Sunday, August 31, 2008

the big picture

While I was savoring the election this morning, a thought occurred to me. Accusations of all sorts of prejudices have been floating around the media and campaign trails. I wonder, which ones will be judged as valid concerns by history and which ones will be totally embarrassing to talk about with my future grandkids?

Like, was all that scrutiny of Clinton's wardrobe based in social reality or manufactured by a bored and sexist media? Is it acceptable to objectify Palin's body now if she did it first in past pageants? What if there are more than cosmetic concerns involved? (P.S. Thanks to Bryan for that last link.)

How are we going to justify to generations after us that in 2008, a good number of United States citizens and journalists were still so racist that they actually believed that Obama = terrorist business? What's it gonna take to get us to a point where we can laugh at that?

And how about the matter of McCain's remaining life expectancy? Is it ageist or a legit numbers game? Would it be more ageist to bring this up if there weren't concerns about Palin's qualifications?

I suppose we'll see.

Friday, August 29, 2008

It's hard to work I'm so excited but I promise I'm on lunch right now.

The hardest part of being a VISTA for me right now is abiding by the Hatch Act. I committed to this service year completely aware of the financial hardship that comes with it. I was totally willing to deal with the budget realities of the living allowance because I value service and love my community and country. I'm sure there are ways to say that with less fromage, but whatever.

It is freaking killing me to not be able to use this blog to externally process my thoughts about candidates. I am hyped about this election. Just totally stoked. It is a Thing in the Main. (Of course, it can be dangerous to get excited.)

SO! We've been digesting the announcement that Sara Palin is John McCain's running mate around bull pen here at work. My solution is to make some neutral questions out of the more interesting back-and-forth I've been overhearing. I like questions and lists. Don't you?

If Palin was chosen primarily because of her sex, does it mean she's being exploited by her party?

Or should we instead interpret the fact that a woman was judged as the most viable Vice Presidential candidate as progress?

Is it both? Is it possible that even if she was chosen for exploitative reasons, the net result will be positive for feminism?

If former Hilary Clinton supporters flock to McCain based on Palin, does that reflect the state of American feminism or the nastiness of the '08 Democratic primaries?

And I'm sure everyone's talking about this part of it (which is good), but what are the implications of her for the McCain campaign's characterizations of Obama as inexperienced?

Of course, Biden's extensive experience can reasonably be assumed as a factor in Obama's VP choice, so are McCain and Obama both in glass houses when it comes to experience attacks?

We've got more, but I need to sharpen my creativity before I give them a shot. This is fun.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My morale is down.

No, literally. I tried to add my Morale-O-Meter to the side, but I have absolutely no idea what I am doing with html so it was all cut off and strange. (Really? The chick with the totally default blog layout doesn't know her way around html? Crazy.) So it's down at the bottom of the page until I figure it out or find someone who can help me out.

Oh, and using the meter means that I had to sign up for a 43 Things account. The only way I can think to describe 43 Things is as a Turbo-List. We'll see how these sites work out for me. I figure that in six months I will either be a far more productive person or have completely lost my memory.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

promises, promises

I need to formally write here what I promised myself about a week ago: I am going to update this more often. At least three times per week. I told myself I would blog more, and then I just wound up spending more time reading blogs. That and installing and obsessively checking Google Analytics. (And guess what? Nobody freakin' reads this when I don't freakin' update! Eesh!)

Anyway, at least some good has come from that because I have a new obsession: Finding crazy ways to collect and visualize data. Seriously, dudes. I love playing with weird data collections like Julia Styles loves acting in Shakespeare remakes.

All hail to Jason Kottke for getting me hooked.

For example:

I dig Name Voyager because at work lately I have spent lots of time preaching the gospel of unobtrusive data. Look at how effective that is!

I've also been playing around with the practical and ethical issues associated with piloting journals as more serious measures of outcome achievement. I figure we can learn at least as much about the girls as we do about the state of blogging about breakups circa 2005 or the current state of online dating. Look!

And personally, if Daytum doesn't get back to me about beta testing soon, I may explode. I am also seriously considering using the free part of this software even though I am fully toilet trained. (Fact of the day!)

Friday, August 15, 2008

tub time!

I got my tub! To explain why this is exciting, I have to back up.

(Elevator Speech Alert!) Most Girls Incorporated affiliates own club locations where girls meet after school or for camp. Because of issues that cropped up in the past few years like new expenses, local schools' new busing rules and gas prices, we at the Indianapolis affiliate closed both club buildings. We now deliver programming through partnerships with local schools, parks, churches, and libraries. Partners within a two-mile radius are grouped into what we call "hubs." The schedules are such that girls can attend school-day programming in one content area during the day, and then perhaps walk to another hub partner after school or on the weekend for different Girls Inc. programming.

In order to expand programming but keep overhead relatively low, we've started using volunteers as program facilitators. Volunteers get these huge storage tubs full of all the information and supplies they need to run program sessions.

To better understand what I am here to evaluate in the first place, I'm leading a school day program this fall. I WAS excited when I started typing this because a coworker brought over the Media Literacy tub for me to use in a program where they needed a last-minute fill-in, but one paragraph in she came back to let me know that they found a different volunteer to take my place. :(

How am I supposed to spend my afternoon now that all those issues of Tiger Beat are gone?

I don't think gratitude is boring

The theme of Girls Incorporated's annual fund raising lunch last week was "We Vote: 88 in '08." And during planning staff around the office were all bemused that women have only been guaranteed the right to vote for 88 years.

So here's an approximation of a conversation I had while checking in luncheon guests. An old friend from high school who is now a law student was checking in with the social service-type law firm she is working for during the summer.

Her (with sarcasm that I didn't pick up until she walked away): Good thing the theme is pro-women's voting, I mean...

Me (cutting her off): Yeah! Can you believe that it's only been 88 years? That's nuts!

Her: Actually, I can. In fact, it's hard to believe it's even been that long.

Me: Uhm. Well. Have a great time! The name tag station is to your right!

And then yesterday, Lizzy and I went to drop off some information for our fellow VISTAs at the Red Cross. They share a room with the volunteers who call overseas on behalf of soldiers' families when there is an emergency. So they sit there all day some days and listen to volunteers who can tell Indiana soldiers things like "your wife is in labor," or "your grandmother has 6 months to live," but not more than a handful of details beyond that. Or they navigate the red tape involved in getting a soldier leave to attend a funeral.

I mean, I thought that my work environment had entered Heavyville because the summer camp girls are gone and I don't get random hugs from the younger girls when I go down to get my lunch out of fridge anymore. But really, even without the girls here, I've got a good thing going. Essentially, I document progress towards "empowered girls" and "an equitable society." I have the luxury of taking for granted that the world is getting better. Not everyone in nonprofit has that. For all the effort I've been putting into being more positive, I haven't even thought about the aspects of my work that are positive by default.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

First Milestone!

That was a fun break from my usual over-analytical style yesterday, so I won't ramble on for too long today.

Today is exciting because I conducted my last history interview today! Yaaay! My straight Girls Inc. chronological history is complied and only needs some light fact-checking and editing. I'm also going to cut and paste it into individual sections like "technology" and "outreach" that future staff can add to on a regular basis. Then I will perfect the record-keeping system's sustainablility/accessiblity at my convenience for the rest of the year. Hopefully when I leave Girls Incorporated, the staff won't need a historian-type ever again, and will be able to pull up information about past programs, partnerships, and decisions whenever they need to.

So the next thing I'm starting on is actually developing and piloting program outcome evaluation techniques by leading a program! This is a very good thing. This is the first week I've been here without the summer camp girls running up and down the stairs all day. I miss them. It's too quiet. Plus, I get to DO something other than listening to variations on the same story, writing them down, re-typing everything, and then sorting everything I typed.

I'm going to start writing more about what I actually do because I've been feeling pretty lonely lately, and it's my own fault. I'm the only VISTA in evaluation in Indiana (Maybe the whole country. I've never even heard of anyone knowing about a VISTA with a position like mine.), I'm the only staff member working on evaluation full time, and of the community and board members on the Evaluation Task Force, I'm the only one with a background in anthropology. So basically, nobody is going to get where I'm coming from or understand what I do unless I quit whining to my coworkers and loved ones and put some effort into letting people know. This is a practical project. It's not worth doing if I can't/don't communicate why it's important. So there.

Monday, August 11, 2008

DRANK: The Final Frontier

You can catch all the DRANK liveblog action (or, hopefully, lack thereof) here, or over at Charlie's blog, starting at 8 PM Eastern tonight. Enjoy!

Edit: I know this gets linked to as a VISTA blog, but I would argue that this is totally on-topic. What defines a service year more often than the pursuit of cheap thrills?