Monday, December 31, 2007

2008 Resolutions

Some people are not making resolutions. Others have themes. Me? I'm a bit of a self-improvement junkie. I love making resolutions and I don't mind if I don't make it. It's the thought that counts. So here's what I'm thinking for this year.

Personal:
1. Exercise. You knew I'd put this one on the list. I'm planning 3 times a week (Tues, Thur, and Sat) with the possibility of adding more--a class maybe. My goal is to lose 15 pounds which I know can mostly be achieved by moving around more (my diet is pretty good). I'm sticking mostly with walking for now, but I own weights, a yoga pad and a couple of DVDs so I have plenty of tools to work with. I get bored easily, so I'm going to look for opportunities to hike, play games, etc. I'd like to join a women's soccer team in the spring, but that may be too ambitious. We'll see.

2. Declutter the house. It stresses me out to see stuff piled in the corners. I think this will go a long way toward helping me relax. Thanks to the Unclutterer blog, I've gotten some great ideas. The main idea I'm going to work on is scheduling cleanup time. I'm very organized about my time, so it makes sense to take advantage of that (as I'm doing with exercise). I hate cleaning, but if I'm supposed to clean for 1/2 hour, I will. I've scheduled one room per day for 1/2 hour (today is the kitchen/dining area). I'm also creating playlists for musical cleaning. I'm hoping most of this time can be for decluttering and not general cleaning or that it will eventually. For example, the kids and Mr. Geeky are responsible for basic kitchen cleaning. If the kitchen is clean, I can do things like reorganize a cabinet. And once that's done, I can cut cleaning time to 15 minutes. Yes, I'm very optimistic.

3. One day without screens. Our geeky household spends a lot of time in front of the computer or a video game console. It's not that I think all such activities are bad, but it definitely takes time away from other possible activities and I think it would be a good example for the kids. I did this yesterday--no screens until 5:00. Geeky Girl followed my lead most of the day and read a book and played with other toys besides her video games or webkins. I didn't tell her to; she just did. Now if I could get Mr. Geeky to follow suit . . . I'll admit this was hard for me. But I think it will be worth it.

Work
1. Blog three times a week. I let the blogging slide this semester because I was really busy. I think the blog can be a good tool for getting out information, so I need to do it more. Again, I'll schedule this time.
2. Schedule time for research/reading. I was doing this, but I let it slide, so I'm reinstating it. In order for this to happen, I have to leave my office--sad but true.

That's really it. I have a lot of little things I want to try to do--like use LibraryThing and do Project365 again this year. But those are minor.

I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year's Eve. Here at the Geeky household, we'll be finishing a Risk game, drinking champagne and watching Monk.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Resolutions past

Before I post this year's resolutions, I thought I'd take stock of previous years'. I make resolutions twice a year, now and at the start of academic years. Let's see how I did.

According to this post from 2004, recording resolutions for 2005, I wanted to do the following:
1. Walk at least 30 minutes per day (may be substituted with other exercise)
2. Write at least a page a day.
3. Cut my debt in half. Ideally, I'd eliminate it, but I think that's unrealistic.
That first one has been a perennial item on the list. The desire to exercise in some form or another comes up almost every 6 months on this blog. Earlier this month, I started walking--running even--but then weather and/or illness have prevented me from being outside and/or mobile for a couple of weeks now. I've decided that trying to exercise every day is crazy. If I miss a day, I feel horrible and that's just counterproductive. Three to four times a week is more reasonable. I can almost always do something on both weekend days and that just leaves two days during the week to squeeze in time. I obsess about this for two reasons. One, I've gained about 15 pounds over the last couple of years. Two, I'm not getting any younger. I really do want to be in decent shape as I age.

Two and three are pretty moot. I'd like to get back maybe to writing for fun (besides here), but I'm not sure if I'm ready to add that to my life. The debt is more than cut in half, but not eliminated. It seems likely that I could do that this year, but it's not a top priority.

One new year and one academic year saw finishing the dissertation at the top of the list. There are some other interesting things on that academic year list: taking hikes, going to kid events, quitting the inadequacy schtick. I've done okay on the second and third items, but the first, not so much. I might be able to add that this year. January 2007 was also a year of interesting resolutions. Family game night didn't pan out. We did plenty of stuff as a family, but it wasn't always game night Date nights worked out pretty well also, especially after the dissertation was handed in. And work is, well, work. I'll have more to say about that later.

Most recently, of course, I made another set of academic year resolutions. I still think I could work on relaxing. I'm planning some meditation or something. The exercise, of course, a struggle. Publishing something--I think that's going to happen. We'll see.

So, I've kept a few resolutions, missed others, but haven't let failure hinder me from continuing to put them on the list. A quick Google search brings up some interesting articles on how to keep resolutions and/or set goals for the coming year. I like the idea from this article of setting mini goals each month that are part of the greater goal. I especially like this post from lifehack.org, which suggests doing what I just did--looking back at past resolutions and seeing what didn't work and why. What resolutions have you not kept and why? What's on your list for this year?

Sniffling my way into the New Year

I picked up a cold on Christmas Day--worst. present. ever. Almost every year, I get sick over Christmas. Some years, it sets in before the big day. I have memories of being severely drugged up while opening presents or eating Christmas dinner and of being seriously miserable.

This year, the cold didn't hit until late Christmas Day and we pretty much lay around for the next few days anyway, so it didn't really cramp my style too much. Only now, I'm starting to get stir crazy and want to start doing something, but my head is stuffed and I have no energy. I started to do something yesterday, but no go. I lasted five minutes.

I would also like to start thinking. But maybe I'll wait until I go back to work in a few days. Cold or no cold, the down time has been good for me, I think. One of the things I'm thinking about for the new year is a way to be more zen, more relaxed. I'm not as wound up as some people--at least from an outward appearance--but inside, I'm a mess. I had a dream last night where I was seriously pissed because I didn't have control over a situation--and the situation was pleasant--and I was still pissed. Part of getting to the zen place is controlling what I can--including organizing my house and tasks. I'm working on resolutions for home and work. Tomorrow, I'll dig up resolutions past and see how I did and where to go from here.

I've inwardly chastised myself for spending so much time playing Civilization, watching Monk (an inspiration for organization?), and watching truly bad tv. But sometimes, I need that time to clear my head and not focus on the minutia that tend to run around in my head. If I weren't on vacation, I suspect I would have popped some pills and gone to work despite being sick even though rest is what I really need. We are a culture afraid to rest. I'm going to try to get away from that fear this year.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging: First Ever


Kali
Originally uploaded by lorda.
This was the only picture I could take before Kali headed under the bed for a nap. She's a little groggy from surgery and a bit of a cold (there's medicine already!), but we're glad to have her home earlier than expected.

She popped right out of her carrier and wandered all around downstairs. We got her loads of stuff to play with, so as soon as she's up to it, we're looking forward to playing some good games.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Meet Kali

This is my Christmas present. We went to the animal shelter yesterday to pick her out. She's about 7 months old, solid black, and very sweet. She was reaching out her paws to us and when we took her out of the cage, she wasn't skittish at all, just very snuggly. There were lots of cute cats there. They seemed to be going quickly as well. I was glad to see so many animals getting homes.

Kali won't be home with us until the 31st. She's getting spayed and microchipped. We're going to go get some toys and things to welcome her into the family. Look for future catblogging and lolcat building.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Google is not about privacy--and that may be okay

There's a post this morning about how some people are complaining that Google Reader's new feature where your shared items are shared with your contacts violates their privacy. Robert Scoble says that Google needs more granular privacy controls a la Facebook. I vote with his first response, that people need clarification on what public means.

I've written about this before, from the standpoint of being aware that future employers are increasingly eyeing a future employee's online presence. Increasingly, I think, if you're using social software, nothing is private. Search, even, is not private. Sure, there are ways to change settings so that your searches aren't cached, your blogs aren't pinging services, etc., but most people don't change the defaults, so they're just out there. And that's okay. People just need to understand up front what it means to have so much of their online activity shared. And maybe being more open--online or elsewhere--is a good thing. Maybe it makes us more accountable for our actions. Sure, there are still some parts of our lives and our thoughts that are private, but mostly those parts aren't being put online and if they are, I'd argue that either a) someone doesn't understand how public the online space is; or b) they want people to know about those parts. Healthy skepticism is good, but paranoia leads us down a bad path.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

All is calm . . .


Sunrise with Moon Christmas Eve
Originally uploaded by lorda.
Sort of. It's been a great Christmas so far. We can barely walk in the living room. We're completely full. And I need a nap. A roaring success I'd say. I hope you are all have just as wonderful a day, whether you're celebrating Christmas or just enjoying some time with friends and family.

Entire Christmas set

Monday, December 24, 2007

Tracking Santa via Google Earth

We're tracking Santa via Google Earth this year. It's really cool. Check it out.

All too familiar


We've had many a Christmas like this. Up all night blogging, playing video games, checking email just one more time . . .

An opportunity for girls

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Study, girls are more likely than boys to create content online. The NYT reports on this phenomenon this morning. I actually discussed this in a talk I gave to the remaining seven sisters schools a year ago. To me, such statistics show opportunities for girls getting involved in a number of fields. Journalism, video production, literary writing, web programming, music production are all areas that using blogs and YouTube and even Facebook can lead to.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Gender roles

Sometimes I look at my role within my family based on the tasks I've taken on and see that it's pretty traditional. For example, I do the cooking and the laundry, both tasks traditionally taken on by the "woman of the house." Mr. Geeky takes out the trash and mows the yard, typical "man of the house" jobs. I often wonder if our children will fall into these roles themselves. They may, but I think we share enough household tasks that the few that are gender-specific may not matter that much. Geeky Boy and Mr. Geeky are responsible for loading and unloading the dishwasher and cleaning up the kitchen after a meal, something I know both my own mother and Mr. Geeky's did solo. I also do a fair amount of work in the yard. Mr. Geeky will often do laundry and I ask Geeky Boy to do his own fairly often as well.

A lot of couples we know and hang out with have reverse gender roles (not to mention the same-sex couples we know). For example, the man does most of the cooking even in households where the woman stays at home with the kids. I often joke that every man I dated before Mr. Geeky was a cook and I married the one guy who had no desire or skill in that area. It's okay, really. I love to cook and Mr. Geeky makes spaghetti and breakfast once a month or so. Geeky Girl did comment during our Top Chef-watching days that she noticed that moms did all the cooking in "real life" but that there weren't many female chefs on the show. That was a tough one to explain.

I've been a feminist pretty much my whole life. Certainly my view is that we should pursue equality for all people, and mostly I've focused on how women and their roles are devalued and I've worked to rectify that. But with a son, I've also started thinking about definitions of masculinity as much as definitions of femininity, and I find them to be just as confining and problematic. I've done a fair job of breaking down my own restrictive views of femininity, but I haven't thought about masculinity as much except in recognizing that I find traditional views of it distasteful. I think Mr. Geeky and I try our best to break out of traditional molds of these definitions, but it's hard not to fall back into roles and reactions that break down along gender lines. I continue to be amazed at how much our culture insists upon traditional views. I think I'm more aware of these at the holidays when home and hearth are central to the celebrations and the woman is central to the keeping of traditions. At least that's how it's portrayed in the movies.

Readers, how do you deal with gender in your household? Do you worry about the roles your children will fall into or how gender will affect what they pursue as a career or their relationships with others?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Solstice

I'm a little late to the solstice party, but I've been reading some interesting posts about solstice around the blogosphere. In all of them, there is an impetus to put the old year behind and to look toward the new. From here on out, the light grows. In spite of the cold that will envelope most of us, we know that spring will indeed come. The past two Christmases have been difficult for me for various reasons. Last year, I felt that I was in a year of transition. I was finishing the dissertation (finished a draft before the break), deciding on future career plans, coming out of a depression. The year before I had begun the slide into the depression, though I didn't realize that until I was looking back on it.

This year, I feel like I'm in a good place. I regularly recognize how lucky I am. I have a wonderful family. I'm so very proud of my kids and of Mr. Geeky for all that they do. They are all truly kind people that I enjoy being around. I really like spending time with them and I hope that that's the case for my kids as they get older. I feel truly blessed to have the financial stability to provide a good Christmas for them. When we asked the kids what they wanted for Christmas, neither spit out a long list of stuff. In fact, both of them said that they really didn't need anything and it wasn't until we pushed a little that they came up with stuff.

That's not to say we're perfect and it certainly hasn't been a perfect year. There have been ups and downs. There will always be ups and downs, but I'm looking forward to next year in a way that I haven't in a quite a while.

Happy Winter Solstice everyone. May you, too, look forward to the days of light ahead.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The great slide into vacation mode

I have 4 more days of work before I'm off for a week. I really need the down time and I'm more aware of that than ever. Normally, I save enough vacation time to take the week before Christmas off, but this year, the dissertation trip ate up almost all of it. I'm in that mode of having some loose ends to tie up, but nothing major, and no motivation to work on or start anything big. There are things looming after the break, and I'm excited about them all, but I just can't make myself think about them too much before I'm going to hit a week of doing nothing. I really will do nothing over that time--at least nothing that requires brain energy. The most complex thing I plan to do is work jigsaw puzzles and play video games. There's holiday baking too, but that's not really terribly complex.

I seem to get in this mode before every break. At some point, I just feel myself disconnect. I manage to go through the motions, but that's it. When I had grading, I didn't really get like this because I had this mad rush to get everything done before whatever deadline I'd set for myself (or was thrust upon me)--and then I could go into break mode. When I'm not teaching though, there is no sprint to the finish. It's more like watching the last minutes of a game where you know who the winner will be. You watch just in case some miracle happens or there's an interesting play, but your heart's not really in it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Gifts worth blogging about

In my campaign to get rid of clutter myself, I decided not to pass clutter on to my family. Most of my family is in a position of being able to buy whatever they want or need. I'm far enough away from them that I don't know what they have or what they need anyway. But I do know them well enough to know what they might like. And even though it might be better to give the money I spend on Christmas to charity, I still like to show my family that I'm thinking of them and do something for them that they might not do for themselves.

Following a post on the Unclutterer blog, I started looking for things to give my family that would be thoughtful but non clutter producing. But I was having a hard time. Out of desperation, I did a search on Google for "finding gifts." And that took me to FindGift.com, a site filled with fun and interesting gifts. And from there, I ended up at several sites that offer gift certificates for dinners out, golf lessons, singing lessons, nascar driving, and more. Both Signature Days and Cloud 9 Living offer lots of interesting options. There was also Spa Finder and Clubs Galore for other non-clutter gifts.*

Now, I still gave some material gifts, but I think I got some excellent non-material gifts that the recipients will appreciate.

I have two really weird gifts along these lines that I'd love to receive: time with a personal organizer and a financial planner. What are your odd gift wishes?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Administrative work is intellectual work

I've had this post brewing for a while, but New Kid's recent post where she contemplates leaving academe prompted me to actually write it. The dilemma faced by many faculty thinking of leaving is wondering whether work outside of academe will offer intellectual challenges and rewards or if it will turn them into mindless corporate or administrative drones. While I'm sure there are jobs that would not be intellectually fulfilling, a lot of jobs become what you make them. Academic administration, to me, offers the best possibility of having intellectual fulfillment. Anyone who reads Dean Dad regularly should see that there's a lot of intellectual work going into making decisions related to running an institution. I've been thinking about what makes these jobs hard brain work as opposed to simply pencil pushing.*

  • First, some administrators, perhaps not at the highest levels, are able to maintain a research agenda in their area of research. I still do research and write papers and give presentations. And I'm able to pursue whatever interests I have since I'm not bound to covering certain areas. I feel that I can pursue research related to my work while I'm at work. If I veered too far from that, I'd probably pursue that outside of work.
  • There are always problems to solve. They may not be the same kind of problems a researcher works on, but they still require a lot of thought--and often some research. These often require critical thinking skills from a very different perspective than when doing academic research, but it's still quite challenging.
  • Textual analysis. In its simplest form, this can be reading between the lines of memos and emails. But it can also be about analyzing legal documents and contracts or proposals for grants or projects.
  • Writing. My god, the writing. I write more now than I ever did, and the writing needs to be carefully crafted and thought out. I have to attend to audience in a way I never did before--multiple audiences at once! I've written all kinds of documents since I've been on the administrative side: daily email, proposals, evaluations (both of me and others), documentation, web content, pr material. I like the variety. Because academe is a very text-driven environment, good writing skills are not only appreciated, they're crucial to getting real work done.
  • Teaching. In my line of work, there's a lot of teaching. I work with both faculty and students. I've done individual tutorials and workshops. I've created materials for workshops and I've created materials for the "self-taught." I've also had the opportunity to teach courses in the college curriculum. Many places will offer this as an opportunity if you have the experience and the desire (and time!) to teach. So teaching can be a part of an administrative job. But also, there's a lot of teaching that goes on in trying to articulate institutional goals, in showing how decisions were made and how they affect individuals, really in almost every conversation you have.
Honestly, a lot of these jobs are what you make them. If you want to treat it like a mindless job, then it will be. But if you bring all your intellectual skills to bear, that approach will be appreciated and will make the job more fulfilling. There are a lot of differences between these jobs that are worth noting.
  • Institutional perspective. I'm still surprised by how many faculty, despite the fact that they run the place don't have an institutional perspective. They still think only of their little corner of the world, their own pet peeves. As an administrator, you have to think more broadly, even at the lowest levels sometimes, you have to do this. You have to think about what's best for the institution and not about what's best for a particular department or particular faculty member. Balancing individual and institutional needs is a real challenge, one that requires a lot of thought.
  • Working in groups. Unless you're in the sciences where collaboration is common, most faculty moving out of academe will struggle with the idea of relying on others to do parts of their work for them. Also, you have to think about forming appropriate teams to get work done and to participate in teams in an effective way. This requires a great deal of cooperation and diplomacy. It can get frustrating when you're used to just doing everything yourself, but in the end, it's important to include a lot of people.
  • Lack of prestige and respect. The upper administration is almost universally reviled by faculty and there's very little love for the support staff either. That's something to get used to. I still struggle with it a little, but I've also learned that your actions can earn you a lot of respect. It just takes a very long time.
I'm sure I've left things out on both lists. Maybe other administrators out there will chime in.

*I've always thought it was funny to call administrators in academe pencil pushers, when the real pencil pushers are the faculty. Outside the classroom, there's all that grading and writing, not a lot of action.





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Monday, December 10, 2007

Teenage? Tweenage?

Geeky Boy is 12, decidedly not a kid anymore, decidedly not an adult yet, and definitely in the middle of some kind of transition. Before I gave birth to him, I bought every book on the planet about pregnancy, birth, and child rearing. Once I got past the the toddler stage, I quit buying books. I figured I knew what I was doing now and besides, I remember life past the age of 4 or 5, so I could draw on that experience. Boy was I wrong. It's not like things are bad or desperate or anything. It's just that things are very, very different. I'm no longer worried about the same things. I used to worry about development--whether my children were reading enough, learning enough, learning the right things, etc. Now I worry about maintaining the motivation for learning, about developing life skills to succeed in school, to get into a good college, to be happy with where they end up in life. Add to that the worries about completely derailing--through drugs, sex, or other problems--and life suddenly gets really complicated.

I picked up The Good Teen by Richard Lerner and whizzed through it. It had lots of good advice, but my biggest fear is that there's no way I can give enough time to foster the positive development he advocates. He talks about getting involved in the community and the school, providing opportunities to talk with your teen, helping him or her develop friendships and relationships with relatives and other adult friends and mentors. I agree with a lot of what he says and think his recommendations make sense. But I'm also thinking, holy crap, that's a full time job! I no longer wonder what parents who stay home in the school years do with their time.

I'm just now realizing that being a connected, contributing human being is a lot of work. I think I functioned under the very capitalist (and maybe communist?) notion that contribution comes through work and that nothing else really matters. I'm starting to feel that while contribution can come through work, a whole lot of it comes through your relationship to your family and contribution to your community, both local and national. And most Americans, I think, are too busy getting and spending to pay attention to that.

I want my kids to understand and appreciate what it means to be a connected, contributing human being, but I'm having a hard time finding time to show them the way. I'm feeling pretty disconnected myself.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

RBOC: Weekend Edition

  • Christmas shopping has begun. Most has occurred online in my pjs. We're trying not to be extravagant and not to add to people's clutter. Consumable goods and "experience" gifts--spa treatments, lessons, etc.--are at the top of our list.
  • Speaking of consumable, one of the most ideal gifts for several people in my family would be a wine-of-the-month club or beer-of-the-month club, but the archaic way our country and states deal with alcohol makes it impossible. Note to winemakers and distributors: you're missing out.
  • We'll be getting a tree and getting out decorations today. Should be fun.
  • I'm very behind on blog reading. The last week left almost no time to do any reading, plus I need to shift when I do that reading now that I'm not doing it in the morning.
  • I'm really looking forward to some time off. I've been working extremely hard the last few weeks and I suspect the next couple will also be hard, wrapping up all kinds of loose ends that unraveled while I was working on a big project. At least I've had my weekends.
  • I have some more involved posts brewing that I will hopefully get to today after the decorating is done.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Wrong week



So it's been a tough week to start up the walking regimen again. I was much more successful than the guy from Airplane! at least. On Tuesday, it was freaking cold and there were 40 mph winds. I only walked 15 minutes, mainly because by the time I got all my gear on and got out the door, it was 6:15. Since I have to be in the shower by 6:30 so I can arrive at work by 7:30, I couldn't do more than 15 minutes. Wednesday the winds had died down, but it was still cold. Today, I thought I'd get up at 5:45 to accommodate for the gearing up time, but opted to sleep in and walk in the afternoon (I'm home by 3:00). That was a good plan since it was 18 degrees this morning and there was an inch or two of snow on the ground.

It's not bad after the first block or two. The first day, I didn't have enough butt coverage, so I was plenty warm on top, but my butt was cold the entire time. After some long underwear and warmer workout clothes purchases, I managed to keep the butt warm. I'm catching up on podcasts and generally enjoying it so far. I still have to convince myself. The voices in my head say, It's so cold. Don't go. The bed is nice and warm. I have to fight that still. I'll say this, spring is gonna feel really warm to me.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Electronic Communications

An article in the Chronicle this morning is very apropos to something that I've been witnessing a lot of lately. This semester, my colleagues and I have been the recipients of very uncollegial communications. These have come from primarily faculty and students (at least what I've seen) and not staff. It's difficult to respond to these kinds of messages, riddled as they are with exclamation points and ALL CAPS!!! Part of me wants to start off the response with, "Hello? Do you realize what a jerk you sound like? Maybe you'd like to read this out loud before you hit the send button." But I usually never point out that their message was perceived as condescending or insulting or just plain mean. But perhaps I should. Or maybe I should pick up the phone and say, "Hey I'm responding to your email message. Did you realize that the tone was harsh? It seemed like you were yelling at me. Did you mean for it to sound that way?"

My rule about electronic communications is to act as if you're speaking to the person face-to-face. If you put something in an email, blog post, blog comment, or discussion forum, it should be something you'd also say in a face-to-face conversation.

My favorite part of the Chronicle article is the following scenario:

What's more, people don't seem to consider the consequences of their
bad behavior. I know of a small group of faculty members who waged a
vicious attack on their chairwoman over a decision she made affecting
their area of study. Two weeks later, the group's ring leader
petitioned the chairwoman for her "moral and financial support" of a
new project he wanted to start on the campus.



"I thought I'd entered the twilight zone," she told me. "He acted as
if the attack of a few weeks earlier had never happened and now we were
supposed to become bosom buddies."


I can't tell you how often that's happened to me. I don't feel particularly generous toward someone who yelled at me last week. I'm okay with disagreement and constructive criticism as long as it's done in a civil manner.

I don't necessarily think world civility is at all-time low, but I do think that most people don't take communication skills--spoken, written, or electronic--very seriously. I think electronic mediums actually offer us the opportunity to work on communication skills more carefully--if we don't dismiss those communication media out of hand. What do you all think of the state of communication in academia? How can so many smart people be so bad at this?


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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Reality check

This afternoon I learned that one of my college friends died of breast cancer. She was 39. I was struck pretty hard by the news. She was someone I was fairly close to in college, but then lost track of immediately afterwards. I only saw her at reunions. So it's not as if I had remained close to her. If I had, I would have know about the downturn her health had taken in the last month and perhaps, the news of her death would not have been quite so surprising.

For me, she is frozen in time, 20 years ago, when I would spend many hours sitting in her dorm room, discussing the finer points of relationships. I remember when she asked me if she should pursue her future husband romantically. "We're best friends," she had said. "I can't sleep with my best friend." I assured her she could. She was a very solid person and was always a good source of advice, so I always liked spending time with her, whether it was hanging out in her room or at a party or having a couple of drinks.

When I saw her later, she still had her youthful vivaciousness, but touched with maturity. She had become a wonderful woman.

I don't know what else to say except that it just seems so hard to have someone die so young. She seems to have lived a rich life, but it just wasn't a long enough one.


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Monday, December 03, 2007

Conquering the sloth

Last week, when I wrote about my clutter and exercise problems, I had every intention of tackling them. I semi-tackled the clutter problem by doing a little clutter reduction in the kids' rooms. I managed to at least keep new clutter from accumulating, so that's something.

On the exercise front, however, I've failed. Truly, the best time for me to exercise is 6 a.m. I usually get up, wake up Geeky Boy and while he's showering, I have my first cup of coffee and catch up on blog reading. It's time to myself that I enjoy. Last week I was thinking about going for a brisk walk at 6 a.m., but I couldn't bring myself to do that. And here I am this morning at 7, having not exercised, but wanting to do something about this lack of fitness thing. I'm having a hard time thinking about giving up this 1/2 or so that I have to myself. I think I need to readjust my attitude. I need to think of walking as the time to myself. Geeky Boy now wants to be driven to school since the weather is cold. I have to throw on clothes anyway, so it would be easy to that 45 minutes earlier. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I myself leave for work at 7:15, dropping Geeky Boy off on the way. It would be trivial to walk half an hour before taking a shower and getting ready for work. And yet, there are obstacles. The lack of motivation is the big one, which makes these small ones seem like deal breakers. I'm writing them here, so that I can get rid of them and make this happen.
  1. Coffee. I must have coffee in the morning. I've already automated the making of the coffee. I could easily take this with me on my walk. I just have to make sure I have my travel mug at home (it's currently at work).
  2. Clothes. I need warm workout clothes. I have a few, but not enough to ensure I'll have something warm to wear. I need hat and gloves as well. I also need clothes warm enough to wear when it's below freezing.
  3. iPod carrier. In the winter, this isn't as much of a problem because I have pockets in a vest I can wear over anything. I used to have one until I got a new iPod and they changed the form factor. The new iPod doesn't fit in the old carrier. Alternatively, I could get a shuffle and put a few things on to listen to while I walk. Maybe that could be my reward for keeping up with this plan until Christmas.
That's all (besides motivation) that's keeping me from getting started. So, I've vowed today to bring my mug home and go pick up a few more clothing items to get started. My goal is to walk every day until Christmas Eve. I'll take the holiday off and begin again on the 26th. You are all my witnesses, so I hope you'll keep me honest.


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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Life-long employment

Dean Dad has written a couple of posts recently that take on the sacred cow of tenure. It's a theme that comes up again and again in the academic blogosphere. I think Dean Dad, New Kid, Dr. Crazy, and others have done an excellent job of covering several different perspectives on the issue. I have two perspectives to offer: faculty spouse and non-administrative staff.

First, I want make a few random comments. A few commenters at Dean Dad's have said directly or indirectly that "tenure is all we have." I find that both wrong and sad. I know faculty salaries are often lower than they should be, given the amount of schooling and other preparation the job takes. But there are plenty of other benefits besides tenure that are important: health insurance, child care benefits, tuition remission and benefits for children, generous vacation time (winter and spring breaks, summer) etc. These vary, of course, by institution. Tenure may be an excuse for institutions to not offer better salary and benefits. Instead of saying, "tenure is all we have," maybe faculty should ask themselves what they really want and then ask their administrators for it. Anyone who's been in a job outside of academe (with a few exceptions) knows that the benefits at many academic institutions are much better than you can get in the "real world."

Second random thought. I keep thinking how gendered much of the discussion is. Not only is tenure a "pre-modern" concept, as DD describes it, it relies to a large extent on the "pre-modern" family structure as well, which includes having a wife at home.

Speaking of wives, as a faculty spouse myself, I've been through the tenure ringer, not once, but twice. I've moved to two different places for my husband's job. Moving might still be required even without a tenure system, but it might be possible to imagine treating the job as just a job without the tenure system. There were many days over the 10 years that Mr. Geeky was pursuing tenure when he came home for dinner, then went right back to work. I know many other faculty who didn't even come home for dinner. Besides the physical absence, there was emotional absence as well. Mr. Geeky was pretty good about this, but many aren't. Although I'm not unhappy with the choices we made as a family, the whole tenure process is extraordinarily hard on families, including living separately to forcing much of the household upkeep to the spouse to not even being able to pursue a family in the first place. The problems of work-life balance are not unique to academe, of course, but it presents problems that are often not found in the "regular" workforce, many tolerated in pursuit of the reward of tenure.

From the perspective of a staff member, tenure can create tensions between faculty and staff. Tenure often gives faculty a sense of entitlement that causes them to behave badly toward the staff. Staff often don't understand the tenure process and the pressure faculty feel which they may project onto the staff. Most staff think of their jobs as just jobs so they don't get someone who pursues their job as their life. In turn, faculty can't understand why someone would leave or not be available on weekends. Staff don't know how to react to requests that come in at all hours with too little notice. They don't understand the frustration of faculty when they don't respond pronto. Interestingly, there's often not a huge disparity in salary or benefits between faculty and staff, but in privilege. I don't know that getting rid of the tenure system would alleviate these problems, but it might be a step in the right direction.

I think DD is right. We need to move on.


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