Wednesday, May 31, 2006

No one told me

No one told me life would be this crazy at times. Maybe I could have predicted it based on my senior year in college (which was crazy), but life settled down after that. Until now.

No one told me that I'd be asked to pack lunches, attend award ceremonies, send in fruit and 2-liter bottles of soda to school all while trying to hold down a 9-5 job.

No one told me I would be helping create a board game while trying to write a dissertation because my child (like me and like his father) has put it off until the last minute.

No one told me I'd have a husband who travels and works a lot, leaving me with the juggling act (not that I don't sometimes leave him with the act).

No one told me that visiting relatives, birthday parties and the busiest week at work would occur at exactly the same time like some kind of special planetary alignment.

No one told me I'd look around at my clutter and my stained and mismatched furniture and be thankful.

No one told me how much I'd wish for a day when there was really, truly nothing that needed to be done.

No one told me how much fun this would all be.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

What about us?

Apparently, if a congressman undergoes an unwarranted search, congress gets its panties in a wad. If we are wire tapped, however, it's in the name of the war on terrorism and we should just deal. Don't get me wrong, Congress should have its panties in a wad, but it takes an attack on one of its own before they wake up to reality. Welcome to 1984, ladies and gentlemen.

And if you work for the federal government, check your bill of rights at the door.

Long week's journey

I'd say long day's journey into night, but I don't want to imply there's alcohol involved. Today begins the summer multimedia program that I organize and lead. This week is boot camp for the students. We give them a foundation of information and then, by working on real projects, they continue learning the specifics of the multimedia applications that apply to their projects.

The program is fun and quite successful, but the first two weeks are always long. Teaching for 7 hours a day is hard and then the second week, there are always a million questions.

I'm also planning to squeeze in some work on the dissertation this week. I got part of my methodology section written and I'm hoping to work on some revsions of chapter 1 as well as take care of some paperwork stuff. It's coming along and I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel--weird, even though it's six months away!

I'm ever so glad I took an extra day off this weekend. I needed the rest. Unfortunately, I've also hurt my back from sitting in a bad chair for several hours at a time. I tossed and turned a bit last night because of this. I'll be standing most of today and that definitely feels better than sitting, but I have a feeling, I'll need a hot bath when I get home.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Musings on shallow people

Last night, Mr. Geeky and Geeky Girl went to a movie, and Geeky Boy was spending the night at a friend's house, leaving me with free reign over the tv. (By the way, we think our Tivo is dead; we're all adjusting okay, thanks.) I flipped through the channels and settled on "Flip this House." Flip this House is about buying a house, remodeling it and then selling it for twice what you bought it for. In other words, these people are in it for the money. The buyer and the contractor (who also stood to make a lot of money) were two of the most shallow people I've ever seen. The contractor drove a hummer. The buyer and his partner drove luxury cars as well. The house they purchased was in a gated community. They paid half a million for it and were hoping to sell it for nearly 2 million. They put in nearly half a million in remodeling. In order to sell it, they offered to host a party for the local symphony. They offered the symphony any money they made over a certain amount as a donation. Not once did the buyer talk about the good that would come from that donation. No, what he cared about was the fact that the people coming to the party were all potential buyers.

People who care so much about material possessions creep me out. In part, this is because my mother was (and to some extent still is) all about the material possessions. My dad likes stuff too, but it's for different reasons. My mother, whenever she purcases something, thinks about how others will perceive it. It was, while I was growing up, important to her that me and my sister wear designer clothes. They said something about our status. Never mind that I was trying to avoid getting beaten up for those clothes. Our house, too, was all about other people's perceptions of it. We had to have figurines and an interior decorator and an expensive dining room table and real silver. We almost never used these rooms, but they had to be there, to tell people that we could afford such things.

Now I think everyone thinks about how other people people perceive their clothes, their house, and other possessions a little bit. But I generally agonize over large purchases (e.g. the phones, which really weren't that large) and I think more about how long it will last and the pleasure it might bring to myself or someone else. I spend a lot of time in my house, so when I think about getting something slightly larger, it's not because I want to impress anyone, it's because I want to increase my and my family's enjoyment of the place where we spend a lot of time. I also want to be able to have space for friends and family to stay over night and other such amenities.

My father thinks this way too. He thinks in terms of how much will he enjoy something. Now, he has enough income to not have to worry over the price the way I usually do, but still, his first thought is not, "Everyone will envy me," but "I'm really going to enjoy this." He's actually been downgrading his houses over the last decade.

The other thing about me and my father is that we also try to give away as much money as we can. My father donates a great deal to many local charities and we give about 1% (should really be more than that. sigh.) of our income to various charities as well as donating many of our possessions (clothes, etc.) to various charities.

I don't know about my mother, but I think it unlikely that she's donating money. Despite being fairly comfortable financially, she thinks of herself as poor.

Around here, you can throw a stone and hit a sizeable mansion. I often wonder if they're mainly status symbols or if the people living there truly enjoy that rather large possession. I almost never see people in or around these houses, unlike the small houses in our neighborhood where people are out on their porches, in their backyards and putzing around their gardens every nice weekend. They enjoy their stuff. It allows them to enjoy the people around them.

I have no real easy conclusions here. Flip this House brought out my prejudice, and I do think of it as a prejudice, against rich people. I am envious of their ability to spend money without thinking, but it makes me angry to think they then don't appreciate what they've bought and that they don't contribute money to those who might really need it. I realize this is a gross generalization. I will likely never be rich, at least not in the way that affords me a 6,000 sq. ft. house, but if I am, I hope to appreciate it more and to use my wealth to help make the world a better place rather than simply to buy more stuff.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

New phones

Well, we did it. We got new phones. It ended up being cheaper than the deals I was finding online and it's going to be cheaper per month. We called Sprint before we left and they didn't want to offer us anything. Sad.

So we switched to Cingular and so far so good. We got these phones. Mine's pink. Mr. Geeky's is black. I thought about getting a more neutral color, but I like bright colors. My first phone was red. I wish they made purple.

We did okay in terms of buying blue but not great. In terms of our spending, cell phones don't amount to much. I'm looking at switching my spending on other things. Groceries is going to be the hardest. Both of the area grocery stores are seriously red. I could shop at Trader Joe's or there's another local chain that isn't bad, but it's far away.

In trying to find alternatives, I've realized that corporations are generally red-friendly because the Republicans tend to give them tax breaks and help them oppose unions and other fair labor practices. Basically, I can't buy anything from these people. I'm going to have to resort to making everything myself. Sigh.

Quick kid post before I hit the diss

Yesterday morning, when I went upstairs to check on the kids, I found the following note:
Dear Mom and Dad,

Due to extremely high weather conditions in my room, we have moved our base downstairs. Thank you.

Geeky Boy and Friend
I found them asleep on the couch.

As we were driving around on our errands yesterday, Mr. Geeky was talking about getting a convertable so he could look young and hip. As he was saying this, one pulled up next to us at the light.

GG: Look, Dad, there's one.
MG: Yeah, but they're old. (the men in the car were probably 60-ish.)
GG: They're not *really* old; they have hair.
Let's just say it's a good thing we weren't moving at the time (and that the windows were up).

Saturday, May 27, 2006

One busy day and a geeky dilemma

I spent the morning working on the diss, both writing and crunching some numbers. It's not that I'm bad at math, but I'm bad at dealing with data, so Mr. Geeky has been helping with that. Everyone should have to use math in relation to something they care about. That's what I think.

After that, we dropped Geeky Boy at a park to hang out with a friend and then we went off to run some errands. Primarily we had to replace our patio table which was destroyed in a freak accident in the winter when it shattered in a million pieces. So, naturally, we had to swing through Best Buy to replace our DVD player which died at least 6 months ago. Of course, we had to walk past the cell phones.

Mr. Geeky and I have matching phones that we purchased more than 2 years ago. It's time for an upgrade. We glanced at the phones briefly and passed by. But then, after another round of picking up one kid and kids coming and going from one place to another, we were sitting at our new table and we started really thinking that maybe we do want to get new phones. So I hopped online to see what the costs were.

Interestingly, if you switch carriers, the costs decrease dramatically. Even if you offer to enter into a 2-year contract with your same carrier, you cannot get the discounts you can get as a new customer. How wrong is that?!

So then, we tossed around the idea that maybe we'd get rid of our landline and while we're at it, maybe we can cut back on the cable. We really don't watch that much tv. And then, I was poking around some more and thought, maybe I should try to buy responsibly. So I went to BuyBlue to check out my preferred providers and stores. Let me just say, it doesn't look good. Most of the carriers I'm considering are either completely red or half and half. Here's the list.

Working Assets looks like the best option in terms of "blueness" but they only have four phones to choose from. Sigh. Being a responsible consumer is hard. The deck is stacked against you. Maybe I'll just contribute whatever I spend on the phones to some worthy cause.

News bytes for Memorial Weekend

Unfortunately, I've continued my pattern of watching movies that piss me off. Last night I watched Wal-Mart: The high cost of Low Price. I knew a lot about the facts they presented, having lived in Wal-Mart land for 6 years, but they really put a human face on the loss of small businesses and the harsh and unfair treatment of employees. I used to teach a series of essays on the "Wal Mart debate." Pissed me off then. Still pisses me off. I haven't been in a Wal-Mart in forever, but I will never go in one again.

Speaking of corporate greed. Don't think the Enron judgement is going to solve all our problems. As a reverand said in the Wal-Mart movie, remember "The love of money is the root of evil." Not money itself. The love of money. And CEOs love money and they get lots of it. I truly can't understand how a CEO who makes tens of millions of dollars while his employees live below the poverty level can sleep at night. This slate article makes clear that we still have to keep our eye on the corporate ball.

If you're an AT&T customer, I'd switch today. Though this came out earlier (this week? last week?), it's been confirmed that AT&T was definitely cooperating with the government on the NSA wiretapping program. If you read what Wired has to say, you'll definitely feel a chill up your spine. Back when the program was revealed, I wrote my phone companies. Their responses were fairly unsatisfactory.  We have to keep fighting this.

There is a little good news.  A court ruled that yes, bloggers have the same privileges as journalists. In the Blogger vs. Apple case, a judge has said that Apple cannot use the trade secret law to get the Blogger to reveal his source and that sometimes revealing trade secrets is in the public interest. (See AT&T above!)

And the net neutrality bill is one step closer to being passed. It made it out of committee and will likely go before the full house in the next couple of weeks. I still need to read up a little more on this, but it definitely seems like we're headed in the right direction.

I have to say that Memorial Weekend is a perfect weekend to fight for your freedom. That's what the veterans we honor have done. If we don't, then we're likely not to have a memorial weekend. We will instead have the two minutes' hate on a daily basis.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Enron: the smartest guys in the pokey

Just last week, I watched Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and it made me kind of sick. When you watch the news and you see the people in your own neighborhood driving around in Jaguars and living in mansions, you think that you're probably being screwed in some way. But watching it in action is pretty gross. Seeing how royally screwed you really are just does not feel good. My favorite part of the movie: when Ken Lay said, "I'm hurting too. I mean my net worth is down to 20 million." He actually said that to a bunch of people who were going to lose their entire life savings and have to work at McDonald's throughout their retirement. It's good to know that there is some justice in the world. But . . .

I also watched a Frontline called Can you Afford to Retire? These two shows together combined with my own personal observations lead me to the conclusion that those of us who work for wages are getting screwed. Increasingly, we are paying for all of our health care, our retirement and as the costs of these and living expenses increases, our wages stay flat, giving us a lower standard of living. What the heck are my taxes paying for? Oh, right, a war.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Cheating with technology

If you haven't read Ira Socol's Inside Higher Ed piece today, you should. The topic of the article itself is, of course, near and dear to my heart, being about the appropriate use of technology in education. It's really about focusing on teaching and learning rather than being afraid of Google (or MySpace or blogs or . . .). There's quite a big discussion in the comments as well. What is everyone's obsession with spelling. I find the whole obsession with spelling a bit classist. Yes, spelling well might show something about your intelligence, but not much. If you're and* egregious misspeller, then it might be worth working on that skill, but if you occasionally misspell a word, big deal. One or two misspellings in a paper is not going to lower its grade, but 20 or so is going to be problematic. And it's going to tell me the student didn't even bother to use spell check. I find the comparison of spelling to algebra rather ludicrous. Maybe basic addition. Writing a complex sentence is more like algebra. Writing a poem is like calculus.

And what's with the memorization thing. I have a lot of information in my head. I did not memorize it. I learned it. I remembered it because I connected it to other things in my head or to experiences in my life. I impressed a professor once because I could repeat almost word for word a passage in Sidney's Defense of Poesie. It wasn't that I'd made an effort to memorize it. If I had, I would have failed, I'm sure. It was just memorable to me.

One of the commenters, in response to my comment that we shouldn't use paper because it, too, like the computer, is subject to damage and failure, suggested we rely on oral exams. I say, fine. I argued before that I think we should teach students presentation/public speaking skills. But we shouldn't just teach them that. They should be able to communicate effectively in a number of ways, using different media and methods. Writing an email is different from writing a report is different from presenting a poster, etc. Learning, in the way Socol suggests, would allow students to think on their feet. They will have developed skills to analyze a situation, search their head for appropriate responses and perform effectively.

I don't get why people get so freaked out about this stuff. It's like Chicken Little. Yes, it might be true that things will change as a result of the emerging technology. Libraries might become more virtual than physical. More work may take place online; it might even be (gasp) collaborative. But really, what's the worst thing that could happen?

I definitely think the virtual life that students lead needs to be contended with and challenged and channeled appropriately. Just like a kid who watches only sitcoms and thinks problems can be solved in 30 minutes to accompanying laughtrack, a kid who spends all their time in MySpace might think that writing is the equivalent of leaving a message. There's a place for that type of writing and communication. What we need to do is find a way to make that a gateway to something better, rather than just dismissing it as unworthy.

*Mr. Geeky caught this. So do you think me any less intelligent?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Average

Today during lunch, I ran a bunch of errands and during the longest part of the drive, I caught most of an interview (mp3 file) with Kevin O'Keefe, author of The Average American. I came in during the part where he talked about how he'd changed his life as a result of writing the book. He's slowed down and tried to appreciate what he has. He's quit his job and moved to the suburbs. He talked about how average has become such a negative thing in America. We're always working not be average, to have more money, a better job, a nicer house than our neighbors. We're quick to want more. Barry Schwartz discusses this in the Paradox of Choice. How we get bored with what we have. There's a real term for this, but I've forgotten it. I'm not so much bored with what I have as just so used to always striving for the next thing, accomplishing the next goal, that I fail to notice what I have.

I was looking back over my blog entries from 6 months and a year ago and realizing how much stuff I pack into my life. I honestly don't feel frazzled most of the time, except when lots of things converge. But I think after I finish this degree, I'm getting off the treadmill for awhile. I'm going to be average for awhile. I'm not going to be writing a book or getting a doctorate or speaking at conferences two or three times a month. I'm going to do my job well. Travel with the kids. Take plenty of vacation time. I'm going to putter around the house. And then we'll see where I am and where I want to be.

Good grades

Geeky Boy is graduating from elementary school in just a few weeks. He'll be receiving an award despite his struggles. He's an extraordinarily smart kid and yet, in many areas, he does not make good grades. He's disorganized, messy, and rushes through assignments because he doesn't see the point. As his parents, we don't really push him to make good grades for the sake of good grades. I have issues with homework and many of the assignments seem more like busy work than attempts at getting kids to learn anything.

As Geeky Boy heads to middle school and high school, however, grades become more important. His grades in middle school will determine what courses he can take in high school and his grades in high school will determine (to some extent) where he goes to college. Getting good grades at this stage means opening up opportunities. It's hard to explain that to an eleven year old without making them feel too pressured. (As laid back as Geeky Boy is, though, I doubt he'd feel any pressure). While I feel grades are important, I hate that this is what he will be measured by (and the SAT and other such tests). It doesn't really quite get at what he's capable of (as his elementary experience shows). And too much focus on grades can mean not taking advantage of other opportunities.

The system doesn't leave much room for mistakes. I did really well through middle school. In high school, faced with competing interests, mainly boys and alcohol, I stumbled, unable to juggle a life of fun with a life of good grades. My stumbling left me off of the top ten list and I never considered pursuing other activities such as student government (which might have kept my mind off the boys and the alcohol). I didn't study for the SAT. In fact, if I recall, I went to a Police concert the night before. I got a good, but not stellar score. My grades and my SAT scores meant my "long-shot" school, Dartmouth, was out of the question and even Duke rejected me. But I went to a good liberal arts college and it was really a good fit for me. I thrived for a time, but then, stumbled again (alcohol and boys again) which landed me on academic probation. I worked really hard after that, both because I wanted to get out of academic probabtion, and because I had life-changing events (the death of my sister and the divorce of my parents) that made me feel some motivation for doing well, of seeing the importance of education for its own sake and for the opportunities it could afford me.

I valued the experience I had, even with its mistakes, but I definitely have moments where I think, "If I had just done a little bit better . . ." Those moments happen much less frequently now as I've used my experience in lots of ways to further my current opportunities.

For my children, though, I want to prevent, as much as it is possible to do so, them from having those "if only" moments. I think that means being there for them in a way my parents just weren't. My parents didn't encourage my school work as much as they should and they didn't really help much with the college search. Partly, I think that's for good reasons; they trusted me and my judgement. But partly, I think it was because they didn't have the energy (it turned out this was the beginning of the end for them) and they just didn't know I needed the help.

I don't think this is going to be easy and I definitely want my kids to understand that it's not so much the grades that count but what they represent and the opportunities they allow. And I want to allow them to figure things out for themselves somewhat. I certainly don't want to be a helicopter parent. If you ever see me hovering around my kids, just shoot me.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Female literary characters

Couldn't resist this. Via APL.







Which Classic Female Literary Character Are you?




You're Elizabeth Bennett of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen!
Take this quiz!








Quizilla |
Join

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

Local college photo essays

Via Albert at Philly Future, a handful of photo essays about Philly colleges. I thought this was pretty cool. I've often thought about doing something like this myself.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The fog seems to be lifting

I made a conscious effort not to worry and to think about the things that are good. It helped. Here's some highlights:
  • I launched a site redesign I had been working on even though it still has a few kinks and imperfections. I wanted to get it up and going and work out the kinks over the next week or so.
  • I talked through some of my data issues with a colleague at work who specializes in such things. He's going to help me crunch some numbers and keep all this data straight (and hopefully wow my dissertation readers).
  • I ate some peeps that came straight from the peeps factory. One of the faculty that I work with regularly brought them to me, along with a large selection of Mike and Ike's, made by the same people.
  • I dyed my hair and took a bath while reading Vanity Fair.
  • I ate Fairly Odd Parents Mac and Cheese. Ah. Comfort Food.
Sometimes it's the little things we have to focus on. What little things made you smile today?

Analyzing the funk

If you're tired of listening to me whine, feel free to move on.

I'm calling it the funk instead of full-blown depression because I think that's the best way to define it. I think this funk definitely has a lot in common with a bad cold. There are chemical and/or hormonal causes, but like a cold, the symptoms can be exacerbated by external forces. So, for example, when you have a cold, you generally try to rest, drink lots of fluids, and keep the nostrils and head clear. If you fail to do those things, the cold will still go away eventually (unless it becomes pneumonia, but let's not go there), but it will last longer than it would if you had taken care of yourself.

I believe I have a trifecta (or quadfecta, is that a word?) of crap that's making this funk thing last. I'm just going to put it out there and look at it for a minute:
  1. Lots of work to do at work. I'm a week away from the summer program and regular work isn't going away any time soon, so it's kind of piled on right now. As someone said over at Bitch, Ph.D.'s, it's like salt in the wound every time someone says, "So, are things slowing down for you now?" or "What are you doing for the summer?" I know they don't mean anything by it, but it pisses me off, especially when it comes from people who are spending their summers in exotic locations.
  2. Unbloggable crap. If it's unbloggable, you know it's really crappy. I'm working to get a handle on this.
  3. Dissertation. Progress is slow. I have not been motivated to work on it much and life keeps getting in the way.
  4. Pile on that two kids' birthdays, a visit from Mr. Geeky's dad while Mr. Geeky is away and Mr. Geeky being away for quite a bit in the next few weeks and you can almost feel the knots in my back.
I think my main reason for feeling funky about all of this is 1) the sheer volume and 2) the lack of control I feel over all of it. Every time I try to take control, I feel even less in control. Something else happens or I become indecisive whatever. I also feel like I can't let any of this go. I could just let the dissertation go for a couple of weeks, but I feel like if I do, I'll fail, even though I keep telling myself (and others) that it would be okay if I have to file an extension for one more semester. I'd just feel better if I could do something on it.* I wish I had the ability some people have to just not worry about stuff. Mr. Geeky has this ability and it kills me. He just plows through when things get tough and the things he can't control, he just doesn't worry about. Not so with me. I have to project worst case scenerios far into the future. E.G. if the kids' birthdays don't get planned, not only will the neighborhood moms call me names behind my back, but the kids will be scarred for life and when they're 25, I'll call them on their birthdays and they'll say, "Well, at least it's not like the time you did nothing." Sigh.

Another thing I've been thinking about in relation to this funk I'm in is that I just don't want to be responsible for anything at home right now. I don't want to be the one thinking about the laundry and the meals and the kids' schedules and all the other nit-picky details that mostly go unnoticed. I want to be able to focus on dealing with that list and knock it out.

And also, like having a cold, I want someone to come take care of me. I want someone to bring me chicken soup and cover me in a blanket and let me watch bad tv for hours on end. It's times like these when I realize that being a grown up sucks.

*After writing this and reading it over, I think I am going to let the dissertation go for the next few days, until Mr. Geeky gets back. I'm also planning to take Friday off and of course, I have Monday off, so maybe those two things will get me back on track.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

What to do on a Sunny Sunday

I spent almost all of yesterday working, first at the library and then at the coffee shop. It was a total of about 5 hours, followed by an hour-long trip to the grocery store. I am debating about whether and/or when to work today. I set up a rubric for going through my mass amounts of data and I want to test it out. Geeky Boy has a friend coming over in a couple of hours and there's a lacrosse game at 4:00 in a far away place. The lacrosse game will probably be rained out, which is hard to believe looking at the sky right now, but weather.com assures me it will be raining by one.

(I'll admit, I find the lacrosse thing annoying. There's practice twice a week and the games are not always nearby. Soccer is much more manageable. Practice once a week. Games always nearby. But Geeky Boy loves lacrosse, so well, there ya go.)

So, I'm sitting here still in my jammies, thinking that in just a couple of hours, the house will be noisy and hard to work in and wouldn't it be just fine if I waited and worked this evening? Yes, I think it would. That could get me started on a pattern of working every night next week, something I think I could manage quite nicely. That way, I could spend what little sunny time is left today puttering around in the yard. Rationalization is such a great thing.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Sexism is still rampant

As if those of us on the receiving end didn't know that. This last week, I've had several encounters with sexism that have driven me crazy. I have yelled at my iPod and turned red at an event out of anger and had all manner of other reactions. I think my frustration and anger come not just from the specific incident, but also from the fact that the specific incident happened at all. I can't believe that there are still people who believe that women are lesser being and who directly express that view.

I wrote before about the Diggnation podcast and how sexist it was. I started listening to another podcast, based in part on a friend's recommendation and on my own knowledge of the show's hosts, people I'd seen on tv back when there was TechTV. Well, no more. The last two shows have both had moments of such horrid sexism, I refuse to listen to them. The first incident happened a couple of weeks ago. The show began with a discussion of some women gamers who were being sponsored and put up in a house in Sweden. The show's hosts and guests (all men) very quickly lapsed into a whole fantasy thing where they wondered if the women were hot and if they would have pillow fights. I was listening to this on the road and was yelling at the dashboard, not a pretty sight. I was so mad, I went and made a comment on their blog, which of course, no one noticed or commented on and I believe I was the only woman to comment.

Then, a colleague suggested that we don't need any more women in tech and me and another woman and a guy across the table went on the offensive. When only 20% of our staff is women, I don't think I'd be saying we don't need any more women. That whole conversation just added fuel to my fire. For more about the lack of women in science and tech, go read Zuska.

Just the other day, I was giving the podcast another chance and it was going swimmingly. They even had a woman on the show. Then, they were discussing the MIT $100 laptop initiative. They couldn't understand what they might be used for. I meant, what point was a laptop without the internet. They completely failed to understand that the initiative was for 3rd world countries where they have nothing and any equipment is a good thing. Then they went on about getting the internet on these things and what would they be using it for. And then they said it. They (mostly schoolchildren, which they didn't get) would be using it for porn. Ugh. I stopped listening right then. And I will never listen again. Their spoiled silicon valley frat boy routine is not for me and it pisses me off that this is what passes for "tech news" these days.

This is why we need more women in tech. They provide a perspective that is obviously missing from these shows.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Friday Random 10 and some gratitude

First, some gratitude for my readers. Thanks one and all for your kind comments yesterday. I kept peeking in at work and they really made me feel better. I'm well-rested this morning and looking forward to today and the weekend. It looks like May Day is going to be mostly canceled due to rain so I won't really be missing much there. And I think we have a movie night planned with the girls going to one movie and the boys going to see The Da Vinci Code (which I have no desire to see--didn't really like the book). So, things are better. And now, here's the random ten with comments about gratitude after each song (I have no idea how this will work out; maybe it'll be a meme.)

  1. "Everybody Hurts" R.E.M. : Okay maybe not the best song to start with, but certainly true. Everyone goes through hard times and it's by leaning on each other that we get through them.
  2. "Yeat's Grave" The Cranberries : Actually, I really like this song and it always reminds me of a few things. It reminds me of my time as a poet, both in undergrad and grad school. I remember reading Yeats all the time. As a junior in college, I went to Oxford and took a poetry and drama course where we read a lot of Yeats, Eliot, Pound, and Shaw, and it was loads of fun.
  3. "How You've Grown" 10,000 Maniacs : This song kind of makes me cry (but in a good way). It's about children who grow up. I used this song in my first homemade digital movie. It's the background to the kids looking for easter eggs. They are 3 and 6. Geeky Girl pauses and says, "It's so beautiful out here." I've always love that because it was a gray and overcast day, but she can always see the bright side of things. And that's what I think about when I hear this song.
  4. "Party Train" Love Tractor : Any song by Love Tractor makes me think of her. We ended up going to rival colleges and she gave me a mix tape one summer when we were home of the music she was listening to at her school. I liked it so much, I went out and bought the CDs of all the bands on it.
  5. "Basin Street Blues" Jack Teagarden and His Sextett : This song is on a Dixieland Jazz album I bought back in college. I love Dixieland Jazz. I used to blare this music throughout the apartment. I'm sure my neighbors hated me.
  6. "The Blues are Brewin" Billie Holiday : This isn't one of my favorite Billie Holiday songs, but it's still good. Her music is good to listen to when you're feeling down. Not that it will lift you up, but you feel like she's commiserating with you.
  7. "Don't Ask Me Why" Billy Joel : Don't ask me why I own this. It's actually Mr. Geeky's. He's a big fan. Actually, I was too for quite a while. I remember in junior high, I was at the beach with my friend Beth and "You May be Right" came on. We loved that song. And I did get 3rd row seats at a Billy Joel concert once and that was fun. So, his music, though I no longer like it that much reminds me of earlier days.
  8. "Old Brown Shoe" The Beatles : I still like The Beatles. They are timeless in many way. This is a fun song and not one that most people choose to listen to. My favorite line is "Baaaby I'm in love with you." I like thinking of someone as an old brown shoe.
  9. "Tell Me A Story" Nedelle : This is a song from SXSW 2005. I have it in my favorites list. I like the lullabye-like melody and the way it recalls the time when we were kids and our parents read to us or told us stories and we fell asleep all nice and warm.
  10. "I Don't Know What It Is" Rufus Wainwright : What Geeky Mom random 10 would be complete without Rufus. This is one of my favorites. I love the line "I don't know what it is, but you gotta do it." It's a really motivating song.
Okay, your turn. Have a good weekend everyone!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Worn down

I am feeling worn down. I'm trying hard not to, but I know I feel beaten somehow. I dropped Geeky Boy off at school this morning to go to his field trip to Aquarium City and I was really sad that I couldn't go. I saw all the other parents in their shorts and t-shirts with backpacks and it just made me sad. We were late getting our slips in and besides, I can't afford a day off work. Tomorrow is May Day and I can't go to that either. Between two emergencies at work and preparing for my summer program that starts in a week, I just can't take the time.

I haven't made a lot of progress on the dissertation either and that weighs on me. Though I have plans for a long work weekend, I prefer a slow and steady progress to mad dashes. I know that I shouldn't even be worrying about the house, but I am. When I get up in the morning and am faced with cries of "We're out of milk" and "Where are some socks," it stresses me out. So then I'm stressed out going into work and that's not good.

I've also been prone to crying lately, not hard crying, just sobbing, whenever I think about what's not getting done, the future, whatever. I've also been quite crabby about everything: people on the road, random people who email me, Mr. Geeky. I might be able to write that off as hormonal, but I still think I would be out of sorts without the hormones.

Add to all of that the general state of the union and you've got one distressed Geeky Mom. I know this will all pass, but it's really hard to deal with for the moment. I think the worst part is feeling like I can't control any of it, like I'm letting outside forces dictate how I feel. I can't help it, though. I've always been affected by such things. I can't just be happy and not worry about the stuff around me and there's nothing worse than telling me I should just buck up and deal. Maybe I take things too seriously, but somebody has to, right?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Security Geekiness meets Personal Intrigue

My ex-boyfriend (and current friend) has launched a podcast on software security. His first show guest is Avi Rubin, who exposed glitches in the Diebold electronic voting machines. I had an interesting experience yesterday with our new electronic voting machines. Yes, there were a couple of minor problems and I'm dismayed that people keep designing stuff for the average male height. I had to stand on my tiptoes to sign the sheet to open the polls.

Anyway, check out the podcast. Gary's a smart guy and knows lots of smart people, so I'm sure the show will be thoughtful and interesting. I'll be subscribing myself.

How the machine wins

No one votes. We had only 123 voters yesterday out of 900 something. In the senate race, Sandals received no votes, Pennacchio received less than 10. Also, no one pays attention. I'm sorry, but Casey is pretty weak on a lot of democratic issues. And the Inquirer's right: he faces a tough battle against Santorum. Don't get me wrong. I want to beat Santorum, but I'm disappointed that my party didn't think this through better.

It's just so sad to see Americans taking the vote for granted. This is how we ended up with Bush. Years of apathy have led us to this point, on the verge of losing some of our most valued freedoms and that makes me angry and sad. There's six months until the November elections. Educate yourself. Register if you need to. And then get out and vote.

Monday, May 15, 2006

TV, Politics and More

Yesterday, I indulged in really bad things. Hey, it was my day, I deserved it. First, we went to Cracker Barrel where I ate an enormous amount of food, enough to make this one proud. Then we swung by a book store where I considered getting a tome of quality and instead got the book pictured below. I like comics; I can't help myself. After a bath where I read through half of said book, I spent some quality time on the computer. I actually worked on a web site that I don't have time to work on at work. It wasn't really like work and I had fun and learned a lot.

When Mr. Geeky returned from graduation, he made dinner and we planned our evening of sloth. First the pilot of West Wing, then the Simpsons "Monkey Suit," followed by the West Wing finale. Though the Simpsons episode was funny, I was disappointed, they didn't make more of the whole separation of church and state thing. Instead, they made it seem like if you believed in evolution, you can't believe in G-d. I thought it would be easy for creationists to find a win in that episode. Looks like PZ was equally unimpressed.

West Wing was a nice indulgent fantasy about having leaders who are smart and who care. Sigh. Tomorrow, by the way, is our primary here in PA. There seems to be a decent amount of opposition to Bob Casey, so if you're a PA resident, I'd encourage you to consider your options. I, myself, will be voting for Chuck Pennacchio. I'm currently extraordinarily depressed by the political situation. Over the weekend, I overheard this in a shoe store:

"Do you care that Verizon is going through our records?"
(inaudable response)
"I don't. I think it's the right thing to do."

I swear. I think some people deserve to be dragged off to the gulag. Mr. Geeky and I are trying to find a way to sign up with Qwest. I wrote my phone companies a long time ago, when this whole thing started. I hope they get their asses sued.

If you have a primary tomorrow, go vote. The 2006 elections can't come soon enough in my book.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day

Best wishes to all you moms out there. May we all continue to work for a better world for our children.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Radio silence

Apologies for being so quiet around here, but life became unbloggable and politics became unbearable. Bleh.

It's graduation this weekend and I'll be attending some of the festivities today. My first freshman is graduating, as are several other students with whom I've worked for a couple of years. I always find graduations to be such bittersweet ceremonies. On the one hand, everyone is excited and proud. On the other, everyone is sad to say goodbye to longtime friends.

My high school graduation, I wasn't all that sad. By the graduation came around, I was ready to be done, ready to leave the place and people I'd know for the last 12 years. And since I'd goofed off enough to miss being valedictorian or anything special like that, for me, the ceremony held no appeal. Besides, the next day, I took off for the beach with her.

College graduation was awkward. My parents were together for the first time since their divorce. You should see the picture someone took of the three of us. We all look as if we might explode at any moment. Like high school, I was somewhat disenchanted by the time graduation rolled around. But I felt like making it through college was more of an accomplishment than making it through high school. My dad offered to take me to Las Vegas. I turned him down in order to hang out with my ex boyfriend and some other friends. I still tell my dad I should have gone with him instead.

I went through another graduation ceremony when I got my M.A. My dad flew in for the ceremony and tended to Geeky Boy, who wanted to go to the bathroom every five minutes. I was 8 months pregnant with Geeky Girl. I looked huge in those robes. This time I felt much more like I was celebrating an accomplishment rather than just going through the motions.

I hope to be going through this again next year, celebrating my Ph.D. And all too soon, Geeky Boy will be graduating high school, then Geeky Girl. For the parents, I suppose, watching their kids graduate makes them proud and sad at the same time, for they, too, must be saying goodbye to a part of their kids as they grow into adults and enter the world.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Women really do play games

jill/txt offers commentary on a survey that shows that more women than men play video games in certain age brackets. I'm not what I would consider a gamer, but I do play once in a while. I used to play a lot: children and fulltime work keep one from gaming. I often play games with my kids or watch them play. I am always frustrated, as Jill obviously is, that the gaming marketers still assume women don't play.

A side note: I've been on a bit of a rampage about tech podcasts that exclude women and insult them in much the same way that gaming marketers do. Come on, people, women really do like technology and games. We're not just simpering little sex kittens.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Random bullets of crap: politics edition

  • Tax cuts that benefit the rich
  • Military guy in charge of the CIA
  • Hookers and poker
  • Darfur
  • 31% approval rating
  • Debt approaching $10 trillion
  • 2400 dead in Iraq
  • Is it 2008 yet? Who would really want this job?

Technology and the academy

Tim Burke is live-blogging the Social Computing Symposium, all of which is very interesting. I was especially struck by this post, written between sessions. Tim calls himself a misfit toy in academia because of his love of this type of technology and extensive use of it, yet, he feels inexperienced among this particular group of people. I experienced a similar feeling when I went to SXSW. Collin responded to that post, observing that he too has had a similar experience of feeling like an outsider at a tech conference.

I think that the three of us all recognize the potential all these new social computing models have for changing the way we live (and in many ways have already changed the way we live). What we might like to see is all of that changing the institutions we work in and the way we work as well. Can you imagine the conversations that might happen if institutions allowed virtual connections via blogs or wikis or cellphones to flourish? Tim imagines in one of his posts rating comments in a faculty meeting so that people could delve further into the ones that are rated the highest. I'd like to see that in some staff meetings too. How about in classes? Wouldn't it be nice if the president and other administrators had blogs that they posted to regularly or if they came and commented on other blogs, like departmental ones? What if various documents were written as wikis collaboratively? Lots of possibilities.

I'm in a slightly different place, of course, from Tim and Collin. It's actually my job to experiment with many of these tools and to think about how they might be useful where they may not feel as free to spend time on that. But unlike them, I have no way of integrating them into the larger life of the academy. And that's where I see some real potential for change.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Changing our lives to suit our politics

Over this whole weekend, I've been thinking about something, a lot of things, really. These thoughts are not completely well-formed yet; they're mostly questions, really. I've been thinking about the tendency I have, and many other liberals I know, to try to live their lives according to their political beliefs. So, for example, if you are concerned about the impact of too much garbage on the ecology, you recycle. I think this is a laudable thing to do, but I've been wondering about the impact it really has.

I've not done a good job of living up to my political beliefs in a lot of areas. Take my cars. We have a minivan and an suv. We both drive to work most days. I had been thinking about trying to take public transportation for a week. And then I thought, would adding an extra 1/2 hour or so to my own commute really make a difference in the overall issue of fossil fuels and their shortage and their pollution? Probably not. If I could convince my 200 or so readers to do that? Maybe.

And then I recently read some horrible articles on the Congo and Darfur and I see all the deaths in Iraq. And I think, what lifestyle change would help in those cases?

And I looked into joining a CSA (community supported agriculture), but then Rob tells me that may not be so good.

We all try out here in the blogworld to draw attention to issues that we all think are important, many of which are being ignored or underreported by the MSM. But are we blogging into a vacuum?

Is this the inertia factor? Are there thousands upon thousands of people rejecting the notion of taking public transportation or writing their congressperson or recycling because they figure it won't help? And what do we do about that?

I'd like to feel like my individual choices made some kind of difference. I'd also like to know what the solution to some of these seemingly huge and complicated problems are. It kills me that on the one hand, we go into Iraq because Sadaam was killing his own people and we do nothing about Darfur or the many other places where dictators carry out or encourage the killing of their own people.

My thinking here has been prompted by a lot of things I've read in my little blog community, Phantom's and Elizabeth's posts on being spoiled and privilege, Rob's post mentioned above, but also his post on relativism, Zuska's post on sexual harrassment. I've probably missed a few. In any event, I've been thinking and I'd like to take some action. I just don't know what that action is.

Is it really Monday?

Why are the weekends never enough? I really pushed myself at work on Friday and then collapsed on Saturday and then Sunday went into high gear around the house. I've spent the last few hours at work responding to email, making some notes for a presentation and I'm thinking, now what do I do. It's certainly not like there isn't anything to do. It's just that the day is broken up by meetings, so there are certain tasks I can't tackle. And the whole week looks like this. Plus, my brain is just tired.

Oh, and did I mention there's a bulldozer driving over the ceiling of my office, shaking the whole building? Yeah, there is.

What would I rather be doing instead? Sleeping and reading, I think. I'll get out of the slump, I'm sure, but man, Monday hit me hard.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A day without screens

I spent the day entirely off-screen (mostly). There was a bit of George Stephanopolis watching while folding laundry. One thing I realize when I have days like this and throw myself into household management is that this household management thing is hard work. The day began at 9:00 a.m. and didn't end until 9 p.m. A 12 hour day. I suspect that's typical of most at-home parents with perhaps some late-night duty as well.

The thing with managing the house is that it's never done. I can look in any room and name 3 things that need to be done, many of them major projects. And of course, there's the daily crap like laundry, dishes, and cooking. Never ending.

In my GTD system, Home is a major category under which are many projects, two of them are the kids. Raising kids is a major project and the most difficult one you'll ever do. Sure, household management is long and tedious, but you aren't usually confronted with anything more difficult that a nasty-looking stain. With the kids, there are bigger issues. Constant worry. Lots of stuff you can't quantify and put in your GTD system. Like, happiness, well-being, intelligence. Am I doing enough to support those? And what tasks would I put on my list to ensure that these things happen? I don't think "Make kids happy" is going to cut it. And, of course, that's the rub.

The thing is, I sometimes see people far too caught up in household management with its never-ending but nevertheless discrete tasks. Maybe this is what bugs me about Caitlin Flanagan? (I say without having read much of her work.) I see that sometimes the two are connected. It's certainly easier to deal with larger emotional issues when you're not fight back a pile of laundry the size of Mt. Kilimanjaro, but maintaining that balance seems important to me somehow. And working out of the home definitely throws that balance off most of the time. Unless you have the perfectly balanced partnership where your spouse or partner fills in the gap. I've never met one of these, though most I know are close to this ideal. Their houses tend to be a bit on the messy side.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Metablogging

I've been blogging now for almost two years. I began in fits and starts here, moving to a professional blog over the summer of 2004 (which is now completely gone) and then deciding I could handle both a professional and a personal blog.

I am ever so glad I started doing this. It's really amazing that I've kept this up as a daily routine for this long. If you glance back over the blog, you can see lots of projects I started and never finished, resolutions not kept, etc. But I've found this blog to be such a positive experience for me, I'm not sure I could live without it. Kind of a scary thought, I guess.

I started listing some of my favorite posts in the sidebar below the blogroll, mostly for myself.* If you'd like to suggest one, yay! It's interesting to go back and see what I was writing and thinking about 2 years ago. A lot of it hasn't changed. The issues I feel strongly about now I felt strongly about then. I've been somewhat of a broken record on certain issues.

I've made tomorrow a no screens day because I felt like the kids and I spent way too much time over the last couple of days in front of one screen or another. I'll probably log on later in the evening, after the kids are in bed.


*These are the things you do on a Saturday night when your husband is off preparing for this.

Teeth brushing

I got the kids new toothbrushes last night. These.

Geeky Girl has brushed her teeth at least 3 times already today.

Saturday shoulds

I should probably start the next dissertation chapter, but I'm tired; we're all running on fumes here. It's a beautiful day. I'm taking Geeky Boy to a lacrosse game in a couple of hours. I want to do some gardening. And did I'm mention that I'm tired?

I will probably tinker, but I just don't feel like doing a should today. I did a bunch of shoulds yesterday.

I should really get out of the house anyway, right?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Friday Random Links

Harry at Crooked Timber, writes about a book on parenting. I would say, a controversial book on parenting. It's worth reading the comments as well. I don't have time for a reasoned response.

I love it when someone else does my work for me. Barbara Ganley has a wonderful post about "these kids today." This is what my presentation was about yesterday. Barbara says a lot of what I said yesterday. After listening to two people lament how the online world was harmful, I began by saying, "What kids are doing online is a positive force in their lives and we, as older people, need to recognize that and help them through the negative aspects without being fearful of it and rejecting it out of hand." Go read Barbara; she and I are really on the same plane today.

Okay, so two random links. Sue me. I need a shower.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Meeting the Scribbler-Blue family (sans Mr. Blue)

Phantom has, of course, blogged the whole thing already. But she didn't explain how wonderful her kids are. I mean, the walk *was* pretty long and up hills. She also didn't tell you that LG and Baby Blue held hands much of the time, which was the cutest thing ever.

Her kids are as articulate as she depicts them on her blog. Hmmm. Wonder where that comes from? We briefly discussed our storage issues in saving up for the apocolypse. Here, we have gone through all of our water, using it instead for soccer games and such. I freely admitted, too, that I was somewhat lazy and sometimes didn't feel like hauling water from the grocery store. Phantom admitted that her storage area is her guest room which can be problematic in terms of having guests.

I can't even think about what else we talked about. I tried to get information out of LG when Phantom was retrieving napkins, but he kind of looked sideways at me. You could tell he wanted to talk but also felt he needed Mama there to make sure it was okay.

Phantom is wonderful and nice and kind and I felt right at home immediately. I recognized her immediately too. I do hope she and the family might be able to make it to my neck of the woods sometime.

It was touch and go as to whether I'd make it home. My ride to the airport was late. Traffic was bad. Then, the security people wouldn't let me through. My driver's license was expired. Which I knew and have sent in the paper work for a new one, but had completely forgotten about. I had to walk back down to the ticket area and get "reprocessed." My flight was supposed to leave in 35 minutes. The nice airline agents walked me through security themselves. They had to vouch for me. I offered to be searched, but instead they let me skip to the front of the line. So it worked out in the end. Here's a hint though: make sure your id is up to date before you leave. I could have brought my passport (which isn't expired) and I wouldn't have had to go through all that.

It was a nice trip and I'm so glad I got to mix a little fun into the whole thing by hanging out with Phantom, et. al.

Travel and spam and other notes

I'm traveling somewhere, where I will be participating in a panel presentation, but more importantly, I will be meeting the Housewife of the Universe and her offspring. I'm very excited. I'm flying in just for the day, which just seems so extravagant to me.

In front of me is a family, granparents, mom, dad and two small children. The grandma is sitting way far away from everyone else and must yell to be heard. So annoying.

Speaking of annoying, I've gotten a fair amount of spam lately. I've been banning and deleting like crazy. If you find yourself accidently banned or deleted, let me know.

Though things have settled down a little, I still just feel like there's a lot going on. Mr. Geeky has some projects finishing up this week, in addition to it being exam week and grading and all that. The kids have end of the year events and there will be elementary school graduation (eek!). I have a summer program that starts in a few weeks and there's been enough little stuff coming in in dribs and drabs that I just feel like I haven't been able to take a breather. August, I'm holding out for August.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Some kid photo blogging

Explaining the map

Geeky Girl is explaining a playground mystery to us. She points out where she found the mystery objects. A more detailed view of the map is below. Click to see a larger view.

Map with mystery objects

Note the dodge ball players in the top right corner. And I don't know who the people down below are. Geeky Girl and her friend are by the tree. Their theory is that the purple piece was used to kill a squirrel. Cause there's red on it. Geeky Girl took her magnifying glass to school with her to investigate further.

And now here's a gaggle of kids playing online together but they're all in the same room--with the lights out.

Gaming Together

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Searching

Last night, I was working on my Works Cited section for Chapter 1 when I realized I had an old xeroxed copy of an article on which I had no source information. No problem, I thought. I'll just look it up in the library database. It's a famous article. I'll find it. Unfortunately, the copy I have is a reprint in some collection of work on composition and rhetoric. The library record was for the original version. I didn't want to repaginate my quotes, so instead I went on a journey of discovery. And while I never did find the right citation, I did find some other cool sources and I learned a thing or two about searching for stuff.

My first stop was Google Scholar. I've used this before a few times and find it especially helpful for recent material particularly if it's technology related. Doing a search on part of the article title (in quotes) and the author's name yielded me both the original source and a reprint (one more source than the MLA database yielded, but the same two sources I found in WorldCat). The reprint wasn't the same one as I had because the pagination was completely different. Also, I had received the article around 1997 and the reprint seemed too late. Digging through some of the other results on that search yielded some interesting material, but not the reprint I was looking for.

So, I switched to Amazon. There's a title on the top left of the pages which might have been a book title so I searched for that. Because it was a really general and commonly-used phrase, I got a bunch of junk. So I thought, hmm, maybe I'll try A9. I have to say, it was pretty cool and I made far more serendipitous discoveries there. Still didn't find what I wanted, but it was like being lost in the library. You know how you go retrieve your book off the shelf and you glance at all the surrounding books and next thing you know, you're sitting in the floor of the aisle, thumbing through a stack of books.* That's how I felt. With A9, you can search the web, Amazon's "Inside the Book" feature, blogs, Flickr, and so much more. I mean, it's pretty damn cool. I mean, I love Google and all, but I admit to be taken in by the sheer grandness of it all. I mean, I found out that Lisa Ede has a blog.

I never did find my source and even put out a desperate plea on the other blog (New Kid kindly attempted to help me). I ended up repaginating my quotes to go with the original source. But boy, what a fun trip I had trying to find it.

*Okay, maybe this only applies to book geeks.

Are Professors Underpaid?

I was redirected by Pharyngula to Dean Dad's post at Bitch, Ph.D's on "Giving Something Back" focused primarily on people who retire and then want to "give back" by teaching a class or two at the college (usually getting paid to so; how is that giving back again?) Anyway, what PZ was redirected me to was the comments. Very interesting conversation going on there. Buried about halfway in the comments was the questions: "Are professors underpaid?" I wanted to comment there, but the thread is so long, I didn't even see if someone else had responded. So maybe they did but I'm responding anyway.

Inside Higher Ed ran a story last week about the decline in faculty salaries, particularly the fact that they're not keeping up with inflation. At our institution, in fact, there's an attempt to "catch up" after a couple of years of small increases (I should note that in those couple of years, staff received no increase one year and a pittance the next while faculty at least received near cost of living). Also, the whole salary thing is relative; it very much depends on where you live. In the rural area where we came from, Mr. Geeky's salary commanded a fair amount of buying power and put him in league with other professionals. Here, however, he makes less than the plumber. When we moved, we negotiated hard for him to keep his current salary. The cost of living here is 3 times what it was where we were coming from, so that even at his current salary, he was essentially taking a pay cut to work at our institution. And what about those people who make less than he does (there are some who make more, of course). How do they manage in this high cost of living area. They live far away. Increasingly, faculty have to live further away from campus because they can't afford housing nearby, a problem noted in this post I was perusing last night.

In this area, in fact, elementary school teachers often make more than college professors. Not that they shouldn't, but the school system compares salaries locally while colleges often compare nationally or with "peer institutions." I find that problematic because the cost of living in an area can be a huge factor in determining whether you feel underpaid or not. If you're a college professor, and your salary puts you in the same ballpark as the deli counter person, how do you feel about all that education you paid for? Yeah, there are intangibles that might make up for it, but not necessarily.

And don't get me started on the cost of health insurance. So far, we haven't been asked to eat any increases in health insurance costs, but if we do, that will likely negate any pay increases. I know this has happened at other places.

I think the perception that faculty get paid a lot comes from the few stars who do and who are often visible to the general public. They may get tv time, for instance. And there's, of course, the perception that faculty get summers off. Why does no one complain about this for teachers? Is it because they're mostly women and so people figure they're taking care of the kids? That's always baffled me. No one said to my mom in that snotty tone we all know, "How nice you get your summers off." I also think that people don't perceive what faculty do as work. They often question what it is that professors do. Again, the stars may be in the position of only teaching one class (with the grading done by grad students), but most people teach many classes and are expected to do research and plenty of service. For anyone who thinks that that's not work, I'd suggest taking a gander at some of the blogs on the blogroll.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Why I hate the MSM

I spend part of every Sunday watching This Week and Reliable Sources. Before I watch, I've usually spent some time among the blogs and get a general sense of what's been going on in the world. My main reason for hating the MSM is that they think I'm stupid and have no other news options. And, of course I'm not stupid, but I'm thinking of the many, many people who also aren't stupid but who still only watch the evening news and think they've learned everything they need to know about what's going on in the world.

Let's take the Correspondents' Dinner as one small innocuous example. I spent about 20 minutes reading blogs before starting on the dissertation. Stephen Colbert's performance during the dinner was everywhere. Even in the MSM itself (The Boston Globe). On This Week and on the evening news (NBC), all they covered was the stunt double Bush brought with him. Of course, Colbert was critical of the MSM itself and so they weren't about to show that. But if they leave that out, what else are they leaving out. Example: I don't think anyone covered the march that Ianqui went to.

And one of my favorite moments during the evening news was when they did a report on United 93 (an extensive report) and then afterwards, they reminded us that their parent company has a financial investment in the movie. Please!

And George Will, good grief, drives me crazy. So smug in his cushy job.

Another thing not mentioned. This $100 tax rebate on account of gas prices. That's about a week's worth of gas. Yippee. And will no one mention that the people this hurts the most are often people in areas without public transportation. They have no choice but to drive to their jobs. Maybe carpooling will become fashionable again. No one's talking about ways to conserve, just the oil company profits, the politicians' stupid proposals, etc.

I just wish the MSM wouldn't filter so much and dumb everything down and leave out the obvious. We're never going to get anywhere if they keep up the soft shoe act. I'm with Colbert on this one. This whole mess we're in is as much the MSM's fault as it is the President's.

Update: I'm not the only one who noticed the silence about Colbert.