28 February 2006

The Bay Bridged

I wrote an entry yesterday, but of course, forgot to post it ;-) So until I retrieve my laptop from home, this mini-update will have to do. I have been super busy lately. Not only am I finally learning to be social after the workday has closed, I have also developed an addiction to spinning (group indoor biking). So working, babysitting, spinning and the "occasional" social outing has combined to make me a lazy blogger of late.

So until you get to read the forthcoming update about my split pants, you can check out this website two of my favorite people put together. My friends Ben and Christian are surveying the local music scene and putting together a weekly podcast downloadable through itunes. Check it out:


13 February 2006

Whitsett Seminar in California History

You can download the program for the conference I am speaking at by downloading the pdf file at this location: http://www.csun.edu/~jsides/whitsettseminar.pdf

I am excited to see that I am not the only person traveling from afar to speak, but my nerves are setting in, because the qualifications of the other speakers and the man who will be commenting on my paper are daunting. I guess I better get back into study mode this weekend.

10 February 2006

More Fuel For the Fire

I hope to post about the Danish Cartoons in the near distant future, since it seems the underlying racial tensions I witnessed while in Scandinavia have finally come to a head. However, my boss safely returned from Iraq yesterday and my free time has been limited. So check back soon for that.

Until then, here is a new Frontline World Online piece by two J-School grads on my activist movement of interest, the anti-union practices of Coca-Cola at their bottling plant in Columbia:

07 February 2006

There is Method to this Madness: A Valentine's Blog

Marathon day at work yesterday. It all started around seven in the morning when an evaluation team of sorts showed up at the school to renew its contract as a journalism program. Everyone looked a tad dressier than usual, except for me of course, who struggled to wake up in time to greet the team and the caterer who was bringing by breakfast. However, the rewards of catered breakfasts are many, and I think I refilled my coffee cup about ten times – which finally resulted in a more alert Leah. The team needed to speak to my boss who is away on assignment in Baghdad, so I attempted to utilize my international calling skills to no avail, only reaching him when he called me in response to my email request. When my mom learned he was going to Davos for the WEF she wondered why he didn’t bring me along, however, she changed her tune when I informed her that his next stop was Baghdad. So no, I am not truly included in on the action, but for me it is exhilarating enough trying to connect a conference call and receiving his email reports. By noon the excitement of being a quasi-insider had worn off, the realization I had eaten way too many cold frittatas from the breakfast buffet had set in, and the new issue of The Atlantic Monthly had arrived on my desk - so I decided to take a long lunch at home which resulted in a coma-esque nap and more unwritten blog ideas courtesy of the February issue of the magazine. After finishing my work for the day, going for a run, and then grocery shopping for the amily I work for, I finally hunkered down in my little room to watch The Bachelor Paris and write the following Valentine’s dedicated post:

With Valentines Day around the corner The Atlantic Monthly’s cover story surrounds the increasingly scientific process of online dating. More university-based psychologists are being brought into the online dating fold, attempting to understand both long-term compatibility and short-term attraction through scientific methodology. Since this magazine (one of my absolute favorites) normally overlooks such would-be fluffy pieces, I was eager to read the cover story. When the author of the piece, Lori Gottlieb, takes the 456 question eHarmony test, the database of over 4 million men returned zero matches. The founder of eHarmony explains why the author was unable to find a perspective partner on the website, stating “Just on IQ alone – people with an IQ lower than 120, say. Okay, we’ve eliminated people who are not intellectually adequate. We could do the same for people who aren’t creative enough, or don’t have your brilliant sense of humor. See, when you get on the tails of these dimensions, it’s really hard to match you. You’re too bright. You’re too thoughtful. The biggest thing you’ve got to do when you’re gifted like you are is to be patient.” Of course, Gottlieb makes a good point – who comes to online dating because they want to be patient? This interchange in the article spoke to two things on my mind of late. First, I am becoming increasingly open to the idea of a significant relationship. Secondly, however, I am at the same time becoming less optimistic that compatibility will be easy for me to find.

Maybe it is the specter of Valentine’s Day haunting my brain; maybe it is that The Bachelor is serving as white noise as I write this, but I think it is something bigger that has me changing my tune about relationships. Everyday I become more comfortable and satisfied with my job, more sure of my decision to postpone a PhD program and pursue freelance writing. With this decision comes a feeling of security and balance that was completely lacking from my chaotic grad school life. And because I never intended this blog to follow the trials and tribulations of my love life, I will simply say that the idea of a relationship seems like a complement, more than a hindrance, for the first time in my life. Using my own experiences as a catapult for a discussion of larger social issues, however, was the purpose of this blog, and so now we will return to the bigger picture and the second issue the article brought up in my mind, ones ability to meet a prospective partner compatible in both terms of physical chemistry, and the harder of the two, intellectual curiosity.

Let me start by saying, I was wrong about Maureen Dowd. Dowd is the only female regular op-ed columnist for the NYTimes. The lack of female opinion writers and bloggers has created quite the debate on the Internet in the past year (I am here doing my part to upset the status quo). But I often would get frustrated with Dowd for writing less hard-hitting pieces in her bi-weekly column. After reading about a half-dozen of her pieces I gave up on her. When her new book came out a few months ago titled “Are Men Necessary?,” I rolled my eyes, even more-so after taking a peek inside the dust jacket at her sexy picture. Unexplainably, I experienced a momentary change of heart. I am a woman who wants to write – she is a woman who makes big bucks writing, maybe I should get over myself and my initial judgments and actually try to learn something from her. Dowd has one of the most sought after writing jobs in the whole country, but the NYTimes is still an old boys club, and this is one of the first things I learned from reading her book. There are a lot of social pressures that force her to sandwich her more hard-hitting editorial pieces amongst softer ones. And guess what else I learned, Dowd is single.

A forthcoming blog entry will review Dowd’s book, and comment on a few of her more scintillating accusations, however, right now I just want to relay that while her book was terribly humorous, it also honestly scared the shit out of me. In the book Dowd recounts her experience with a theater producer in New York who wanted to ask her out but came clean about being intimidated by her. She writes, “Men, he explained, prefer women who seem malleable and awed. He predicted that I would never find a mate, because if there’s one thing men fear, it’s a woman who uses her criticl faculties. Will she be critical of absolutely everything, even his manhood? He had hit on a primal fear of single successful women: that the aroma of male power is an aphrodisiac for women, but the perfume of female power is a turnoff for men.” (p.42)

Maureen’s purpose is not to arouse fear among women, but rather to point out continuing inequities that still need work. Evolution, she believes, is not keeping pace with equality. However, she did stir up some fearful feelings in this single female, and the Atlantic Monthly article did not help subdue them. Dowd goes on to add statistics to the mix, backing her would-be polemical statements with scientific evidence. A study put out by four British universities found that “a high IQ hampers a woman’s chance to get married, while it is a plus for men. The prospect of marriage increased by 35 percent for guys for each 16-point increase in IQ; for women, there is a 40 percent drop for each 16-point rise.” (p. 47)

Some women go relationship to relationship. My friends are not these women. We are extremely independent and fall into the categories that make us less likely candidates for successful relationships according to both Dowd and the Atlantic Monthly. While we are intelligent and successful (or at least on are way there), I refuse to truly worry about our relationship prospects in the long terms because I think we are also compassionate and have a good understanding of balance between work and social life. (and also because I am egotistical and like to think we are above statistics – and I also respect the men in my life more than to reduce them to biologically mandated individuals set on finding women to take care of them.) However, as I expressed to my mom the other night, I think it would be nice to make the acquaintance of a potential partner now, or soon, or at least in the near future. Of course many women spend a lot of energy looking, and I just came to the conclusion that a relationship might be nice (rather than my usual descriptions of stifling and scary) a few days ago, so I guess I can’t expect miraculous changes overnight.