Friday, September 30, 2005

Funny Design

Here are two articles you must read about intelligent design. No, they're not deep philosophical treatises about either science or education or evolution or creation. But they're kind of funny. And they make some very good points (well, especially... no.. only the Lithwick one. But you should totally read the other one first.)

"Intelligent Design" by Paul Rudnick, from The New Yorker, 9/26/2005. It's hilarious.

Day No. 3:

“Just to make everyone happy,” said the Lord
God, “today I’m thinking oceans, for contrast.”
“It’s wet, it’s deep, yet it’s frothy; it’s design without dogma,” said Buddha, approvingly.

“Now, there’s movement,” agreed Allah. “It’s not just ‘Hi, I’m
a planet—no splashing.’ ”

“But are those ice caps?” inquired Thor. “Is this a coherent vision, or a highball?”

“I can do ice caps if I want to,” sniffed the Lord God.

“It’s about a mood,” said the Angel Moroni, supportively.

“Thank you,” said the Lord God.

Also, Dahlia Lithwick's "Mind the Gaps" over on Slate.

But the critics are missing the beauty of this new theory. Because the really great thing about intelligent design is that it takes all the awkward uncertainty out of science. It says, "You know those damn theoretical gaps and conundrums that send microbiology graduate students into dank basement laboratories at 3 a.m.? They don't need to be resolved at all. Go back to bed, sleepy little grad students. God fills those gaps."

Let's face it: The problem with science has always been that each new discovery unleashes thousands of new questions and ambiguities. So really, the more we discover new stuff, the stupider we get. Clearly, that isn't working. ID says we shouldn't bother ourselves with resolving scientific inconsistencies or untangling puzzles. We should recognize that what God really wants is for us just to stop learning.

I can't sleep.

So I figured I might as well update.

I took my two tests today: one went fine. The second one I'm sure went fine, but I'm concerned about a few things: 1) in the main essay we were given a choice between two readings we had been assigned to apply to a particular framework and I had not really read either of the readings well. But that might be ok, I might have winged it, but I am particularly mortified by, 2) the fact that I think I might have, throughout that essay, referring to the concept of "technical control" as "technological control." Why I would do this, I'm not sure. I'm just as unclear as to if I even did it. I just have this vague sense that I might have and it's freaking me out. I don't think it will count too terribly much against me, if I did. But it will make me seem like a great big idiot, won't it?

Anyway, this will be a busy weekend. I suppose that the group I was going to get together for study with for my Wednesday midterm isn't going to get together. We were going to meet tomorrow. I could be a good person and email everyone and set it up. But, really, studying in groups isn't for me. At least not until I've had a chance to work out the material on my own for a while. Groups are good for discussing things and helping out other people and explaining it (for some reason, explaining an issue makes me understand it a lot better), but as I've not really studied at all, meeting in the morning would be a bad call. Also, given the fact that it's around 4:30 am, meeting in the morning poses other challenges as well.

I need to study for the GRE.

I know I talk about it and make jokes about it and buy books right and left about it. But, now I actually have to, um, use the books.

I also need to clean my room. Quite honestly, it amazes me to behold every semester anew the depths to which my room will sink during midterms and finals weeks. It's truly quite bad. I would take pictures except, 1) I don't have a digital camera, and 2) it would be embarrassing.

In addition to getting loads of reading and planning and studying done this weekend, I have a lot of Thinking to do.

Oh, and I also just started a fascinating new book and finished a fascinating old book. I promise to blog about them later. Indeed, this weekend I have so many things to do that I am sure I will need a nice way to procrastinate later on, and blogging about books seems by far the most appropriate way to go about doing that.

And, in searching for articles about something completely different, I found several interesting looking articles (though I don't know that they would look quite so interesting if I didn't have quite so many other things to do!) that I intend to read this weekend. I will, of course, be blogging anything interesting. As if you cared.

Anyway, I am now starting to feel vaguely sleepy, so I'm gonna head to bed. Sorry for their very unwieldy and rambling post about nothing at all. If you're still reading, I offer my apologies. If you've skipped to the last paragraph, well, you haven't missed much!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Light posting this week

I have two tests on Thursday and though I undoubtedly have very fascinating and important things to say, I will not be saying them. At least not until Thursday night.

Feel free to leave me encouraging messages.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Why I am a generally useless person:

I have nothing whatsoever that could, by anyone, be construed as mildly interesting to say. I am still feeling sickish, I have to read for my class tonight, I will probably read spark-notes rather than the actual text, I have to read for classes tomorrow, I can't bring myself to do any sort of homework until I clean my room, and although I have a low tolerance for mess, I generally dislike cleaning, I have to study for two tests on Thursday, I have to study for the GRE, and I have to seriously start thinking about graduate schools.

And all of the above is why I suck and am useless. Alas. I need some motivation. And some advil.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Is Little Women a Feminist Novel?

Whether Alcott’s LW is a feminist novel depends on many things: namely, how one defines “feminist” and how one reads the book. I believe that LW is a feminist book, and I am defining feminist as a book that values the experiences of women and empowers women to see beyond socially prescribed gender roles and empowers them to be creative and take control of not only the text but also their lives.

Certainly one could do a reading of this book and see that it enforces separate spheres gender roles, that Jo may be a tomboy when she is younger but that she gradually grows into the “Mother Baher” role at the end, taming her wildness and her anger. Mr. March praises Meg for her “housewifely skills,” and Amy learns not to be selfish or vain. But Beth, who seems to embody the ideals of separate spheres, a true “angel in the house” who had no greater ambition than to stay at home and keep house, dies from what Barbara Sicherman calls a “failure of imagination.” The Castles in the Air chapter shows that the girls have creative dreams and ambitions, even though they don’t really achieve them in the end.

But the thing about the ending is that it’s so easy to ignore, and, indeed, that’s what many women have done. In the end, Jo gets married and gives up her writing (because Prof. Baher disapproves) to serve as a mother to not only her own children but to other peoples’ as well. Sicherman says that because the ending seems so forced and artificial that LW has become a “problem text” that women keep coming back to, and, in some cases, like Simone de Beauvoir, exercising their own creativity, letting our their inner Jo March, and rewriting the text. Though the ending conforms to social expectations for women at that time, we can see through the text the ways in which those expectations are resisted, especially by Jo, who not only wrote stories that she wanted to, but got paid for it! M. Carey Thomas, as well as de Beauvoir, imagined themselves in the role of Jo, they saw themselves and their ambitions to create and write in her and used Alcott’s text as an inspiration.

Another way in which LW can be considered a feminist novel is the way in which it values the experiences of women. At the time, under a doctrine of separate spheres, women were in the home, and the truly important stuff was what went on in the public world. Notably missing from the text of LW are references to the outside world. Events such as the Civil War are only relevant to the extent that they intrude upon the private world (i.e. Mr. March being away at war).

The experiences of the family and of private life are most important. Bonds between women are valued. Most of the men in these novels served a plot function rather than a character function. Mr. Brooke forces Meg to deal with her materialism, Mr. Laurence helps Beth to overcome her shyness; in short, the men are there to help the women on their quest for moral development. Laurie is the only truly developed male character, but that makes sense within this framework, because he’s essentially an honorary March girl. He even has a girl’s name. He participates in the Pickwick society and promises to play by the girls’ rules.

LW also shows that being a good woman isn’t all sitting around the house, being nice, and looking pretty. It takes work. She shows us Meg’s experiences making the jelly and struggling with balancing being a good mother as well as a good wife. Alcott also dispels the notion that women are somehow just naturally better than men, naturally more moral, sweeter, kinder, etc. She shows us that not only does Jo have to deal with her anger but Marmee, who has been set up almost as this paragon of virtue who is looked up to by all her girls, struggles with anger every day of her life.

In the end, when all the girls are married off and have families of their own (except Beth, being dead and all), they come back and Marmee reminds them that their bond, the mother daughter bond, the sisterly bond, was what’s most important in life. Important stuff may be going on in the outside world, but, ultimately, it’s the relationships that matter. So, it seems that Alcott does endorse the idea of separate spheres in LW, but somewhat radically suggests that the private sphere is more important than the public one.

So, in the end, while LW does have this overt endorsement of separate spheres ideology and can be read as a set of instructions on how to become a good woman, it can also be read as valuing women’s relationships and experiences in a way that they usually weren’t valued or appreciated. Though (and kind of because) it has a problematic ending, women have been able to disregard the fact that Jo eventually is tamed and see themselves in Jo, to be able to aspire to write, to achieve, to be successful. I do believe that LW is a feminist novel precisely because it allows the readers to interact with the text and empower themselves, as Thomas and De Beauvoir did.

Why I love Jason's family:

"Mom threw me out of the house earlier...then told me not to go because I couldn't take the car." --Jason, just now, in an IM conversation

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Well, I went ahead and did it...

I wrote a really crappy essay that I'm going to turn in tommorow.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

On Writer's Shame (Or: Why Smaller Classes are Better)

I am never happy with the sorts of papers and essays I turn in in classes. I always know that I can do better. But one thing that's interesting over the past year or so is the degree to which that shame has spurred me on to do better. See, my freshman and sophomore years, I knew that my writing was crap, and it upset me, but I didn't feel any personal attachment to it. I was in big classes, I never spoke up, professors never knew my name. In short, a teacher may read my crappy work, give it a grade, give it back, and never think, "Oh, that's Jennifer Bridges's essay" because they simply would never associate the name "Jennifer Bridges" with anything other than a name on a roster.

Maybe it's the same now, but I like to think not. I regularly participate in classes and all of my teachers know my name. Plus, my classes are alot smaller. All of this has been something that has happened in the past year. And the thing that I've noticed coming along with this is this deeper sense of shame about my writing. Honestly, I don't think my writing is terrible. I mean, I get good grades on it. I just have this niggling feeling that if I spent more time on it, it could be so much better.

Now that my teachers know who I am, I feel a greater responsibility not to turn in utter crap. I feel like my work will be more associated with me rather than just a grade to type into the computer. Maybe I'm wrong and teachers, even if they know your name, really don't care and don't think about who's writing what.

Either way, I've said all this to say that I have a stupid little essay that I have to write. I can sit down and get it done with quickly. It won't be very good, but it will meet all the requirements. But I just can't bear the idea of a teacher reading it and thinking, "that's Jennifer's work." But, darn it, I'm just so lazy.

If Horatio Alger was really a subversive author making fun of a ridiculously static class system....

...somebody didn't get the memo.

"Ragged Dick"

Everyone knows the Horatio Alger myth, right? If you just work hard enough and are good, honest, and worthy enough, you can be socially mobile. This is the American dream: we have a classless society where everyone has the opportunity to pull her- or himself up by their bootstraps.

Well, in one of my classes, I had to read Alger's Ragged Dick, which, I thought, confirmed my suspicions about the capitalist propaganda that was being employed. After all, Dick, a bootblack in New York City finally made good after he began to stop doing his frivolous things, set up a bank account, saved his money and continued to be exceptionally honest and trustworthy. He embodied Weber's idea of the Protestant work ethic: he worked hard, lived modestly, and saved his money. Several older men tell him that "your station in life is what you make of it," and that they were poor when they were young and worked their way up, etc etc.

I thought, "well, great, that was an interesting and entertaining bit of propaganda that was fed to working class Americans in order to encourage them to be good workers and give them false hope."

Then I read this book chapter by Marcus Klein, who argues that actually Horatio Alger is giving this subversive version of the American dream, critiquing it while apparently endorsing it. Evidence: in all of Alger's books, the main symbol of a character having "made it," becoming respectable, is a new set of clothes and using less slang. Klein argues that in using that trope, Alger is kind of making fun of "respectability," that it's all just playing a part. Good things happen to Alger's heroes by luck. In the end of Ragged Dick, Dick gets a good job because he happens to save the life of a millionaire's son. This is typical for Alger. Fosdick, Dick's friend and roommate, happens to get a recommendation (and thus a job) because of his social networks. Quite by chance.

So, then, is Alger actually writing this subversive tale that says, "this whole middle class thing, yeah, all it is is acting a part. And you can do all this hard work crap, but you're not going to make it to the top without just pure, dumb luck"?

My first thought was, why would anyone want to read that? I figured people would want to read the propaganda because, well, you want to have hope that working hard will lift you up, right? The Alger myth helps sustain that. But, here's the question: if along with the Alger myth comes the idea that if you're poor it's not because of structural issues but because you're a bad person, or you're not working hard enough... why would working class people want to read that?

It's hard to know exactly what readers got out of these books when they were published (nineteenth century). I mean, we can see what readers of, say, Little Women (published around the same time) thought of that book because it was primarily a middle class kind of book. These were people who kept diaries and wrote letters. The working classes, who were much of the Alger and dime novel audience, weren't keeping diaries. So, how did they interpret these books? What did they mean to them? Did they see them as subversive? "See, my failures aren't character flaws, this whole system is screwed up!" Or did they see them as hope? "See, if I work hard like Dick, good things will happen for me, too!"

I should be sleeping but instead I'm going to semi-coherently rant at you.

Today's NYT has an article on Ivy-league women who are increasingly saying that when they have children they will either leave the workforce or do part-time work. The article notes that this is a change from the previous generation:

What seems new is that while many of their mothers expected to have hard-charging careers, then scaled back their professional plans only after having children, the women of this generation expect their careers to take second place to child rearing.

So, basically, women are "realizing" that "you can't have both" and scaling back their plans accordingly. Now, if a woman chooses to stay home with her children, that's a perfectly legitimate choice. Certainly (as noted in previous posts about the Folbre book and caring labor), the work that she's doing (and it is work) is important to society. But, I really don't like the way that this article treats this subject.

First, this sort of "choice" really only applies for class-privileged women. The fact that they are making the choice to stay home with their kids is dependent on the idea that they're going to marry rich husbands (which will probably happen for most of them). Most women don't really have the option that they have.

Second, there's an assumption that a parent at home is the best way to raise children. I'm not saying that it's a "bad" way to raise children, but there should be something said about the benefits of interaction with other children. Honestly, I'm not aware of all of the research on this topic, but I seriously doubt that there's a clear consensus that mom-at-home is best for kids.

Third, and kind of the biggest issue for me: this article doesn't really look at this concept of "choice." Yes, it kind of looks at the idea that historically women have done the childcare work. But why is this a decision that women and not men have to deal with? Are women "naturally" wanting to stay at home? Are these choices made in a vacuum? Well, it says that many of the young women were influenced by their mothers... Are they socialized this way? Does it matter? I guess this wasn't the point of the article... but I wish it were.

I really like this quote from Dr. Laura Wexler, professor of American studies and women's and gender studies, and I wish they would have more fully taken up this issue:

"They are still thinking of this as a private issue; they're accepting it," said Laura Wexler, a professor of American studies and women's and gender studies at Yale. "Women have been given full-time working career opportunities and encouragement with no social changes to support it.

"I really believed 25 years ago," Dr. Wexler added, "that this would be solved by now."

They (and we) still think of this as a private issue. Each woman (and man) makes their own decision about work/family issues. But what we don't see is that it's not private! It's actually very, very social. It's based on assumptions about men and women and public vs. private spheres and ideas about productive labor vs. caring labor, etc. But those are so much a part of the underlying ideology of our society that we don't even consider them.

The other part of Wexler's comment, that we allowed women to enter the workforce but didn't change the workforce or society at all is, I think, an important one. Yes, women can enter the workplace, but it is a workplace that is built around a male ideal worker. Women that are successful in the terms of this masculinized environment are often the ones who conform to the masculine ideal. They either don't have children or don't take time off for them, they act in "masculine" ways in terms of leadership styles (but they must walk a fine line between being perceived as too masculine and too feminine... maybe I'll write a post about this later, it's interesting).

How could the workplace be made more accepting of women? I was going to write accommodating, but why should the workplace accommodate women? That's like saying, "ok, this is still a masculine place, but we'll carve out the women's section.. here ya go!" The workplace should be entirely restructured and our ideas about workers should be fundamentally changed.

But, short of that...

  • we could allow part time work that is paid at the same rate as full time work, that is not seen as not being properly devoted to the company and that comes with prorated benefits
  • we could come up with some sort of nationalized system of childcare
  • we could rethink our ideas about productivity in the workplace. Is face time the most important thing, or could you argue that someone who does just as good a job in less time is in fact more productive?
  • Dude, there are so many more things that I'm going to stop listing them now.

In short... this article annoyed me. There's is absolutely nothing wrong with staying out of the official workforce, or leaving it temporarily to raise kids. It's not being lazy, it's not being weak, it's doing important work. And we should totally value it more. I just wish that we could get to a point in our society where it's a choice that everyone has. That women don't feel pressure to choose that path in order to seem like a good woman/mother and that men feel free to choose that path without being labeled as "feminine" or a "wimp" or as demasculinized (see, and the fact that we as a society think that about men shows the extent to which man=worker in our collective consciousness. One Harvard guy in an American Family class said of women staying at home: "I think that's sexy." Well, of course you do, because that's, like, the most feminine thing a woman can do, and to be "supporting" her is the most quintessentially masculine thing you can do, at least according to our society. Very sexy, I'd say... I wonder if porn where women are submissive is more popular than where women are dominant... I'd bet it is.)

Isn't it funny that we as a culture tend to think that having a mother at home is a very Good Thing for, um, white middle class women? But when it comes to women of color or poor women, our first impulse is to get them into the paid workforce and away from home, where they were probably sitting around being lazy anyway. Hmmm...

Monday, September 19, 2005

I would never want a student like me.

I am being such a poor student lately. Not only did I surreptitiously listen to the John Roberts confirmation hearings in the middle of two of my (large) classes last week, but I am currently in the process of relying on Sparknotes (free and online Cliff's Notes) for some reading that I ought to have done this weekend, but, um, didn't.

I should feel more bad about all of this than I actually do.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

This makes me sad:

So my mom gave me a few books to sell for her at Half-Price Books. While perusing through the stack, I saw a book called The Ezekiel Option by Joel C. Rosenberg.

So, I look on the back, where I am horrified to see that it has recommendations from not only Tim LaHaye (understandable, after all, this is Christian fiction... TL=Left Behind co-author) but also from...

Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and This makes me truly, truly sad.

Limbaugh: "Rosenberg nails it--a provocative, conservative, political thriller that reads like a major Hollywood blockbuster."

Hannity: "So intertwined with modern events, it's scary."

NewsMax: "Eerily prophetic."

Reviewers at seem to believe that this book is either an interpretation of scripture or that it is itself prophetic. Interesting. People reacted like this to Left Behind books, as well.

This phenomenon is so interesting... the intertwining of political conservatism (Limbaugh, Hannity) and religious conservatism (the Pat Robertson/LaHaye-Jenkins set) that is, at least from my perspective, becoming more and more common. Why is it inherently natural that people who don't believe in abortion or gay marriage should want tax cuts for the rich? It's not! In fact, considering the fact that fundamentalist/evangelical Christians tend to be more working/lower-middle class, big-business conservatism actively hurts them and their best interests. Yet they ally themselves with the Republican party and the larger conservative movement.

This is what I'm interested in studying: the ways in which these two seemingly-at-odds groups can get together and often the cultural/religious conservatives get lip service from the real movers and shakers but not a whole lot more. Is there really going to be an anti-gay marriage amendment? No. Bush and the Republicans aren't that stupid. But they sure will talk about it.

I'm interested in the ways in which these two groups interact and form a coherent identity as "conservatives," how big-business conservatives who probably couldn't care less about gay marriage or abortion or sex education (and might even support access to all of those things) think about using cultural conservatives.

I'm especially curious (and don't have a whole lot of ideas on because I haven't really researched it) the ways in which conservative Christian culture (through things like this Ezekiel Option book and the Left Behind books and Pat Robertson's 700 Club) convince people that economic/foreign policy conservatism is in their best interests. Because there are undoubtedly political elements in them (beyond the obvious religious-related ones).

Free market capitalism and conservative Christianity aren't natural bedfellows. But, they have become aligned and I'm really curious how and why.

Sorry for rambling on and on and on.

How bad has it gotten...

...when studying for the GRE is my procrastination drug of choice?

Seriously, doing multiple choice tests on the computer is a whole lot more fun than reading or cleaning or working on essays.

Don't worry, however. I'm not studying so much that it might actually help my score. I haven't gotten that desparate yet.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Isn't it weird?

I happen to part my hair on a different side and everyone I see asks if I've gotten a haircut or done something to my hair. No one knows what's different but insists that something is. The funny thing is that I didn't even realize what was different until like three people had mentioned something being different.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A long list of random complaints that you really don't have to read; in fact, I would advise against it.

I want to go to sleep. But I have class at 7. ugh. It's a very interesting class, and I enjoy going, but right now I just want to curl up on my bed, put on a Harry Potter audio book and go to sleep.

Last night I stayed up reading until around 4 and then woke up around 9. 5 hours of sleep isn't so bad, really, but ever since I got up this morning I've just felt... icky. There's no more accurate word to describe it.

I generally don't eat breakfast if I wake up right before class, and I'm usually fine until lunch. But today, I was really hungry. So I went to the soda machine to get some water, and it gives me lemon water. But, I didn't have another dollar, so it had to do. I think it made my hunger worse. So, after class I was feeling a bit nauseous, but thought that maybe if I got something to eat I would feel better. I went to the student union and got some fruit, some grapes and pineapple chunks. Well, I don't think the acidity of the pineapple in particular agreed with me. I went to my next class and was thoroughly miserable. I came home, took an hour and a half nap (and I usually don't nap in the middle of the day), and am now getting ready for class, feeling less than thoroughly refreshed. I still feel vaguely nauseated, but I don't know why or what I can do.

Anyway, I'm off to finish my reading for class!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Racism and weather

Bush today informed reporters that hurricane Katrina was not racist. "And neither will [be] the recovery effort."

Because that's what people are saying. That this mixture of water and wind simply doesn't like poor, black people. Either he's being stupid, or he is stupid. I'm going with the former.

Obviously the storm was not racist, but it certainly highlighted racism. It showed the poverty in which people lived in New Orleans. It's certainly brought out the racism in Rush Limbaugh, who not only blames the residents for not getting out but for not taking some personal responsibility to make sure that the levies were in good working order. Yeah. I'm sure every morning Rush and his pals go out and check the infrastructure in his town, just to make sure it's in good working order. I know, personally, that I checked the traffic lights at the Coit and Campbell intersection and tomorrow morning am going to check out UTD's waste management system.

Rush (9/1/05):
The non-black population was just as devastated, but apparently they were able to get out, and the black population wasn't able to get out. Maybe New Orleans has a half decent mass transit people and some of these people don't need cars.

It actually has a not-so-great public transit system, but good thinking!
What if they can't afford cars?

Well, why is that? Why can't they afford them? What is it about New Orleans that doesn't pay? It's a 67% black population. They have lots of black-run businesses. Why is this they don't pay well down there?

Again, acting stupid or being stupid? Are we truly to believe that this self-described genius has no clue about the economic conditions that cause poverty? About the role that race plays in that?

Later on, he refers to Mayor Nagin as "Mayor Nayger."

Richard Baker (R-LA) was quoted in the Wall Street Journal: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." ["Washington Wire," Wall Street Journal, 9/9/05]

So, no, Hurricane Katrina was not racist (unlike some people, I do not impute natural disasters to God's wrath for the things we humans do), but people are. The fact that Katrina hit New Orleans, and that the victims were disproportionately black and poor brought the economic and institutional racism in this country into focus. The best thing that could come of this awful tragedy is that we begin to think about those issues. But if we continue to pretend they don't exist (or create a straw argument, knocking it down by saying, "Those lefties say Katrina was racist, but the storm doesn't discriminate!"), then we can't address the real issues. And that's sad.

edited to add: Part of the problem, I realized, after talking to a friend, is that we tend to think of racism as an individual thing, i.e. if I don't personally dislike people, then I am not racist, or if we have public schools for everyone, our society is not racist. I think there's a problem with our vocabulary because the word "racism" means everything from Klan members burning crosses, to following people in stores because of the color of their skin, to quality of public schools and so much more. We need to really think about was racism is, not just on a personal level but on an institutional and societal level.

edited again to add: see here, Repent America claims that God sent the hurricane to N.O. because a gay festival is held there annually: "This act of God destroyed a wicked city," according to R.A. director Michael Marcavage. Looks like they and the God-did-it-cause-of-abortion set are going to have to duke it out over who gets to speak for the Almighty.

L.A. power outage:

It's probably New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin's fault.

No? Well, then LA Gov. Kathleen Blanco, surely.

*rolls eyes*
this is an audio post - click to play

Shout out to Jason

Despite wasting a whole honking lot of gas money on a necessary trip to Denison this afternoon, there was one benefit: I got back my laptop, which, thanks to Jason's mad computer skills actually kind of works. AND--I was able to take advantage of his rocking internet to download some songs and watch some videos that my poor, pathetic dialup simply cannot handle!

Now, I have to head back to go to class tonight at 7. But, with laptop in hand I can take super speedy notes as well as play solitaire if necessary. I usually don't do that in class. But, it's always good to have the option, you know?

Note: this is an attempt to do more normal sorts of blogging, e.g. talking about what I am doing during the day rather than using the blog simply for ranting about politics or culture. We'll see how it works out.

Sea change

Am I the only one who has noticed the phrase "sea change" being used much more frequently in the past few weeks/months?

I've heard it used by friends, acquaintances, t.v. newscasters, radio talk show hosts (liberal and conservative), professors, bloggers, newspapers, news-magazines, and even I, myself, have been using it more frequently (no doubt related to the fact that I'm hearing it so often).

Maybe I'm just noticing it more?


Anyway, it's 3:33am and I have to get up at 7 so I'm going to try to go to sleep.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

More Folbre

We don't have to believe that markets are intrinsically bad to acknowledge that "who owns what" matters. We don't have to believe in decision-making-by-committee to fight for better rules of democratic governance. And we don't have to embrace the current policies of the welfare state to defend the principle that each of us has some obligation to care for others. --p. 230

Folbre gives a few guidelines about how to do this, which I'll summarize.

1. Reject the idea that women are simply naturally more altruistic or caring than men. We shouldn't expect women to do all of the caring labor in society. Men are just as capable and we need to make it possible for them to do it.

2. Defend family values against individualism and self-interest. Even though we live in an advanced capitalist country where women are no longer as expected to do the caring labor, the caring labor still has to get done. We shouldn't get to a point in our society where it's every man-or-woman for her- or him- self without regard to the children, to the elderly, the poor, etc. We have to maintain our sense of obligation and responsibility.

3. Work on establishing democratic governance in our institutions, families, and governments. This will help ensure equitable distribution of resources.

4. "Aim for a kinder and wiser form of economic development." Development isn't just measured in corporate profits. We should be looking at education, health, families, etc.

5. Reward caring labor. We need to think about the best ways to make caring labor pay, but not to make it just another commodity.

Anyway, I know I've been quoting Folbre without talking about what she's really about. The book, The Invisible Heart: Economics and Family Values, argues that Adam Smith's "invisible hand" of the market is gradually undermining the "invisible heart," the caring labor that has been traditionally done by women.

See, back in the day, women did all the work in the "private sphere." They cleaned the house, prepared the food, raised the children... All of this (hard, hard) work was considered "unproductive." It was assumed that women did it out of love and altruism. But, when we view it as unproductive, we miss the crucial part that this work plays in reproducing labor for society, and reproducing culture in general.

In this traditional family structure, with the wife at home, there are a lot of costs that come along with this family labor. First, there's the obvious opportunity cost: the education and wages given up. But, also, women become economically dependent. These costs are hidden from society as long as women are willing to do this work.

But, when women gradually move out of that sphere because they're given more opportunities in the "public" sphere, strain begins to show. Folbre would say that you can see capitalism as a gender struggle: who bears the (opportunity) costs of raising the kids?

Folbre argues that we must begin to value the work of care. The first thing we have to do is not to push women back into the homes so that the work will get done, but to recognize the work when it is done, whether by men or by women. We need to make it so that people who choose to stay at home with their children or otherwise invest heavily in caring labor don't take such a big economic hit for it.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

I am being (semi)productive!

Nothing else on my list for today has been accomplished, but I am getting some reading done.

And I wanted to share this quote, as a shout out to all of y'all with whom I've discussed school finance. It's nothing profound or insightful. But, it's true:

Several Alamo Hightesters I talked to said, "Equalization is a good idea, but not if it involves taking money away from rich districts and giving it to poor ones." Guess what. There's no other way to accomplish equalization. If you want equal opportunity for children, you have to pay for it.

--Nancy Folbre, The Invisible Heart: Economics and Family Values, p. 146

edited two minutes later to add another quote. Here (p. 148), Folbre quotes Judge Scott McCown:

The other thing that I have hear people say is "our taxes"--why do we have to send "our taxes" to educate other people's children? Well, there are two problems with that. First, it's not "our taxes." We expect people who have no children to pay taxes, and businesses their taxes. I guess the thing that upsets me the most is to hear people talk about "our children"--they miss the whole point of the Constitution. They are all our children.


Apparently the electricity was out at some point in the wee hours of the morning. 'Cause my alarm clock got turned off. As I didn't go to bed 'till 4:30 this morning, you can imagine how I slept! My feet didn't touch the floor until well after noon. So much for a productive day.

Ever since then, I have sat at the computer, catching up on my news. And it just depresses me more. I won't blog about it.

Things to do today:
--clean room (no small task, I've been lazy all week and clutter is everywhere.)
--study for GRE (I took a practice test last night. I did pretty good on the verbal section, but I won't even say how I did on the quantitative, it was that embarrassing.)
--revise personal statement, make it less pathetic-sounding
--research graduate schools and make preliminary list, of top 20 or so to apply to.
--read for classes (I have a combined 520 pages to read this weekend for next week, so that will be a considerable time investment)
--re-dye my hair? it's currently dark brown, which was done because of the scary red I did on Monday evening. I can fix this, surely.
--clean out and organize my hopelessly pathetic closet. If I have time. I may not get to this one.
--talk to D. about NOW meeting next week, make fliers, discuss times, etc.

And so it begins...

Well, I've procrastinated for long enough. It's time to start the grad school search-and-apply process. I'm kind of behind, I fear. After my GRE mishap of today, I've decided to take it for sure in early October--at the very latest, giving me more time to properly prepare myself.

I've got a basic draft of a personal statement, though I'm afraid it kind of sucks. I'm not entirely sure who reads this blog, but if you would comment and critique it, that would be lovely. I think I'll post it tommorow or so, along with my anxieties about it.

As to schools, I've looked at a few that look really exciting, but, the problem is, I'm not sure that I could ever get into them. See, I really wish I knew how I stand compared to other people, if I'd even be a competitive candidate. I've got a 3.899 gpa, no clue on GRE scores, and experience on one research project. I've taken a graduate class and am taking one right now. I was lazy this semester and didn't start doing a senior thesis (I suck!), though I'll do one next semester so I can graduate with honors. I've helped start Amnesty International and National Organization for Women chapters on campus (if that even matters in the admissions process! probably matters less for grad school than stuff like that did for undergrad).

Here's the sticking point: I go to UT-Dallas. It's a great school, and my professors, particularly in sociology, are wonderful and brilliant. But... I go to UT-Dallas. Who's heard of UTD? Except for in EE or CS? If you have an applicant with similar scores, gpa, background, etc, and they went to, say, Yale or Berkeley or Chicago... who are you going to pick? Yes, yes, I know... personal statement, reccomendations, research experience, research interests, blah, blah... those matter more.

But, seriously... is this going to be a problem? Does anyone know? Maybe I'm just being paranoid.

But, even beyond that: would I be a good graduate student? It's what I want to do. Maybe I'm not smart enough. Who knows? I want to, like, ask one of my teachers, "should I even be so optimistic as to apply to this-or-that school?" But questions like that invariably come off as compliment fishing ("please tell me I'm smart!"), I'm afraid.

Anyway, I just wanted to get these basic anxieties off my chest. And to start blogging about more personal stuff, as a few people have mentioned today that I should.

Friday, September 09, 2005

And now for something completely different...

DCist offered $100 to anyone who could get a picture of Cornel West scarfing down a slice of pizza. Well, Cathy Setzer got it, at the American Political Science Association last week. haha.


Louisina Representative finds the "silver lining":

Rep. Baker of Baton Rouge is overheard telling lobbyists: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did."

Another random rant.

Continuing in the Barbara Bush tradition, today Tom Delay stopped to chat to some evacuee kids in Houston:

The congressman likened their stay to being at camp and asked, "Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?"

Again, just as this did not "work out well for them," loosing ones house, possessions, family members friends, etc etc... IS NOT FUN.

Seriously... where do they get this stuff?! It's unbelievable.

Also, and not surprisingly, the WP reports that almost none of the FEMA Bush appointees had disaster relief experience, and almost all of them were involved in the 2000 recount stuff. The ones that did have experience: yeah, they all left around 2003.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

I am not a good blogger.

But, in lieu of commentary I will leave you with two quotes which, I believe, speak for themselves:

Barbara Bush, visiting Katrina evacuees in Houston, Texas, commented that "so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this [she chuckles a bit]--this is working very well for them."

Remember, this is the same lady who, back at the beginning of the Iraq War didn't want to trouble her "beautiful mind" about troops dying.

"Why should we hear about body bags and deaths," Barbara Bush said on ABC's "Good Morning America" on March 18, 2003. "Oh, I mean, it's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"

These comments pretty much explain themselves. And I'm lazy. So that's all for now.