Monday, July 31, 2006

I can breath again

It's done. It's over. The Ts are crossed and the Is are dotted. Despite the misunderstanding 10 days ago, my thesis is signed (by the Dean), sealed and delivered (to the library). There is nothing more that could happen to impede my degree. I am all but graduated, and that will happen in 11 days. Needless to say, I was grinning from ear to ear as of 11:40 this morning. I am glad it's done.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Top place to shop

Granted, I didn't inherit the shopping gene in my XX chromosomes. I can think of 294 things I'd rather do than go to a crowded mall, even if there are bargains. Still, I think it's pretty cool that the outlet malls in San Marcos were recently named one of the world's top shopping destinations. The other day my mom mentioned that she saw it on the Travel Channel. Now the women on The View agree. Dubai, New York and San Marcos -- go figure.

Despite driving to San Marcos 3-4 days a week for two years, I admit I never made time to go shop. Of course, every so often Doug and I would take a weekend trip down as he likes Brooks Brothers and likes to shoe shop down there. There's a kitchen store I like, as well as a place with cute Christmas ornaments to feed my holiday fetish. I heard there is a new Create & Barrel store open, but haven't had a chance to visit it yet. I have a meeting on campus Monday. Maybe if it doesn't take too long, I'll do some shopping. This way I can say I've shopped at one of the world's top shopping destinations.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

50 movies to see before you die

Here's an interesting article where experts list the 50 films one must see before they die. I'm not sure who the experts are and how they define the best movies, but this list is somewhat suspect to me. After all, Sexy Beast, which I found painfully slow and boring, is #5, but Casablanca is no where on the list. I truly liked The Royal Tenenbaums, but it isn't a must-see movie, the same way The Godfather is. Movies like Casablanca and The Godfather are a part of our collective culture. Lost in Translation is not.

So if you had to pick movies in your top 50 must see before you die, what would you pick? Let me know and I will post mine in a later entry.

Little sneaks

Lately Allegra has gotten plenty of opportunities to perfect her “Little Miss Innocent” look. Ears back, head down, big brown eyes looking up at you, standing next to you while you point and accuse, “Did you do that? Did you?” She has gotten this look down to an art, hoping that you will think she’s not the culprit. After all, it was her brother Dante who turned tale and ran outside, thinking that out of sight means out of mind, not daring to come back in until the yelling subsides. Still, you know that both dogs are guilty of the crime, and lately there have been several indiscretions.

About a week a left the house for a about 20 minutes, just to pick up a few things at the store for dinner that night. The night before I had roasted some seasoned chickpeas in the oven, seeing a recipe where they make healthy, crunchy snacks. I placed some in a plastic baggie on the counter for Doug to take to work, but he was so preoccupied that morning, he forgot. While I was gone, the dogs discovered the baggie on the counter, stole it, tore open the plastic and devoured the contents. I was livid! “Did you do this?! Did you do this?!” I screamed while shaking the plastic remnants at them. This was one of the few times Dante didn’t run, and as I was shaking my hand accusingly at him, he turned his head in such a way that the knuckle of my right index finger hit is head. Although there are times we call him “cement head,” we’ve never thought his head to actually be made from cement. I was wrong. Banging my knuckle on his head caused extreme pain and a bruise. I guess that’s one way to keep me from fussing at them.

The next incident occurred two days later. Again, I wasn’t gone for a long period of time – just long enough to go to the gym and back. I came home and they looked guilty, hiding in the kitchen, just waiting for me to fuss at them, but I didn’t see any evidence of wrong doing. Later, I went outside to feed and water them and saw it – my square glass baking dish that weighs a ton. I had made a breakfast casserole a few days earlier so that Doug could simply re-heat it and have breakfast on the go. We finished the casserole that morning and I had left the dish on the counter to clean later. Somehow when I was gone, the dogs managed to get this dish off the counter and outside to lick clean without so much as chipping the glass. I’m still not sure how they managed that one.

Talking to my friend Debbie over the weekend, she again reminded me of leaving red pepper flakes on the counter. This worked when her Zoey was counter surfing. I wasn’t sure how it would work on my dogs, as they have been known to eat a jar of Adobe chilies, but I decided it couldn’t hurt. Saturday I left paper plates of red chili flakes on the counter and table when we went to run errands. I’m not sure if I would count it as a success or failure as they didn’t get into the flakes (which we wanted), but then again, they didn’t get on the counter to get them (which we didn’t want).

But the sneaks have been into other things lately. We’ve been working hard to declutter the house. I’m packing up my graduate school papers, getting rid of a lot of my novels, and organizing magazines into what to keep, what to toss, and what to give away. We’ve also been going through certain magazines to pull articles before we toss. Anyway, our living room had stacks of magazines and boxes of books when Doug and I had to run errands. Thinking of all the books and papers the dogs have destroyed, I had Doug put the dogs outside, but instead of sliding the metal doggie dog in place, he simply propped it against the wall. Coming home after trying unsuccessfully to sell our books at Half Price Books and going to the grocery store, we came home to find the dogs in the house. Luckily, they hadn’t gotten into anything. We had only come home long enough to put up the groceries and when we left, I had Doug slide the doggie door in place. It didn’t work. Somehow these dogs where able to pull the metal door out of its track and come inside. Guess they thought they should be in the air conditioning instead of the 100 degree heat. Again, they didn’t get into anything, so all was well.

Until last night, that is. The decluttering process has moved into drawers and closets. I figure if I haven’t looked at or touched in three years, it goes – either to Goodwill (if appropriate) or the trash. I had two trash bags of 10 year old half-empty bottles of suntan lotion and assorted stuff, which Doug placed by the door to remember to take to the trash this morning. “Do you think the dogs will get into that?” I asked. He didn’t think so as it wasn’t food, wasn’t rotten, and that usually our bedroom door is closed. I figured that he was right. Of course, I didn’t remember this at 3:30 last night when the dogs woke me up to go outside and I was so tired I simply left the door open. This morning when Doug gets up, he comes back into the bedroom. “You’re not going to like this,” he informs me. Evidently the dogs did get into the trash. Maybe they liked the aloe vera lotion in the bag or the broken hair clip, I’m not sure. “Did you do this?” I started in on the dogs when I got up to see the mess. “Did you?” Allegra is just standing there, looking pitiful and innocent as I point, while Dante is outside not daring to come in. They know they are little sneaks and have been discovered once again.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Murphy’s Law reigns

Thursday I was feeling on top of the world. I had finished my thesis revisions and emailed them to my thesis chair before he got back in town Wednesday night. I had a good workout at the gym that morning and I was getting chores done around the house. Life was good. Then I checked my school email. There, in the midst of e-newsletters about online marketing tactics, was an email from the dean of the graduate college telling me I missed the deadline for getting my thesis to the dean and would not be graduating.


I almost had a coronary there on the couch. From the thesis guide I downloaded, it said the thesis was to be to the dean 21 days before graduation. I might not be good in math, but counting on the calendar, that was Friday. A million things ran through my mind, including the fact I am supposed to be the speaker at graduation, my parents were coming to graduation and am teaching four classes in the fall. I immediately emailed my thesis chair and graduate advisor. Then I tried to calm down. Breath, breath, breath, I kept reminding myself. Once I felt calm enough to talk and not just babble incoherently, I called the dean’s office to talk to the person listed on the email. She told me the deadline had been Wednesday and when I explained my chair had been out of town, she said I could get an extension and he would simply need to email her.

Long story short, my chair requested and was granted an extension. He approved my thesis revisions and I could take my thesis to San Marcos on Friday. Still, Mr. Murphy and his Law were working against my frayed nerves. Friday morning I woke and started printing a copy of my 85 page thesis. With 10 pages left, I ran out of black ink. That’s okay, I told myself, I’ll get some more and stopped into Office Max on the way to the gym. Once there, I realized I had forgotten what model printer I had. I spoke to a sales guy, who thought he knew what it was and gave me the appropriate ink. I went on the gym and worked out. Arriving home, I went to the printer and realized wrong model, wrong ink. I had a C-84 and the ink was for a C-80 and unfortunately, didn’t fit. I took a deep breath and then jumped in the shower. I then headed back to the store for an exchange. This time I came home with ink for a C-84, but opening the package, it didn’t look like it fit – it was much wider than the cartridge already in there. Another deep breath. Okay, I thought, this is working against me. I will just go to campus and print it out there. Maybe I should have done it in the first place, but I didn’t want to take any chances.

By this time it was 1 o’clock Friday afternoon. I jump in the car, heart still racing from the day before, and I’m ready to lay rubber for the 42 miles on I-35 from Pflugerville to San Marcos. Unfortunately, the traffic didn’t agree with me – it was crawling, stop-and-go all the way through downtown Austin. “Can’t you M-F’s go any faster?!” I yelled in my car as I pounded my steering wheel. Calm down, I told myself, the last thing I needed was to be in a wreck. Finally I made it to campus found both parking and an open computer lab, printed out the thesis and delivered it to the dean’s office. For the first time in 24 hours I was able to take a deep breath.

So now the dean is reviewing it and I should hear back later this week if there are any changes. Once approved and I get his signature, I have to make several copies on bond paper and take it to the library by Aug. 3. If this doesn’t happen, I don’t graduate. Now, there really shouldn’t be an issue at this point, I’m as good as done, but given Thursday’s email, until I get the dean’s approval and deliver the thesis to the library, I’m going to be on edge. Already today I’ve checked my student email five times, as if between 2:30 Friday afternoon and 11 a.m. Monday, they would have read my thesis. Given the way Murphy’s Law has been, it will be the morning of Aug. 3rd before I hear anything. Until then, I just have to keep reminding myself to breath.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Is your city haunted?

This is a neat website that lists haunted places by state and city. There is even a haunted spot in Pflugerville, out by our dog trainer. As for the ghost in Old Main at Texas State University-San Marcos, I have spent a lot of the time during the last two years in that building and this is the first I've heard of that ghost and I've never seen her, but I swear, there are time that their are gremlins in the computers.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Clerks Redux

Sorry it's been awhile since the last update. I will actually have a few interesting stories to post later.

This morning, however, Doug and I went to see Clerks II. We, myself especially, are big Kevin Smith fans. I love all the View Askew movies (these are the ones with Jay & Silent Bob), including the much maligned Mallrats. Clerks II was the funniest movie we've seen in a long time. We were laughing so loud that we missed parts. We thought it was better than the original Clerks.

Other than that, we've got a quiet weekend planned. We are trying to work on organizing the house. I'm starting to go through the last two years of school work and seeing what I should keep, store and throw. Doug is trying to organize his office/guest room in preparation for my parents' visit in a few weeks.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Survey says...

It has occurred to me that many readers don't know what I did my thesis on, and even those who do, they don't know what my reseach told me. Now that my defense is done, I will give a brief summary. If you would like to read the paper in full, all 84 pages of it, I will be happy to share it once I finish my revisions.

The introduction of a new medium provides an opportunity for scholars to revisit existing theories of mass communication. Blogging is a medium that has grown tremendously in recent years, from just a few dozen blogs in 1999 to more than 42 million blogs today. One function of blogging is providing opinion and commentary on news from the mainstream media. In this way bloggers act as intermediaries, much in the same way Lazarsfeld described opinion leaders in his two-step flow of information theory. This research examined blogging from the framework of the two-step flow to see if readers looked to bloggers as opinion leaders. Results showed that bloggers were not opinion leaders and blogs were perceived as less credible than mainstream media sources, but that blogs do play a role in opinion consideration and opinion reinforcement.

Despite the hype surrounding blogging, it is unlikely that blogs will dramatically change the way media operates or how the public receives and processes information. It is true that the number of blogs have increased dramatically, from 8 million in 2004 to 42 million today. Additionally, blogs have become easier to use and have increased functionality, now allowing bloggers to post photos and videos. People who have never been computer savvy now have blogs in an effort to keep in touch with their friends and family. However, this research suggests that blogs are more likely to be utilized as an interpersonal communication channel rather than a mass cmmunication medium.

As a mass communication channel, blogs do not have the level of credibility of other MSM sources. Respondents tended to view other mainstream media more frequently than blogs and did not see blogs as an important source of information. It was much more likely that blogs would serve as reinforcement of currently held beliefs, than to motivate opinion change.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Just call me Master Dara

"Congratulations, you have new letters behind your name." This was how my committee told me they passed my thesis, which means I'm graduating. The letters they were talking about were MA or Master's of Arts. What a relief! I knew that it wouldn't be bad, but it actually went easier than I expected. Either that, or I felt comfortable enough with my research that there were not any problems with what I was asked. The toughest question wasn't about my thesis, but was what book was most useful to me in grad school. This is from the teacher who assigned 4 or 5 books. Thing was, many of my classes in the department were seminars, which used assigned articles to read and not text books.

I still have some revisions to make on my thesis. This isn't that unusual, especially as there wasn't a lot of time for other committee members to review earlier drafts of the thesis. So I will need to make those in the next week. Once those are approved, I already have the signatures to take the thesis to the Dean.

For the first time I am getting excited about graduation. Prior to this, I was blase. It almost felt that it was no big deal getting a MA. It just didn't quite feel the same as getting a BA. Maybe it was because a BA really is a changing point in one's life -- the end of school and the start of the career. I would think a PhD would feel like quite an accomplishment, simply because the hard work for a dissertation and the fact so few people have one. But there was something about getting a Master's didn't make it seem like a big deal.

But now that my thesis is done, it does feel like a big deal. Of course, being selected as a commencement speaker helps. I found out that my speech is 2-4 minutes -- not a lot of time to depart words of wisdom. Today I bought my cap and gown, so that's done. Really, the big thing now is to get the thesis revisions done, get the sign-off from the Dean, and get my thesis bound.

Good news!

Mark your calendars for August 11 at 7 p.m. That is my graduation and I have been selected as the graduation speaker. I interviewed for it yesterday and just read the email from my advisor. How cool is that? Guess I need to order my cap and gown! :-)

Today I will defend my thesis -- at 10 a.m. From talking to my advisor and one of my committee members yesterday, what will happen is that there will be suggestions to my thesis, and I will have some revisions to make. So that's the rest of this week. One last round with my advisor, Dr. Niekamp, and then it will be good to go to the Dean.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Top 10 politically incorrect movies

This is a great list. I think I'm one of the few people who actually liked Team America: World Police. It was so politically incorrect it was funny. I mean, only the creators of South Park would have puppets having sex on the big screen.

Speaking of South Park, I was thrilled to learn that last week the Tom Cruise in the closet episode was nominated for an Emmy. If you haven't seen it, you are probably out of luck because thus far Cruise has blocked the rebroadcast of that episode. My top three South Park episodes have to be the in the closet one, the one with Ben Afflick and JLo (or should I say Cartman's hand as JLo), and the one where Cartman confuses NAMBLA (the North American Marlon Brando Look Alikes) with NAMBLA (North American Man-Boy Love Association).

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Sigh of relief

My thesis is done...well, almost done. I have finished writing, rewriting, editing, proofing and double-checking. My advisor approved my final chapter this morning and I emailed the complete thesis to my committee this afternoon. I still have to defend the thesis, which will take place Wednesday at 10 a.m. If any reader is in San Marcos and would like to learn about blogging and opinion leadership, let me know. :-)

I'm not quite sure what to expect on the defense. My advisor told me I had 20 minutes to present my thesis and could do it in whatever format I'm most comfortable. Call me crazy, but I really prefer Powerpoints because without them, I think the audience can get lost with the data.

The past few days I've been having crazy thoughts, equating my thesis defense to the Albert Brooks' movie Defending Your Life. The premise of the movie is that when you die you are sent to a place where the powers that be hold court on your life. If you didn't get it right during life, you are sent back to Earth to try it again. Daniel (Brooks) has to work hard in his defense to prove that he is worthy to stay. Julia (Meryl Streep), on the other hand, finds it a breeze going through the judgment process. I just hope that my thesis defense is more like Julia and less like Daniel.

What's my beer personality

Not sure how accurate this is. Given that our house is full of homebrew and beer is an art around here, I would have answered the questions differently than the choices allowed. For example, it asked in which city I would like to do a pub crawl. I answered Amsterdam because it was the closest city to Belgium. Maybe I should have answered my hometown because quite honestly, I could drink enough beer at home so that I would be unable to crawl out of the house.

You Are Heineken

You appreciate a good beer, but you're not a snob about it.
You like your beer mild and easy to drink, so you can concentrate on being drunk.
Overall, you're a friendly drunk who's likely to buy a whole round for your friends... many times.
Sometimes you can be a bit boring when you drink. You may be prone to go on about topics no one cares about.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Thesis help

Allegra has decided to help me this afternoon. I am on deadline, trying to finish rewriting the last chapter of my thesis. The ideas aren't flowing as readily as I would like, so Allegra decided to take a look to see if she could make any suggestions.

Top 10 wine movies

Interesting list from the SF Gate. Of course Sideways would be on it, but I never thought about Casablanca. Also, there is some interesting trivia about Hannibal Lecter and his famous quote about fava beans and Chianti. Only people who read the book would know that Lecter would never drink something as common as Chianti.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Sunday update on Jim

Barbara just called. Evidently Jim is much improved overnight and the doctor is releasing him today. This is good news because they thought it would be tomorrow. Meanwhile Doug is on a flight back to Austin. It lands in an hour, so I need to leave soon to pick him up.

Guess all is well and Barbara will continue the updating on her blog.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


Last night I wrote the Acknowledgements section of my thesis. Since most readers won't get an opportunity to read my thesis (or would want to reach an 80-page research paper on blogs), I decided to post my Acknowledgements section here.


Writing a thesis is not just a research project, it is a learning process and an opportunity to synthesize one’s graduate studies. For this reason I would like to acknowledge all the graduate faculty members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University-San Marcos. Each class I took had an impact on this thesis.

I would like to especially thank my thesis chair, Dr. Ray Niekamp. His enthusiasm for the subject matter and ability to help me see the forest through the trees was invaluable.

I appreciate all the assistance Dr. Kate Peirce gave me with research methods, statistical tests, and the dreaded SPSS. She spent many extra hours with me, trying to help me understand it all. Dr. Sandy Rao is tireless in her dedication to the graduate program and I value all her assistance in completing both this thesis and my course of study.

Finally, I would like to give special thanks to Doug French, my significant other. He sacrificed many times over, supported me both emotionally and financially, and kept me focused on the end-game so that I could fulfill my goal of attending graduate school and becoming a teacher of public relations. I dedicate this thesis to him.

This manuscript was submitted on July 5, 2006.

Saturday update on Jim

There is not much news today on Jim. He continues to improve and seems to be doing well. This morning the doctor said it will probably be Monday before he goes home. Doug and Barbara are heading back to Chillicothe this afternoon to get some stuff done and ready for Jim's return. They will spend the night and then head back to KC in the morning, where Doug will catch a flight back home.


When I’m on a deadline and get into a zone, I sometimes forget to stop for personal hygiene. I know it sounds gross, but I’m in air conditioning, on the computer, with no one around but the dogs, and let’s face it, they have no room to complain. Late yesterday afternoon I had reached a stopping point and decided that it had been 30 hours since my shower and I was feeling gross.

Looking forward to hot shower and several minutes away from the thesis, I cranked up the radio and turned on the water. Ready to step into the tub, I looked up and saw a cockroach the size of my thumb. Shrieking, I leapt away from the tub, letting the curtains fall. Of course, the dogs came running to see what was wrong. Normally, I’m not a girly-girl, but when it comes to creepy, crawly things, I am. Snakes, cockroaches, rats, anything icky, I’m out of there. So here I was with a dilemma, I really wanted this shower, but it was blocked by a bug the size of Rhode Island that looked like it could eat a cat whole. When this has happened before, I’ve been able to do what any brave-hearted woman would do – get my man to kill it. But Doug is in KC with his dad, so that wasn’t an option. I did the next best thing and got my camera phone, took a picture of it, and sent it to Doug, but he chose to ignore it and let me figure it out myself.

I thought for a minute. I couldn’t just use the other shower, as Doug had it filled with blueberry wine, thinking a shower was easier to clean than the kitchen. I did think about waiting until Doug’s return to shower, but I don’t ignore my hygiene to that degree. Standing there, wrapped in a towel, I realized that this was one battle I was going to have to fight on my own. Steeling my nerves, I picked up my weapon, my Executioner, and hoped that I didn’t electrocute myself doing battle in the tub.

This cockroach, which given its size survived the comet that killed its neighboring dinosaurs, was just above the tile, in the corner of the shower. Standing on rim of the tub, the Executioner in one hand, balancing myself with the other, I took the first swing. I heard a small zap and saw a blue bolt of electricity, but knew it didn’t work. The location of the cockroach in the corner didn’t allow for full electrical grid contact with the bugger – he got as much of the plastic racquet as he got the electricity. Pulling back, I saw Goliath twitch, so I went after him again. This time, when the electricity hit him, he jumped off the wall, into the shower caddy and then jumped again. I didn’t see where he went as I was too busy screaming and trying to get off the tub and away from the shower without breaking a leg. The dogs stood there dumbfounded, trying to figure out just why I was acting like a crazy lady.

I wait a few seconds to see if this monster is going to emerge. Nothing. I gingerly pull back the shower curtain, ready to step back if I see him. When I don’t, I think maybe he’s playing hide-and-seek in the shower curtains, so I start batting them with my Executioner racquet, daring him to come out. After several minutes, I think maybe he’s crawled down the drain, so I turn the water back on to see if he’ll come back out, or, better yet, if I can drown him.

A few more minutes go by and no roach. I start wondering if it’s safe to go back into the shower. I decide to take a chance, timidly stepping into the tub, but leaving the door to the bathroom open in case I need to make a quick getaway. I look around as I start to lather my hair, making sure the beast is not going to jump out at me. I’m startled as I feel something nudge my big toe; looking down, it was only water splashing off the bath mat. The water feels good, but I am unable to relax, worrying that creature will come back. I shower quickly and step out of the tub, shaking the towels before I do to make sure he’s not hiding on one of those. At that moment I couldn’t think of anything more gross than drying off with a cockroach. I’m safe for the moment, but spare no time getting dressed and getting out of the bathroom.