Friday, July 31, 2009


No wonder this country is so fucked up.

Mom lies and teaches her kids to lie in order to save money.. Via Consumerist.

I'm with Ben: "Can't wait to hear what this girl starts lying about to her mother when she's 16."


My kids have been attending camp at the local zoo this week. First, we love the zoo, though we know it so well by now that there are few to no surprises. So I think we thought ZooCamp would give us a peek inside at something we've never seen before. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case. It's just a camp that happens to take place at the zoo. They don't really get an inside look behind the scenes, or learn to be zookeepers or anything like that.

My 10 year old daughter is doing fine, but my 7 year old son is not as happy. I think he expected more. Right now, he's at his tennis class, which he prefers to ZooCamp. I'll pick him up in 15 minutes and bring him to camp for the last day.

So I am a bit underwhelmed by ZooCamp and happy as usual with the camp the kids have been attending the rest of the summer. Maybe it's my cautious/transition-disliking kids, but I am happier with a camp where there is more continuity. The camp run at the school across the street offers my kids a familiar set of friends and counselors and activities. There are new people every summer, but not the constant barrage of change.

I know many parents during the summer ferry kids from soccer camp to baseball camp to art camp to zoo camp--a different camp every week or two. Obviously, this works best for the parents/kids or they wouldn't do it, but in my pessimistic, half-empty-glass sort of way, I can't help wondering what is lost when we send kids to a different camp every week. They learn to make friends in one-week increments, then move on. There's no community. What is the chance that we will have playdates with the friend S made in ZooCamp? She lives in TownofCorruption, a good 20-30 minute drive away. I've never met her parents. On the other hand, at the camp across the street, S has made friends with H. H is not in her school (she's in the other elementary school in our town) but they girls will see each other again in middle school in a year. We might even set up a playdate or two; I can meet her parents more easily. S worked diligently for days on a birthday present (a friendship bracelet/necklace thing) for H. She can't build that kind of connection with someone from ZooCamp.

Exposing kids to new things is nice, but I guess I lean more toward deepening and building on what's already there. Maybe it's because I lack deep relationships in this community because I didn't grow up here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


So, I was at the dentist yesterday for my semi-annual cleaning, and the hygienist was late getting to me, which is unusual. When she came out, she told me why she was late. She had left her 13 and 9 year old sons home alone today and they had just called her because some guy drove up in a truck and started taking pics of their house, even walking around on their deck. The kids didn't call the police first because they were worried that they'd get their parents in trouble for leaving them home alone. First, I have the urge to submit this story to Free Range Kids. I was surprised to hear another hygienist she was telling complain about how the kids' concern showed that "the government" was interfering too much in our lives. I find it interesting how sometimes the police are the "government" and sometimes they are just citizens doing their jobs to protect us from people yelling in their own homes.

Second, I was talking with her a bit to calm her down and reassure her, and we got on the subject of parents leaving their kids alone, and we started talking about this story. To sum up, a bunch of kids from a neighboring town were drinking and boating, and one of the kids deliberately ran over another kid with the boat. He was recently convicted, and this story tells the most complete story of what happened that day.

Anyway, she was telling me that she hangs out with families from this town because of hockey, and one thing she noticed is that the kids' parents DRINK so much. Their idea of any good time is to drink till they're drunk. If they have a spare hour while the kids are at practice, they go out for a drink. So it's no wonder drinking is such a horrible problem in that town. I mean, sure, kids will probably drink as part of growing up and experimentation, etc., but the culture of drinking is really crazy. And you can see from that article that the day of the accident, those kids had been drinking since lunchtime.

So it was interesting for me to run across this post via Atrios today. We recognize binge drinking as a problem, but do we understand how we contribute to it? Do we show our kids how to have fun without beer or wine?

Whether to change the drinking age is a popular topic for my student writers (I've pretty much banned it for a while because I'm so tired of it). I find that students tend to break down 50-50 on whether to lower the drinking age to 18. Many observe that we will just lower the age when students start to drink. I think they're onto something. The reason why kids will simply start drinking sooner is because they equate drinking with fun. And why shouldn't they? We adults do.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I am by nature fairly cautious. As a child I didn't go to a lot of new and different places on my own, and even as an adult I like to do new things, but I plan/anticipate them very carefully.

So to send my kids to Zoo Camp for one week (instead of their usual summer camp where we know all the counselors and it's right across the street) is a major stressor for me. I became one of *those* parents. The hovering one telling the counselors 20 different things about E that they will likely (and rightfully) ignore. I walked away totally embarrassed by myself.

If I'm this way for a one-week Zoo Camp, what will I be like when they go to college? Or does it get better?

Friday, July 24, 2009


Once again, I am amazed at how different departmental culture is in different academic institutions.

Dr. Crazy asserted her right (now that she is tenured) not to have to be a team player and pick up the slack for other faculty who have child care commitments. I understand on one level, but on another, I'm pretty concerned about her attitude.

My context is that I work in a department where we all look out for each other and help each other out. Some of us have child care commitments, some of us have elderly parents, some of us have classes (we have a few faculty currently in PhD programs). We have a 2-week teaching opportunity in Asia, and we don't control the schedule. If the opportunity happens during the term, we pitch in and sub for the other faculty so they can go. I've taken on last minute schedule changes so that I could accommodate another faculty member for a non-child-related reason.

Furthermore, there are opportunities that I as a parent of young children can NOT take. I just learned that my colleague is going to Europe to teach in one of our programs next spring. I have been DYING to have that opportunity. I can't take it because I have young children, and I would have to leave them behind for 3 months. I would take them with me, but I am not allowed to teach in the program with my children there. How fair is that? Only the childless or those with older children get that opportunity. I hate it. I don't want to wait 10 more years (my son is 7) to teach there. But that's the way it is.

I think part of the solution to this problem is that a chair/dean has to create the culture of support and reinforce the idea that everyone is sacrificing. One term, we had 3 faculty in my college (of Arts and Sciences) who were severely ill, enough to take significant time off. The 11 faculty who helped out during that time were honored at our end of the year awards ceremony. They got nothing really, except they got the thanks of everyone and the acknowledgement that what they had done was above and beyond. That's the kind of thing departments can do. People usually don't mind making sacrifices if they feel that people appreciate them and do not take their work for granted.

I understand that Dr. Crazy lives in a particular university/department culture where she had to assert her rights or be given the less desirable teaching times. But what I would suggest to Dr. Crazy is that now that she has tenure, she could use her new-found power not to simply assert only *her* rights in a Randian way, but also to change the culture of her department. I hope she doesn't just sit back in her office with her books and her computer and pat herself on the back for asserting herself. Some day she may need consideration for a struggle to balance life and work, and I hope she would have helped to change her department culture by then instead of simply saying "now it's my turn" and victimizing some other untenured faculty member in her department the same way she was.

Gates and Police Power

I had an epiphany last night while thinking about responses to the Gates case.

To preface, I've been talking about it on an online forum with several male Republicans in my town. All of them have in the past shown extreme concern about abuses of state power (IOW, they frequently complain about Obama being a fascist or a socialist).

This concern is reflected in the posts of older white male Republicans across the country. You can read their comments on blog posts and online articles, and you know what their political views are.

What strikes me is that these men normally come across as libertarian and anti-state. Via Alicublog I found this entry by Jonah Goldberg:

conservatives, like Americans generally, are of two views when it comes to cops. One side is inclined to distrust them, see them as potential abusers of authority — mere men with badges and guns. Another side is deferential to police. That is not to say they condone abuse or sanction cops being above the law. But they give cops the benefit of the doubt for a host of reasons.

Here's my epiphany: I look at those conservatives who distrust cops, and I see their anger at Gates. And I realize what the deal is.

They're angry because Gates did what they WISH they could do but are too afraid to: he challenged the police for invading his home. Older conservative men bluster all the time about "the state" abusing its power, coming into our homes. I had an argument yesterday with a fire fighter who was complaining that Obama's health care reform would be a "violation of the 4th Amendment"! LOL! I'm still trying to figure out that one.

This is just another version of the Yellow Elephants. These are the men who define manhood a certain way, assert their support for this construction of manhood, then fail to live up to it themselves.

It has to gall the crap out of them that an older physically disabled black man asserted the very rights they demand on a regular basis. They dream of exerting their power as citizens, the right to control their territory (their homes). But they defer to police authority because they fear the consequences.

And here's Gates, who talked back, demanded badge numbers, asserted his civil rights to be in his own house, expressed anger--all the things they wish they could have done in a similar situation.

But to assert that he acted legitimately, that he acted the way they wish they could? That would mean that a black man was a better man than they could ever be.

And we can't have that, can we?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Skip Gates

I find myself continuing to be enraged and outraged and every kind of raged over the arrest of Skip Gates and the surrounding commentary. I had written a long post, but then I found that much of what I was saying had been said elsewhere.

I'll point out this post by a lawyer writing about the police officer's actions. Henry at CT already made a similar point.

I find that what I am most interested in is the issue of the officer's abuse of power, which I believe is inflected by racism, but which is endemic in way too many police departments these days. We watch the news from Iran and shudder in horror over the police violence against protesters there, but we hardly blink when a police officer in our own backyard abuses his power because he's pissed off that someone has yelled at him. I'm interested in how immune, how numb we have become to police abuse of power and violations of our civil rights in the name of "safety."

Full disclosure: Gates was my professor as an undergrad and grad student. I wouldn't be in academia if it weren't for him. He's the person who told me to go to grad school and get a PhD in English.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Driving While Talking/Texting

Via Yglesias, I read this article.

I can't say I have never talked on the phone while driving, though I can't remember the last time I did it. I can say I have never texted while driving. I rarely talk on my cell and text even less often. Cellphones are not part of my lifestyle.

I do change songs on my iPod a lot, and often I have to look at the iPod screen to do so. Even then it's a major distraction.

Over at 11D we were talking about kids and unstructured time and the fears of letting kids bike or walk around the neighborhood. The real danger, as I see it, isn't the possibility that my kids will be kidnapped or molested. It's that they'll be hit by cars.

Last summer, a mother was walking with her daughter (on a bike) down one of our local streets. A car careened towards them. The mother pushed her daughter out of the way and was hit herself - and killed. They found her teeth in the grill of the car. That street is not precisely the one that is the direct route to my daughter's best friend's house, but it is a parallel/similar street, very windy, no sidewalks.

I am sorely tempted to have a sign next to me on the car seat, and whenever I see someone on a cell phone, I will put up the sign, which will read "Get off your fucking cell before you kill someone." Unfortunately for my desire for confrontation, I do recognize that such a sign would probably lead to more distraction and disruption on the road and put people's lives in danger.

I wish police would more frequently enforce restrictions on driving while on the cell. Of course, they themselves are on their cells a lot; a couple of days ago, a squad car turned its lights on next to me, and when I looked over to see if the officer wanted me to pull over, I saw he was on a cell phone talking.


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Mush for brains

No, not Sarah Palin. ;) Me!

Today is my son's 7th birthday, which followed his sister's 10th birthday by 12 days. It's amazing how much work it is to prepare for children's birthdays when you're not even giving them a party.

I made another one of my famous cakes. I'm not *good* at it, but I enjoy creating cakes for the kids' birthdays. Today's cake was a jungle safari cake, and we brought it to his summer camp this morning for them to enjoy later.

The past few weeks have been overwhelmingly busy. For six months, I had been on a waiting list for my son to see a psychologist who specializes in "twice exceptional" children, children who are gifted and are neuro-atypical in some way (ADD, Aspergers, etc). For three months I had been trying to adopt a dog. We were looking at Brittany spaniels in need of rescue, but the process was difficult. And then for a month, the new pool I'd bought was sitting on my patio still in the box getting rained on as we endured one of the rainiest Junes on record.

In the space of 3 days, we 1. had our first psych appt, 2. got a dog, and 3. put up the pool. I needed a Valium IV by the end of the weekend. I settled for a beer or two. :)

In the meantime I'm teaching a course on Mondays and Wednesdays through July 22, which I probably need to get ready for now.