Thursday, June 28, 2007

I am off to argue with people I agree with...

...which means I'm going to the National Women's Studies Association conference in Chicago. Or, rather, west of Chicago. I anticipate many hours spent waiting for the NWSA shuttle to take me to the conference site. Must remember to pack knitting and a book. Sigh.

Point is, you won't be hearing from me for a few days because I will be busy conferencing. However, this is a conference that has in past years drawn folks like Mary Daly, Sheila Jeffreys, Wendy Chapkis, and other controversial feminists. So...I may return with stories.

I am off to pack. See you when I get back.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I want...

One of the things Bean and I enjoy doing together is buying candy. We are both, as he says, "candy lovers." We both, as I pointed out to him this afternoon while he was wailing because I wouldn't allow him to eat all of his candy before dinner, want to have our candy when we want to have it. We don't want to wait.

(It might be worth mentioning that, before dinner, while he was watching "Jimmy Neutron" and thus otherwise preoccupied, I sneaked into my room to eat my Hostess Fruit Pie in secret. Even though I wouldn't let him eat more than half of his roll of Gummi Life Savers until he'd eaten dinner.)

(It was cherry, in case you're wondering.)

So one of our favorite things to do is to visit the candy shop downtown, the one with the handmade chocolates and the penny candies that I didn't know were still being made. (Incidentally, all this time I thought it was Ferrara DAN. It's Ferrara PAN. Who knew?)

I was thinking this afternoon that introducing a gummy line was probably one of the smartest things Life Savers ever did. Because regular Life Savers - I don't think they can compete with Altoids and everything else. I certainly wouldn't be buying them, and I wouldn't give them to Bean, either. I mean - Life Savers. Boring. And vaguely reminiscent of carsickness (my mom used to give me one to suck on in the car). But take just about any candy and make it a gummy, and you've probably got a sellable item.

Anyway, so remember those Smarties from your childhood?

They got bigger.

And, along with being bigger, they got a bit overpowering. They seem to have, more or less, become SweetTarts. However, the green Smarties are still very definitely lime, thank God, because I think if I got a green apple Sweetart, I would puke.

I'm sitting here, working my way through this pack of Giant-Ass Smarties, and...yeah. I'm feeling a little over-sugared, and I think I'm getting big sugar sores on the inside of my mouth, and I'm probably wearing the enamel off my teeth, but, hell yeah, I'm gonna keep eating.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

...and this meme is worth it if only to check out the one I'm linking to...

...which would be jewgirl's.

And also, I had too much Diet Pepsi with dinner, so I'm up anyway. Might as well do a meme.

OK, so this meme goes like this:

"For this meme, I'm going to ask you to answer three (hopefully not dumb) questions: What is the dumbest question you have ever been asked? Why was it dumb? And, even though it won't help, because answering a dumb question never does, what's the answer? (Or, as I like to think of them: The Big Dumb Question, The Big Dumb Reason, and The Big Dumb Answer.)"

This actually happened recently. I am moving, and I wanted an estimate. So, I tried to find some information online, but all the online options involved sending my phone number and email out into the ether and waiting for zillions of panting moving companies to call with quotes. So, against my better judgment, I do. A woman calls, and she not only has a bad cold and is talking through her nose, but she is also chewing gum or eating while she is talking to me. And I started asking her some questions about how much the move would cost, and luckily I had the weight from our last move (7180 pounds, by the way - yes, we have that many books), so I gave her that and she was able, after putting me on hold for a long time and dealing with some confusion on her end, to give me an estimate.

Then, I asked about their packing services, because, what the hell, right? Might as well ask.

And so here's the dumb question: she asked me, "How much stuff do you have - how many boxes?"

If I knew the answer to that question, wouldn't that mean that I had already packed them?

Then she put me on hold, only she didn't quite hit the button, so I could hear her asking her boss for help because she couldn't "figure out what [I] wanted." I had thought that she'd give me a range - "x many kitchen cabinets is generally between $- and $--" - but no, she needed to know the number of boxes.

Then she asked, "Is 40-50 boxes about right?"

I said the only thing I could say: "I really have no idea."

So she gave me an estimate for packing 40-50 boxes, and I made a little note next to the name of her company that read "um...completely incompetent? Don't hire."

And obviously, I still don't know how many boxes I will need.

Please consider yourself tagged if you'd like to be.

Now I'm going to go drink some more pop and eat leftover Mexican food.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Hidden Costs...

I've been trying to clear out a lot of the crap we've accumluated over six years of living in this apartment. The most dispensable items are books and baby things. Now - I am a big one for hauling my crap to the college library, Goodwill, the battered women's shelter, and other places that can use these things. However, whenever I do this, someone undoubtedly says, "why don't you have a garage sale?" Which is not a bad idea, except that, in order to have a garage sale, one needs to 1) get all of one's crap organized, clean, and ready to sell at once, and 2) sit in the garage or on the lawn for two days and hope that the couple of people who come by decide to buy something - and haggle with them, because no matter what you charge, "it's too much to ask for a garage sale." Plus, garage sales here aren't held on the weekends. They're held on Thursday and Friday and Saturday morning. Like I have time for this.

My feeling is basically that, if you'll take it off my hands, you are welcome to it. That's one less thing I have to worry about - or store - you know? But over the last couple of days, I've had dollar signs in my eyes, and so I've spent an inordinate amount of time carting bags and boxes and odds and ends all over town:

- three trips to the secondhand baby stuff store (so far - at least one more to come);
- one trip to my office to double-check that I had doubles and newer editions of various books;
- one trip to local head shop to try to sell records (hipster college dude was less than interested and passed up Icicle Works, Psychedelic Furs, and three Fawlty Towers records for one Beatles album - please);
- one trip each to two used book stores;
- and, three trips to Goodwill.

I made $70 (not counting what all these trips have cost me in gas), and I still had to lug most of the crap to Goodwill at the end of the day. It's just not worth it. From now on, everything goes straight from my house to Goodwill.

Also, I decided not to sell hipster college dude my records for the $3 he offered. Not if he doesn't know what Fawlty Towers is.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I am, right now, sporting my very first...

...motorcycle shirt. Seriously. I opted for the dealership logo rather than the Victory Cycles logo because I have no bike knowledge and I didn't want to look like a total idiot if someone came up and asked me, "do you ride?" But at least I can say that I bellydanced for the Biker Bash!

Which I did, and it was a hoot. I was expecting something a bit more raucous, sort of Sturgis-y, but really it was just moms and dads and kids. It was actually a benefit to raise money for a camp for kids with cancer, so there were also some older men who were members of a local volunteer organization that sponsored the kids' camp. Oh, and the cheerleaders in halter tops and cutoffs washing the bikes - but that sort of goes without saying, doesn't it?

So, we danced, had a brat, danced some more, and came home. Somehow, I managed to refrain from buying this band's t-shirt:

Not that the band wasn't good, but...

Friday, June 22, 2007

The perils of Gmail.

You know how Gmail anticipates the email address when you start to type it? Like, you'll type in "b" for "babysitter" and it'll pull up "big-name author you emailed last year?"

You see where this is going?

Yes, I did it. I invited a famous author to babysit for Bean next week.

Fortunately, she has a sense of humor and responded kindly to let me know that I'd probably emailed the wrong person. (She was also kind enough to let me know that she wasn't available, which not all babysitters do.)

I'd love to know the most embarrassing thing you've ever done on email...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Interviewed by Pseudostoops!

Here's an interesting sort of meme: Pseudostoops was interviewed on her site last week, and she offered to interview interested readers and sister bloggers. When I saw how interesting her answers were, I knew I wanted her to interview me. (If you'd like me to interview you, drop me a comment or an email.)

1. The title of your blog is plain(s) feminist. Feminism is a clear part of your voice and writing- that makes sense. I get the "plains" part, too- South Dakota, etc. Why is the 's' parenthetical? Is this one of those times when there’s an obvious double entendre that I’m missing?

Well, maybe not. The "(s)" makes the title "plains feminist," as you write. But it also makes it "plain feminist" – as in, not necessarily any other "type" of feminist. At the time that I was starting the blog, I knew I wanted it to be clearly related to feminism, but I didn’t want to identify with a particular school of feminist thought. I feel that I am both a part of and between various schools of feminism – Second and Third Waves, a critical sex radicalism, and so on. So I decided that it would be, as the slogan reads, "just plain feminism."

Also, when I write the title, here or on other blogs, I tend to alternate between writing it as two words and as one word, and that’s simply because I get lazy – I picked an annoying title to type, and leaving out the extra space and the capital "F" is just that much easier. And also, because I tend to prefer it as one word, and I might change the title to reflect that one day.

2. Has your career always been in academia? Did you consider any other jobs, or was being a professor something you always knew you wanted to do?

Before I went back to school, I worked for a few years in development, which was not something I enjoyed particularly or was especially good at, but it was and continues to be a field that is wide open (especially to women) and that pays extremely well even for part-time work. I got into it via telemarketing, of all things, and ended up working for a couple of private schools and theaters over the course of a few years. Essentially, I did a lot of direct mail pieces (those letters you get from your alma mater asking for money, for example) and some events, such as phonathons (those calls you get from your alma mater asking for money). I have found that my experience in development has continually been helpful to me, not because I’m good at asking people for money, but because I’ve become good at thinking of ways to raise money.

I never would have thought of the possibility of becoming a professor had it not been for Mr. Plain(s)feminist, who constantly encouraged me. When I first started grad school, it was partly motivated by the fact that I hated my career and didn’t know what I wanted to do. When the Anita Hill / Clarence Thomas debates occurred, I was further encouraged to invest in feminist work, and that helped give me the courage to go into Women’s Studies rather than something more "practical."

While I was in grad school, I realized that most of my peers (who were struggling to make ends meet) were unaware of the well-paid work that was available in development, and I had a dream of starting up an employment-matching program for graduate students and local employers who wanted highly-skilled, part-time/temporary, professional employees to do development, marketing, and writing work. I wasn’t able to find the time to do it, but it’s a project I may come back to at some point.

But I’ll add that for most of my life, I’ve had the persistent fear that I am not well-suited to most jobs and thus doomed to unhappiness, and even failure, in my work life. Teaching has been the one career in which I’ve found joy, and so I think my calling really lies there and in writing and other related academic pursuits. (I have thought at times that I’d also enjoy "rock star," but I get bored easily with the same songs over and over, and I also have acute stage fright (though that is getting better).)

3 Your profile mentions that you play guitar. Are you self-taught, or did you learn as a child? Do you intend to put Bean in music lessons?

I took a few guitar lessons, both times from rather weird men. One was the son of a professor at my college, and he always struck me as a leering sort of type. But he did teach me some very useful finger-picking and strumming patterns that I use to this day. The other was a musician who was teaching in a community ed program, and when I confessed to him that I just didn’t have time to practice often (I was working full-time and taking graduate classes), he pretty much told me not to bother coming. (Not that I don’t understand his position, but I took the class to learn, figuring that what I couldn’t learn right then, I could remember and learn later, when my classes were over. Which I did.)

I am not and never have been confident on the guitar, however. I would much prefer to find someone who would play while I sing, so that I could concentrate just on that. But the world is full of singers who need accompanists – most singers who want to perform, in my experience, have had to learn to accompany themselves. The problem is that it’s preferable to sing badly and play well, rather than the reverse.

As for Bean and music lessons – if I could arrange our lives to follow my own hopes and dreams, then yes, Bean would be taking music lessons right now, and we would be playing music together on a regular basis. However, he is a peculiar sort who seems to have his own hopes and dreams, and he is not interested in music lessons. Also, while I think he might want to try an instrument when he gets a little older, right now, he’s got his hands full with gymnastics and swimming.

4 You write clearly and forcefully on difficult, important issues. You also live in a small community where, as you’ve pointed out, everyone knows everyone else’s business, and where, I’d guess, your views are not always in the majority. Is there tension there? Do you ever find yourself biting your tongue for the sake of keeping the peace?

I feel sometimes that I’ve bitten my tongue clean off and still managed to disrupt the peace quite considerably!

Yes, there are tensions, but I feel that they are frequently less to do with people’s actual beliefs (with the exception of emotional moments like abortion rights rallies, in which the pros and antis come together (and the antis heckle the pros)). But very often, people don’t talk openly about controversial issues; they may disagree when the topics come up, but they tend to want to keep the peace. This often makes me feel out of step, because I am more used to speaking up and out and addressing the disagreement or problem and trying to find a resolution. Not only am I used to responding in this way, but I’m also used to having this response style valued. It’s less valued here, though conversely, I have had total strangers walk up and shake my hand and thank me for saying something they agreed with in a public forum.

The tensions I’ve noticed are often related more to people’s conversational style than to their beliefs. For example, being direct will get you in trouble as it is perceived as being blunt or rude. (Usually, people tell me that I’m tactful, but here, I’m considered blunt.) And the result is that anyone who is offended will probably not be direct or forthcoming in addressing it. It is really frustrating, and it makes it difficult to deal with tensions productively.

I do find that my copious, sailor-like swearing has been tamed quite considerably since I've moved here.

5 If you could change one thing about Mr. Plains Feminist, what would it be?

Mr. Plain(s)feminist and I are very different in some ways, and generally, this works nicely because we complement each other. But if I could change one thing about him, I think I would instill in him a love for dance. Though, that would mean that we’d need to pay a sitter every time I felt the urge to put on my dancin' shoes.

Big Frameline Film sale.

Frameline has converted their films to DVD, and they are selling the VHS tapes at much cheaper prices until June 30. ("Cheaper" being a relative term.) On top of this, all Frameline titles are on sale during June at 20% off (with the
discount code Pride2007).

If you teach in Women's/Gender Studies, you should check it out.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The rush of the 21st century.

There have been moments over the last few years when I've finally made some particular technological jump, and each time, I've felt the same ecstasy: "Ah, I've finally joined the 21st century!" I felt that way when I bought Mr. Plain(s)feminist a CD player back in 2000. I felt that way when I, somewhat reluctantly, bought a DVD player in around 2003. I felt that way when I ditched my analog cell phone and bought a digital one in 2005, and when I finally bought an MP3 player in the same year.

Mr. Plain(s)feminist recently bought me a flash drive so that I could work on a borrowed laptop last week while I was on a writing retreat. He also pointed out that it was high time that I back up my files - which I hadn't done since, oh, say, 2003, when I was writing my dissertation. And even then, I'm pretty sure I wasn't backing up anything except for my dissertation files.

Now, I know that this is not a good thing. I know that everyone should back up their files, often. Here's the thing: when I last backed up my files, 'way back in 2003, I was still using disks.

No, not cds. DISKETTES.

You youngsters may not remember diskettes, but it is impossible to get very much information on them. Thus, backing up one's files meant a little pile of diskettes, each with a portion of a particular file on it. And, it took a very long time.

So imagine my surprise when, this afternoon, I finally bit the bullet, sat down in front of the computer, and backed up all of my work on my flash drive, and then backed it up a second time on ONE (1) CD. In like, ten minutes. And then I backed up my photos on another CD. I felt so giddy at the ease and speed of the process that I then began going through all of my old diskettes, erasing them one by one - because, surely, there are a couple of others out there who still have computers that can read them - and tossing them into the trash.

So, today, yet again, I have that wonderful feeling of being one with technology: I have backed up my files, and I have done it without using diskettes.

Thank you very much, and goodnight.

Friday, June 15, 2007


This is weird - I'm not sure why, but Blogger doesn't seem to be allowing comments on my last post. I'm going to test this theory by posting this and seeing if comments are allowed here...


...Never mind - fixed it!

Status Report: Five and One Quarter Years.

(NOTE: I actually wrote this on May 17th, and I'm glad to say that things have definitely improved (even though I never got around to updating the chart). But still, I wanted to share it with you. And also, I'm too lazy right now to write a new post.)

We used to have the morning routine worked out:

Bean wakes up. We snuggle for a little while before it's time to really wake up. Depending on his mood, he or I will pick out his clothes for the day. Depending on his mood, his getting dressed will take very little or a whole lot of reminding (and, on slow mornings, assistance). He will also go potty and, on a good morning, brush his teeth. Once he's ready, he comes out to his little table in the living room for breakfast in front of "Charlie and Lola." ("Charlie and Lola" is the single best cartoon on television and deserves its own post.) After breakfast, we leave for school.

It took us the better part of the last school year to get this down. I devised a rewards chart with pictures of the tasks he needed to complete each morning; if he completes most of them, he can watch a DVD that day; if he completes all of them, he can watch television that day. It's not perfect, but it works.

Except that, for some reason, and fairly suddenly, we can't start the day without a full-fledged screaming fit from Bean. The fit is generally preceeded by me doing something, usually standing in the wrong place or, like yesterday, talking when Bean didn't want me to. Not responding is not an option, as that makes him lose his shit. If I attempt to stand in the right place, or if I say gamely, "OK - sorry, I'll be quiet," it is still no good - I have ruined it, I have done something unforgiveable, and now we must all be miserable until the mood passes.

The screaming, slamming of doors, and stomping of feet are so regular and so loud that I've pointed out that they could result in our being evicted.

Evenings are worse, though at least not in terms of decibels. The mornings may be loud, but there is still less effort needed on my part to get him ready than there is at bedtime. Bean takes after me: he is not in the least bit interested in going to sleep. At all. Ever. Unless he's sick.

Here's our bedtime routine:

It becomes evening. Bean goes batshit crazy at the mere mention of bedtime. One night last week, I suggested that he get all ready for bed and then we could watch part of Night at the Museum. Getting into pajamas went fine, but he balked at using the bathroom and brushing his teeth. He ran around the apartment and ignored me when I told him to go in and get ready. When he did, he brushed his teeth but didn't go to the bathroom. Then he went to the bathroom but didn't pull up his pants. Then he pulled up his pants but wouldn't wash his hands. Every few seconds he spent in the bathroom accomplishing a small part of these tasks was punctuated by his racing out of the bathroom to go somewhere else in order to do something else. That night, the "something else" was yelling at me for making him brush his teeth when he didn't want to do it.

What was most maddening about that night was that I told him clearly, patiently, and repeatedly that if he didn't do what I asked him to do, there would be no movie. On top of this, he began screaming, which I have outlawed in our house. Finally, of course, after umpteen chances, I had to tell him that there would be no movie. And then there was a fountain of frustrated and disappointed tears.

What happens, I suspect, is that by 7:30, he is wiped out. He does not get enough sleep, and he does not wind down for bed easily. So when it is time to get ready for bed - and I always suggest special stories or snuggle time, which he always wants - he becomes overwhelmed: he does not want the day to be over, and he's too exhausted to realize that if he simply gets ready, he'll still have lots of time before he has to go to bed. And when he finally does lie down at night, he will nearly always lie awake for HOURS. When I used to read to him every night, he would fall asleep more quickly; however, I'm now in a bind. It takes so long to get him ready for bed that when he finally is in bed, it is far too late for a story.

But on top of this, I think there is something else going on. Bean is attached to me, and when I say "attached," I mean, the kid is like glue. He loves Mr. Plain(s)feminist, but the sun rises and sets on Mommy. And now that he's 5, I think he is starting to pull away a bit, and so he's got this battle as he wants to make sure I'm there all the time and also wants to separate himself from me by, it seems, taking out all of his anger and frustration on me.

Here's what this looked like the other morning:

Bean is struggling to put on his pants. The back pockets are bunched up and the pants are therefore uncomfortable and not going on properly. Bean is frustrated and doesn't understand what is wrong with his pants.

Bean: AAGH! My pants! The pockets! GRRRRR!!! Help me!!

Me: Oh, let me fix those for you. (I fix the pockets.) There. Is that better?

Bean: I hate you! (Runs into his room. Calls from room.) Mommy, you know I don't really hate you, right? I don't want you to feel bad. I hate you!!!

I left out the part where he called me a disgusting piece of poop, by the way. I also left out the part where I spanked him for slamming the doors. We are neither of us very good at this, sometimes.

I am reading, once again, Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Becky Bailey. Though it sounds like a handbook for parenting a "problem" child, it's really just a handbook for helping parents to control themselves and to model this self-control to children - to teach them, in effect, not just to do or not do certain things, but actually how to manage difficult emotions. It's a great book, and it helps me a lot. For one thing, it reminds me how to be human and how not to turn into a shrieking person who constantly doles out punishments.

After I hit "publish" for this post, I will update the chart to include evening tasks. There, the rewards will be bedtime stories, with more stories won when more tasks are completed.

Wish us luck.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Back soon.

I will be away for the next few days and then for a few days next week, as well. I'm not sure that I'll be able to post during this time. So, I'm putting the comments on moderation and I hope you'll check back in a bit. See you soon!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Stirring Shit.

Lately, IRL and online, it seems that the groups I'm involved in are plagued by shit stirrers. You know what a shit stirrer is, right? A shit stirrer is someone who delights in manipulating people and conversations so that others will be upset, someone who cooks up drama for the sheer enjoyment of it or for personal gain. The shit stirrer is always pointing the finger at someone else, often several someone elses. When others get upset, they often discuss this with the shit stirrer, who gets to enjoy the extra attention and even to act as a confidant. Meanwhile, the shit stirrer can sit back, relax, and watch the fireworks fly.

IRL, it seems easier to catch on. There are the conversations held through back channels that can be compared, so that very quickly, one sees the shit stirring actually taking place. Online, it can be less easy, particularly when the shit stirring is taking the form of intelligent conversation. There, it can be hard to spot a manipulative discussion, particularly when it is happening within the closed community of a listserv or bulletin board in which the members have been together for a long time.

What is your favorite way to handle shit stirrers? After seeing the stocks at the Renaissance Festival, I'm thinking that it would be great to make shit stirrers wear a big red "S" on their clothes so that we could see them coming.

TB guy.

I've been wanting to post about this, but I've been busy dancing at the Renaissance Fest this weekend (six performances in two days, and we ROCKED it). I'm coming down with a cold (yesterday was cold and rainy), I've got a sunburn (today was sunny), and I'm exhausted, but all of it is in a good and happy way.

Anyway - so I'm late to comment on this, but as I was reading around tonight and trying to catch up a little on the blogs I follow, I found this entry that pretty much says a lot of what I've been thinking.

Now, I can give the guy the benefit of the doubt a little. I mean, I frankly would not be surprised if it turned out that the public health officials are covering up for having told him exactly what he's saying they told him and not what they're saying they told him. How hard is it to believe that a governmental agency really could have made a huge mistake like that - hmmm?

I can also appreciate that he was really in fear for his life, that he really believed that he might not get the treatment he needed. After all, not that long ago, an American died because he was stuck overseas without health insurance that was accepted in the country he was visiting, and his medical situation was too serious for him to be allowed to fly home. So I can understand the fear.

But we know that when he flew back home, he knew that he was putting others at risk in order to do so. What he decided was that it was ok for him to fly back in order to save his own life, and it was also ok if he risked the lives of others to do it. That is the crux of this issue, isn't it? That he put others at risk in order to save himself.

I don't think his apology is enough, nor do I think that media appearances are the correct venue for rectifying this situation. Let the matter be decided by the courts. Is it ok for someone to decide to possibly infect and kill others in order to save one's own life, particularly when one's own life is not at immediate risk? And would such a case have to wait until others were known to have been infected by this man? Until they died?

I'd love to know what the legal precedents are for that.

Friday, June 01, 2007

It's about time I added this.

I've been using these products for a few years now - if you have curly hair, you owe it to yourself to check them out. I'm adding the site to my sidebar, as well.