Sunday, July 30, 2006

Back to Academia

When I started this blog, I figured that I would mostly use it to talk about my graduate school experience. Luckily, I have recently gotten much more interested in fun topics like sci-fi, gaming, and fabulous new internet developments, but just for a moment I need to return to whining about grad school.

Often graduate school feels isolating in that there are few other students in my program that have similar research interests. Also, our grad program really has no home department. As a result students from our program mix with students from other programs in classes. I often have more in common with students from a couple of other departments than I do with my own cohort.

As a result, students end up search the entire catalog for appropriate courses and even then some of the most interesting courses are usually unlisted special offerings. So word of mouth is important in deciding what courses to take. The department I TA for usually only offers one or two grad level classes each year and they rotate, so if you miss a class you might not get a chance to take it again.

Unfortunately, I seem to be on the bad side of the department chair. (After talking to several other students I'm not sure she has a good side right now.) So I'm faced with a really uncertain future as a TA in the department. I could search for positions in other departments but I really love teaching those classes and I like TAing for the same classes again and again because I can improve the class. I'm not sure whether or not I should attempt to kiss butt or just avoid as much as possible dealing with the chair.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

SF Carnival

The second Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans has arrived via Pretty, Fizzy Paradise. I like the way she set it up in sections: books/writing, comic books, television and movies, and video games. I love the post from New Game Plus on voice altering software for online gaming. There are also a couple of posts on the new Battlestar Galactica series. It's amazing that the folks behind the new Battlestar has managed not only to get past the campy first series, but also to create a series which gets the viewer thinking about humanity, morality, and the implications of new technologies. If you haven't seen the new Battlestar, take a look that the themes being tackled in these posts: reproductive politics, gender and equality, and racism. I was especially fascinated by Lance's post on the racist casting since I thought the racial mix on Battlestar was pretty good. I'm not sure I completely agree with him, but it did get me thinking. Although there is quite a mix of people of different races on the show, Apollo and Starbuck, the "leads"/heroes, are both white. He is right that there is no representation for black men in the shows characters. Is it important for there to be representation for all combinations of race and gender in every show? I'm not sure, but it did get me thinking...If you started switching around the gender and race of the characters in that show what would happen? For example, they switched Starbuck's gender, making her a woman, how PC would that character be if they had chosen to cast a black woman in that role? Or what if they had switched Apollo to be a black man and Starbuck was played by a white woman? Could the writers still have explored the shape and form gender equality with characters of different races? Could you have a scene in which a man of one race hits a woman of another race and doesn't apologize? How about the character of Sharon, what would be the implications if she was played by a woman of a different race? What does it say about the writing that she is an Asian woman? Does that casting play on the audience's stereotypes of vulnerability and compliance?


Friday, July 14, 2006

Friday Art Blogging

Last night, after my interview I spent 2 1/2 hours waiting at the Amtrak station. I have been trying to teach myself how to draw, so I thought I would share my results...hopefully no one recognizes the location. It's just funny what you end up drawing when you are really bored.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Headline: Garden Saves Woman from Meaningless Life as Artist

Today I had a job interview in "the city." The woman I talked to runs a gardening program at a local school. Now she has grant money to start a job training program for the local adults. She wants to train the adults by teaching them to garden (i.e. having them clean up her school garden). So I'm sitting there in the garden, trying to answer her interview questions, thinking, did these people ask for a job training program? What kind of jobs do these people have now? Do they want jobs mowing lawns? Who is helping who here? Is this woman really helping the kids at the school? Or is it that the kids are healing her from a judgment-filled life in the world of fine art?

I worked for several years on education programs that were funded through grants. Unfortunately, it's often impossible to fulfill the objectives of these grants because most non-profits can't afford to thoroughly think through the program before they write the grant. Once the grant is funded they feel obligated to follow through and do the things they said they would, no matter what the real results for the community.

So I'm talking to this woman and I realize, she's just promised "the city" a job training program and she has no idea how to create a job training program, so she needs to hire someone to create one for her. The only problem...She has most likely vastly underestimated the amount of time and money it takes to create a job training program. Anyone she hires will be paid poorly for a part-time position while being faced with enough work for a full-time position and still not have the time or resources she needs to be successful.

This is why I need to write anonymously, I can't stop critiquing.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Sorry for the silence, but I have been wrapped up with RL lately, so my blogging has suffered. This will be a brief, but fun post. I have been thinking about why people choose to play the characters that they play in virtual worlds. It seems to me that the avatar you choose says a lot about you and in particular your fantasies and desires. In the same way that people project negative aspects of their own personalities onto others, often, gamers project positive qualities that they desire onto their game avatars.

Given that introduction, I thought I would give you all a glimpse into my subconscious. I have been gaming, in some form or another for quite a number of years. Invariably, I choose to play female characters who are physically large and strong. My characters also like to do things with their hands, fighting hand-to-hand or maybe having skills in building things. They usually have engineering or science expertise. Here are pictures of my two favorite avatars on WOW for your analysis.


Friday, July 07, 2006

To game or not to game...

Since I'm mostly unemployed for the moment, I have been spending way too much time exploring the web, but in the process I have discovered some interesting things. After seeing this interview on we make money not art I downloaded The Endless Forest. So now every time I walk away from my computer an imaginary deer appears, sleeping in an imaginary forest. Part game, part screen saver, part art, The Endless Forest is both fascinating and sleep inducing.

In some ways, The Endless Forest reminds me of Myst. The graphics are beautiful, the landscape is peaceful and mysterious. But unlike Myst, there is no goal involved, not mystery to unravel. The forest is for exploring and you may meet other deer and interact with them. The main interaction seems to be transforming your own appearance or those of other deer. One day I returned to my computer to find myself transformed into a white dove, another a frog. So far I haven't spent any time reading help files or interacting with the discussion forums, prefering to explore the forest intuitively.

On the down side, the music that started up every time I walked away from my computer was slightly annoying (I'm not a big fan of audio on websites either), but I just turned the music setting to the off position and solved that problem. I'm also not clear on how well the program is interacting with other programs. My virus scan seemed to lock up in conflict with the game. I also haven't quite figured out the interface. Maybe it's just too much WOW, but I can turn the deer around and walk forward and backward, but I can seem to look around or change directions.

Mostly, I'm just jealous, that frick'n deer gets to sleep in the dappled sunlight all day while I work!


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Breaking Through the Digital Divide?

A recent article in Wired highlights some homeless people who, despite their homelessness, keep in touch with the wider world via the internet. Wired News: Laptops Give Hope to the Homeless Considering the large amount of hype about the digital divide, I wonder how many homeless people regularly use the internet. Unfortunately, its difficult to know, beyond anecdotal evidence from homeless people and their advocates, since it's difficult to get an accurate count of how many people are homeless, let alone what they are doing with their time. Here's a link to Kevin Barbieux's blog, The Homeless Guy. I agree with him, Tom Waits is fabulous. If you have never heard any Tom Waits music, check out the ANTI-Artist site. Great music for when you are feeling melancholy.

Another group breaking through is the San Fernando Education Technology Team (SFETT). Their website contains loads of great videos created by local high school students. They also conduct a film festival for the community every year. Fabulous! (I stole the photo off their site to tempt you. Go check out some movies!)


Hoody Hoo!

The First Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans is up on Written World! I'm very excited that my post on Joss's speech and online gaming was included. I haven't had a chance to read all the posts yet but I'm excited by the variety of topics and voices included. There are several interesting posts by men on gender in comics and the gender politics of reading comics. It's so refreshing to hear that Joss is not the only guy that has been thinking about these issues. I have been a gamer since I was a kid, but only began reading comics after my husband (then boyfriend) introduced me to them. I'm still not much of a connoisseur, but I do have a few favorites. Beorn was very clever, and introduced me to Strangers in Paradise first. I have never been able to get interested in mainstream, superhero genre comics. Beorn and I once tried to play Champions, but I thought it was horribly boring. My favorite superhero is The Tick. Just to reveal the true depths of my geekiness, I sometimes read a comic about gaming, KODT.

On the dark side, my internet connection has been spotty all day and it’s not my ISP’s fault, Beorn's computer isn't having problems. Also, I seem to be developing tendonitis in my left wrist from too much time on the keyboard.

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Hot Female Crossdressers in American History

Take a look at this article on Dr. Mary Walker from Women's E News. It came to me via the FairerScience Blog. There is something so sexy about a crossdressing woman doctor/civil war hero. Crossdressing men usually don't do anything for me, maybe because I'm not a big fan of hyper-femme women, but there's something about a beautiful woman dressed in men's clothing (especially when she's a superhero).
Can anyone think of other amazing crossdressing women in history?