Sunday, June 17, 2007

how to make a geek girl happy

I'm currently awaiting the delivery of something I've wanted ever since I heard they existed--an Aibo. :) Back when I was an undergrad, I spent hours I should have been studying watching robot dogs dance, and fetch, and generally just be cute. However, they cost $2000 so eventually I got an apartment, got a real pooch, and gave up on the idea of these ever becoming affordable. I'd check ebay every once in a while, and they were still really expensive. So you know, whatever.

However, I recently checked again and the 210s, the one I liked the most, has gotten cheap. Not entirely cheap, mind you, but no longer out of my price range. Apparently, many of them have an issue in their neck that causes them to break and require some repair, so users are offloading them in droves. Fortunately, DHS (droopy head syndrome) is fixable, and my Aibo will eventually live with someone 100% capable of fixing it, (who approves of me buying this thing partialy so he can see it's innards at some point) so all is good there.

I'm going to have to spend some time ebaying accessories to make it programmable, but hey, this geek girl is geeked.

This is my Aibo, still with her current owner:

I'm trying to figure out some way I could tie some of the really freaking cool Aibo research that's been done to my own. I love reading books by Stone and Haraway and Hayles that tell big technology stories, so I figure there has to be a way to tie this all down to computers and writing stuff somehow.

Aibos are being used in some schools to teach robotics programming, and they are also being used to test AI "curiosity" software. Actually, had MTU been doing that I might still be an engineer. For example, in this video Aibo has learned to swim on it's own based upon software written to have it learn how to move in the water on its own: .

To tie this all back into academia, I can honestly say that if my engineering teachers had been encouraging this kind of research, even in higher level classes, I probably would have stuck it out. Programming toys and AI is a helluva lot more fun and interesting than teaching MatLab to play Fur Elise, not to mention it's something I'd be willing to learn more of on my own later (unlike Matlab). Getting people excited and motivated by technology isn't always well done in any field apparently, and I recognize my reaction to my engineering courses as being very similar to what my english students often have--who cares? When do I get to do something I want to do? When will somebody give me the chance to be passionate about this? Will I *ever* be passionate about this? And if not, why do I want to do this as a job when the one thing that I really really like will probably only ever be a hobby?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

can anybody explain this to me?

Why is it that every major hate movement connects their chosen object of hatred to Jewish people? Why can't people just admit that they hate people for the act of being a different color or a different gender? Why does it have to be about a great big hairy conspiracy theory wherein their chosen object of hate is "in it" with the Jewish population and wants to take over?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

one of those days vs. just who the hell am I anyway?

Class today was badly controlled chaos at best. None of these things were classroom management issues--it should be OBVIOUS to one instructor that walking into another instructor's class during lecture to let another student use a computer isn't cool. It should be OBVIOUS to a student that if you get your wisdom tooth removed you probably shouldn't come to class right afterward. Duh.
And yet, neither is apparently obvious enough.

That said, one of my posts from weeks ago is getting attention from a masculinist site. What began as a post essentially directed at a friend who was espousing the crud that was in the quotes I pulled turned into a "shut up the evil radical feminist!" game.

Here's the thing: I'm a BAD feminist. Bad feminist, no cookie--and no, I'm not kidding. By the most common definition of feminism held by the commonest of people who haven't, you know, studied it or anything, I'm NOT a feminist. My freaking fiance doesn't seem to think I am even.

But if I call myself a feminist online, *naturally* I must hate men, blame them for all my problems (to which I ask, what problems? No... really... stuff's pretty good...), have a short haircut, be fat and ugly, AND be a lesbian. No make-up, no girly shoes (did you not see my name on here? It's not sarcasm...), no nice clothes.

I'm engaged, I like shoes (particularly nice designer ones that don't make my feet hurt), I shop on

But, at the same time, I think that many things about the way women are treated, in general, are pretty fucked up, and I'd like to change them--thus, I'm a feminist.

There are many different kinds of feminists. Some of these dudes who were alternately telling me how ugly and fat I must be and how much they hated me even say slightly feminist things in other posts on their own site. But to them feminist is a dirty word--so no, that couldn't be possible, could it? (Of course, there's just as many guys saying things like "Women don't really have much choice [except to have sex with] an experienced player" as well...

There are radical feminists, who think women need to stop wearing girly clothes, girly shoes, and make up. There are feminists that think women should be able to choose whatever sort of life they want, and call that feminism. There are feminists who just think that equality in relationships is important. There are feminists who just want to keep it okay for women to work and not have kids in spite of increasing pressure to stop work and have babies.

They don't all think the same things, and they don't all react in the same ways.

Furthermore, men and women can *both* be the enemy. The first time anybody threatened to rape me it was a girl my own age. I could either cut my hair and join her stupid clique at school (who swore they weren't a gang) or she and her group would threaten rape. That's some pretty fucked up stuff right there--and it wasn't a guy. I don't see this girl, or the woman she grew into, being any sort of friend to woman-kind at all in general.

But men, too, can be either friend or foe. It's harder to determine who is who though, with men. Plenty of guys lie about who they really are in order to get laid, or in order to have some sort of power over women. They HATE it when women do it back (women are evil "hors!") and yet, in my experience, lie just as often to gain power over somebody. (Example: the fellow who targeted me for "dating" purely because somebody with a similiar degree had once really pissed him off, that didn't have anything to do with anything but power.)

But apart from relationships, there are still many other screwed up things going on in America today surrounding gender. I'd like to think it'd entirely change when the "old boys" club finally becomes the "ancient boys" and kicks off--but their ideals are unlikely to die. Maybe, even if their ideals don't die some of their absolute gall will (telling somebody they shouldn't take a class because it's too hard for young girl, asking a girl to describe her bedroom during a phone interview, researching a women you are about to hire online to make sure she's not fat...).

In the meantime, the boys will no doubt continue to scream at this "bad feminist," but I don't see why *I* should have to shut up if they've no intention of doing so. My only concern, of course, is that saying anything at all just hurts the cause in the end.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Dear Head, Meet Keyboard

I'm working on my plan of work. I really just need to know that the event hinted at above and my QE's aren't going to happen at the same time. I added everything up and I'm 2.5 credits short.
WTF? WTF PEOPLE? I'm using your brand spanking new system to figure out QE date and I'm 2.5 credits short. I took the maximum number of diss. credits and the max number of transfer credits and it's 2.5 short. SHORT! Argh! Okay, so if this is right, then I've got one more term of coursework or pre-diss research. Or, there's just something hinky in the system that they never added up (we need 90 credits to graduate) and that's not working.
Or you know I hit plus one less time than I was supposed to. It's possible. But probably not.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

instructional technology anyone?

It's been hitting me hard this term just how much instruction technology (and support thereof) has changed in the four point five years I've been teaching.

This is probably because to some extent I'm using old examples, giving older lectures, and I'm suddenly struck by how I had to do this the last time I did it. The last time I brought in examples for rhetorical analysis I did so on an overhead. I had a magazine cover I dragged into class. I had to burn files to a CD and then throw them into my own laptop hooked up to a cart with a projector on it (because the laptop on the cart usually didn't like me very much, for whatever reason).

My students used to write reading responses and journal entries both in class at home. Now we do that on the course blog.

Instead of burning stuff to a CD I put it on a USB key around my neck. I'd just shove the stuff in Content Collection on Blackboard, or in a hidden file on my website, but to be honest, I don't really trust that the internet in my classroom will work--it's been hinky on Monday mornings. I really need to kick the ass of whomever is futzing with it on Saturdays or Fridays and TURNING OFF THE ROUTER. *growl*

But that too is a big change. My students all have laptops available at one school (in the classroom or their own) that are locked up in the back. In the other, I have a multimedia workstation that I present from, and all my students have a computer in front of them all the time. This is a big advance from always having to check out a computer lab and sharing the space with other users...

Yet, I find myself relying on the technology less and less. Sure I study "Computers and Writing" officially, but I'm the sap who thinks that a printed off spreadsheet would be better used to schedule people in the Writing Center than a hand built database in Access (alright, so it's mostly because Access doesn't have a built in calender feature, but still). I'm mostly right too--it's not always necessary. Nice, but not necessary.

Yet, if this is how many little things have changed in four years, I find myself wondering about the next twenty. What little things will have made teaching different in a few months? years?

Monday, January 22, 2007

basic writers vs. Freshmen writers?

It's become apparent to me since the beginning of the term that teaching freshmen is remarkably more different than teaching higher level college students that I would have originally assumed. (And, if any of my current students are reading this, hi!, by the way.) This isn't to say that they are bad, just a very different sort of student than I'm generally used to.

The first "basic comp" course I taught was really and truly a basic comp/rhet course aimed at sophomores. I also primarily teach non-traditional students in my other position, who aren't the same age as your average freshman. Now, what the heck difference could there possibly be between freshmen and sophomores, and why does it matter anyway?

When I was one I don't know that I saw a difference. As hard as I try, I don't really remember much about my attitude towards class that year. I went to it, I studied a lot, and I participated in the smaller sections I was in when I had anything to say. In my English class that happened to be a lot, as I was endlessly arguing with this one guy that I called "Bassoon guy" till I learned that's not even how you pronounce his last name...

...but no matter. I guess I recall, to one extent or another, not having any close personal connections to my teachers at that time. But I don't know why other than blatant fear--you know? Plus, I figured as long as I was doing well I had no reason to show up to office hours or speak to them and to some extent I'm STILL like that, unless I just want to shoot the shit, and thus far I've had very little reason to do that EITHER this year.

So right, what's different about freshmen?

Well, there's been plenty written about "basic writers." MANY of my students at my second job would count as basic writers. Some even have had no instruction in writing--ever. But they DO write, and they do proofread their work to the best of their ability, and they do work pretty hard. But they're not stereotypical freshmen. The ones that are, straight out of high school, tend to do that a little less.

I wonder sometimes if the problems of teaching "first year writing" have little to do with student intrinsic ability and more to do with just who they are and where they are in personal development. It's been a bit of culture shock for me to suddenly realize that I'm the enemy sometimes--after all, that's what high school writing teachers just might have been. It's been a long time since I considered the direct emotional/attitudinal effect of high school on college classes because MOST of my students over the years have had a year to twenty between high school and walking into my class room for the first time.

It doesn't hurt that I'm occassionally of the opinion that it wouldn't hurt some people (not all, maybe not even most) to work a few years before entering college. I remember being about 20ish when all of a sudden everything clicked--concentration, memorization, etc. and I felt like I could learn just about anything. Before that time a lot of what i was doing was a struggle, but not so much anymore. Hrm.

Non-traditional students pose their own problems I suppose. They need to be convinced that things are "doable" mostly. It seems silly in retrospect though, when they're all worried that their younger counterparts are going to be running circles around them when in reality their dedication to their work means the opposite is often the case.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Stuff I've been reading

You know... outside of school.
First of all, here is Auryn. That link actually posts to her "memories" (favorite entries) on Livejournal, because that would be the easiest place to start reading her stuff. She was a nurse working at Methodist hospital during Hurricane Katrina, and although I know everybody's just sick to death of hearing about Katrina, her personal stories are interesting in a way that news reports just flat out aren't going to be.

In Junkfood Science, a medical professional (nurse) regularly debunks news articles and myths such as the obesity epidemic that the media constantly harps upon. If I wasn't already pretty sure of my topic for my Media Reception project this term, I might start looking at some of those ads and n reports and how people respond to them... which is directly tied to .....

Hungry for Hunger, a really unique blog about increasingly common eating disorders (which was linked to Junkfood Science awhile back). This one is written by the husband of an anorexic woman who has gone inpatient. He says that he couldn't find any support sites for people like him, so he decided to make one for all the other husbands and boyfriends and girlfriends out there so they'll know what to expect and be better informed than he was.

Oh and I've been playing this.