Wednesday, September 30, 2009

WoW Wednesday: Getting Started

I had a couple of requests for a post about how to get started playing WoW. First, let me say that I'm not a complete expert on the fastest way to level or the best class to pick, etc. What I can offer is my experience getting started and some tips about what I've learned as I've been playing. Let me point you, then, to two other sources of information that might be useful: WoW Rookie, a column at wow.com (generally a good resource for all kinds of things) and How not to be a Noob at Wowwiki (another good resource).

So, to get started, you first need the game. I'd recommend starting with the free trial. It gives you 10 days of free play time. You can decide whether you like it or not before investing in purchasing the full game and signing up for a subscription. A typical subscription will cost you $14.95/month, which is really a bargain compared to cable, for example. But it is an investment.

If you can, start playing with someone you know, who can walk you through the game as you go. Your friend can answer questions via chat without having to be in the same area as you are, which is a really nice feature. I've done this with the kids; it works pretty well. If you can't start with a friend and/or when you're on by yourself, much of the game will be self-explanatory at first.

First, you'll need to select a character and you'll have to choose which side to play: Alliance or Horde. I started out as Alliance simply because the character looks appealed to me (who doesn't like elves!), but am now playing Horde since that's where all my friends are. I've even moved my old Alliance character over. So, if you're going to play with friends, you'll need to a) be the same faction (Alliance or Horde) and b) be on the same server (which you'll pick before making a character). A note about servers--there are PvP servers (where players can always fight each other), PvE servers (where players are usually questing and killing non-players) and RP servers (role-playing, where players are into the story of the game).

Next, you'll decide what race/class to play. That is, will you be a night elf hunter or a tauren warrior or an orc shaman. The race isn't a huge decision as there aren't a lot of benefits to playing one race over another, usually. There are a few race-specific abilities that are nice to have for certain classes, but I wouldn't worry about it too much. The class is more important. Generally, think about what kind of player you're interested in. Do you want to heal? do a lot of damage? tank? be primarily melee or attack from afar? I've chosen, in most of my characters, to be a melee damage kind of person. That is, I get right in a monsters face and beat on him until he dies. I will say that it's fun to play and easy to level as a melee damage character, but you might be interested in healing or want to be able to heal and do damage effectively (shamans or druids are good at this) or heal and tank (paladins and druids). Classes are much more flexible than they used to be, in that you can be two different things thanks to dual specs, so if you choose a class for healing but decide you like doing damage more, it's easy to switch. Here's the WoW Rookie class guide, which is a little dated, but still has good info on choosing a class.

So, now you've got your character set up and you've logged in. The starting areas in WoW are basically tutorials, but you're playing the game and playing counts toward your overall leveling. It's not separate from the rest of the game, which I think is nice. The first thing to do is to look for a NPC (non-player character) with an exclamation point over his/her head. This indicates that he has a quest that you can go on. Right click on him/her and you'll get the text of the quest, which you should read to figure out what you need to do. Click on accept and then you're off. Your first adventure! Woo hoo!

Generally the first quest involves killing 10 or 15 creatures of a particular kind. To kill the creatures, you need to use your abilities. To start off with, you'll see some in your action bar at the bottom of the screen. You'll see probably 4 or so items, usually place 1 to 4 along the bottom. 1 is usually your basic attack, hitting the creature with whatever weapon you're wielding. 2-4 are usually special abilities that deal more damage. If you mouse over each item, it should tell you what each thing does. So, you go off to kill your creatures by clicking on them and the firing off an attack by pressing one of the buttons. Generally, you will auto-attack if you have the creature targeted (by clicking or pressing the tab button). This will become second nature pretty quickly. You'll be surprised.

Once you've killed a creature, you can loot them, which you do by right-clicking on their dead body. Loot will come in the form of money and items. There might be weapons or armor or items that can be used in different professions, or at this level, junk, things like claws and eyeballs. You can sell off this stuff to a vendor and make more money.

But you might die. If you do, you'll be a ghost and will be hanging out at a graveyard. You'll need to walk back to your body in order to resurrect yourself. Your body will appear as a gravestone on the map and there will be arrows in the minimap showing you the way to your body. More on dying next week.

You gain experience for killing these creatures as well as for turning in the quest, which you do by returning to the quest-giver who now has a question mark over their head. There will be many quests in the area to do and as you do them and gain experience, you will eventually level up, moving from level 1 to 2 to 3, etc.

Some tips that will help you in the first levels:
  • Explore the area, including the NPCs, checking out what they sell and finding the trainer for your class.
  • Put on items that are better than what you are wearing. You start out with gear that makes you look bedraggled--some raggy pants and shirt and shoddy shoes. As you loot, you will probably see items that you can wear that are better than what you have on. Wear them! Press c to bring up your character, then drag the item to the right slot or right-click it and then you'll be wearing it. Don't worry too much about specifics at this point in terms of what's best for your class. Just increase your armor and any other stats that might be useful. Keep in mind that some classes can't wear certain items. Priests, for example, can't wear anything but cloth items. Generally, if you can't wear an item, it will be red. It may be something you can wear in the future if the restriction is because of level or because you have to learn a weapon skill, so you can decide whether to keep it for future use.
  • Sell off stuff you don't want to increase your funds. You can sell stuff to any vendor. Things that are green or blue (the text is this color as well as the outline in your bag) can usually be sold for a larger profit in the auction house. Hold onto these until you get to the auction house in a major city. I'll discuss this more later.
  • Buy another bag. Or two. Usually there's a vendor who sells them in the starting cities. You're going to end up with lots of stuff, most of it not useful, but you don't want to have to keep coming back and reselling your stuff every 5 minutes.
  • Train as soon as you can. As you level, you can usually go to your class trainer and learn new skills. Keep up with these as they will help you kill off mobs faster, which means you can level faster.
That will get you through the first few levels, which might take you a few days to get through. Next week, I'll talk about professions and getting to a major city with an auction house and all kinds of other goodies.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What I'm reading

My interests are at once focused and all over the place. I have books that are languishing and books I've raced through, but here's what's on my shelf right now:

A Tribe Apart: A Journey into the Heart of American Adolescence by Patricia Hersch. This is a study of teenagers that is now over a decade old. It is, in many ways, a heartbreaking study where kids are alone and lonely, going through quite difficult transitions without much adult intervention. Hersch is a sympathetic observer without being judgmental. She tells the story of adolescence in the mid-90s through the individual stories of several teenagers. I keep wondering what the advent of gaming and Facebook and IM'ing has meant for teenagers. On the one hand, it may fill a hole, providing a relatively safe way for teens to connect with each other without adults always looking over their shoulder. On the other hand, it can also provide the opportunity for misbehavior, bullying, etc. I've been testing the ideas in the book by asking Geeky Boy about them. I'll let you know what his verdict is, too.

Feminine Mistake by Leslie Bennetts. I'm having trouble with this one. Bennetts' tone is condescending and annoying. I'm not very far into it for that reason. I've written about her work before and perhaps I'm already biased.

Opting Out?: Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Homeby Pamela Stone. Do you see a theme here? I'm almost done with this one but, it's argument is kind of tired for me. Basically, the workplace is unfriendly to parents, especially if you're in the high-powered kinds of jobs the women profiled in the book are. Their husbands are also in high-powered jobs and can't or won't take on childcare and household responsibilities. The women can't figure out how to make it work, even with paid care and household help, without feeling completely stressed out. Stone tries not to blame the husbands and talks more about the workplace. I'm still on the fence. Maybe when I get to the conclusions section, I'll be more definitive.

I Wear the Maternity Pants in This Family by Susan Konig. A fluffy collection of personal essays. I must say, I didn't really like it. And that's all I'll say.

I'm trying to use the library more, but it's not as well-stocked as I wish it were. I have ordered books when necessary, but sometimes it's more trouble than it's worth.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Long Weekend

Piggly Wiggly was the first self-service groce...Image via Wikipedia

The kids have the day off in honor of Yom Kippur. Geeky Girl is currently at a friend's house, having spent the night there. Geeky Boy, still asleep. I, too, slept in. It was much needed after the last two days of running around. Saturday, we had 3 hours of soccer. Pictures, lunch, then practice and a game. It was colder than it's been all fall and so after the game, Geeky Girl and I went to Starbucks and I got my first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season. Yay!

Sunday, I had an 11:30 meeting, which I had forgotten about until the woman I was meeting with called me. Luckily it was 5 minutes away. I threw some clothes on, put my hair in a pony tail and rushed out the door. Geeky Girl had to be dropped off at a party at 1 and picked up at three, then dropped off again at 7:30. In between, I finally showered and did a few loads of laundry. I sent Mr. Geeky to the grocery store, which he was none too happy about. He claims he's never going again. Apparently, there was an altercation with the clerk and they were out of half the stuff on the list. I might have to try delivery again.

Geeky Girl and I had to make a map out of homemade play dough before her sleepover and I had to put together a beef stew for dinner almost simultaneously. Thankfully, the two projects did not get intermingled.

We popped the map into the oven and then went to Staples to get paint when we realized we'd sold all of our art supplies in the garage sale. As a sign of how I was feeling, I stopped by the beer store, which was right next door to Staples, and got a case of Pumpkin Ale. I promptly put two beers in the freezer. The map and the stew came out great and we ate the stew while watching Gosford Park. Shortly thereafter, I dropped Geeky Girl off and then settled in to kill virtual monsters, which felt pretty damn good.
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Volunteering Angst

Gaggle of kidsImage by lorda via Flickr

So, I've been using some of my spare time to do some volunteering at my kids' schools, mostly at the elementary school since they seem to need more help. I somehow ended up being the PTO webmaster. Okay, I told them I'd do it and it's a good use of my skills. What this has entailed so far is setting up the site, responding to suggestions for functionality, etc. and then, posting information that was sent to me. Well, the requests to post started coming in more quickly and I decided to teach everyone else how to post (the site is a WordPress blog, so it's pretty easy). That worked out fine and now most people are happily posting their own announcements. I also go to the PTO meetings and do the usual participating in schoolwide events.

I'm happy to be able to be involved in my kid's school and it's useful in keeping me informed, but my angst comes from feeling like they don't really need me. Let me explain. The school is well-funded. What the PTO provides is mostly extra. They're not buying supplies or paying teacher salaries or making sure low-income students have what they need to succeed. I can't help but think that my efforts would pay off more at a school or organization that has significant needs.

Also, once you get on the "list" of people willing to volunteer, you get asked to do lots of things, partly because the percentage of parents who do volunteer is pretty small. And I often have this gut reaction of a) this seems like such a non-important thing to ask people to volunteer for and b) I can barely find time to keep my own life in order, much less the school's. So, meh.
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

WoW Wednesday: Rewards and Motivation

Other than perhaps some increased endorphins, most people receive no real reward for playing a game like WoW; however, there are lots of rewards in the game that provide motivation for many people to participate in certain activities. And Blizzard is constantly tweaking this reward system so that players are motivated to do different things. I am easily amused and, at the same time, easily discouraged. What can I say, I live at the extremes.

For example, the reward for most achievements--things like finding a bunch of different kinds of creatures or cooking a bunch of different types of meals--is just a little flashing thing on the screen and some points (which, as far as I can tell, you can't do anything with in terms of buying other things). But I get a kick out of that flashing thing on the screen that announces the achievement. So, I'm easily attracted by that and will often pursue these achievements just to see that appear on the screen. I know, I'm like an infant. Bright and shiny things.

On the other hand, there's gear (a primary reward in the game) that's quite difficult to get. It drops off of certain monsters or can be obtained from so many tokens which are themselves obtained through doing many different dungeons. I'm at the point where what I need in terms of gear is of a high enough level that it's going to take some work to get it. And it's going to take help. You can't run a dungeon by yourself. And whether it's doing something on my own or gathering enough people to do it, it takes effort. And I get discouraged by that. Because also, just because the item drops off a mob deep inside a difficult dungeon, there are 20 other things that could drop and the percentage chance of the one thing that you really need dropping might be 1%. And, then, if it drops, there might be 3 other people in the group who want it. And then you have to roll on it and then you might not win. So, sometimes, I just don't even want to try.

Another common reward is rep rewards. These rewards come from gaining a certain reputation with factions in the game. Each area has a number of factions with names like Sons of Hodir and Knights of the Ebon Blade. Reputation goes from hated up to exalted and usually once you reach exalted, there are rewards that you can buy from a certain vendor (called the Quartermaster, usually). Reputation is gained by doing quests, daily quests (which are repeatable once a day), running level 80 dungeons while wearing the faction's tabard (not all factions have tabards), by turning in tokens that drop off of mobs, or by killing certain kinds of mobs. So, there are lots of ways, usually, to gain reputation and you can choose your path depending on your personality. If you run a lot of dungeons, wearing a tabard while doing so works really well. If you like questing, then this path is a good one (also the rep points gained per quest are usually pretty high). Some tokens can actually be purchased in the AH, so if you have a lot of gold, this can be a fast way to the top. The rewards vary. Some factions have good gear and some offer mounts (like the flying dragon I got once) and still others give you enchants or other enhancements that can't be found anywhere else. And some get cute pets. Although gaining reputation can be a lot of work and take a lot of effort, it's a slow and steady sort of progress and you're guaranteed something at the end, even if it's just a little flashy thing on the screen.

The game also rewards gold for almost everything you do--but that is a topic for another post--maybe next week.

So, perhaps this isn't very enlightening, but it's been interesting to me to consider what I'm willing to do in game based on the likely reward. And then to think about mapping that onto real life. Being easily amused means I am likely to reward myself with simple things when I complete a task--like a snack or a break. But I'm also likely to slog through something over the long term for a guaranteed reward. I wrote a dissertation, after all. But if there's a slim chance of a reward and a lot of work involved, I'm gonna need some serious support and convincing that it's worth the effort. Exercise is kind of like that for me. It's a lot of work and, for me, at least, there's not much of reward. It's not like I'm seeing the pounds fall away. I have to invoke the first reward system of the simple flashing thing in order to motivate myself to walk every day. Being able to see the progress toward a goal is also very motivating, so, for example, seeing the page count increase in writing feels good while not seeing pounds lost is counterproductive. You can see this progress in many of the reward systems in game. There's a place to see how much progress you've made towards a reputation and how much further you have to go. And that's true for many of the achievements as well. So, I guess the big lesson--not new really--is that motivation is higher when the rewards are concrete and it's clear how to attain them and when progress toward your goals is easily measurable. The trick is to try to make all your goals like that.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Why aren't we happy?

After Laura pointed out Maureen Dowd's piece on women and happiness in the New York Times, I hopped over and read it. And read Ariana Huffington's and Marcus Buckingham's, who's going to write a series of posts based on his book, Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently.

I think about being happy a lot, mostly because I really want to be happy as often as possible. I started reading Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project blog, though I haven't yet been as prescriptive as she is about being happy. I don't think it's a bad idea. I just haven't gotten around to it yet.

Generally, I'm happier than I was a year ago, which is a good thing. My job was making me unhappy, and so I left it, creating, as Buckingham puts it, some imbalance in my life. He says that imbalance is good, that women should focus on doing the things that make them happy and not try to keep every ball in the air for an equal amount of time. That sounds right to me somehow. With the stretches of time I now have, I have the luxury of doing what I want, and I've taken advantage of that, and it's made me feel better about my life.

That said, there are certainly times when I question what I'm doing, when I don't feel so great about where I am and where I'm going---more often feeling down about the present than the future. I'm the ultimate optimist.

So here's some thoughts about things that make me unhappy:
  • When my kids are unhappy or unsuccessful. In other words, I feel their pain. When they struggle or fall, I immediately feel like I've let them down. I worry about what I can do to help them not make the same mistake again. The thing is, kids will make mistakes. I shouldn't let them affect me the way I do, but I do.
  • When Mr. Geeky and I aren't spending enough time together. This is something that kind of sneaks up on me. We used to try to do date nights, and of course, we got the opportunity to go to Paris alone, but things slip and before you know it, weeks have passed where we haven't been able to have a conversation with each other. Unlike the first item, this is easy to fix. We just have to be consistent about it. It's hard when life gets busy, but obviously, it makes me happy, so I should focus on it.
  • When my work is not appreciated. I like to be thanked when I do something, especially when I've put considerable effort into it. My kids almost always thank me for making dinner and their lunches. They like my food! But no one thanks me for doing the laundry or mopping the kitchen floor. So I'm not motivated at all to do and it actually makes me unhappy to do it. Hint to Mr. Geeky.
  • Related to above, when I feel like I'm the only one doing the work or who cares about it being done well. This applies most obviously to housework. If the kids and Mr. Geeky don't pitch in, I start to feel like the hired help instead of contributing family member. But it can happen at work, too. I used to get frustrated when I'd go to meetings and be the only one who had prepared. For you academics out there, think about the service work you do and think about when it seems like a colleague never has to do any.
That's really about it. And I feel better just for getting that down. Weird. I might actually read Buckingham's book. I've read other things he's written and have generally liked them. I don't think I need to do any dramatic rethinking of my life, though I am intrigued by the idea of imbalance vs. balance, which would be a huge change in philosophy for me. I can always use some tweaking, though.

Monday, September 21, 2009

On Schedules and Projects

Last week, Laura at 11D had a minor identity breakdown. Vast stretches of time lay before her with no clear path of what she was supposed to fill them with. I can totally relate.

So, I have a business and I do want that to possibly be successful. Just this morning, I came up with a potential project that might work well for it. For a while there, I was spending time on something to do with the business every day. Now, though, it's gone to the back burner. With this new idea, it might move back up again.

In addition to the business, however, I'm also working on a book project, something I started years ago, but which I'm hauling back out again. I've pretty much thrown out what I started with except the core of an idea and have been working away at it every day for the last two weeks. I've spent at least an hour every day on it and sometimes two. I was feeling bad about this lack of productivity. Shouldn't I work for 4 hours, 6 hours? So I Googled for information about the writing habits of famous authors. It's all over the map. Some authors go for a word count, some work in a certain amount of time (anywhere from just minutes to all day, with the average probably 2-3 hours). It kind of gave me the idea to go with my gut, and my gut says I'm doing okay, though I should probably aim for at least three hours. And yes, you can laugh at me for trying to compare my work habits to people like Stephen King and Dan Brown. Dan Brown writes all the time, even on holidays. If my book gets made into a movie, maybe I'll do that too, but for now, no way.

And then there's the walking piece. I'm up to walking 3 miles a day, which takes about 1.5 hours. I'm walking mid-afternoon, which is a good time, both for my schedule, and for the weather, as it's usually quite warm and pleasant by then. I have to be back by 4 since that's when child number one gets home.

In theory I could put in another hour of work of some kind after that, but that would put me, believe it or not, over an 8-hour day.

If the business picks up, what will likely go is housework, which has got to be the most boring thing ever invented, but at the same time seems more pressing than anything else and its neglect gets noticed more than anything else.

So I've settled into a routine that gives my days a shape and a purpose that I'm happy with for now. The nice thing is that it can shift as necessary, though I must admit, that as it does, I can feel the identity shifting with it. Funny how that works.

RBOC: Weekend Update Edition

  • Puberty has hit our household with a vengeance. I went bra shopping, got a request for deodorant and for shaving lessons. Now everyone in the house shaves.
  • Lots and lots of laundry and general house cleaning and the house still seems messy. Sigh.
  • No walking this weekend due to both the above bullets. Seriously, I spent from 8-4 yesterday doing some kind of housework.
  • The heat came on for the first time, but it's still predicted to be near or above 80 all week. These wild swings in temperature are always hard to manage. Should I get out the fall clothes or no? Wear a jacket or no?
  • 6 a.m. seemed extra early today, especially for Geeky Boy.
  • Once again, the week looks hectic.

Friday, September 18, 2009

More on paying for school

Remember that post I had about paying for public school? Well, here's another suggestion that parents pay for laptops. I've been noting the many things I'm paying for that are not covered by the school. The PTO asks all of us to contribute, trying to raise close to $30k for cultural programs and other activities. Now, it's true that if that money suddenly disappeared, it would be a big loss, but the school would still function. At the very least, almost everyone pays dues in order to get the directory. That's $15. I also pay dues at another school. Another $15. I pay for field trips, which this year, will cost me about $100 because the 5th graders go on a big trip. I pay for school supplies, another $100 altogether for both kids. The soccer team booster club wants me to pay them $70. I'm not entirely sure what for. And there's the cleats and shinguards and socks I've had to buy, well over $100. I'm paying $10 for a new music book for Geeky Girl who's continuing to play the violin this year. Oh, and I'm paying about $15/month to rent the violin itself.

And I'm not counting all the extra things we do in order to boost the kids' intellectual abilities: computers in the home, museum memberships, buying books, sending them to camp. And I'm not counting keeping them clothed and fed, also expensive.

Sure, I could choose not to let Geeky Girl play the violin or Geeky Boy play soccer. Those are optional, but they're also really good for the kids. I can't put a price tag on the skills they're both learning from those activities. And really, it's hard to put a price tag on school itself. I can't imagine what it must be like for a family who struggles to buy the school supplies and who doesn't even think about their kids playing a sport or a musical instrument because it's cost prohibitive. When colleges increasingly look at what my mom used to call the "left side of the folder" at the activities kids are involved in to differentiate themselves from all the other applicants, kids who don't have those are at a disadvantage.

As I said before, I know public schools are strapped for cash and some are more strapped than others. The ones that are most strapped are the very places where many parents can't afford the extras, so asking parents to pick up the tab for more and more of the things that schools feel are necessary is just wrong. It just increases the gap between the school haves and have nots. Yes, it's true that referendums to increase taxes to benefit schools often fail. Someone needs to work more on the argument that having good schools is good for everyone.

Friday Fun: Lunches


From Indexed.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My Family's Keeper

One of the roles I least like in my family and one that seems to have been mine for many years is that of "keeper." By keeper, I mean the person who keeps everyone on track, at both the micro and the macro level. I know, for example, when the first field trip is, and I know when the soccer games are and when back to school night is and when school is out for 1/2 day. I'm also the one who makes doctor's and dentist's appointments (obviously). I actually make Mr. Geeky's appointments for him because if I don't, an appendage is likely to fall fall off (no, not that one), or a tumor will take over his body. As an example, after months of watching him squint while reading and doing the arm telescoping thing, I called the eye doctor, because after prodding him to do it for months, I knew he would never do it.

On the micro level, I'm the one waking everyone up in the morning, making lunches, prodding kids to take showers and eat breakfast, gather school materials and find soccer socks. I try to get the gathering to happen the night before, but alas, it's hardly ever successful. On the plus side, I don't have to do this for Mr. Geeky, though I do have to remind him to eat lunch. Geeky Boy has actually taken to texting him when he goes to lunch.

All this tracking is exhausting. Periodically, I've tried to extract myself from tracking everyone, but when I have done this, it's always an epic fail. A kid is late to school, forgets an important assignment, can't go on a field trip, or only has milk for lunch. And when I was working, it totally pissed me off because I myself was in a hurry getting ready and getting ready for something I didn't always enjoy so that I wasn't in a good mood to begin with.

Yesterday, as I was downstairs making lunches (peanut butter and banana, fruit, and a bag of pretzels), I realized that Geeky Boy was not down for breakfast yet. So, I stopped in the middle of spreading peanut butter, walked upstairs, poked my head in our bedroom where Mr. Geeky is catching up on email and reading the news, and said to him, "You know, when I'm downstairs making lunch for the kids, you could make sure Geeky Boy is on his way down and poke him if he needs to be poked." "Okay, okay, all you have to do is ask." And this morning, I didn't have to ask. A small victory.

After school is a similar scenario of checking on homework, requesting rooms to be cleaned, and asking for help with chores.

The thing is, I know that I don't have to be the morning keeper. Geeky Girl needs no keeping. She sets her alarm in the morning and comes down to get breakfast on her own. She often eats in our bedroom, chatting with us while she eats. She gets dressed, gets her school stuff together and gets out the door to the bus stop without any prompting from us. She has a strict schedule--which she made up herself--for after school activities. First is homework, then violin practice, then soccer practice. Though I check in with her, I never have to prod.

I don't know how I ended up in this role. I didn't want it, for sure. It could be because I've always been the one with the 9-5 job and so kept a regular schedule. It could be that I'm more organized than the rest of my family. Or it could everyone else is lazy. I don't know. But my goal is to ease my way out of this role. I don't mind having to check on everyone with gentle reminders. What I don't like is the feeling that I'm the only one thinking of these things. So, I'm going to do a couple of things in the next couple of days. One, I'm getting Geeky Boy an alarm clock. Two, I'm going to set him up with Google Calendar--which Mr. Geeky is using too and makes some of this tracking sooo much easier. I'm sure there's more I can do. Ideas welcome!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

WoW Wednesday: Managing Stuff

As you play WoW, you collect gear, but you also collect a lot of stuff, cramming it into your virtual bags as you go along. Everything from weeds to boots to flowers to drinks and so much more. Some of that stuff is useful to you. You can wear it or eat it or drink it or use it to make things with. But a lot of it just isn't. And it doesn't take before you have bags full of things that you just don't need. It's a lot like real life, really. We had a garage sale this past weekend, putting out a lot of the stuff we'd accumulated in our lives, trying to make a buck or two off it. And we did, but we had a good deal left over, some of which we hauled away to charity and some of which we posted on Freecycle. I'll say one thing, though, it's a lot easier to get rid of virtual stuff than real stuff. No right-clicking on an old sofa to sell it to a vendor in real life.

So, back to WoW and organizing stuff. Like managing your time in WoW, managing your stuff can help you enjoy the game more and spend less time figuring out where that thing is that you need and more time doing what you really want to do (kind of like real life). The default in WoW is to throw everything into your bags willy nilly, not organized at all. And there's not an easy way to sort through things. I can't tell you how many times when I first started playing that I got to a quest area and needed to use a specific item and couldn't find it. So annoying! Not only that, but you need to know what to get rid of and what to keep, and what might be worth selling on the Auction House and what can just be sold to a vendor. I have accidentally thrown out things that I needed and vended things that I could have gotten 10 times the gold for on the AH. Also annoying.

Luckily, there are a couple of addons that help. And sorry, there are no addons for real life. If there were, though, I'd totally get them. I use an addon called ArkInventory for managing my stuff. Instead of displaying your bags separately, it displays everything all in one big bag, organized into sections determined by how you configure it. So, I can put all my food in one area, jewelcrafting items in another, ore in another, and equipment somewhere else. I have never lost anything. ArkInventory also organizes your bank this way. Your bank is like the attic or the junk room in your house, where you store stuff you don't need to use that often.

There are other addons out there that I haven't tried, some of which tell you when you have all the materials to make things or what you're lacking, etc. If anyone has opinions on those, please feel free to comment.

Another way I manage my stuff is by periodically going through it and ditching things I don't need. But how to know what to sell where and for what price? For that, I use Auctioneer. I use this addon much more simplistically than I know some people do. You can track all kinds of things via this tool and price things very specifically. Mostly I use it as an easier and faster interface for selling things off. There's an Appraiser tab that shows up when you're at the Auction House and through that one can click on an item and Auctioneer will price it. If you have more than one of the item, with the click of a single button, you can post all those items for sale, even if they have to be posted one at a time and not in stacks of 5 or 10 or 20. That makes it really easy to clean out your bank and your bags. Auctioneer will also make recommendations about whether to post an item to the AH or sell it to a vendor. I've found that you have to take these with a grain of salt. It takes time, for example, to keep reposting an item to the AH, and if it's a common item or something without much of a markup, sometimes it just makes sense to sell it off quickly to a vendor. I've gotten to the point now where I can usually take 10 or 15 minutes and get everything sold off.

Now if only I could be this organized in real life.
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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Two Hours of My Life--Gone

Just as an example of the time suck that kids can be, I spent two hours with the kids at the dentist's office this morning. And my schedule, such as it is, is all out of whack.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Walking with a purpose

A couple of weeks ago, as I was lamenting the extra poundage I was putting on and my lack of motivation for getting in shape, I decided I need a higher purpose to my exercise routine than just my own vanity. So I signed myself up for 2010's 3-Day Walk for the Cure. My stepmother is currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer. This is her second time through the treatment process after being in remission for almost 5 years. The treatment is almost worse than the disease. I am hoping that I can do a small part to support breast cancer research, especially toward early detection. My goal is to raise $5,000, a high goal, I know, but like when I used to do the broad jump, I always aimed further than what I knew for sure I could reach. I almost always beat my previous record.

I have over a year to raise money. I promise not to nag my readers too much, but this is my first shout out, so if you'd like to drop a nickel in the can for my cause, please visit my page.

And while I'm shouting out for myself, I'd like to give a shout out for my friend, Alan Levine, who is running a marathon (running! imagine!) in support of diabetes research. Drop a nickel in his bucket, too, if you're so inclined.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Why we get defensive

I was going to post something fun here today, but nothing floated to the top as worth it, and after I read Historiann and Dr. Crazy this morning, I found myself with a lot of thoughts to put down. Dr. Crazy's post on speaking out as a non-parent on parent-related issues is excellent as are the many comments which dig into the topic further. What she and Historiann both marvel at is the defensiveness with which many of their parent commenters express in their responses. I feel that defensiveness pretty keenly these days in all kinds of different situations. It feels to me that no matter what choices I've made--to be a parent or not, to work or not, to mother a certain way or not--I'm criticized for them. I think many parents--mostly mothers, imho--feel they're in a basically lose-lose situation. And I think Histioriann's discussion of patriarchy is right on the money as to why this happens. Here are some of my humble thoughts, mostly based on my own experience, so, as they used to say in the old days of the Internet: ymmv.

1. Women in the workforce have a difficult time. They are still often perceived, even in places that are "family-friendly" as the primary caregivers. This leads to assumptions about how dedicated they are to their work and whether they're going to up and quit because of a child. Unfortunately, many women do quit to manage family matters because they find they can't once they realize there's no (affordable) child-care, no (affordable) afterschool programs and their workplace isn't flexible enough to provide time to juggle child-care and work. Even if their partner can take on part of this, they both need the flexibility to manage this and workplaces are often even less friendly to men who want that kind of flexibility to do their part as parents. And all this is systemic, having nothing to do with individuals as individuals who just react and make choices that make sense within that system.

2. On the flip side, when mothers who work find themselves among mothers who don't, they're often treated as if they're not being good mothers. They're leaving the kids with less than ideal care (ideal being a parent). Also part of the system.

3. Mothers who don't work feel awkward among mothers who do because again, they feel they're being judged. As one commenter noted, and as I myself have experienced, some women will expound on the "anti-feminism" of the sahm. I'll admit to having had those thoughts, but would never say them out loud. And now, I think that some people are sahm's because they are persuaded or caught up in certain social norms that stem from patriarchy, mostly having to do with appropriate gender roles. And some are sahms because they get forced out of the workplace, which as I said in #1 functions under these same social norms.

So, here's the thing. This was my first week at home after school started. The kids aren't here from 8-3. For the first time in 13 years, I am making absolutely. no. money. It feels very, very weird. I feel all at turns useful and completely useless. And yes, sometimes defensive. When I was working at my polling place a couple of years ago, my across the street neighbor came in and one of our other neighbors, a man in his 50s, started talking to her, and she explained that she'd quit her job to stay at home (her kids are older than mine--oldest is a senior, youngest is in middle school). He said, "Good for you. As it should be." That has stuck with me, and just the other day, when I was standing at the bus stop, a neighbor said to me, "Hey, don't you teach too?" And I stumbled a bit, and said, "Not anymore. I quit my job last fall." And he said, "Good for you." And I heard "As it should be" in my head. And that does not feel good--at least not to me.

There are subtle messages that we get as parents about how we're expected to behave. Those messages are often different for fathers than for mothers. One would think the easy path would be to meet those expectations, but most of the time, we end up trying to overcome those expectations. A working parent often has to prove to her workplace that she's not a slacker and prove to the mothers at the soccer game that she's a good parent. I'm getting a nagging feeling all the time that I should be working, but then I realize how much work it would be to manage the house and kids and I cringe, thinking about putting in a 40-hour week plus god knows how many hours juggling the home front. And I don't feel comfortable at all running around with the PTO crowd, some of whom have literally said they put their children's needs ahead of their own. I'm not even doing that now, as a sahm. I quit work for myself, for my own mental and physical health and to give myself some time to work on some projects that may or may not make any money, but I feel like I can't say that.

So what am I saying? I guess I'm just saying that it's complicated, but I'm very glad that the conversation is happening. And I think we should all be observant of the ways in which we might be participating in a system that reinforces stereotypes, one of which might be that parents need extra "perks" as Dr. Crazy suggests is the norm at her school, but another of which might be that non-parents have all the time in the world, which is equally untrue. Those stereotypes are damaging to us all, put us all on the defensive and make it so we can't work together toward viable solutions, which might be local, but which might also be part of a larger policy goal related to working conditions.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Children, Their Mess?

Top of stairsImage by lorda via Flickr

I've been hiding something for years. Upstairs, on the third floor, in what used to be an attic, are my kids rooms trash heaps. I've been trying to help them clear them out over the last couple of weeks, but it's overwhelming. I'm soldiering on, but with every wrapper I throw away or cup I haul back down to the kitchen, I keep thinking, "How did we get here?" And the answer to that question, it seems, points to me.

You see, I'm not the kind of mom who goes and straightens the kids' rooms. Hell, I don't even put their clothes away for them. And it's been that way for at least five years. My own room is no palace of neatness, but I don't have candy wrappers strewn on the floor (new rule: no food on the third floor). So I'm not setting the best example either. In addition, their rooms are still filled with toys they received five years ago. So there's clutter and there's archaeological piles.

Geeky Girl dug into cleaning her room with gusto. In just a couple of two-hour-long sessions, we had her room in tip-top shape. All that's left to do is go through a set of drawers and a small basket of toys, easily done in another hour session. Geeky Boy, on the other hand, being a teenager, will not be moved. Two days ago, I asked him to start digging out, letting him know that I would be working on it some myself over the next couple of days. He made a pretty half-assed effort. I don't even want to describe some of the things I found in there! Okay, I will 'cause I know you want to know: chewed up gum, moldy cups, rocks, single shoes, what looks like lost homework from years' past, smelly socks, lots of random coins. Bleh.

Once Geeky Boy and I dig this place out, I'm holding hard to the rule of having a clean room before anything can be done. It's a standard I hold myself to--doing laundry or cleaning before watching tv or playing on the computer--so I think it should apply to my kids. Plus, they get allowance for helping out around the house and their rooms are still part of the house.

What do you all do to with your kids' rooms? Do you have a hands-off philosophy or a set of rules? How much do you get involved in cleaning their areas?
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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Charge for public school?

Really? I can't really believe this article proposing that we charge for public school. Um, I already pay over $2k/year in taxes that specifically go to the school district. Should schools have more money? Absolutely. But charging tuition is not the way to go.

WoW Wednesday: Learning Time Management

This is actually not about managing time in terms of managing play time, but about managing time within the game. When your WoW time is limited, you have to make decisions about what to spend time doing. There are literally thousands of things one could do in game: quests, dungeons, raids, achievements, gathering materials and crafting things from those materials. All those things take time but have certain rewards.

I now have 3 characters to play with. The one at the left is my main character, the one who's at the top of her game (though she can always use more gear). Her skills are maxed out. Many of her faction reps are maxed out. With the exception of one top-level raid, she can pretty much do whatever she wants. What I've been doing with her lately is simply running her through a few dailies. When a good dungeon run opportunity crops up and I have the time, I will run that as well, since the rewards are tokens for good gear. On any given day, I can spend less than an hour on her and she won't really suffer much if I don't play her at all.

My other max level character is Zamar, who I just moved from another server and who has such bad gear that what she can do is limited. She needs to run dungeons, but she's not geared enough for some of them. She needs faction rep to obtain gear and that requires quests (some daily, some long series of quests), which can be quite time consuming. And then I have another low-level character that obviously needs a lot of work. So, if I only have an hour or two to play, I have to prioritize what I do, especially with these lower level characters. This occurred to me the other day as I was standing in the middle of a city, trying to decide which direction to go. And then, I thought, hmm, this is a dilemma most people have in real life. How can this transfer?

When I log into WoW, sometimes of course, I'm just planning to goof around. I play as a respite from work. But sometimes, I have goals, just like I do in my work. I go through a series of questions as I try to determine what to do. And I think this series of decisions might be a good thought process for any decision. So, here it is:

1. What is most important for this character right now? What is he/she most lacking?
2. If the character is not lacking anything, what is a good reward for him/her right now?
3. What task will get the character closer to the need/reward?
4. How much time will that task take?
5. If the task time > allowed game time, what is the next priority or can a part of the task be completed in the allotted time? (Then jump to 4).
6. If the task time < allowed game time, go do task.

This is pretty much the same decision tree I use in real life. I often have a list of priorities and I simply decide which one gives me the most bang for my buck in the time I have at hand. The hardest decision is the first one, deciding what's most important. In the game, it doesn't much matter. In life, there can be some unpleasant consequences. For example, if I were to prioritize gameplay . . . .

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

On the food front

I'm continuing my obsession with trying to eat better, and it's been challenging, but not impossible. I'm not worrying too much about produce for the moment. I'm buying most from the farmer's market, but have picked up bananas and avocados, which are obviously not local. The kids and the husband are giving me some grief about this whole project, but since I'm the one who buys and prepares the food around here, they're stuck with it. As I mentioned before, I've been pleasantly surprised by what I've been able to pick up at my local store. But there are still some things that are hard to find. Cereal, for example.

Last week, I bought the store's organic brand, which met all my real food criteria. Today the first morning anyone ate it, and no one likes it. I'm not really a cereal person, so if I have to forgo cereal, I'm good with that. But the kids and the hubby, they live on cereal. Almost all of it has crap in it, mostly sugar. Luckily, my kids have never been into sugary cereal. We have binged on occasion on Frosted Flakes, but literally, that's like once a year. I grew up on Sugar Corn Pops myself, but can't stand it now. It's like having dessert for breakfast. Bleh. So I broke down and bought Multigrain Cheerios, which happens to be their favorite and aside from some monoglycerides, have natural ingredients. (In case you're wondering, monoglycerides are emulsifiers commonly used in baked goods to add volume and smoothness.)

So I've added another rule to my list. We have to like it. The whole point is to enjoy eating, and by all accounts, it's healthier to enjoy what you're eating and to enjoy it in the company of others.

A rule Pollan mentions that I didn't bring up before is not to buy food with announcements about how healthy it is for you and most cereal has those: things like "made with whole grain" and "heart healthy." And now there are about to more such labels, according to this article (hat tip: Mike Smith at Change.org) The reason to ignore such claims on the front of packaging is that front of packaging labeling is not well regulated and the guidelines are set primarily by the food industry itself rather than a completely disinterested group of people. The food industry doesn't always have consumers' best health interests in mind. That Fruit Loops can get a "Smart Choice" label should tell you something.

Obama on school

I can't believe the controversy that's surrounded Obama's planned speech today about school. It's bat-shit crazy. If I felt certain that smart people always won the day and that dumb people who take their kids out of school because they think the President of the United States is indoctrinating our children, I would have no concern over it whatsoever. However, I know that sometimes dumb people win out, especially if they're loud enough. Sigh.

I just read the speech and it's really good, and I hope that kids do listen to it and take much of it to heart. The main message is that it takes hard work to succeed, a message that I think is important to any of us. He also connects the lessons of school to future work:
Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.
Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.
I love the "if you want to be x, then do x in school" logic of this and other sections of his speech. If my kids don't see it in school today, we're going to watch it together later. Kids need to be inspired and the President, any president, regardless of party, is inspirational to kids. What kid doesn't think they might be President some day? I feel a twinge of sadness that this whole thing has become a controversy, fueled by ignorance and hatred. What a small-minded country we've become.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Careening into the New School Year

Mr. Geeky took Geeky Girl to work with him today at her request. How's that for boredom? She'd rather go to work with her dad than be at home. As a result, I had the morning pretty much to myself since Geeky Boy doesn't rise until nearly noon. I sent off an article I was working on with my partners in crime, Leslie and Barbara. I blogged. And then I went through the accumulated pile of mail and paperwork. From now on, I'm not letting that stuff pile up. I'm dealing with it as it comes in. I'm not quite done with the pile yet, as I set aside some things that need to be filed or otherwise looked over more thoroughly. But I've got the kids' schedule for the entire school year filled in on the calendar. I made note of important IDs and passwords. I made a list of stuff to get at Staples. Then I continued to dig through Geeky Girl's room.

Yesterday was insanity itself. I had a doctor's appointment in the morning and was trying to work on the article before that. After the appointment, I connected with Barbara via GChat and we worked on the article together. Then lunch. I had planned to take Geeky Boy over to the high school right after lunch--we settled on 2:00. The athletics coordinator called to let us know that actually, freshman soccer has already begun and there's a practice today at 3:00. Okay. But. No soccer equipment. So, we go to the high school as planned. I run to the township administration building to buy a recycling container, then go back to pick up Geeky Boy. At 2:45, he finally appears and we rush over to the sports store, buy shoes, shin guards, socks, and a ball and make it to practice at 3:15. I go home, change, then go to farmer's market. Afterwards, I go for a walk, come home and make dinner: fresh chicken, fresh corn, and salad with heirloom tomatoes and goat cheese. After that, I'm off to a parent meeting for the high school.

Crazy, I tell you. Today has mostly been an attempt to not let that kind of day happen again. None of that would have been bad except that about half of it was completely unplanned. Not good. And now I'm off on a round of pick ups and drop offs again. I have no idea how any of this would have been managed if I hadn't been home.

The Casualties are Female

Dr. Crazy has a really great post and follow up, to which Historiann has responded about how things tend to turn out for women in academia. That is, women can't have it all--career, family, life--if they choose academia as a career. Men, both she and Historiann argue, never have to make the kinds of decisions women do about privileging family over career or vice versa. Maybe men should, but they don't and people don't ask them whether they're going to quit or slow down when they have kids nor do they ask men who haven't married or had kids whether they're going to. It's just assumed that whatever men are doing is fine and dandy.

While Dr. Crazy (and some of her commenters) lament the holes that not having a partner/family have left in their lives (while acknowledging that they feel pretty satisfied), I find myself at 41 lamenting the career hole. I wonder if what I've done career-wise will add up to anything. I wonder if I will ever be in a full-time career again. I wonder if I want to be. Which makes me wonder if there isn't something in our culture that makes us think we *should* have it all. I'm a firm believer in moderation and balance and I think most work of any kind is short on moderation. The more intellectual the work, the less moderate it is. I think I'd be going crazy right now if I didn't have some work. But I think, at this moment, I'd be equally crazy if I didn't have my family life. But that's only two things. There are others, as this quote from a recent David Sederis story, points out:
Pat was driving, and as we passed the turnoff for a shopping center she invited us to picture a four-burner stove.

“Gas or electric?” Hugh asked, and she said that it didn’t matter.

This was not a real stove but a symbolic one, used to prove a point at a management seminar she’d once attended. “One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work.” The gist, she said, was that in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.

I think I've got the family one on and the work on. Friends? Not sure. Health? Working on it. Can you have them on low? I'm not sure. And I feel like it shifts quite a bit. For a while, I was focused on work and friends. Then, friends and health. Maybe I'm kidding myself.

One thing I do know is that I sometimes feel overwhelmed trying to juggle them all. Maybe women are striving for this balance more than men. Anecdotally, how many men do you know who manage to have even two of these burners going? Most men I know, including Mr. Geeky, focus mostly on work, with family a close second. Friends? Health? Only a handful.

I commented on the second post about negotiating the juggling act with Mr. Geeky and how I don't always do such a good job of delegating non-work stuff to him. I'll admit that it infuriates me sometimes the ease with which he can simply ignore what's going on outside of work. I have never been able to do that. The few times I have, I've been bitten in the ass. And I think it's because I didn't concretely say to him, "Hey, I've got to focus on work for the next x days. You need to deal with this and this." Certain things are easy to manage, like scheduling kid pickups. But making sure the laundry gets done, remember permission slips, preparing meals? Mr. Geeky is more inclined to let those slide until I'm back to taking care of it. Unless I specifically tell him not to let it slide. In other words, I'm the default house person and the default position is difficult to change. Part of that is me and part of that is him. I would hope that the default would change if it needed to.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

WoW Wednesday: Gear

A friend wanted me to title this "Still Not Def Capped." For you non-WoW'ers, let me explain. Each type of player needs a certain level of stats to do well in higher level dungeons and raids. Stats include things like defense, spell power, attack power, hit rating, etc. Players who mostly deal damage strive for a hit rating cap. Tanks strive for def (defense) cap. The way to achieve these stats is through a) leveling/talents and b) gear. I'm going to ignore a) for now, but suffice it to say that as you level, you can select talents that increase certain stats. Once you reach 80 (currently the highest level), gear becomes more important. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was slightly undergeared for tanking. Where I'm undergeared is in my defense stats. I'm not def capped. And here I am, two weeks later, sitting in the exact same spot. As my guildies told me last night, I have no excuse. All I need to do is slap the right trinket on, put a couple of jewels on it and I'd be golden. Which is true, really.

I have a strange relationship to gear in the game. I'm probably not alone in this. A lot of people research what gear they need, find out where to get it and then set out to acquire it. Gear can be obtained in two main ways: dropping from a boss in a dungeon and purchasing with currency that drops from bosses in dungeons.* So, getting good gear requires going through dungeons. So a lot of people figure out what they want, which boss drops it, and then start running that dungeon until they get what they want. All good. I like going through dungeons, but I don't like being that prescriptive about my adventures. I've been in dungeons with people where they say at the very beginning, "I want the boots that drop in here." And I'll be like, boots? what boots? Which I don't say out loud because then I'd be declaring myself a noob. Basically, I like to be surprised. Whatever drops after we kill a boss I consider a gift. And I don't like to open my gifts before it's time. I get a little thrill from the unexpected. If I knew what I was likely to get ahead of time, I'd lose that thrill. My kids laugh at me all the time because I get giddy over getting new stuff. But usually only when it's a surprise (or, in some cases, I've worked hard for it). "Look at this cool new sword I got!" Not too many moms who say that I'm guessing.

All that said, I do take advice. So, if someone says to me, you should get those boots that are in such and such dungeon, I am willing to go get the boots, especially if my adviser is going to go with me. Gearing up is more than just slapping on whatever falls on the ground after a kill. Once I figured that out, I think I became a better player. But I still can't bring myself to obsess over it, running dungeons over and over just to get one pair of pants (well, okay, I have done that once or twice, but it's not my usual mode). I also don't do this in real life. Shopping for clothes wears me out. But I promise to be def capped by next week. Really.


*I should note that gear can also be made by blacksmiths and some relatively good gear can be purchased with gold from special vendors.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

School Can't Start Soon Enough

I've reached that point that all parents reach, where they're actually looking forward to having their kids out of the house. With one week left to go, I'm ready to finally have the house to myself. Since my house is also my place of work these days, I'm even more anxious. Work has been accomplished this summer, but far less than I wanted. It has been a joy, truly, to spend time with my family, to have mostly unencumbered time where we can all decide what to do with ourselves. There've been visits to the pool, leisurely walks to the farmer's market, and lazy rainy afternoons spent playing games.

But now I want to get some things done and this week, what I'm staring at is a list of things that have (mostly) nothing to do with me. There's back to school shopping, a high school tour for Geeky Boy and then for the parents, laundry, general cleaning, etc. Yesterday, most of my day was occupied with this stuff. I took the car to the mechanic, went to the grocery store, cleaned out the fridge. In between, I worked on an article that is due today (on which we got an extension). I'm kind of tired of my stuff happening in between everyone else's stuff.

I set myself a few goals while I was on vacation, which I will discuss in another post, but I'm finding it nearly impossible to work on them while the kids are here and the schedule is still crazy. I woke up this morning hating that it looked like I couldn't work on at least one of them and cursing myself for putting it off until next week. Lame, I said to myself. Lazy. Excuses, excuses! But seriously, when your day is filled with a) trying to get the kids out of bed, b) feeding said kids, and c) getting them to finally finish their summer homework, it's hard to focus. Sigh.

And then there's the guilt of feeling like you don't love your kids enough because you want them out of the house.

Parents knowledge of kids' social lives

Social computingImage by lorda via Flickr

The New York Times has this brief article on how parents don't really know how often their teens are checking into social networking sites. My first thought was, duh. Even tech savvy me who sits next to my kids while their on the computer probably doesn't know everything. And I don't think I should know *everything*. My parents didn't know everything. Sometimes, when they dropped me off at the mall, I went somewhere else. Sometimes, when I said I was at Jennifer's house, I was really somewhere else. Not behavior I'm proud of, but fairly typical. And it's why my kids are not allowed out of the house. :) Not really, but I certainly will be checking in with parents, etc. when my kids go out.

I went digging for the original research (can I say I hate it when people don't link to that stuff), and I couldn't find it exactly. The web site for Common Sense Media, the group responsible for collating such research, seems like an interesting place. They seem to have the right idea about approaching media, teaching kids to be critical of the media they consume, and helping parents learn what's going on in their kids lives. I've actually forwarded the link to some local educators. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about such sites. I feel like I work really hard to keep up with what my kids are doing, and obviously, my field keeps me abreast of the latest trends. But, I do know there are parents out there, who are just oblivious to a lot of the technology their kids are using. They either come down on the "no way am I letting my kid have a cell phone" side, or the "I have no idea what this stuff is, but surely it can't be bad." The hard part is that even with a lot of information, it's hard to figure out how to help your kids manage their social lives, whether they're mediated by technology or not. I suppose a site like this helps, but I still think parents need to use that information and be critical of it. New reports come out all the time, for example, about the effects of video games and other media on kids. I worry that parents sometimes rely on these kinds of places to tell them what to do. And no site, no matter how good, can sort out all the complexities of parenting in the digital age.
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