So, the air conditioning is truly out, and not just struggling to cool our house in the 95-100 degree temperatures. It got down to 82 last night–woo hoo! Here’s the household, wilting under the heat:
I am 48 hours away from getting to really, truly go on vacation, but first, the world has to fall apart through a million little incidents.
- I pulled my tricep putting on my bathing suit. There is nothing more humiliating than that.
- The dog jumped up while I was bent over and the top of her head hit the bottom of my nose. Yes, I think it’s broken.
- I had to be in to work 1/2 hour earlier than expected, just after said nose incident.
- An hour into a training session, I was asked to move my car, which was parked in a “No Parking” zone which isn’t normally a no parking zone, but is, in fact, faculty parking. The camp counselor seemed very put out.
- While the training session eventually became very informative, I almost had to sit through an explanation of bread crumbs. I wanted to shout, “Hello? I’ve created web sites with bread crumbs!” Instead, I politely said that I understood the concept and could we move on.
- Later, when asked whether we wanted to take a break, someone asked how much more there was to cover and could we be done with this part (the only part pertinent to me) by lunch. Oh no.
- I insisted I needed to get home and manage my kids. The session was sped up.
- When I got home, the air conditioning did not seem to be working. It’s supposed to be 95 today, 98 tomorrow and 101 the next day.
Can I just say that I’m ready for a beach and a pina colada?
Mr. Geeky is away and when he returns, we’ll be heading on our first (and only) family vacation of the summer. The kids and I have kept ourselves pretty busy. The kids sleep in more than I do, of course. When they get up–anywhere from 10-1–I have them do a few chores, and then we head to the pool. We’ve been lucky that it’s been exceedingly hot, so taking a dip in the pool’s water feels great. There have been summers, believe it or not, where I felt it wasn’t quite hot enough to warrant getting into cold water. That’s growing up in the south for you.
At night the kids have helped with dinner and we’ve watched tv together or played a game. We played Boggle the other night and I beat Geeky Boy by only one point.
The kids have done laundry and folded clothes while I went into work for a a couple of hours. Geeky Girl is re-reading all the Harry Potter books. Geeky Boy is reading Mental Floss and starting on The Crucible. Next week will be all about sun and surf and good seafood. This week, we’re just biding our time.
There’s an interesting conversation going on over at Apt. 11D about new research into the causes of generational poverty. That is, why can’t families seem to get out of poverty once they’re in it. Children of poor parents go on to become poor themselves. The new theory has to do with the cognitive abilities necessary to think long term, to postpone purchases or save money in order to get out of poverty. The theory goes, roughly, that because poor people use up so much of their cognitive abilities just to figure out where their next meal is coming from or worried about whether they’ll be evicted, they can’t think about those longer-term solutions that would save them from having to worry about those issues in the first place. The theory has been picked up by several outlets. I first saw it in my feed reader a couple of weeks ago. The 11D crowd is discussing David Brooks’ interpretation. Do a search on the first author’s name and “poverty” and you’ll see that he’s been trying to figure this out for years.
In the comments, there’s some concern that this theory is another “blame the poor” theory. I don’t think that’s necessarily true, and a couple of commenters give some specific examples of situations where a) the cognitive load of planning for the future is supported by agencies; and b) the system is broken because it takes too much effort for the poor to get access to help (including help with planning for the future).
For most of us, planning for the future involves putting kids through college, retirement, etc. My biggest financial concerns at the moment are a) Geeky Boy’s college education; and b) planning a winter vacation. Only financially stable folks think in these terms. But I do sometimes–more often than is probably warranted–about what I would do if tragedy struck and we suddenly couldn’t afford our lifestyle. I’d sell my house and my possessions (most of them) and move into an apartment with a much lower rent than my current mortgage. That’s if I/we (the tragedy often involves Mr. Geeky’s death) stayed in the area. In another scenario, I sell my house and possessions and move back home, where the cost of living is 1/3 of what it is here and I have family support. I told my dad about plan A the other day, and he laughed and said he wouldn’t let that happen, which is, of course, how I would never be poor. I have a safety net. If things got tough, my dad (and other family, probably) would be there to help financially. And I have my own safety net–somewhat depleted now because of my two years of underemployment, but it’s still there and building back up again.
Truly poor people, of course, have few possessions to sell much less a house. And most, as the commenters pointed out, don’t have a safety net. Their parents don’t have the financial means to help them out if they get in a tight spot. The government is their safety net, though that’s dwindling, and navigating it is complicated. Our safety nets are a phone call or a large withdrawal away. Theirs are filled with filling out forms, showing ID, proving they’re poor enough. Playing the lottery seems a lot easier when faced with that kind of red tape.
So I’m done with conferences for the summer. Thank goodness. I learned a lot about my field and about myself at these conferences. First, myself:
- I don’t like big. Smaller and more intimate works better for me.
- I still feel like an outsider, though less like one than I did last year.
- As an outsider, I’m more likely to a) be annoyed by an insider mentality; and b) to express that annoyance.
- People in my field bristle a little when they find out I don’t have a degree in said field. They see me as part of the problem. More on that later.
- As much as I like professional development, I enjoy being with my family more.
Now for my field. Computer Science has an image problem. That became abundantly clear at both CS conference events I attended. Here are some things that will help (IMHO):
- Quit saying there’s one. right. way. to teach CS. In other words, quit trying to replicate yourself. The presentations were filled with people trying new and cool ways of teaching CS. In conversations, however, you’d hear the same kinds of discussions: objects before recursion, this language over that language, this IDE* over that IDE (having only used two IDE’s in my life, I had no idea there were so many). Often, people would say, I learned x way.
- Get into social media. Start a blog. Use Twitter or Google+ or something. Social media is the biggest way that regular people interact with technology. If Computer Scientists aren’t there, then they may as well be invisible. A keynote speaker (who had a blog) asked how many of us had blogs. About 10 people raised their hands out of 200-300 people in the room.
- Yes, embrace your geekiness. It’s all to the good to make geekiness less stigmatized. But also recognize when you’ve gone over a line. If all you can talk about is Computer Science and playing Magic, you need to get out more. Be able to talk politics, entertainment, etc. Better yet, connect your field to these areas. Someone might be interested.
- The room was about 50 percent female–hooray. But the keynote speakers–both white guys. At another conference, every session I went to was run by white guys (some with ponytails) except for the session on recruiting women to STEM. Also women tended to sit with women and men with men. Grown people segregating by gender. Sigh. Get more women–and minorities–into speaking roles.
- Quit being defeatist. Stop saying I can’t, my school won’t, etc. Just do. Sneak in Computer Science where you can. I saw many people who’d done that, and that often made the difference in having to teach classes on excel and getting to teach real CS.
- Quit selling your soul to Microsoft and Google. I get it. They pony up a lot of money for these conferences, which is all to the good. I liked having good food and great speakers (who I’m sure cost a bundle). But every other session cannot be about this Microsoft platform or that Google platform. Make sure there’s some balance in your sessions and that you have people presenting on technologies that are open and free and cross-platform. That’s the future, after all. And Google and Microsoft, if you want more CS students, open up. Let students develop in whatever language or platform they want, as long as the end product works on your platform. (Notice that Apple is not at the table here–which is interesting in and of itself).
I enjoyed this last conference. I met some very nice people, many of whom have similar issues to mine. The keynotes were fabulous. But I did get into a little bit of an argument on the first day with a “there’s one right way to teach” person. And I must say, I wasn’t the only one who took this person to task. Basically, we pointed out that none of us would be there if we followed her method (of certifying teachers). It’s hard enough finding people with CS degrees willing to teach much less putting additional requirements (that are *not* necessary) in the way. I’m just going to keep plugging away at what I’m doing. I got some really good ideas that I hope to implement as early as this year. I’m looking forward to seeing how things go.
I was going to do a write-up of the conference, which I’ll do eventually, but one thing that occurred to me as I wandered the streets of New York was that life for me, despite looming deficit ceilings and other political woes, is good. I’m lucky enough that I have a job that paid me to attend the conference. I could afford the phone that led me to cool restaurants and guided me to Ellis Island. It wasn’t my first trip to New York, thanks to first, my father, and then to Mr. Geeky (for moving us close by), so I wasn’t overwhelmed and felt free to find my way and explore places nearby. I’ve navigated public transit systems in many major cities–New York, Boston, Philadelphia, D.C., Paris, London, San Francisco–because I could afford to travel to those locations. I now default to using these systems when I travel, when I can. I wish there were more of them.
I have a job where the limits of my knowledge are stretched, but where I work with some really great people (that I’m looking forward to seeing again soon!), and I have wonderful students.
I like the town I live in, even though I do sometimes dream of moving either to the country or the city when the kids are gone or I retire. The last two days I’ve walked to the local ice cream shop with Geeky Girl. I couldn’t even do that in the small town where I grew up.
My kids, in general, are pretty cool. I’ve been driving Geeky Boy to a class 45 minutes away and on the way, we talk about all kinds of things. Today’s conversation was about 80s music and whether the likes of U2 or Bon Jovi will be played on radios 20 years from now. We didn’t get to whether radios would exist, but that’s a possibility. Geeky Girl is re-reading all the Harry Potter books, sitting quietly in the new den/family room.
Life is certainly not perfect. I worry about things all the time. But right now, life is pretty good.
Just a few–I have others on my camera for which I don’t have a cord with me.
Do you remember your summers? Were you required to read, go to academic classes, or practice math? No, me neither. Mr. Geeky and I revisited the kids vegging out issue this morning. He thinks they’re vegging out too much. I say, meh, whatever. I vegged out in the summer and look how I turned out. The thing is, I overscheduled myself this summer. And when I’m not scheduled to do something, *I* want to veg out. I spent the first part of the summer working almost every day, even weekends. When the last conference was over last week, and the family was gone, I balanced out doing work, cleaning the house, and having fun. I went to the dog park, played WoW, and watched a couple of movies. When the family got back, the Sunday before July 4th, we continued to laze around a bit, and I’ve pretty much done very little work this week. I went into work Tuesday, and I poked at a project yesterday, but today I woke up feeling a little ill, so I’m planning to take it easy.
The thing is, I’m lucky. I should take advantage of that luck, of having weeks of free time and not spend it doing work or thinking I should be doing work (which is really what I do when I’m not doing work. Witness the writing of this post to justify said not doing work.). When I was Geeky Girl’s age–that is, 12–I went to the pool almost every day, or I played at a friends house or we went to matinees. When I was Geeky Boy’s age–16–I did have a job, but I didn’t work the whole summer, and I still went to the pool when I could and I took at least a two-week vacation with my family. I didn’t not, at any time, do any kind of enrichment activities. I was a smart kid and that just wasn’t the culture then. Now, as I think Mr. Geeky and I both feel, the culture is different. It feels weird somehow to tell friends that your kids are actually just hanging out this summer, not working, not going to camp. Geeky Boy is going to a class every afternoon from 1-4:30. It takes 45 minutes to drive there. When he’s not in class, he’s on the computer. And therein lies our trouble. Nowadays, kids’ leisure time is more likely to take place in front of a screen rather than at a pool or hanging out at a friends house doing something non-screen related. And that makes me anxious.
When I was a kid/teen, my parents didn’t much care what I did in the summer. Or after school or at night for that matter. Somehow, we all now feel like we have to structure our kids’ time, even their leisure time. Is that fair? Does it help or hurt? I really don’t know, but I know I both don’t like it and feel uncomfortable when I’m not structuring their time enough.
Friday through Monday, I finally quit thinking about work, quit thinking I should do something “constructive” every day as if I needed to atone for my getting the summer off. Sad, isn’t it? I have my fall course planned through winter break. I have locked in one speaker and 9 volunteers for our in-service day that I’m planning. I’ve been to two work-related conferences and will go to another one this weekend/early next week. I think I’m working enough. Thank you Puritan background. Sigh.
Because, of course I got up and checked my work email this morning for the first time in a week, and of course, I’m now going in to work for an hour or so. Which I’d sort of planned on doing anyway. But, by god, I’m going to the pool this afternoon. Don’t try to stop me. I’m on vacation. Sort of.