Wednesday Words: Viruses

I have not gotten a darn thing accomplished school-wise for the last two nights. The reason is that my computer got sick. It still worked, but I could tell by some quirky behavior that it had contracted a virus. Unfortunately, I couldn’t shove a Sudafed in the USB port and make it all better. 😦

I normally use Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, but it didn’t detect this icky Trojan. Lesson No. 1: there’s a difference between malware and viruses. I guess it’s like an ear infection vs. a cold. (On a side note, I noticed as I was searching techie forums for advice that I started seeing condom ads in the sidebars. Classy, marketing gurus … not that kind of Trojan, sheesh.)

It’s times like these when I wish I could pick up the phone and call my uber-geek brother. Instead, I vented to a techie friend who recommended Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) to check for viruses and CCleaner to get rid of extraneous files (basically a thorough cache purge). I added both, and MSE immediately turned red as it detected and purged the bug each time it cropped up … but that’s just the problem … it kept popping back up. I was still getting redirected from websites, and my computer didn’t want to shut down. MSE did a good job of immediately detecting the problem, but it only deleted it temporarily.

Finally, after reading several trustworthy recommendations, I ran the free scan from HitmanPro, which identified the same file that MSE had been, so I activated the free trial (30 days, if I recall correctly) to get rid of it. I rebooted and ran a few Google searches, and so far (knock on wood) – no redirects! MSE has also been nice & green for a while now, too. *Hopefully* it’s gone now.

I feel so … violated. 😦  I like to think that I’m a pretty tech-savvy person (for an end-user), and I maintain strict privacy settings, use Web of Trust for browsing, etc., so it ticks me off that I somehow got duped. Oh, well – I just have more catch-up work to do for my classes, but at least the papers aren’t due right away.

When does novel become norm?

Some universities are still holding out when it comes to distance education. This Internet thing is still too newfangled for them to grasp. They assert seemingly valid reasons: concerns about mission-creep, emphasis on residential life, cost, etc., but I question the rationale.

I can understand the first point about mission-creep, to an extent, although I believe there are ways to embed the university’s mission within core classes and throughout the curriculum. The second reason primarily applies to undergraduates, but since most graduate students live off-campus, they represent a good cohort with which to begin a distance education program. The third point is the most difficult for me to understand. Software programs such as Blackboard are already in use at many (most?) universities, and using the system for distance learning is no more difficult than using another module of the software; tools like discussion forums and document sharing are already built in! It’s like saying that you can’t create a newsletter because you only use Excel, but you ignore the fact that MS Office Suite also comes with Word and Publisher.

I read an article today about something unfathomable–a tenured professor is walking away from his post at a prestigious university in order to teach solely online. During his recent announcement at a professional conference, the professor explained that “his move was motivated in part by teaching practices that evolved too slowly to be effective.”

Wow. I would like to take back all of the snarky comments that I’ve made over the years about tenured professors becoming lazy, non-caring, out-of-touch fuddy-duddies. (Ok, most of the sassy comments, but a few are still applicable.)

The gist is: since when do you have to be physically present in a classroom to learn? I believe this is especially true at the graduate level. My doctoral classes cover a base of material, but I am expected to expound on what I read/learn and apply the information to my personal research and writing. Even in a “typical” doctoral program, I don’t know of anyone whose professor held them by the hand and guided them through every lecture, every research paper, every project and their dissertation. Graduate students are expected to work independently and become scholars.

I may not be Einstein, but I would gladly hold up the work that I have completed at a distance against a traditional doctoral student’s in-class work. Would my work be better? Perhaps not, but that isn’t the point. It should be comparable. Let a student’s work stand or fall on its own merit, not based on the classroom environment.

Secret-keeping willpower

My 6th grader is working on a book report project where he has to create a newspaper with certain sections to cover the gist of the novel. I suggested that he use Publisher, and I told him that I wouldn’t do it for him, but I’d be happy to assist with learning the software.

The computer that the boys share doesn’t have Publisher, though, so I’m letting him use my laptop and save the file on the Desktop. So far, he’s off to a great start, and I think he’ll have a good finished project.

His 5th grade brother was looking over his shoulder as he worked the other evening and whispered something to him that I couldn’t hear. Then, they asked if they could make another Publisher document, so I said sure and told them to just save it on the Desktop so they can find it easily. They said it’s a surprise, so I assured them that I wouldn’t look at it.

Well, the file is called “Mom bday card,” and it stares me in the face every evening when I get on my laptop! 🙂  I haven’t even mentioned that I noticed the file name, and I promise I won’t open it, but my heart feels so full that they are making something for me. For two and a half more weeks, I have to stare at the tempting icon, though!

Writing Wednesday: More dissertation thoughts

The difference between my degree program (DPA – Doctor of Public Administration) and a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science) is that the DPA is practitioner-oriented. That’s a fancy way of saying that what I’m learning is supposed to be applicable in real life. It’s not just about theory and history; it’s about putting what we’re learning into practice.

Many people who earn a DPA work in the public sector (ie, government jobs) or in a private sector role that relates to the public sector (ie, nonprofit organizations, thinktanks, higher education administration, policy analysis, etc.). Some go into academia as faculty members, although the Ph.D. is still preferred over the DPA in some circles. (Don’t get me started on the cliques in academia!) The policy analysis function is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, particularly as it relates to my dissertation topic.

I’m waiting for feedback from my adviser, because this is new territory for me, and I want to be sure that I trek forward in the right direction. I’m wondering if I can write my dissertation as a policy recommendation to the Joint Economic Committee. Instead of just exploring the potential ramifications of virtual economies (taxation, in particular), I’m thinking of writing it as a plan of action–something they might actually use in developing a formal position on the topic.

Writing Wednesday: Am I a feminist?

There are a few words and phrases in the American vernacular of which I am immediately skeptical, and feminism is one of them. I am a working mother who used to feel like the odd-[wo]man-out at my old church, surrounded by SAHMs — most of whom also home-schooled. I felt like my life was under a microscope. They never came right out and challenged me about my choice (obligation, need, whatev) to work outside the home, and to their credit, they were delightful ladies, so perhaps the pressure was self-imposed. At any rate, I never really felt like I fit in.

I took the minimum 6 weeks off with each of my childbirths, for the sole reason that I did not have enough vacation time accumulated to take more. In two of the three cases, I took leave without pay just to make it 6 weeks. So, other than brief maternity leave, I’ve never known what it is like to be a SAHM.

Am I a feminist because I work outside the home? I’m not sure about the answer to that. Actually, I’ve always assumed that I was not a feminist because of two main reasons: a) I am opposed to abortion, and b) I support women who elect not to work outside the home (provided it is their choice to do so and not imposed upon them). Regardless of whether the woman works a regular job or not, however, I do believe that men should be household helpers and know how to (and be actively willing to) change a diaper and cook a meal. Am I a feminist because I believe that men should pull their weight around the house? Perhaps, but I don’t know.

So, in an effort to challenge myself and broaden my perspective, I’m planning to write one of my term papers on the feminist ideology. There are no shortages of articles on the topic, so I’m going to look at feminism from the lens of Thomas L. Friedman’s “flat world” model. The World is Flat addresses the rapid technological changes that are “flattening” the globe, in a virtual sense.

I have only a vague outline right now, but I’m thinking of three sections:

  1. Women as breadwinners (how globalization is opening doors to women in poverty)
  2. Women as global leaders (exploring technology and political involvement)
  3. Women as change agents (looking at human rights, social justice, etc.)

We’ll see where it goes from there, but that’s my starting point. I’ll be sure to write another post when I figure out whether or not I’m a feminist. 😉

Writing Wednesday: Dissertation brainstorming

I’ve been tossing around some ideas since the spring term about research adventures that might help me narrow down my dissertation topic. Unfortunately, academia moves at the speed of molasses sometimes, and delays that are out of my control have caused my side project to come to a halt. I am still hopeful that we’ll finish the paper eventually, but right now it’s on Pause.

I need to begin seriously paring down my ideas and formulating a dissertation topic. The problem is that I have too many interests! I am curious about the far-reaching impact of philanthropy, but my first foray into the subject didn’t provide the definitive results that I was hoping for. I was trying to see if private philanthropy played a role in driving public funding, but the example I used (Carnegie funding for U.S. libraries) was too disjointed to make a real connection. (Carnegie funding dried up, for the most part, in the early 1900s/teens, but federal funding didn’t begin until decades later, so it’s hard to say whether the former truly influenced the latter.)

I am interested in forecasting techniques and applying models from other disciplines (management, communication studies, etc.) to philanthropy — specifically, charitable giving in synthetic environments. I believe that we are on the cutting-edge of some really spectacular advances in social media types of technology, and philanthropy plays a role in that. It’s an under-researched area — which is challenging, on one hand, because there is little foundation, but it’s exciting, on the other hand, to think of playing a part in laying that foundation!

My impending mid-life crisis

One of these days, when I finally succumb to a [perfectly excusable, inevitable, you-would-too-if-you-had-five-boys] mid-life crisis, I want to get one of these:

1988 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe. Image (c) Kevin Campbell - I hope Mr. Campbell doesn't mind me swooning over his beautiful machine, which I noticed that he entered in the Cops & Rodders Car Show in Tuscon, AZ, a few years ago. (Source:

It is a 1988 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, and I used to own one. Mine had a 5-speed manual transmission, moon roof, all kinds of engine specs that make men drool and a trunk that could hold two or three bodies (just guessing on that last spec).

I bought it used in college after my Ford Escort was totaled by a young man who shall remain nameless, but I’ll give you a hint: he ended up becoming my husband. (He says I hold grudges, but I swear that I haven’t mentioned that particular incident in YEARS. And whenever it did come up, he always reminded me that I got my sweet T-Bird out of the deal. So, I suppose it worked out in the end.)

Why don’t I still have it? Well, that’s a long story, but here’s the nutshell: I felt led to go overseas to teach English with a nonprofit education group after graduation, but I had to raise my own support. My home church and friends and family were very generous in helping me toward my goal, but I don’t exactly hobnob with the uppity-ups, so I had to sell the car.

Logically, I know that it wouldn’t be practical to have today; after all, you can only seat two comfortably, though I suppose a contortionist could squeeze into the back “seat.” It’s not a family car. It’s a sports car.

So … perhaps I can get one in 10 years when the youngest monkeys are going on 17, except then the car will be 33 years old and probably worth more as a “classic” than I will be able to afford with two Juniors, a Senior, another Junior in college and a Senior in college.

Goodness gracious … what did I just write?!? Perhaps the crisis part of the mid-life crisis will hit me sooner than that! LOL!  O.o

Playing the odds

In case you haven’t heard, a 6-ton dead satellite is slated to plummet to the Earth sometime today or tomorrow. Am I the only one who finds it odd that scientists can calculate with uncanny precision the landing point for a rover to Mars, yet experts don’t know where this satellite will land? Granted, it will burn up and break into chunks as it falls through the atmosphere, but still …

The Scientific American forecasts that there is a mere 1:3,200 chance that the debris will hit some poor schmuck on the planet, which works out to a 1:27 trillion chance that you (or I) will get hit. Comparatively speaking, the odds of winning the Texas Lotto jackpot are nearly 1:26 million.

Give or take a few zeros, I still find it ironic that people count on winning the lottery but dismiss the chance of being hit by space debris.

So, if several tons of flaming metal happens land on my office building, please be sure to tell the amazing tale to my grandkids for me someday. I’ll be rockin’ in worship on Glory’s side.


I’ve been having trouble with the auto-backup on my work computer, so I made a note to myself to reboot the machine when I leave the office today. (I usually leave it on but locked so that the overnight update can run, but apparently, you still ought to reboot it periodically.)

Anyway, I put a sticky note on the monitor that reads: “Restart today!” Every time I glance at it, I feel a  little nudge in the back of my mind, prompting me that it isn’t only the computer that needs to reboot. I need to remember that today is a new day; God’s mercies are brand new every morning.

Today is a fresh start! Yesterday’s worries shouldn’t still plague me, and tomorrow’s worries shouldn’t bother me yet. I need only worry about today.

Aww, shucks – thanks for the Versatile Blogger Award!

Thanks 1,000,000 to SueBE at One Writer’s Journey, who just awarded me a Versatile Blogger Award. I’m humbled and honored to know that someone besides my mom and BFF read my posts. 😉  Be sure to visit SueBE’s site for writing tips, tricks & reviews!

The rules for accepting the award are as follows:

  1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them in your post (did that above).
  2. Share 7 things about yourself.
  3. Pass this Award along to 15 recently discovered blogs and let them know about it (will get to that asap).

Now for 7 things about myself (that you may not already know from reading my blog):

  1. I can leg press 735 lbs.
  2. I once killed a cactus but have since learned to enjoy gardening (now that the boys are interested in growing things).
  3. I’ve lived on three continents.
  4. I have yet to finish The Lord of the Rings trilogy (but it’s on my must-read list).
  5. I once met author John Grisham at a literacy fundraising event. He signed my book – squee!
  6. When I have nightmares of being chased, I always end up flying away by swimming through the air … if I have to go really fast, then I roll over and do the backstroke.
  7. I held (still hold? idk) the community swim team record for backstroke. 🙂

Well, that’s a bit about me. I’ll work on the recommendations and include them in another post later. Thanks again, SueBE!