During this morning's run, I was thinking how nice it was that I never get rude catcalls or honks when I'm out running. I've been jogging my neighborhood roads for over a year, and I've never heard a rude or unwelcome word.
Not 5 minutes later, I was jogging on a side street when I heard a vehicle approaching from behind me. I continued my slow jog as usual. As I heard the engine slowly get closer, I glanced to my right. The window of a giant pickup truck rolls down and a white middle aged man says "you are a beautiful woman."
"Thanks," I said, startled, but giving my instinctual response to a compliment. I glanced again at him and then up the cross street I had just passed. I turned up that street and the truck proceeded in its direction. At no point did I stop during this exchange.
I didn't feel particularly threatened (I rarely do; perhaps I am naïve), but I still feel uncomfortable with the incident. I was merely jogging along in my usual gear- t-shirt, running capris, shoes, headband and headphones. I was sweaty. I was not striving for "beautiful."
My " beautiful woman" outfit. You know you want one.
I usually like a compliment, but this has me thinking about the kinds of compliments we give and get and how socially acceptable they are. Acceptability varies based on the context and the content of the compliment.
When we put effort into our appearance in social situations, compliments are fine. While we also put in effort in professional settings, personal compliments are less acceptable, because of varying power relationships. It's safer to avoid them altogether. (To be clear, I'm talking about comments on personal appearance. Complimenting a person's work is obviously fine.)
Personal compliments vary, though. Specifically, comments about weight loss are very different than comments about clothes or haircuts.
Now, I've always wanted to be a thinner version of myself. In the last few years, I've lost enough weight for it to be noticeable. I've always been happy to receive the "have you lost weight? you look great!" comment. Do I inherently, objectively look "better" now than I did 30 pounds ago? No. I look thinner, and in our society, thinner = better.
I'm more aware that when I enjoy that compliment, I'm buying into all the rubbish that our society tells us about how women should look. Striving for that compliment hasn't been my main reason for working out, but it's been a factor. This is yet another example of how we can be critical of a system in which we also participate.
"Meagan, you're the last person I would think of as a runner."***I am the last person who would think myself as a runner. ***I am freshly showered after my Sunday morning run. I did 3.5 miles this morning, which is just where I need to be in my training plan for the 10k I want to run in March. That's 6.2 miles, folks, and I plan to run all of them. One year ago, I started the couch to 5k training plan.
I've run several 5ks and an 8k in the last year. I just started a training for the 10k-- that will happen almost a year after my first 5k.***
I do not look like "a runner." I am not lean. I am tall and-- I don't know-- curvier than average for my height. I don't think of myself as "fat," but I love pizza, cheesecake, pasta, and wine, and my body shows that.
I've never been very athletic. I was in marching band in high school, if that counts. (It should count-- for something. It's not as hard as, say, cross country, but all of that practicing and marching in the heat and humidity of Ohio in the late summer is not easy.) I understand the rules of most sports, and I do have fun playing on teams, but I'm not what you would call "coordinated," and therefore I am not what you would call "good."
So when I was talking to my uncle over the holidays, and he remarked on how impressed and surprised he was that I had taken up running, I was right there with him.
I am stronger and a bit thinner than I was a year ago, but I don't look markedly different than I did at the beginning of last year.
Becoming a runner is teaching me patience. As I began running, and particularly at the end of my first race, I felt the endorphin euphoria for which running is famous. I wanted more. I've kept up a 3-day-a-week running schedule for most of the year (with a break in the summer because 1- I had some health issues; and 2- summer in Oklahoma is pure misery, so outdoor running is out of the question).
- I want to get faster. (I have gotten a little faster, but not much.)
- I want to run farther.
- I want the running to come easier-- my lungs still can't always keep up.
- I want to be thinner as a result of faster, farther, easier.
When I get discouraged, I have learned to recognize it and to tell myself to just enjoy each run and remember that the benefits are long-term. That reminder usually derails my discouragement long enough that my brain wanders off in another direction.
I've been lucky to get a lot of encouragement and great advice from friends who've been at this longer than I have. Even though running is a solo endeavor, I really value the community aspects-- even if that community exists mostly on facebook.
I used to think of runners as admirable but crazy. I would drive past runners and think that there was probably something wrong with them to enjoy something I found so tortuous. Were they sadists? Or just stupid?
I sometimes wonder if anyone who drives past me thinks I'm crazy for running. More likely, they think I look a little ridiculous.
I've decided I don't care.
I BOUGHT A SURFACE!
(I'm using it right now.)
I've seriously considered buying a tablet for at least 9 months. Back in the spring, I did a lot of research on the options. I gave the iPad a serious look-- they're so elegant, after all, but I've never been convinced that the premium you pay for an Apple device actually provides any superior functionality.
Back then, I took a little plunge and actually owned a Sony tablet for 4 days. I had no complaints about the device, but I just didn't find it useful. And when I say useful, I mean it's got to be practical. Everyone knows that tablets are toys. They're great for Internet use, games, and media consumption. But the tablet didn't do anything that I couldn't already do with my Android phone or my PC. $400 is a lot of money to spend on a shiny, redundant device, so I returned the Sony tablet.
In the meantime, I kept an eye on tech news-- surely someday my practical tablet would come at a price I was willing to pay.
Three weeks ago, the Microsoft Surface went on sale. I read several reviews of the Surface, which runs a slimmed down version of Windows 8. Two weeks ago, I went to the kiosk located in the nearby mall and, after about 30 minutes of questions and demonstrations from a very friendly and knowledgeable (and not-at-all hipsterish like they are at the Apple store) associates, I bought one. I knew I had 15 days to return it, no questions asked.
What makes this tablet useful?
1. Office. Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and OneNote come preloaded on the tablet. In order to justify this purchase to myself, I needed to be able to take this device to the coffee shop and get some work done. Other tablets just don't come with full-featured versions of these programs.
2. Keyboard cover. The 32G Surface (without cover) costs $499. The 32G Surface with the touch keyboard cover costs $599. For $619, I bought the 32G version with an upgraded keyboard-- mine has actual keys that click as I type. This video shows the difference:
3. Micro SD slot
(to easily add storage)
4. Full-size USB port
(easily connect to a printer or a projector)
(props the keyboard at an easy viewing angle-- this is essential if you're using the keyboard)
In all, the Surface nearly replaces my laptop. (Which is old, slow, and a bit grimy around the edges.) It also costs about as much as it would to buy a similarly useful laptop (they just don't come with the free Office Suite anymore). I'll keep the old laptop for home use-- for occasional major typing tasks and for burning cds, but the Surface is now my go-to play and work device. A few downsides-
If you've looked at any Surface reviews online, you'll see the biggest complaint is a lack of apps. (Here's one pretty fair review-- http://bgr.com/2012/11/19/microsoft-surface-review-month-one/
-- there are scads of others out there. Check the Google.) (No, I'm not linking "Google.") (Sorry.)
Because a lot of programs don't offer apps, you have to work directly through the browser. Internet browsing works fine, but once you start tapping on links and trying to drag and drop things on a touchscreen, you run into hiccups. Taps don't always register as clicks. As I read in one review-- I've long since forgotten which one-- the web isn't built for touch yet, which is where native apps become so important. But the current functionality, combined with the quality and the sheer niftyness of it made me decide to keep it. Final thoughts-I've already done plenty of news-reading, email-checking, and Hulu-watching on my Surface. I also spent a day working in Word-- revising and inserting comments-- without any trouble. I think this will be great for
academic conferences-- I can hook up to the projector to present, and then take plenty of notes when I'm in other sessions. Oh, and I love Windows 8. Once I got used to the interface, I found it very easy to navigate. It's elegant and efficient. This obviously isn't an exhaustive review of every feature-- you can find that here, or, like I said earlier, in the Google. If you do have any questions about my user experience, please ask!
A few weeks ago, I rented Ralph Fiennes' recent production of Shakespeare's Coriolanus
from Redbox (also starring Gerard Butler as Aufidius). I'm a sucker for Shakespeare productions and adaptations, and Ralph Fiennes is always worth watching, so I expected to enjoy it. The reviews were very positive, but I found it inaccessible and hard to watch. The modern conceits that the director (also Fiennes) added made the wartime setting feel vivid, but it also made the actions of the plot seem extra absurd. The plot calls for interactions that simply would not happen today. This past weekend I visited friends from grad school and had the chance to quiz them on their thoughts on the film. My creative-writer-movie-buff- friend hadn't seen it, but as she
reminded me, "Gerard Butler has horrible
taste in films" (cf, The Awful Truth
, that bounty hunter movie with Jennifer Aniston, 300
, etc, ad infinitum
). She wasn't surprised that the movie was hard to watch.No worries. I figured my Early Modern/Shakespeare-scholar-friends would be able to talk about it, but neither of them had seen it either.
As we were talking generally about Shakespeare movies, I also mentioned my excitement about the upcoming Joss Whedon production of Much Ado About Nothing
. I do love Shakespeare stories more than the average person. The first reason for this is the one that everyone gets-- the enduring appeal of the stories. The big human questions played out before us, the wordplay, the bleak tragedies and the light comedies. The second reason I eat up Shakespeare productions is because they offer me the chance to see the same text interpreted over and over again. There's no other writer in the English language whose works are reproduced for the screen to the extent that Shakespeare's are (though Jane Austen must come in second-- how many Pride and Prejudices have you seen?)When you watch different productions of the same story, you obviously get a chance to consider directorial choices. This applies whether you're watching a traditional production using Shakespeare's text or an adaptation using updated language but maintaining characters and plot. The appeal of rewatching the same story over and over extends beyond an interest in the director's vision, however. Given how ubiquitous Shakespeare's work is in the English-speaking world-- these plays have been very famous for a very long time-- I suspect that each play has come to function as its own genre. A genre provides a set of common rules and expectations. Genre serves as a shorthand for the writer/director and for the reader/viewer. When a reader or viewer selects a work in a particular gen
re, he has certain expectations and assumptions about the gist of the work. A mystery novel will present a thorny crime and a persistent protagonist who eventually solves the puzzle. When I pick up a romance novel, I expect to meet two people who will overcome some obstacles and end up together at the end. When we read within a genre, we're not doing so for surprise endings-- we're looking for something else. Similarly, when I watch a version of Othello, I'm not looking to be surprised by the ending. (Or the beginning or middle, for that matter.) I'm interested in how the director and actors work within the genre of Othello to create a new entertainment experience. In particular, I like how productions embrace modern settings-- and sometimes language-- because this reaffirms the timeless appeal of many of the questions that Shakespeare considers. I find the constancy comforting.
Now, you'll have to excuse me. I'm off to watch 10 Things I Hate About You.
I spent this weekend at a THATCamp and can't say enough good things about it ("I'm a better person! Now I eat my veggies!"). What is THATCamp?It's a small group of people interested in humanities and technology and in working collaboratively to share and develop knowledge.THATCamps are not conferences-- the purpose is not to be a venue for research. Instead, the purpose is to foster the digital humanities in all the of the ways that technology relates to practice and inquiry in the humanities. The THATCamp organizers have a great explanation on their About page.
If you're at all intrigued by the idea of a THATCamp, then visit the site. (You'll probably be sold in a few minutes. THATCamp LAC 2012THATCamps are organized by motivated folks around
various topics or geographic locations. This one focused on liberal arts colleges. Most of the attendees were from small institutions. Our sessions and conversations reflected the nature of our work-- teaching is important, we are often dabblers in many areas than specializers in one.
The LAC conference attendees came from many different backgrounds-- here's an incomplete list:Professors of: Latin, graphic design, composition/rhetoric, American lit, British lit, American studies, communications, computer science, history. Writing center directors. Librarians. Archivists. Student affairs/residential life staff. Instructional technology staff. PR & media staff. Deans.SessionsThere were four preplanned workshops (I went to one on Social Media in the Classroom led by Quinn Warnick (@warnick)
and Drew Loewe (@drewloewe
)), but the majority of the concurrent sessions were not planned ahead of time. Campers proposed ideas ahead of time and then we all met on the first morning to have a conversation about what sessions people wanted. It was controlled chaos managed by Ryan Hoover (@RhetorRyan
). I proposed a session about ethics (see here)-- I wanted to talk about access (can we presume all students have access to particular tools?) and privacy (what issues related to data gathering and advertising come up when we make students create accounts to use online services?). Eight people showed up for that session-- we created a list of concerns and recommendations related to these issues (our Google Doc is here: http://bit.ly/NsOFRT
). I also participated in sessions on online writing labs, flipped classrooms
, and nuts and bolts of digital humanities
. (Most of the sessions created open Google Docs-- see THATCampLAC2012 folder
.) I left these sessions with plenty of ideas and questions to ask as I continue to integrate DH into my classes. More THATCamp?Yes, please!
The people are friendly. Learning about the digital humanities is exciting-- I'm particularly interested in the pedagogical possibilities for my future classes. The list of upcoming camps is very long
-- some are organized by topic, others by location. I'm interested in this one happening next March: THATCamp Feminisms.
I just made this up tonight.
I am not exaggerating when I say this is one of the best things I have ever made. It's so good and so easy (as long as you're comfy making risotto) that I needed to share this joy with you.
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 generous pinch of saffron threads (run them over with the knife a few times to break them up)
32 oz low sodium chicken broth
2 packages of mushrooms (I used white and baby portobello. I forgot to look at the weights on the packages, but they're the standard size packages for mushrooms-- maybe 4" x 6" x 3"? It doesn't really matter-- use whatever kinds you like, and however many you like.)
3/4 tsp kosher salt
lemon juice-- from 1/2 of a lemon
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Heat the chicken stock over medium heat in a small saucepan. (Bring it to a simmer and keep it there.)
2. Once the stock has a little warmth to it, spoon 1/2 cup or so into a custard cup and stir in the saffron. Set aside. This will help develop the saffron flavor.
3. In a large pot (I used my Dutch oven), heat oil over medium. Add garlic and onions. Cook 4 minutes, til onions are soft.
4. Add rice. Cook for 1 minute.
5. Add white wine. Cook for 1 minute.
6. Add one cup of stock and the saffron-infused stock.
Here's where you begin the usual risotto drill. Stir very often. Pay attention as the rice absorbs the liquid. Drag a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan. If the rice takes a few seconds to refill that valley, it's time to add another 1/2 cup of stock. It usually takes 3-5 minutes for this to happen. Repeat several times. After 15 minutes, taste the rice to test the texture. If it's crunchy, keep adding liquid and cooking. Test every 3 minutes. If it's soft, it's done.
7. Add the mushrooms. Stir. Cook 2 minutes.
8. Add the lemon juice. (This is what makes the magic. It's soooooo good!) Stir.
8. Add the butter, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Stir.
10. Get seconds. Go ahead. It's totally fine.
Yield: 4 good-sized dinner portions.
It's been a week since I returned from my solo trip to Isla Mujeres, Mexico
. This is the second vacation I've taken on my own to a place I've never been before.
I've encountered enough people who were surprised or mystified by my choice to travel alone that I thought it was worthwhile to share my experience and offer advice to others who want to travel alone but aren't sure how to do so. In this post, I’ll talk about picking a destination. Where should I go?
If this is the first solo trip you're planning, then pick the place you've always wanted to go-- your dream destination. You’ve waited this long to go; now that you’ve made the decision, do exactly what you want to do. My dream trip was Barcelona. I've wanted to travel there for years. During grad school, I had no money for travel. Shortly after grad school, I had an income, but I never had a significant other or friend who was in a position to travel with me. I finally got tired of waiting-- who says we must travel in pairs?-- and started researching Barcelona. (More on researching later.) Where have you always wanted to go? How does my destination affect what I’ll do on vacation?
(Am I sure I want to spend a week, 10 days, etc., doing what’s done where I’m going?)Going to an old European city?
During last year’s 10-day trip to Barcelona, I spent most of my time taking in art and architecture. The point was exploration. I spent a lot of time walking the city (I always prefer to walk).
Barcelona is a big city and there’s easy rail access to daytrip destinations so I knew I’d have plenty to keep me busy. In addition to spending several days in the city, I took day trips to Figures (to the Dali museum) and Montserrat (a monastery in the mountains). None of those required advanced planning, but I did know before I left the US that I had plenty of options.
Going to a beach?
Isla Mujeres is a 4.5 mile-long island off the coast of Cancun. It’s a quiet alternative to the grandiose all-inclusive resorts of Cancun. The island is a small Mexican village full of restaurants, homes, small hotels, and shops. There is precisely one Mayan ruin. The point of this vacation was relaxation. I packed more books that I could possibly read in 7 days.
In Barcelona I was busy; in Isla Mujeres I was lazy. One thing you have to consider when traveling on your own is how easily you get bored and how adventurous you are in finding things to occupy your time. I was never bored in Barcelona-- I always had options.
After two days in Isla Mujeres, however, I was not *quite* bored, but I was worried about getting bored. Seven days is a lot of time to spend reading and walking along the beach by yourself. On my third day, I happened to meet two women who were on vacation from NYC. We did a few things together over their last two days in Isla Mujeres. Nothing that eventful, but it was nice to make some new friends and spend some time in conversation instead of in a book. By the time they left, I had two more days on my own. I was content to spend that time on my own again. Were I to plan another solo beach vacation, I would probably opt for a shorter trip-- 7 days was a little too long.
Another way to think about this is to ask yourself if you like to be alone. Or, how do you like to be alone? Anyone is capable of traveling alone, but whether or not you’ll enjoy it depends on how you approach the prospect of spending a lot of time without your regular friends and contacts, and perhaps around a lot of people who don’t even speak your language. If you’re all-out gregarious and confident, then you’ll have no trouble. I’m more of a timid extrovert-- I am very curious about people and the world, but I’m also guarded and cautious. I don’t let this tendency stop me from seeking new experiences, but it does mean that in order to feel confident, I like to know as much as I can about a new experience ahead of time. Doing so gives me enough footing to withstand my wariness.
(In other words, you don’t have to be Rick Steves or Rudy Maxa or that Lonely Planet guy who eats fire with locals in Papua New Guinean hostels in order to have an amazing travel experience.)
If you absolutely know you’d be miserable on your own, then you probably shouldn’t take a trip by yourself. If you’re wary about it but want to try it anyway, then this advice is for you. Researching your destinationBefore you book your trip
Perhaps the biggest factor in committing to your dream trip is the cost-- Can I afford this trip?
You don’t need to do detailed research at this point. Instead, you need a rough idea of your two biggest expenses: airfare and lodging. When researching flights, I like hipmunk
-- they search all the major carriers (but not airlines like Southwest) and you can open several windows if you want to do a few different searches (put in different travel dates, look into different airports). The flight options are presented in a reader-friendly infographic that quickly shows you prices, flight times, and flight durations.
When researching hotels, tripadvisor
is fantastic. (It’s also great for restaurants and local attractions.) You can search for a list of hotels in your destination-- you can view the list in order of aggregate user ranking or by price. You can select for key descriptors (eg. “trendy”, “romantic”, “on the beach”). Each hotel page provides contact information and links to several major booking websites (eg. Orbitz, Expedia). Once you’re on this page, look at the user ratings, comments and photographs.
Read enough reviews to learn about the main things visitors have liked and disliked. I don’t pay much attention to really angry reviews-- people who are really angry are more interested in airing their grief than offering useful property information. Forums
feature isn’t evident unless you stumble upon it-- in fact, I can’t even give you instructions on a trail of links to follow to get there. What I can do is tell you that if there’s something specific you’re wondering about where you’re going to stay, type it in the search box. I searched “solo traveler Isla Mujeres” and found several links in the forums. As a solo female traveler, I like to make sure that I’ll feel reasonably safe, and reading through these discussions left me with confidence about the hotel I ended up choosing. Booking & preparing for your trip
Once I knew the airfare and what I would need to pay for the kind of hotel I wanted, I was able to decide on the trip. In both cases, I booked the flight first. (Don’t put off booking your flight-- prices usually increase as the travel date gets closer.) Then I booked my accommodations.
Once I had booked these two components, I had plenty of time to read through all the tripadvisor forums on my destination. From the forums, I learned about the MapChick
maps/guides. Her maps are gorgeous and contained more information than I could use on attractions, restaurants, and transportation options. I would never have found these maps without the forums.
I also read some recommendations about yoga classes on the island-- it hadn’t even occurred to me to look into yoga on vacation, but the forum contributors suggested a few different instructors. I googled one that was close to my hotel, found her website (Meg DeClerck
), and her schedule of classes while I was there. Both of my solo vacations have been wonderful because I've been able to use these tools to create an experience that was new but not disorientingly unfamiliar.
I hope some of this information will help you plan your next trip. If you have questions, feel free to ask!
Last night was the keynote address for USAO's annual Giles Symposium
. The speaker was Ayaan Hirsi Ali,
who speaks about Islam, politics, and human rights. Her address last night was fascinating and provocative. She takes a hard line against Islam, arguing that it has not adapted to modernity in the ways that Judaism and Christianity have. This lack of adaptation manifests itself in Islamic government regimes that are oppressive. Hirsi Ali advocates international support for secular groups within Islamic countries, with the goal of a separation of church and state. Because Hirsi Ali grew up within Islam and now speaks out against it, she is labeled an "infidel." There's a death threat out on her-- she travels with her own security, and there was a police presence at the event last night. As a member of the committee that organizes this event, I had a job last night. During Q&A, I was in charge of standing by the stationary mic-- limit one question per person, cut things off when we ran out of time. There were several people still in line when Hirsi Ali said she'd take one more question. I turned back to make sure that everyone was headed back to their seats. One man didn't.
He was hefty, middle-aged, and a little agitated. "Sir, I'm sorry. She's not taking any more questions."He looked straight at me, shrugged, and stayed in place. "Sir, there's no more time for questions.""But I have something to say that everyone needs to hear." I wasn't having it. "This isn't your forum, sir.""But did you hear her?! Talking about what we should be funding? Do you think that's ok? I'm not gonna do anything-- people know me-- firefighters..."
At this point, a campus security officer and a state highway patrolman eased their way up and escorted the angry man out of the auditorium. I turned back to watch Hirsi Ali finish answering the final question. My heart was pounding. I kept thinking about that confrontation on the way home. He was a big man, trying to use his size and the force of his anger to intimidate me.
I'm not a physically small woman, but this man was bigger and very likely stronger than me. I didn't consciously see any direct threat to my safety, but such confrontation is not common for me. I do just about everything I can in my life to circumvent, preempt, and otherwise avoid confrontations. I couldn't avoid that one, and I felt uncomfortable. But I remained firm, and ultimately he wasn't successful. One of the pitfalls (there are many) of being a very reflective and self-aware person is that I spend a lot of time replaying events in my head-- I analyze them. Why do other do as they do? Why did I act as I did? Why didn't I cower during that confrontation? I can think of two things: First, long before I was comfortable calling myself a feminist, I was one. Both my mother and father instilled in me-- through actions and words, that women are not inferior to men. I was never taught that I must obey a man because I am a woman.
I am not intimidated by a man just because he is a man. Second, I think I was inspired by Hirsi Ali. There she was on our stage in tiny Chickasha, Oklahoma. Sure, she had security and there were 6-8 other police officers around. But she's 8 months pregnant, has a standing death threat out on her, and she still travels and talks about issues that are important to her.
A person only takes that risk if she's strong. I admire strong women.
Interested in open source composition texts? I wrote a review
of Writing Spaces (volume 1)