Sunday, July 30, 2006

Blogher: Initial thoughts

On the plane, I had written a post about BlogHer that was long and rambly and a bit vitriolic. This article on the conference pretty much explains some of what bothered me about the conference. As soon as I've processed more, I'll write more.

I had a great time hanging out with Julie, Barbara, Dr. Shellie, and Trillwing. I also got to meet Liz and Lisa V. I'm sure I'm missing someone. I met tons of people. There was lots of hugging. It was definitely cool to hang out with a bunch of women who don't think blogging is weird. They do think blogging in an education environment is weird, but that's another story. I had trouble with real names though. I kept referring to people by their blog name. Sigh. I can't help it.

Well, they're boarding my plane, so I'm off. I may or may post the long rambly thing later.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Edubloggers unite

Dr. Kim liveblogged our session and I'm posting the sites people gave me. Since I don't know who's "out" and who's not, I'm just putting the url's here. (hmm, who is she?)

There were some really cool people there and the discussion was totally fun and interesting. I really want to keep it going.

Stab my eyes out with a fork

Okay, I know they need money, but can they find less fake people. I'm totally horrified. They're talking about nuns.

Blogher: sushi report

So Julie came and kidnapped me and took me to meet Janet for sushi. First, I recognized her immediately. She looks a little like her gravatar and as I told her later, she looks like she writes. Don't know how to explain that. She just does. Second, and most important, I felt like we were old friends immediately. On the ride over, we chatted about various things, life plans and whatnot.

Then, we had to wait just a bit for Janet. We ordered beer, planning to drink until Janet arrived, but I think Janet got there before the beer did. We had issues with this all evening. I'll let Julie and Janet do a hardcore review. The sushi was great. I warned Julie, though, that I eat like a bird. I don't think she believed me until we got to the last few pieces of sashimi.

Janet felt like an old friend too. The three of us talked and talked. There was never a lull in conversation. Why can't all my blog friends live near me? Boo.

I get to see Julie again today. Today's schedule looks a little more appealing but many of the sessions I want to see actually coincide with mine. Sigh. I'll report back later.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Blogher: Day 1

I'm in my last session of day one at Blogher, sitting with the two Barbaras, listening to people talk about tagging. I'm amazed at how many people don't really know what tagging is, but this is what this conference is for. This conference definitely has a different feel to it than many other conferences I've been to. Many conferences, including academic ones, have a kind of inside crowd sort of feel to them. You go to learn things but there is an understanding that you have a certain foundation going in.

Here, however, there's an assumption that you have little to no foundation. I was talking to someone about this and we suspect that eventually, there will be tracks for beginners, intermediate and advanced users. I definitely think for technical stuff, there has to be a place where beginners feel comfortable to ask questions and to get the information they need to get started. I've definitely learned something from every session but I would definitely like to see some advanced sessions (hint, hint).

I'm looking forward to our session tomorrow, because I can tell you there's a dearth of educators here. I suspect they're hiding here somewhere. Just a brief spoiler. I'm thinking about the way I feel like a fish out of water at times in my institution while at the same time, I feel the same way in the tech world. When you tell someone here what you do, sometimes you get this look like, "okaaaay." Or you get, "how do you monetize that?" So kind of weird. I'm looking forward to hearing what others have to say.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Bleh, flying

Sometimes flying is good. It gets you where you need to go quickly. The ride is smooth and you don't have to drive. Sometimes, though, flying is harrowing. My dad actually nearly got his pilot's license so I know what all the bumps are, but still. Sometimes, like today, it feels like the pilot's going a little too fast, feeling a little like we're on a sheet of ice and we will not be able to stop . . . for anything . . . not even that large building there. Add to that a few big bumps, a dodge and weave and you've got a recipe for bleh. I honestly thought I was gonna puke for a minute. And I was surrounded by so many dudes who smelled just a little rank after the flight. And I was near the back, so it took forever to get off the plane. I tried deep breathing, but the rankness interfered.

Then I deplaned, headed immediately to the restroom and wondered if I should splash my face or not. I wondered if I looked pale or green (neither, it turned out). I wandered rather aimlessly looking for ginger ale since my flight was delayed over an hour. How can you not have ginger ale? Failing at that mission, I plopped myself at the gate. Now I'm thinking, good FSM, I have to go through this again? What was I thinking? All I know is I'm distracting myself with the in-flight movie. I'm not trying to do anything intellectual like I was doing before. Working on the dissertation? No way. Reading Don Delillo? Not that either. I was punished for that. I think I'm also having a drink as soon as I get to the Hyatt, even if it is midnight my body's time. So there.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


BlogHer is right around the corner. One more day of work and then I take off. I have a few projects to tie up before I go and then I'm ready to have fun and maybe learn some stuff. Here's what I'm looking forward to.

Meeting People

First and foremost, I'm looking forward to meeting other bloggers. I'll be seeing Julie and Dr. Free-Ride on Friday for dinner. I'm very much looking forward to it. What could be more fun than spending some time with some smart, geeky women! I'm reading Dr. Free-Ride's series on Family and Academia right now. Very much enjoying it. Friday morning, I'll be meeting my co-presenters for the first time, Barbara S. and Barbara G. They're both doing some really cool things with technology and education and I'm looking forward to hearing their ideas and to just chatting with them and sharing experiences. We've already done this a little by phone and email, but it'll be great to do this face-to-face.

I think Lisa V. is going? And Mary Tsao will be there. Anyone else?

Learning stuff

I'm actually looking forward to learning a few new technical tricks. I'm sure I could figure out more on my own if I wanted to. It's just nice to have someone show you cool stuff. I'm looking forward to my own session, which is supposed to be like a conversation. I'm interested in hearing what other people think about blogging and education. And I also like hearing about new stuff in general, whether it's about the business of blogging or how to write better or whatever. And, of course, there's as much to learn in the informal conversations in the hallway as there is in the formal sessions.

Being in Calfornia

Although I won't have much time for site seeing, I haven't been to California in about 15 years. I'm looking forward to seeing the west coast again.

I'm honestly not sure how I feel about "separatist" conferences. Then again, I'm at an all women's college and I feel there's value in that. I'm curious to see what a conference that's probably skewed in the opposite gender direction from what I'm used to is like. I know I felt a bit unnerved at SXSW by the predominance of men at the conference. Not intimidated really. Just surprised. Though many of the techie conferences I've been to related to education do skew a little male (especially in the presentations), they're not so overwhelmingly skewed that it's all that noticeable (unless, like me, you always notice these things). I know SXSW is making a concerted effort to diversify its presenters and attendees, but I also know the tech world has its pockets of major maleness. So, I'm just looking forward to it in a kind of anthropological/ethnographic way, too. I'm a people-watcher by nature. I'm sure I'll be reporting my findings here.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The black sheep returns

Actually Mr. Geeky is no black sheep, but he is the only sibling to have left his hometown and only one of a handful of people in his extended family to do so. So his visiting his hometown is a big deal. On the road on Friday, we got many phone calls. What's your schedule? When can we have a huge gathering for you? A family gathering for the Mr. Geeky family is no less than 15 or 20 people. I think it's kind of sweet that the family really wants to see him, but the whole concept is pretty foreign to me. My extended family lives everywhere. Most live on the east coast, but they live in different cities mostly. The ones that live in the same city only see each other occasionally, like for holidays and things. For instance, my mother's two sisters live in the same city as her, but they only get together on Christmas or Thanksgiving (sometimes both). They don't live that close together and heck, they have their own friends and stuff. My dad's siblings are all spread out and so are my cousins on that side. This is just the way things are and everyone's cool with it. No one freaks out if you travel to a city where a relative lives and don't stop in.

Mr. Geeky's family thinks what we just did is a little odd. We came to town for a high school reunion, dropped the kids at his sister's and checked into a hotel. Why would you do that, they say, when there are any number of people you could stay with for free? Maybe we want to be alone or something, I don't know. A gathering did occur but it was low key. Mr. Geeky's brother had us and his dad over for lunch. We thought, because we heard that an aunt and the sister in law were fighting over who was having the thing, that the whole family would be there. It might have been nice to see more people, but it worked out well, I think. Afterwards, we went shopping alone and sat in a hot tub alone and then went to a fancy party thing.

I needlessly worried, of course, about how I looked. I was, quite honestly, one of the best-dressed people in the room. Mr. Geeky's class is huge and made up of people from every economic strata, so there were people in really fancy stuff, people in dressy casual stuff, and people in jeans. At one point, one of Mr. Geeky's classmates actually said to him, you did pretty well for yourself in the wife department. I wanted to roll on the floor laughing. I met some interesting people, though. Everyone was friendly and generally pleasant to talk to. Mr. Geeky and I are reunion goers. We've both been to all our high school reunions and I've been to all my college reunions (Mr. Geeky's school doesn't have them). It's just nice to remember where you came from.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Appearance: dressing

Let's move on from housecleaning to dressing. I'm planning to attend an event this weekend where I have to dress up. I want to look good and, to be frank, I am stressing a little about this whole aging process. At some point, I know I'll come to terms with it, but right now, I'm thinking, "Who stole my 25-year-old body?" Partly, I did. I didn't take care of it. I took for granted my high metabolism. So I didn't exercise much. And now, the thighs don't look as good as I wish they did. And birthing a couple of babies has added to the hip line. The truth is, it's been a rare moment when I've been completely comfortable in my own skin. I am skinny, it's true, but I'm short and growing up, I had a hard time finding clothes that fit. I lived in a small town whose mall carried the standard sizes. I had to shop in the little girls' section for far too long. And that was long before cool little girls' clothes. If you were buying girls' clothes back then, you were investing in unicorns, Holly Hobbie and Winnie-the-Pooh, so not cool for the preteen set.

Today, I still have trouble finding clothes. Unless I want to have every single thing I buy be tailored (who can afford that!), I shop in the petite section. Now I live in a large city, near the second largest mall in the country, and one would think that that would mean a large petite clothing selection. Alas, it does not. I know, I went to them all. What they typically do in petite sections is include the "bestsellers" in the smaller sizes. Problem is, the best sellers for the tall and thin are not necessarily going to look good on the short and hippy. Aside from being short, I'm hippy and absolutely tiny up top. My wedding dress? Size 2 up top, size 8 on the bottom. Seriously. So I have a hard time with dresses and tend to go for separates, further limiting my choices.

I will admit to being a "What Not to Wear" fan. Sometimes, I'm totally surprised by people who desperately cling to their ugly clothes, but other people talk about how hard it is for them to shop and that's why they have no good clothes. I can sympathize. If you have to try on 30 things to find one that looks good, shopping becomes a real chore. And the depression of having to look at yourself in the 29 outfits that don't look good? Yuck. The thing is, I care about how I look. I just don't want it to be so much work.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Neatness, happiness, and class

I've been thinking about Flash's comment on my last post, suggesting that I hadn't taken class into account when examining the state of my house and/or my friend's house as it represented my and their inner state. I definitely think there's some connection between neatness and class that I've likely internalized and not examined critically. In fact, a quick search of the internets reveals that, indeed, neatness and moral virtue were often equated and moral virtue was a marker of a certain class. Further, there is often a connection between cleanliness and happiness. Here's a selection from a paper about small rural towns in New England. Neatness is of utmost importance.
In 1823, its second year of existence, the New England Farmer began its promotion of domestic tidiness with a clear equation between neatness and happiness on the one hand, and dirt and misery on the other,
There is something so pleasing in the appearance of neatness and cleanliness about a dwelling house, that even a stranger. . . cannot help being prepossessed with a favorable opinion of those within. He passes along with the idea fixed in his mind of prosperity and happiness presiding within those walls. How different the sensation felt on viewing a contrary scene, — a house dismal and dirty, the doors and walls surrounded and bespattered with filth of all denominations, and fragments of broken dishes and dirty dairy. utensils scattered in all directions impress on his mind the idea of misery and mismanagement.

In our own time, we can think of Martha Stewart and the strive for perfection her brand of domesticity represents. Her concept of perfect domesticity is not new, however. And it's absolutely gendered. That whole "angel in the house" concept of a woman at home maintaining a perfect household for the family to thrive in. I've unfortunately been to a wedding where nearly these exact words were uttered, that the wife's responsibility was to keep a neat home so the family felt happy being there.

I wrote the post below primarily for myself, of course. For me personally, there are two circumstances under which the house falls apart. One is when both Mr. Geeky and I are frantically busy, with work to do after hours or conference travel or the like. The other is when I don't have the mental energy to tend to it, including prodding Mr. Geeky and the kids to help out. And it is this latter circumstance that I'd been in of late and when I saw, for example, how the weeds were taking over the driveway, I felt like my own inner turmoil was represented there. That may not be true for everyone. Flash says she (he?) becomes neater when troubled. I've had times when I've done that, where scrubbing the kitchen distracts me from the argument I just had.

I think it's interesting to think about how outer appearances--clothing, houses, cars, yards--might or might not represent our inner selves or our values. And I definitely think there are socioeconomic values that we project onto such things. We can almost always take a stereotypical "x" and dress them and house them. What does a stereotypical male professor wear? Female? Of a certain age? How about someone who's main political issue is the environment? What kind of car do they drive or house do they live in? And why is that we can play this game? And is it a fair game to play?

Monday, July 10, 2006


Over the weekend, I weeded the driveway and most of the garden. It was hard work and in the process, I destroyed a few ecosystems. (Sorry, ant village.) But it felt good to get rid of the stuff that had grown between the cracks and had started to make our driveway look like an abandoned lot. Though I try my best not to equate possessions with status, I do sometimes equate upkeep with well-being. A while back, some friends of ours weren't doing well and we went to visit. Their furniture looked especially worn. There were a few more dishes langushing in the sink. There was likely a very practical explanation for this, but I took it as more evidence of their problematic relationship.

I have always been a fairly messy person, but have always strived to be neater. I've known that my messiness is not a sign of some inner turmoil, but more a factor of my prioritizing other things. In truth, I suppose, I should assume that a dishelveled house and yard might mean that the people inside are so happy and busy doing things with each other that they haven't time to tend to the chores of life. But I don't, simply because I know when I'm actually feeling happy, chores don't feel like chores. When life is going along swimmingly, you almost want to do the dishes and polish the furniture, both because you are happy to do so and because you want people to see how well things are going.

I've been looking at the weeds along the side of the driveway and in the garden for a few weeks now. Every time I saw them, I felt a sense of resignation, a sense that I was giving up. What did it matter if there were weeds and if the flowers died when that's how I felt inside anyway? But at the same time, I really wanted to pull them. I hadn't really given up. I just felt that somehow the effort might not be worth it. They'd grow back anyway. And what if I didn't feel any better afterwards? Mr. Geeky said, "The roots aren't very deep; it won't be hard to pull them." He was right and wrong. Some of the roots were indeed deep and the weeds difficult to pull, but a lot of them came out easy in large chunks and soon I had a nice clean driveway. And I did feel better.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Random thoughts, loosely joined

One thing blogging does for me is help to sort out all the crazy thoughts in my head. I spend a lot of time in my head and most of my thoughts go zipping by, duly noted, but never quite landing on a spot. As I decide to write about one of those thoughts, I begin to organize it and connect it to other thoughts and try to make some sense out of it. Though I've long ago abandoned the idea that I can make a perfect narrative out of anything in my head, I still like to see something more distinct, even if it looks like a Picasso instead of a Raphael.

My thoughts over the last few days have been on a fairly grand scale, so sorting them out would be impossible. I've contemplated marriage, children, and my career, composing half posts out of them. I may as well get them out of my head.

Marriage. Most marriages are functional. They cruise along, going through the motions of maintaining a relationship. These are not bad marriages; they just are. There's potential for them to go either way. Watching good marriages is a lot like watching figure skating or ballroom dancing. They perform beautiful and complicated moves with grace and style and they make it look almost effortless. The truth is, with both good marriages and fine artistic performances, there's a lot of hard work that goes into the performance. There's practice. There are many stumbles and some spectacular crashes. But the partners get up, dust themselves off and try again.

Mr. Geeky says that for most people it's easier to leave a relationship than to put the effort into it that's necessary to make it not just functional, but performing artistically. I disagree, but I can see how he might think this. There is that first flush of romance at the beginning of any relationship and when your current one is awry, you might long for that first flush. Everything is full of potential, of new and exciting surprises. But that flush wears off, sometimes quite quickly and you're right back where you were before, needing to work on the existing relationship. Any currently single person will think you're crazy, of course. Finding someone is work and not always the kind of work that is rewarding in the same way that working on a relationship is.

I can see though that many people may not be able to hold out for the rewards. Working on a relationship--any relationship--is a day by day process. There aren't any shortcuts.

Children. Many months ago Ayelet Waldman stated that she loved her husband more than her children. There was a bit of an uproar about that statement. How could she?! We all questioned. But I think there's something to her statement. I wouldn't say I love my husband more, but it's definitely a different kind of love, something reserved for him. And I also think it's important to keep that relationship at the forefront. It is, I believe the foundation for the family. There can be no love for the children (in a healthy way) if there is no love between the parents. I have had moments where I've realized, to my surprise, that I'm sometimes a bit jealous of my children and the relationship they have with their father. I look forward to their going to bed so that I can have Mr. Geeky to myself.

Don't get me wrong. I want strong relationships with my children. I love spending time with them and doing things with them. But sometimes, I need a different kind of love.

Career. I would love more than anything to treat my job like a job, to go in at 9, do some things and go home at 5. I would love not to be overly concerned about the future of the department or the institution. I would love to just fend for myself. I'm not there yet.

From the outside, my career seems quite successful. I have a job that I enjoy. I've received some recognition for my work both within and without the institution. I'm on the verge of achieving a Ph.D. I should be content with that. For whatever reason, I keep reaching for something else, something more that I'm not even sure I want. Or know what it is.

For the last 15 years, career has been at the forefront of our thoughts. First there was Mr. Geeky's Ph.D., then the job search, the race for tenure, another job search, another race for tenure. Now that he has tenure, I'd like to not have career, either mine or his to be foremost in our minds. But that's a hard habit to break, I think. I think my own (over?)reaching is related in part to Mr. Geeky's own ambitions. I am trying to keep up with him in some way. And, of course, I work with many other Mr. Geeky's, all climbing an invisible ladder to career success. I'm not content just holding the ladder. I want my own. What I think would be better for me is to be content holding the ladder. After all, without me doing so, the ladder would fall.