Sustainability

This is my new mantra. I mean it in terms of earth-saving but I also mean it in terms of doing things that can be sustained. On the earth-saving front, I’ve started composting and redoubling my recycling/reuse efforts. I’m trying mostly to be more conscious of using plastic bags, which seem to multiply like rabbits around my house.

On sustaining activity, I’m still trying to figure out what works best. I’m purging things, which I think is going to help. We just have too much stuff. I can’t tell you how much time and money we lose because we can’t find something. I’m also trying to think about putting habits in place that I’m likely to stick with because they’re easy. I had started running, but I’m not sure I’ll stick with it. It seriously hurt my body. I’m still figuring out what to replace it with and when. Walking is a good option, of course, and I’m contemplating some yoga again. I’ve also changed some eating habits. Mr. Geeky and I are making a concerted effort to eat less carbs and more fruits and veggies. It helps that he’s on board and not whining for pasta, and that we have one vegetarian among us. We’ve started making smoothies in addition to eating more as side dishes or main items. Right now, with so much in season, it’s easy to get great stuff. We’ll see what happens when fall and winter roll around.

I’m not trying to be perfect with any of this, which is a tendency of mine. I’m just trying to smooth out the rough edges, to try to make my life better by making some small changes that fit it on with my current lifestyle. A work in progress, as always.

RBOC: Long time no blog

Teaching

  • My CS class is cruising right along, and have begun their final projects.  I’m quite pleased with what they’ve accomplished so far, and am looking forward to their final projects.  They’ve presented their topics, and I like them all.
  • One of the surprising things about teaching programming has been the subjectivity that goes into grading the programs.  I could grade them purely on functionality.  If it works, it gets an A.  If not, it’s a failure.  But there’s such a thing as programs that almost work and programs that work, but do so in a really wrong way.  I find myself confronting programs that are complex, but don’t work and programs that work but are too simplistic.  Not that different from grading essays really.
  • I’m becoming increasingly aware that I need to reflect a bit more on the structure of this class and make some tweaks to it for next year before I forget.

Mentoring

  • This is something I have done a lot of and continue to do, and I love this part of my job.  I’m helping some individual students, and I’m adding some extracurriculars that I hope provide some more informal opportunities for students to be involved with computing.
  • I often wonder what I’m mentoring my students into.  The field is still male-dominated, and can be hostile. Though I know they can hold their own on the programming front, I worry about all the side issues: the sexism, the lack of women in the field, etc.
Other job-related things
  • Can I just say I love the faculty I work with?  I went to a meeting the other day with other people who do my job at other schools, and so many of them complained about how no one did anything with technology, or they had to be pushed into it.  Not me.  I could tell story after story about different teachers doing some really cool things.
  • The year is winding down.  There are awards to hand out, special dances, celebratory dinners.  Light at the end of the tunnel so to speak.

Health and Exercise

  • As my clothes get increasingly tighter, I’ve tried to integrate some kind of exercise into my life.  It painful to do.
  • I’ve tried to get technology to help me, but it’s imperfect at best.  It still requires me to actually enter information. And tracking calories in and calories burned is tedious.
  • What I know I need is better habits.  I’m giving the couch to 5k program a try as a kickstarter, but I’m really not a fan of running.  But if it can get me in the habit of running/walking 3 times a week, maybe it will be worth it.
  • On the diet front, I’m not perfect but better.  I find it relatively easy to stick with a decent diet.  Today, I had oatmeal, salad, some chips and guacamole, and a ham sandwich with a side of applesauce.  And water all day.  Where I fall down is chocolate and alcohol.  My hope is more exercise will allow me to have those treats and not put on a pound just for looking at them.
  • I try not to think about it, but part of me just wants to let myself go.  Which isn’t a good idea for multiple reasons.

Resolution check-in

A week mostly down.  How did it go?

  • Laundry every day: check! So far, so good.
  • Meal planning: not so good.  I had my dad visiting through the beginning of my work week.  We didn’t make it to the grocery store while he was here nor after he left.  So it’s been leftovers and frozen pizza.  Which isn’t horrible, but still.
  • Decluttering: check! I missed a day because I literally wasn’t here, but other than that, I’ve made progress. I’m trying not to think about how overwhelming it is to deal with all the crap. I’ve got a pile to keep and a pile to give away–with even a pickup scheduled today! I’m also decluttering 15 minutes a day in my classroom. So yay!
  • Yoga once a week: check! I even brought a friend with me this week.  So far so good.
  • Budget stuff: sort of check! It’s too early to tell, but I am keeping a close eye on things.  I think this resolution should be changed to something like check accounts every day.  Knowing about spending leads to not over spending.
  • Walk every day: not so much.  I have walked the dog, but that doesn’t really count.  Frankly, it’s just too cold outside.  Mr. Geeky is talking about getting a treadmill, so that might help.
  • Write a program every day: check! A couple of these have been simple examples for class, but still.  And I’m writing my own version of an old game I used to play, just for fun and practice. It’s text right now, but I’m going to graphic-ize it once I have it functioning the way I want.

So not too bad.  I’m taking it a day at a time.  How are you doing?

Refining the resolutions

Over the last 24 hours or so, I’ve been thinking about what I really want to accomplish this year, and more importantly, why?  Here’s my list so far:

1. Keeping the house cleaner, more organized.  I find it stressful to come home to a messy kitchen with no food to prepare and piles of laundry to do.  I find the complete Flylady method a little overwhelming and too much to achieve if you work out of the home.  She does recommend a load of laundry per day, which I think I can manage.  I’d also like to get better at meal planning, recruiting the kids to do a little more in this regard.  Geeky Boy got a cookbook for Christmas, so I’ve suggested that he do the cooking on the night I have yoga.  Last year, and even the beginning of this year, I did pretty well on the meal front and had 3-4 meals scheduled each week, hoping for leftovers on at least one or two days.  Mr. Geeky does the grocery shopping, giving me some time to really think through the planning. So I think I can manage this.  I also want to really focus on decluttering.  Our house is a reasonable size, but we don’t have that much storage.  I feel that we have way too much stuff.  There are boxes of things we never use.  We have old cell phones sitting around that could be donated.  There are board games and toys that we’ve held onto for some reason. So, here’s my house cleaning resolutions in a nutshell:

  • Do a load of laundry every day. Wash, dry *and* fold.
  • Plan meals for each week and stick to the plan.  Also have easy backup meals on deck (pasta and sauce, sandwiches) for days when the plan falls apart or when the hoped-for leftovers do not appear.
  • Declutter 15 minutes/day.  At the end of the declutter session, make sure unwanted items are headed where they need to go–trash or donation pile.  I will start at the front of the house and work my way back, then move upstairs from front to back.  I think this will take the whole year.  I also think this will be the hardest plan to stick with.

2. Getting fit, developing an exercise habit.  For now, I’m not going to worry too much about eating.  Over the holidays, I’ve indulged in chips and snack food, chocolate, too much wine and beer, but during “normal” times, I’m much better and my eating habits are not that bad.  We eat mostly vegetarian and fish, not a lot of red meat and I try to incorporate vegetables as much as possible.  Though I think I should add more fruits and veggies, especially as snacks, until I’m set in my fitness routine.  Here’s my plan for that:

  • Yoga once a week, with a plan to increase to twice a week after 3 months.
  • Go for a walk every day.  I feel like I need to do something every day, and I like walking.  I don’t even need to put special clothes on.  I’m going to start with a mile, but work up to 3.  Time-wise, I’m not sure I can go further than that.

3. Sticking to the budget.  I must admit that I often hate dealing with money.  Always have.  In times when we had no money, we checked our accounts all the time, making sure we didn’t overdraw (not that we didn’t on occasion).  Now, we’re less careful, and though we don’t often overdraw, we do end up charging things or not buying things that we wanted to because we overspent.  So here’s the plan for that:

  • Reduce spending by $100/month in each of these categories: groceries, eating out (including fast food), and shopping.  The plan is to increase the reduction if possible.
  • Put the amount saved in these categories (up to $300/month) into savings.

Well, I think that’s enough to start with.  I have at least one more that I’m contemplating.  It’s kind of work-related.  Back in September, I promised myself I’d practice programming every day.  Though I’ve come close to that, it’s not perfect.  I need to make time at work to do this.  So I’m still thinking about how this would work.

Moving forward

So I went to a yoga class last night run by my old friend with whom I used to do yoga 10 years ago.  It was fabulous.  I am actually sore today, but in a good way.  I think I worked every muscle in my body.  The class is offered every Wednesday, so I think I’ll start going at least to that, and then maybe add another class later.

Another area I want to work on in the coming year is money.  We suck at budgeting.  We usually manage to come out okay, but every once in a while, we find ourselves resorting to a credit card, and, in general, we’re not saving enough.  I have made a good effort to pay off our credit cards, but need to do some work in that area.  One thing I keep talking about doing is canceling cable and our land line.  That would save us over $100/month.  We subscribed to Netflix streaming, and have used it a lot.  Geeky Girl and I spent our time over the break watching How I Met Your Mother from the beginning.  Though we’d seen most of the episodes, we enjoyed watching them in order.  Mr. Geeky watches whatever movies it throws at him.  He’s on a foreign film kick at the moment.

I have no problem canceling cable.  We have TiVo and frankly, if we didn’t, this decision would be a lot easier.  We’d just figure out whether to go with Apple.tv or Google.tv or Boxee, etc.  As it is, we’re trying to figure out things that will work with our existing box.  We can access Netflix and Amazon.  We could also go with Hulu plus, which is available on TiVo as well.  But newer services like Vudu are not available and you can’t really just go to a web site like Clicker.com to connect to your shows of choice.  We could connect a computer to our tv, but then we need remote control.  We’d actually lose some of the shows we watch regularly.  At least, we’d lose the convenience of being about to watch them in one place at the click of a button. So I think we’ll keep looking and thinking about it.  And I know, we could give up tv altogether.  Not outside the realm of possibility.

Mr. Geeky and I went over our budget the other day and most of our money goes to food (both groceries and eating out) and shopping (mostly for clothes).  We’re going to try to cut back a little in those areas.  I think that will have a bigger impact than getting rid of cable.  I’ve proposed cutting those by a couple hundred each.  We may have to start slow, but maybe we’ll get there.  We definitely like our food!

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Losing weight, getting fit, again

For the last five or so years, I’ve wanted to lose weight.  I’ve written about it here a lot.  I’ve made it a New Year’s Resolution many times.  And many times, I’ve failed to lose weight.  I’ve fallen off the exercise/diet wagon.  I was lamenting not having time to exercise to someone last night, and they said, “You have to make time for it.”  Which I know.  And I can’t decide where to make time.  Morning seems out unless I get up 1/2 hour earlier, which I don’t see happening.  I have a hard enough time with the crack of dawn hour I get up at now.  Last year, I did get home at a semi-reasonable hour most days–by 4 or 4:30, which allowed time for a walk or something and which I honestly did every once in a while.  But now I’m running an after-school program and I sometimes don’t get home until 6.  On my best days, I’m home at 5:15.  My inclination when I get home is not to jump into an exercise routine, but have a glass of wine, chat with husband and start dinner.

My other issue is what kind of exercise to do.  Walking is fine and dandy, but it’s working the same muscle groups and probably not doing anything to work off inches where I want, namely, my butt and thighs. Also, I get wimpy about cold weather.  I’d like to do some yoga again, but feel the need to take a class, which costs money.  Maybe I just need to bite the bullet and do that.  I have a friend who runs a yoga studio and I think I should look into that.

So, I keep seeing this series of decisions I can’t seem to make and failing.  I’m inclined to at least give it a try.  Mornings are out, evenings are in, and dammit, I’m going to call my friend with the yoga place.  I’ll let you know how it works out.

 

Women’s Right to Life

Over three years ago, I wrote this post on Blogging for Choice day, explaining that when I was 16 years old, I had an abortion. That act, as painful and troubling as it was, gave me the life I have today.

As I was watching the coverage and reading the blogs about George Tiller’s death, I felt not just sad for Tiller’s family, but sad for our country. I’m really tired of the hate-mongering that ends in tragedies like Tiller’s death. We have let that rhetoric control the debate for far too long. We need to quiet the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. They are inciting people to hold this hate inside and act on it. I’ve never been to a Pro-Choice Rally where hate or violence is advocated or even spoken of. Abortion is not a pleasant experience. It’s certainly not pleasant to think about, even for those of us who want them to remain legal. And yet, the hate mongers on the right not only want abortions to end, but they want to teach abstinence-only in the schools. They want to deny that human beings have sex and that the result of that is often pregnancy, but that through the miracle of science, we can prevent that result. Pfizer is offering free Viagra if you’ve lost your job. Do you see them offering free birth control? Some insurance companies won’t even pay for birth control. Don’t you think having another baby when you’ve lost your job might be more of problem than not being able to get an erection?

Women around the country may now be fearful of obtaining care that is their right to have legally. Their lives might be literally at risk and certainly, their lives might not be filled with the kind of opportunities they could have without an unwanted child. Already, according to reports I’ve seen, in over 85% of the counties in the US do not have access to abortion services. In many places, doctors and clinics are not even allowed to tell women where they can obtain an abortion. We’re talking about health care here, people. Since when would it be okay for a doctor to say, well, I can’t perform this surgery and I can’t tell you who in the area can. You’ll just have to figure that out on your own. There are states where there’s only one clinic in the whole state where abortions are performed. There are more states with waiting periods, meaning two trips and two days off work for women seeking services.

Why do we let this happen in our country? There are a lot of people who are calling this terrorism and who are blaming the hatemongers on Fox News and talk radio and on the blogs. Sure, I blame them. But I blame us as well, for letting it happen, for not standing up to these people, for not standing behind practitioners who are just doing their job, for not speaking out if you’ve had an abortion, putting a human face on that action which makes it harder for people to rail against it. I am writing my senators and congressman today. If I could I’d go to the vigil in Love Park in Philadelphia today at 5:30. Women have a right to life. Let’s truly support that in whatever way we can.

Headache continues and a bleg

Although it’s mostly gone, I’ve still got a headache that comes and goes. No amount of medicine makes it go away. At least I’m functioning. Just not at 100%. When it’s around, I can’t really do much. All I can think about is the pain of it. I basically will it away. Which, by the way, doesn’t really work.

These things seem to be somewhat random, but of course, there is a lot going on in my life. I have a thesis to read. I’m meeting with students about final projects. This weekend, instead of relaxing and doing the Mother’s Day thing, I have to grade the seniors’ work. Next weekend, I’ll have the rest of the student work to grade. Of course, I’m done after that, so I shouldn’t complain, but I’m not a fan of steady work followed by a big. giant. pile. of work. Oh, and I’m giving a talk next week, and no, I’m not finished putting it together.

But. If you all want to contribute, I’d love to hear from you. So consider this a bleg–and yes, I’m hoping the headache story will make you feel a little sorry for me. 🙂

Anyway, my talk is called “Any Moron Can Write a Blog” and my basic argument is that learning to evaluate information is not as simple as forcing students away from blogs and wikipedia and that social software principles can be used to teach students about the academic research and writing process. I’m talking about the good and bad of social software and the good and bad of peer review–a process that is mysterious to most students. So, the two principles I’ve pulled out are connecting and transparency. If you have stories of using blogs, wikis, or other kinds of software in your teaching where students connected with each other (in a kind of informal peer review), collaborated well, or received feedback from external sources, I’d love to hear them. Also if you have thoughts about transparency in social software, I’d love to hear those too. Specific examples of assignments are good too. It’s not that I don’t have this stuff lined up, but the more the better and I’m a big fan of diversity.

Testing for Depression

Experts are now recommending that teenagers be routinely tested for depression. I think this is an excellent idea. Those of you with teenagers might know why. When your kids become teens, they stop telling you everything. Even the good-natured, non-confrontational ones. So sometimes it’s hard to tell when something is really bothering them. They may be able to put on a good front for you, but inside are agonizing about a friendship gone wrong or being bullied or doing poorly in school. It’s quite disconcerting as a parent to just. not. know. I know I’ve been one of those parents who, while sympathizing with someone’s loss of a child to suicide, have also wondered how they didn’t see it coming. Well, sometimes it’s easy to not see it coming. Although we’ve been lucky to not have to deal with these kinds of mental health issues, I do like the idea that when my kids go for a physical, they might also get screened for their mental health as well. Consdering that many kids’ physical health is affected by mental health through substance abuse, eating disorders, self-harm practices, or suicide, it makes sense to check on mental health at the same time as physical health.