On the plane, I had written a post about BlogHer that was long and rambly and a bit vitriolic. This article on the conference pretty much explains some of what bothered me about the conference. As soon as I’ve processed more, I’ll write more.
I had a great time hanging out with Julie, Barbara, Dr. Shellie, and Trillwing. I also got to meet Liz and Lisa V. I’m sure I’m missing someone. I met tons of people. There was lots of hugging. It was definitely cool to hang out with a bunch of women who don’t think blogging is weird. They do think blogging in an education environment is weird, but that’s another story. I had trouble with real names though. I kept referring to people by their blog name. Sigh. I can’t help it.
Well, they’re boarding my plane, so I’m off. I may or may post the long rambly thing later.
Okay, I know they need money, but can they find less fake people. I’m totally horrified. They’re talking about nuns.
So Julie came and kidnapped me and took me to meet Janet for sushi. First, I recognized her immediately. She looks a little like her gravatar and as I told her later, she looks like she writes. Don’t know how to explain that. She just does. Second, and most important, I felt like we were old friends immediately. On the ride over, we chatted about various things, life plans and whatnot.
Then, we had to wait just a bit for Janet. We ordered beer, planning to drink until Janet arrived, but I think Janet got there before the beer did. We had issues with this all evening. I’ll let Julie and Janet do a hardcore review. The sushi was great. I warned Julie, though, that I eat like a bird. I don’t think she believed me until we got to the last few pieces of sashimi.
Janet felt like an old friend too. The three of us talked and talked. There was never a lull in conversation. Why can’t all my blog friends live near me? Boo.
I get to see Julie again today. Today’s schedule looks a little more appealing but many of the sessions I want to see actually coincide with mine. Sigh. I’ll report back later.
I’m in my last session of day one at Blogher, sitting with the two Barbaras, listening to people talk about tagging. I’m amazed at how many people don’t really know what tagging is, but this is what this conference is for. This conference definitely has a different feel to it than many other conferences I’ve been to. Many conferences, including academic ones, have a kind of inside crowd sort of feel to them. You go to learn things but there is an understanding that you have a certain foundation going in.
Here, however, there’s an assumption that you have little to no foundation. I was talking to someone about this and we suspect that eventually, there will be tracks for beginners, intermediate and advanced users. I definitely think for technical stuff, there has to be a place where beginners feel comfortable to ask questions and to get the information they need to get started. I’ve definitely learned something from every session but I would definitely like to see some advanced sessions (hint, hint).
I’m looking forward to our session tomorrow, because I can tell you there’s a dearth of educators here. I suspect they’re hiding here somewhere. Just a brief spoiler. I’m thinking about the way I feel like a fish out of water at times in my institution while at the same time, I feel the same way in the tech world. When you tell someone here what you do, sometimes you get this look like, “okaaaay.” Or you get, “how do you monetize that?” So kind of weird. I’m looking forward to hearing what others have to say.
Sometimes flying is good. It gets you where you need to go quickly. The ride is smooth and you don’t have to drive. Sometimes, though, flying is harrowing. My dad actually nearly got his pilot’s license so I know what all the bumps are, but still. Sometimes, like today, it feels like the pilot’s going a little too fast, feeling a little like we’re on a sheet of ice and we will not be able to stop . . . for anything . . . not even that large building there. Add to that a few big bumps, a dodge and weave and you’ve got a recipe for bleh. I honestly thought I was gonna puke for a minute. And I was surrounded by so many dudes who smelled just a little rank after the flight. And I was near the back, so it took forever to get off the plane. I tried deep breathing, but the rankness interfered.
Then I deplaned, headed immediately to the restroom and wondered if I should splash my face or not. I wondered if I looked pale or green (neither, it turned out). I wandered rather aimlessly looking for ginger ale since my flight was delayed over an hour. How can you not have ginger ale? Failing at that mission, I plopped myself at the gate. Now I’m thinking, good FSM, I have to go through this again? What was I thinking? All I know is I’m distracting myself with the in-flight movie. I’m not trying to do anything intellectual like I was doing before. Working on the dissertation? No way. Reading Don Delillo? Not that either. I was punished for that. I think I’m also having a drink as soon as I get to the Hyatt, even if it is midnight my body’s time. So there.
BlogHer is right around the corner. One more day of work and then I take off. I have a few projects to tie up before I go and then I’m ready to have fun and maybe learn some stuff. Here’s what I’m looking forward to.
First and foremost, I’m looking forward to meeting other bloggers. I’ll be seeing Julie and Dr. Free-Ride on Friday for dinner. I’m very much looking forward to it. What could be more fun than spending some time with some smart, geeky women! I’m reading Dr. Free-Ride’s series on Family and Academia right now. Very much enjoying it. Friday morning, I’ll be meeting my co-presenters for the first time, Barbara S. and Barbara G. They’re both doing some really cool things with technology and education and I’m looking forward to hearing their ideas and to just chatting with them and sharing experiences. We’ve already done this a little by phone and email, but it’ll be great to do this face-to-face.
I think Lisa V. is going? And Mary Tsao will be there. Anyone else?
I’m actually looking forward to learning a few new technical tricks. I’m sure I could figure out more on my own if I wanted to. It’s just nice to have someone show you cool stuff. I’m looking forward to my own session, which is supposed to be like a conversation. I’m interested in hearing what other people think about blogging and education. And I also like hearing about new stuff in general, whether it’s about the business of blogging or how to write better or whatever. And, of course, there’s as much to learn in the informal conversations in the hallway as there is in the formal sessions.
Being in Calfornia
Although I won’t have much time for site seeing, I haven’t been to California in about 15 years. I’m looking forward to seeing the west coast again.
I’m honestly not sure how I feel about “separatist” conferences. Then again, I’m at an all women’s college and I feel there’s value in that. I’m curious to see what a conference that’s probably skewed in the opposite gender direction from what I’m used to is like. I know I felt a bit unnerved at SXSW by the predominance of men at the conference. Not intimidated really. Just surprised. Though many of the techie conferences I’ve been to related to education do skew a little male (especially in the presentations), they’re not so overwhelmingly skewed that it’s all that noticeable (unless, like me, you always notice these things). I know SXSW is making a concerted effort to diversify its presenters and attendees, but I also know the tech world has its pockets of major maleness. So, I’m just looking forward to it in a kind of anthropological/ethnographic way, too. I’m a people-watcher by nature. I’m sure I’ll be reporting my findings here.
Actually Mr. Geeky is no black sheep, but he is the only sibling to have left his hometown and only one of a handful of people in his extended family to do so. So his visiting his hometown is a big deal. On the road on Friday, we got many phone calls. What’s your schedule? When can we have a huge gathering for you? A family gathering for the Mr. Geeky family is no less than 15 or 20 people. I think it’s kind of sweet that the family really wants to see him, but the whole concept is pretty foreign to me. My extended family lives everywhere. Most live on the east coast, but they live in different cities mostly. The ones that live in the same city only see each other occasionally, like for holidays and things. For instance, my mother’s two sisters live in the same city as her, but they only get together on Christmas or Thanksgiving (sometimes both). They don’t live that close together and heck, they have their own friends and stuff. My dad’s siblings are all spread out and so are my cousins on that side. This is just the way things are and everyone’s cool with it. No one freaks out if you travel to a city where a relative lives and don’t stop in.
Mr. Geeky’s family thinks what we just did is a little odd. We came to town for a high school reunion, dropped the kids at his sister’s and checked into a hotel. Why would you do that, they say, when there are any number of people you could stay with for free? Maybe we want to be alone or something, I don’t know. A gathering did occur but it was low key. Mr. Geeky’s brother had us and his dad over for lunch. We thought, because we heard that an aunt and the sister in law were fighting over who was having the thing, that the whole family would be there. It might have been nice to see more people, but it worked out well, I think. Afterwards, we went shopping alone and sat in a hot tub alone and then went to a fancy party thing.
I needlessly worried, of course, about how I looked. I was, quite honestly, one of the best-dressed people in the room. Mr. Geeky’s class is huge and made up of people from every economic strata, so there were people in really fancy stuff, people in dressy casual stuff, and people in jeans. At one point, one of Mr. Geeky’s classmates actually said to him, you did pretty well for yourself in the wife department. I wanted to roll on the floor laughing. I met some interesting people, though. Everyone was friendly and generally pleasant to talk to. Mr. Geeky and I are reunion goers. We’ve both been to all our high school reunions and I’ve been to all my college reunions (Mr. Geeky’s school doesn’t have them). It’s just nice to remember where you came from.
Let’s move on from housecleaning to dressing. I’m planning to attend an event this weekend where I have to dress up. I want to look good and, to be frank, I am stressing a little about this whole aging process. At some point, I know I’ll come to terms with it, but right now, I’m thinking, “Who stole my 25-year-old body?” Partly, I did. I didn’t take care of it. I took for granted my high metabolism. So I didn’t exercise much. And now, the thighs don’t look as good as I wish they did. And birthing a couple of babies has added to the hip line. The truth is, it’s been a rare moment when I’ve been completely comfortable in my own skin. I am skinny, it’s true, but I’m short and growing up, I had a hard time finding clothes that fit. I lived in a small town whose mall carried the standard sizes. I had to shop in the little girls’ section for far too long. And that was long before cool little girls’ clothes. If you were buying girls’ clothes back then, you were investing in unicorns, Holly Hobbie and Winnie-the-Pooh, so not cool for the preteen set.
Today, I still have trouble finding clothes. Unless I want to have every single thing I buy be tailored (who can afford that!), I shop in the petite section. Now I live in a large city, near the second largest mall in the country, and one would think that that would mean a large petite clothing selection. Alas, it does not. I know, I went to them all. What they typically do in petite sections is include the “bestsellers” in the smaller sizes. Problem is, the best sellers for the tall and thin are not necessarily going to look good on the short and hippy. Aside from being short, I’m hippy and absolutely tiny up top. My wedding dress? Size 2 up top, size 8 on the bottom. Seriously. So I have a hard time with dresses and tend to go for separates, further limiting my choices.
I will admit to being a “What Not to Wear” fan. Sometimes, I’m totally surprised by people who desperately cling to their ugly clothes, but other people talk about how hard it is for them to shop and that’s why they have no good clothes. I can sympathize. If you have to try on 30 things to find one that looks good, shopping becomes a real chore. And the depression of having to look at yourself in the 29 outfits that don’t look good? Yuck. The thing is, I care about how I look. I just don’t want it to be so much work.
I’ve been thinking about Flash’s comment on my last post, suggesting that I hadn’t taken class into account when examining the state of my house and/or my friend’s house as it represented my and their inner state. I definitely think there’s some connection between neatness and class that I’ve likely internalized and not examined critically. In fact, a quick search of the internets reveals that, indeed, neatness and moral virtue were often equated and moral virtue was a marker of a certain class. Further, there is often a connection between cleanliness and happiness. Here’s a selection from a paper about small rural towns in New England. Neatness is of utmost importance.
In 1823, its second year of existence, the New England Farmer began its promotion of domestic tidiness with a clear equation between neatness and happiness on the one hand, and dirt and misery on the other,
There is something so pleasing in the appearance of neatness and cleanliness about a dwelling house, that even a stranger. . . cannot help being prepossessed with a favorable opinion of those within. He passes along with the idea fixed in his mind of prosperity and happiness presiding within those walls. How different the sensation felt on viewing a contrary scene, — a house dismal and dirty, the doors and walls surrounded and bespattered with filth of all denominations, and fragments of broken dishes and dirty dairy. utensils scattered in all directions impress on his mind the idea of misery and mismanagement.
In our own time, we can think of Martha Stewart and the strive for perfection her brand of domesticity represents. Her concept of perfect domesticity is not new, however. And it’s absolutely gendered. That whole “angel in the house” concept of a woman at home maintaining a perfect household for the family to thrive in. I’ve unfortunately been to a wedding where nearly these exact words were uttered, that the wife’s responsibility was to keep a neat home so the family felt happy being there.
I wrote the post below primarily for myself, of course. For me personally, there are two circumstances under which the house falls apart. One is when both Mr. Geeky and I are frantically busy, with work to do after hours or conference travel or the like. The other is when I don’t have the mental energy to tend to it, including prodding Mr. Geeky and the kids to help out. And it is this latter circumstance that I’d been in of late and when I saw, for example, how the weeds were taking over the driveway, I felt like my own inner turmoil was represented there. That may not be true for everyone. Flash says she (he?) becomes neater when troubled. I’ve had times when I’ve done that, where scrubbing the kitchen distracts me from the argument I just had.
I think it’s interesting to think about how outer appearances–clothing, houses, cars, yards–might or might not represent our inner selves or our values. And I definitely think there are socioeconomic values that we project onto such things. We can almost always take a stereotypical “x” and dress them and house them. What does a stereotypical male professor wear? Female? Of a certain age? How about someone who’s main political issue is the environment? What kind of car do they drive or house do they live in? And why is that we can play this game? And is it a fair game to play?