Monday, July 30, 2007

Pre-Vacation Mode

I swear my brain no longer thinks in complex sentences. I read stuff and I think, hey, I'll write about that, but then I sit down to write and I think , "Eh. I got nothing." I spent yesterday playing Civilization and doing laundry. I am actually packed for my trip, which I don't leave for until Friday. I also did some mindless work, going through the hundreds of emails that have piled up throughout the summer. I've been in triage mode. All this last week, I'd spend some time clearing out a couple hundred messages only to return from a couple of hours of meetings to find myself right back where I started. I think I need to get more organized about that, do some more filtering. A lot of what I get are announcements that don't apply to me or stuff from email lists (some of which I already filter).

Basically, I think I've been in this weird mode all summer of not feeling quite on top of things, and not really caring that much. I'm calling it pre-vacation mode. Whatever it is, it feels kind of weird.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Internet is a beautiful place

So many people, Andrew Keen, the mainstream media, etc., want to focus on the idea that the Internet is a scary place. Well, the Internet's no scarier than the "real world."

Today, I read at least two posts from two bloggers who regularly make me remember how wonderful the Internet can be. I feel lucky to know people like them. Their commenters, too, show how much compassion there really is in the world.

Of course, these two are just two examples of the kind of thing I run into every day out there in the "scary" Internet.

Random Bullets, Sunday Edition

  • I wanted to write something thoughtful about Joe Sestak's response to a letter I sent him asking him and his House colleagues to begin impeachment hearings. I find myself disheartened and so I can't respond. It was basically a "Yeah, but" kind of response. Yeah, we know they've done illegal things, but they're not as bad as Watergate. Gah. But they're worse than Monicagate, no? Sad. Just sad.
  • I'm pretty much in full vacation mode, now that the dissertation is done. Which means I do basically nothing on the weekends. Yesterday, I hung out at the pool. Today, it's raining. I might muster the energy for some laundry or grocery shopping.
  • I find myself wondering if I'd read a newspaper if I subscribed to one. Probably not. I get all my news from teh internets.
  • In exactly 5 days, we go on vacation, and it's a real vacation--no defense hanging over my head.
  • I find myself wanting to clear out the clutter that's collected in the last two years while I was writing, but I also find myself not caring that much. Because clutter is not particularly intellectually stimulating.
  • I had a dream last night about writing a paper or a book or something. Hmm. Wonder where that came from.
  • Is this a random enough list?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Suing over a dancing baby

This is awesome. I can't believe how clueless these companies are. Seriously.

First edition of Tech Therapy

I have a followup to my impeachment post of yesterday, but before I post that, I wanted to announce the first episode of The Chronicle's Tech Therapy podcast. I still find the whole idea of tech therapy problematic. I just hate the idea of treating technology as something one needs therapy for.

In a comment on my previous post, I stated my case this way:
I'm disturbed by the very notion that dealing with technology is paramount to dealing with depression or other serious mental issues. As long as anxiety surrounding the use of technology is seen as a medical condition, it will always be deemed problematic, something that requires intervention and is potentially evil. I'm reminded, in fact, of when evil spirits were to blame for many diseases.
The actual content of this episode focused on the issue of security and, in fact, suggested that CIOs and others need to have a good understanding of what's going on behind the scenes with technology and not treat it like magic. Maybe it's because I'm at a small institution, but I bristled at the idea of centralized control over IT. I think there are some areas of IT that need centralized control and some that don't. I do think it's important for faculty to at least talk to their IT staff when they're considering a new technology project. But I also think IT staff shouldn't respond to such projects with a definitive no just because they won't have full control over it. I'm not sure I like the general philosophy of the expert running the show, Warren Arbogast, so I may find myself disagreeing more than agreeing simply for that reason. We'll see.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


I hate it when I don't have time to pay attention to the news. This explains, of course, the state of many Americans. Someone from my regular reads pointed me to Bill Moyers show of two weeks ago on impeachment. We usually record the show, but had somehow missed this episode. You can watch it online, and if you haven't, you should. What's most striking about the show is that the conservative, Bruce Fein, is perhaps more strident about the necessity to impeach Bush and Cheney than the liberal is. Both of them say that if we don't impeach them, we risk undermining our democracy is irreparable ways. The things that Bush has done have sought to shift power to the executive branch and to make the presidency look more like a monoarchy--the very thing the revolutionaries and our founding fathers fought against. Bush treats us like children, John Nichols said.
Our leaders treat us as children. They think that we cannot handle a serious dialogue about the future of our republic, about what it will be and how it will operate. And so, you know, to an extent, we begin to act like children. We, you know, follow other interests. We decide to be entertained rather than to be citizens.

Well, you know, and Bruce makes frequent references to the fall of the Roman Empire. You know, that's the point at where the fall comes. It doesn't come because of a bad leader. It doesn't come because of a dysfunctional Congress. It comes when the people accept that-- role of the child or of the subject and are no longer citizens.
Let's be citizens, shall we? And start making a lot more noise about our spineless Congress and get some accountably. They work for us, remember.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Too Frustrated to even comment

Congress is at it again, trying to not just pass laws but force some specific technological solution. Ugh. I can't find the original bill or the amendment, but when I do . . .

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Happy Birthday Wish

A birthday shout out to LLA at Bad Fortune Cookie. Hope it's a good one!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Time Travel back to 1983

Vantage Point before Show Last night, I transported myself back to 1983 by attending The Police concert. I dragged along a recent grad, who wasn't even born in 1983. I didn't feel *too* old while there. It was a fun concert. They played much of what one would expect: "Roxanne," "Every Breath You Take," "Don't Stand So Close," "Message in a Bottle," and "Da Do Do Do." I haven't been listening to The Police very much in the years between attending the Synchronicity concert and this one, so I'd forgotten some of the songs like "All I Want is To be Next to You." We had, as you can see, pretty good seats--high up but centered. We had a great view of the city, too (which you can't see in this picture).

Light showI have to say, I was impressed that they didn't sound like has beens. Sting was, quite frankly, pretty buff. And his voice was good too. Andy Summers did some nice guitar work and Stewart Copeland showed off some excellent drumming. I have vague memories of the 1983 concert. My recollection is that is was in Knoxville and that I had to take the SATs the next day, but I can't remember. I also think my view was blocked. I rank this concert higher than that one. I could drink beer legally. I could see. I sang really loud. All I gotta say is LLA, you're gonna love it. And, for your viewing pleasure, here's a couple of grainy videos.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Fear Factor

I've seen a lot of posts lately and have had some real-life encounters that relate to the idea of educators being afraid of change/technology/learning. I really don't quite understand it. I get the arguments that people don't have time or even don't really want to do something new with their teaching (the curmudgeon argument), but afraid? Will Richardson has a post that really got me thinking. He says he's been trying to get the teachers he talks to to think about their own learning, but they are resistant to doing so. A ways down in the comments, Terry Elliot says:
Is this assumption true: all teachers are learners. Yes, but for different reasons. Some learn from fear. They are the ones who are afraid of being left behind or not getting tenure or of looking bad. This is very shallow learning at best. Of course they will not entangle themselves in the tools. They fear them. Just like students don’t really learn for the long term when fear is the motivator.
That is precisely what I was thinking. I made the assumption that since I stuck in the education field because I loved learning that that's why everyone else was in this business, especially those who teach. But I'm beginning to think that there are a whole host of other reasons that people become educators. And I'm beginning to think that there are quite a few people who aren't in this field because they believe in learning at some kind of fundamental level. Which is depressing. One can find ways to provide time for teacher learning and work around curmudgeons, but it's much harder to change basic attitudes.

Perhaps the teachers simply reflect the student attitudes. You know, the ones that just want the grade and don't want to actually learn anything. Trillwing writes about this problem, asking for suggestions for how to get students over it. I have to say that I've only had one teaching experience at one institution where the students as a whole were overly focused on the grade. Sure, nearly every class has one or two students who constantly ask, "Will this be on the test?" or "How do I get an A?" I think they're all afraid, too. As Barbara Ganley would say, they're afraid to take a risk and fall on their face. Our educational system isn't built for such risk-taking. It's a one-shot deal.

What I don't understand, I guess, especially for teachers is what, exactly, they're afraid of. Embarrassment? Looking stupid? I don't understand.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Revision inferno

I've moved from the 7th level of revision hell. I'm now in limbo. I already heard back from the grad school who had a few minor things for me to fix--and yet another form to fill out. I'm waiting to hear back from the advisor--mainly about a 2-page section I had to add, which, quite frankly, isn't very good and kind of opens a can of worms, but hey, it's mostly done.

I spent 7 hours on Saturday and about 8 or so on Sunday fighting with M$ Word revising. Then I worked another 4 hours on Monday and another 7 today. Crap, that's a lot of hours. I know you academics out there are laughing at me right now, but keep in mind, I also clocked some regular hours in there as well. I won't feel like it's done until I print it out on pretty paper and mail it to the grad school.

Note to self: don't go getting another degree.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I Rock!

Trillwing nominated me as a Rockin' Girl Blogger. I'm so thrilled. She nominated some good people. Check them out. Here are some people I think rock:

Aspazia at Mad Melancholic Feminista, who just--as in yesterday--had a baby and blogged it. If you're not reading her, you should.

Ianqui. I've been reading ianqui's blog for years. She's always smart and insightful.

Janet at Adventures in Ethics and Science. I love reading her posts on the industry of science.

Barbara at bgblogging. A self-styled slow blogger, her posts are always thoughtful and inspiring.

And finally, What Now? Her posts examining teaching and her transition to secondary education are always interesting.

There are so many girl bloggers who rock. Who do you think rocks?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Security and Online Games

I've mentioned my ex-boyfriend Gary McGraw, now good friend, a couple of times before. He's an important figure in the software and Internet security world. He gives lots of talks and writes lots of books, most of which I only have a passing interest in as someone who uses the Internet and software. His latest book, however, is one I'm actually going to read. It's called Exploiting Online Games and it's all about how people cheat and hack in online games. Although I'm not a huge online gamer, when I have time, it's something I really enjoy. My son, Geeky Boy, is already hacking his way through several online games as is his little sister, Geeky Girl. And of course, I have several students who are avid gamers, both online and off. Online gaming and virtual worlds are becoming a big thing in education as well, so their security (or lack thereof) is an important issue for many of us.

I haven't gotten my hands on a copy yet, but I've seen the table of contents and bits of text here and there. The book covers how cheating in games works with enough details (it appears) to do it yourself, how money is made, legal issues, the problem with bugs, and a bit about how to protect yourself. Most of the book covers cheating and hacking, so if you're interested in hacking around a game, it looks like you'll get a sophisticated how-to lesson. Gary has posted the preface to the book on his on blog, which will give you a better idea of what the book is about. It's supposed to be out today, but Amazon is still saying pre-order, so maybe it goes online at 9 a.m. or something. When I get my copy, I'll post a more thorough review.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The old guard

New Kid and PZ have already taken this Chronicle article to task, but I can't resist a few of my own comments.

Why is it that we never see articles in the Chronicle about successful uses of technology in the classroom? Actually, there are a few, but they don't get much attention. Do a search at the Chronicle site using "technology" and "teaching" and you get a few positive articles, but then you also get articles titled "I upload therefore I teach" and "Too much catering to students."

The worst use of technology in teaching is the "Pimp my Course" type use where a faculty member simply turns their yellowed notes into Powerpoint presentations when they then upload to a course management system.

Despite my sometimes complaining about having to deal with people that are similar to the author of this article, I'm actually mostly proud of my faculty for not approaching technology in a "pimp my course" fashion. I was surprised this year when several faculty questioned me about saving YouTube videos because they found it such a valuable resource to illustrate points in the classroom. And they're not all using old MASH videos either. Some are using home videos that show child development. Some are using foreign language video. Some are finding political ads and tv commercials.

The faculty using podcasts are interested in doing so not just so their students will have access to lectures for review, but also to free up their class time for hands on work that more directly demonstrates the material contained in the lecture.

I based an entire dissertation on a class blog, and my conclusions were that class blogs are an extremely successful approach to teaching writing skills. In fact, some faculty here in non-writing intensive courses have created class blogs specifically to give students the opportunity to write about what they're learning in class. The amount of material they've written is amazing.

I'd like to see a shift towards more student-created content in the classroom. Let them create the videos and the podcasts as well as the blogs. Some classes are doing this. More should. Like New Kid, I'm a big advocate of face-to-face classes, but what my own experience has shown is that if you give students something to do before class--write a blog post, create a short podcast or video--in addition to the reading, that class is far more prepared and the discussion more lively.

I recognize that people in my position are sometimes a little overly enthusiastic about technology. We can't really help it. We got into this business because we love it. Plus, we're trying to get through some very thick skulls.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Generation Gap

I don't have time to blog these more fully, but I found these two posts/articles interesting. The first is from Inside Higher Ed reporting on a discussion about dealing with the generation gap in offices. Since I spent about 1/2 hour yesterday discussing the pros and cons of various tattoo and piercing locations with my students yesterday, I found it particularly ironic.

The second is an extended commentary on a Brooks column I haven't read about "The Age of Independence," an age I totally skipped, I guess. Though I didn't have my first kid until 27, so if you count college, I got in nearly a decade. Since I was completely broke, it didn't feel much like independence, but whatever.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Win a Robot!

Really. Take this brief survey about your experience with computing and computer science and you could win a robot. Plus, you'd be helping out Mr. Geeky's students.


Sunday, July 08, 2007

3000 miles later

Thanks everyone for the warm congratulations! I feel mostly relieved. I have loose ends to tie up. That will all be done within a week, I'm guessing. While driving back home today, Mr. Geeky and I calculated the miles we drove to complete this whole trip: a little over 3000. I have seen a lot of America these last two weeks.

I'm too tired to write much more, though I have a lot in my head. The defense itself was fairly uneventful. I wouldn't say it was fun, exactly, but after about 5 minutes I was no longer nervous at least. They asked some hard questions that made me think--a very good thing in my mind. And, for the most part, I felt like an expert. I think one thing this whole process has taught me is how much I don't know. And how much more I want to know. I'm very much looking forward to the next stage of my life, whatever that may be.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Dr. Geeky Mom

I think I need to change the title of the blog now. I'm officially a Dr. Film at 11.