, but just before the big moment of our realization that we were meant to be together, I quit writing the story. I left myself hanging. Of course, I know what happened because it was my life, but it was funny reading what I wrote then. Very funny.

I think I have to put some of this stuff verbatim into the blog--or start another blog. I could put in the dates and everything. Just what I need: another blog.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Illness strikes

I came home from work sick today. I have no idea what's wrong. I think it has something to do with the interaction between birth control and synthroid and perhaps also lack of sleep (though I don't consider 7 hours a lack). I hate, hate these vague symptoms. I feel tired, nauseous and faint. Oh, and I get goosebumps. It comes and goes, thus the post earlier today. If it's still around tomorrow after a good night's sleep, I'll be calling my endocrinologist.

If you've ever had cancer or been close to having cancer, these vague symptoms are worrisome. Has the cancer spread? Has it infected my lymph nodes? Is it just a matter of medication dosage? The body you once knew becomes mysterious. So emotional stress adds to the physical symptoms.

The kids--including an extra one--are playing a board game right outside my office door. I'm drowning them out with headphones (Rufus, again). There's nowhere else for them to go. I'm contemplating a bath. Don't know if writing will happen tonight. I want to, but depending on when the kids go to be, I'm not sure how late I can stay up. We'll see. I'm also having trouble in the upright position.

More on HR 177

In today's Inquirer is the oddest editorial I can imagine. The author, David Saxe, a professor of education at Penn State, argues that this resolution is a good thing, mainly because he takes the whole idea of academic freedom as it is expressed in the resolution at face value. He believes that the resolution promotes academic freedom in its most positive sense. I think his editorial makes clear that that isn't true and that the true intent is to increase conservative views in the classroom. Here's one of the more puzzling quotes, a conflation to some extent of affirmative action and equal employment opportunity with academic freedom:

For proponents of HR 177, nearly all Republicans, the notion of government oversight on such matters as academic intercourse presents an odd turn of events. Was it not so long ago that academia was devoid of minority voices? Have we forgotten that females and black males were virtually closed out of the highest ranks of higher education as professors and administrators?

And who shouted the loudest for diversity? For affirmative action in higher education to ensure a "level playing field"? To break down the so-called racist and sexist barriers that barred minorities from their rightful place within academia? Was this not the great contribution of Democrats?

And the barriers fell. And then they fell some more. With the great influx of minorities and women into higher education came all sorts of new ideas. The fight to break the barriers to attain faculty positions and promotions became synonymous with fighting for rights per se - for women to fight for women's studies departments, for blacks to fight for African American departments, for homosexuals to fight for same-sex partner benefits.

As these birds of a feather flocked together, they fought and fought. And from so much fighting, they eventually realized they did not have to fight so much anymore. There was less and less resistance to what would have astonished faculty of another generation.

I honestly don't see what this has to do with the idea of academic freedom as I understand it. From the AAUP's statement on academic freedom:
  1. Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties; but research for pecuniary return should be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the institution.

  2. Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject.[2] Limitations of academic freedom because of religious or other aims of the institution should be clearly stated in writing at the time of the appointment.[3]

  3. College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.[4]
Seriously, the logic of the argument is lost on me, except as it relates to Horowitz's idea of academic freedom, meaning there need to be more conservative voices on campus. In an article in the Chronicle, Horowitz states that the purpose of the academic bill of rights is to "to emphasize the value of "intellectual diversity," already implicit in the concept of academic freedom; and, most important, to enumerate the rights of students to not be indoctrinated or otherwise assaulted by political propagandists in the classroom or any educational setting." I don't think "intellectual diversity" is implicit in the statements above. Faculty are warned not to introduce controversial topics not related to their topic. For example, as a literature teacher discussing an 18th century novel, I probably shouldn't discuss abortion rights unless there's something about that in a book. The AAUP statement says nothing about colleges' needing to check the views of professors in their hiring process or institute some kind of affirmative action for conservatives, which is the impression I get both from Horowitz and Saxe. And the author of the editorial is right that having more women and minorities on campus did bring in new ideas and new ways of looking at old things, but that has little to do with academic freedom insofar as these faculty have the same rights to speak freely as their white and male counterparts do.

Horowitz also states in that article that:
Although the AAUP has recognized student rights since its inception, however, most campuses have rarely given them the attention or support they deserve. In fact, it is safe to say that no college or university now adequately defends them.
This is so blatantly untrue as to be silly. Our campus, for example, has a host of deans whose entire jobs are to advocate for students. In addition, there is a student-run government who regulary meet with top administrative staff to have their voices heard. We also have an honor council and numerous other student organizations who may advocate for specific student issues. If anything, I'd say the rights of students have increased over the years and that they often feel entitled to those rights from day one. I think our situation is not atypical.

The AAUP did issue a statement about HR 177, which I found via the Social Science Research Council. They believe that the general concerns expressed by the resolution are important ones, but not ones that should be dealt with by legislators, who have political ties that may cloud their judgement. And let me point out the following, found in the Wikipedia:

A prominent feature of the English university concept is the freedom to appoint faculty, set standards and admit students. This ideal may be better described as institutional autonomy and is distinct from whatever freedom is granted to students and faculty by the institution. (Kemp, p. 7)

The Supreme Court of the United States said that academic freedom means a university can "determine for itself on academic grounds:

  1. who may teach
  2. what may be taught
  3. how it should be taught, and
  4. who may be admitted to study." (Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265, 312. 1978.) (Standler)
Perhaps we are headed back to the Supreme Court again. I'm disappointed that the Inquirer, whose city is home to one of the biggest state-funded universities in the state, hasn't published an opposing viewpoint or even a report on this resolution.

Writing journal, day 2

Much, much better. As you all suggested, I skipped the difficult part and trudged ahead. Got 4 pages, most of which were new, some taken from bits and pieces I'd written earlier. I stayed up way too late, though, so I'm not writing this morning, the head is foggy. I will write again tonight though. I took a good walk yesterday, which helped clear my head and gave me a little more energy. I think that is key.

As part of my writing last night, I dug out all my old diaries (no suprise there) and read through some of them. Man, was that hilarious. I was completely boy crazy. I mean every entry talks about liking this boy or that boy. Each entry lists at least two boys and sometimes 5 or 6. Sheesh. There's also a lot about my friends and my struggles with them. In high school, my entries got pretty detailed, but before that, pretty sketchy. And some of the names--no idea. I have a stack of notebooks to go through. I had a tendancy to write for a while in the "official" diary space, but then resort to regular notebooks where I sketched out stories and poems. And I never kept up with a diary for very long, maybe 3 months, with scattered entries after that.

The diaries probably won't help me that much, but I'm glad I have them. They're really interesting. Oh, if only I'd had a blog then! I so obviously needed some feedback.

Monday, July 11, 2005

HR 177

After reading this, I sent a letter to my rep, whom I've met, and who is a Democrat. Where are the reasonable people? Bitch, Ph.D., as usual, has good stuff too.

When it sucks to be a working mom

When you drop your daughter off at camp and she bursts into tears. Sigh.

Writing Journal, Day 1

I really have to change that number over there. Though it's not entirely impossible to get to 500, it's seeming unlikely. I'm going to leave it though and see where I get. I've now set aside time in the evening to write. Now that work is less stressful, I'm able to get my head around writing at night. This will have to change in the fall, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

This morning, I wrote less than a page. I'm struggling with the same damn chapter. I'm going to dig out my old journals tonight to see if that helps me. The problem is not with the ideas themselves but how to organize them into something like a story. I need more specific events, less generalized information.

Today's a day when I wish I didn't have a 9-5 job. I could take the kids to camp and spend the day reading and writing. No such luck though.

I could have done some writing this weekend, but no. I think the trouble I'm having with this chapter is causing me to not even want to sit down at the computer in the first place. I have to get over that. Ugh.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

So Obsessed I'm proselytizing

Please don't make fun, but I am officially obsessed with Rufus Wainwright. While listening to him, I ran into a post at Oliver's asking for music recommendations. Now, usually it's me asking for the recommendations, but no, here I am evangelizing about Rufus. I now own all of his albums and really want to go to a show. Damn I'm crazy. And Oliver gave me this:



You should go over and help him out. I'm dying to know what the big project is too!

Charmed life

All day yesterday, I couldn't help thinking what a great life I have. Unfortunately, I often lose sight of that when caught up in the daily trials and tribulations. I have a home that I enjoy in a nice neighborhood where the kids can play in the street. I have a job that I like and hobbies that stimulate me.

Yesterday's events really brought all that home. I got to hang out in my office in the morning. Toward 10 o'clock, I made scrambled eggs and toast for us. Then I took a shower and made plans for a trip to the grocery store, only to find I'd left my wallet at work. I drove over to work to see if the building was open (no luck, not till today). So I cancelled plans to buy anything and moved it to tomorrow. Instead, I focused on laundry.

We had enough food in the house for me to have a quesadilla and the kids had pb & j. I sat out on the deck and read through a script I have to comment on later tonight in my writer's group. It was a gorgeous day: sunny, a little breeze, birds chirping, the distant sound of mowers, the smell of fresh-cut grass. I piddled for the rest of the afternoon. A friend of the kids' from down the street came down and they played store upstairs. Then we all went outside and played bocce ball in the backyard. I cooked out hamburgers and corn. We played another round of bocce and then we all walked over to the local water ice place and got dessert.

How much more charmed can you get? It was downright idyllic. And this morning, the same gorgeous blue sky. I've had this Rufus Wainwright song in my head all weekend "11:11". It has a line in it that I think is great: "I was alive and kicking through this cruel world." That's the way I feel.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Home Improvement blogging

I'm sitting in my new office! See? We still have to spackle and paint. And I have some adjustments to make since the room is kind of slanty. I haven't moved everything in yet, but it's a very nice space. I might turn my desk so it faces the windows, which would leave me a little more wall space for bookshelves. We are also planning to replace the windows, which are pretty crappy. And yes, those curtains cost me 7.99. Woo hoo! I'll replace those too. It's very quiet out here. I can't hear the children at all. :) They tend to play up in their room and I'm way down here off the living room. And I get to watch people walk by. It's so awesome! Mr. Geeky is so awesome! If you want to see the step by step progress, click on the photo to see the whole set.

Friday, July 08, 2005

I got nothing

I was going to do a nice Friday Random Ten with "London" or "England" or something, just like Rana did. But I don't have any "London" or "England" songs. Can you believe that? So sad.

I'm honestly killing time here. I'm listening to Lenny Kravitz's "Freedom Train" which gave me the idea to use "Freedom" as my Random 10 word of the day. I also added "free" to fill it out:

"Cry Freedom" Dave Matthews Band
"Freedom " Blues Traveler
"Freedom For My People" U2
"Freedom Hangs Like Heaven" Iron & Wine
"Freedom Train " Lenny Kravitz
"Free Man Now" Southern Bitch
"Free Until They Cut Me Down" Iron & Wine
"I Shall Be Free " Bob Dylan
"I'm Set Free" The Velvet Underground

And for the opposite:

"Masters Of War" Bob Dylan
"Radio War" Iron & Wine
"Rene And Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War" Paul Simon
"Talking World War III Blues " Bob Dylan
"The War " Melee
"War Dance" XTC

,

Thursday, July 07, 2005

7th of July

I can't really add anything of substance to the London bombing news. I have to say that though I was saddened and disgusted and angry, I was not surprised, not the way I was with 9/11. I'm frustrated by our administration right now because I believe it's partly their fault that this kind of event occurred at all. I'm frustrated by a lot of things regarding our administration. I'm very interested to see Tony Blair's and the British people's reaction to this over the next few days. Will Blair be forced to rethink his Iraq involvement or will it only strengthen his resolve to remain there? Will Bush want to be the cowboy hero and go blow some other country up? Will he concoct a connect to Iran this time? I'm dismayed, really, by our administration's lack of imagination in their response. John McGowen has one of the more interesting responses to the attack I've seen. It is a war of rhetoric. And sometimes that rhetoric is represented by bombs instead of words.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

It's true

"If, as you live your life, you find yourself mentally composing blog entries about it, post this exact same sentence in your weblog."

via Frogs and Ravens

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Freedom from religion, evolution and confluence of ideas

On the way home from work this evening, I heard this report on NPR. I was incensed after listening to it. I've been following the Intelligent Design/Creationism story for a while, though not as thoroughly and closely as PZ Myers. He could speak about this much more scientfically and less emotionally than I. This story got me more than others because the people who spoke struck me as incredibly unthoughtful and yet, aggressively pursuing the spread of religious beliefs through schools and elsewhere. I was thinking lots of things as I was listening and yelling into the air. First, I was mad at NPR for giving the Christian right so much air time without explaining, for example, that a scientific theory is not just someone's opinion as the speakers asserted. Why couldn't they tell them or us that gravity is a theory too? Do you see yourself floating into space on a regular basis? One girl explained that there was no evidence for evolution, but there was for creation. I was all ears. What was it? "The creator is in my heart." Ack! Well let's open you up and see. Metaphors are not evidence. Why couldn't there have been a discussion about what constitutes scientific evidence? Unbiased reporting is one thing, but letting such statements stand really bothered me.

Second, I was mad about the way they talked about needing to get religion into the schools and that it was important for children to learn it or they will be lost. Fine, you believe that, teach your children those things at home. Go to church and Sunday school or send your kids to a religious school of your choice. They did have one person, a parent, who essentially said the same thing, but no one made any statements about issues of separation of church and state.

The story also made me think back to *the* point in my childhood when I began to not believe, primarily in organized religion, but eventually in God. I was in the car with my best friend and her father. We were being taken somewhere and somehow the conversation turned to starving children in Africa. My friend's father said something about how there was nothing we could do for them because they didn't believe in Jesus and so weren't going to heaven and so we shouldn't help them. Not sure how the logic worked exactly, but I remember thinking that I had thought the whole point of Jesus was that *everyone* was saved. No matter what. So those African children, I thought, if Jesus and heaven turned out to be true, they were in. If not, none of us were in and it didn't matter. Suddenly I saw, though, that to many people, it mattered specifically what you believed. Otherwise, you were out of luck on the whole afterlife deal. That just didn't seem fair to me. And so began my rocky road to atheism.

The thing is, I don't care what anyone else believes. I respect whatever others believe and I believe that religion is a personal matter. It's something you decide for yourself and perhaps share and celebrate with others who are like-minded. When it starts to bother me is 1) when people start pushing religious views on others and 2) it starts clouding people's thought processes so much they can't think clearly. It's fine with me if you don't want your kids to study evolution at school. Send in a note that says they're exempt; they can sit in the library and read the Bible while the rest of the class studies evolution. Let's see how they do on the state exams, on the SAT's, in college.

I drove through Dayton one time quite by accident. We missed a turn and ended up on 75 instead of 40 and to make our way back, we drove through Dayton. We went around the very courthouse where the Scopes trial was held. We ended up on a ferry across the Tennessee. It was stunningly beautiful and kind of sad.

The 5th of July

FireworksWe trekked into downtown Philly with Geeky Girl in tow, our neighbors in awe of our adventurous spirit. It's a 30 minute train ride, followed by a 15 minute walk, not too adventurous in my book, but okay. We somehow ended up on a main route over to Ben Franklin Parkway. We usually are snaking our way through back alleys. We hit the street vendors earlier than usual, shouting out, "Water, one dollar. Glow lights, one dollar." Everything's a dollar, except the t-shirts, five dollars. The crowd is impressive and the streets have been cleaned maybe, five minutes before. We move through the crowd toward our usual area, a little to the left of the stage, pretty far back on the lawn. And when we get there, it's standing room only. What the . . . (as Geeky Girl would say). We had hoped, I guess, that there wouldn't be Live 8 leftovers. So we had to move a little further back, which was fine.

We were wandering around during the entire Bryan Adams set (2 whole songs). Then Wayne Brady and some other guy (couldn't see him) talked a lot about AIDs. Then Rufus Wainwright came out. I was completely shocked. He wasn't listed on any program I'd seen. Two whole songs. Couldn't hear them well. Really need to get to an actual Rufus Wainwright concert. Things really didn't get going until Patti LaBelle came out and then the whole crowd was standing, including us way back in the back. And finally, it was Elton John! It was awesome. I mean, he was really good, even though we were way back in the back. We could make out the jumbotron and could hear just fine. He played four songs, including "Tiny Dancer" to which our own tiny dancer produced quite the routine, complete with glow sticks. He ended with the requisite "Philadelphia Freedom" which was also awesome.

Some observations:

1. What's up with all the boys (between the ages of 14 and 25) posturing. I mean, seriously. Does all that strutting and posing really get you anything? I note you move in crowds and there are none of the female species with you.

2. To the couple on the left who drank too much and were thus passed out for Elton John (actually passed out before Patti LaBelle). I'm sad for you, really.

3. To the couple in front of us, about the same age (maybe early 20s) as the couple to the left, you know how to celebrate! Dancing, singing, having fun.

4. To the huge Indian family next to us, your kids are beautiful and well-behaved and seemed like they were having a great time. Good sparklers too!

5. Apparently, for certain people between the ages of 14 and 25, it is not cool to have a good time. You are required to stand and not move to the music, not clap or shout or give any indication that you are nothing more than a robot. Maybe you are a robot.

6. There were lots more people this year (one million), which meant lots more obnoxious people on the train ride home. When it's standing room only on a train that you can't get off of easily, you don't want to see a fight break out because someone said they were a Giants fan just to get someone else's goat.

7. Interesting conversations overheard on the train:
"He was just out with her like, two days ago and now he's out with her again. What's up with that?"

"All I need is my laz-y-boy and some beer and I'm good."

From a less-than-20-year old next to me: "When you're young, you don't know what love is." Buddy, I got news for you . . .
It was a good 4th! Pictures when I get to work. Update: pictures. Click on the image to see the whole set.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Laziness abounds and breeds patriotism?

Mr. Geeky and Geeky Girl are still snoozing away. Me? I have been up since 7:30 goofing around on the computer. We're not morning people here. Even though I get up early, I don't like to do anything too strenuous before say, 11. Plans are to get the office into workable form. I have grocery shopping to do to help us properly celebrate the 4th. We'll go downtown and see the big concert--including Elton John--and eat expensive junk food, maybe drink beer and/or wine. The fireworks really are awesome. We love it! Yes, it's crowded, but it's still fun. It's the one time we're not completely uncool and keeping to our little suburban area. Most of our neighbors go to one of the many nearby events rather than fight the crowds and stay up really late. I say, pishaw. You're right near the birthplace of the nation and you stay home! Where's your patriotism! Of course, one of the things I like about Philly's concert/fireworks is its recognition of the many ways people express patriotism. There are no speeches about supporting the troops or waving your flags. It's just a party filled with diverse people: blacks, whites, latinos, asians. All kinds of people enjoying the day and celebrating--freedom, prosperity, etc.

Given recent events--Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement, revelations of Rove's role in the Plame case--we should be encouraging the kind of patriotism that allows different voices to be heard and allows us to question our government. That's what we were founded on, not particular religious beliefs or moral values. We are lucky to be in a place that lets us speak and lets us question. We should continue to fight to keep that freedom. Just something to think about as you eat your hot dogs and watermelon and watch the sky light up.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Things I can't do without the internets

One minute after I posted that last post, the internet went down and has been down since just now. Here's some stuff (besides blogging) that I couldn't do:

1. Find nearest really cheap store--Kmart, Wal-Mart, etc.--to buy some temporary curtains for new office space.
2. Price said curtains.
3. Map route to said stores.
4. Look up a phone number.
5. Find out what's going on with Live 8 and 4th of July festivities.
6. Check movie times.
7. Look up things in the Wikipedia to prove I'm right in the middle of disagreements.

How I circumvented these problems:

1. Called a friend who lives nearby some cheap stores. We chose Value City.
2. Had to drive around and look.
3. See #1.
4. Drove over to house to retrieve child without calling ahead.
5. Still haven't accomplished
6. See# 5.
7. Have now forgotten what we were arguing about. Like how long the Nile is or who came up with the way the population is increasing exponentially.

Sheesh. I know I did all these things prior to the internet, but man, is it easier now. Everything is essentially at my fingertips.

So here's the office plan so far. Before replacing the windows, we are putting in curtains (very temporary 7.99/panel) and building the wall and putting in a ceiling fan. We'll move all the "office" furniture down and I'll decide if I want to make it permanent. Then we'll do the windows and make the room more energy efficient. We were telling our neighbors about the plan and they said that it was that way before the remodel. So we're basically rebuilding what was there before. And yes, have no fear, there will be before and after pictures.

Sketchy internets and home improvement

The internet has been sketchy over the last couple of days. Dang internets!

Mr. Geeky came up with a grand plan to give me my own office. He's a totally cool hubby! We're converting the front porch into an office, putting a wall between the entryway and the office, putting in a ceiling fan and eventually insulating the whole thing with new windows and whatnot. Should be pretty cool. We're doing a few home improvement projects this summer, having spent two years in the house without doing anything. We're adding a shed for the kids outdoor stuff and doing the office. Eventually, we want to redo the bathroom and we have to think about more space for the kids (their rooms are tiny!).

I was thinking yesterday about how lucky we were to be able to do stuff like this and how long it's taken us to get to this point. Maybe we'll appreciate more for having taken the long way.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Friday Random Ten: July 4th edition

July, July! The Decembrists
4th Of July U2
South American Summer Fivehead
Summertime Janis Joplin
Summer In the City The Lovin' Spoonful
Indian Summer Maplewood
Summer Romance The Rolling Stones
Summertime The Sundays
Indian Summer Sky U2
Hotdogs And Hamburgers John Mellencamp
This Ain't No Beach Party Cruiserweight