Friday, September 30, 2005

Random 10

"How Many More Times" - Led Zeppelin
"I Call Your Name" - The Mamas & The Papas
"What I Am" - Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians
"Traitor" - Sugar Cubes
"Sodom, South Georgia" - Iron & Wine
"Buffalo Soldier" - Bob Marley & The Wailers
"Just as Well" - Emily Sparks
"So Young" - The Corrs
"I am trying to break your heart" - WILCO
"Dazed and Confused" - Led Zeppelin

One of the more interesting mixes.

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Ahhhh!

That's supposed to be a relaxing ahh! I'm sitting in bed, propped by my massage chair with a glass of water, the laptop and my iPod. I got my hair cut. I didn't make it to the fundraiser--sorry, Flo. I ended up leaving work really late, scooping up the kids on the way home and didn't have time to swing back to school. (I'll be sending a check).

I was just reading through the class blog. It's getting pretty good. I think they're getting the hang of this blogging thing. There's a good post today about the confederate parks in Memphis. There's also a good post about an email incident on campus that has raised issues of free speech and censorship. We watched some news clips in class today, some of which mentioned the issue of anonymity and privacy, regulating speech for election purposes and whether bloggers can be sued for slander.

The blog still definitely has its messy moments (don't we all?), but it feels like a real blog now and not something we threw up for class and that was the goal really. And for you students reading out there (yes, I know you are ;) ), keep up the good work!

Gah!

That just describes my whole life right now. I'm sick. I am stuck in meetings all day. At least there's nothing to do once I get home. I hate being in back to back meetings because I get meeting brain. I cannot think at all. I'm thinking in meeting speak. Yuk. I do have something more substantial to say, but it will have to wait until the meetings are over. I snagged 5 minutes between meetings to write this.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Language

Preface: I am still in a funk, have not gotten enough sleep and until just a few minutes ago had a headache. I'll be heading over to Phantom's to whine.

Anyway, I can't believe I've not run into this blog earlier. It was under the "blogs of note" section in blogger and this post on language and the abortion debate is wonderful.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Season of Loss

The very trees with hanging heads condole
Sweet Summers parting, and of leaues distrest,
In dying colours make a grief-full role;
So much (alas) to sorrow are they prest.
Thus of dead leaues, her farewell carpets made,
Their fall, their branches, all their mournings proue,
With leaulesse naked bodies, whose hues vade
From hopefull greene to wither in their loue.
If trees, and leaues for absence mourners be,
No maruell that I grieue, who like want see.
--Mary Wroth, Sonnet 19, Pamphilia to Amphilanthus

Watching the season turn is almost painful. The leaves burst into flames of color, only to brown and crumble. The sky shocks with its bright blue against the orange and yellow only to fade more quickly each day into the soft purples and pinks of dusk. It is as if we are given so much beauty only to have it taken away, to be reminded of how ephemeral it is.

Fall is also a time of many partings. Small children climb into the yellow buses that take them away from home to school, each day their tiny hands waving in the rectangled windows. And the parents, relieved in part, shuffle back home either to an empty house or to grab car keys and make their way to work. Older children leave for college, sending back only the occasional email or blog post. The birds, too, begin to leave, making their way south, leaving the trees quiet and lonely. It is not sudden or surprising. It happens slowly.

But it is also a time of birth, a time of harvest, a time of bounty, a seemingly overabundance before the long, cold, dead of winter. How can one feel such longing, such loss when faced with the round girth of a bright orange pumpkin? Or how can one feel sad when the orange and yellow of the maple glint in the window?

Summer leaves us behind, moves on to better places while we, like jilted lovers, must watch it go, its trail of bright colors almost blinding.

Fantasy Relaxation Day

What might be nice is if I could spend the day lounging around and listening to Rufus. Or better yet, maybe he could come over and play some tunes and we could chat. That would be good.

Funky

I'm in a bit of a funk. Not a big one, but just not as "up" as I usually am. Not sure what the cause is, probably hormonal/chemical. I've gotten a lot accomplished in the last few days, but I'm feeling like I've reached an impasse and don't have the energy or the time get across it. So I'm just having to wait until I can deal.

There's plenty to do, but none of it is particularly engaging. It's true that some parts of my job suck. The nit-picky details that I don't care about and that only 3 people care about. There's nothing worse than spending a whole lot of time on something that you know only 3 people care about and that those 3 people will find something wrong with what you do.

On the flip side, I have some grand ideas which I'm afraid to float because they will be shot down for lack of money or the dreaded "how are we gonna support that" question. So I'm sitting on a couple of things and floating somewhere between nitpicky and grand, more toward the nitpicky end. It's not fun.

What I'd really like to do is take a vacation. When's winter break?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

What we need is a strong drink

I think we're all going to need something to get us through the next 3 years. I found the coolest way to make sure we all have good drinks at hand. The iPod bartender. I created my own shuffle. Here's the list:

Apple Martini
Crimson Martini
Dirty Martini
Gin and Tonic
King Alphonse
Mint Julep (woo hoo, one of my favs)
Rum Highball
Russian Banana
Sazerac
Whisky Sour

Try it out. It's cool. (found via Lifehacker, of course)

The Media Disappoints

I fired off a couple of messages to "Chris Matthews" and "This Week." Not that they'll pay any attention, but maybe the anti-war movement will be on their radar now. I was also watching a lot of CNN yesterday and they didn't cover it either. And the CBS Evening News didn't. Nothing. Though I knew about the peace march before and had wanted to attend. The only coverage I've seen came from the blog I linked to in the previous post. Sad, just sad.

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Wish I could have been there

Check out these pictures--and think about why the press didn't cover this--at all!! I'll be watching the Sunday shows. If they don't cover it, I'll be asking them why.

Pictures at Flickr.

via Suburban Guerrilla

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Me and Ghandi, We're *like this*

You are a

Social Liberal
(86% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(8% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Socialist




Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid

Making progress*

Thanks in large part to Geeky Boy who was prepared as part of his punishment to do a few chores with me without payment. I ended up paying him about half of what the work was worth. We completely cleaned the kitchen and most of the dining room. The hamster cages will be cleaned out tonight. He also worked on his room and went with me on various errands.

He's out now with friends and will be attending a birthday party this evening. I was proud of him, jumping in and helping without complaining, without even much of a break. It's a beautiful day outside. I'm glad he's getting to enjoy it.

*Not intended to sound like Cheney, et. al.

What to do today

Yesterday was an extrordinarily productive day. I really got on top of my work load. I was feeling a little crazy there for a while. I realized though that it was people around me who were crazy. I had a lot of people over the last week come to me in somewhat of a panic, needing something right. this. minute. Well, I don't do right this minute. Even if my schedule permitted it, the technology often doesn't. I'm constantly amazed by people who think that digitizing an hour-long movie will take less than an hour (it takes much longer, depending on the final output), or that printing a large poster with lots of pictures won't possibly be problematic. Sigh. But I was letting their panic make me panic. I'm okay now.

I've convinced Mr. Geeky to switch with me and attend Geeky Girl's soccer game this morning and I'll be going to Geeky Boy's tomorrow. Geeky Boy is in a bit of trouble for some homework issues, so he'll be doing time with me today. I'm planning to go from room to room and make a list of all the things that need to be done. Most of them won't get done, but at least we'll have a running list.

What I really want to do is lay around on the couch and watch bad tv all day. It's cloudy; it might rain. Lazing around seems the most appropriate thing to do. I'll save that for tomorrow.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Lovely Rita

Isn't watching this hurricane a little like rubber necking? I heard last night on the radio (The World; specific segment) while sitting in the grocery store parking lot that the insurance companies have a catastrophic model that tells them that storms like this will be more frequent and stronger. The interviewer said, "Are you saying that these storms are man-made?" (His previous question had been about global warming.) The interviewee wouldn't go that far, but she did say that their models say that global warming is real. She just wouldn't pinpoint the cause of global warming. It made me wonder if it won't be long before some companies will be pushing the government to do something about global warming. I mean, how many more Ivans, Katrinas, and Ritas can insurance companies pay for?

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Testing trackback

Testing trackback on the woi blog.

Working/Not working

Lots of people have written about the NY Times article that discusses how many female Ivy League grads are planning to stay at home instead of work. People have come at it from different angles--the class angle, the gender angle, the really bad journalism angle. I think all of those apply. Only a certain class of people can comfortably say, "I won't need to work." For lots of complicated reasons, the burden of balancing work and family life falls to the woman, and the article does little to support the claims made or spread a wider net (are female State School grads going to stay at home?).

I posted a little of my reaction to my class blog, hoping that a group of smart women at an all women's college would have something to say. So far, not much. I'm hoping they will after class today.

I am conflicted about my reaction. On the one hand, I'm a little jealous. I'd love to have the "choice" To me, choice is such a loaded word. Choices aren't made in a vacuum. Circumstances change, choices change, options change. I'd like to say that the choices I've made were well-thought-out decisions, but many of them were reactions to circumstances. I first started working to put Mr. Geeky through grad school a little more comfortably than our combined Teaching Assistant salaries could. I took a year off and hated it, went back to school, loved it. Took a full time job again for financial reasons. Mostly reactionary. Oh, sure, when I was in college, I made plans. I was going to be a poet, never get married, and never have children. Even after having a boyfriend that I thought I could marry, I didn't think I wanted children (because we were artists; artists don't have children). Then I fell in love and I wanted children. And then you have to pay for the children.

The article makes me angry at some kind of gut level that I don't think I have the words for, though many of the other bloggers who've written about it have tapped into that anger. I think at the heart of it, I recognize, sadly, that women are still considered second class citizens, even by other women, even by themselves.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Fifth sentence meme

Rules:
1. Go into your archive.

2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).

3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).

4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

"But they don't put their money where their mouth is." (original)

via Profgrrrrl

Un fun morning

It's become clear to me that Geeky Girl and I are on different wavelengths. Morning routines are only the tip of the iceberg. It's true I'm a slacker mom. The kids are responsible for getting their own breakfast, getting dressed, brushing their teeth and gathering their things. I prompt them throughout the morning, but Geeky Boy has now gotten to a point where he really doesn't need much prompting. He's motivated to get out the door early so that he can play football in the street with his friends before the bus comes. Geeky Girl is another story. Earlier this week, she came down and ate breakfast before she got dressed and watched cartoons while she ate, meaning that she paid no attention to the time and we were rushing a little to get out the door. I banned tv and insisted that she get dressed before eating. That worked out fine except that she still finds ways to distract herself from the task at hand. Today, she went upstairs to put her shoes on and brush her teeth. First, she asked if she could dump a bucket of water that was in the bathtub. Then she asked about something else having nothing to do with shoes or teeth brushing. I said, "Don't worry about everything else. Just finish getting ready." Ten minutes later, she comes down with her shoes on and I tie them and say, "Let's go." And she points to her teeth and says she needs to brush them. I'm losing it at this point. What the heck were you doing up there?! Hurry it up. Let's go. Finally, the teeth are brushed, the hair is combed and we can go.

On other fronts, Geeky Girl contradicts everything I say. I am trying to take this with humor, but it's hard sometimes, especially when it's every. single. thing. I did this with my own mother I know. And part of the fun was getting her goat. So I'm trying not to let Geeky Girl get my goat and recognize this for what it is: an attempt to figure out who she is and how she's different from me. I want her to feel listened to and respected, something I often didn't feel with my own mother. But, boy is she trying my patience.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Even a pretty speech can't help

Apparently, people saw the speech as politically motivated. Imagine that.

Climate change and the RSS Feed in my brain

Two reasons why I couldn't sleep. It's that time of year when it's not quite cold enough at night to open the windows, but it's too cold to run the air conditioner. So I started out with the air conditioner off and started to sweat, flip my pillow every 5 minutes to the cold side and generally feel uncomfortable. I cranked the air back up but then I was tossing and turning trying to turn off the RSS feed in my head. Literally, I was seeing a mini Bloglines in my minds eye. I kept telling myself to shut down and tried to make my brain into a blank screen, but I just couldn't. I slept fitfully between about 11 and 2. At 2, the tossing and turning finally ended. I'm ready for a vacation or at least a trip to the spa.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The noodly appendage!

The noodly appendage!
The noodly appendage!,
originally uploaded by lorda.
Thanks, Julie! Now the FSM can beat up on those fishes. Or at least noodle them.

Competence, integrity and heart

This would be good:

Having turned the page on Mr. Bush, the country hungers for a vision that is something other than either liberal boilerplate or Rovian stagecraft. At this point, merely plain old competence, integrity and heart might do.
--Frank Rich, NY Times

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The anti-environmentalist spin

Well, I think I've found where it's coming from. This article from the Clarion-Legdger outlines a possible plan for the Bush Administration to foist the blame for the deteriorating levees on The Sierra Club's desire to delay a plan for a levee project along the Mississippi. Of course, it wasn't the levees on the Mississippi that broke. Here's the internal e-mail:
The Clarion-Ledger has obtained a copy of an internal e-mail the U.S. Department of Justice sent out this week to various U.S. attorneys' offices: "Has your district defended any cases on behalf of the (U.S.) Army Corps of Engineers against claims brought by environmental groups seeking to block or otherwise impede the Corps work on the levees protecting New Orleans? If so, please describe the case and the outcome of the litigation."


Though the Fox News story about the email is not much different in tone, note the difference in the headlines.

Some interesting discussion about the whole thing, seen here. The right is ignoring the detail that the suit pertained to the levees that *didn't* break. The left is assuming that this shows that Bush is trying to cover his ass. As I'm continuing to watch and read assessments of why this disaster was handled badly, I'm also continuing to watch each side solidify its point of view. As that happens, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell whom to believe. I know where my inclinations lie, but I've watched some people jump to some poor conclusions.

Snippets from the soccer game

First the important thing: Geeky Girl scored a goal!

Okay, now the color commentary from the sideline. A group of parents, two moms and a dad, started talking about the hurricane. Between kids yelling and my not being close enough, I couldn't hear all of what they were saying. I couldn't really tell who they were blaming for the whole thing. They were saying how horrible it was, how many people were left behind, the poor planning and execution at all levels of government. It sounded to me like many of them were fed up with the administration. Then came this nugget, from the dad:

"Well, they asked for the money to fix the levees but then the environmentalists came in and told them it would screw up the marshlands and stuff."

Ugh. It's always the environmentalists' fault. Maybe he should read this or this.

Wish I had been closer or had read the above articles before going to the game. We really need more science in the media, so that people don't make stupid comments like this (and believe them). Just after this, two tall dads came and stood right in front of me. I had to get up and move. I was so pissed. Gah!

I did wear a t-shirt from this site to the game. :) I need more though. Any suggestions?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Sibling Conflict

My kids have gotten along pretty well most of their lives, but lately, lots of tension has arisen between them. Once, Geeky Boy was protective of Geeky Girl, but now he bosses her around and generally tortures her psychologically. Geeky Girl, on the other hand, invades Geeky Boy's space all the time and while she doesn't like to be tortured by him, wants him to help her do things she can easily do herself.

The whole thing is driving me crazy! Last night, we had to have a discussion about personal space. Worst of all is the tone of voice they speak to each other in in these moments. It's like fingernails down a chalkboard to me.

My own personal assessment of the situation is that they're both growing up--and fast!--and they're working through their relationship which now functions on a different level than it did before. Before, Geeky Boy proudly helped Geeky Girl get cereal or reach a game. Now he's annoyed. When Geeky Boy asks about something at school, he sometimes plays the role of parent, which annoys the heck out of Geeky Girl. I'm trying my best to generally let them work these things out themselves, intervening only every once in a while. I try to point out why they might be annoyed with each other and offer suggestions for changing their behavior to avoid getting on each other's nerves.

I have been blessed that I didn't have kids that were in rivalry mode from day one, each trying to find ways to win the power struggle through methods psychological and physical. I hope we make it through the rocky period ahead without too much damage.

Completely Random 10

This is as representative of my completely varied and bizarre musical tastes from past to present as any.

"I Call Your Name"--The Beatles
"The Search"--Manikin
"Can't Get Used To Losing You"--The English Beat
"Wondrous Stories"--Yes
"Hey Mama"--Los Mocosos
"Movies of Myself"--Rufus Wainwright
"Keep Coming Back"--Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians
"Just Like Heaven"--The Cure
"Walk Like An Egyptian"--The Bangles
"Ripple"--Grateful Dead

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Challenge of Time

Profgrrrrl writes about making progress, about feeling as if at the end of every day, she's accomplished something. I feel like I'm accomplishing a lot, too, but I'm also feeling very frazzled right now. Today was the finale of the summer program I ran. We had a great turn out, including the president and provost and nearly all the project sponsors. But there were little things that happened that showed my frayed edges. Because my schedule has been absolutely packed this week, both at work and after work (back-to-school night, soccer practice, faculty cocktail reception), I didn't have much time to prepare, so my introductions weren't as polished as they could have been. I also forgot the list of projects and sponsors (I literally came directly from a meeting to the presentation), so I failed to mention the project of one faculty sponsor who had made an extra effort to come. I'll be calling her tomorrow to apologize profusely.

I'd like to find a way to be more effective even when I'm very busy. I wish I could find the peace Profgrrrrl has found.

At home, I feel like collapsing, though I have managed one workout and one brief stint writing this week. My kids are as tired as I am and that's not a good thing. They're snapping at each other; I'm snapping at them. The house is filled with tension.

I am a person who needs down time and I'm not getting much these days. The weekends, filled with soccer and errands, just aren't quite enough. Interestingly, I was having a conversation with my boss and a faculty sponsor about 4 day weeks. I think I'd love that. I would feel a little more relaxed if I knew I didn't have to go to work tomorrow. The day could be spent sleeping in a little, taking care of household stuff, perhaps some reading. It would do wonders. But, alas, the 4-day work week is not on the horizon any time soon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Teaching with your spouse

Yesterday, Mr. Geeky and I shared classroom space. There we were at the front of the class, each holding a piece of chalk, facing 30 students. We had spent two hours the night before hammering out what we were going to talk about, what we wanted the students to discuss. I have shared teaching space with many people over the last three years since most of the workshops I run are co-taught. I admit to wanting some amount of control over things. I like to feel like the space is mine (and the students').

With Mr. Geeky, though, I didn't feel like I was giving up control. We fell into a rhythm of give and take. He talked; I talked. We both called on students; we both responded to students. It was, in many ways, like our dinner table. Our dinner table, our car rides, our trips to the park, are quite often teaching moments. Our kids ask us questions; we ask questions back. We discuss; we ask for elaboration. The questions are never simple. Example: on the the way home from work this evening, Geeky Boy and Geeky Girl wanted to know exactly what our relationship was to dogs. Where is the common ancestor? I wanted to call on Pharyngula for help. I did the best I could for an English major.

There were times, during the planning process for the course, that we had some heated discussions about the shape of the class, but we worked those out. Now that the class is underway, we pretty much present a united front. But that united front represents a lot of little compromises, compromises that I think came a little easier because of our 15-year relationship, filled with millions of such compromises.

Yes, there are things that I would do differently if Mr. Geeky weren't teaching with me. I'd probably have the syllabus completely sketched out through the end of the year. I wouldn't be making lesson plans the night before class. But I think this has been a positive experience so far.

Tomorrow, we step into the classroom together again. We'll see how it goes. This evening, at a cocktail party with the college president, we told her that we didn't think the whole class knew we were married. We thought we might pull an Al and Tipper move on the class. She said, "I think one of you should say, 'That's a great point' and then dip the other." I'm thinking that's not going to happen, even if we do have the approval of the president.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The good ones

Since I railed on the faculty yesterday, I will compliment them today. My favorite comment below, by the way, is Tim's because I have so been there. I've spent a long time fiddling with video settings in front of crowds of people.

Today, I was out and about on campus and ran into lots of faculty. Every single one of them thanked me for something I've done in the last couple of weeks. And we continued to have conversations about various things, some technical and some not.

One woman was sad that I was unavailable to run a workshop for her class and I had recommended a couple of other people who could do it. She said, "I'm sure they'll be fine, but you're the best." It was nice to hear.

And, I ran a nice workshop on PowerPoint. All in all worth dealing with the problem children.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Put the mouse down and step away from the computer

This will be my once a semester rant about technology challenged faculty. In a numbered list.

1. Do you know how to read instructions? Do you not see the big, giant question mark that leads you to help?

2. Do you read email either? How many notices have I sent out, pointing you to specific help?

3. When I say that the problem lies with another system--say, the registrar--I mean it. I cannot fix the registrar. I'm good, but not that good.

4. When your students come to you when they've missed a class and basically ask you to give them the lecture again ("Did I miss anything?"), don't you get frustrated? Well, so do I. No, I will not provide a play-by-play of a workshop. I will post information online afterwards, but see numbers 1 & 2 above.

5. Basic usability, people. You can't expect your students to navigate a course without any clear indicators about where to go for what. If you're not using an area, remove the link. Rename links appropriately.

6. Please don't decide to try something new (for you) two days before classes begin. I cannot hold your hand through the process and help the 60 other faculty who are dealing with any number of the above issues or are actually trying to do innovate things in their classes.

7. If you want your students to use the course management system extensively and you don't know how to use it yourself, have an IT person come and do a demo for your class. Don't expect them just to know. This goes for any technology really. Better yet, learn how to use it yourself so you can use it more effectively.

8. I don't know everything about technology. I am a multimedia and instructional technology specialist. I'm dumb when it comes to things like specific email clients that I don't use or specific software programs that I don't use. Whenever I hear, "You might not be the right person . . ." or "While I have you on the phone . . ." my head starts to spin. I'm happy to direct you to the appropriate person.

I really want to help. I do. But you're not making it easy when you're behaving like 4 year olds. Try first. Try to find the information. Then ask. I have a 5 minute rule myself. I'll try to figure something out for 5 minutes. If I can't, then I ask. If it's a really hard task, I'll give myself a little longer. I'm sure I said almost the exact same thing sometime last year.

Mundane

I filled my weekend with the mundane. Soccer, chores, iPod repair. Discreet tasks that take no brain power. Partly it's because, like post-9/11, I feel a little numb. It feels silly to continue on when so much has changed.

I had just moved here two months before 9/11. I was teaching in an urban school with students from other urban centers--DC, Baltimore, New York. I was teaching a course on race and racism. After 9/11 (one week into class), we talked about profiling, about Muslims and Arab Americans feeling discriminated against. Sadly, I learned that much racism was ingrained and rooting it out in a time when people wanted an easy scapegoat proved next to impossible. The only person I felt I'd gotten through to was a kid in the National Guard, who'd been called up to duty to help clean out the Pentagon. A few days after he returned, he was admitted to the psychiatric ward. But we talked before that. He said he didn't understand why everyone was criticizing the government. He felt it was unpatriotic. I explained that to me it was the height of patriotism. In criticizing the government, we showed that we believed in many of its most basic principles: freedom of speech, government for the people and by the people. We believed we would be heard. There was a recognition there. And then I never saw him again.

I feel numb now, not out of surprise at what's happened. Hurricanes are, after all, expected. I feel numb because of a sense that the government is no longer listening. It's no longer a country that values its basic principles, that believes in government for the people. It caters to its friends, benefits huge corporations and the very rich. The poor and dispossessed don't count. We are all but a medical tragedy, a lost job, a hurricane away from being the poor and dispossessed ourselves.

Though I want to hope that we will pull together as we did (more or less) after 9/11 (as Bitch, Ph.D. writes), I am feeling despair, a loss of hope, a loss of faith. While I believe that many human beings are good and caring, I fear that the people with power are not.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

My heart belongs to Apple

I took my iPod into the Genius bar. It was an hour wait. The Geeky family wandered around the store and drooled over the Nano, large cinema screens, and Tiger (no, I haven't updated yet). I felt a little like I was in an emergency room with toys. Finally, they called my name (1/2 hour early). I handed over the iPod, told him it was sad. He poked around on it and declared that yes, indeed, it was sad.

Genius Guy:Do you remember when you purchased it.
Me: August 27, 2004. It was an anniversary present.
GG: Yep.
Me and GG together: Just out of warranty.
GG to the other Genius Guy next to him: Should I be nice?
OGG (looking at me): You're lucky you got the nice guy. Me, I'm not so nice. (The way he said it, though, I think he probably would have been nice too.)
Me: I like getting the nice guy.
GG: (Typing away on the computer, then stopping.) I'll be right back.

He's gone for a while. I try to ignore the woman next to me who is yelling at the "not-nice" Genius Guy, who is, in fact, trying to be nice. Her main problem: she doesn't know how to use a computer, so she's blaming them. She can't get the printer to work, but the store can't replicate the problem. They bring a manager out. Other Geniuses come out to watch the fireworks.

My Genius Guy returns. He's brought back a box. I'm thinking they're shipping off my iPod. He types some more stuff. Then he hands me two pieces of paper and a brand new iPod. I smile broadly and thank him profusely.

I heart Apple (and the Genius Guy).

First Soccer Game: Observations

In which I pass judgment on people based on clothing and snippets of conversation.

First of all, about half the attendees were men. It seems, too, that a large portion of the moms are very young, like 30 at the most. I'm 38 and Geeky Girl is my second kid. For many of the moms there, the six-year-old on the field was their first, putting them at 27 or 28 (having had kids very early). These moms were what I would call the "beautiful moms." They were dressed nicely in capri pants and fitted shirts. Their hair was highlighted; they wore makeup. Quite embarrassingly, I was dressed similarly, but no makeup. Next time, I'm wearing shorts. The only two middle-aged moms actually assisted the coach (and were dressed appropriately for that), so I couldn't even talk to them. So I was basically in observation mode.

I ended up next to a dad, who, the minute I looked at him, labelled him a former jock/frat boy. He was kind of mean to his kid, who looked pampered. Then, a beautiful mom showed up, someone I had talked to at the pizza party, the only mom I knew of who worked outside the home besides me. The frat dad flagged her down. Turns out they had some kind of social connection. Also turns out the mom is single, dating a friend of his. He falls over himself offering her his seat. She refuses. He continues to offer her the seat ever few minutes until finally he just stands up and talks to her.

I didn't listen to their entire conversation. She seems very nice. She works for a financial advisor. They start talking stocks. She knows a lot about stocks, but she talks about them in that kind of sing-song voice women sometimes use to make it seem like they really don't know that much. ("Math is hard.") He talks about ways to avoid capital gains taxes when purchasing and selling real estate. He also discusses giving people kickbacks when they refer business to him. He suggests she do the same. Now, her company is a nationally known financial advising firm. And she stammers and I can tell, she's thinking, um, we don't do that, you scumbag. After this conversation, I've basically decided this guy is a mob wannabe and was once the school bully. Suddenly, his wife shows up. And I'm laughing. His wife is not unattractive; she's definitely cute. But she definitely doesn't measure up to single mom, who hasn't an ounce of fat on her body, is dressed casually, yet stylishly, and just generally carries herself with confidence. The guy's wife is in shorts and a golf shirt and is wearing a visor.

I, of course, constructed a whole scenerio in which he marries his wife who was beautiful in the same way single mom is. They were high school sweethearts, went to the same mediocre local college, got married after they graduated, had kids immediately afterward and then the wife got bogged down in taking care of the kids and forgot about herself. And now, he's happy with his business success and material success, but not with his wife and kids. He could have done without them.

Soccer games as anthropology. How do you like that?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

My iPod is dead

Forget national disasters and government mismanagement, the most important issue facing me right now is the death of my iPod. Of course, it's two weeks past its warranty. Earlier this week, I was listening away at work, charging it at the same time, when suddenly, the song skipped and then it just stopped and the disk was spinning and spinning. I pushed some buttons. Then the sad iPod icon came up. He/she looks really sad--x's for eyes and a frowny face. It could be the battery just needs to be replaced or it could be something much, much worse. I'll be making a trip to the Apple Store this weekend, but I'm not holding out much hope. Waaah!

Update for those looking for solutions: The nice people at the Apple Store gave me a refurbished iPod, which died after about six months, but I was able to revive it by banging it against the palm of my hand. I've since purchased a new iPod, but Mr. Geeky is still using the old one, almost a year later.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Need organization now

I've been struggling through the last couple of weeks, getting lots accomplished and generally doing a good job of meeting everyone's needs, but I feel like I could do more, both on the work and home front. I desperately need to do what Profgrrrrl did and get my schedule in order. I just haven't had time to breathe, much less get a calendar together. Okay, I could have skipped blogging, but . . . come on.

Mostly it's the after work schedule I need to work on. At work, I need for my schedule to clear a little so I can assess what's going on. This week's after work schedule looked like this:

Tuesday: Went to drug store for school supplies with Geeky Girl. We did actually have a family dinner. (Oh, and this was the great hamster episode night).
Wednesday: Soccer pizza party. Returned home around 7:30.
Thursday: I went to a talk and dinner with the speaker. Very fun, but still a scheduled event.
Friday: Soccer practice for Geeky Boy.

This means, we will have eaten two meals together and that I've been so worn out or out of sorts that I haven't been able to collect my thoughts and get other things done--like working out, writing. Bleh.

Plus, I haven't been able to sleep much. I cannot get to sleep with thinking about the things I need to do or dwelling on the hurricane. I even cut back on the caffeine yesterday--didn't help. What I want to do is get the schedule settled and print it out, so I know what the heck is going on when and I don't have to rely on my feeble brain to remember.

What Now was writing about how everything she's doing feels very mediocre because she's involved in so many things. I feel the same way. And I feel like I need to focus a little, especially on the class, which is going well, but particularly yesterday, I thought I could have done a better job. I have a good group activity planned for next week. I've also got other things going in in my other job--like articles to write, presentations to prepare for, workshops to give. My students who work for me have been a godsend. I've put them on projects, had them take care of little things I haven't had time for and other tasks. They're great.

Despite the lack of a coherent schedule, I haven't felt too out of sorts, just that nagging at the back of my mind that I'm not quite doing everything I could be.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

We're making progress

So says Cheney:
I think the progress we're making is significant. I think the performance in general at least in terms of the information I've received from locals is definitely very impressive. (link)

He did acknowledge that there had been problems with the recovery effort. But let's not get too crazy and say, tax some corporations:
Cheney rejected the notion that tax increases were needed to pay for the longterm effort to rebuild the region, saying that would only choke off growth.


So does having thousands of dead people and thousands more without jobs and homes. Oh, wait, you mean growth of the corporations' bank accounts and your own. Sorry, lost my head there.

Hanging with the soccer (security) moms

We had our first soccer event last night, a pizza party. I thought, now's my chance to start getting to them. I introduced myself to people (unusual for me) and chatted. Here are some observations.
  • Soccer moms don't introduce themselves; they introduce their kids. "Hi, my daughter's name is ____. What's yours?" It's like they only want to be known as so-and-so's mom.
  • For soccer moms, politics is very local, by school. If your kid doesn't go to the same school, they feel they have nothing to talk to you about.
  • Current events and politics are not discussed. Talk is about teachers, home improvement, or child rearing.
Only one person brought up the hurricane and that was to ask me if our school was taking any students from New Orleans. Other than that, it was as if it never happened. This is going to be a tough crowd.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

In which Mr. Geeky outdoes FEMA

Last night at 11:30, as I was going into the kitchen to make my coffee for the next morning, I stopped by the hamster cages. You see, over the weekend, Funnie gave birth to 12 or so babies, so I wanted to check on them. I peeked into the cage and saw all the babies mewling and writhing but no Funnie. I looked around the rest of the cage to see if she'd just sneaked down for a snack. Nothing. Then I saw it. The cage door wide open.

I immediately rounded up Mr. Geeky. We methodically searched each room, picking stuff up off the floor and putting it on the table. We looked under stoves and cabinets, couches and chairs. We used flashlights (such preparedness!). We looked for an hour and then we decided she must have either found a way out of the house or a really good hiding place. So we put her cage on the floor with the door open and a trail of carrots leading to the door. I checked the internet to see if there was anything to be done for the babies. We needed an eyedropper, kitten formula, and the patience of a saint (we would have to keep the babies warm and rub them to make them urinate). We gave up.

Mr. Geeky peered into the cage: "All that life. So sad."

We turned out the lights and sat on the stairs, listening for gnawing or scratching. Maybe she was in a wall, we thought. Finally, we went upstairs and got in bed. I started reading Calvin in Hobbes to lighten my mood. We were both thinking about telling the children the next morning.

"I hate giving up," Mr. Geeky said.

"I know, but we've done the best we can. We've looked everywhere."

I continued reading, knowing sleep wasn't going to come easily.

"Remember what I said about Haley Zega*?" Mr. Geeky asked.

"What?"

"Remember what I said when Haley Zega was lost?"

"No, what?"

"Downhill. Kids will go downhill. It's the easiest path to take." He got out of bed and got dressed. "I gotta look in the basement."

"Okay." I'm sort of grinning, cause he's in hero mode now (I've seen this quite a few times over our 15-year relationship).

I continue reading, when I hear Mr. Geeky yell for me. I throw on a robe and some slippers. He's standing in the kitchen with containers. "Can you get her in these? I found her."

Down in the basement, there she is, in the sink the washing machine drains into. I scoop her up. We put her back in the cage. Tragedy averted!

As we're drifting off to sleep, Mr. Geeky says, "Downhill. Thank God for Haley Zega."

*Haley Zega was a kindergarten classmate of Geeky Boy's, who was lost in the woods for 72 hours. Mr. Geeky went to help with the rescue efforts. He wanted to tell them about his "downhill" theory. :) She was found, sleeping on a rock, talking to a caterpiller. She said the thing that kept her going was thinking of Geeky Boy's jokes. Update: There's a book.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Routine

Today was a day of getting back to routine. As Phantom Scribbler noted,
If there is one thing I have learned from the events of the past week, it is that the rhythms of the mundane are unbearably brittle. They falter and dissolve into chaos suddenly, in the crack of concrete, the seep of water under the door.

I would add to that, that it is incredibly difficult to simply go to school and go to work as if nothing happened. And returning to routine is perhaps even more difficult after a summer spent languishing in the very things that people on the Gulf Coast are missing--family, friends, comfort, good food, peace. I packed the kids up for their first day of school, took photos at the bus stop, but part of me felt empty, sad, angry, like something had been forever lost.

At work, people wanted to talk about it. After finally catching up on everything, and with much more news coming out over the weekend, we wanted to talk about why. We wanted to share our anger, our fear. We wanted to connect with other human beings. It was hard to do the mundane tasks you know had to be done. And then in class, I faced a group of 18 year olds, who were only 14 when 9/11 hit and now this, and they felt at sea--away from family and friends and having to cope with this disaster with new friends. And some of them have had their faith in government shaken. Some are as angry as I; many may be scared.

So, yes, I am trying to piece my routine back together, but the fabric of my life feels frayed. I had not realized how much comfort I placed in knowing that dinner is at 6, the kids are in bed by 9 and then we sleep and the whole thing starts over again. But my routine is not completely the same. I am walking when I can. Geeky Girl and I walked to the drugstore this evening for last-minute school supplies. Like Scrivener, I am stocking up on supplies. Probably won't help, but it makes me feel better for some reason. I spent yesterday gathering clothes and toys to send to Houston. I look around at all we have and I am embarrassed. I remember days of scraping by and now there are piles of stuff everywhere. I am trying to find a way to pass on useful things to people who might need them. I know I can't curb the buying or the presents, but I can give away our clothes, our toys. How horrible to be burdened with too much stuff.

Mundane blogging will return eventually. Maybe after we get rid of the bozos running our country.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Dear Mr. President

Dear George,

I am one your lowly citizens. I know you don't like to think about us unless we make a good photo op, but I've got something to say, so sit down for a minute. Your citizens need you. No, I didn't vote for you, but that shouldn't matter right now. Your citizens are scared. It seems as if you and your administration can't help us in a time of need. Every one of us (even the ones who do support you) are watching the images of bodies floating by in the water and thinking, "That could be me." All of us are running various "What if's" in our heads. Frankly, we don't think you're up to the task. You need to stand up. You need to stop the staging. You need to say something. You need to reassure us. You see, not only are we worried about a possible future disaster, but we're worried about the ramifications of this one. What's going to happen to gas prices? Are we going to be able to afford to get to work? Heat our houses? And the ramifications go further. What's this going to do for our children's future? There won't be fossil fuel for them. Are you going to put more effort in finding alternatives?

And what about all those displaced people? What are they going to do for work? How is their displacement going to affect our economy? I feel helpless here. I feel like our country has been cut to the core and it's bleeding. Band-aids aren't going to work, Mr. President. You need to cure this at its source. Your hero said, "The buck stops here." I guess you took that to mean that you and your cronies get to keep all the bucks. Well, I'm done, Mr. President. Tell us what you're going to do. Tell us how you're going to fix our country. Or will you treat us as you did the victims in the Gulf coast, let us sit in the hot sun and die?

Yours,
Geeky Mom

Sunday, September 04, 2005

What the other side is saying

I slinked over to the enemy, having seen some right-wing criticism of Bush. Here's what some of them are saying:
The mainstream media's handling of Hurricane Katrina and the disasters in New Orleans is a disgrace, possibly the worst instance yet of media bias. Insane claims by left-wing nuts that President Bush botched the recovery effort on purpose so as to kill black people are repeated by the MSM in a chin-stroking mode, as if to say, "It's an interesting question--they might be on to something." Meanwhile, no one points out that it was President Bush who implored Governor Blanco to issue a first-ever mandatory evacuation order for the city, an action by the President that probably saved tens of thousands of lives. (Powerline)
My counter to that is Blanco declared a state of emergency on Friday and the mayor of NO issued mandatory evacuation orders around the same time.

From Hugh Hewitt, this bizarre suggestion to institute corporate tax breaks:
Second, to speed recovery within that region, the president should ask for and the Congress should approve a complete exemption from all taxes --federal, state, and local-- on the income generated from the sale of goods manufactured in that region by new plants that meet the criteria of employing at least 100 locals and which are constructed without injury to existing operations across the U.S. A year of exemption for every 100 manufacturing jobs created in the recovery region should prove a powerful magnet. Thus if GM built a new plant in the region employing 800 people, GM would get eight years of tax free revenue beginning with the first year of operation. The same bill authorizing this and using the federal power to preempt adverse state and local law would also provide the Department of Commerce with the necessary authority to waive or modify statutes that would complicate the construction process. In this sort of emergency, you shouldn't have to get the local office of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife's concurrance that you are doing enough for a woodpecker on the endangered species list if a few hundred urgently needed jobs are in the balance.
How about tax breaks for the people?! What about that bankruptcy bill? What about the death tax? Jesus Christ, people, we're running a little short on cash here, both as a nation and as individuals. Tax breaks?! I can't believe it.

I can't read any more.

Look out, Security Moms, here I come

This is my strategy, to confront the security moms. You know, the ones who voted for Bush because they thought he'd protect their families better. I wrote about this a little bit before the election. I am so often shocked by women who vote Republican. I just don't get why you would vote for a party who is trying to slowly erode your rights.

But I think Hurricaine Katrina, the war in Iraq, and, sadly enough, the death of William Rehnquist gives me an in.
  • Bush and the Republicans did nothing to protect families after Hurricaine Katrina.
    • They didn't help families evacuate even when they knew (or should have known) there were many who didn't have the means to do so
    • The financial aftermath could be devastating even for middle class families thanks to the new bankruptcy laws pushed through by the Republicans. Forget sending your children to a good college. You'll be in debt to your eyeballs because you can't declare bankruptcy. It was a natural disaster.
  • Unless an anti-war Republican candidate comes along, we'll be in Iraq for a long time to come and we might head over to Iran or North Korea or some other country the administration has decided it doesn't like
    • With our military already stretched too thin, another war could mean a draft. My son will not be old enough even in 2012 to be drafted, but if your child is 11 or older, he (or she, for that matter) could be drafted.
  • With the death of Rehnquist, Bush now can appoint two justices to the Supreme Court.
    • Roe v. Wade might be threatened. Many of you security moms are pro choice. Even if you're not, your daughters might be. Or your daughters might get pregnant or raped and you might decide that abortion is an option. Do you want to have to find a shady back alley doctor to perform it? Or go down to Mexico? Do you want to risk her life like that?
    • Erosion of basic rights. With a more conservative Supreme Court, the potential for losing rights increases dramatically. Your and children's right to privacy could be threatened.
Aside from those specifics, I think there are many other ways the Republicans haven't helped the welfare and safety of children--Education, Health Care, the Environment and Homeland Security. Many of the moms I know who vote Republican either do so because their husband does; they just don't think for themselves. Or they don't want to cause distress in the family. Hello? When your son is sent off to war, that'll cause some distress. When your school can't afford to buy supplies or pay its teachers, that'll cause some distress. I'm going to make these women think, think about how the Republicans don't really care about their children, how they're ruining the future for them. I honestly thought the other day about the possibility that my children won't be living in a world where they can lead "normal" lives. If we run out of fossil fuels and haven't come up with an alternative, the world will become a chaotic and scary place to live. In that scenario, my children can't get married, have kids, have a job they love. They'll be too busy trying to survive. I don't necessarily want to share that extremely pessimistic view with the security moms. The possibility of an alternative is there, if we get the right people in office and start pushing our officials to do something.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Play by play

There are others doing this as well--with pictures. I'll just throw out some of my thoughts. All in all, I found the whole thing energizing. It was great to hear and talk to people who are all trying to figure out how to get these people out of office and get some better people in. I have a strategy of my own, but that's another post.

The morning session consisted of a panel of bloggers (here's the list; I don't know them all). Hurricaine Katrina was in the forefront of everyone's minds. Everyone agreed that the media had actually done an excellent job of covering the story, finally telling a story that wasn't full of Bushco spin. And further, they were consistently contradicting the Bushco spin. Because we are all weavers of words, we spent some time discussion how to shape the narrative of Katrina, of the war in Iraq, of the economy, of gas prices. Nothing definitive, but everyone agreed that the message needs to be direct and easily digestible without losing sight of the details entirely (the footnotes, as everyone called it).

Paul Krugman was there! I was sitting right behind him. Others got to lunch with him, but hey, I was nearby, basking in the glow. He said, "I couldn't do what I do without you." This blogging thing might be catching on!

More talk about "carving out rhetorical spaces." About pointing out where Bushco says, "they should have gotten out" but "we couldn't have seen this coming."

One thing bloggers do is to research the details, to point out the local stories that are related to the national ones, to make to emotional connections for people. One of the panelists pointed out that takes about three days for story to catch on. In other words, keep hammering home the point.

A commenter likened us to the characters in Fahrenheit 451. We each focus on one slice like memorizing a book.

We then broke for lunch and I had lunch with my friend from the burbs and 5 others (if I can find their blogs or comments, I'll link them). Great conversation, good food. Lots of fun.

After lunch, the panel consisted of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, Congressional Candidate Patrick Murphy. Senate candidates Alan Sandals, and Chuck Pennachio, and State Representative Mark Cohen. There were also representatives from the DNC and DCCC. Mostly these were stump speeches, especially for the candidates, but I was happy to provide them a forum for that. Congresswoman Slaughter was mad as hell and she said, "If we don't take the House back this year, we can kiss this country goodbye."

Patrick Murphy gave a stirring speech. He's a veteran of the Iraq war and he had a plan for winning and for winning other Democratic seats, even down to local school boards. He talked about Constitutional values and framing the debate in those terms. Sandals discussed health care and pensions. I think I'm blurring this together. I can't remember exactly who said what here, because there was some give and take among the panel members, but people talked about fuel prices, especially in the winter when fuel costs are expected to rise by at least 25%. Mark, I think, called us the spirit of Thomas Paine. Pennacchio was also and energetic speaker although he didn't offer many specifics.

The resounding theme of the day was--We need leadership! We need to take back our government because if we don't, we're going to find ourselves in a corporate dictatorship.

Hanging with the Atriots

So I'm attending Eschacon this weekend, a blogger's conference centered around Eschaton. Last night was the opening reception. It was really fun. I met some interesting people, many from our Drinking Liberally group (which I have yet to attend, but now plan to). What amazed me were the people from as far as San Francisco, coming all the way across the country to talk about blogs and politics. Everyone was really friendly. In a way, it was live the live version of a comment box. People would come by our table, introduce themselves, ask how much we comment, ask if we had a blog. Kind of like checking people out in the comments, then clicking on the homepage link.

Today are the panels. I think it's going to be interesting. Of course, I'll report back.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Class blogging

Well, we're off to an interesting start. I hope to reflect on the class as a whole later--and hope my students will do the same. We're all navigating this new community we've created and trying to figure out how to relate to each other and to the world at large, something I'm still trying to figure out for myself. We've set some goals and talked about style and public presence. We will continue to talk about all of these issues both online and offline. Should be a fun ride.

Is there a grownup in the House?

This editorial in the NY Times this morning expresses much of what I'm feeling right now. And David Brooks notes the inequities in who is left to suffer the most. And there will be political fallout. I can imagine Bush sitting around saying, "Well, they should have evacuated." Here's an absolutely fabulous post explaining why they didn't and why they're looting (hat tip, Rob).

I'm sad and angry. By every account the Governors of both states have done what they can. They've been begging for help from the federal government and it's been slow to come. And Bush's smugness drives me crazy. I don't think I've ever seen him look sympathetic or speak sympathetically. His primary reaction seems to be bravado. Faced with disaster, rather than be sympathetic to those who've been effected, he looks for someone to fight. Who you gonna fight this time, Bush? God? I'd like to see that.