Sunday, September 28, 2008
It never ceases to amaze me how seriously some people take the game. The fact that I'm paying about as much attention to the game as to tv reflects in the way I'm geared. The really good gear is in dungeons and dungeons take a long time to go through--on the order of a few hours. I just don't have that kind of time to commit to playing something I don't take that seriously. So I have less powerful gear than those who commit the time and energy to running dungeons. I also don't like going into dungeons over and over again once I've figured out a strategy to go through it. People who take the game more seriously will go through some dungeons over and over in order to get every possible item that drops. For me, once the challenge wears off, I'm done. I also don't do a lot of PvP (player vs. player) though there are some versions of it that I like. Again, PvP is an area that gains you good gear if you're willing to put the time in to acquire it.
The thing is, those that take the game seriously often give those of us that don't a hard time. I've been in PvP battlegrounds where people have asked me to leave cause I'm going to bring the rest of the "team" down. They've yelled at everyone for "sucking." I've called people out for this behavior before, reminding them specifically that they're playing a video game and to chill out. If someone wants to run a battleground before their character is ready and die all the time, who cares? Does it really matter that much? Isn't it just about having fun? I've also seen people so focused on getting the right gear that they pretty much ignore other parts of the game. Of course, the things I focus on--exploring new areas, raising my professions--are things that would immediately get called "gay" (that's the most common epithet I've seen for disapproval of gameplay).
The incident that prompted this post was a favor I did for someone yesterday. I am a level 70 warrior, the highest level one can get (so far). A much lower level character asked me to run him through a dungeon. This is common practice, a practice I understand but find bizarre because it takes the challenge out of running a dungeon. At any rate, we got to the first boss, a boss that I have never beaten and I almost died. I beat it and I was doing almost all the work. The boss is hard because it spawns a bunch of mini versions of itself throughout the battle that you have to kill in addition to the main boss. So anyway, the guy I was running died in the process, and he said to me, "WTF!? That should have been easy for you. Aren't you taking this seriously?" At the time I was pissed because I thought, hell, I could spend my time in any number of ways in or out of game and I'm spending it helping someone I don't know do something in a virtual world. I told him so at the time. Now that I look back on it, I think how funny it is that he wanted to know if I was taking a game seriously. Really.
Friday, September 26, 2008
The second half of the book is about what you can do with the data, how to be proactive--like being able to predict the winners of American Idol based on the popularity of contestant names in search results. I wonder if he could have predicted our current financial situation by seeing an increase in terms such as "how to get out of debt" or "default on mortgage." He also looks at finding the tipping point for new music groups, comparing traffic to the band's MySpace site to their official website. Someone could watch the data and know when a band is going to hit it big.
At one point, Bill tells us that he loves data. I, too, love data and this book was a fun ride through various bits of data that told an interesting story about different aspects of life and business.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Seriously, when I was out canvassing, a few people told me specifically they weren't making up their minds until they see the debates. I think there are people clamoring for information and who want to really measure these guys up. Let's bring it on.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
I sort of understand that basically there's no money to be had and that the $700 billion bailout is a way of getting money out there for banks to lend to each other and in theory, to us and to buy shares in things, etc. But no one's sure if that will work and we're not getting anything out of the deal. We will not share ownership in the companies and the assets we hold may be worth less than Monopoly money. No one's really talking about what scenarios we might be facing with or without the bailout. No one's saying exactly what will happen except that it will be dire. Well, how dire? Tell us.
The whole thing makes me mad. As I have personally tried to decrease my debt, the country has gone the other way and has encouraged others to go along. "Go shopping," Bush said after 9/11 and we did. And I was really pissed watching Andrew Sullivan on Real Time blame the people who took out the bad loans for putting us into this mess. Has he been to a mortgage broker or a car dealer lately? They're selling these things to people--hard. NPR did a story about this not long ago where brokers forced people to lie on applications so the loan would go through. You can't both say people are dumb and then blame them for being swindled into a loan they can't afford. Bush's mantra has been work hard and you'll get ahead. Well, that's just patently not true. The real truth is, have friends in high places and you'll get ahead. And if the current situation doesn't prove that, I don't know what does.
Monday, September 22, 2008
The thing I keep returning to, though, is that I do wish our house were more organized and that we weren't rushing around half the time to get enough laundry done or to sign papers or whatnot. The only way for this to happen in our current situation is for one or both of us to give up leisure. And that's just not going to happen. We both value that too much. After spending the weekend trying to catch up on such things, this article in IHE was just the thing I needed. I'm reading through the first part and the whole time I'm thinking, "It's because the guy doesn't do housework; that's why women leave these jobs." And then, they finally get to it.
While universities and other employers have some of the responsibility for helping women advance, so too may their spouses. Preston cited a survey of married male and female scientists (not married to one another) in which each were asked what share of household chores was performed by their spouses. The female scientists estimated that their spouses performed an average of 34.7 percent of chores, while the men estimated that their spouses perform 65.1 percent of chores. Even assuming equal levels of honesty (and some women in the audience had their doubts about the men), that’s a gap that would have a significant burden on the women not faced by the men. (And the gaps are larger for childcare responsibilities.)I'd say in our situation that I'm doing 40-50% of the housework while Mr. Geeky does 20-30%, leaving a gap of at least 20% and up to 40%, which sounds about right to me. Childcare is another story. During the year, it's 50-50, in the summer, Mr. Geeky takes on most of it, so I have no complaints there. If I wanted to ramp up my career in any way, the house and possibly the kids would suffer unless Mr. Geeky stepped up to the plate. And he might, but he has his own demanding career; there's only so much he could do even if he wanted to. We already have household help. I suppose we could increase that. I think this somewhat accounts for the doctors not having as many problems balancing things. They can afford help. Your average academic can only afford so much.
Another area that I find interesting that explains the gap is the difference in competition between women and men. In a test to measure how competitive women and men are, researchers found that men are definitely more competitive.
Women are much more likely to prefer the non-competitive approach and men gravitate overwhelmingly to the competition. Women are more likely, some studies have found, to go for the competition if it is single-sex and they are competing against other women.Some fields are full of competition, academe being one of them. Locally, one is often competing for resources, which is sometimes based on one's success in "national" competitions for publication. What if one is just curious, interested in exploring different issues, sharing those explorations with students and, when appropriate, on a national stage via conferences and journals? Or what if one simply wants to read other people's explorations and teach? Academe seems to have become a one size fits all operation. The beginning of the article stressed that different women want different things in terms of balance. When an industry only has one path for success, that can severely limit who chooses to take that path.
Niederle noted that there could be logic to these choices if men did better on the mazes, but they don’t. The gaps in risk-taking are as much from men who overestimate themselves and figure they will win (when they don’t necessarily stand a chance) as from women who could win, but avoid the competition.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
What I see happening is that professors aren’t making the decision to accept the inevitability of technology infiltrating the classroom and finding ways to integrate these mediums into their lessons, but instead what they choose to do is to bring all of the students down to a level of engagement where theirs is the only voice that can be heard. They hope that without any competition, the students attentions will naturally drift to them, but this tactic is doesn’t solve anything in the long run.Instead they are trying to force things to remain as they've always been.
The solution that this blogger suggests is:
The correct strategy is to upgrade the professors. Give professors the opportunity to integrate these new social media channels into their lessons so at least we’re communicating at the same level. From there the way to stop laptops from being such distractions is to get professors to be more interesting and add some real value to the educational process.I appreciate the sentiment, but I have to laugh too. From my perspective, I've been trying to "upgrade" professors for about 6 years. There've been plenty who have, mostly on their own, but there are still some TRS80's out there and even some mainframes. I certainly think there's more ways to give professors the opportunity to work with social media, but currently it's not on their priority list. In the mix of teaching, research, and service, learning new technology is way, way at the bottom. And honestly, for the mainframes, it's not just about new technology, but a whole new world. Figuring out that new world requires some time to immerse oneself in it for a few weeks or months and I can't imagine that most faculty will take that kind of time. I think this blogger is right that something's gonna give at some point, but our educational institutions are pretty rigid when it comes to integrating technology with pedagogy.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
I was struck by a story Tim related in his post, not about my own experience as a geek, but about my experience as a staff member. He talks about hearing a story from an uncle who served in the military about the way soldiers were treated by officers. Ten-year-old Tim offers up the suggestion that this has always been the case, back to Sargon the Great (I had to look it up myself). Tim was trying to make a connection, trying to show he knew something about the topic and that he could relate to the story in some way. The uncle, of course, didn't see it that way. And Tim recognizes what may have been the key issue:
Still, there’s a fundamental asymmetry. I could take what he said and add it to my knowledge, make use of it. He couldn’t take what I said unless he followed me into formal knowledge, or trusted me so much that what I said was in the books was as good as truth.Had I been there, had I even been the uncle, I would have said, "Really? I didn't know that. Who's Sargon the Great?" But I am always hungry for more knowledge and never afraid to admit that I don't know something. To me, that's not a sign of weakness. But what that made me think of was the way that a lot of staff would respond the way I might. I'm not talking just the "academic" staff (librarians and the like), but also administrative assistants, housekeepers, and others. After being around faculty and students, they often take a genuine interest in their work and see that as being a benefit, getting to talk to people about intellectual things, learning something new.
The asymmetry I often see goes the other way. Faculty often take no genuine interest in the thoughts or ideas of the staff. We have among our staff talented musicians, artists, woodworkers, writers, amateur historians, athletes, and more. We have people who've done interesting things in their lives and who've been to interesting places. And while I've seen some faculty take real interest in what staff have to offer, I've seen that when staff speak at discussion groups about these issues, fewer faculty attend than when it's a faculty member speaking about their research. I've seen one-sided conversations where staff ask about research or classes and the faculty member asks nothing about what someone might have done over the summer or what books they've read or movies they've seen. I tend to have the confidence to assert myself in such conversations, but many staff may not, may not see that what they know is of value.
I'm not saying this to say, "Hey you faculty jerks, take some interest." I don't think the lack of interest is intentional or malicious. Many faculty must and do spend a lot of time focused on their subject matter and that's certain to affect what they talk about and how. But it might be another explanation for the distaste "regular" people have toward intellectuals. It may not be just insecurities, but also a feeling of being slighted.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
What's funny is that the key to doing this kind of stuff is to not take it too personally. I had a couple of people hang up on me and quite a few more pretend to be someone else and tell me they weren't home. To those who are mean to volunteers when they call, they don't care. You're only making your own blood pressure rise. Even when my income depended on connecting with people and making the sale (I did business to business sales), I didn't really care too much if someone gave me an earful and hung up. It just meant I could move on to the next possibility that much faster.
I've done some canvassing for our local Congressman when he was running in 2006, but this is my first real involvement in a political campaign. The other volunteers have been with Obama since the beginning. I'm a latecomer, having supported Edwards and then Clinton. But since last night's calls were to Obama supporters, I easily got more fired up. I had a hilarious conversation with one woman about how awful Sarah Palin is. And she wanted me to make sure Obama put Hilary on the cabinet, preferably as Secretary of State. She said she could never volunteer making phone calls because she'd just get mad at McCain supporters and take em down a notch. I may be at that point when we start calling the undecideds. I did get one of those last night and she was actually quite nice about it, asked for more information, and said she really wanted to take the time to look over everything and think about it. I believed her.
I'm glad I didn't talk myself out of doing this and yes, it's exhausting and yes, it takes time out of an already busy life, but I think it really does take more people getting involved to make change happen. I just couldn't stand on the sidelines doing commentary anymore.
Monday, September 08, 2008
I want to comment on two things. One, he mentions the problem of college students not being exposed to different generations (more true for K-12). Most of college students' socializing and work happens among people their own age. I would argue that students who have active online lives have greater potential to be conversing with people of a variety of ages. Someone who has a blog (outside of Live Journal) or who plays online games is likely to interact with some older and some younger people. In my own online experience, I know this variety of generations is both a challenge and a delight.
The second, and more important, issue for me, comes in the last section of the essay:
This is a pet peeve of mine. There are two directions this increased support can go. One is to provide faculty with the time and financial resources to learn and develop new teaching strategies that take advantage of technology. This might mean course releases, internal grants, or extended workshops in the summer. The main thrust of this kind of support is giving faculty new knowledge and skills that they can apply to their teaching.
If digital technologies are a cause of "stupidity," it is because we have spent freely on computers — among other things — without also giving comparable support to college teachers. The students have been left to negotiate a cultural paradigm shift, comparable to the print and industrial revolutions, with inadequate support from the institutions created to help them.
And that strikes me as unambiguously stupid.
The second direction, one that seems to be more popular, is to offload that work, to have a model I call "digital Kinkos." In this model, the faculty member might bring their course materials to a team of technologists, who, after an hour-long meeting with the faculty member, produce a digital version of the course, complete with multimedia lectures. I have not seen this happen quite so wholesale, but I have seen it in small one-off situations. When a faculty member asks for video clips or for configuration of a Blackboard course or digitization of images for a lecture, that's a form of digital Kinkos in my book.
I'm not saying we can get rid of digital Kinkos entirely. Digitization is often a tedious and time-consuming process and a knowledgeable technician is often better at it than a faculty member. But simpler things, such as using the features of a course management system or a blog, should be taken on by the faculty member. As I try to tell my faculty, there is no right or wrong when it comes to using the tools available. It depends on your teaching goals and you know those better than I do.
I would advocate, then, a hybrid model. There will be a need to provide digitization services, but more importantly, faculty should be allowed the time and encouraged to take the time to discover the possibilities of new technologies for teaching. A summertime workshop of a couple of weeks strikes me as a good place to start. A course release in a semester in which a technological overhaul of a course is taking place makes sense too. Financial support in the form of internal grants for hiring staff or students to aid in digitization or for travel to technology-related workshops. And, of course, appropriate credit for technological innovation when it comes time for tenure review. Without these latter rewards and support structures in place, digital Kinkos means nothing. It means you have faculty using materials they didn't create and know little about. It's akin to teaching from a book you haven't read or just skimmed.
What I wonder about is the role of the Instructional Technologist in all of this. It's clear what the role is for the digital Kinkos model. They make the video clips and the PowerPoint presentations and build the Blackboard courses. In the second model, they can be the person to run the workshops, provide advice during the semester, and do some (but less than in the first model) of the digitization work. But I think the ideal scenario is not to have an IT person per se. The ideal scenario is to have a tech-savvy faculty member providing the workshops and the advice. Perhaps they get a course release for this administrative work. Perhaps they have a team of students to do the digitization. In this scenario, the faculty member who, by virtue of their being "one of them," immediately garners more respect than an IT person. To me, this makes a lot of sense. Of course, I just wrote myself out of a job.
Friday, September 05, 2008
I will say that the mood of the convention seemed very negative and not all that excited--a little like a DNC convention 4 years ago. Compared to the general party atmosphere that seemed to permeate the DNC last week, the RNC just didn't seem to have the energy to do much. Maybe it was past their bedtime.
It's been interesting to watch the "woman" issue circulate during these conventions. The Democrats had the first viable woman candidate for president, a woman who, no matter what else we may think of her, is smart and capable. Now, the Republicans, who have selected a woman of questionable qualifications as a VP candidate, are claiming all the credit for having broken the glass ceiling. On the one hand, I've been disgusted by hearing conservatives claim that the liberals' statements about Palin's inability to lead are sexist. On the other, hearing them finally say that having a woman on the ticket is necessary makes me think that we may have a chance to really break the political glass ceiling. I don't trust any of these people, but maybe some of it is sinking in to the heartland of America.
I'll have to catch up on McCain's speech sometime today, but from what I've seen of blogger comments, it looks like it was stiff and more of the same.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
- Email was definitely on the rise, but not dramatically so.
- Why, why do people wait until the very. last. minute. to ask for something. I'm here all summer.
- Why don't people talk to each other. So many problems caused by lack of communication.
- Many fewer basic questions this year. They're either getting stopped at the help desk or people are just figuring things out.
- That said, I'm still amazed how I have to repeat the same information to the same people every year. Remember last year, nay, last semester, when you asked the same thing? Yeah? The answer's the same.
- Let's see what the rest of the week brings.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
My presentations aren't perfect and I'm always trying to live up to the performances of many people I've seen give presentations--Michael Wesch, Lawrence Lessig, and a guy from Pomona. The presentation is only partly about the slides; it's also about what you do with them once you're in front of an audience. I've had situations where my slides were fabulous, but then I relied on their fabulousness a little too much.
Anyway, I spent yesterday at IKEA, buying furniture for our dining room and then putting some of it together. Garr, over at Presentation Zen, has a great post about using IKEA billboards as inspiration for slides. IKEA billboards are bold and colorful, make only one point, and have very little text on them. I'm hoping that my recent trip has provided some fodder for my own presentation needs. I also think that many of the presentations I've seen, aka PowerPoint-based lectures, could use some serious inspiration from places like IKEA. Most have too many points per slide, almost no pictures, and lack any color whatsoever. I know not every lecture is going to be an A+ performance, but think about taking just one of those bullet-laden slides and redoing it. It's a new year, after all.
Monday, September 01, 2008
Often I make resolutions for the school year, but I'm not going to this year. I'm purposely taking things one day at a time. Today, I know I need to get my kids a few last-minute supplies and I need some clothes. I might putter around the garden (it's beautiful outside) or just sit outside and read. I might help the kids organize their rooms. I might watch a movie this evening. I'm definitely doing laundry (already have a load in the wash). I might work on a presentation. I'm going with the flow.
I've noticed that the beginning of this year has not been terribly stressful. Yes, I was busy last week and no, I did not get everything done, but you know, it just doesn't matter that much. The world has never ended simply because a few tasks didn't get completed. I don't work for NASA or the DoD. It's just not that important.