Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Olives and Cheese

It's too beautiful to talk politics or complain about injustices and inequities. Just too beautiful.

Upper 60s. Bright blue sky. Sweater weather. And the air is so clear that you can almost see individual leaves on the trees across the river.

This morning, while waiting for Jonah's school bus, I got the kids to sing "Poor Judd Is Dead" from Oklahoma. In baritone. Then took Ian to the playground for swings and slides.

Angela came to help this afternoon. On Mondays, I need her so I can prepare for class. On Tuesdays, she comes so that I can catch up on chores. Today's main chore was to go back to the eye shop to pick up my contacts. I took Jonah along. He was very excited to have time with me alone. I was happy to not drag Ian and the stroller up the subway stairs.

Jonah sat patiently at the eye shop reading a Thomas the Tank Engine catalog, while I slipped in the new contacts. Sitting patiently is a milestone for my kid. I'm glad we made it to age four. The year before he would have been bouncing off the cases of glasses.

After the eye chore was finished, we wandered over to Barnes and Noble and read together on the carpet. It has a better selection of train books than the local library. After a half hour of reading free loading, Jonah proudly presented the checkout girl with one little book for himself and one for his brother.

The sidewalk was packed today. Everybody was out. Nannies with their charges. Carefully dishelved prep school brats. Retirees lining up for bagels at H & H.

We picked up extra creamy Brie and chibatta and green French olives at Zabar's as a treat. Zabar's is the uber-deli in New York. Hundred variety of cheeses. Homemade bread. And smoked salmon sliced just right.

On the way back, Jonah and I read the two new books on the subway. We got a rotisserie chicken and tomatoes to go along with the Zabar's goodies. That was dinner.

Lots going on this week. There is pressure to decide what to do for kindergarten next year. Paper topics to review. The kitchen is a disaster. But the olives and cheese should last for another couple days.

Taking Time Off

Thanks to Cold Spring Shops for pointing me to a good discussion about the price that professional women pay for raising their kids at Crooked Timber from Sept. 3. I totally missed the debate. That post was inspired by Jane Galt at Asymmetical Information.

Jane writes: Should we stay home, or shouldn't we? It's a difficult question for professional women. We don't necessarily earn much money (not if we're journalists, we don't), but we love our careers. We want to be successful as much as our husbands do. Taking five or eight or ten years off to get the kids started off right before they go to school is going to mean irreperably harming our prospects for advancement. We want very badly to convince ourselves that day care is really just as good, better even -- or at the very least, that it is sufficiently not-worse that it's justified.

But in order for me to justify the decision to first, have kids (it's not like the world needs more of 'em, after all), and then, hand those kids over to someone else for most of the day, I need to be satisfied that that someone is going to do pretty much as good a job as I would at raising them. And the thoroughly unsatisfying answer is: how could they?

I've been struggling those same issues. Let's break them down.

1. We put 10-15 years into school or bottom level positions. Just when we're about to reap the benefits, it's time to have kids.
2. Daycare is unreliable and very expensive. Some jobs may not pay enough to cover daycare for mulitple children.
3. Some women make that economic sacrifice. They work just to break even, so that they can have a career when the kids go to first grade.
4. Some women are unwilling to make the emotional sacrifice. They can't bare to leave their kids with someone else for sixty hours a week.
5. If you take off 6,8,10 years, you have no career left. Do over. Go back to start. Do not collect $200.

What's the solution?
1. NOW advocates more government subsidized childcare.
2. Crooked Timber says that we have to change the business culture which assumes that the employee has someone at home to take care of him. And give businesses tax incentives for "family friendly policies." (Like what?)

Yes, there should be more subsidized childcare, but it wouldn't help me out. I don't want my kids in childcare full time if I can help it. I don't care who's footing the bill. I've had my kids in various forms of part time child care -- group home settings, nannies, etc... Frankly, I do a better job.

What works for me and almost every other full-time caretaker I know? Part time work. And the magic number is three days. Women (and men) want the opportunity to use their mind, earn some money, gain respect, but they also want to play a big role in their kids' lives. I can (and do) let someone else watch my kids for 10-20 hours a week, but that's my limit.

Part time work also offers women a way of taking time off from the career, rather than throwing it all away. The problem is that part-time work is hard to find and pays badly.

Another solution that I feel queesy about comes from my friend, Margie. Margie has a PhD in Ancient Near Eastern Inscriptions, but is currently at home with two kids in suburban Long Island. She wishes that she never got the PhD. She wishes that she had not scorned careers in elementary school teaching and nursing, because those careers are much more accomodating to women with kids. Should women who know that they want to have kids purposely avoid careers that are hostile to women with children (like academia)?

A third solution is to say "screw it all," dump the career without regrets, and have fun with the kids.

May I just say that we are lucky to have such problems. First, we get to make a choice to stay home. Not everyone is able to afford that decision. Second, we have a career and not a dead-end factory job.

UPDATE: Stephen Karlson at Cold Springs Shops wisely points out that, "there are gains from trade in finding alternatives to the treadmill, none of which need imply a lesser status for the workers so employed."


Monday, September 29, 2003

Kid-Free Europe

Chris at Crooked Timber has a good post about population growth in Europe v. US. Both countries had a drop in population growth, but it is worse in Europe. Chris wonders why. Work pressure are probably more severe in the US. Is it because America has more immigrants? Is it a matter of small space in Europe? Interesting.

I recently read that 43% of American women don't have children.


Sunday, September 28, 2003

Time and Space

I'm amazed at how much of a time-suck blogging can be. It is truly an addiction.

I did a little surfing over the weekend and came across a great discussion in The Invisible Adjunct about the publishing crisis. I was itching to make a comment, but I had to hold myself back. Just not enough time this weekend. Well, I briefly got involved in a discussion at Crooked Timber about conservativism in academia. And the Invisible Adjunct is continuing the debate on her blog.

From Andrew Sullivan's site, I came across an interview with Camille Paglia. In the interview, Paglia refers to a recent article she wrote on the high cost of tuition and advises parents to take action. Worth reading.

Why am under such pressure for time? Well, my husband is putting more and more time at the office. He leaves the apartment at 7:30 am and comes home almost 12 hours later. Those hours seem pretty much standard these days. If I worked a full time job, our children would only see us on the weekends. I think that the growing demands of workplace is putting added pressure on the family. There is a crisis on the American family. It's not coming from liberals or conservatives, but from the office.

In addition to those M-F hours, he had to put in extra hours over this weekend working on job evaluations. Yes, it really screwed up our weekend. I need an afternoon to prepare for my Monday night lecture. And then there is all the usual chores -- laundry, food shopping, doctor appointments. But his job evaluations are a great innovation of American business that academics could learn from.

My husband has to evaluate everyone in his department. Not only the administrative assistant who works for him, but also his co-workers and his supervisors. It's really very democratic.

His office is also spaced democratically. Gone are the cubicles and corner offices for the bosses. The walls have been torn down. The floor is one enormous room -- maybe the size of a city block. Everyone sits at long tables with identical computers and phones. The secretary sits next to the broker. The broker's boss sits right next to him. Observing this set up, an outsider would have no idea of hierarchy.

Coming from the academia, my husband was stunned by the openness of this environment when he started three years ago.

The highlight of the weekend was a fine meal on Saturday night. We had a date night and splurged on a fantastic dinner in midtown.


Saturday, September 27, 2003

School Vouchers

I haven't posted much on school vouchers, my dissertation topic, because I thought the movement was losing steam and because I'm rather sick of talking about it. But I did read a interesting piece on the voucher battle in DC today. It's going to be a good fight.

Voucher opponents are framing the question of whether Washington should embark on a five-year pilot voucher program as an issue of national importance. The concern is that the initiative could pave the way for further expansion of private school vouchers, especially in the wake of last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding such a program in Cleveland.

"We're doing what we do on every education issue that we think is critical to the nation's public schools, and that is to try to turn out local school board members in every congressional district in every state to make sure that their voice is heard," said Marc Egan, the director of the voucher-strategy center of the NSBA.

Supporters of the voucher plan, meanwhile, are casting the issue as a primarily local one...


Friday, September 26, 2003

Nannyhood and Apple Pie

In this month's Atlantic, Sandra Loh reviews Arlie Hochschild's new book,
Commercialization of Intimate Life

Hochschild argues that nannies are doing a better job raising the kids than American women. Women are too busy to properly watch their kids and have delegated this work to others.

I am not sure if nannies are doing such a great job. I watch the nannies in the playground ignore the kids, flip through magazines, and chat. Anyhow, I'm not going to go off on nannies today. They have a thankless, low paid job. I can't imagine raising someone else's kids.

There is some interesting stuff in the review. I thought I would share some quotes:

Hochschild refers to feminism here as she did in The Second Shift as a worthy but "stalled" gender revolution. Women did skip-step off to work, but no one moved home to take their places. Men kept working the same long (if not longer) hours, while adding 20 percent of the housework to their loads, and although their fathers had done no housework whatsoever, these modern men drew resentment because their contribution wasn't 50 percent. Hard-driving wives trying to make partner at their firms felt it was unfair that they should do more housework than their hard-driving husbands. "Instead of humanizing men," Hochschild concludes, "we are capitalizing women."

Especially in their more recent incarnation, the commercial substitutes for family activities often turn out to be better than the real thing. Just as the French bakery often makes better bread than mother ever did, and the cleaning service cleans the house more thoroughly, so therapists may recognize feelings more accurately, and childcare workers prove more even-tempered than parents. In a sense, capitalism isn't competing with itself, one company against another, but with the family, and particularly with the role of wife and mother.

A nursery-school director quoted by Hochschild remarks,
"This may be odd to say, but the teacher's aides we hire from Mexico and Guatemala know how to love a child better than the middle-class white parents. They are more relaxed, patient, and joyful. They enjoy the kids more. These professional parents are pressured for time and anxious to develop their kids' talents. I tell the parents that they can really learn how to love from the Latinas and the Filipinas."

To read more about nannies in New York and sad little kids, read
The Nanny Diaries: A Novel

Tally Ho!

Jonah: This cookie is splendid.
Me: Splendid, huh? That's a good word, Jonah.
Jonah: Thomas and his friends say splendid. They also say rubbish and fiddlesticks.

If having academic parents wasn't bad enough. Thanks to Thomas the Tank Engine, my kid is certainly going to get his butt kicked at PS 187 next year.


Thursday, September 25, 2003

Blog Life Blog

I think I've got the computer problem worked out. We have two computers here -- one's an old reliable Mac that doesn't agree with Blogger and the other is a cranky Compaq that wouldn't let me load AOL this morning. And two crappy computers doth not equal one good one.

Anyhow after quickly posting some random thoughts this morning, I ran off to pick up Jonah from pre-school. I waited in the hallway for the kids with one of the mothers, Jessica. Jessica runs the local mommy and me support group, and is one of smart mothers I had in mind when I wrote this morning's post. She is a social worker who is taking off time to watch her two funny girls.

She told me that she is facilitating a new group and that she was thrilled to finally earn some money. Her first paycheck in three years. It was a real boost to her self-esteem. Since I'm on a tear about the role of mothers in society, I pumped her for more information as we walked back home with the kids. Another woman, Sarah, joined the conversation.

Both women said that they get into fights with their spouses over who works the hardest. I remember resenting my husband because he gets an hour of reading time on the subway.

Jessica said that a lack of self esteem and loneliness is a huge problem with the women in her group. She thought that the woman's movement really did a job on women with kids. When the semester is over, I might observe her group and write up something on this topic.

(having computer problems today. Only light posting until this gets worked out.)

Women with kids with brains

Do kids and brains clash? Does every minute at the playground kill brain cells? (This is the playground. This is your brain. This is your brain at the playground. Any questions?)

I don't think that staying home with the kids has to equal a frontal lobotomy. It's all part of the mommy myth.

Let me just say that I hate the word, mommy. I never call myself that. There is something too cute about the word that just doesn't seem to fit me. It conjures up images of duckies, aprons, June Cleaver, tidy rooms, TV dinners. Most of all the word, mommy, equals martyr. Someone whose ideas and brains have been sacrificed for Junior.

But that's not what it is like out there. Women with kids have nothing to do with this "mommy" myth.

First of all, the women I know aren't all that dainty. In fact, they are a heavily tattooed group. Also, lots of navel piercing.

Second, since the average age of women with kids has risen, most had careers before hand. Many had high profile careers and significant education. Some full time moms at the local playground have PhDs. These women chose to stay home with their kids for a variety of reasons. Maybe they distrust daycare or maybe they couldn't afford daycare for two kids or maybe they just love kids. They may have sacrificed their careers, but they didn't lose all their smarts along the way. Playground talk is not just about potty training. These women read. Big time. I make sure that I've read the Times magazine and the New Yorker to keep up with the others.

Third, there a siginificant number of guys home with the kids. Stay at home dads make up at least a third of the parents at the playground around here.

Fourth, women are supplementing their income with part time work -- proofreading, social work, web design, adjuncting.

Women with kids have a great deal of insecurity about their position, because it is so low status. They get attitude from women who choose to go back to work full time. Also, sometimes these high achieving women become high achieving moms who over schedule the kids and forget to have fun.

(Sorry I can't finish this post or edit it. Computer issues. )


Wednesday, September 24, 2003

What's a Blog?

I have my academic hat on today.

Dan Drezner posted a definition of a blog yesterday and asked for comments.

A weblog is defined here as a web page with minimal to no external editing, dedicated to on-line commentary, periodically updated and presented in reverse chronological order, with hyperlinks to other online sources.

I'm not sure if that definition gets to the heart of what a blog is. It neglects the democratic aspect of blogging and it excludes other forms of blogging. Drezner's and Farrell's definition may pertain to only one type of blog.

Here's my crack at a definition:

A weblog is a web page written by individuals or a group of individuals with no or very little start up costs that is accessable to anyone with internet access.

The content of blogs varies. Some blogs contain links to information sources (other blogs, mainstream media, other internet sources) and offer commentary on these sources. Some blogs contain information about an individual's daily life. Some blogs have the potential to become a means of political organization. Some blogs are work related (I haven't read any of these, so I can't expand on this category).

Even though this definition requires more thought, I am going to publish this post so that I can get some feedback. E-mail me with ideas.


Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Political Scientists and Their Love Affair with Statistics

From Chris Lawrence, I found this post on how political scientists often miss the big picture by relying too heavily on statistics. David Adesnik writes,

The secret to success in America's political science departments is to invent statistics. If you can talk about regressions and r-squared and chi-squared and probit and logit, then you can persuade your colleagues that your work is as rigorous as that of a chemist, a physicist, or (at worst) an economist.


As I see it, the cause of this unsubtle approach is political scientists' obsession with statistics, a pursuit that dulls their sensitivity to the compexity of real-world political events. If numbers are your thing, you're going to have a hard time explaining why Israelis and Palestinians have spent five decades fighting over narrow tracts of land.

So then, what is to be done? As you might of heard, many political science programs require training in statistics but not foreign languages. That trend has to be sharply reversed. Learning foreign languages promotes immersion in foreign cultures and ideas, which in turn make it hard to ignore the role of those cultures and ideas in the realm of politics. Given that politics is an art rather than a science, there is no substitute for getting inside the minds of those we study.

I don't have a problem with the use of quantitative methods. Numbers have their place. But I do think that the discipline has to do a better job of promoting qualitative research. Its is through a blend of methodology that we can get the big picture. When was the last time that APSR published a paper based on elite interviews or focus groups?

Blog on Blogs

Drezner is writing an academic peice on the power and politics of blogs. He's asking for feedback.

Tuesday Is Reader Mail Day

Delphine from Paris writes:
I'm a French 36 years old woman and I use to read your blog since 3 months.
I like it very much because I like your writing, you can be so funny and ironic,
I like that and because you give me a lot of news concerning the way American
women of my age live now in USA. I can see we have the same problems and fears:
for example buying a house (a house !) or even a little flat is absolutely
impossible for us because of the prices and because we don't earn enough money
(we live in Paris !) and I also feel sometimes very sad for the future of my kid
Mathieu. We can't make any projects neither, finding a place to spend vacations
in summer is difficult too, everything is very expensive and families are
struggled. If you can't afford to live like your parents did, don't be sorry you
are not the only one !

Merci. Vous etes tres gentile.

Okies and Women who Kick Butt

The new fall TV season is starting, and I'm picking through the new arrivals for the final five. Since I don't have the time to vegetate with the remote for hours and hours, I have to winnow down the candidates to a worthy few.

Oh, let us take a minute to remember Buffy. For seven years of Tuesdays, I turned the phone off between 8 and 9, so that I could watch Sarah Michelle Gellar kick vampire ass while wearing heels.

I'm loving HBO's Carnivale (and so is Lileks). This is perhaps the first TV show to take place in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. Migrant Okies are the backdrop for the show, reinforcing my feelings of economic dread. The plot is slowing unraveling with more questions than answers. If you have a low threshold for so-so acting, this show is so beautiful, that it would be quite fine with the sound off.

When I get back from my Monday class at 9:30, I'm way too caffeinated to sleep, so I watch TV until midnight. Last night, I watched CSI-Miami, which has the coolest post -35 women on TV. These CSI chicks march around in tank tops, jeans, and big ass boots. Mature women who could beat the crap out of any punk. My role models.

One show that has really gone down hill is Survivor. In the first few seasons, they did a good job of recruiting cool older women. One even won. Sure, they had a token silicone sister, but the rest of the castaways were real. All but two of this season's women are plastic boob chicks. They have a thirty old Latina, who reminds me of every women in our neighborhood. And their token older woman is a depressed frumpy scout leader, who is sure to get voted out next week by the juggies. Booooo.

So, now you can see my taste in TV shows -- no space ships or joke spouting everymen. Give me an Okie or a chick who kicks butt and I'm happy.

Eat Fries at McDonald's

My funk continued through the day yesterday until class. That's one great thing about teaching. It does make you focus on other issues. Before class I worried, how can I possibly talk about Hamilton's view of federalism when I have all these problems? But the brain kicks in when needed. Thanks brain.

Today I'm going to have fun with the kids. Often, the daily grind is just about getting them dressed, fed, and on the bus to school. There is just not enough energy left to be silly. You can forget that kids can be excellent partners in crime.

Since its raining, I think we're going to head to the shopping center in NJ and only do fun things. Eat french fries at McDonald's. Hang out in Barnes and Noble. And eat goldfish while cruising through Target.


Monday, September 22, 2003

A Reality Check

I had a bummer of a weekend. Sure, it was sunny and beautiful. We visited Wave Hill gardens and went to the Medievel Festival at the Cloisters. But not even the bikers in tights and "ye olde meat on a stick" could shake my sour mood.

Earlier in the week, during a house hunting expedition in NJ, I stumbled upon one that wasn't too bad. I could imagine a place for the IKEA bookshelves and the new blue sofa. Sure, it was right next to a busy road with trucks whizzing by every minute. And it was an old house that needed lots of work. Still, it had good bones and a good school system. I could peel the mirrors off the dining room walls and paint the kitchen cabinets.

We hadn't decided anything for sure. Steve hadn't even had a chance to look at it. I hadn't crunched the numbers yet. But I had arranged the furniture in my head.

Then, on Saturday, on the way back from getting my eyes checked at Pearle Vision, I stopped into Barnes and Noble to browse. I picked up the
The Two-Income Trap
. The authors describe how the middle class is becoming increasingly over commited. Their admirable intentions of providing a good education for their children have led them to buy houses that they can't afford.

It's like that commercial of the grinning man who brags,"I have a beautiful home. I belong to an expensive country club. I have a great lawn. How do I do it? I'm in debt up to my eyeballs. Somebody help me."

This situation has been brought about by the competition for homes in neighborhoods with good schools. Also, the inclusion of women into the work force has brought about higher combined salaries which has driven up all the prices of homes. If one person loses his/her job, then these families can't pay their bills.

I went home and examined our finances. I played around with mortgage calculators. I learned that we can't afford even this old home by the side of the road.

A really, really cheap house costs $350,000 in the NYC area. In order to afford a home, you must make $110,000 annually, have only $300 of loan payments (car or school loans), and have $80,000 for the down payment. Monthly mortgage and taxes would equal $2,500 a month. Then there are heating bills of $400 per month and additional transportation costs. How can a cop or college professor or a teacher buy a house these days?

Later that evening, I made the mistake of watching Suze Orman on MSNBC. As usual, she received calls from people in distress. "I owe $60,000 on my credit cards. What should I do?" "How do I file Chapter 11?" "I'm a single mother living with her mother and I can't pay the bills."

Being the first born, I'm really uptight about money. I pay my credit cards on time and have no balance. I don't buy the new cute pants at the Gap unless I have the money in the bank. If we bought a house, things would be really tight. If the boiler went or the car died, I could end up as a caller on Suze Orman. No thank you.

Today, I'm full of pessimism and despair. Even though my husband has a good job with the top secret Wall Street firm and we carefully save money, we can't buy a home. My kid won't start kindergarten next fall in a shiny classroom with a grassy playground. He won't grow up like I did. I have to get used to that idea.

UPDATE: Sometimes great minds don't think alike. Dan Drezner wrote a post today about how there is no income inequality and how great the middle class is doing. I disagree.


Saturday, September 20, 2003

Hit Me, Baby, One More Time

My husband sent me this link from Instapundit a couple of days ago. It was all about how you can improve your hit count by getting an "instalanche." Translation, getting noticed by Instapundit can send you an avalanche of hits or views.

I followed that link, which led me to others. They gave some advice about how they improved their number of views.

Now that I've been at this game for a couple of months I have learned a bit about how its done, though I don't have the time to do it properly. I could use my links more strategically. I could submit my best posts of the Bonfire of Vanities or share it with Glenn Reynolds. I could schmooze in the comment section of the big shots. But, frankly, I don't have enough time. My goal is simply to post something Monday to Friday. With all my responsibilities, sometimes even that can be difficult.

I jumped into this blogging thing pretty quickly. My husband, brother, and father have been reading Lileks, Reynolds, and Sullivan for awhile. Over Sunday dinners, they would laugh about Gnat or debate Sullivan's post about the Church. But I hadn't yet gotten hooked. One evening this summer, after the kids were in bed, I came across Blogger and decided to set up my own blog, calling it Apt. 11D.

I started blogging as a way of keeping track of some random thoughts and as a way of chronicling the details of my life. I also wanted to stretch my writing legs. To write without citations or footnotes. To write about things that weren't in my narrow specialty. To see if I had anything to say about life that would appeal to a broader audience than the five stiffs on my dissertation committee.

After a week or two, I finally admitted to my husband that I was doing this, and he became my main audience. I wrote to amuse him as he ate his salami sandwich at his computer at noon. Much later, I told a few select other people with strict instructions that they weren't allowed to criticize or tell others.

In other words, getting hits was never my main goal. But then I signed up for Nedstat and things changed. It became addictive. Who was visiting? What time of the day? From where? "Oh, there's my friend from the U. of Chicago. Hiya, anonymous friend. Is the Cobb Hall Coffee Shop still there?" Then I started noticing a hit everyday at 11:00 or so from a newspaper in Minneapolis. Could it be? I would run home and check every day to see if it was there. Crazy.

Then I started worrying. What did the people want to see? My daily life? My views on education and women's issues? The latest on Ben and Jen? For a while, I stopped writing for myself. I was writing for hits. (This is starting to sound like an AA meeting.)

Writing for hits can become a problem. Writers can get carried away giving people what they want, and even become politically extreme in order to get a reaction.

I thought about blogging blindly. Of getting rid of my Nedstat account entirely.

No way. This is too much fun.


Thursday, September 18, 2003


In the two articles I posted this morning, one by Stanley Fish and the Times article on Columbia's new school, we get very different pictures of the university spending.

Fish criticizes Republicans for demanding that colleges be accountable to parents. He says that tuition only covers 26% of costs. And then he lists items that tuition does not cover like lab equipment and security (quote below).

He had me for a minute. Then I remembered an article from a couple of years ago where he bragged about how much his university was paying big name faculty in order to raise its rankings. And he is the highest paid Dean in the country. (Here's one piece on Fish's hiring practices: Boston Globe .)

We get a different picture of university expenses from the article about the new school that Columbia is setting up to attract faculty. This $12 expenditure will do nothing to help students. Nothing. It will help the big name faculty who aren't even teaching classes. It's all about the rankings.

I think parents have a right to know this information. I think that every parent should demand to know where every dollar is going and how it is going to benefit their kids. Parents need to be more educated about what is important. Don't be swayed by the rankings, which are only based on reputational analysis and not a quality classroom experience.

(I'm not done ranting yet.) And there is this $12 elementary school which boasts a 5 to 1 ratio. There is absolutely no evidence that a small class size leads to be better performance. An article from Education Week discusses the latest research, and quotes one of the leading experts:

"They rush in to reduce class size everywhere, and then they have no ability to say anything about its impact," says Eric A. Hanushek, a senior fellow on education policy at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Joanne Jacobs had a recent post about class size, too.

Given that research, the $12 million elementary school seems even more like a luxury that students must pay for.

UPDATE: See also Timothy Burke who also criticizes Fish. (Though he really offended me off by using the sexist term, "mommy track.")
The Invisible Adjunct weighs in.
As Don rightly pointed out, my brief discussion of class size was too brief. Class size does have some affect when the population is disadvantaged. Of course, the children of Columbia's faculty are hardly likely to be disadvantaged. Thanks, Don.

Lunchtime Reading

I have two good articles that should be read, although I have no time to comment. My alloted morning blog time is used up.

Stanley Fish writes about the factors that that have led to the high cost of college tuition and how gov't cuts will affect university services.

Even if states impose salary and hiring freezes, they would be more than offset by increases no state government can control: raises mandated by union contracts, skyrocketing utility and insurance rates, the cost of replacing worn-out equipment, the cost of replacing equipment declared obsolete after three years, the cost of buying equipment that didn't exist 18 months ago, the cost of maintaining a crumbling physical plant, the cost of security measures deemed necessary after 9/11.

Also this is what Columbia is doing to provide an education for faculty kids. Student teacher ratios of 5 to 1. $100,000 salaries for the teachers. I'll have to restrain myself right now from commenting. Maybe tonight.

The Morning Routine

I always thought of myself as a free spirit. A chick who can up and go at a moment's notice. Who never did the same thing twice.

Whether or not that was true, it doesn't matter. Once you have kids, you become the slave to the routine. Kids eat or sleep at precise times or all hell breaks loose. At first, I tried to resist. "Come on, Jonah, you can sleep in the stroller. Today, I feel like going to the museum." Ha! I learned the hard way that spontaneity had to be carefully planned out. (Yes, that's an oximoron.)

After Jonah broke me in, I slowly began to appreciate the predictable rhythms of the day. As he got older and needed less sleep, things loosened up slightly. Then Ian joined us, and I had to coordinate the two kids.

Now that Jonah started school, we adjusted to a new rhythm. Steve gets up at 6:15. The kids hear him padding around, so they get up too. Steve pours out bowls of Kixs and cups of juice. I get up soon after. At 7:30 on the dot, Steve walks out the door with his bag of subway reading material (The New Republic or the Atlantic) and the stroller to stash under the stairs in the lobby. Kisses.

The kids are quickly dressed. Today is "Blue Day" at school, so I put both kids in blue shirts and wrote the word "Blue" in magic marker on Jonah's arm. He thought that was cool.

At 8:15, we walked out of the apartment with Jonah's backpack and a travel mug of coffee for me. The school bus picked him up outside of our building. Ian practiced blowing kisses. As the bus pulled away, Ian started running up the block taking me to his favorite place, the subway.

We live in the highest point of Manhattan. The British and the Americans fought a bloody battle here two hundred years ago over this choice military point. Because it is so high up, we must take an elevator down a hundred yards or so to the subway. Ian loves the elevator. So, every morning, he steers me to the subway so that he can ride up and down the elevator along with the morning commuters. As the elevator is going down, he bounces happily. He looks up at the faces of the commuters to see if they are enjoying the ride, too.

On the way there, I wave to my friends taking their kids to school. Bob flies by on the M4 with Zoe. John and Julia shout at us from their bus stop.

After the ride, we walk over to the playground for a half an hour of swings and slides. I chat with the new parents. "Is your cutie talking yet?" "Is she taking a morning nap." "What are you going to do about school?"

Then we head back home for a morning nap. He sleeps for two hours, which gives me time to write on the blog and grab a shower, before we have to pick up Jonah from school.

Wrote the blog. Check. Shower next.


Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Deep Thoughts

Too sick to write much today. Instead, I am going to post a few questions about blogging that have been clogging up my brain. I'll add to this list throughout the day.

1. Why do bloggers love to write obituaries? (i.e. Poor old John Ritter. So sad to see you go. Three's Company sucked, but you were really good as the robot on Buffy.)

2. Why does Blogrolling fuck up my sidebar?

3. What percentage of bloggers and blog readers would consider themselves liberal/conservative? Are more conservatives blogging? Why?

4. Has any blog become a means of organizing political action?

5. There are 3 million blogs. Do blog writers outnumber blog readers?

6. Are more men blogging than women? (Clearly that answer is yes.) Why?

7. Why has my husband been glued to the Weather Channel's coverage of Hurricane Isabel? I'll tell you. "Because I like to watch it go around."

Talk amongst yourselves.


Tuesday, September 16, 2003

If it Tuesday, It Must be Reader Mail Day

Since there is absolutely no way that I can manage comments on my blog, I decided last week to post the occasional e-mail. And I randomly chose Tuesday as Reader Day. OK, everyone up to speed?

Scott writes in response to my remarks about Maria from Sesame Street (B is for BOTOX 9/1/03):

Hiya. I just found your blog via Invisible Adjunct, and thought you
might like to know that you got me wondering about Maria. Here's some
info: http://www.tvtome.com/tvtome/servlet/PersonDetail/personid-135163
She's been on the show since 1973 and was in the original cast of
Godspell, apparently.

Thanks Scott for the info. And thanks for reading.

In response to my cluelessness about where to live, Erika sent some good advice:

I have a recommendation for you in your search for cheap bohemian housing with access to decent schools: Albany, NY.

I lived in the Albany area for 3 years and was always surprised that a town that had such a dismal reputation was so fun and cheap. It's also filled with young families fleeing New York City for quieter and cheaper places to raise families that don't run
you out of town if you don't have a gun rack on your pick-up. There's tons of culture in the area - Albany, Saratoga Springs, the Berkshires have plenty of cultural entertainments and the nearby Adirondacks are beautiful and uncrowded.

Just an idea. Keep up the blogging - it's a great read!

Thanks, Erica. We're pretty anchored to NYC right now. My husband has a decent job that pays off the student loans. But if conditions worsen around here, I am all for drinking cheap beer and chowing down on wings. (I'm a SUNY-Binghamton graduate.)

I'm done. Running a fever. Need tissues and tea.

Resting on my Laurels

I made it through Manic Monday with the flu. (Dress and feed kids, put one on a school bus, go to the playground with the other, put baby down for a nap, wake him up, pick up from school, lunch, get dinner ready, babysitter arrives, prepare for class, answer e-mail, give lecture, go home.) The only way I can make it through that forced march is to be over caffeinated the whole day. Can you get the DTs from caffeine withdrawal?

And yesterday's lecture went very well. I created five models of governing schools. They got some history -- how the Progressives reformed city government, the origins of the voucher idea, the impact of the sixties. And some political theory; I threw out Plato and Locke and Arendt. I even handed out a chart with a full breakdown of my models. Pure genius, I tell you.

Tuesday is my day off from stress. I refuse to worry about next week's lecture until later in the week. Today, I rest on my laurels.

In the October edition of Atlantic Montly, there is a review of Virginia Postrel's new book,
The Substance of Style
. (The review is not on line yet, but they do have an interview with her.) She maintains that Americans are able to take advantage of the beautifully designed home furnishings at cheap prices and are remaking their worlds. She writes,
We are demanding and creating an enticing, stimulating, diverse, and beautiful world. We want our vacuum cleaners and mobile phones to sparkle, our bathroom faucets and desk accessories to express our personalities.

Before I criticize, let me just say that I love beautiful things. I read Lucky, Elle Decor, Metropolitan Home, Vogue. I go to Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel just to touch things. MOMA has an amazing collection of modern design, which I love. I freak out about mid-century furniture. I have opinions about different shades of green. And don't get me going about how much I love the new Macs. Clearly, Postrel and I see eye to eye on this.

However, after house hunting over the weekend, I'm not sure there is really any trickle down of style that she described. I saw a lot of barko-loungers in converted gararges, country-style kitchens with ducky wallpaper borders, and teddy bears in dresses displayed proudly in the living room. One house had been made over to look like an inside of a cabin. The owners had painted wooden planks on the walls and ceilings. They had even painted fake holes in their cabin with clouds showing through and fireplaces with flames licking logs. I get the feeling that Postrel would not approve.

The reviewer in Atlantic Monthly had some reservations about Postrel's hidden elitism. Postrel's points to a future, when doctors and lawyers and even graduate students will be able to delegate their grunt work to peons (nannies, cooks, dog walkers), so that they can work more to buy more beautiful things. I guess peons will have to paint their walls to look like wood.


Monday, September 15, 2003

Lunchtime Reading

Read this article about a preacher in upstate New York, who lives in a 4 million dollar home tax free. He calls himself the Bishop. He milks his congregation in the name of the lord and preaches the beauty of materialism. And there is some connection to Al Sharpton. Here's a sample:

The air outside the Zoe Ministries retreat in Sullivan County was hot and thick, a steam bath. About 100 people of all ages, dressed in their Sunday best, sat on wooden folding chairs on the grass under a large tent with yellow, white and baby-blue stripes.

Dawn Witherspoon, a Zoe singer with black-framed glasses and blond hair in corn rows and a ponytail, stood before the crowd on a plywood rostrum, microphone in hand. Next to her was Bishop Jordan, big and serene, wearing a black, hooded robe with a large crucifix around his neck.

Witherspoon was explaining the good fortune that befell her and her husband when she pledged $10,000 to the church – after having already pledged $25,000. Her phone "exploded" with singing gig offers, she said. Then, she and her husband got the condominium they wanted, even though they no longer had money for a downpayment.

Oh, and this piece of ace reporting was done by my smart and handsome brother.

Hurray for the Blog, Part 2

For fellow bloggers, check out Dan Drezer's tips for the newbies. And while you're there, congratulate him on his one year anniversary of blogging. He got 500,000 hits last year. Not too shabby.

Also thanks to Crooked Timber and the Invisible Adjunct for sending over all that traffic last week. You guys are blog babes.

Like Crap

It's Monday morning and I feel like crap.

It hit me yesterday at the Dominican birthday party. Tony the super invited us to his son's first birthday party, which is a big deal with the Dominicans. Their basement apartment was decorated with balloons and a million small porcelain figurines. They had big tubs of arroz con pollo, little girls with frilly pink dresses, and a five part birthday cake decorated yellow and pink.

We were the only gringos. It should have been great. Too bad I started to feel sick. It was one of those illnesses that jumps up and whaps you in the face. One minute I was fine, and the next I wasn't.

This morning, before Steve left for work, was a disaster. Whiny wife and whiny kids. The kids have runny noses and probably sore throats, too. Jonah wasn't listening. "Jonah, stop crashing your cars." "Jonah, stop crashing." "JONAH, STOP CRASHING. OK. TIME OUT." I think Steve was happy to leave us for the relative peace of the subway.

One week after Jonah starts pre-school and we're sick already. That place is a plague factory. Kids, you know, are filthy. They ooze from every pore and then kiss each other. Every new virus thrives happily in those kids. We had a break over the summer, but now that school has started again, we're back to battling germs.


Sunday, September 14, 2003

Bennifer No More

I'm breaking my policy of no posting on weekends. Just had to share. Ben and Jen are over.

Who would have guessed?  


Thursday, September 11, 2003

You are Your Zip Code

We have no clue where to move. We just know that raising two kids in the city isn't working out, so we have to move. But where? I first looked at my old home town, because it has good schools. But ack! Housing prices are outrageous. So, we've been picking one town after the other and ruling them out. My sister's town? Too expensive. My brother's town? Too far from the city.

We want to live in a town with people like us. Everyone does. You want to live next door to the guy who watchs Buffy, reads books, and drinks lattes, if that's what you do.

Another reason for being so hyper about your neighbors is because school quality is tied to neighborhood demographics. Good schools are in wealthier neighborhoods. We have to move to a neighborhood where other educated people are just starting to move in. The SAT scores might suck now, but the kindergarten will be excellent.

One of the tools that I've been using to figure all this out is the Marketing Zipcode Thingy. Check it out. Plug in your zip code and it will give you 50 different demographic segments. Not only does it have the ages and income of people in that area, but it also can predict what type of magazines are read there and what major appliances are used. Marketers have us all figured out.

An example:
Blue Highways - On most maps, the interstates are colored red and the older highways are blue. Cluster 58 follows these remote roads through our mountains and along our coasts, deserts, and lake shores. Blue Highways families are young with lots of children. They hunt and fish, attend tractor pulls, and love country music and camping.

It's disturbing that I am moving from "Bohemian Mix" to "Home Sweet Home."  


Wednesday, September 10, 2003

September 11, 2003

Tomorrow is the second anniversary of 9/11.

Other bloggers are writing about their experiences. Michelle at a Small Victory has a Voices series, where individuals can write about how 9/11 changed their lives. She loves this topic. To quote Lileks, ... pitbull/bone. I don't think I am sufficiently self aware to write about how I'm a different person as a result of the 2 Boeing planes hitting 2 buildings. Maybe I'll sort that all out 20 years from now.

Instead, I'm just going to give you the facts. Who. What. Where. When. How. Where was I when the planes hit? How did I find out? What was the first thing I said?

Where was I? I was at 69th Street and Lexington at Hunter College giving a quiz to 52 students in my Introduction American Political Science class. I give this quiz every semester. It's the weed-out-the-dead-wood-before-the-drop-deadline quiz. It never seems to work. I should probably abandon it.

I was 4 weeks pregnant, and I had done my ritualistic purging before the class. I was terrified of vomiting during class, so I made sure that if I had to puke, I would do it in the secrecy of the faculty bathroom.

After collecting the moutain of blue books, I raced out of the building at 10:30. I was stressed out about Jonah. On that day, he was too sick to go to his regular babysitter, so my mom was watching him at our place. I was insanely worried that mom was was going to get locked out of our apartment after a morning walk. It requires an experienced hand to work the antique lock on the door. I was also worried that her allegies were plaguing her. That she was going to have a hard time getting Jonah up the stairs. That Jonah's fever had gone up. All those things.

Looking back on that I'm not sure why I was so stressed, as I ran out the building towards Madison. Mom can handle a sick kid. Maybe the pregnancy hormones were working overtime. Maybe I could sense the stress of a million people just south of me who were running as fast as they could away from the twin towers.

When I got to Madison at 10:35, there was clearly something going on. Two M4 buses roared past my stop. Too full to stop. My first thought was that the 6 train was on the blink. That does happen. There were some extra people running around on the street, but it didn't flag my attention yet.

I was enough uptown so that I couldn't see the buildings. And the wave of people migrating northward hadn't hit yet.

After the fifth bus roared past me, I was starting to think that this wasn't a normal 6 train track fire. The bus was so full that people were falling over the driver. When the sixth bus stoppped to let someone out, I screamed at the driver, "What is going on?" He pointed behind him, and for the first time, I saw a mountain of smoke. That must have been the second building going down.

Still, I had no idea what was going on. NYC experiences thousands of mini-crisises every year -- water main breaks, fires in old warehouses, track fires. That's what I expected. Who would have thought that terrorists had hit us?

Meanwhile I was still waiting on Madison Avenue totally clueless. And having a hissy fit because I was stressed out about getting home. I imagined my mom with a red nose sitting on the front steps of my apartment with a wailing 2 year old.

Full cabs flew past me. I did manage to flag one down, but three other women asked if they could share. I got out, because I wanted to get home so badly that I couldn't wait. I'm still ashamed that I was so blind.

I walked further west, and finally got on a cross town bus. Now I knew that something was happening that couldn't be blamed on the 6 train. I turned to the other people on the bus and said, "What is GOING ON?" An older woman said, "you don't know?" And I said, "no." And she scoffed, "Well, if you don't know, then I'm not going to tell you." There are all these stories about how good New Yorkers were in the crisis. But there was still a lot of bad behavior, too. What made that woman turn her back to me at that moment? Was she too full of horror to tell a stranger the truth?

I heard from a young Latina in the seat next to me who wore a walkman. I gasped. She said, "don't panic. don't panic" as much to me as to herself. It took me a long time to say anything. I thought about waiting on line to take the elevator at the WTC to the observation deck. It was so crowded. My first words were, "all those people."

The bus dropped me off at 59th St, Columbus Circle. There were no more buses. And the wave of people from downtown were now in midtown. I started my long walk home along Central Park West. Mute crowds trudged north. No one said a word. I stopped at a sidewalk vendor to buy a soda and a chocolate bar. I had to feed the sleeping baby inside of me.

At one point I stopped next to a parked car where the owner had turned his radio on full blast. Howard Stern was telling listeners to not panic. Howard heard that people were pulling Arab drivers out of their cabs and beating them. He told people to stop it. Other walkers stopped to rest against a tree and listen with me.

Then I headed back on my walk. I had no idea where my husband was. He works at Times Square, so I was sure he was safe. But we didn't have a cell phone, so I couldn't call him. Not that cell phones were working by that point anyway.

After forty blocks, I again was lucky enough to get a cab. The driver stopped right in front of me to let someone out. The Indian driver was very upset. After he dropped me off, he went back to Wall Street to help more.

When I got home, my husband was already there. They had evacuated his building very quickly, because there were great concerns that Times Square would be the next target. He had walked all the way home, but still had beat me back.

My dad was working in the city that day. Before getting my mom, he drove his office secretary to New Jersey.

We called family to say we were okay. We ran through our list of friends to think who might have been there. All were okay. Ut was late for work. Eliza was outside. Thank God.

Then we watched TV for two days straight until our two year old started smashing his cars into piles of blocks. Those next two days are another story for another time.

UPDATE: On Crooked Timber, they have David Letterman's 9/17 monologue.
From Tim Blair, there's this article from a NY journalist.
Steven Green doesn't get it yet either.

Lunchtime Reading

One guys's story about how he risked everything to blog. Read his site, Where is Raed?


Tuesday, September 09, 2003

And the Letter of the Day is...

B. B is for... BOTOX. I'm really freaked out by the aged cast members of Sesame Street. Maria and Luis were around when we were kids. And Maria has had some serious work done on her face. The number of the day is .... 70.

Tuesday is officially reader mail day.

From Kathe in Neshanic, NJ:
.. anyway, why do you have to live up there in expensive land??? there are other places on direct train routes into manhattan that don't cost as much ??

Good question Kathe. The reason why I am narrowing my search to nearby counties is that I want to see Steve at 7:00 at the latest. I need his help putting the kids to sleep. And when hubby starts coming home too late, the plumber starts looking cuter. I know a lot of people in the area put up with a long commute. Steve's boss spends 4 hours on a train each day. Sure he has a nice house in PA, but he never sees it. That's not for me.

Everything within a forty minutes commute and with decent schools is nasty expensive. I know this dilemna is driving a lot of people out of the area all together. They're off to distant and more affordable corners of the country. Upstate New York, Utah, NC, and Colorado must be seeing a lot black clothed New Yorkers at their local WalMart.

This outward migration is perhaps healthy. One of my obsession, along with the plight of the middle class, is the emptying out of the middle part of the country. Maybe it's a good thing that people are being driven back. It can justify giving states like North Dakota two senators.

From Chris in Nyack, NY:
Jonah will not be getting his butt kicked every morning if Uncle Chris teaches him how to box.

Thanks Chris. And D is for DETENTION.

From Melissa in San Francisco:
.... we are having similar issues. Here, housing is expensive and the schools suck. Oh, and no jobs. But, unlike NY, there is no snow, and it rarely gets below 50. Would mentioning that we started a vineyard in our backyard make you guys move here faster???

If Jonah is going to get his butt kicked, it might as well be in a place with nice weather and vineyards... Hmm. Worth thinking about.

Thanks guys.

I finally had a chance to finish the North Korea article in the New Yorker and I'm horrified. The article justifies Bush's placing North Korea in the Axis of Evil, although earilier the writers in the Talk of the Town were laughing at Bush for including it. Whatever.

The article discusses the starvation of 1/10 of N. Korea's population. It includes a story from a grandmother whose grandchildren were killed. The kids had gone into a noodle shop to beg. The owner gave them some food, and the kids fell asleep on the floor. The owner then killed them with an ax and put their meat into the noodles.

Now that I have children, I go insane when I hear those stories. Before kids, that story would sadden me. Now, it makes me want to strap up the big guns like Sigourney Weaver and blow away some commies. I had a similar reaction after reading the New Yorker article on the Kurds. I think that magazine is turning me into a hawk.

Also good in the article was an explanation for S. Korea's appeasement and the isolationist history of this country.


Monday, September 08, 2003


Tonight I had my first class. Introduction day. Hand out the syllabi. Introductions. Outline for the class. Class paper. Participation. Show up to every class or Die. Blah. Blah. Send them home early. Mario Andretti bus driver got me home in record time, so I have plenty of time to worry about the middle class.

There's a good discussion on The Invisible Adjunct about why tuition prices are so high. The comments section points to some key variables -- over reaching missions, high overhead costs, financial aid. I added my two cents (well, a cent and a half).

Tuition costs don't keep me at night yet. It's a vague worry for the future, like how I'm going to afford Lipitor or the toenail fungus medicine when I'm old. (I learn so much from the commericals on the evening news.) The topic only gets me all mad when I wonder why I'm not getting any of the student's tuition money.

But it's a huge problem for the middle class. Tuition and housing prices have out stripped salary increases over the past 30 years. A car costs about the same relative to income as it did back in the 1970s. Maybe it's even relatively cheaper. But tuition and housing is much more expensive. That's why my dad could buy a house with his meager college salary, and we can't. The yellow bilevel he bought in 1970 for $20,000 is now worth $400,000.

We were supposed to look at houses in NJ this weekend. Joanne the real estate agent previewed a couple of dumps for us, but within three days on the market, they were scooped up. Bidding wars had driven the price up beyond our means.

We might be in this apartment for a while longer. Jonah will be attending PS 187 and getting his butt kicked every morning. Well, at least I won't have to change the name of the blog.


Sunday, September 07, 2003

Past the Comfort Zone

There is a guy out on City Island who hasn't been into Manhattan in 27 years.

City Island is an Italian enclave off of the Bronx where, like many of the cozy neighborhoods in New York, people don't feel any need to brave public transportation into the crowds and noise downtown. I hardly get downtown anymore. It takes a lot of effort to watch two kids on a subway platform. Besides, we can get everything we need up here. If I'm desperate for $5 t-shirts, I take the car across the bridge to Target. It's easier to stay put.

But since we do live in the greatest city in the world, I made the effort to get downtown this weekend. After working at the library on Saturday afternoon, I met my friends, Susan and Margie, at Union Square. We walked through ABC Carpets to check out the hippest home furnishings. Velvet cushions, Moroccan lamps, antique Chinese armoirs, and green glass cups are displayed like a collage. I spent $30 on a blue cheese burger and two pints of apricot ale at the Heartland Brewery. Then too full to drink any more, we did some window shopping. (The fall look is all about black tights and heels.)

This afternoon, feeling daring, the family drove down to Chinatown. Chinatown is one of the most congested areas of the city for people and cars. Tourists swarm around the stalls of cheap handbags and knockoff watches. Old Chinese ladies carry bags of dried fish and strange vegetables. I'm afraid to let go of Jonah's hand in case he gets swallowed up by the crowd. And traffic is always jammed up as cars try to get onto Holland Tunnel or onto the Williamsburg Bridge. Driving there is not for the weak of heart.

We lucked into a parking spot just south of Canal Street. Tribeca is a great area of the city that I haven't explored enough. This is Robert DeNiro country. Expensive lofts in 150 year old buildings. Some haven't been converted yet with long forgotten companies still advertised on the windows.

We headed over to our favorite Chinese restaurant, The Excellent Dumpling House. The name says it all. Why go all the way downtown for Chinese food? Because there is nothing like the real thing. I might have good Chinese food elsewhere, but it is only a distant cousin to the food in Chinatown.

We've been going to the Excellent Dumpling House for years, never trying out any of the other hundred places. When it comes to men and Chinese restaurants, I'm a serial monogamist.

Like all the other holes in Chinatown, the waitress first brings out the tea in a stainless steel kettle for the table. You pour the tea into water glasses and then order. We always get their steamed vegetable dumplings, scallion pancake, the fried noodles in a black bean sauce, and then one other dish. At the end of the meal, after you've eaten the cookies, they pour the leftover tea on the table and wash with it.

I tried to check out the handbag stalls, but the kids were too tired. Right before we got into the car, we wandered into a furniture store, John Kelly Furniture. The guy had beautiful handmade peices that were both modern and mission. He combined the use of glass and chrome pulls with the straight lines and love of wood of old style mission. When we make it big, I'm going back there.

So unlike the old man on City Island, I ventured past the comfort zone this weekend.

One good thing about living too long in the comfort zone is that when you do venture out, it's like taking a vacation. No passport needed. The A train takes you away from 6 floor residential apartments, bodegas, and strollers and let's you off in a world of pints of ale, velvet pillows, and modern furniture.


Friday, September 05, 2003

Hurray for the Blog

Just about everyone (ie. Drezner, and Dr. Frank) is posting this article from Columbia's school of journalism. Thought I would too. It's about the impact of blogging.

Blogging technology has, for the first time in history, given the average Jane the ability to write, edit, design, and publish her own editorial product to be read and responded to by millions of people, potentially for around $0 to $200 a year. It has begun to deliver on some of the wild promises about the Internet that were heard in the 1990s. Never before have so many passionate outsiders, hundreds of thousands, at minimum stormed the ramparts of professional journalism.

At this instant, all over the world, bloggers are busy popularizing underappreciated print journalists (like Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Steyn), pumping up stories that should be getting more attention (like the Trent Lott debacle), and perhaps most excitingly of all, committing impressive, spontaneous acts of decentralized journalism.

About InstaPundit On September 11, his traffic jumped from 1,600 visitors to almost 4,200; now it averages 100,000 per weekday.

More useful numbers. Meanwhile, Blogger alone has more than 1.5 million registered users, and LiveJournal reports 1.2 million. No one knows how many active blogs there are worldwide, but Blogcount (yes, a blog that counts blogs) guesses between 2.4 million and 2.9 million. Freedom of the press belongs to nearly 3 million people.

It seems that blogging has had a big impact a check on mainstream journalism. But I think in a very short time, blogging is going to have a larger political impact. Not only do bloggers bypass the major papers and disseminate new information, but I think they are bypassing mainstream interest groups. By blogging, Andrew Sullivan is able to put forward his views on gay rights filtered through a Catholic perspective (even if his faith has been rocked). His political perspective would not fit in with the mainstream gay interest groups, and would probably never be heard but not for his blog. Individual bloggers can assemble followers and press for action, which would have been impossible in the past without the money and organization of large groups. Any way, that's just one idea that I've been throwing about lately.

Jonah's Preschool Teacher is Twisted and Deranged

At last night's parents meeting, I hid in the back row of the auditorium to avoid the glares of Jonah's teacher. Maddie hates me. I'm the evil complainy parent.

Last year began badly right from the beginning. During the first week of school, when I picked up Jonah up at 11:45, I would ask Maddie, "So happened today?" I wasn't checking up on her (at least not at that point). I only asked because Jonah would always say "I dunno" when asked the same question. With pursed lips, Maddie told me that parents got a letter at the end of the week. Parents weren't to ask questions. OK.

Then I complained when Jonah came home crying. All the other children got a sticker, but he didn't get one because he didn't put his coat on right away. Another kid didn't get a sticker because he wouldn't dance with the other children. Maddie would show me other kid's artwork and say "this isn't very good, is it?" Clearly, this teacher is sick and twisted.

There were lots of other problems. Maddie would get parents to take over the class, so she could take a vacation. The kids would spend an hour on the bus every morning. She would show up a half an hour late every day. There were no planned activities or curriculum. I did a lot of griping which did no good.

We pay a lot of money for this school. $5,000 for five mornings for nine months. Other than rent, preschool is our largest expense. This school is really our only option. Other pre-schools in the city cost more. One other neighborhood preschool charges over $7,000 for part time.

I hear from sister and my suburban buddies about their kids' cheerful teachers without sticker fetishes. Their children go to schools where they do art projects and sing songs at half the price. At our school, they just let the kids run aimlessly around a gym for an hour. It's just daycare for parents who are too busy to ask questions. These parents just need their kids tucked away safely, so that they can struggle to pay the rent. They can't afford to ask too many questions.

After studying school vouchers in the abstract for many years, I have learned a lot from this experience. Pre-schools in NY and NJ are private making it an excellent laboratory for studying vouchers. What I've found -- Competition among schools won't improve things, if there are not enough good teachers out there. If all the schools have bad teachers, then parents will have affectively no options. The only option is to move.

I learned another lesson from last year. Never complain. The teacher has the trump card -- your kid. Make the teacher's life hell, and she'll take it out on your kid. Never complain. Just suck it up and smile. After last night's meeting, I went up to Jonah's teacher for next year, Marcy, and shook her hand.

All this not complaining is killing me inside. It's not in my nature to be so freakin' nice. I want to seek revenge. Write letters to the board. Slash tires. Kill bunnies. But I've learned my lesson.


Thursday, September 04, 2003

Syllabus and Sneakers

The semester is gearing up, and I am woefully unprepared. By Monday at 7:20PM, I have to have my fifteen page syllabus prepared, copied, and stapled. It's a graduate school class and there is no textbook, so I have to create an outline, find appropriate articles, and write the lectures from scratch. Since I don't have a TA, I have to make my own copies and fill out paperwork for the reserve desk at the library. I have to input my syllabus into the university's on-line system. It's a pain in the ass, and I can't remember I agreed to do this. Remind me again.

This morning, during babysitting time, I assembled an adequate outline for the class. In the afternoon, I took the kids to Target to buy them fall shoes. Fall snuck up on me, so Ian is wearing bright green socks under his sandals. He looks like a crazy old man.

I spent a stressful forty minutes, sifting through shoes at Target while vaguely watching two hyper boys. Buying shoes at Target is a NIGHTMARE. The shoes are on random shelves and in random boxes. A size 4 sneaker is definitely going to be in a box that says size 10. A size 5 sneaker will be in a size 3 box. So, pretty much you have to pick up and examine 50 shoes to find the right one. And I needed two pairs. Ian long since screamed his way out of the cart, and the two boys ran up and down the aisle. Then they disassembled an underwear display. Finally, I found the shoes. I let the boys relax in the train section until my blood pressure returned to normal.

The boys were then returned to the cart. Ian in the seat. Jonah sitting in the back. In the clothing section, I picked up t-shirts for the boys and sweaters for me without stopping the cart. Stop the cart and all hells breaks loose. Out of my peripheral vision I would see a black sweater and grab it with one hand. There is no trying on clothes. That's for sissies. "Cruise and Shop" is the ohly way to bring a 4 year old and a 1 year old to Target.

In this blur of a shopping trip, I somehow managed to spend $103. All those $5 shirts add up.

The day isn't over. I've got a parent meeting at the preschool tonight where I'll hide in the back row and read the North Korea article in the New Yorker.

UPDATE: Michelle would HATE me.


Wednesday, September 03, 2003

12 Step Program

Once you have kids, you gain several new professions -- nutritionist, barber, television censor. One job I particularly hate is my new role as addiction specialist and all around bad behavior corrector. I'm constantly tried to steer the kids away from bad habits and acts that generally raise eyebrows from strangers.

Large Baby's Bad Habits:
1. Wants to vacate cold hard crib for the warm spot in the big bed between mommy and daddy.
2. Loves to chug back a 8 oz of milk in a bottle. (My child most likely to attend a kegger 15 years from now.)
3. Wiggles junkie.

Active Boy's Bad Habits:
1. Making a compound word out of a slang word for excrement and the word "head," ie. Pooperhead. Boy Genius finds this endless funny. I am certainly going to get a call about this from his prim nursery school teacher.
2. Train smashing.
3. Nose picking.

The goal is to somehow expand our dining options beyond the fun room at McDonald's.

Lunchtime Reading

Sept. 11 is coming up. Read Lileks for a moving homage to the badly scarred Coal and Iron buidling.

Change in the academia-- N.Y.U. President Says Teaching Isn't Such a Novel Idea. The president of NYU is making his faculty actually teach undergraduates. He also wants to create new levels of professors -- not just adjuncts and full time profs. Experts don't think he's going to bring about any big revolution:

Large universities have always paid lip service to the importance of undergraduate education, but when they make hiring and promotion decisions, "publish or perish" generally rules. Weak teachers who publish in top journals often win promotions and tenure; prize-winning teachers whose publications are not deemed first-rate are often refused tenure.

Harvard and Yale have made some changes.

But Dr. Sexton's proposals are probably the first to consider creating new categories of professors.

Dr. Sexton's plan stems partly from his belief that better teaching will make the university more attractive, moving it up in rankings. But it also grows out of a personal love affair with teaching, which he calls "a sacred duty and privilege."

I love this man.

His proposal to create more levels of professors works out really well for me. I am beginning to worry that I will not get a tenure track position because I've had to take off a few years to raise kids. There is just too much competition out there for a chairman to bother hiring someone with several years of part-time work. There are so many great candidates with pages of peer reviewed articles that I don't stand a chance.

And I really like working part-time right now. I get to use my brains and raise the kids. How would great would it be if I actually got paid for it? All my money goes right to babysitter. In fact, the babysitter does better than I do. With Sexton's system, non-tenure track faculty would be better compensated.

What would happen to tenure track jobs? Would there be less of them? Would they be relieved from classroom teaching?

See, change is happening.

UPDATE: Read The Invisible Adjunct for a more well thought out discussion of this topic.


Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Time to Feed the Blog

7:30. The kiddies are tucked in bed, hubby's eating warmed up risotto and sausage, so now it's time to feed the blog.

It was a dull day in the city. Nothing but rain and Wiggle videos. Nothing new to report there.

Just did a quick skim of the Times. The war stories continue to drag me down. Maybe it's the rain, but I'm starting to think it's time to get out. Maybe I'll feel differently tomorrow.

Better to be disgusted than depressed. Check out the article on all the primping done by rich suburban girls in preparation for school -- Reading, Writing, and Body Waxing. 14 year old girls are getting pricy haircuts, waxing their eye brows, and going to tanning salons to look their best for the first day of school. They are dropping hundreds of dollars on this new ritual.

There is way too much money in the rich suburbs that circle the city. I've heard stories about 8 year old birthday parties at nail salons. No more hippie with a guitar at parties, it's time for a french manicure. In my old home town, the girls walk around with Tiffany bracelets and Kate Spade bags. Those without are ostracized to the corner of the cafeteria. I'm sure boys are required to make some equally repulsive expenditures.

We're starting to look around for houses in NJ. While I would like to live in a town with a good school system, I'm not sure I want my kids around that materialism. However, good schools are almost always in towns with these loathsome influences. My poor kids. God, as if being a teenager wasn't bad enough when I was growing up.

Better to be inspired than be depressed. Check out last week's article on the third water tunnel that is slowly being built under New York. (I wanted to link it for all you freeloaders, but it's gone, so you just have to borrow it from the neighbors.)

There are currently two water tunnels that provide H2O to 8 million people in NYC. Problem is that these tunnels are 100 years old and are leaking millions of gallons of water everyday creating sink holes all over upstate New York. The valves that can stop the flow of water are rotted or forgotten. The author starts his tale with Jimmie Ryan, a fourth generation sandhog burrowing into the granite. His great grandfather helped build the first one during the Progressive Era. The city has been building the third tunnel since the early 1970s, and it may take another twenty years to complete. Great piece. Nice writing. I'm a sucker for articles about large scale construction projects, especially ones with an historical angle.

As a consolation prize, I have another link in the New Yorker to an old Thurber essay.

UPDATE: Joanne Jacobs writes more about suburban chicks.


Monday, September 01, 2003

Boyz on the Hood

There is rice on the hood of our car. 10 or 20 Goya flavored grains freckle our faded red Toyota.

We wisely parked the car in front of the building last night, and the "da boyz" out front made it their home base. In between selling drugs and beating a parking meter senseless, they had a nice meal of rice and beans while sitting on our car at 2:00 am. How come these little scenes don't make it into a Woody Allen Film?

Your Daily Dose of Hate

The Times Magazine has a cover article on Sophia Coppola that is worth reading for your daily dosage of hate.

The author sucks up to New York's privileged, spoiled second generation. She touts Coppola as the new great creative director. As an example of her genius, the author writes about her great idea for a music video -- Kate Moss on a stripper pole. Oh my, that's never been done before. Also, Coppola says "action" very softly. Oh my, she's really innovative. And Coppola is so creative that she has a handbag line on the side. Yeah, every trust fund kid in New York has their own handbag line. Even Monica Lewinsky is sewing up satchels.

What I learned from the article ... A bucket load of cash is the fast road to becoming a media darling. More gagging.

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