There's already been loads of commentary on the article (note: link is to a copy of article that does not require registration) in last week's NYTimes about female students at Ivy League schools who expect never to draw on their fancy educations in the service of career, but who rather plan to stay home with their potential children. Apparently, there are serious questions about whether the author's sensationalistic statistics are methodologically valid (sounds to me like they pretty much aren't), but even aside from that, I think all of the feminist handwringing over this "trend" is pretty silly. After all, how many of us are doing now what we thought we'd be doing at 19 or 20?
When I was 19, I planned to be an orchestral clarinetist. I expected that I would probably pick up a quick master's degree after finishing college, then start auditioning, presumably living hand-to-mouth supporting myself through a variety of odd and temporary jobs while I waited to win an audition. I expected neither to marry nor have children, assuming that the clarinet would be an all-consuming endeavor. I did have a backup plan of sorts, knowing the long odds I'd be facing in auditions. That plan was vague, though -- some sort of graduate or professional school to prepare me for another career in academia or law. I thought I'd figure it out as I went along.
Obviously, that's not how things played out. My plan had changed considerably by the time I graduate from college at the age of 23, and my plan changed again a few years after that. Now, I have my fair share of ambition, but not so very much focus, which probably separates me from many if not most Ivy Leaguers. Still, the basic point remains: is it really a good use of precious time to fret over what a few 19-year-olds say they plan to do with their lives? What are the chances really that in ten or fifteen years any of them will be doing what they think they'll be doing?
So here's the question part of this post: what was your plan at 19? Did you stick to it? In what ways have things not gone as you expected back then? Maybe there is reason to wonder if the gains of feminists over the past few decades were all for naught, and to worrywart over the prospect of privileged Ivy Leaguers not living up to the potential bestowed upon them by their educations, but I suspect it's all just an overreaction. Not that there aren't some sticky issues here, especially for feminists (like myself) who believe that everyone, male and female, should be able to make the choices they want, rather than the choices society expects. But come on, these are freshpersons in college. How much do they really know about their futures?
Just a note to say that I haven't dropped off the face of the planet. As you can surmise from my last post (lo these many weeks ago), I've been sick with a nasty virus, and I just haven't been up to blogging the last couple of weeks. I'm finally recovering and will be posting regularly again soon.
In the meantime, a question:
Do you like background music? Do you typically play music when you're engaged in other activities? Do you ever just sit down and listen to music without doing anything else?
More on this topic later...
Feeling particularly unmotivated, lethargic, and generally brain-dead, I humbly submit this list of things I can't possibly do (right now):
How can I possibly salvage this post? How about by turning it into a question: is there anything you can't possibly do (right now)?
Okay, boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, it's time for another Occasional Question:
What can (or should) I do with the following? I'd really prefer not to simply throw these things away, so I'm holding onto them. But lately, I'm starting to feel like a pack rat -- plus I'm running out of space. Your brilliant ideas, please?
Come on, you crafty people out there. I know you must have some ideas!
Hellooo...is anybody out there?
I'm sure you've all been too busy cooking, eating, and shopping to read my silly little meanderings. I've been, um, sort of busy myself, what with making a flying trip to my brother's house to meet my new nephew (Carter John Traill), hosting and participating in the various festivities surrounding Wendy and David's wedding, and assorted work-related obligations. I do have a question, though, which came to me following the wonderful Thanksgiving dinner prepared by sister-in-law Emilie (who managed to do all that cooking despite having given birth two weeks ago).
What foods must you absolutely have at Thanksgiving dinner in order for it to really seem like Thanksgiving dinner?
I ask because about halfway through our lovely meal last Thursday, my mother suddenly looked confused, and said, "Where's the stuffing? We forgot to make the stuffing!" All of us looked at our plates, and at the dazzling array of dishes on the table, as if expecting to see a dish of stuffing that just somehow hadn't been passed around. But Mom was right -- there wasn't any stuffing. We all merely shrugged and kept eating, since it was quite apparent that we had more than enough food -- and hey, with the scalloped corn, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and dinner rolls, it wasn't as if we were lacking for carbs!
Stuffing is right up there with my favorite parts of a holiday meal, so I surprised myself in a couple of ways: first, because I hadn't immediately noticed the lack of stuffing, and second, because by the time we noticed, I didn't really care. I love stuffing so much that if you asked me before Thursday if I would even consider a Thanksgiving dinner adequate that didn't include it, I would have been horrified at the very suggestion -- but when it was missing, it didn't really matter. Odd, eh?
I've been neglecting the Shades a bit lately, due to a combination of factors: the usual laziness, an especially mentally draining period at work, and an unhealthy obsession with Hordes of the Underdark. I've saved up plenty of things to blog about, though, so all of my loyal readers can rest assured that sooner or later, Shades will return to its normal level of activity.
Until then, I have another question. I dropped the daily questions thing without any fanfare, because for a while, I ran out of questions. Also, in light of the whole election thing, my questions started to seem intolerably trivial rather than just quirky and silly.
I'm over that now (though my media blackout continues, more or less), and ready to go back to my usual navel-gazing. (See? All it took was a little Valium spritzer! Thanks, Kristi!) And what do you know, I still have the occasional question. So from now on, these will be occasional questions rather than daily questions. They will appear approximately weekly, but it could be more or less often depending on when they occur to me.
Like you care. Anyway, for the three of you who've managed to overcome your skull-crushing boredom with this entry to get this far, here's the question:
Why do so many people find it necessary to back into parking spaces?
Last Friday night, John and I went to Orchestra Hall to hear the Minnesota Orchestra play Mahler's 7th Symphony (nicely done, by the way). We sat for nearly five minutes in a parking ramp traffic jam, because the four, yes, four cars directly in front of us all had to back into their parking spaces. What is the advantage to this practice? If you understand it, please enlighten me.
First, a note for those of you who may be, um, hanging on my every word. Postings will probably be a little infrequent this week, since my mother is in town, and her idea of a good time is decidedly not watching me compose blog entries.
Second, a question for today. Continuing in the linen vein,
Are you picky about your bedsheets? What fiber/fabric/color, etc. do you prefer?
When I was a poor student, I clothed my bed with the cheapest sheets I could find, which were usually a cotton/poly blend. They lasted forever, but now they feel like sandpaper to me. Since I'm not quite as poor as I once was, I've experimented with other sheets. We've tried flannel, but even in the dead of winter, we find them too hot. Satin kind of freaks me out on principle as a basis for sleep, so I've never tried satin sheets.
Our current favorites are 100% cotton sheets, and the higher the thread count, the better. I think I've eliminated anything less than 250 thread count, but I also don't have anything higher than 350 -- I simply can't bring myself to spend that much money on sheets. For colors, I like cool, solid colors: blues, greens, and white. Patterns usually strike me as too busy, and the cooler colors denote tranquility and relaxation in my mind -- perfect for sleep.
How much tolerance do you have for work that involves lots of details?
I have a high tolerance for detailed work. For catalogers, it comes with the territory -- anyone who couldn't deal with a ridiculous amount of minutiae would promptly go insane in my line of work. Catalogers are well known for their ability to fixate on and endlessly debate the most trivial details. Don't believe me? Check out some of the documents I've written for work, here and here. Writing each of those required the distillation of dozens if not hundreds of pages of rules, instructions, interpretation, and opinion.
There are other aspects of my work that require more of a grasp of the big picture, but I do spend plenty of time up to my eyebrows in details.
And a bonus seasonally-themed question, since I was unable to post on Friday:
How did we come to represent ghosts with white sheets?
The more I think about this, the more I'm baffled. Anyone have any ideas?
Have you seen any interesting or odd political yard signs in your area?
Observed in my neighborhood, among a large number of assorted Kerry-Edwards yard signs and a few standard issue Bush-Cheney yard signs:
Today's question is a little bit of a piece with yesterday's question.
Do you think the media report responsibly on politics?
Two things got me thinking about this. First, Jon Stewart's appearance on Crossfire last week, where he laid into Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala for (among other things) not allowing their show to be a forum for true debate. Second, a segment of Hardball tonight, in which Chris Matthews and his panel of hacks spent, I kid you not, ten minutes discussing Teresa Heinz Kerry's flubbed speech in which she said she didn't think Laura Bush had ever worked (she has, and Heinz Kerry apologized).
I just don't see the value in this kind of "news." I refuse to believe there are really people out there who are going to suddenly change their minds about who to vote for because of something this trivial. It seems like it's always the low-hanging fruit that gets a lot of play in any news cycle, like this "story" or the whole Mary Cheney/lesbian thing. It doesn't make any sense to me, especially when things are going on that I would actually like to hear a little reporting and/or commentary on (like Condoleezza Rice being on the campaign trail when the Vice President claims that a terrorist attack is imminent).
I know this isn't a new idea. I've been cynical about news reporting -- especially political news -- for a long time. It just bothers me so much more this close to an election.
Does politics depress you?
It depresses me. Deeply. Constantly. I hate October in even-numbered years, because I can't stand being constantly surrounded by political news and propaganda. I know plenty of people thrive on this stuff. It just makes me sad.
Why are there so many drivers who don't know how to deal with a four-way stop?
I don't claim to be a particularly good driver, but I do try to be careful about some things. Knowing how likely another vehicle is to smash into me before I proceed into an intersection is right at the top of that list. I never took driver's ed, but I know the whole concept of four-way stops was crystal-clear to me long before I was actually licensed to drive. Why are so many people seemingly so confused about how to handle a four-way stop? I don't even want to get into to other situations where you have to determine which driver has the right-of-way -- in those cases, there's no hope. But four-way stops? Not so tricky. Or so I'd like to think.
Are you a careful reader or a fast reader?
I try to be a careful reader, but my default reading mode seems to be hard-wired toward getting through material as quickly as possible. When I'm really enjoying a novel, I usually can't resist the temptation to rush through it to see how the plot unfolds. It's the closest I can get to instant gratification in reading -- but it means that I tend to miss a lot of subtleties my first time through a book. If I want to really savor the prose or look for subtext and deeper meanings, I almost always need a second reading.
I learned to read this way as a child, when for reasons that are lost to me now, I perceived reading as some sort of competition. During summers, I felt a compulsion to get through as many books as possible. As it happened, this was a skill that served me well as an undergraduate English major: reading fast was tremendously advantageous in courses paced at a novel per week.
Now, I'd prefer to be able to read in a more leisurely fashion, but it requires a lot of self-discipline for me to do that. This is part of why I enjoy the occasional lightweight and/or trashy novel -- I can devour it quickly without guilt or worry that I've missed anything below the surface.
What is the deal with bumper stickers? Why do some people cover their vehicles with them? Have you or would you ever put bumper stickers on your car?
We just put a Kerry-Edwards sticker on one of our cars, my first bumper sticker ever. Seems like some people consider bumper stickers a form of self-expression -- the sticker-covered cars remind me of college students who plaster their backpacks with buttons. That image leads me directly to Office Space, and the restaurant manager who insists that each waiter/waitress select a certain number of "pieces of flair," (that is, buttons). "What's the matter, don't you want to express yourself?"
I do want to express myself, and I don't always rule out silly and/or juvenile ways of doing that, but bumper stickers have always seemed off-limits to me for some reason. So putting the Kerry-Edwards sticker on the car was a big step. I'll let others be the judge of whether it was a step in the right or wrong direction.
There are a lot of things I wonder about, but I have even less of value to say about those things than I do about the things I usually blog about. Most of these are trivial, if not downright silly, but I'm curious, so I'm going to start asking. So in the interests of wasting even more of everybody's time, let's begin.
Do strangers or acquaintances frequently screw up your name and/or its pronunciation? If so, do you correct them, or do you just let it go? Do you consider yourself "good with names?" Does that affect how you respond when others can't pronounce or spell your name?
I've never thought of my name as an especially difficult one, but I get a lot of "Tracy Stale," even from acquaintances. "Traill" also seems to throw a surprising number of people: I get "Trall," "Tr-eye-l," and even "Tra-eel."
I do think I'm pretty good with names, but I tend to just ignore it when people make a hash of my name. I only correct when it's really critical.