Friday, October 27, 2006

Austin bloggers speak at Texas State University

Wednesday I played host to three well-known Austin political bloggers, Pink Dome, In the Pink Texas and Burnt Orange Report. They came to Texas State University, as part of the School of Journalism & Mass Communication's annual Mass Comm Week, to discuss blogging, citizen journalism and the impact blogs have on Texas politics. For a summary of the discussion, read the article in the student newspaper, The University Star. I think we had a good turn out, given that it was raining and students tend not to even go to class in the rain.

One of the things that struck me was the assertion that blog did not influence opinion, but did influence opinion leaders. That idea intrigued me. From my thesis research, I would agree that bloggers are not opinion leaders, but I didn't look beyond the general public. It would be interesting to take it a step further and see if blogs did influence, or at least keep certain issues top of mind for, opinion leaders. Of course, like Lazarsfeld found in the Decatur study, pinpointing who opinion leaders are is a difficult task.

The guest bloggers also said that politicians should be concerned about them, not because they are bloggers but because they are engaged and active voters. It was interesting to hear how politicians try to act like these blogs aren't important, yet on the other hand are active readers.

This was the second year we had bloggers as part of our Mass Comm Week. Last year Jon Lebkowsky and a group of marketing/PR folks, discussed the influence of blogging on corporate reputation management. My hope is that each year we have guest speakers who can add to the discussion of the role of new media in mass media.

Fall allergies and Allegra

It's no secret that Austin is one of the worst cities in regards to allergies. Many of us suffer and take allergy medicine ranging from Allegra to Zyrtec. Only some allergy sufferers can't take this medicine and these sufferers, like Allegra, just have to suffer.

In this case, the Allegra I am discussing is my dog. She was not named after the allergy medicine, but her name foreshadowed her condition. She has airborne allergies, which are particularly bad in the fall. Unlike humans, dogs get itchy when they have allergies. Allegra gets to the point where she scratches off her eyebrows and looks like a radiation victim. At one point we were giving her expensive allergy shots several times a month, but ended up taking her off of those as they weren't doing a lot and we had to keep her on them year around.

This year has been particularly bad regarding her allergies. When the prescription meds I take average $4/pill, I am not giving them to a dog. We were giving her Benedryl, but that only helped some with her scratching, and basically left her stoned all the time.

Doug and I finally decided we would get her one of those collars where she couldn't scratch her face and couldn't reach her paws to chew on them. Of course, in some ways she looked worse; it didn't help that he and I started calling her "conehead." Doug was even embarrassed to take her for a walk with the big cone around her neck. Allegra, being a smart dog that gets into a lot, figured out in just a day how to pop the collar off. This became a running battle until I got an idea -- tape the cone together with duct tape. After all, duct tape can pretty much fix anything. So now we have a pathetic-looking dog with no eyebrows and red patches on her skin, with a plastic cone duct-taped to her neck. Can we get any more white trash?

Of course, she plays it to the hilt. She thinks now that she has a cone, we should allow her to sleep on the bed. Doug, feeling sorry for her, allows this. She has trouble getting through the doggy door with the cone, and is always bumping into walls, tables and people. Most of the time I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Last night Doug's friend Robert was over to sample the homebrew and started making fun of Allegra and her cone. She must have gotten mad at Robert because this morning she figured out how to pop off her cone, duct tape and all. I thought I would let her be for a bit and didn't rush to put it back on. However, a half hour later she came to me panting and all bloody from scratching.

I snapped her cone back on and reapplied the duct tape. It's not pretty, but at least it's not bloody. Poor Allegra, fall allergies and she can't even take Allegra.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Late night ramblings

It's never good when one is wide awake in the middle of the night, but since I couldn't fall back asleep, I figure now is as good of time as ever to blog. I hate it when I can't sleep. I fell asleep just fine, but at 1:30 I woke up and when I wasn't able to fall back asleep, decided to get up and get on the computer. I should have taken melatonian; now it's too late as I have to be up in a few hours. Even the dogs are restless. Maybe that's why I couldn't fall asleep. Two adults, two dogs and 1 cat locked in the same room and the only one asleep was Doug. Now I'm in the living room, Dante is chasing Dexter and Allegra is outside, getting into something.

This is a busy week. As school, we are having our annual Mass Comm Week, where we host professionals from various fields of journalism and mass communication. I am on the Mass Comm Week committee and was able to secure several of the week's speakers, to whom I have to play host. In addition, I have to teach my regular classes and manage extra credit opportunities for my student who are attending Mass Comm Week sessions. For example, I normally don't go to San Marcos on Wednesdays, but I am going down this morning because there are several sessions where my students get extra credit for attending. A group of my students is handling the PR campaign to promote our graduate program and they are going to be there for the grad school panel, so I should go and see if they are doing okay. This afternoon I am hosting the bloggers (of course) and the interviewing workshop. Additionally, I have a lecture to prepare before tomorrow at 8 a.m. and papers to grade. No wonder I can't sleep.

At least Doug is sleeping. Monday night was his turn at insomnia. Basically we are at the point of waiting until he is told to leave his current contract. He has been doing ITIL work, which is an IT process improvement methodology. Early last week the company where he is contracting decided to kill its ITIL initiative. One of the people Doug works with/for was given her two weeks notice (was written into her contract). The company also cut all the ITIL project codes, so no one can meet with Doug because they can't charge out their time. But they haven't cut Doug. In the meantime, the company had purchased an expensive enterprise software package, which had some detractors. The champion of the product was the former (emphasis on former) CIO. Of course the detractors are still around. Doug and the team gave a demo on the product Monday. There were three phases to the project and they were only able to get the requirements for the first two. Of course the decision maker, who is one of the detractors, was all upset that the demo didn't focus on phase three, even though Doug could never get the scope of phase three. During the demo, the guy didn't acknowledge Doug and the team, instead asking all his questions to some other guy. Yesterday he wouldn't even say hello to Doug when Doug passed him in the hall and wished him good morning. To top it off, the girl Doug works with/for who was given her notice, told him yesterday she didn't know if he would get paid this week because they didn't have cost codes to charge his time to. While he was firm with her, Doug should be glad I wasn't there because I would have told her that was illegal and would have asked if should I call the Texas Workforce Commission now, or when I didn't get paid.

This is all very Dilbert and I feel bad for Doug. The only reason he hasn't quit is that if he waits until the terminate the contract, he can collect unemployment. In the meantime, he has some people calling about other job opportunities and his name has been submitted for a few positions where he looks to be the leading candidate. It's just waiting for the interviews. The good news is that I'm hearing the job market for IT is starting to pick up in Austin and the pool of good, talented people is getting thin. Doug is just so specialized now in process improvement that the trick will be finding the companies that need his services.

But that's something to ponder another day. Seems like the dogs have settled down and I need to do the same and see if I can get a couple hours of sleep.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Bits and pieces

I have been very remissed in posting lately. Time is flying by so fast. It's hard to believe it's mid-October and midterms. It's also hard to believe it's mid-October and we are still running our air conditioning. We actually had it off for a few days late last week, but the past few days have been extremely muggy. We have had some rain, but not to the extent of Houston and Dallas.

Better than my folks, though. They are in Hawaii right now. They are okay, but they definitely felt the earthquake.

Biggest issue we've been facing at our house is with our good car. It broke down on me Tuesday as I was leaving campus. Had to get it towed to a place in San Marcos. It's hard enough being without a car, it's even worse when the car is 45 miles away. It was the timing belt, other belts and other things. They are all fixed now and everything is okay.

Doug has been playing online poker recently, some cash games and some tournaments. He's doing well enough to pay for the car repairs and then some. Guess this is his last hurrah before the online anti-gambling law goes into effect.

The monthly Women of Wine party was this weekend. We had a New Zealand feast. Everyone seemed to have a great time. Sunday we attended another birthday party at Stubb's. Different gospel group, but they were good. Like last time, the food was mediocre at the best.

Speaking of mediocre, that would be a kind way to describe my Fantasy Football team. They are sucking wind and I'm about to give up on them. I've done so many trades and played so many ways, Doug says I've got a decent team. However, it looks like I'll finish Week 6 at 2-4. This week I benched Joe Horn (NO - WR). First 5 weeks he scored a combined total of 14 fantasy points. I was ready to get rid of him, but instead, just benched him. Yesterday, while he was benched, he scored 17 points. Go figure! Hines Ward (Pit - WR) hasn't been much better. Of course, the receivers who played for me yesterday only earned a combined 3 points.

Not much else going on. At least now everyone is caught up.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The church of Stubb’s

Today we celebrated Cindy’s birthday by attending the gospel brunch at Stubb’s. There were 17 of us there to wish our friend a happy birthday. Here is a photo of the birthday girl, complete with her tiara.

The Original Bells of Joy played today’s brunch. This awesome group has been around since the early 1950s and with their song “Let’s Talk About Jesus,” they were one of the first black gospel groups to hit the top of the charts. Below is a clip from their performance today. They were really rocking and you definitely felt the spirit move you. I didn’t get the name of the man singing, but he’s a long-time member of the band. Six months ago he had a heart attack and was flown to Houston where the doctors told him he only had 1 hour to live. Obviously, the Lord worked a miracle with him and today he sang several songs with the band.

After brunch, several of us walked around the Pecan Street Festival, browsing the various vendors, looking at the art and other items. Much of the stuff was the same thing they have each spring and fall. However, Sandy did find a statue she liked.