succumbing to peer pressure

Saturday, August 30, 2008

All Day in Decatur!

This weekend is the Decatur Book Festival and I spent 12+ hours indulging in geeking out. First, this morning, I saw Kathy Reichs (and daughter Kerry). Kathy is the forensic anthropologist inspiration for the tv show Bones (based on Reichs's novels). (I was going to link to her website, but it's unbearable. please, someone, redesign with fewer crazy animations!) The two were cute together, and I am further motivated to hunt down Reichs's books in the library.

I spent the rest of the morning/early afternoon hunkered down in a coffee shop getting work done (and trying on dresses. see previous post). Around 2 it was time for "Angels, Fireflies... and Buffy. Writing (About) Good TV" featuring Rhonda Wilcox, one of the editors of Slayage, an online, peer reviewed journal of 'Buffy studies.' Seriously. Although I have to admit that even as a fan, it's hard to take the show that seriously, Wilcox did present a fairly impressive treatment of the episodes where Buffy initially has sex with Angel as a commentary on the kind of 'punishment' certain segments of society want to see meted out to sexually active, unmarried teenagers (and Whedon's lovely feminist-y response to all of that). And the whole Angel turning into Angelus thing as the ultimate representation of the guy who never calls the next morning. Wilcox also makes a valid point that sci-fi/fantasy novels, movies, and tv shows are as much 'about something' as any other genre, but that as soon as vampires or elves or whatever get involved it suddenly stops being legitimate to interpret any other themes that might be present.

Next was Raul Benoit, a journalist who reported on drug cartels and their attempts to infiltrate 'legitimate' government in Columbia and the civil war there, including the role the U.S. has played, which includes trained assassins, some of whom he identifies by name in his book. After surviving two attempts on his life, Benoit eventually had to leave Columbia. His presentation was powerful and moving.

I spent another afternoon interlude making good on my promise to pick up a copy of The Watchmen and meeting up with a couple of friends. The female half of the couple headed off to hear John Dean outline all the ways our government is broken while the male half and I sat through the socially awkward, nerdy duo of Sidney Perkowitz and J.P. Telotte. Neither are the most dynamic of speakers, but their topics of science in science fiction and the current plethora of sci-fi tv shows was attention-holding enough.

We wrapped up the day with dinner at Raging Burrito, where we met another new faculty member. Dinner turned into lovely lingering conversation over drinks, rambling across topics in engineering, education, public health, history, travel, languages, politics, pets, food, and everything in between. The long dinner means I'll have to settle for the work I got done this afternoon and postpone editing my midterm until tomorrow, but that seems like a fair trade for good food and good company.

The Dress

So I figure I should (responsibly) go one of three ways with this whole I-need-a-dress-for-my-stupid-brother's-stupid-wedding thing. 1) borrow something from a friend (I've had one or two generous offers) 2) buy something cheap but passable at loehman's or similar 3) shell out the bucks for something genuinely nice that will be a useful addition to my 'grown-up' wardrobe. Not that I'm planning to need a ballgown again or anything, but a classic, elegant dress could come in handy once or twice a year, and if I'm clever about the 'classic' part I can wear it for years. Except.

Except today I spent all day (literally) in Decatur (more on that in another post) and decided to pop in to one of my favorite boutiques to try to start getting excited about this whole buying a dress thing. I generally can't afford things at this store, but occasionally find something on sale or something really worth splurging on. The ladies were tremendously helpful in pointing out which dresses fit the 'black tie' requirement (I'm still a little unclear). And I found The Dress. It fits perfectly. It's gorgeous. It is seriously the best I have ever felt or looked in any outfit. Ever. I will turn heads in this dress. It's $180. And it's not 'classic.' I would probably only ever wear it to my SBSW. Granted, for a really nice dress $180 is not unreasonable. And although it's technically not within my 'responsible' budget, I can make it work. The prospect of getting to wear this dress actually makes me kind of excited about my SBSW. But that's a dumb reason to blow a wad of cash on a dress I'll wear once, right? A dress that's sort of intentionally attention-grabby just because I'm being childish and whiny about this whole wedding thing. So I shouldn't get it, right? Right?

(you can see the dress here. Click the fourth 'swirl' down in the left hand column. it's a weird website.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"My mother was born before women had the right to vote. My daughter got to vote for her mother for president! That's America!"
-Senator Hillary Rodham-Clinton

Happy Women's Equality Day!

I've been waiting all day to write this post, hoping to think of something witty to say. But it's been a loooong day. A long day that began when the alarm clock dragged me out of bed in the townhouse where I pay my half of the rent from a paycheck that I earn. A townhouse that I share with another woman, an MIT graduate who is about to begin a PhD program in neuroscience. My long day continued as I drove to school/work in the car that I own, in my own name. At work I ran some computer simulations for my dissertation research in a biostatistics program where women are actually in the majority. I discussed politics with my colleagues. Later I reminisced about learning to read before starting kindergarten and always knowing I could do math, even when I got a 'C' on my report card. In the afternoon I did some statistical consulting, for which I will also earn a paycheck. Nearing the end of my long day I met some friends for dinner - men and women, married and unmarried, living together and single. During dinner I told a story about my aunt, an out lesbian raising an adopted son, her deceased partner's grandson. When the check arrived I payed my portion, and no one raised an eyebrow. On my way home I stopped by school again to check on my program and then squeezed in some quick grocery shopping; both stops well after dark, and unescorted. I finally ended my long day driving home, cheering and clapping to Senator Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention. I owe every piece of my long day to feminists and feminism. From the women (and men) whose names we'll never know who bravely worked so that the women whose names we do know (Julia Ward Howard, Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul) could further women's suffrage to the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls to the 19th amendment and to my mother, who marched in the March for Women's Lives four years ago. Happy Women's Equality Day! Be joyful and celebrate!