Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Losing my voice

One thing that is bothering me about writing my dissertation--especially the proposal--is the lack of voice it has. There are such formal constraints on this document that it's hard for me to speak through them. As I've been revising sections of it, I'm dismayed by the sound of some of it. Some of it sounds so dry. I've tried to write that out by being more specific, using shorter words, but then it sounds too informal. Ugh. I'm trying desperately to find my voice in this thing. In chapter 2, which I've mostly drafted, I like my voice in there. Of course, that chapter is about what I know best, the technology behind blogs, networks, social aspects of the blogosphere. I think I'm not going to worry about the proposal too much. It's just something that I need to get through. Though I may use bits of it in the dissertation itself, I won't be using it as is. I'm going to continue thinking about my voice as I write the dissertation. I really don't want to lose it.

Monday, January 30, 2006

In the library

So the deal that Mr. Geeky and I struck was that two days a week, I would stay after work and come over to the library to work. Today is the first night doing this. I don't hang around the campus normally at night, so was unaware of the customs. First, besides the dining halls, there is nothing open food-wise until 8 p.m. Second, there is no one in the library during the dinner hours. It's eerily quiet in here. Right now, I'm sitting in the library cafe, charging my computer. There are two other people here reading. Based on my eavesdropping, I think they are actually loitering around waiting for some event or other to start.

The library cafe is not a bad place, but the rest of the library--kind of depressing. The furniture is decades old. The carpets are dirty. I'm trying to ignore all that and pretend I'm in the Bodleian or something.

Anyway, I worked for about an hour before I went in search of food and I will head up to work again in a few moments. This is certainly the lonely part.

Monday Random Thoughts

  • Is it possible to know too much about something?
  • Blind spots. Knowledge blind spots. I'm sure I have these.
  • Lots of energy. Got it. Trying to take advantage of it. Believe it's hormonal. Whatever.
  • Do those memory-enhancing herbs really work? I think I need some.
  • What will be waiting for me in my work email? How many messages of substance (not spam) will there be? My guess? At least 100. I'll keep you informed.
  • Do I have meetings? I think I do.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Home again, home again

Jiggety jig! Back at home dealing with homework again. Geeky Girl has not been doing her homework on a regular basis, so we're catching up. We tend not to police the kids on the homework. We ask if they've done it and trust them if they say yes. (Often they do their homework at their afterschool program.) Yes, it's somewhat embarrassing when the teacher asks why there's been no homework for a week, but with some consequences and a temporary scrutiny, things usually work out and the kids learn their lesson. I'd love to ban homework entirely.

I'm completely behind on my blog reading and I'll probably be mostly skimming for a few days. Believe it or not, I'm nearly finished with a draft of dissertation chapter 1. I'm hoping to finish that up tonight and start the revisions of it tomorrow. I have to revise my proposal in specific areas, so I'm going to begin work on that as well. When I first found out what I needed to revise, my heart sunk a little or, more to the point, pounded a little in fear. But both of the committee members who read my proposal wanted me to revise the same things, and once I started thinking about how I wanted to revise them to respond to their feedback, I got excited. It still feels a little daunting at times, but having a concrete plan really helps.

Also, Mr. Geeky and I worked out a schedule for me so I can be sure to have enough reading/writing time during the week. I'll be hanging out in the library after work two days a week, possibly until closing time. Even though I'm usually able to work after the kids are in bed, this gives me about 4 extra hours on those two days. Plus there will be weekend time as well.

I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

Or in the more modern Dory fashion.

Keep on swimmin'. Keep on swimmin'. Keep on swimmin'.


I've been travelling this weekend--again. There has been shopping and rockclimbing and much eating. Pictures should surface soon if I can teach my stepmother how to email them. I'll try for a more substantial post later in the day, but for now we're off to eat again.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Me as a tag cloud

Pretty cool. I think I really will get the t-shirt.


via Dorcasina

Friday, January 27, 2006

Friday Poetry Blogging

An example of my semi-science poetry:

Red Shifts

At seven I discovered the end of the world,
how in four billion years, the sun would expand,
swallow all the planets. Looking beyond the red shift

of the furthest galaxy to see what the universe
expanded into, I understood how people felt
before Columbus, thinking if they went too far,

they'd be eaten by dragons or fall into nothingness.
As I lie awake at night, I wish there were dragons,
because when I peel back the edge like turning

the page of a book, the red disappears and I find
something I cannot understand, a darkness
you cannot call black, and emptiness like the hollow

sound of my heartbeat echoing off the mattress springs.
I might believe in an expanding universe--the red edges
stretch until there's no more energy and then begin

to return, blue as they fold in upon themselves,
collapse back to the beginning, and then rise again,
Phoenix-like, and we live our lives again.

But everything now moves toward chaos, each atom
with inifinite paths to follow. The intricate spirals
they make as they move towards infinity, look

something like paisley as they copy, repeat,
copy, repeat then become erratic. And what happens
to us if we spiral into infinity, no chance of returning

again? How can I hope to remember you standing
there, pointing at a falling star, saying, Notice how close
it passes to the Pleiades, then brushes Orion?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Facebook is evil

I have generally quit reading The Chronicle, opting instead for the freely available Inside Higher Ed. However, I ended up there a few minutes ago and this article about Facebook caught my eye. I'm an educational technologist and general all around geek, so obviously I think technology in education is a cool idea. That said, I don't think higher education is doing a good job overall in implementing or even addressing changes in technology very well. This article is a good example of that. Very few professors know what Facebook is, much less that their students are obsessed with it. Those same professors also don't know about Ratemyprofessor.com either, I'm guessing. Their reaction, as evidenced in this article to finding out about such things is shock and awe. Yes, for the students, this stuff is entertainment, but so is tv and there are whole courses on tv shows now. Hell, there are conferences on tv shows now.

About a year ago, I ran a workshop about what it meant to put yourself online. We talked about Facebook, Friendster, blogging, and portfolios and tried to get people to think about what it meant to have such a public persona. The three people in attendance (yippee), one of them a student, were quite amazed at what we could dig up via the Way Back Machine and Google. So, I agree with Bugeja that we need to teach students to think criticially about their online persona and their interactions in online communities. But, I would argue, it's hard to do that if you have no clue that such online communities even exist.

Higher education has been quick to buy into enterprise solutions for delivering online and hybrid courses, but very slow to seriously consider the implications of what else is going on online or to think about what online education or hybrid education should look like. I think this is especially true at schools focused primarily on providing face-to-face courses with "extra" stuff online, maybe ereserves if you're lucky. This morning, I was reading a blog post by David Wiley, who is preparing to testify to the Commission on the Future of Higher Education. In it, he discusses the ways in which higher ed is falling behind because it refuses to adapt to changes in technology. He, and some of the commenters, argue that higher ed is closed and unconnected and that students who are used to open access and highly connected environments will be frustrated by the stifling environment of many college classrooms.

I had to laugh at some of the complaints in the Chronicle article about students playing with Facebook during lectures. Okay, so ban computers from the classroom and let them doodle instead. How about thinking about something more interesting to do in class? Or ways of making the lecture more engaging? Or something? If my students aren't paying attention, I think either a) I need to change something about myself or b) too bad for them; they're missing out (assuming they're not disruptive).

I agree that technology brings with it some difficult challenges, everything from inappropriate content on Facebook to the increasing ease of cheating using the Internet. And I agree that higher ed administrations often spend technology budgets in inappropriate ways. (I say that with very little idea of how our budget is allocated; I'm never on budget committees.) I think it's important to educate faculty about what's going on in technology today, not to necessarily say, you have to use this, but here, this is what lots of people are doing now (plus, maybe they won't think I'm a freak anymore). And maybe show them some ways those things might be useful. I've turned several people on to blogging on campus. I was on the phone with someone today walking him through Drupal (yes, I got it installed) and it was so fun to hear him say, "Wow, this is really neat!" Not every technological tool or gadget is going to work for every situation. But it's important to understand the potential each one might have.

And, I think, administrators don't always have the resources in place. I made a long comment over at Dr. Crazy's about her frustrating experience just trying to use a DVD player. She got caught up in the bureaucracy. I see that happen often in my (probably) much smaller department. Mordac, the preventer of Information Technology is alive and well. I have no idea why the IT culture tends to attract these types, but it does. And while money may flow freely into software packages, it stops short of providing the staff to support the use of those packages. And forget having enough time for long-term planning, etc. Most of us manage, however, to accomplish quite a bit without a full deck of resources. Unfortunately, when we fall short, it has a pretty big effect.

My vision for technology and higher ed? I think we should have more people and I think we should seriously consider moving to open source solutions wherever possible. There's no reason why we couldn't use Open Office instead of Microsoft Office. We could move to Sakai instead of Blackboard (though that might be a few years off). I think faculty should be more involved in the decisions that are made about technology. Often that means being proactive and talking to provosts, CIO's and presidents because unfortunately faculty aren't always asked their opinion or worse, the wrong questions. Often the IT people are speaking a completely different language. They don't understand the need to be mobile, to have access to a computer in a library, for example. I often find myself being the translator, explaining the faculty culture to the IT people and the IT language to the faculty.

I think there are a lot of issues here and most of them are far too complex to address with a simple "facebook is evil."

Humanist among the Scientists

I have always been fascinated with science. In fact, in high school, I was very good at math and science. My teachers in those subjects were constantly encouraging me to pursue a career in science. I, however, wanted to be a poet. Even as I pursued my lucrative poetry career, though, I couldn't quite let go of science altogether. I wrote poems about asymptotes and red shifts. I went to talks about string theory.

For my dissertation, I'm venturing back into a little science by reading about graph theory. Now I couldn't replicate the experiments I'm reading about or expand on them, but I understand them for the most part. And I think it's very different way of looking at things--for me anyway. Most of the time, I don't think about science in any kind of concrete way. But to think about the fact that it underlies everything, including things that you wouldn't think it has anything to do with, is fascinating.

I'm reading Linked, which I highly recommend. In it, Barabasi describes the Internet as a scale-free network, that is, a network that contains highly-connected hubs rather than one where the connections are more evenly distributed. Last night I was reading the chapter where he discusses the failure rate of scale-free network. It turns out that failure isn't all that likely in a scale-free network if you eliminate nodes at random because it's more likely that a small node will be eliminated as opposed to a hub. In fact, small nodes fail on the internet all the time and we don't realize it's happened. Targeted attacks on the network, however, are likely to cause a scale-free network to fail pretty quickly. Attacks tend to target the hubs. When hubs go down, isolated islands are created; the network falls apart.

What this got me to thinking about, actually, was terrorist networks. If, as Barbasi suggests, scale-free networks can be observed even in social networks, and if terrorist networks are indeed an example of a social network, then there must be hubs, and bringing down those hubs would bring down the whole network. It doesn't strike me that this is the approach we're taking to combatting terrorism. Instead, we're using the "eliminate any random hub" approach. Or eliminate any random terrorist whom we found through a broad wiretapping program. And, as I discussed above, this doesn't cause the network as a whole to fail. What should we be doing? One, we should figure out who and/or where the hubs are. I suspect we know some of these, but I suspect there are many, many more we know nothing about. Two, we should eliminate those hubs. Seems simple, right? Well, unlike the Internet, where hubs are pretty visible, hubs in terrorist networks are not. Bin Laden must be a hub. Zarqawi is a hub. We have no idea where these people are. I also suspect that there are sub networks that are also scale-free. So there may be a worldwide terrorist network, but there's also one in Iraq, in Afganistan, in Pakistan, maybe one in the US, all of which may function somewhat independently. These smaller networks have their own hubs.

Surely, someone is working with this kind of theory as a way to combat terrorism. Although, this involves science and we know how the Bush administration feels about science.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

It's official: People think I'm crazy

There's nothing specific that's happened, just an accumulation of odd looks. Yeah, okay, I blog. I use Flickr. I furl and del.icio.us. And I like these things enough to show other people. And when I do, I get "the look." But man, I'm not that crazy, am I? It's just the web, people.

One of our help desk staff told me today that several people she's talked to recently have referred to the "interweb". I wonder if that's related to the internets.

Am I really the person driving around in the Ford Model T while everyone else is still in a buggy? Blogging's been around for almost 10 years. Flickr and del.icio.us are owned by Yahoo! Blogger's owned by Google. It's not like these are weirdos working out of their basements. It's the 21st century, right? Okay. Just checking.

Getting things done (not)

Today I'm giving a talk, the notes of which are here. The talk is loosely related to my work on chapter 1 of my dissertation. I've already whined at Phantom's about how much work is piling on my at work. It's very frustrating. I'm actually not sure what to do about it. It's not the kind of work you can just plow through. It's people interrupting you constantly.

I've been trying to install Drupal for our blog software (sorry, Ben). It's going okay, but it takes a long time, especially when you don't really know what you're doing. I think a lot of people don't realize that some of the things that we technologists are pretty difficult. Because most of them seem simple in theory. The web guy is having the same problem. Can you do this fancy-schmancy web thing? Yes, he says. But then it takes a while and they want it yesterday. The other problem I'm having is where to draw the line with my work. There are certain things that are clearly my responsibility--helping with Blackboard, helping with the Media Lab. But there are lots of fuzzy things. For example, I often get calls from staff because at one time, I was helping to train the staff to use our new web editing software. Well, I don't really do that anymore, but neither does anyone else. It's kind of weird. It's complicated and it's draining me emotionally.

I just want an hour or two to sort things out. There are things sitting on my desk that I really, really need to do. Ugh.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Squeezing things in

I'll admit it. I'm jealous of Mon, who seems to be absolutely cruising through her dissertation. Me? Not so much. I've written 3 pages of chapter 1. My goal is to have a draft of chapter 1 in a week. I think I can do that. I have to squeeze my writing in little pockets of time, an hour or two here or there. It's not exactly easy. I would like to spend the weekend writing. That seems the only way to get this done. I wanted to write on the train, but I read instead (related to my dissertation, of course). I'm finding myself surprisingly motivated to work on the dissertation even after work, but just haven't managed to make much progress this month. Also, I haven't heard back from my advisor about my proposal yet, so I hate to put a lot of work into something when he might suggest I go in a different direction. I'm in kind of a holding pattern, I guess. I will contact my advisor today and let him know what I'm working on and ask for feedback on the proposal. I will try to get through ten pages or so of writing tonight. I think that's doable. Whenever I feel like I can't do this, I'm reminded of Maya Angelou writing while feeding her baby in the middle of the night. If she could do that, then I can do this under more comfortable conditions.

Reading back over that, I realize that it's completely incoherent--and totally represents my current state of mind.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Koufax Awards

Some of our blog peeps have been nominated for a Koufax award in the Most Deserving Wider Recognition Category1. Some interesting reading there. Here are some of the ones I already read and they're very deserving folks, I must say:

All Spin Zone
Barely Legal (I actually don't read this, but my students were totally enamoured of this blog; it is funny)
Creek Running North
Echidne of the Snakes
Frogs and Ravens--go Rana!!
Half Changed World--go Elizabeth!!
I Blame the Patriarchy
Mahablog--this one I discovered recently. I really, really like it.
Pam's House Blend

1Yes, I'm nominated.

Me and Pac-Man

Me and Pac-Man
Me and Pac-Man,
originally uploaded by lorda.
Just so you don't get too one-sided a picture of me, here I am with the Pac-Man exhibit. Wish I could have played it! One of these days, I'm gonna have a basement with all the old video games, complete with air hockey in the middle. Oh, and there'll be beer.

More from the blog for choice front

Perpetual Off Night: Blogging for Choice
I have yet to hear of an argument for the pro-life position that isn't ultimately a religious argument. Literally 100% of the pro-life people I have ever met based their best arguments on their religious beliefs. And if the sudden and arbitrary requisition of another person's body to enforce the perceived law of a deity isn't the imposition of religion by the state, I don't know what is.

Another great story of abortion at Bitch | Lab » Blog Archive » Doable men and boy panties

On religious fundamentalism and their culture of death | media girl (mediagirl.org)

A list of others blogging for choice: Bush v. Choice: You are blogging for choice

Destined to be the "crazy cat woman": Here's to Choice!
I am more pro-choice now that I am a parent because I know the time, dedication, money, and emotional support it takes to raise children.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Blogging for choice

I would not be where I am today if it were not for Roe v. Wade. I would have a 21 year old child.

Yes, I got pregnant at 16. And I ended that pregnancy. It was not something I really wanted to do. It was something I had to do. If I'd carried that pregnancy to term, I would have had to drop out of high school, possibly. I doubt I would have made it to the selective liberal arts college I ended up in, which provided me a wonderful education and opened many doors for me. I wouldn't have gone to graduate school, surely. I had a hard enough time supporting myself as a grad student; there was no way I could have supported a child. Not going to grad school would have meant that I wouldn't have met Mr. Geeky and I certainly wouldn't have had the Geeky Kids.

I got pregnant because I was stupid. I had no idea how to get a hold of birth control. I had no idea how my body worked, so that at the very least, I could have timed sex appropriately. No one had discussed sex with me, not until after I was pregnant. I finally took a sex education class when I was a junior in high school, about 6 months after I'd had an abortion. I'm sure there were others in the class who'd been in my shoes or who'd nearly been there.

Being middle class, I might have been able to obtain an abortion anyway. As it was, I still had to travel to another state. My mother went with me. Much as I complain about my mother and much as I wish she'd talked to me sooner, she didn't make me feel ashamed or as if I'd made a huge mistake. I think she blamed herself as much as she blamed me. She simply supported me. She rubbed my back when I threw up in the parking lot afterwards. This whole experience is the only thing that keeps her voting for democrats. It was hard enough for her to watch me get a legal abortion. I think she can't imagine what might have happened if abortion had been illegal and I had tried to obtain one on my own.

Education is key. We have to stop thinking that the "just say no" campaign is going to work when it comes to sex. If you are a parent, talk to your kids early and often. Make birth control accessible (keep condoms in the closet, for example). If you're not a parent, keep campaigning for better sex education in the schools. We also have to make safe and legal abortions accessible to those in poor and rural areas. Unwanted children increase the likelihood of their parents living in poverty and they themselves are more likely to live in poverty even as adults. In many of these areas, girls need to understand that getting pregnant does not mean the guy will stick around and it's not all fun and games to raise a child.

Though I have no bitter feelings or guilt or sadness about my decision, I certainly wouldn't want anyone to go through what I went through. It's not easy, physically or mentally. It's also not easy, if you've had an abortion, to hear people call you a murderer. I once had to walk past signs of mutilated fetuses on my way to a regular checkup at Planned Parenthood. If anything, my decision has given me a life, a life I never would have had otherwise and a life for which I am eternally grateful. Shouldn't every woman be allowed this opportunity at life?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Piggyback ride

Piggyback ride
Piggyback ride,
originally uploaded by lorda.
Here we are. Geeky girl was complaining about her legs being tired, so Geeky Boy offered her a ride. This lasted for a couple of blocks.

Off to our nation's capital

Off. Free internets at the hotel. Will check in with stories and maybe pictures.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Things of Interest

I'm too tired to concoct my own ideas, so here's some stuff I'm interested in, but too tired to comment on in depth.
All this linky goodness made possible by Performancing for Firefox | Performancing.com

Lack of Politics

I haven't been writing much about politics lately because it just depresses me. I think when the NSA thing came out, I thought, well, if they can spy on me without anyone knowing about it, then there's nothing I can do. And there's not much I can do about Samuel Alito either. Until the 2006 elections, I feel pretty helpless.

Geeky Boy is studying the Boston Tea Party right now and as part of that, the teacher handed out an official-looking letter that declared that lunch prices were going up and that students were no longer allowed to bring their own lunches and that backpacks would be searched to make sure no outside food was brought it. Geeky Boy handed me the letter and I feel so beaten down that I just said, okay, I guess that's the way it's gonna be. Geeky Boy, however, would have none of it. He said he and his classmates immediately began planning a protest. How sad is it that I can't even get up the energy to fight the lunchroom nazis? Sigh.

Seriously, though, aside from voting people out, writing letters that may or may not be read, and staging protests that largely get ignored, what recourse do we really have to effect change. The system seems corrupt and set up in a way that blocks the average citizen from having any say. It's run by corporate interests, most of whom are looking to make a buck and not make the world a better place.

Now I'm all depressed again. See? This is why I can't write about this stuff.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

More random snippets

  • Change of plans: we're going to D.C. instead of Richmond. My stepmother's great uncle(?) who was really more like a father to her, died last night. I was in the mood to get out of town so I changed all our reservations to go to D.C. We're planning a trip to the Museum of African Art
  • I am not writing tonight. I am reading. Because I got a new book. Actually, I got three books, but I'm going to read this one first.
  • I will write tomorrow. I am carving out an hour or so at work.
  • I really do like a lot of the faculty I work with. The last few days, I've had some very nice conversations with several faculty, which made me really appreciate the small community I'm in.

Random snippets

Not Random Bullets of Craptm because, well, they're not entirely crap.
  • Mr. Geeky fixed my car. Hooray! Hooray! We figured it was something minor, but hadn't had a chance to look and determine the extent of the problem. Mr. Geeky's car, on the other hand, has similar symptoms to Dr. B's.
  • The kids and I are taking the train down to Richmond. The kids are quite excited about the trip. I'm excited about not having to drive. If anyone lives in Richmond, let me know.
  • I wrote 3 pages for chapter one last night. Of course 1 page consisted of figures. Why is it so hard to place figures in a document. They just don't want to lay out. I think I'm going to have to give up on wrapping.
  • I was sure I had more to say, but I guess I don't.
  • Update: I remembered! First, we figured out how to turn off the radiators in the kids' rooms. Now it's not like a sauna up there.
  • Second, I made the broiled flank steak and two-potato mash mentioned in this post. It was awesome!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

On writing and not writing and the not written

Remind me that drinking a beer when you're already exhausted is not conducive to writing. I had every intention last night of starting on dissertation chapter one. But as I sipped beer and read blogs, my eyes got heavier and heavier. It wasn't even 9 o'clock! I did do some reading and I will begin writing this afternoon or this evening. Sometimes not writing is a good thing.

Over the weekend, I submitted an essay to She's Such a Geek. It wasn't the best essay on the planet; I don't think I spent enough time on it. I'm not really a good judge of my own writing. Basically, I usually think it all sucks. When I go back to something I wrote years ago, I have one of two reactions: 1) oh my god, that's awful; I can't believe I wrote that; or 2) wow, that's good; I'm sure I didn't write that; I must have been channeling someone who can write. As I was writing my essay, which I had started a few weeks ago, I thought about all the different directions I could go in. There's a reason people often use thread metaphors when talking about writing. I felt like I had a million threads and I was trying to make yarn or a tapestry or something. Yes, spinning a yarn. Eventually, you have to what color it will be and what pattern it will take. Some threads get left out, perhaps never to be made into yarn. Those threads, though, stick with you, maybe even haunt you. I find that they sometimes find their way into pieces I hadn't thought they belonged in, kind of like seeing the shock of gold thread in a scarf.

As I drifted off to sleep last night, I began to think about how to begin the first chapter and a pattern began to emerge. I began to see the threads that I might try to pull together into something beautiful and useful. But I also know that some of those threads will be cut, left in the remants pile. I can't help thinking that maybe they'll show up somewhere. Maybe that's what this blog is, a place to put those remnants. I'm not sure. I hate to see them go to waste.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Lawrence Summers: One Year Later

It's been about a year since the whole Lawrence Summers fiasco, which was perhaps my first contentious debate in the blog world. Sexism is, unfortunately, alive and well. I haven't bothered to what's up with Summers these days. I heard he started some study of women in science.

Vegankid, in the comments to the delurking day, suggested we have a Blog Against Sexism day on March 8th. I'm all for that. I've had some recent sexist experiences that make me want to say more about it. I was listening to Diggnation, a podcast by some Digg.com's users. Initially, I liked the show because the guys were drinking beer and talking about technology, two of my very favorite things together, like a Reeses cup. So the first show was fine, but the second show. The second show I couldn't stomach. And it wasn't a "I'm so pissed off" kind of feeling, but like I'd just been discounted as a human being. They spent a great deal of time talking about how hot a woman from Godaddy was--a lot of time. Then, they mentioned that a guy came up to them and asked if they could throw in some garden stuff so his wife would listen to the show. And they said, well, it's pretty much a sausage-fest around here. And went on blabbering about how "manly" they were. It was just gross.

On the flip side, I've been thinking about my own reactions to the fact that the tech world is predominantly male. Sometimes, I may react too vehemently, bordering on my own version of sexism. I'd like to let that idea simmer for a while and see what happens.

So anyway, if anyone's interested, let me know and we'll get something going. For starters, here's a technorati tag:

Tuesday that's really Monday

The bad thing about 3-day weekends is that Tuesday gets promoted to Monday. I don't mind going to work. What I mind is the getting up. I get up fairly early on my own--between 7:30 and 8. On work/school days, I get up an hour earlier in order to have coffee and read blogs. Before blogging, I'd read or watch tv. I have to have that hour to myself or I'll go insane. Really.

Actually, today is my 3-year anniversary. I started this job three years ago today. My boss told me the other day that she thought I'd really grown into the job. Maybe that's true. I think what's more true is that I've made the job what I think it should be. Some of that's based on my own interests, but much of it is based on the culture I'm surrounded by. I think it took about 2 years to really understand how things work. I'm still finding out new things every day and there are little shifts over time as new faculty come in.

My position I feel is an odd one. On the one hand, I do a lot of research which results in presentations or papers. In that way, I am similar to a faculty member. However, since most faculty don't read research in my area (or even know that such a thing exists), they don't see that similarity. I feel the research is important because otherwise I'd be nothing but tech support and I don't think that's what an Instructional Technologist should be. But that's how many (most?) faculty see me. One thing that I've really worked on is to really help people help themselves. I serve over 200 faculty. When I get emails asking a simple question, I answer it and link to the documentation that would have answered their question. Same with phone calls. I've learned to say at the end, "By the way, if this comes up again, you can find that answer at . . ." While not everyone gets the hint, most do learn from this exchange. I now get more phone calls and emails about strategies for using technology in classes rather than tech support issues. That's real improvement in my book.

There are things that frustrate me most about my job and that I try to minimize. One is when people see me only as techie, the mechanic. This is often made worse by the fact that I sometimes get treated like the call center person in India. Thankfully, this doesn't happen often and as I mentioned, I've developed strategies for dealing with it. Another is, and perhaps these are related, a complete disdain for what I do. I am looked at sometimes as the person who wants to ruin liberal arts education as we know it. I am evil incarnate. A lot of people, including people in my own department, don't fully understand what I do. Most people thing that Instructional Technology is about teaching others how to use technology. Often that's a part of what one does, but not all. In fact, my hope is that the technology itself becomes much simpler to use, but the ways one might incorporate it become more complex. I often say that I show people how to leverage technology to improve learning. I'm not, as some people think, an advocate of using technology for technology's sake.

I recently read that an Instructional Technologist creates an environment in which teaching with technology can flourish. At places where there's only one technologist, they often do much more. I do everything from maintaining hardware and software in a lab to running a multimedia program to researching trends in mobile computing to answering questions about Blackboard. With so many different areas, it's sometimes hard to know what to prioritize. I have chosen to prioritize the research and to educate the faculty (and often the staff) about what that research says. Another person might have focused on the lab or on creating learning objects or on Blackboard documentation. If there's one thing I've learned, though, in the many, many years that I've been using technology is that technology changes very quickly and you have to keep your eye on the ball or you're going to lose the game.

Monday, January 16, 2006


I'm a big fan of Cooking Light, enough to finally subscribe about 6 months ago. I have been making a recipe from it here and there. This month, for some reason, I've made more than the normal amount, and they've all been good so I wanted to share, especially since I know there are others out there who are Cooking Light fans and having drop-in dinners and whatnot.

First, I tried the Winter Orange Salad. Believe it or not, the store was out of shallots, but it still turned out fine. A very tasty salad. We had it with lasagna.

I also tried the Ham and Two-Cheese Spoon Bread (can't link; behind the pay wall). This was tasty, but I cooked in too large of a dish, so it didn't puff as much as it should have and generally took a little longer to cook. I had it as a main dish with salad, but it would actually make a good breakfast, I think.

Then I made the Basic Beef Stew with Carrots and Mushrooms. This was really good and it lasted for days and got better each day. Tonight, I made another stew, the Dijon Chicken Stew with Potatoes and Kale (link behind the pay wall). I couldn't find Kale, so substituted Collard Greens (are they the same thing?) and it was really tasty. Mr. Geeky raved.

I have the ingredients for Broiled Flank Steak with Salsa Verde and Two-Potato Mash, so I'll let you know how those turn out.

, ,

Attempting to register

Update: Success!! I had to email someone and hadn't heard from them and just thought I'd try to register again and bingo!! Yay! It's official now.

Well, everything was going swimmingly for a while. I had obtained the necessary logins, logged in to make sure it worked. I calculated how many hours I needed, asked for clarification from our Graduate Studies director who got back to me very quickly. I then attempted to register and got an error, so I'm waiting to hear back again. It definitely could have been much, much worse. The interface for the system (PeopleSoft) totally sucks, but since I'm used to working with it, I understand it. And at least it recognized me and had all my records, so really this is just a minor bump in the road. I still have a couple of forms to file, but those have to be done by mail.

Oh, and the cost--quite expensive, but I think I can manage.

Days off

So I'm off because it's MLK day, a day which my school does not recognize as a holiday. There are events and special meals, but we all have to slog into work unless, like me, you take a personal day. We also don't really recognize Labor Day as a holiday. Classes usually begin on that day and if you have anything to do with supporting students and faculty you don't really get to take that day. The irony of a women's college that doesn't really support days meant to recognize the "invisible" seems to escape the upper levels of administration. I was just reading over a Quod Shee about the inflexibility of the academic schedule and today is a good example of that. I'm here at home (and yes, still in jammies) because Mr. Geeky teaches today and well, you can't just skip one of a limited number of classes.

So anyway, I'm here and I have work to do. It won't really be a day off. I'll be doing household chores I was too lazy to do over the weekend, some reading for the dissertation, maybe some writing for the dissertation, and officially getting registered for dissertation hours and that adminstrative stuff which I couldn't do last week because I was gone. That last bit could get really complicated and I'm not looking forward to it. I'm thankful for at least the flexibility of the time today even if the day itself was caused by the inflexibility of the academic calendar.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Blustery Day

My favorite movie when I was little was Disney's Winnie the Pooh movie. There's something wonderful about Sterling Holloway's voice. I had the record and I used to play it all the time. I had several of these record story books and I loved them. You would listen to the record and read along and there were songs too. I had Winnie the Pooh, Snow White and Alice in Wonderland. I remember sitting for hours with my little record player and the book in my lap and singing along.

But I digress. Last night and continuing today, it is very blustery. Blustery is the best word ever. First, we lost the internets. Then we lost all electricity just before bedtime. Mr. Geeky took Geeky Girl to bed with him while Geeky Boy and I stayed up a little later to play video games. The electricity came back on just before we went to bed. I slept in Geeky Girl's bed and all night I could hear the wind howling at the windows. Branches were snapping and landing on roofs and it was generally . . . blustery.

There's nothing to do on a blustery day except stay inside and keep warm.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Energy costs

I just got my latest heating bill. Gah! Let's just say that it's more than double any bill from last year. However, it's about the same as bills from the winter before that, which was extraordinarily cold.

According to the handy graphs provided by PECO, we did use more energy this year, but not an astronomical amount more. The average temperature was a bit lower this year compared to last, but again, not by much. Now, we were warned that prices were going up. This year, electricity is costing us about $.07/kwh and gas is costing us about $1.20/hundred cubic foot (Ccf). I could only find costs from July, which show that electricity was the same, but gas was $.87/Ccf. But that's summer and often gas costs are lower in the summer anyway. If anyone has any info, that would be great.

We have a little buffer in our budget, plus savings we can draw on if necessary, but a lot of people don't. I wonder how they're dealing with this. My guess is, they're not. Some may have signed up for programs that reduce their costs, but I know a lot of people fall through the cracks for these programs.

Either someone needs to admit that these prices are arbitrarily set by greedy oil companies or that there really is a decreased supply. Either way, I can direct my actions appropriately.

All day in pajamas

Can I stay in my jammies all day? It's rainy and yucky outside and supposed to get really cold later. I need a day of rest. Shouldn't it be today? Okay, good.

I might actually drag myself off the couch and shower and dress, maybe around noon. I do usually make one day on the weekend a completely work-free day. I have a three-day weekend this weekend since the kids are out of school for Martin Luther King day. I'm planning to do some reading for the dissertation, get a little more organized on that front. The plan is to finish a draft of chapter one by the end of January. That could work. Then we'll move on to chapter 2. Shew.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Whoopi Goldberg

I look like Whoopi Goldberg apparently. Funny thing is, so does Geeky Boy. I succumbed to the MyHeritage.com thing going around. Geeky Girl got the best results--Julia Roberts, Juliette Binoche and the like. I also look like David Ben-Gurion. Apparently, I'm black and Jewish. Who knew?

Like a horror film

That's what it looks like outside. It's foggy and all you can really see are the bare twisted branches of the trees. I guess it's more gothic than horror. I expect dracula to wander out of the fog any moment.

9 o'clock

I was so tired, I went to bed at 9, before my son. I woke up feeling like I could sleep a little more. At least it's Friday. I'm going to put up a version of my talk today, plus my colleague and I will be podcasting and doing an overview of the conference. I have some thoughts I'll be posting on my other blog as well. So if you're interested in ed tech, keep an eye out for that.

It's good to be home. I'm actually looking forward to going to work today. There's lots to do, but I definitely feel somewhat energized by the conference. I have some new ideas and I have new confidence in what I'm already doing. I guess that's what conferences are for.

I've really enjoyed reading all the comments left as a result of National De-lurking Week. And now I have more blogs to read!! Yay! If you're still lurking, drop me a comment.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

So tired

Stayed out really late and ate a ton of good food. Plus, no matter how luxurious the hotel, I never sleep well in a strange bed. I went for a walk around the inner harbor today. It really is beautiful. Wish I'd had pictures.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I've fallen off the internets

Gah! Last night, I tried and tried to get an internet connection and couldn't. Drove me nuts. So I watched Love, Actually instead. Not a bad movie really. I especially liked the story line with Liam Neeson.

Anyway, my presentation was fabulous, if I do say so myself. I actually really enjoy speaking in front of groups. There were about 150 people in the audience, much bigger than I expected. A lot of good questions and it's been fun talking with people in the foyer and hallways about what their schools are doing.

Right this minute, I'm sitting in the wireless area and I am one of two women. I'm the only one typing away on a laptop. The other woman is watching two men type on laptops. Actually, it appears that most of the people are working on their presentations. Ha! I'm done. Na na na na boo boo.

I'm in Baltimore, by the way, a city I really like. The view from my room is amazing. I have a corner room overlooking the harbor. Just gorgeous. Unfortunately, today it's foggy so you can't see much. I have dinner plans for the evening, back to a restaurant I went to last year that was absolutely amazing. Conferences can be fun!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Delurk, dammit!

From 1B*, it's national delurking week. I promise to play if you will. Leave me a comment. Peruse the posts, leave someone else a comment. Tell me what you had for breakfast, what your favorite cartoon or comic strip is, goofiest thing you've ever done or why the heck you read this blog and what other blogs you read. Come on. It'll be fun.

I'm sitting in the railway station

Got a ticket for my destination.

The delurking is so fun. I'm finding new blogs to read. Also, it turns out to be okay to eat hot fudge straight. Good thing to know. I'm sitting here in 30th Street Station, a place I really like. Just had some Dunkin Donuts--maybe feeling nostalgic for my old job.

I love taking the train, but the one thing I don't like, and I've found this to be true in many places with trains, is that there is this expectation that you just know how to take the train. You know where it stops and when and where to go. I hate trying to figure that out. Given enough time, it's not a problem, but FSM forbid you're running late. Anway, continue the delurking. I'll be checking in once I arrive.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Standing on eggshells

My favorite Sunday pastime is to watch the political talk shows--"This Week" and "Chris Matthews" and whatever else I can catch. I often find myself yelling at the screen, but it's like a sport for me. On "This Week" Cokie Roberts, in talking about the Jack Abramoff scandal said that she felt that politicians had forgotten what they're in Congress for. Is it, she asked, to solidify their personal power? Or is it to serve their constituents? The roundtable generally agreed that there were many in Congress for whom serving was merely a power grab. When serving is a power grab, too often people are afraid to speak out. If they speak out against this or that, they might lose their power. While the thirst for power has led Republicans to sleep with corporate interests and others that go directly against what is good for their constituents, the thirst for power has led Democrats to be afraid to speak out on behalf of their constituents. We, the constituents are the ultimate losers in this scenario.

Many Democrats, afraid of pissing off middle America and hoping to maintain or gain power, take positions that are often such watered down versions of the Democratic platform as to be barely recognizable. Hilary Clinton is a good example. Pro-war and not really outspoken on pro-choice, she hardly looks like a Democrat anymore. Compare almost any Democrat to Howard Dean, who laid into Wolf Blitzer over the weekend (video; full transcript via Pharyngula). We need more Democrats like that. More Democrats to call the Bush administration on their watering down of our rights. If the Democrats continue to worry about their power instead of us, we'll all be without any power. Our phones will be tapped. Our internet communications monitored. Searched without warrant. Put in prison without charges or hope of a trial. Kafka and Orwell come to mind. It could happen. We have 3 more years with this president. If our representatives don't stand up for us, we should remove them from power instead of making excuses about how they have to appeal to the middle. Blah. Blah. Look where appealing to the middle got us. Ask yourself. Is this where you want your country to be right now? Start making some phone calls, writing some letters. Start with the Alito hearings. Demand hearings (or better yet, impeachment) for the wiretapping scandal. Demand that the prisoners in Guantanamo get a trial. Demand an answer on the torture question. It's our country. We have a right to know.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Favorite and newly discovered sites

I have 14% left. Can I post before the battery dies? (Didn't make it.)

I've been purusing the blogs today and I've been saying to myself for a while now, I should really post something about my favorite sites. So here goes.

Lifehacker--a great site with all kinds of tips and tricks, both technical and non.
Parent Hacks--found via above, looks like a great site.
Memeorandum and tech.memeorandum--sites that aggregate news and links to blogs that are writing about that news. Great for not only seeing what stories are big, but also for seeing what people are saying about them. They also catch a lot of the smaller stories, which I like.
The New Charm School--site of a success coach. Not sure how I ended up here, but she always has really interesting posts.

From the professional realm:
Weblogg-ed--one of my all-time favorites. Will is a great writer and has interesting ideas about ed tech. He's also working on a book. Can't wait until it's out.
Barbara Ganley--again, good writing and great ideas. Always something interesting there.

Personal blogs I read every day. I'm attracted to different ones at different times. That's why I like them so much!

Four things: tagged!

Tagged by The Bailiff

Four Jobs You've Had
1. donut shop--which included filling donuts (deliberately misspelled; that's just the kind of shop it was.)
2. waitress--family restaurant, cocktail (at fancy-schmancy hotel), pancake house
3. assistant to bank VP
4. greeting card salesperson

Four Movies You Could Watch Over and Over
1. Garden State
2. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
3. Harry Potter (any of them, though the 3rd is my favorite)
4. there aren't that many I'd watch over and over, can't even think of another

Four Places You've Lived
1. Kingsport, TN
2. Memphis, TN
3. Bloomington, IN
4. Fayetteville, AR

Four TV Shows You Love to Watch
1. The Daily Show
2. What Not to Wear (guilty pleasure)
3. Frontline
4. Mythbusters

Four Places You've Been on Vacation
1. Belize
2. Ocean Isle, NC
3. London
4. Litchfield Beach, SC

Four Blogs You Visit Daily (lots and lots)
1. Phantom Scribbler
2. An Ianqui in the Village
3. New Kid on the Hallway
4. Pharyngula

Four of Your Favorite Foods (depends a lot on my mood)
1. Anything with chickpeas
2. Chocolate
3. Cheese ravioli
4. A good hamburger

Four Places You'd Rather Be
1. Someplace warm, but not conservative (why are the warm spots conservative?)
2. In a bigger house (just slightly bigger)
3. On vacation
4. London

Four Albums You Can't Live Without, Lately
1. "Want Two" Rufus Wainwright
2. Death Cab for Cutie's iTunes Original Sessions
3. "Back to Bedlam" James Blunt
4. "Extraordinary Machine" Fiona Apple

Four Vehicles You've Owned
1. Volkswagon Rabbit
2. Mazda 323
3. Ford Explorer
4. Pontiac Montana Minivan

Four people to tag (who hasn't been?)
1. Scrivener
2. Bitch, Ph.D.
3. Profgrrrrl
4. New Kid

And anyone else who wants to.

Screenless Saturday

Wasn't quite screenless. I spent about 4 hours or so writing (in front of a screen). I watched Airplane! with the kids for a bit while I had my coffee. After the kids went to bed, I watched Dances with Wolves. If I'd had a good book to read, I think I wouldn't have watched the movies.

I finished the proposal. I'm finishing up the citations and the bibliography and sending it off. It's not perfect, but I could probably work on it forever and still not be satisfied. Since I'll be conferencing most of next week, I think I will mostly take the week off writing. I'll do some reading, continue gathering sources. I'm not entirely sure I like my chapter organization, but I think it will work for now. It's the third chapter I'm unsure about, mostly a write-up of some results and tying in to theories presented in the second chapter. It's the most complex chapter, but potentially the most fun, if I don't get too bogged down.

So, it was an interesting non-screenless-screenless day. I guess it was really a non-internet day.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Friday, once again

As usual, I'm glad it's Friday. Lately, it's been all proposal all the time around here. My hope is to finish the thing and send it off this weekend. Of course, then it will be all dissertation all the time, but oh well.

I'm attending a conference next week and giving a presentation. Have I begun putting together the presentation? No. That may happen today. I've been thinking about it, but nothing concrete has happened yet.

Tomorrow, I'll be off the air, sticking to a "no screens" Saturday. I may have to do some writing on the proposal, but other than that, I'm not getting sucked into the electric glow.

I'm hoping when I return Sunday to discuss something besides myself. :)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Random bullets of crap

  • Coffee is the best invention in the world, bar none.
  • The best thing about vacation: getting up whenever you want.
  • I have trouble falling asleep. Once I'm asleep, I'm fine. But if there's anything at all going on in my life, I will mull it over as I'm trying to drift off. Last night, I was working on a presentation.
  • I don't like winter. It's been in the 40s, but I still feel cold.
  • Over vacation I read The Truth by Al Franken. Very good. I read it in a day. It was good political stuff and comic relief.
  • Work is good. It really is.
  • Getting up at 3 a.m. to administer cough medicine. Not good.
  • Is it bad that I'm already looking forward to the weekend?
  • Plan for the weekend: no screens day Saturday, reading GTD again, working out.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Why I have the blog

Because people will say nice things to you. Seriously, thanks everyone for your support in my little freak out last night. I tend to think of myself as really laid back, but really I think I'm harder on myself than I realize. Once I get this proposal off and get settled into some kind of routine for writing, I think I'm going to be okay. I actually care about this project but at the same time always have the feeling I'm missing something.

I did manage a workout yesterday and it was nice. I have a whole weight routine, but I didn't do that last night and I think I'm going to drop it for now. I like profgrrrrl's advice about multitasking while working out, and I might do that sometimes. But it's also nice just to be thinking about how much further and faster I want to go on the treadmill. It's nice to focus on something so physical.

I also ordered pizza last night. It was kind of funny. I've been in such a cooking mode lately that it didn't even occur to me as an option. Silly me. And someone asked me yesterday why Mr. Geeky didn't cook. And I said it was like a foreign language to him. He can do it, but it's so painful, I can't watch. So he cleans up. I am the messiest cook on the planet, but he comes in behind me and cleans up everything. And I hate cleaning up. So I cook. We eat. I take my plate to the kitchen and then don't think about it again. I love it that way.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Kind of freaking out

Yep, that's me. On the verge of a small anxiety attack. I don't know why, but this happens to me all the time when I'm about to finish a project. I'm nearing the end of the proposal and I feel like it is utter crap, completely incoherent, says nothing new, is strewn with grammatical errors, and generally makes no sense. I fear someone will read it and think, does this woman even have a third grade education? Was that a comma splice I saw? Is she communicating with aliens?

This is a lot like the way I felt writing the dissertation the first time and writing cover letters for jobs. I mean, after I write the proposal, I actually have to write the dissertation. Like a cover letter where I might actually have to do what I said I could. See. There's a fragment right there. Can't write for shit, can I?

It'll be okay, eventually, but gah. gah. double gah. Oddly, I never feel this way in preparing presentations. I like presenting. I have a presentation coming up and I'm not at all worried. It's been bubbling in the back of my head for a while. I'll work on it, deliver it. No problem. Not so with writing. Oh, and for some reason, this feels different from other papers I've written. There's something about it. It's so big, maybe, reaches so far (or tries to). Gah. I don't know.

I also don't know why I'm sharing this with the very kinds of people who will be asking some of those questions in the first paragraph. I think I just wanted to purge it, to not have it in my head anymore. And I wanted to look at my anxiety in the light of day. Maybe it will go away now.

Conflicts of interest

My own, that is. I have so much to do and so much I want to do. Here is a typical dilemma. I want to get back into my exercise routine which would mean going to the gym tonight. However, I also need to go to the grocery store and I need to work on the proposal. There just don't seem to be enough hours in the day! If it were just me, no family, I'd go to the gym right after work, eat something quick, like the black bean soup I have and hit the grocery store tomorrow, leaving plenty of time to work on the proposal. Sure, I could send Mr. Geeky to the store (and I might), but I'd still have to make up a list for him (grocery shopping is so not his forte). And my brain just does not want to deal with that. Add to that that it's my first day back to work and my to do list is a mile long. I'm planning one conference, presenting at another (next week!), and then there's the usual getting ready for classes. Gah! I'm going to try to be organized and calm about it, but it's hard. It's especially hard because there are deadlines for everything.

My schedule is fairly clear today. I'm hoping that I can plow through everything, especially the little nitpicky stuff that's taking up brain space right now, so that I can focus on the bigger picture.

Monday, January 02, 2006


For some reason, I feel like 2006 will be a year of transition. I feel this personally and professionally and publicly.

Personally, obviously, I'm working on the dissertation. But Geeky Boy will be headed to middle school in the fall, a big tranisition for him. And I just feel like there's been an accumulation of small changes that will lead somewhere. I'm not sure where, but somewhere.

Professionally, I'm not sure what's going to happen. A long time colleague is leaving. A new colleague is arriving. And things have generally been in a state of flux. There are a lot of things going on and it feels a little unsettled. A lot of these things are good things, just not sure where they're going to lead.

Publicly, it's an election year. There are two races that I care about. My congressman, Curt Weldon, is up for re-election. Though it's not certain yet, one of the people he might be running against is Paul Scoles. And then there's the Senate race. I feel that we have to get rid of Rick Santorum. If he isn't ousted, I will have lost faith in my party and my state. He'll likely be running against Bob Casey and though I don't like the fact he's pro-life, I think he's electable. I hope that there is a general transition in these midterm elections toward a more positive stance for the democrats. It's funny how much I'm affected by these things.

Last vacation day

This is the last day of vacation. Tomorrow, it's back to the grind for all of us. Mr. Geeky and I did some major cleaning up over the weekend. There's still lots to be done, but it's shaping up. Geeky Girl and I worked on her room, which had started to look like a room on thosoe "Clean Sweep" shows. We have a little more to do today but not much. She got rid of 4 giant bags of stuff, plus a few things too big for the bags. She could do more, but it's better than the last time we tried to do this.

I'm planning to get myself re-organized in the GTD system. I've been sticking to it at work, but I haven't quite gotten it together for home. I'm going to look through all the calendar programs I had considered and pick one to stick with for at least a month. I purchased myself a couple of moleskines in hopes that that will help. I'm planning also to try the early morning disserating schedule beginning tomorrow. And I hope that this will help me squeeze in some exercise in the evening. It feels like a lot to do. I'm trying not to freak out.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Hungover in the New Year

This is the first new year's eve in a while where I've overindulged. And I was just at home with my family. I guess I just got caught up in the festivities. We spent the evening watching the 100 most unexpected moments on television. It was actually really fun. This is sort of a tradition with us. We watch some cheesy countdown show. Last year, it was one-hit wonders. This year's was definitely better.

Right now I'm making one of my two favorite hangover cures, pasta with butter and salt. My other favorite cure is bologna sandwiches but I don't have any bologna. Oh well.

I hope every got the new year off to a better start than I did. I'm sure I'll be fine in an hour. After the pasta, that is.