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State Fair Videoblogging

My first-ever vlog post -- I bring you Karen and Amy playing Whac-a-Mole (Right click, save target as, or CTRL-click, save link as on a Mac).

And me, playing Whac-a-Frog. Yes, a few seconds into the movie I do say, "Do you have to get 'em in the lily pads?" (Idiot! Idiot! Idiot!) But in my defense, before we stepped-right-up to the booth, I was watching other people play, and they couldn't even get the frogs into the pond. The guy running the game said, "You gotta hit it like you're MAD at it!" I thought maybe you'd get a little prize for consistently getting them in the pond, but something extra big and cheesy for getting them in the lily pads. I should have known that would be way too easy.

For more, see my set of fair photographs on Flickr.

Also, a reflection on videoblogging: As I get ready to hit "Submit," I'm a little nervous and self-conscious. Videoblogging is different from straight-up text blogging, for sure; I'm putting myself out there in a way I haven't before, in an exceptionally goofy, silly moment at that. But it's honest, and risky in a good way, so I'll leave it up unless I'm asked to take the first one down. Please be kind.


Traveling, to the arms of unconsciousness

Have I ever been out of sorts. This has been a tumultuous week in several ways. Besides the obvious problems I've had just trying to keep my site online, I've had other computer problems having to do with a so-far unsuccessful attempt to change the cpu in my computer. I thought I flashed the BIOS, but maybe not. Now the computer will run, but nothing shows up on the screen. So I'm laptoppin' it for now until I get back from Atlanta.

Speaking of traveling to Atlanta, my flight down here was easily the worst I've ever had. I fly about once a month, and I'm almost always a good flier, but I didn't handle this one well. We took off from Minneapolis just fine, but then as we neared Atlanta, the airport said they were having thunderstorms. The pilot got on the intercom and explained that we were in a holding pattern over Atlanta, waiting for the OK to land, but that the fuel was low, so if they didn't give us the go-ahead after 15-20 minutes, we'd land in Chattanooga and refuel. Well, a few minutes later, they said we'd be landing in Atlanta. BAD IDEA. It was horrible, turbulence like I have NEVER experienced before. Not just turbulence, but SHARP DROPS directly downward, like the Free Fall at Six Flags. I later found out those were microbursts. I was absolutely terrified and sobbing uncontrollably. I kept imagining how devastated my family would be if they had to put me in the ground. I imagined Prof. B.'s recent post about having to put on a brave front for one's child and how utterly incompetent I would have been had I had a child with me. There was a woman on the plane, probably about my age, maybe even younger, with two small children, and she didn't make a sound. Maybe she wasn't as scared as I was, who knows, but she was great. Her calmness definitely reassured the kids; I have no idea how she was able to hold up the way she did.

Okay, back to this harrowing experience -- it's not over yet. The airport then said we couldn't land after all on account of the microbursts, and that they'd be diverting us to Augusta. Remember, now, we're still on LOW FUEL. So we go toward Augusta, then hear from the Augusta airport that too many flights are being sent their way, so we'd have to go to Chattanooga after all. Once we finally got to Chattanooga, we were on the ground for two hours, and for liability reasons they couldn't let us leave the plane. When we got back in the air, it was still a rough ride to Atlanta, and I hadn't stopped crying this whole time (Tuesday, 16 August 2005: The day I cried all day, and much of the night). To add insult to injury, they lost my luggage. Yeah.

But they found my luggage, and I went to the beach for the first time in fifteen years(!). Jonathan and I, after going down to Gainesville for a certain purpose, took a celebratory trip to St. Augustine. It was really nice.

UPDATE: By the way, there are comments under this post. Turns out when I turn comments off in Drupal and then turn them back on, it doesn't indicate that there are comments, even though you can leave them and read them if you click the title of the post. This only applies to posts that were created while comments were turned off, not prior ones.

"The personal," disrupted

I think I just had, to use Sam's term, a duh-piphany. Let me explain. Michelle's comments here in response to the recent pair of articles claiming that blogging will hurt one's career ("the mere act of opening up could cost you a job") made me think all of a sudden about what Mike has been saying about personal writing, and I finally put my finger on something. I'm sure it's blindingly obvious to the rest of you, but here's my new understanding: Due in part to blogging and other kinds of quickly, easily, and widely disseminative self-publication that the internet makes possible, as well as a complex confluence of factors in the social and political milieu (shifting notions of public/private, to offer one example), and the market (imaginary rather than material capital, middle class' living paycheck to paycheck, carrying debt, depending more on the market's caprice*) the context and meaning of personal writing have changed. "The personal" is becoming a site of struggle. To put it another way, "opening up" is set in opposition to "corporate values,"** and I'll admit that "the demonization of the personal" is a strong phrase, but judging from the articles in the Chronicle (and the subsequent forum discussion) and The New York Times, the personal is obviously seen by a lot of people as being to a considerable extent verboten.

So "the personal," in composition theory, can be conceptualized in terms of rights, as something at stake to which students have a right, a right that they should exercise. In the current context, I think one could make a persuasive case for this.

Viewed in this manner, any personal writing, regardless of subject matter, is political precisely because of its status as "the personal," which is in a very dramatic political and economic sense being called into question.

* Not to say that living hand-to-mouth is anything new. I'm probably way off on this point. I'm thinking of stories like Prof. B.'s, just to provide a reference.

** Edited to clarify: not just "corporate values," but one's status or potential status as a producer, one's means to make a living, as well as the right to express publicly an identity other than "worker."

Everything is going to be okay

It is, right? Right?

"I want to be a stay-at-home parent when I grow up."

For young adults: What would happen if you said that to your parents? For parents with children: What would you say if your child said that to you? I'd be especially interested in hearing from stay-at-home parents; how did your family react when you told them you'd be working as a stay-at-home parent?

Feminists have been making the case for decades that motherhood is undervalued, despite its being ostensibly revered as "the most important job in the world." Recent analyses include The Mommy Myth, as well as monetary quantifications like this one and this story that got a lot of press about a month ago.

So even though stay-at-home parenting is worth $130,000+ per year, how much is it valued at home? A lot, one would hope, but this has been on my mind lately, and I'm afraid that based on my own experience and those of my friends and family members close to me in age, it doesn't seem to be worth that much. I'm not necessarily saying I want to be a stay-at-home mother, but if I did, I believe my family's reaction would be a mixture of disappointment, anxiety, and maybe even touches of disgust, betrayal, and anger. In a practical sense, they'd have good reasons: I'd be financially dependent on a spouse, and if I had to re-enter the workforce due to widowhood or divorce, I'd be at a major disadvantage if I'd spent years at home. I don't think that's all there is to it, though, not in a culture obsessed with upward mobility, manifested in bragging rights, vicarious living, etc. My intention is not to pick on my family here, not at all, but I think part of them would believe I was squandering my talents. They want to be able to tell people their daughter (or granddaughter, or whatever) is a college professor with a title of Dr.

The whole thing is sad, and I imagine quite widespread (and far, far worse for men who want to be stay-at-home fathers). I post this because I really want to hear about others' experiences. To what extent is the phenomenon I'm referring to class-related? I'd appreciate any comments you have.

Edited to add: I forgot to include this earlier, but the viciously misogynistic stereotypes I encountered in college also informed this post. I'm talking specifically about the stereotype of sorority women as "breedstock." They major in early childhood education, and they're only in college to find a husband (or, as the joke goes, to get their MRS. degrees). It's all part of the same thing.

And, for context: Right before I came back here, I spent the day with a good friend of mine from college who is a stay-at-home mother with three children, ages 5, 3, and 3 (twins). I had a wonderful time, so I guess I'm experiencing a "grass is greener" effect, and feeling as though if I ever decided I wanted to do that, my family, and many of my friends, too, wouldn't be supportive.

Tired (More Links and Half-Thoughts)

I got back into town last night and haven't quite recovered from the month-long trip. I'm trying to get my apartment cleaned up, groceries bought, laundry done, etc. Oh, and tons of academic work, too. I'm just sluggish. Ah well. Maybe blogging some quotidian thoughts and occurrences will help.

A good friend of mine at home was ranting about these ribbons on people's cars that are arranged so that the text, "Support Our Troops," is horizontal. "Yeah, I sure am glad they made it so we can see the text horizontally. I wouldn't have been able to read it otherwise. Seriously! People can read all kinds of ways: Diagonally, vertically, backwards even!" Indeed it is ubiquitious. Here in Minnesota too, I've noticed. Is there some special reason to stick it to the car that way that I'm not aware of?

The Blogora might switch to Drupal. How hard is it going to be to import the MT archives? Anyone have firsthand experience with that?

When I went to the office to check my mailbox, I found the 2005 reprinting of the 6th edition of the MLA style guide. I guess as it's a reprinting, they didn't make any changes or addenda, but I looked for any mention of citing weblog entries and comments anyway, but didn't find any. I know there are improvised ways to do it, but I'd like to see weblogs mentioned in the actual guide.

Computers & Writing Online is in full swing! Be sure to comment!

I just finished reading Franny and Zooey for the first time. That's got me a little drained, too. The whole time I was reading it, I was thinking that it would have made a great movie, maybe still would. What do you think? Thora Birch as Franny, or possibly Christina Ricci? Tobey Maguire, or maybe Joaquin Phoenix as Zooey? Speaking of books, I never did take that trip, so I didn't listen to those books -- actually, I listened to exactly half of The Picture of Dorian Gray just driving around town (my Oxford World's Classics edition has 224 pages. I looked, and I'd listened up to page 112), and now I have to read the rest. So far, my literature consumption since the beginning of May includes:

  • The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
  • Passing, Nella Larsen
  • Jazz, Toni Morrison
  • Franny and Zooey, J.D. Salinger
  • and half of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde

Not bad, huh? I should get back to research-related non-fiction though.

Jumble of links and thoughts

I'm in Alabama until Saturday, and while I've been working at the library here, I've also been watching too much vapid TV and too many movies (we're talking stuff like Bubble Boy, Eulogy, and Wet Hot American Summer). So I have to hit the books, course preparation, dissertation, everything when I get back. But for now, a fluff post with no interparagraphic transitions whatsoever.

Proposals are being sought for a special issue of Technical Communication Quarterly on Technical Communication in the Age of Distributed Work. It's going to be great once it comes out, very forward-thinking.

Note to self: I want to use the famous Margaret Mead quotation: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has" in my syllabus for the class I'm teaching this summer. [Edited to add: Does anyone know what the original source for that is? I hate not having a specific page number or date/place, if it's a speech.] It's called "Group Process, Team Building, and Leadership," and it centers on work done in small groups. It's also one of the courses that fulfills the Citizenship and Public Ethics theme requirement, and usually teachers require students to do group projects on local issues, which I'm very excited about, as this will let me try out a modified version of that city writing/finds research process that Jenny and Jeff talk about. I have lots of ideas already, and a while back I used the new-for-OSX-Tiger built-in news aggregator in Safari to set up a folder of feeds from all the local publications I could think of, so that's helped a lot.

At Jonathan's insistence, I watched the original Star Wars trilogy for the first time. People are shocked that I'm such a science fiction geek but I've never seen those movies. I'm already seeing Star Wars' influence on other movies and series. For example, Data on Star Trek: TNG reminds me a lot of C3PO (telling the captain the odds that some act of derring-do won't work, social ineptitude, etc.) and Moya's pilot on Farscape even reminds me a little of C3PO as well. I must see episodes 1, 2, and 3 now.

I finally created a Flickr account, and I'm wondering why I didn't do it months ago.

Check out this cool Drupal ad for the Free Software Magazine!

For anyone who was scratching his or her head about the relevance and import of the work that's being done on silence (see also Cheryl Glenn's Unspoken), this op-ed piece should clear it up for you.

Am I, like, the only person alive who had never heard of The Red Hat Society until the other day? All the stores around here have Red Hat lady merchandise -- red hats, of course, purple clothing, ceramic figurines of red hats, purple socks with little red hats embroidered on them, etc. Cookie jars, even. I saw the cover of one of the books from far away and thought, hey, that looks like an interesting Linux user/developer group! Seriously though, I told the manager of my local yarn store that they should offer special knitting classes for Red Hat Society women and classes for friends and family of Red Hat women in which they could knit red hats and other red and purple stuff as gifts for them. She thought it was a great idea. I hope they do it; I want to do anything I can to support locally-owned businesses.

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