Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Last lecture of the semester

Today was my last lecture of the semester. Like yesterday, I was teaching my MW class about blogging and other trends and issues in PR. All that is left now is the last test and finals. I know the students are looking forward to the semester break.

Speeding toward the end of the semester

I know I haven't posted much lately. It seems like closer it is to the end of the semester, the faster it is that the time goes by. I seems like the entire month of November has only been two weeks long.

I'm skipping my workout this morning to finish something for class tomorrow night. Because of conferences and Thanksgiving, we haven't had a Thursday night class since Nov. 10, yet still I struggle to finish the homework. Part of that is the amount of work. The prof said we had 120 pages of reading, but two of the articles were photocopied two pages per sheet, so in reality, it was 200. I truly spent time working on it every week, but it was just a lot to get through. I am still working on answering the objectives from the readings so I can study for the quiz tomorrow.

I've also spent a lot of time on what I'm teaching. I assigned both classes papers, which took me two weekends to grade. They have a test this week and then finals in two weeks. I've developed their test for this week, but still need to do their final. Plus I need to work on their final grades.

I also had a group project due this week. We conducted a focus group on blogging and then wrote the results. The project went well. Unfortunately I have been so busy I haven't had time to work on the 15 page paper due for this class in 12 days. Ugh! But before that's due, I have a take home final for my Thursday night class, which will end up being a 10 page paper. I hope to knock it out this weekend and then spend all next week on my paper. As for my thesis, I just haven't had time to work on it.

Sigh. I am looking forward to the semester break for no other reason that to get caught up.

Serial killer or computer programmer?

Can you tell the difference between a serial killer and a computer programmer? Take this quiz and find out.

You would think that with all the CSIs, Law & Orders and various serial killer biographies I watch on A&E and the History Channel, plus all the computer folks I hang out with, I would be good at this. However, I only got 2 out of 10 correct and one was the Son of Sam. How well can you do?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A new way to meet the neighbors

Evidently we have a busted pipe in our house. We realized this today when our next door neighbor stopped by to tell us that there was a foot of water by our water meter. It was freezing last night, so I don't know if something busted then or not. Since that time, several people walking by the house noticed it and stopped to tell us. I figure that is one way to meet new people. The plumber is coming tomorrow; we hope this will be covered by our home warranty.

Teaching about blogs

Today I am teaching my TTH class about trends in PR. Specially we are discussing search engine optimization and search engine marketing, podcasting, and of course, blogging. I am discussing moBlogging, or mobile blogging, by taking their photo on my cell phone and posting it on the blog in just seconds. I only wish the camera phone had a wide-angle lens so I could have included the other side of the classroom in the shot as well. :-)

Friday, November 25, 2005

Power shift

Normally in our house it is the dogs that terrorize the cat. As a general rule, Dexter stays as far away from the dogs as possible. However, recently Dexter learned how he can terrorize the dogs.

Our dogs have been trained not to go after food until we give them the command. They will sit there for 5 minutes with food in their dish, waiting to go after it. In fact, once I walked away to do something and forgot all about the dogs -- 15 minutes later I notice them outside, with a big puddle of drool on the ground and food in their dish, waiting for mommy to say they can eat.

Of course anyone who has ever had a cat knows that it's very difficult to train one, and waiting for food is just not in their nature. Dexter is using this to his advantage with the dogs. The other night Doug and I were having ice cream and placed the empty bowl on the floor for the dogs to lick. As they were waiting for us to let them go at it, Dexter comes up between them -- which is normally like Odysseus trying to navigate the Scylla and Charybdis. Feeling confident, the cat licked the ice cream bowl while the dogs looked at us with big, sad eyes. "Why is kitty getting the bowl and we can't have it," they seemed to say.

Dexter had his fill and went back to his lair, knowing that at least momentarily, he had the power over the dogs.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Teacher's pet

Tonight Dexter is helping me grade papers. I know I haven't blogged much lately but it's been real busy.

Monday, November 14, 2005

All's quiet on the Austin front

In the no news is good news department, it's been a busy, yet relatively uneventful week. I was fighting a cold and it won, but other than that, it's just been school work. Finals are in less than a month, so it will be crazy between now and then.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Cyber kitty

Tonight Dexter is helping with my homework. He is helping create a list of questions for a focus group on blogging -- a group project for my theories class. I'm lucky to have such a helpful cat.

My name is Dara and I am a slave to technology

Tomorrow I have a two-page due on why, "New technologies are not improving the quality of our lives, they are making us slaves of technology." I'm not really sure what this has to do with mass communication theories, but I will leave that to another post. Of course, I don't believe the point of view that technology is evil, but I do believe in making an A in a class. G, one of my classmates, read the paper and thought I did a good job of meeting the paper requirements, but proving my side. For this reason, I thought I'd share.

I am a self-admitted technophile; almost 10 years of working with technology companies will do that to you. I think of most things in terms of technology. If I need to talk to my sisters about the holidays, I email them; if I want to check a local move time, I look it up online. It doesn’t help that I live in a city that is a technology hub and that most of my friends are also techies. I strongly believe that technology is a positive force in our lives. Still, I realize how easy it is to become a slave to technology.

Today we can be plugged in 24/7 and communication is at our fingertips. We can access email from work, school, home, and even the local sandwich shop, but this isn’t always a good thing as often we forget to unplug. I get home from class after 10 p.m. and my first urge is to check my email and see what I missed in the last four hours. I wake up in the morning and grab my laptop and get online before I get out of bed, reading the morning headlines and checking email. With my laptop and wireless Internet, I can be online anywhere at any time and when I’m not, I feel disconnected. In this way I have become a slave to technology.

The ease of accessibility and the immediate nature of technology is what make us slaves to it. When I started my career working at the corporate offices of Wal-Mart, we had a strict “sundown rule” which said all telephone calls had to be returned before leaving work. The thought was that if it was important enough for someone to pick up a phone and call you, then it was important enough for them to receive a call back. The Internet takes the thought out of communication. For example, I often get email questions from students that they could easily have found the answer to themselves by looking on Blackboard. This is not unique to students – in general, people would rather email someone for an answer instead of finding it themselves. Unfortunately, the receiver often feels that it is necessary to respond immediately. As I am working on this paper students email me with questions regarding their class projects. Not wanting to slow down their progress, I interrupt my writing to answer their questions, which actually slows my progress. Yet because it was a personal message to me, I feel like I have to respond now. This is another way I am a slave to technology.

Sometimes technology can become a crutch, becoming so engrained into our way of thinking that we can’t possibly imagine doing something without using technology. Last Thanksgiving Doug and I went to Little Rock to see my family. Doug was contracting for Dell and had a project report he had to finish that weekend. His laptop was configured so that he could only access the Dell network through a wireless connection. We didn’t see this as a problem because we thought that all bookstores and coffee shops had hot spots and we could just spend a day there. Unfortunately we found that there were very few hot spots in Little Rock. Even when we found one, Dell’s external network connection crashed. We cut our trip short, driving back to Austin late at night so Doug could go into the office to complete his report.

I am old enough to remember the days when we had only four television channels, microwave ovens were science fiction, and telephones were rotary dials. Maybe that’s why I appreciate it that now I can take my laptop into a coffee shop and sit for hours chatting with a friend on the other side of the globe. I believe that technology has allowed us to become less isolated and more connected to the world around us, but it is that convenience and connectivity has also enslaved us. It is almost too easy for us to communicate and allow others to think for us and provide us answers. Because of the immediate nature of technology, we are more likely to respond to communication as though it is urgent when it is not, and it is difficult for us to imagine completing a task without technology. Still, we must remember that the rise of technology has taken only a few years; perhaps if we give it a few more, we will learn how to make technology work efficiently for us instead of us working for technology.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Welcome to sweeps month

Four months a year television stations pull out all the punches to try and get ratings. These months, known as sweeps, are important because ratings from these months will set advertising rates for the rest of the year. November is probably the most important sweeps period because is the first ratings period for the shows introduced at the beginning of the new television season.

Local news is not immune to sweeps; this is when you get the most sensationalistic stories. Often, it's stories that would not normally make the news and usually it is sensationalism over substance. Last night KXAN aired one of these stories, about prostitution on South Congress. More specifically, it was about how some Katrina evacuees have joined the working girls on South Congress. The reporter interviewed a vice cop and evidently the cops have noticed five more working girls on the street.

What got us was the tone the reporter took and how she was trying to make a big deal out of it. It sounded like she was reporting on a horrendous disaster rather than just 5 more prostitutes. Heck, I bet at least 100 working girls come to town during SXSW. Of course, SXSW happens in March, which is not sweeps.

The other thing that got us was the interview with the owner of Opal Divines, a local watering hole. Opal Divines has an outdoor deck and during one police roundup of hookers, customers on Opal's deck would sit there with their beer, watching the arrests and would applaud every time the cops napped someone. The police would then look up at the restaurant crowd, wave, and get another girl.

Now that's Austin for you.