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November 29, 2005

Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain

I haven't read Barbara Ehrenreich's "Bait and Switch". Sheelzebub has, and she's having mixed feelings about it. I was temporarily a corporate slave back in the '80s right after I got out of college. It was mostly clerical work, and I hated it. I hadn't been confined to a corporate cubicle because I don't think that level of Hell had been invented yet. Sheelz described the Corporatespeak you needed to be fluent in to survive in that culture:

A lot of the stuff she points out is already known to those of us who haven't worked most of our lives as full-time writers or academics: enterence into the corporate world requires fakery that Satan himself would have trouble with. It's the weak resume puffing, constantly-networking, glad-handing optimism or die attitude that makes me twitch, but you have to fake it, you have to use the jargon in the industry in which you want to work, you have to adopt the stupid pseudo-spiritual and fake-philosophical platitudes (Sun Tzu and leadership! The Tao of the Career!), and you have to basically play the game. No matter how insipid it is. Some nightclubs don't let you in if you're not glam or hip enough, some corporations won't let you in if you're not blandly bubbly enough.

And her inexperience comes out in other ways: when one of her job coaches asks her to cite her three biggest fears, she lists "being too old to find a job" and "living in poverty" (she couldn't think of a third one). I smacked my hand against my forehead because you never say that. You just don't. You never, ever admit fear about things like jobs or life or money. Everyone in the shiny happy office has no financial woes and no worries about their employability. The things one worries about and speaks of are "being unchallenged by my job" or "spending too much time at home." Okay, maybe not the latter, but you get the picture. It's like talking about salary and being upfront about the fact that actually, you'd like more of it. Can you imagine!

I already knew that you weren't supposed to answer interview questions honestly. "What are your greatest weaknesses?" was code for "Name some normally maladaptive behavior that we in the corporate world would welcome with open arms." I knew to say that I was a perfectionist, and that I would work long hours to solve an especially difficult problems. You never say that you can't abide dishonesty in others or that you can't get along with or don't care to deal with difficult people. If you say anything like that, you just talked yourself out of a job.

Back in the '80s, I was invited by my new boss to attend a workshop based on the trendy "In Search Of Excellence" books. It was all corporate feel-goodisms that set my bullshit meter buzzing like crazy. Even though I knew it was all bullshit, it was hard to ignore how everyone was getting excited about it. Awards were given out after dinner and cocktails. There were lots of pep talks. I felt like I had been abducted and taken to an Amway convention. I dreamt about winning one of those awards some year, but I knew it would never happen.

I had no idea how right I was, but not winning an award was not my fault. The company went out of business a few years later because management mismanaged its funds. This was before Enron and similar scandals. I laughed when I heard the company went belly-up. By the time that happened, I had long since left the place.

Most of my jobs have been in creative fields, so people who are a bit odd like me flourish in that kind of environment. You have to be a little bent to work as a gaffer (lighting) in movies, concerts, and TV. Thank God I didn't have to wear a corporate mask when I worked. Sheelz described the corporate mask as "the bland but cheerful, professional and calm, busy but engaged, schmoozy but focused personna that becomes Everydrone. You don't let your real thoughts or feelings be known. Everything is pleasant. Everydrones have their own language, with dialects specific to their industries and companies. Everydrones manage to promote themselves and be humble at the same time." Everyone I worked with was a little nuts. No one could even be imagined as "Everydrone". Not in the environment we worked in. All kinds of kooky things were expected of us local crew. I remember when we had to go through metal detectors when we came in to strike the set for a Barbra Streisand concert. Bill and Hillary Clinton had come that evening for the concert, which was why the extra security was set up. Everyone laughed about it. Apparently, security didn't want a stagehand walking around with a gun, but all of us stagehands had drills and heavy 9 inch wrenches that could easily be wielded as a weapon. It was nearly required to have a strong sense of irony to work in that field. A sense of humor was another requirement. Being a little bent was perfectly okay.

I could never function as a Corporate Drone. I'm too mouthy, I'm easily annoyed, and I can't just ignore bullshit when I see it. That's why I've always been much happier in more creative fields. They have always been much more appropriate for my personality. If I had to work in a cubicle I'd go out of my mind.

Posted on November 29, 2005 at 02:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

Wreck The Malls

Sheelzebub felt as inspired as I had a couple of days ago when I posted an example of a tale of Christmas joy. She found a great example of good will towards other men. The accident reports were not included in the article. I couldn't let this article go by without quoting it:

Pre-dawn pandemonium and violence erupted at two Mays Landing stores as thousands of shoppers eager for Black Friday sales overwhelmed retailers and police.

Customers trampled, shoved and assaulted fellow shoppers and even fought police in "their race to be the first in line" for discounted electronics at Circuit City and Wal-Mart on the Black Horse Pike, said Police Chief Jay McKeen.

Trouble began shortly before 6 a.m. at Circuit City when employees handed out pamphlets to shoppers at the front of a line of about 1,500 people. Customers further back, mistakenly thinking vouchers for limited-supply items were being distributed, rushed to the front.

Thank God I have never had to work on Black Friday. My personality is not well-suited for Retail Hell. I honestly don't understand the mob mentality I've seen so often when it comes to Christmas shopping. Why do people nearly kill each other over an XBox?

I'm going to buy The Royal Spawn a Certificate of Deposit for Christmas. It'll be a five-year one that he can cash in when it matures so he can either pay off some of his college tuition debt, or he can put some of it towards the downpayment for his first apartment. The Royal Spawn doesn't read my blog, so it's safe to announce this here. He's never been one to want the hottest ticket item available for pillage on Black Friday, so I've never had to be anywhere near a mall when the hoards attack. I'm going to buy him some of his favorite snack treats and make some truffles, chocolate mousse, and creme brulee for him. I know he wants a couple of games, so I'll pick them up too. He'll get lots of little things under the Christmas tree this year, and one big thing in the bank.

The Count and I have been wanting to participate in The Genographic Project since I first heard about it, so that will be our Christmas gift to each other. Here is a description of the project from its web site:

The National Geographic Society, IBM, geneticist Spencer Wells, and the Waitt Family Foundation have launched the Genographic Project, a five-year effort to understand the human journey—where we came from and how we got to where we live today. This unprecedented effort will map humanity's genetic journey through the ages.

The fossil record fixes human origins in Africa, but little is known about the great journey that took Homo sapiens to the far reaches of the Earth. How did we, each of us, end up where we are? Why do we appear in such a wide array of different colors and features?

Such questions are even more amazing in light of genetic evidence that we are all related—descended from a common African ancestor who lived only 60,000 years ago.

Though eons have passed, the full story remains clearly written in our genes—if only we can read it. With your help, we can.

When DNA is passed from one generation to the next, most of it is recombined by the processes that give each of us our individuality.

But some parts of the DNA chain remain largely intact through the generations, altered only occasionally by mutations which become "genetic markers." These markers allow geneticists like Spencer Wells to trace our common evolutionary timeline back through the ages.

"The greatest history book ever written," Wells says, "is the one hidden in our DNA."

Different populations carry distinct markers. Following them through the generations reveals a genetic tree on which today's many diverse branches may be followed ever backward to their common African root.

Our genes allow us to chart the ancient human migrations from Africa across the continents. Through one path, we can see living evidence of an ancient African trek, through India, to populate even isolated Australia.

But to fully complete the picture we must greatly expand the pool of genetic samples available from around the world. Time is short.

In a shrinking world, mixing populations are scrambling genetic signals. The key to this puzzle is acquiring genetic samples from the world's remaining indigenous peoples whose ethnic and genetic identities are isolated.

But such distinct peoples, languages, and cultures are quickly vanishing into a 21st century global melting pot.

That's why the Genographic Project has established ten research laboratories around the globe. Scientists are visiting Earth's remote regions in a comprehensive effort to complete the planet's genetic atlas.

But we don't just need genetic information from Inuit and San Bushmen—we need yours as well. If you choose to participate and add your data to the global research database, you'll help to delineate our common genetic tree, giving detailed shape to its many twigs and branches.

Together we can tell the ancient story of our shared human journey.

I'm looking forward to this. We didn't have the money to participate when I first learned of this project, but now we do. It's $100.00 per person. I'd love to know about my origins. What a wonderful Christmas present! If you are stumped as to what to give The Man Or Woman Who Has Everything, this would make a great gift.

Posted on November 29, 2005 at 01:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

November 26, 2005

Squidman Makes The Grade

My favorite Mad Scientist, PZ Myers, has been profiled in The City Pages. I saw this a few days ago, but neglected to post about it. Go over, and give him some love - or a squid.

Posted on November 26, 2005 at 12:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

A Geek Thanksgiving

This list at Science and Politics (Coturnix) had me howling. I liked #8 and #4. The Count has a Dremel. It's kind of a Swiss Army Knife tool that he uses on his model airplanes. That thing could easily whip cream.

I'm so glad I can read Coturnix blog finally. For the longest time, it would make my computer freeze and crash. Now, for some reason, it doesn't do that anymore. I had to read his blog on the PC, which wasn't possible when The Count was playing World of Warcraft.

Signs You Are Having Thanksgiving Dinner With A Geek

11. Dark meat is separated from white meat using a light probe.
10. Everyone mentions broadband, Linux or dual-core processors in their "I am thankful for..." speech.
9. A round of Counter-Strike: Source determines who gets to carve the turkey.
8. House decorated with plush microbes to celebrate the pilgrims bringing diseases to the new world.
7. Someone constantly keeps saying "The pilgrims had coffee, didn't they?"
6. Plates have a heatsink attached to them so you don't burn your mouth.
5. The cranberries are caffeinated.
4. Whipped cream for the pumpkin pie made with Dremel.
3. Three words: Lego gravy boat.
2. Pilgrim decorations have red hats instead of black ones.
1. The turkey is given the opportunity for a saving throw before being butchered.

Posted on November 26, 2005 at 12:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Dammit, I Wanted To Be A Prion

I saw this quiz at Science and Politics (Coturnix), and I couldn't resist. Me and these danged quizzes.

I don't think a prion is a molecule, though. I know it's a protein. I don't know much more about it, other than it causes Mad Cow disease, Kreutzfeldt-Jacob (sp?) disease, and Scrapie. I'd love to be able to turn my troll's brains into Swiss cheese. evil_smiley.gif

You are an enzyme. You are powerful, dark,
variable, and can change many things at your
whim...even when they're not supposed to be
changed. Bad you. You can be dangerous or
wonderful; it's your choice.

Which Biological Molecule Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted on November 26, 2005 at 12:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Strawfeminists And Other Voodoo Dolls

Update: Jill at Feministe and Echidne also written about this same issue.

Another point I forgot to make. "The Daughter Track", as the NY Times called it, is not a new trend. It's been going on for many, many years. The NY Times makes it sound as if it's discovered a new trend of selfish career women being forced to give up their careers when they are forced to care for elderly parents, as if that's some kind of punishment. Shame on those self-centered women! Nope, women of all classes have been caring for elderly parents for generations. There doesn't seem to be much mention of expecting adult sons to care for elderly parents, although more adult sons are doing it now. Just because the NY Times has found yet another way to bash women doesn't make elder care by daughters a new trend.


Amanda has up a great post about how the New York Times is embarking on a "Stick The Pin In The Strawfeminist" series of articles as well as how the NY Times looks down upon the adult daughters (and daughters tend to do this, not sons) who care for elderly parents. I really should be working on my novel, but I'm procrastinating, so I'm going to blog for awhile instead.

I've noticed for a long time that the NY Times loves to pull out its Strawfeminist Voodoo Doll and stick pins in it on a regular basis. Remember the cover article with the picture of Ally McBeal that declared feminism dead? Well, now it is no longer dead, but fit to be reviled. Amanda brought up the Strawfeminist, which is the stereotype of feminism that the NY Times loves to attack, because to actually track down real feminists like the ones in the blogosophere would prove all those stereotypes wrong. Amanda described the Strawfeminist. I'm sure you've run across this chimera before.

Lurking in the background of all these stories is the presence of the Strawfeminist, a useful tool for backlash article writers and other sundry anti-feminists, because real feminists don't make real good targets, seeing as how we refuse behave and fit into the stereotypes appointed to us so we can be hated in lieu of actually coming out against women's equality. Unlike real feminists, Strawfeminists are all wealthy and white and "choose" to work instead of work because they have to. (We real feminists mostly need that paycheck.) Strawfeminists both hate men and have too much sex with them. Strawfeminists are selfish and hate their children and parents and husbands. Strawfeminists have no sense of humor and are ugly. Strawfeminists are selfish.

Amanda described the real flesh-and-blood feminists that populate the blogosphere:

One thing I really think, at least hope, that blogging is doing for feminism is that it makes it harder for feminism's opponents to keep believing so strongly in the Strawfeminist when faced with the prospect of real feminists to have to deal with. Feminist bloggers I read come from all socioeconomic backgrounds and all races. Feminist bloggers are younger and older, male and female, gay and straight and bisexual and other sundry things, married and unmarried, religious and non-religious, career-having and job-having and even staying at home, and most of us have a pretty good sense of humor, though some of us are rowdier than others. (*ahem*) The gap between the Strawfeminist that the haters like to pick at and the real feminists out gets more and more comical every day.

These are real, 3-dimensional women with husbands, boyfriends, children, jobs, hobbies, families, and lives. They don't fit well into the Strawfeminist fallacy, but that doesn't stop the trolls from trying to pigeonhole them in that category. My trolls are especially amusing. Despite talking about The Count (my husband) and The Royal Spawn (my son), and making it clear that I am very happily married, the trolls still try to shove me into that Strawfeminist mold. I must hate men. I must hate fathers. They feel sorry for my son. It's downright comical. I don't fit in their Strawfeminist mold, and they don't like it. What's even more amusing is that I am married to a non-custodial father. I am a Subsequent Wife. That fact doesn't stop the trolls from trying to paint me with the Strawfeminist brush. They look very pathetic when they do that.

Amanda's commentary about adult daughters taking care of elderly parents caught my attention because I've seen a few cases of this happening in my lifetime. Back in the '80s, the mother of a middle-aged, comfortably middle/upper middle class white man I knew had to move into his home. His wife did most of the eldercare work while he did his community hobby stuff at night and worked during the day. She also worked, but she had a second shift at home of taking care of his mother.

The irony of the Second Shift, as described by Arlie Hochschild, is that mothers don't see their Second Shift end the moment the kids are out of the house. Once the kids leave, the parents move in and they need tending to. Guess who does it most often, and it's not the husband. Sometimes the parents move in before the kids have moved out, so that means the the wife ends up with a Triple Shift. Eldercare is still seen as women's work, even if the woman is caring for her husband's elderly parents.

My ex's grandmother lived with his aunt and uncle for years. She was his aunt's mother. These people are also white and very comfortably middle class. They lived in a huge Victorian home, and Grandma had two rooms on the first floor. She was unusual in that she cooked the meals, and for the most part was able to take care of herself until she died. I liked her a lot. She used to call me "the gypsy" because I refused to wear shoes. I always walked around the house either in my bare feet or wearing socks. I hate shoes. My ex's aunt certainly didn't "choose" to quit her job and take care of her elderly mother. She runs her own company, and is running it to this day. So much for the stereotype promoted by the NY Times.

When I was in college, my father and his siblings spent a good year fighting over whether to put their elderly, infirm mother in a nursing home or to have her live with someone. The siblings who lived near her (they lived in Captain Kirk's home state - Iowa) did not want to put her in a home, whereas my father thought that was the best place for her. They got all over his case about this because he lived in Maryland, and wouldn't have to directly deal with who was going to take care of their mother. It didn't help that my grandmother did not want to live in a nursing home. She wanted to stay in her own home, but she was getting so infirm that that wouldn't have been possible without having a nurse living with her around the clock. Plus, although the siblings were fighting about where to put her if she wasn't going to be in a nursing home, I couldn't figure out if any of them actually wanted to take her in. In the end, she was sent to a nursing home. It was mainly a matter of what the family could afford, and who would be able to take care of her. These were all working class people, not upper class, wealthy, white women as described in the NY Times article who can "choose" to work rather than work because they have to. These are people with real lives and hard choices to make who aren't likely to be covered by the NY Times because their lives won't give the NY Times an opportunity to bash feminists.

My mother, the eldest of (I think - I lose track) six children, was the one who ended up taking care of my grandmother until she died. My grandmother could not walk up and down the steps, so she stayed on the pull-out couch on the first floor. My mother took on all the eldercare herself, although she had five other siblings who were perfectly capable of pitching in. Everyone lived near each other. One of my aunts would give my mother a break every once in awhile and take in my grandmother for a few days. Once again, the adult daughters were the ones who did the eldercare. Apparently, her other siblings either didn't have room in their homes for Grandma, or they had too many kids, or they smoked. A lot of them smoked, and my mother didn't want her mother in a house full of cigarette smoke. She rarely asked for help. That's just her way of doing things. These were working class people as well, and all of them worked. They couldn't "choose" to work because they were selfish, wealthy, white, upper class women as described in the NY Times article. They worked because they needed the paycheck. The NY Times wouldn't cover a family like that, either, because they're too real. The NY Times article is a slap in the face to women like my mother because it treats all women as if they are selfish, and then are later punished for their selfishness by having to care for their elderly parents.

What doesn't get mentioned in the NY Times article is that the women who traditionally take on the elder care often are still raising their own children at the same time. Sometimes they are also raising their grandchildren. These women are called the "Sandwich Generation" because they are caring for both elderly parents (either their own or their husband's parents) and their own children. Carol Abaya, an expert on the "Sandwich Generation", came up with these various definitions of the types of categories that exist:

* Traditional: those sandwiched between aging parents who need care and/or help and their own children.

* Club Sandwich: those in their 50s or 60s, sandwiched between aging parents, adult children and grandchildren. OR Those in their 30s and 40s, with young children, aging parents and grandparents.
(Term coined by Carol Abaya)

* Open Faced: anyone else involved in elder care.

My parents live in Maryland, and I live in Massachusetts. My younger sister lives in Maryland a few blocks away from my mother. She'll be the one who will take our mother in if that time ever comes. It hasn't been talked about, but the assumption is there that she is going to do it mainly because she lives a few blocks away. The Count and I are thinking about moving to Hawaii after The Royal Spawn is in college, so I won't even be on the east coast anymore by the time either of my parents will need elder care. It's too cold here in Massachusetts, and there isn't much to do in Tinytown By The Sea. The Count grew up in Hawaii, and he has been itching to move back there. I look forward to summer year round.

I agree with Amanda that these Strawfeminist articles are just backlash against the women who are not only doing the bulk of the work raising their children, they are also doing the bulk of the work caring for elderly parents. Real feminists work for the paycheck. Women who aren't feminist also work for the paycheck. Most of us aren't fortunate enough to be upper class and able to "choose" not to work. Rather than publish articles about, as Amanda put it, "'selfish' women getting their comeuppance by having to go home to take care of elderly parents", the NY Times should interview real women who have to care for elderly parents, often while caring for their own children at the same time. But the NY Times will never publish an article like that because such an article would describe the situation as it really is. Can't have that. And an article about The Way Things Are won't be as much fun as sticking pins in Strawfeminist Voodoo Dolls.

Posted on November 26, 2005 at 11:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (28)

Returning To An Old Love

OK, get you minds out of the gutter please, that's not the old love I mean!

After being away from the hobby for some twenty or more years, I've started aeromodeling again. Yes, flying model airplanes... I know, kind of unexciting, unless you happen to be one bitten by that particular bug. There was a time when I had a whole stable of free flight and radio controlled airplanes.

Free flight means uncontrolled flight, so the models are designed for height and/or endurance. Most use their power system (rubber, CO2, electric, or gas) to get to altitude, then they slowly glide in a circle back down to earth... unless they hit a thermal (rising hot air) and then they go into the clouds where you'll never see them again! There is also a large component of the hobby dedicated to indoor models, very delicate and light models which are meant to be flown inside halls or school gyms. Some of these airplanes are so light that they can stay aloft for 20 or more minutes.

Radio controlled means just that, except that in my day it was pretty much just gas powered airplanes and helicopters with a few electric powered gliders tossed into the mix. The gas jobs were always under power when flown (and could only fly as long as there was fuel on-board) while the gliders used their motor to find thermals, and then you would shut off the motor and just fly all day, hopping from thermal to thermal.

I loved the gliders, and the most transcendental moment I ever had was the first time I flew into a cloud... Holy Shit, I'm that high up, followed by, Where the Hell is my airplane, I can't see it! It was a delicious combination of elation and anxiety.

Today, R/C has expanded and you can even get micro-R/C, slow-flight, electric powered, indoor airplanes (click on that link, you won't believe it!) that you can literally fly around in your living room, or oddities like R/C ornithopers.

Well, I'm at it again. Below is the obligatory picture (obligatory, since it's a demonstration to other modelers of building skill, before the work gets covered up by the tissue) of a framed up West Wings Topaz (and for those who appreciate the subtlety, yes, I balanced the prop.) I chose a very simple free flight model kit to get my toes wet again. My next project will be a twin-pusher... right from the dawn of heavier than air flight. You just don't see many, if any, of these guys anymore.


The next step in the cycle is to build one up from just a plan. The final step in the cycle would be to draw my own set of plans from a three-view of an airplane.

Thanks to this here world wide web, modeling has gotten much more exciting. Not only are tools and materials just a mouse-click away, but in the last few weeks I've downloaded a slew of free plans from the web. Some folks have even taken to republishing and posting plans from the 1930s and 40s, the golden age of aeromodeling.

The Countess is encouraging this, and talkng about hanging the airplanes from the ceiling. She has no idea what a Pandora's Box she's opening, but she'll get it at about the time that airplanes start hanging from the bathroom ceiling...since that will be the only space left.

I can be very prolific with my Old Love!!!

Posted on November 26, 2005 at 06:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 25, 2005

'Tis The Season

Here's a good reason I loathe Christmas shopping in malls. Shoppers have already had a few brawls trying to get their precious Christmas gack. I'm glad I stayed home today.

Posted on November 25, 2005 at 10:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Matching Cheese With Wine

Kate at Accidental Hedonist answered a letter in which she paired various cheeses with appropriate wines. I thought it was worth repeating that list.

Brie - Riesling
Camembert - Chardonnay
Cheddar - Pinot Noir
Danish Blue - Cabernet Sauvignon
Gorgonzola - Zinfandel (Red)
Muenster - Pinot Gris
Neufchatel - Beaujolais
Roquefort - Port

The Count and I love to eat cheese and pate with wine and crackers as a snack. They are good movie food. We like brie and gorgonzola, although The Count says I have not had real gorgonzola. It's apparently much stickier and pungent than the store variety. The woman who wrote to Kate wanted to host an inexpensive wine and cheese party. It's possible to find good wine and cheese at an inexpensive price. These little snacks The Count and I have are not costly at all.

Posted on November 25, 2005 at 11:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

I Can Never Get Enough Of These Quizzes

Erotic Thriller
You've made your own rules in life - and sometimes that catches up with you.
Winding a web of deceit comes naturally, and no one really knows the true you.

Your best movie matches: Swimming Pool, Unfaithful, The Crush
If Your Life Was a Movie, What Genre Would It Be?

Heh. An erotic thriller. I could write my own script. Smiley1

I've never seen any of the movies listed, but "Swimming Pool" sounds interesting. I just added it to my Netflix queue. My idea of erotic thrillers are "Bound", "The Postman Always Rings Twice", "White Mischief", "Crimes of Passion", "Body Heat", "Angel Heart", "The Last Seduction", "The 4th Man", "Basic Instinct", and "Wild Things".

I'd have Linda Fiorentino play me in the movie about my life.

[Via Lance Mannion.]

Posted on November 25, 2005 at 10:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)