Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Back home again

Arrived without a hitch. I picked up Judith Warner's Perfect Madness to read on the plane. I know Elizabeth has read it. I'll add my 2 cents when I finish it in a couple of days.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Technology Meme

What geek could resist this?
from Mon via scholarly mommy who got it here...

1. Do you remember when you saw your first computer? When did you actually use one? What about having your own? Do you own a laptop? (PC or Mac?) Have you gone wireless at home yet?

I first used a computer in 7th grade. We had a couple of Tandys (trs80s) with monochrome monitors, hooked up to cassette players in our "gifted" classroom. I played haunted house on these and programmed in BASIC. We also had an Apple. I'm not sure which model, but it was exciting because it was color. When I went off to college, my dad bought me an IBM clone. It had no hard drive. Instead I loaded programs using 5 1/4" floppies. I've pretty much continued to upgrade throughout my life. I don't have a laptop of my own, but have the use of one through the school. I think my next computer will be an Apple laptop. We are completely wireless at home. In fact, we just upgraded our wireless network.

2. When did you first go online and/or use email? Who did you email back then? How did the internet change your life? When did you discover blogging? What about your home internet connection - is it dial-up, DSL, cable?

I first went online in 1990 when I went to graduate school. I basically only emailed my fellow grad students. The big thing for me then was usenet. I was big into several newsgroups, one for the Simpsons and one for pinball among a few others. The internet has completely changed my life. In fact, that's what I wrote about for my "She's Such a Geek" essay (rejected, but I'm thinking about posting it here). I heard about blogging in 2001 and read the Invisible Adjunct and jill/txt. I didn't start blogging myself until 2004. We've had broadband internet access since you could have broadband, mostly because of Mr. Geeky's work.

3. Do you remember your first VCR? What about a video camera (there were some bulky ones back in the 80s and 90s) and home videos?

I remember my dad bought a VCR for us some time in the 80s, probably 82 or 83. We didn't have a video camera though. Mr. Geeky and I got one when we got married.

4. When did you switch from VCR to DVD? How did it change your video viewing experience? Do you use TiVo or any such "contraption" to tape TV shows? Do you use Netflix or some other internet-based DVD "renting" service?

For Valentine's day in 95, I got Mr. Geeky a DVD player. That didn't change us that much, mainly because we were a little ahead of the curve. There weren't that many DVDs out to watch. Tivo really changed the way we watch tv. We got one in 2002 for Mr. Geeky's birthday. At first I was skeptical, but now I don't know how we lived without it. And now that it does podcasts, I love it even more. We also have netflix, but don't use as much as we probably could.

5. What about music? Did you enjoy listening favorite music in Long Plays or did you prefer cassette tapes? When did you buy your fist CD player and switched to CDs? Did you abandon them (and turned to downloaded music) for MP3 players or Ipods or do you still buy CDs? (I'm not going to ask or comment about "illegal" music activities in the internet, even though it was an exciting innovation, lest one of us gets arrested for it :)

I usually went for whole albums, getting attached to artists rather than individual songs. I got a CD player when I went off to college. When I got my iPod a couple of years ago, I imported all my CDs and I've sold off a lot of them. I'm not happy with the DRM stuff that's being incorporated to downloaded music, but I do like purchasing music this way.

6. Do you own and use a cell phone? Do you think it's useful or just annoying?(Did you always have a telephone in your house growing up? Did you have a phone in your own room?)

Yes, I own a smartphone. I like having a cellphone even though not that many people call me on it.

7. When did you first buy a digital camera? What kind was it (3.2, 4.0, 5.0 mega-pixels or better)? Did you start taking more pictures or were you a photo aficionado before then? What about a digital video camera?

We got our first digital camera when Mr. Geeky got his Ph.D. (do you see a trend?). I got him a new one for Christmas last year. We got ourselves a digital video camera last year also. I enjoy taking digital still photos more than video although I want to do some experimenting with video blogging in the next few months. I'd like to get my own digital still camera, like an ELF or something. Something I can keep in my pocket. There've been a lot of times when I've wanted to snap a quick picture.

8. What about televisions? Have you already embraced the new technologies, such as HDTV, plasma, and flat screen? (On the other hand, you wouldn't remember black & white TVs, would you?)

Here's where we are technologically lacking. We have a 15-year-old tv. We've been talking for years about replacing it. It's only just now getting anywhere near our price range.

The presence of place

I think I carry around a piece, a picture, a feeling of every place I've lived. They become a part of me and a part of the places I move to. People are always a component of that feeling and there are people I carry with me too.

This place and its people have been a large part of my life. Walking around, I remember how happy I was here. Here, I felt supported and appreciated. I remember studying for master's exams in the coffee shop. I was pregnant and had to settle for decaf coffee and water while my friends drank beer and espresso (such is the nature of exams). I remember how we assigned ourselves to a period of literature. I took medieval and renaissance. I made it my goal to connect everything to Gawain and the Green Night. I remember laughing over Tom Jones and being frustrated by Gravity's Rainbow. I remember barbecues with my friends Sally and Doug and their kids. Yesterday, I walked the same route I used to take to and from work every day. I can remember breathing in the fresh air, admiring people's quirky gardens and wondering when the abandoned gas station had its heyday. Walking past the park I used to live next to, I remember taking my kids there, watching my daughter's first trip down a slide, watching my son play catch with my husband. I remember birthday parties here. I remember being able to come here just to get out of the house and sitting on a bench to read while Geeky Boy played in the sandbox. In the house we lived in, once owned by the football coach, we had friends over to play games, to drink wine and beer, to talk about politics and work. In the back yard, a grassy slope into the woods, we put up our first swingset. In the street in front of our house, Geeky Boy rode a bike and a skateboard for the first time.

In school, I felt successful. I had a cohort of friends who were serious about the work, but also able to let their hair down once in a while. We shared our triumphs and our difficulties with our research and our teaching. Much of what I know about teaching and much of what inspires me about teaching comes from this place, especially from my current advisor and the atmosphere he created for us as graduate students. He taught us well. He taught us to take teaching seriously and to consider carefully how we approach what we do in the classroom. My favorite phrase that he uses is "guardedly optimistic" and I think there are so many ways in which I approach my work according to that phrase. It's good to be optimistic, but one must always be aware that there are pitfalls in everything. Having lunch with him and then coffee with another committe member yesterday reminded me of what I like so much about the faculty here. They push you, but in a supportive way. They ask pointed questions, but only so that you can think about where to go next and the best way to present your ideas. It's not a test; it's a conversation.

Though I am happy where I am now and have developed the kind of support I had here, I see now why leaving here was so hard on me. It really felt like home. I felt embedded and invested here in a way that I hadn't felt at any other place. Now I feel comfortable carrying the image and feeling of this place with me. It is a connection I will always have.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Travel notes

When I travel, I watch people. I try to figure out who people are and why they're traveling. I don't actually speak to people, though, because that might destroy the image I create in my head.

On my plane, there were two extremely well-dressed women, one a little older than me and one about 55 or so. They were calm and poised. I assume they were business women, perhaps connected to WalMart in some way (I'm in the land of WalMart). There was also a 30ish couple with two young children. I immediately pegged them as academics. And I was right. I overheard the woman tell someone they were visiting family but that her husband was a professor on the east coast. Also, there were two youngish couples, one possibly not quite 30 and another mid30s (how old do I feel that I thought these couples were young!). They were stylish, seemingly most interested in looking good. I imagined they had beautiful houses with well manicured lawns. There were also two men in the 50s or early 60s, smartly dressed in slacks and sweaters and really nice shoes. Their hair was neatly cut. I imagined they played golf and worked only 3 or 4 days a week. They had money.

I wonder what people peg me as.

It's interesting to see land between stuff. I'm so used to every square inch being taken up with development.

Saturday, February 25, 2006


I shouldn't have written that post about being stuck in Chicago. Because I was stuck in Chicago again. We got on the plane. They declared it broken, but fixable. Then they declared it fixed but unable to fly because the plane had been broken in the same way before. So we got off the plane. And waited. And waited. And waited. 3 hours later, we finally got on another plane.

And now, a long cab ride and a french dip later, here I am with free internets. Yay! I have observations, but they'll have to wait until tomorrow. Sleepless in Seattle is on (who can resist Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks?) And I have only a few pages left of Assassination Vacation. It's really good. More on that later too.


Traveling and hanging out in airports and train stations is such a weird thing. I really think Bitch, Ph.D. is on to something with her idea that we should focus on public transportation as a way to solve all kinds of other problems. One is forced into close contact with all kinds of people you wouldn't normally be. Some of those people are, unfortunately, annoying. Why, why do people talk really loudly on their cell phones about their personal lives? I mean, I can understand checking in with relatives and friends who might be meeting you at your destination, but going on and on about your life while the rest of us are forced to listen to you--sheesh. The woman behind me on the plane was doing this and she was talking about something in Philly and couldn't remember something about it. The girl next to me turned around and answered her question. As if that's not hint enough that her conversation was a little loud. But no, it went on for a while longer. I miss my iPod.

I was thinking as I was landing that the last time I was in Chicago was on my way to Philly to live there. But then as I was wandering the corridors, I realized I'd been here shortly after we moved, on my to Grad School City and I think I've passed through before not that long ago. My trip on my way to Philly was memorable because I was stuck here for about 20 hours. I had flown into O'Hare from London after spending 4 weeks there. Mr. Geeky had arranged all of our stuff to be moved to Philly, spent a couple of weeks there getting somewhat settled and then drove back to Indianapolis to meet me and we were all planning to drive to Philly. I took a shuttle from O'Hare to Midway. Between the time I got to Midway and my flight, a huge thunderstorm hit that affected flights into and out of the airport. I had arrived around noon. I was supposed to leave around 5:00. I didn't leave until midnight. And there was the jet lag. Perhaps that was an omen. I felt kind of out of sorts for about a year after we arrived.

At any rate, here I am, waiting to fly into grad school city. I've got plans galore with friends galore and I'm really looking forward to it. There will be pictures, of course.

Friday, February 24, 2006

On abortion

I know no one asked for this and I'm not writing anything myself, just pointing you to others who are doing a bang-up job.

Phantom does a great analysis of the Act passed by South Dakota. There's humor in it, but you can definitely "hear" the anger, too. I'm with you Phantom.

Elise has a roundup of lots of others writing about all that's going on on the anti-choice front.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Junior mythbuster

I'm working on a technology post, but wanted to do a short kid post. Around here, we're big Mythbusters fans. We have a long tradition in our house of researching urban myths. Geeky Boy gained fame in his school for speaking up when a teacher tried to foist off an urban legend as true. She was doing it on purpose to get the kids to learn to question things and Geeky Boy was the only one who spoke up. That's my boy!

So tonight, I let him stay up a little past his bedtime to watch the rest of a Mythbusters episode. Afterwards, I settled into bed with the laptop and Geeky Boy, I thought, was settled into his own bed. Then I heard him galloping down the stairs. He zipped into my room, into the bathroom.

"Geeky Boy," I said, "Are you okay?" I was thinking he might be coming down with the stomach flu or something.
"Yeah," he said, poking his head around the corner, "I'm doing an experiment."
Then he came completely out of the bathroom, put his hands on his hips and said, "I'm becoming a Junior Mythbuster."

There are two paper boats in my sink, one made out of regular typing paper and one made out of construction paper. He's testing to see which one sinks first. He thinks it'll be the regular paper one. What do you think?

Update: The typing paper boat sunk first. It was completely underwater this morning while the construction paper boat was still afloat.

Possible future posts

I have a lot on my mind lately, but no time to post until later. Maybe you can vote on what you'd like to hear about.

  1. My kids--thoughtful stuff, not funny.
  2. My mother--actual positive stuff.
  3. Abortion--back alley, here we come.
  4. Technology--where we're headed.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

8:30 and I'm ready for bed

It's true. I'm ready to pass out. I'm exhausted. But in a good way. I was too tired to even take a bath, opting instead to wait for a time when I could get into my pajamas and curl up in bed. Going to bed before the kids? Is that an option?

P.S. I ran a conference. (with some help, of course.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

My so-called crazy life

The next few weeks are going to be filled with stuff, lots of good stuff, but still crazy. Things will settle down on April 2. Seriously.

First, tomorrow is the conference I've organized. This weekend (through Tues.), I'm headed to Grad School city to meet with my dissertation committee. Mr. Geeky leaves the day after I get back for his own conference. Two days after he leaves is the school talent show, which Geeky Girl is participating in again. A week after that, I'm headed to SXSW Interactive. (Man, am I excited about that!) Things are semi-calm for a couple of weeks until Proposals and intern applications for the annual summer program are due 3 days after I return. I will have to conduct student interviews and decide which proposals to accept by April 15th at the latest. On March 31st, I head to Mt. Holyoke for a workshop on Women's Public Voices as part of a grant I'm participating in. Oh, and I'm leading a session on blogging at that one.

Writing all that down wears me out. But, I'm really, really excited by it all. Some of these things I pursued on my own, but some I just fell into. I have to say, I really feel like I'm doing what fulfills me. Someone said to me today, "You look really happy and relaxed. What's going on?" I don't really know except that I just feel in a groove right now.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Comment geekiness

I was having an email exchange with some folks about cocomment and I finally got around to signing up for an account. While I was tinkering around, I also ran into Commentosphere. Both sites are an attempt to syndicate everything you say everywhere. A neat idea in theory. I've been wanting something like this for a while. Often the comments I make elsewhere are related to things I'm discussing here and maybe people who visit here would be interested in those conversations as well. You can see an example of what cocomment does in my sidebar.

The sucky thing is that neither program works well with Haloscan. Sure, I can manually enter comments from Haloscan into Commentosphere, but I'm just not going to go to all that effort. It appears that Cocomment is working on this issue, so maybe this will work soon. And if any of you more techie people out there have any answers or workarounds, I'd love to hear them.

The Olympics

Geeky Girl is glued to the Olympics right now. We caught her watching them up on Geeky Boy's tv which gets two channels (not clearly). So we agreed to record some of them for her. When they came on and did the preview of what was going to be on, Geeky Girl shouted, "Hey, Mom, it's all girls!" Kind of breaks your heart.

Mr. Geeky and I were lamenting that we hadn't really gotten into the Olympics. We both have fond memories of the 1976 Olympics, how we all watched them as a family and cheered on our favorites. There is something heartening about cheering for someone to achieve their dreams.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Local politics

I've just returned from a rally mostly for Lois Murphy, running for the 6th Congressional District, and Joe Sestak, running in my district, the 7th. One thing that's interesting about being involved in local politics is realizing that these people are human beings who are not perfect. After both Lois and Joe gave brief speeches, Ed Rendell took the stage. He reframed the debate in some interesting ways. For example, he spoke of seeing spending as investment. He also talked about the immorality of pro-lifers who claim to value human life but then cut funding for WIC, for Medicaid, for education. Say what will about Rendell, he is a good speaker.

I couldn't find the camera before I left, but I think I saw the back of Eric's head as he was snapping a photo of Rendell.

Update: It appears Atrios was there.

Semi-random links

On the mommy track at Bitch Ph.D.
(can't get the specific post to link). It's the latest today.

On the "choices" mothers have for employment: mamazine :: Breeder Cow: If I Were President

I appear in a dream at Running*Cooking*Writing: When bloggers invade your dreams

I'm headed to a political rally later today (after revising chapter 2 and giving it to my local readers--Yay!!!) I'll see Gov. Rendell and some other dems. Will report back with pictures. In the meantime, entertain yourselves with the links above.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Me in boxes

Your #1 Match: INFP

The Idealist

You are creative with a great imagination, living in your own inner world.
Open minded and accepting, you strive for harmony in your important relationships.
It takes a long time for people to get to know you. You are hesitant to let people get close.
But once you care for someone, you do everything you can to help them grow and develop.

You would make an excellent writer, psychologist, or artist.

Your #2 Match: INTP

The Thinker

You are analytical and logical - and on a quest to learn everything you can.
Smart and complex, you always love a new intellectual challenge.
Your biggest pet peeve is people who slow you down with trivial chit chat.
A quiet maverick, you tend to ignore rules and authority whenever you feel like it.

You would make an excellent mathematician, programmer, or professor.

Your #3 Match: ENFP

The Inspirer

You love being around people, and you are deeply committed to your friends.
You are also unconventional, irreverant, and unimpressed by authority and rules.
Incredibly perceptive, you can usually sense if someone has hidden motives.
You use lots of colorful language and expressions. You're qutie the storyteller!

You would make an excellent entrepreneur, politician, or journalist.

Geek out!

Our Tivo updated last night and added some really cool features. My favorite? Podcasts! I was even able to add my own url. I can't tell you how cool I think this is. You can also search theater listings and even buy tickets. It's obviously a deal they've cut with Yahoo. I'm sure some Silicon Valley type wrote about this months ago, but it's much more fun to see it live and in person. I heart Tivo!

$#!@%*& Figures

That's all have to say. I hate arranging figures. The stupid program crashes every single time. I shook my fists at the computer, but apparently it didn't feel threatened enough. Time for food, I guess.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Dilemmas faced by parents who work at home

  • Should I work on chapter 2 of the dissertation or go to the grocery store? It's true we only have peanut m&m's and coke to eat, but it's also true that I'll be a little behind on my (self-imposed) schedule.
  • Should I organize my office so I know where my books and articles actually are or should I do a load of laundry? It's true that Geeky Boy has taken to digging through the baskets searching for anything remotely clean, but it's also true that I need to start thinking about the next chapter and to do that, I need to collect everything.
  • If I go to the grocery store, should I buy stuff that's good for us or stuff that's easy to make (note that I'm not a skilled enough cook that easy and good for you are one in the same)? It's true that lately we've been surviving on pasta and pizza, but it's also true that I'm feeling lazy and we're all blessed with good metabolism.
Update: Decided I could squeeze one more pasta meal out of the ingredients in the cabinet. Ordered groceries online. Now I can focus on the dissertation tomorrow. Aren't rationalizations grand?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Finding balance: parenting and working

Ironically, before the whole explosion of posts over housework on the internets occurred, I attended a talk about social policies and gender equity. And then, I went to another one. The first talk occurred within the framework of emergence (the idea that simple rules can lead to complex systems). The argument was that social policies, such as one finds in Sweden and Norway, that are meant to "force" gender equity within the household and within the workplace end up reinforcing gender inequity. Why? Because women take advantage of such policies much more often than men. The connection to emergence was that perhaps these top-down policies were not the way to go and that it might be better to try to enact some smaller, incremental actions to gradually change the social landscape.

The second talk was also about policy issues, this time with federal workers. Again, "family-friendly" policies were largely used by women and not men. The speaker hadn't come to any conclusions yet, since her study was just beginning, but she had conducted some interviews with the women and the key issue was that they were feeling somewhat frantic in their lives. They had long commutes to and from work. They might not see their children in the morning and when they got home, after six usually, they threw together something for dinner, helped with homework, bathed and showered kids and tucked them into bed, all at a kind of whirlwind pace (FYI: some days this is my life). The women took advantage of part-time hours, flex-time, and telecommuting in an attempt to slow down their lives.

During both these talks, there were students in attendance and I have to say, a couple of them scared me a little. One woman said, shouldn't a woman be able to choose to stay at home and feel satisfied with that and society should feel satisfied with that? And other felt the workplace was too harsh and maybe we shouldn't ask for these policies or take advantage of them. I'm paraphrasing and probably distorting a little since this was a while ago. First, there's that word choose. Linda Hirshman threw it around in her essay a lot. Honestly, I don't think there's that much choice involved for a great many women. And, the arguments that are being put forth here, here, here, and here also suggest that there are greater societal forces at work that rule out completely free choice. In a sense, all these folks agree with Linda Hirshman that the real issue for gender equity is in the home. I don't completely disagree with that, but I think there's more to it.

First of all, Hirshman argues that feminism changed the workplace. Sure, okay, there's family-friendly policies now. But, as I mentioned above, mostly women use them, not men. Hirshman, and some of the others linked to above would say that's because women feel the need to do most of the housework. However, I would argue that it's also true that the workplace hasn't really changed. That is, in a lot of places (maybe in most places), the culture hasn't changed. There's still a premium placed on the number of hours worked (remember Lawrence Summers?) rather than the quality of work done. There's still an idea that if you're not in the office, you're not working. And there's a premium placed on aggressively climbing the ladder vs. becoming good at your particular position. Among many other things. So, yes, it would help to even things out at home, but you'd still have this problem of the work culture facing both men and women.

And the feminists did nothing about school. Work hours are 9-5. School hours are 8:30-3:00. Anyone see a problem with this? Frankly I'd rather see the work hours cut back rather than extending the school hours, but given our culture's push for productivity, that's probably not going to happen. I found out at the second talk that my school district's entire schedule revolves around the high school football team. Yep, that's right. School lets out at 2:30 so the football team can practice. As several of us stood around talking about all the issues we faced as working mothers, we all kept saying, "It's just so complicated." Because every suggestion we made for fixing the bigger problems ran up against a huge cultural problem. What would stay at home parents of school-aged children do if school let out at 5 instead of 3? Would they end up working? Is this a good thing?

I seriously find myself confronted with the problem of being a working mother within a culture that believes mothers shouldn't work on a nearly daily basis. Example, tomorrow is a half day. Monday is President's Day. Thankfully, I have the kind of job with tons of time I can take for whatever reason I want, so I'm taking the day off. In the past, when I haven't been so lucky, Mr. Geeky has taken on the child care. Not all families have this luxury. Sometimes both parents have jobs with little time off. Another example, Geeky Girl had homework that required her to go outside and collect weather-related things and draw pictures of them and make notes about them. She received this assignment on a Monday. It was due on Friday. Given that we don't get home until 6 p.m. every night and it's dark by then, when the hell were we supposed to complete this assignment? Oh, right, between the hours of 3 and 5, when I'm supposed to be home.

It gets tiring to fight these little things. I almost sent a note to the teacher telling her that while I thought the assignment was a good one, she might want to assign it over a weekend when those of us who work might have time to help their children complete it. I have serious issues with homework anyway that are not helped by the fact that we don't have as much time as we'd like to help with it. With NCLB and the PTA and the School Board who wants high PSSA scores, I'm not going to get very far asking for a reduction in homework or a free class period to do it in or something that might accommodate dual-income families.

Instead of fighting these things, I think, maybe I should think about part-time work or quitting altogether and staying home. Because frankly, I don't like being tired all the time and I want to raise good children and I think I could do a better job at that if I were around more. And I think that happens to a lot of women (and maybe men, too).

I think parents who stay home should be valued. The work they do is difficult and important. I'd like to see them be economically rewarded as well. But I also agree with Hirshman that society is missing out on some excellent talent because highly-educated women are not working. Unlike Hirshman, though, I don't blame the women or feminism. I blame society for not making a truly family-friendly (heck, human-friendly) work environment, for having Martha Stewart be our standard of housekeeping, and for having stupid tv shows that have large lazy men sitting around drinking beer while their svelte wives make dinner for them.

A while back, I wrote to Bounce (owned by Procter and Gamble) after seeing yet another commercial where they show only women doing the laundry. I said that they could change the way people view household work by showing men doing the laundry. Their response?

While we agree that the roles of men and women are different today, our ads go through a lot of testing to find the one that is most broadly appealing. We rely on consumer feedback, such as yours, to tell us how effective our ads are. Overall, we want to show a variety of life situations in our ads in order to reach as many people as possible.
Basically, showing women doing the laundry tests well.

I think I have a lot more to say about all of this, but I'm going to stop now. Like I said, something comes up every day. Maybe instead of saving it up for a huge post like this, I should blog the snippets. Quite a thought, huh?

Update: Apparently, I'm obsessed. This was written almost exactly a year ago.

Huge post on the burner

I have been doing some reading and thinking and I have something cooking. But I've been too busy to actually write the post yet. Maybe you'll see it later today. Maybe tomorrow. I won't promise greatness, but at least goodness.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Johari Window

Couldn't resist--via Bitch, Ph.D.

My Johari Window

What Cheney should have done

About an hour after the shooting occurred, Cheney should have called a press conference at the ranch and should have said something along these lines:
Just over an hour ago, I accidentally shot my good friend, Harry Whittington. He has been taken to the hospital and I am on my way there. I am, of course, distressed about this accident and wish him the speediest of recoveries. I turn you over now to ______ who will fill you in on the details while I am at the hospital. Thank you.

That response, however, would require a man with some integrity.

In other news:

Your tax dollars at work:
$1.9 billion for administration p.r.
$7 billion in credits to the oil companies (note: this is on top of $25 billion in profits)

Your Homeland Security Department at work:
Missing teleconference
Still wiretapping

Our new family motto: "I reject your reality and substitute my own." (bonus points if you know its source)

Monday, February 13, 2006

Seriously lacking motivation

I cannot seem to focus on anything--except playing a video game--for more than 20 minutes. Ugh. I think I'm just gonna go with it and blow most of the rest of the day off. I've been home with the kids all day. They've been in and out. I did manage to get some writing done, which I ended up deleting (sigh). And I rewrote an introduction and did some rearranging. I think I'm going to go into Starbucks tonight without the computer and do some longhand writing and revision. Crazy, I know.

For some reason, I feel restless. I think that's contributing to my lack of focus. There are probably other factors as well. It's driving me crazy though.

Post-tenure life

Completely and totally lazy!

Yes, we celebrated in our own quiet and snowed-in way. There was champagne, a fire, even a champagne glass that almost made it into the fire. But mostly, we allowed ourselves to just be, to not have a next hoop to jump through, to not have to think about where our next move or job would be. It's interesting how, even if you feel pretty good about your chances at tenure, you still think about what you'll do if you don't get it. At least once a week for the last 6 months, we've discussed what we'd do. That's a real burden that you don't even realize is a burden until it's gone.

Some moments from Saturday and Sunday:
  • The kids completely mauled Mr. Geeky when he got home.
  • After it had sunk in a little, Mr. Geeky stood up with his arms in the air and said, "I'm calling all my ex-girlfriends!" To which, Geeky Girl replied, "What are you gonna say? Na-na-na-na boo-boo?" (apologies to any ex-girlfriends reading this)
  • Trips to Best Buy and the bookstore before the snow hit.
  • Mythbusters marathon.
  • Comfort food.
  • Phone calls to and from everyone we know.
  • Mr. Geeky telling one of our friends they could now call him dead wood. He has the letter to prove it.
Thanks everyone for your thoughts and congratulations! I have to say that one of the first times I really felt a part of this community was when Anbruch got tenure. I was very anxious about that. And now What Now went through the whole thing earlier in a much more contentious environment. As I said before, the process is gruelling and unfun under even the best of circumstances. It's nice to have a group of people around who know what that's like. So, thanks everyone for just being there.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


Mr. Geeky got tenure! See what Geeky Boy has to say!

Geeky Girl chimes in.

Um, yeah, of course

You Are Scooter

Brainy and knowledgable, you are the perfect sidekick.
You're always willing to lend a helping hand.
In any big event or party, you're the one who keeps things going.
"15 seconds to showtime!"

as seen at Scrivener's

In which I describe my own misbehaving

I very much like Colin's post about Facebook from yesterday. He tries to get at the complex nature of what's going on with Facebook. Students feel like it's a "private" space akin to a dorm room or something. However it's publicly available and staff and faculty can wander around in that space at will. And, as Colin's post suggests, they do.

Colin's post made me think about something that I was involved in many years ago in seventh grade. As a "gifted" student, I had a free period in which I was supposed to be doing homework and working on projects--actually computer programming. There were 5 or 6 of us who were basically left unattended in a classroom. Needless to say, sometimes things got rowdy. Despite being gifted (can I say how much I hate that term, but that's the term that was used then), this was all we got. All of our other classes, except math, we took with the regular kids. And most of us hated them. But we saved most of our hate for our English class in which we were made to read straight through an English book and take multiple choice quizzes which were graded and handed back. Then, going through the rows, each person read a question and gave their answer. That was our classes. No discussion. Not even the writing of an essay. And the teacher, we thought, was mean. She berated people who gave the wrong answer. If you so much as whispered, you might have to write "I will not talk in class" 500 times. The class was, in so many ways, the epitome of all that was wrong with education. Even at the age of 12, we recognized we were being short-changed in some way, that we weren't being treated fairly. Our way of dealing with it? Take it out on the teacher, of course.

One day we're all sitting in this gifted classroom, having finished all our homework, and we're talking about how much we hate this English class and the teacher. Somebody makes a dare. Go into the hallway and yell "I hate Mrs. X." One by one, we did this. Note that her classroom was across the hall, a little diagonal from the classroom we were in. The dare was significant because there was a good chance she might hear it. And hear it she did, when about the third one of us (not me) shouted just a little louder than the rest of us. And we all got in trouble. We were threatened with losing our free period and other punishments.

In a way, this is similar to the students on Facebook who shout (digitally) how much they hate a professor (or on ratemyprofessors.com). The students who do this on Facebook, however, are shocked that there are consequences for their actions. We, on the other hand, were not in the least bit shocked that we got in trouble. I'm certain we hurt that poor teacher's feelings just as students who publish mean things about professors hurt their feelings.

I'm conflicted about Facebook and MySpace. On the one hand, I think it's good for students and teenagers to have a virtual space to connect to others and share their thoughts and ideas and even advertise parties and the like. On the other hand, I think they need to learn a lot about having their words in the public sphere. And, I'm also conflicted about administrators who trawl such spaces. I think it's appropriate for another student to express concern about say, another student's drinking problem that's manifested itself on Facebook, but it seems to me in some way inappropriate for administrators to go looking for violations of some kind. As Colin pointed out, Facebook doesn't fit neatly on the public-private spectrum. Does an administrator trawling through Facebook equate with him or her wandering the dorm hallway and poking their head into rooms? Or does it equate with him or her scrutinizing the publicly posted flyers?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Frantic Friday

Once upon a time, we said that we might use Friday as a time to dive into projects, test out some new technology, or otherwise take a more laid-back stance. However, most Fridays end up like today. Back-to-back meetings or lots of people stopping in to get something done. I don't mind the frantic pace, just that it doesn't coincide with my expectations. I think I need to adjust my expectations. Actually, Mondays end up being fairly slow. And this week, it was Thursday that was slow. I don't mind unpredictability; it makes life interesting. But sometimes I need to plan.

I hope everyone else is having a less frantic Friday. I'm definitely looking forward to kicking back later. Plus we're supposed to get snow tomorrow (in addition to news).

Thursday, February 09, 2006

T minus 2 days

In two days, we find out if Mr. Geeky gets tenure. It's been a 10-year saga for us. Five years in one job and five years in this one. For Mr. Geeky, since the beginning of his Ph.D., it's been 18 years. After 18 years, he gets assurance that he can keep his job (or not). Shouldn't he be retiring by now?

To people outside of academe, tenure seems like the weirdest thing ever. Some might be familiar with K-12 schools who grant tenure solely based on time worked. And there are the David Hororwitz's of the world. Many have asked me what Mr. Geeky's chances are and it's hard to answer. To me, they seem good. He's published the right amount. He's got good evaluations and his service is outstanding. But you never know. And that's what gets people--even those in my department who've been around for a while and should know. Well, what could happen, they ask? Something might not be good enough. And, as Dean Dad pointed out a long time ago, sometimes people get denied tenure for lack of fit. Maybe Mr. Geeky's work is too much like someone else's. Who knows.

Personally, I don't like the tenure system. I believe in the academic freedom it bestows on people post tenure, but I think the system is extremely flawed. At the MLA convention, a panel proposed changes in the tenure process which represented a realization, in part, that one size does not fit all. In other words, what might be appropriate for tenure at Harvard isn't necessarily appropriate at State U. The ratcheting up of requirements has been problematic across many disciplines. In fact, that's primarily why Mr. Geeky left his first job. During his time there, leadership changed and they decided they wanted to aspire to something bigger, changing the requirements for tenure midstream.

Though we definitely feel good about Mr. Geeky's chances, it's still weird to think that in two days, our whole life could change.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Random bullets of crap

  • First, thanks to Ianqui for coining the "Random Bullets of Crap" title. Some days, it's the best thing going for me.
  • Thank FSM for mothers like this and damn, I wish I'd seen the interview with Felicity Huffman (via mc).
  • Man, I hate seeing people's books along their sidebars and knowing I don't have time to read them. Don't get me wrong. I'm actually really enjoying most of my dissertation reading (sick, I know). But I long to read some of those books. Some of them are just calling my name.
  • Keeping children clothed costs a buttload of money. I just plopped down a buttload for new shoes, a pair of jeans, a jacket and a couple of shirts. And we're talking discount store here. And we're talking waiting until the shoes are torn and frayed and the jeans are worse than Irkle's.
  • I had a great day at work today. Really. I decided to take take a walk past all the offices in one building and poke my head in and say hello to people. One guy I saw was teaching a seminar and he left his seminar and chased me down the hall so he could show me something. Another woman had her office door cracked and it was someone who hadn't emailed me back about something and I knew needed help. I spent ten minutes helping her do something. That felt really good. And there were positive vibes everywhere.
  • I am headed back to Grad School city later this month to meet with the dissertation committee. I thought maybe they wanted to grill me, so I asked what I should be prepared for. My committee chair said, basically, this is for you. Tell us what we can do to help. We may have questions, but you should ask us questions too. Even though I know they may have some hard questions for me, I can't tell you how good this makes me feel. It also helps to have support locally too.
  • My mom called me cosmopolitan. It was pretty funny. She called to ask advice about a trip to DC. It was nice to be able to help. She also ranted on Bush for a bit. :)
  • Mr. Geeky now has my illness. He's watching the Nova on bogpeople.

Scary Moments

So yesterday, I was sick. I felt especially yucky in the morning, so just before lunch, I decided a hot bath was in order. Unable to completely relax, I took a dissertation book in with me. I left the hearing on downstairs so I could hear various senators' and Alberto Gonzales' voices drifting under the crack in the door. Mr. Geeky was in his office, getting ready to leave. I could hear him typing and shuffling papers. About 10 minutes into my bath, he yelled through the door that he was leaving.

I read a couple of chapters of my book. Then I got ready to get out. As I was letting the water out, I thought I heard noises downstairs. Squirrels on the back porch, I thought. Then as I was drying off, the noises became more distinct. They sounded like footsteps. I wrapped the towel around me tightly and stepped quietly to the crack in the door to listen. Yes, definitely footsteps. Someone was in the house! I glanced at the table in the hallway. There was a flashlight there, but it wasn't heavy enough to do any real damage. Should I call out? Maybe it was a neighbor or a kid. What if it's a huge guy, though? Then he'd come racing upstairs and do me in.

The bedroom door wasn't far away. I dashed quietly across the hall into the bedroom and tried to close the door quietly, but it wouldn't close. I opted for slamming it and locking it quickly. As I was reaching for the phone to call 911, I heard

I paused.
"I'm still here."
I opened the door. "You scared the crap out of me. I was just about to call 911."
Mr. Geeky laughed.
"I thought there was a huge man downstairs."
"Well, there was."
"Yeah, right."
"What was your plan?"
"I was gonna get the phone, hide in the other bathroom and call 911. I figured if the guy had to bust down two doors instead of one, the police might get here before he got me."
"You'd be dead." He shrugged. "But it was the right thing to do, I guess."

Monday, February 06, 2006

From the floor of the hearing

Not literally, of course. I'm home sick today so I'm lying on the couch and subjecting myself to the Judiciary Committee Hearings. What the whole argument seems to hinge on are two words: force and war. First, those who support the NSA program believe that surveillance is included in the word "force" as it was articulated in the Congress's resolution giving the president the power to use force in the war against Iraq. Therefore, they see the program as legal. Second, those who support the program believe that we are at war. Given the first premise and combining it with this one, the program is legal because surveillance is force and becaue we are at war. I personally don't believe surveillance constitutes the use of force as it applies to the resolution about going to war in Iraq. Secondly, I don't think we're at war. There are warlike activities going on in Iraq; certainly those who are stationed there would say that we are at war. But the relationship between that war and some kind of war on terror is tenuous at best. I'm tired of our leaders saying we are at war in order to take away our rights.

Cooperation of the telecoms

According to the USA Today, Sprint, MCI and AT&T are all participating in the NSA program. I don't expect to get any response to my letter, but I'm thinking of going VOIP.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

There's my tinfoil hat

I wondered where it was.

Successfully sent off a letter to Specter and to Sprint. Verizon, however, was unsuccessful. I kept receiving error messages. I'm thinking they don't have the capability to participate in any wiretapping program if they can't accept a simple email. I'm going to make another attempt tomorrow. I might have to resort to snail mail.

By the way, I read through the privacy policies on both sites and they both say that they will not disclose my personal information, including phone records, unless subpoenaed or by court order. Well, there is no court order for the NSA wiretapping program, so its possible that if these companies are participating, then they're in violation of their customer agreements. That's one of the issues involved in the EFF suit as well.

Update: Apparently, Mr. Specter got some balls. We'll see if he keeps them during the hearing. If you're so inclined, email him.

Big Brother is watching

Tomorrow begins the Senate Judiciary Committee's Hearing on the NSA's wiretapping program. So far, there's only one witness on the list--Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The Senate committee could (and should) subpeona telecommunications companies. If there's any more evidence that these people are in the pockets of the Republicans, it's their silence:

Tapped Out - Why Congress won't get through to the NSA. By Patrick Radden Keefe
The ranking Democrat on the House judiciary committee, John Conyers, D-Mich., wrote to 20 telecom companies and Internet providers two weeks ago, asking about their involvement in the NSA program. He has yet to receive any responses. But if representatives of those companies were subpoenaed by the Senate committee, for public-relations and legal reasons, they would have to appear. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights nonprofit, just launched a class-action lawsuit against AT&T, alleging that the company let the NSA access its powerful database of customer call information. A corporation can't hide from that sort of bad publicity forever, and it would look decidedly dodgy if the telecom CEOs refused to show up.
It's unlikely, however that the committee will take the next necessary step and subpoena the executives. Why not write your senators and ask them to do so?

The EFF is doing the job our government should be doing. They've filed a class-action suit against AT&T.

The article quoted from above compares the current hearing to the Church committee hearings from the Vietnam era which eventually led to the creation of FISA. It's distressing to see how much backbone we've all lost. Maybe you could fight with your pocketbooks too. Check your privacy statements on your telephone accounts and then write those companies, telling them that you won't do business with them if they do business with the NSA.

The worst part about the whole NSA wiretapping program is that time and time again, people say it's not even effective:

Surveillance Net Yields Few Suspects
The scale of warrantless surveillance, and the high proportion of bystanders swept in, sheds new light on Bush's circumvention of the courts. National security lawyers, in and out of government, said the washout rate raised fresh doubts about the program's lawfulness under the Fourth Amendment, because a search cannot be judged "reasonable" if it is based on evidence that experience shows to be unreliable. Other officials said the disclosures might shift the terms of public debate, altering perceptions about the balance between privacy lost and security gained.

The minimum legal definition of probable cause, said a government official who has studied the program closely, is that evidence used to support eavesdropping ought to turn out to be "right for one out of every two guys at least." Those who devised the surveillance plan, the official said, "knew they could never meet that standard -- that's why they didn't go through" the court that supervises the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.


But pattern matching, he argued, will not find it. Techniques that "look at people's behavior to predict terrorist intent," he said, "are so far from reaching the level of accuracy that's necessary that I see them as nothing but civil liberty infringement engines."

"Frankly, we'll probably be wrong 99 percent of the time," he said, "but 1 percent is far better than 1 in 100 million times if you were just guessing at random. And this is where the culture has to make some decisions."
Gonzales, of course, claims that the media is all wrong:

TIME.com: How Gonzales Plans to Defend Eavesdropping -- Page 1
"Contrary to the speculation reflected in some media reporting," Gonzales writes, "the terrorist surveillance program is not a dragnet that sucks in all conversations and uses computer searches to pick out calls of interest. No communications are intercepted unless first it is determined that one end of the call is outside of the country and professional intelligence experts have probable cause (that is, ‘reasonable grounds to believe') that a party to the communication is a member or agent of al-Qaeda or an affiliated terrorist organization."
But knowing what I know of how much upper level management understands about the nitty gritty of how technology tools work, I'd say it's more likely that Gonzales is deluding himself. The White House may be hoping that the program doesn't work the way the media says it does, that is sweeping up data fairly indiscriminately, but it's probable that computers just aren't that smart yet. And knowing that Dear Leader doesn't like to be contradicted, it's equally likely that the NSA has told him, even though it's not true, that the program works in a targeted way.

I think we have to fight this. Here's the main committee page on the hearing itself--pretty much empty:
United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary

And here's the list of members. Write them. And then in 2006, vote against the ones who fail us.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

I'm going all Oprah on you

Work has been extraordinarily difficult to the point where I've been sucked into a vortex of bitterness and resentment. So I thought I should work my way out of this by writing about something good every day along the lines of Oprah's gratitude journal.

So yesterday's good things. Yesterday, I got the announcement out for the summer program that I run. That included updating the web site a bit and composing several emails. Also, I ran into a professor at lunch who thanked me for setting up the blog software and who offered to get me involved in a couple of things. Also, I had a nice conversation with another faculty member about his writing seminar. It began with a technical question and shifted to discussing some pedagogical issues that have very little to do with technology. Then, there was a good email exchange with another faculty member about using maps.

These were all things that made me feel accomplished and recognized for my intellect.

Friday, February 03, 2006

More science-y poetry

The Origin
(for Mr. Geeky)

When I think of you, I want to eat grapes,
Seedless grapes I cap pop in my mouth,
And feel the juice explode against the walls
Of my cheeks, imagine we swim in a pool blue
As the summer sky, and dance naked in clouds,
The way we might in snow if it weren't so cold.
Fish know only water gliding over scales,
But cold like folds of satin it drapes our bodies
In sapphire, clings to us after we emerge,
Glistening in sunlight. How can I tell you
My vision? Could I open a door, invite
You in? Could I give it like an egg nestled
In my hand? Before I met you, I felt
Insane. I lay in fields with my cat dreams,
With everything going in slow motion.
And back in my room I wanted to lay flat,
Stretch myself thin, become part of the floor.
Now you tell me my heart is your origin,
My arms the x axis, my torso, legs the y.
So I can stretch now into infinity;
The lines of all my desires like asymptotes
Are reaching for something never attainable.
But Love, I cannot make my dream a line.
I might make it a sphere or cylinder,
A kaleidoscope, an iris blooming, a bird
Just hatched. It's a secret I whisper to you.
Just think of the way I lie, my arms outstretched,
An axis. Just think of grapes, blue pools, white clouds.
Lean close. Hold out your arms.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

On Inlaws

I love this post on inlaws. Seriously. If you have inlaws or think you'll have inlaws and there are children involved, you should read it. And then send it to your inlaws.
Raising WEG: Grandmothers

Life is good again

So I had a couple of days there where everything seemed to rub me the wrong way. I was seriously considering a need for mediatation. Still think that would be a good idea. Anyway, I'm back at normal levels of happiness, about 80% (because life may be good, but it sure ain't perfect). I'm enjoying writing the dissertation even while know that I can't know everything. Because you know what, I know enough. And when I read new stuff, I'm not saying, hell, I don't know what he/she is talking about. Instead, I think, well, that's interesting. I agree here, but not here. And that's way more fun than total confusion and dismay.

I have some days blocked out for myself in the not to distant future. Also, I'm going to SXSW, which I'm totally psyched about. And I'll be going to BlogHer, which I'm also totally psyched about. I'm running a conference myself that takes place in a few weeks which I'm totally psyched about. Could I be more totally psyched?

All of this, of course, could be a result of lack of sleep and general exhaustion. You know how kids get giddy at slumber parties after a certain hour? Well, that could be me right now. But what the heck, I'm going with it. I think I still have kids somewhere and I think they're doing okay.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Public Thank You

I want to send a public thank you out to my friend Christa, who kindly agreed to read over and comment on my proposal. She offered some wonderful suggestions and things for me to think about. She was kind of enough to listen to me ramble on about my thoughts and ideas, which, we came to believe are somewhat radical, something I find amusing.

Anyway, if you're so inclined, I enourage you to visit her site and evaluate it.

The terrorists won

I didn't listen to the SOTU, but I read summaries and listened to the coverage of it on NPR this morning. If the terrorists' goal is to terrorize us, they've done it. We've lost some of our freedoms and this administration is constantly telling us we should be afraid of them. Of course, this administration thinks the terrorists haven't won because we're not all dead yet and/or we haven't surrendered. That's because they think it's a "traditional" war scenario. They keep telling us we're at war. We're not at war. No official declaration of war has been made. And yet, I feel war weary. The war, however, is not against people "over there." It's against us and our liberties. In that war too, I feel defeated. Soon, I will lose the battle of control over my own body. I've already lost my right to privacy. I could lose the freedom to move about the country or the world. Bush, you win. Yay for you. In winning, you've destroyed my country. Thanks.