MsGeek.Org v2.0

The ongoing saga of a woman in the process of reinvention.
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Sunday, February 29, 2004

Tonight is a good night to be a geek in Los Angeles.

After all was said and done, Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King got 11 Academy Awards.

The success of LOTR as a series and LOTR:ROTK as a movie is evidence to all that geek culture is pop culture in 2004.

And the good, geeky news doesn't stop there. Tomorrow, a new series of Iron Chef specials shoots somewhere in Hollywood...they'll be shooting all week, too bad there won't be a studio audience because I would be camped out tonight if there was one.

Again, it's good to be a geek in Los Angeles tonight. Tomorrow we'll get back to reality. Tonight is for us.

Friday, February 27, 2004

The grocery strike is over.

Let me say it again: the grocery strike is over.

Who won? It looks like management got pretty much everything they wanted. Two-tier pay scale, having the employees pay for some of the cost of health insurance, that's all in the new agreement.

Who lost? Most of all, the employees. Somewhat less than the employees but still major losers: the union. If the strike had kept on going, management was going to pull a PATCO* and fire every union grocery worker, making their "temporary" replacements permanent.

During the almost five month strike, we never darkened the doors of a supermarket that was being actively struck. We went to a Ralphs once, when the union had stopped picketing there, but only once...we were absolutely aghast by the quality (or lack thereof) of the temporary help there, and vowed to never go back for the duration. We discovered ethnic supermarkets like Vallarta and 99 Ranch, we also relied a lot on Jon's which is an Armenian-American grocery chain and which had opened up an awesome market on Sepulveda Boulevard at Sherman Way, and we occasionally would visit Trader Joe's, which rules but doesn't really have a market close to us. In a pinch, the Food 4 Less wasn't being struck, but I'd always have pangs of conscience about shopping there because it's run by Kroger, who also runs Ralphs.

Now that the strike looks like it's over (pending approval by the rank-and-file, of course...) I have made one decision I'm sticking with. I will not shop at Vons again. Period. Safeway, which owns Vons, was the major instigator of this whole mess. One of the most heartbreaking scenes from the strike, one which I never will forget, was a pilgrimage of workers trying to get to the CEO of Safeway's house to try to convince him to change his mind and give the demands of the union a second look. The "pilgrims" were stopped a few streets away from their destination. What an asshole. I sent back my VonsClub card, in pieces, right after that.

Another thing I'm going to stick with is patronizing some of these nice little places I've found. 99 Ranch might be a great place to get Chinese and other Asian sauces and ingredients, but it's also got a great bakery that makes both a great Japanese-style (square) loaf of wheat bread and rolled sponge cakes that have a feathery soft texture and a wonderful flavor. Jon's has incredible produce, a pan-European delicatessen/charcuterie, and now has a great Mexican takeout. El Super makes lovely blue corn tortillas and Mexico City-style French rolls (bolilos) made with some whole wheat flour in the mix. And Trader Joe's is Trader Joe's...they have incredible deals on healthy food, some you can't get anywhere else. If only Nijiya or Mitsuwa would open a store in the Valley...that would be heaven.

Maybe I'll patronize Ralphs. Maybe. But not Vons. Folks with Vons or Safeway stores in their neighborhood should also consider the same.

* Remember that story? Air traffic controllers went on strike in 1981. 48 hours later President Reagan outlawed their union, PATCO, and sent military air traffic controllers to take over until new air traffic controllers could be trained. Fine thing for the former president of SAG to do...

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The War Against Boys/Girls: time for a ceasefire?

I was first in public school in the late 1960s through the 1970s, back when Sav-On Drugs still had a "Boy's Toys" and "Girl's Toys" aisle. All through Elementary School and into Junior High (now known as Middle School) there were very different roles that girls and boys were being groomed for. The Women's Movement might have been in full swing, but behind the chain-link fence there wasn't a peep about how things were changing. Back then, the expectation was that boys would grow up to take the world on, and girls...well, girls would be mommies.

Now we are in a very different world. The mix of female to male on College and University campuses is now at roughly three females for every two males, even after factoring out the "returning woman student" population. (A population which I myself belong to, although not for the reasons that made most women drop out of College in the first place.) Boys still score a few points higher than girls on the math portion of the SAT, although now girls even get better grades in actual math classes than boys do. And in subjects like English and Social Studies and Foreign Languages, girls continue to have an enormous edge and are pulling away alarmingly from their peers who have a "y" chromosome.

With facts like these floating around, even from people who don't have an anti-Feminist axe to grind, I found that sitting in my Education 203 class today listening to my teacher read a segment of the book "Life In Schools" by Peter McLaren was like listening to a voice from the past. And yet, this was the 4th edition of the book, published in 2003. To wit:

Classroom sexism as a function of the hidden curriculum results in the unwitting and unintended granting of power and privilege to men over women....
....[N]o curriculum, policy, or program is ideologically or politically innocent, and that the concept of the curriculum is inextricably related to issues of social class, culture, gender and power. This is, of course, not the way curriculum is traditionally understood and discussed in teacher education. The hidden curriculum, then, refers to learning outcomes not openly acknowledged to learners, because to do so would undermine the social universe in which capitalist schooling thrives in its reproduction of labor-power for the transnational capitalist class.*

Power to the people right on, baby!

(Dusting off the patchouli incense ash, peppermint wrappers and granola from my hair, I continue.)

Anyway, I had read some discussion of the current situation we find ourselves in, and resolved at that point to read "The War Against Boys" by Christina Hoff Sommers and write a few entries in my "Reading Journal" from that. Luckily most of Ms. Sommers' work was neatly sommerized (pun intended) in an article in the Atlantic Monthly from about a year before the book was published. I also found something disturbing about Ms. Sommers: she is a fellow of the notoriously anti-Feminist American Enterprise Institute. Ick.

Googling further, I found an interesting article by Michael Kimmel from Tikkun Magazine which was written to partially refute the Atlantic Monthly article but which supported the data which couldn't be easily explained away. Yes, boys seem to be slipping at the same time girls are succeeding as never before in school, even in areas girls had a history of weakness, like math and science. However, Kimmel also pointed out that sexism in school was still alive and kicking.

Then I found another article, this time from Reason Online, from their February 2001 issue. The article, by Cathy Young, seemed to have an authentic "third voice," at once criticising both Sommers and her critics. It's a thoughtful read, although the call at the end for school vouchers struck me as being put there as a sop to the editors of this Christian Science Monitor of big-"L" Libertarianism rather than something Ms. Young actually believed in.

I suggest you read all three articles. I intend to sit down and read the lot of them and take lots of notes. I think Ms. Young's calls for more individualization, not less, in the pursuit of teaching children and teens is perhaps the best solution for this problem of swinging pendulums. Misogynist teaching is bad. So is Mis-andro-nist teaching, for want of a better word. Stressing differences is just as bad as trying to fit all kids into a one-size-fits-all unisex pedagogy. It's time to put the pendulum to rest.

* Life In Schools: An introduction to Critical Pedagogy in the Foundations of Education by Peter McLaren is ©2003 Pearson Education, Inc. Excerpt from book reprinted under Fair Use provisions of the Copyright Act.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Typical of me...I totally blew off what I was supposed to do yesterday. Oh well.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Catching up here at the Home for Orphaned Computers...

Got a gift from a friend of mine on Friday...a Pioneer A06 DVD recorder drive. Buttercup will be the lucky computer to get the drive. It's a 733MHz PIII with 512MB should handle it fine. I'm looking forward to using the drive primarily for backing up my computers over the network. Eventually taking all the stuff I have on mortal, all too mortal VHS videotape and saving to MPEG1 files (MPEG2/VOB is overkill) on DVD-R would be a good thing to do.

I could also see the need to occasionally rip a misbehaving, broken DVD and recopying it to DVD-R. Just my luck that the MPAA got a judge to put an injunction down on sales of DVD XCopy, although the free utilities that do the same thing without the fancy gui are still very available. My primary interest in videogeeking tools is in being able to take DVDs that I own and rip them to VCD so I can watch them on my 400MHz PII laptop. It's taking content that I paid good money for and using it as I will. If my lappie was a generation newer it would be able to happily play DVDs with a Windows software player, but 400MHz is a bit too slow. How's about a nice slide show of Lord Of The Rings? Sound fun for you? That's what it would be like if I put a DVD drive in the lappie and tried to play a DVD.

Today is going to be maintenance day here at the lab. I need to reinstall Windows and install Linux on one of my computers. (Nuku Nuku...466MHz Celeron) It's so nice to have drive sleds! Multiple OSes without the hassle of setting up dual-boot. Then I'm going to have to use the Linux drive on Nuku Nuku to back up Buttercup and burn the contents of Buttercup's home directory to CD-R. Then Buttercup will get a drive transplant and a reinstall of Mandrake 9.1. (No, I don't trust 9.2!) It is likely all this work will take longer than a day to finish. It is likely I might even blow all this needed computer maintenance off for another day. Bleah.

Anyway, one thing militating in favor of a computer maintenance's raining today. The Winter Rains have finally come to Los Angeles, about a month late. We're still looking down the barrel of a drought, but the possibility of another "March Miracle" is something that can't be discounted. No fun for the folks who live on hillsides that got burnt in October, but I suppose it's ok for the rest of us. I just checked, and nope, I'm not made of sugar. And I don't rust.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

The car trouble turned out to be a relatively minor thing: the right rear tire flapped itself apart at city street speed yesterday. Not only is this a lucky break vs. front end work or tranny work, but it was a lucky break that the tire didn't self destruct at 65 MPH on the freeway. I mean, my hubby was in the car, and I wouldn't want anything catastrophic to happen to him. ^_^;;

Too bad the nearest tire store is Firestone. ^_^;;;

From the YEEEEEEAAAAAARRRGGGHHHHH!!! department...

Well, Dean's out of the race. As Craig Kilborn used to ask on the Daily Show (when it was good) "What have we learned today?"

1.) The current US news media has pretty much finished slouching towards the direction of tabloid/Fox News Channel yellow journalism, and has shown signs of this all the way back to the 1970s. It's accelerated thanks to the concentration of the US media in the hands of an increasingly smaller and smaller number of companies. Issues? What's that? Oh, Janet Jackson flashed RAW TIT AT SUPERBOWL HALFTIME! Hey, that's news...SHOCK! HORROR! FILTH! BARE BREAST!

2.) A candidate needs to be 1000% on their guard while campaigning. Either they have to be beyond reproach and have a perfectly bland, "sanitized for your protection" personality, or they have to be George W. Bush or have his connections.

3.) When all is said and done, in a race between a quirky guy with ideas and a bland, safe guy who is telegenic but has all the ideas of a Rorschach blot, the bland, safe guy will win every time.

This all said, I wish nothing but the best of luck to Kerry/Edwards or Edwards/Kerry. America is in dire need of REGIME CHANGE, and anyone, repeat, ANYONE but Bush will do.

Monday, February 16, 2004

I have come to the realization recently that my politics have shifted. No more describing myself as a "small-l" libertarian or anything like that. I could probably still cop to being a "Jeffersonian" but the fact of the matter is, if I truly want to be honest, I need to come out of the closet and say that I'm a liberal. That's right. I'm a liberal and now officially on Ann Coulter's shit list as a traitor and a terrorist.

The conservatives have given liberals a bad name, when in reality they are making an even worse mess of the economy than any liberal has done in the past. A guaranteed conservative snarl word concept is the "Tax and Spend Liberal Politician." Guess what? The US now has a Spend and Spend Conservative Politician in the White House who doesn't give a shit where the money comes from just so long as taxes aren't raised. At least the Tax and Spend Liberals have the good sense to understand that spending needs to be backed up with revenues of some sort. The Bushistas won't tax to do this, they'll just happily run up the National Debt and let the next generation pay.

The fact of the matter is this: the services we desire, like a strong standing armed forces, a functional and fair law enforcement and judiciary, emergency services like firefighters and paramedics, roads that aren't littered with potholes and which don't collapse during earthquakes, and public education from before Kindergarten up to State University level, require money to run. Robert Heinlein's maxim applies here: There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Bleed away revenues by lowering taxes without finding other means to fund these everyday needs, and you have to cut. Deeply. Into the muscle and the bone. Since Proposition 13 was passed in the late 1970s, most public goods have had all the fat starved out of them.

Most people who think we are "overtaxed" and clamor for more and more "tax relief" are the same people who will bitch that the public schools they send their children to are filthy cesspools that don't teach, who bitch about deteriorating roads, and bitch about the slow response times of police and fire personnel. Well folks, who's going to provide the money to clean up public schools, fix your damn roads, and hire more police and firefighters? Not you, you want less taxation. Fine. You've made your bed, lie in it.

Taxes are the price that we citizens pay for civilization. The less tax we pay, the less "civilized" our society becomes. Taxes need to be distributed fairly, with income dictating how much our share of the load is. Right now the tax code has been gamed so much by the wealthy and the politicians they buy so that the tax burden is most strongly felt by the middle classes. And every time conservatives suggest tax reform, every reform taken has been most strongly beneficial not to the middle classes that it is pitched to but to the wealthy.

America is not the most highly taxed nation on Earth. Most European and Scandinavian countries tax their citizens far more than we do, and have way better public services to show for it than we do. It's time to get real, realize that public services cost money, and figure out ways to pay for them in a fairer and more equitable way than we do now.

Friday, February 13, 2004

A suggestion to all who are reading this blog: come March 2nd, go to your nearest DVD shop and buy yourself a copy of Cat Girl Nuku Nuku TV Volume 1 from ADV Films. This is the most bust-a-gut funny anime series made...that is, before FLCL and Excel Saga, of course. The series kind of sags a little in the middle, but the first two episodes are classics and there are some real kickass ones later in the series. Do yourself a favor and also pick up the entire OAV series too, it's fun stuff. Avoid Nuku Nuku's lame.

Meow! =^_^=

Monday, February 09, 2004

OK, good news on several fronts. I had given my teacher a self-addressed, stamped envelope to send my grade back on the last day of Child Development 1. Very delighted to get an "A" back. So far, the scoreboard is: 4 "A"s, one Incomplete. Next, I got to sell one of my books from Fall and Winter today. I still have a few more to sell, but one down anyway. My first class went's a Phys Ed class. I was impressed by the fact that the LAVC Fitness Center is pretty well equipped. Since they haven't upped the per-credit fee from $18 to $24 yet, it's a bargain too. Try going to 24 hr Fitness and getting them to sell you a package where you pay only $18 for 3 months of workouts. Finally, my first day of my new work at LAVC was hectic, but I felt like I was respected. And the way my schedule works out, I'm out of there after a few hours so it's not like I have to do a whole 8 hours at a stretch.

All in all not a bad day.

Tomorrow I have to be there at 8am. At 9:40 I have a class, so I only work 1 1/2 hours, then I have classes. There's another class at 11:20. Unlike Fall Semester, I have a fair distance to walk between these two classes. Then I leave for a bit, and come back at 3 or so to see if I can sell another book. Then I have a 5pm call back at the office.

One fly in the ointment: I feel like I'm catching a head cold. Well, 'tis the season, right? I've already had a flu, but that doesn't protect you at all from this year's strain of Rhinovirus 39. w00t. Although...doesn't that little virus dude look so goddamn kawaii???

Lastly, speaking of Kawaii, Donald Burr has finally put up his pix of the Land of Kawaii and Sugoi, making the blog that he and Pam Gross made of their trip to Anime Expo Japan complete. I linked here once before but took the link down because the server crashed soon afterwards. Superstitious that perhaps maybe there had been a cause-and-effect relationship between the crash and my linking, I kept the link off my page until he gave me the high-sign to repost it.

Here's the link:

Hit it's only on a DSL line, ok?

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Tomorrow marks the first day of Spring 2004 Semester. I only have one class to go to -- a PE class, believe it or not -- but I will have to be there to try to sell some of my Fall 2003 books.

Have I mentioned that I hate the LAVC Bookstore? Have I mentioned that they are a 1st class rip-off?

Since I went online instead of buying from the bookstore, I can't sell my books to them. However, since I got my books a lot cheaper than what it would have cost to even buy used from the bookstore, I can undercut their price. I'll be able to defray the costs of buying my books for Spring if I sell the books for the price I want.

Apparently I am not alone in my frustrations with the high cost of textbooks. The Washington State Public Research Group (WashPIRG) did a study on the costs of textbooks, and it was quite frightening indeed. At the University of Washington, the average student tab for textbooks is $898 for the 2003-2004 school year. One way to take a bite out of this heavy tab is to go online, but as I mentioned it's harder to resell the books once the semester is over. If you decide that perhaps you might want to keep a textbook or two the hassle factor is no longer an issue.

I did most of my textbook shopping at Amazon. I know they're not especially PC, especially among geeks, but they have one advantage most of the other places don't, which is the ability to set up a publically searchable wish list. The wish list makes it very easy for people to order books for you, and since my family has such a case of the warm fuzzies about my being back at school, they've been lending a hand here and there. However, there are some great alternatives out there too.

Oh change the subject, this furor over Janet Jackson's breast has gone way too far. I think there is a strong undercurrent of misogyny and racism to the fact that Janet's catching all the hell for this incident and Justin Timberlake is not getting any of the blame. It takes two to tango here, Justin was a willing accomplice if not equally to blame here, so why the hell is he performing on the Grammys tonight and Janet was disinvited? NARAS can kiss my ass. I'm sure there will be another lengthy speech by someone or another about the evils of filesharing. I'll skip it, thank you very much. :P

Saturday, February 07, 2004

This link is actually quite thought-provoking, and would you believe I found it in an offtopic, vaguely trollish post on Slashdot:

Gay Penguins in New York City

Please, no "Lunix is teh gay" jokes.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Well, I tendered my resignation at the opinion research company.

One interesting thing was that they had me fill out an "exit interview" which basically was them asking my opinion of what it was like to work for them. I suppose I should have expected it. It is their business, after all. ^_^ I got to vent about a few annoyances...unrealistic production quotas, for one thing; the requirement to get approval from a floor manager for killing the phone number of someone who just told you, in very coarse language, where you should go with your survey and what you should do with it when you get there, for another.

Anyway, all's well that ends well. A few people were actually sorry to see me go, amazingly enough. I feel like a weight is off my shoulders.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Friday marks the end of Winter Intersession at Valley College. Today was the last meeting of Child Development 1, which was the one and only course I took. One course during Winter Intersession is enough...5 weeks for a 3 unit course is a real mosh-pit pace, even for a topic like Child Development.

Next week marks the beginning of Spring Semester. I have my books, I even got my first of two Pell Grant payments for the semester. I'm pretty sure the lowest grade I will get in CD1 is B and it will likely work out to an A. I've got a good pace going. The math thing is something I will have to get a handle on, and soon. If I keep up with these good grades on everything else I think I will be able to balance things out on the math side.

Have I burnt out yet? Nah. Ask me in a year or two and I might give you a different answer. But so far so good.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

I haven't posted here for a few days because up until today this was vapor.

You know how much I have been pissing and moaning about my stupid opinion research job? Well tomorrow I can tell them to go get stuffed. I start with a work-study gig at LAVC on Monday. I can live with the hours, it's a pay cut from the pittance I got from the stupid opinion research job, but it's going to be a lot easier to take than getting yelled at by people when you are just trying to ask them a few questions.

Some observations from my year as a data collector:
Most impolite people: people from Arizona, Georgia and the Bay Area of Northern California
Most polite people: people from Texas, people from Sioux City, Iowa, and (surprise!)
people from New York and New Jersey...if you can convince them you're from there. Luckily from 17 years of living with a native of Plainfield, NJ, I can do a convincing North Jersey accent.
Most people will participate in a 5-minute survey, particularly if it's one having to do with politics.
You start losing people after the 6th minute.
You start having people hang up on you in mid-survey at the 15-minute mark.

There were a few interesting things about doing surveys. You get to take a peek inside a person's cranium for a few minutes. Sometimes you actually meet some nice people. You sometimes wind up caring for some of the people. There's a lonely old lady in Orange County I think about a lot...if I was the praying kind, I'd remember her in my nightly prayers. I hope one day her children will realize that their mom is a special woman who just needs some attention and love and respect. She's not asking for much. I can't mention her name, alas. I wish her the best.

This won't be a stress free job, by any means. Next week, when I start, is the beginning of the Spring 2004 semester. There's going to be a lot of people with screwed up schedules and people who can't get classes who have to get advice about what to do next. But at least they will be coming to me for help rather than having to deal with me invading their privacy on the phone.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

I held out...up until the final seconds. I was on IRC and someone said "hey, this game is actually getting good." Yeah, yeah...right. Until it looked like, for the first time in Stupid Bowl history, we might have had a sudden death overtime. That's when I clicked the tube on.

It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg that the Patriots beat the Panthers. It would have been the same to me had the Panthers won. The remarkable thing is, however, that this actually was close and fought to the bitter end.

Oh yeah...the Playstation II "Game Before The Game" predicted the Panthers. This makes their record 8-1. First time for everything, right?

I'm currently trying to avoid the Stupid Bowl. God I hate sports.

Anyway, Richie played a gig in Palm Desert yesterday. I think I have seen the future of America and it's there. Imagine a town almost completely comprised of people over 65. Several Indigenous American tribes have land near there so the town is ringed around with "Indian Casinos." We were inside one of them...Richie, a married couple who are friends of ours, and I were perhaps the youngest people inside there who weren't working there in some capacity. At every one of the slot machines, you saw a "seasoned citizen" shoving in bills and pulling the lever or pushing the buttons. In a way, it was even weirder than Vegas. In Vegas, you have this frantic vibe there and you get this massive sensory overload effect. At Casino Agua Caliente you get the massive sensory overload effect when you walk into the room, that's inescapable with a room full of noisy and brightly flashing slot machines. Hell, you get that same effect walking into a video arcade. But the vibe is about as frantic as the one at a Wayne Newton concert.

It seemed like every single person in Palm Desert who wasn't over 65 was at the show. Saccharine Trust headlined, with Yawning Man, Ornament and Lower Lip. The venue was a bar and it was packed. ST has a big following because it was one of the original SST Records bands. This really doesn't make much difference with local gigs because so many LA area bands came out of SST and the label signed just about everyone and their brother between 1985-1988, but just get out of town for a while and you will see that there is instant interest in a band if their lineage goes back to SST.

Unfortunately we ended up with car's either alignment problems or something more sinister. I'm hoping it's fixable. If not, all the money I was going to put into paying down our credit cards will instead go into another vehicle. Dammit!