Archive | July, 2012

The True Value

30 Jul

Question: do you know which line I hate the most on a job application?  The “salary desired” line.

I mean, does anyone really know what to put there?  I feel like we all have the same basic mental dialogue when we come across this line:

Change “bachelors” to “masters” and yep, that’s pretty much it.

I came across this line on an application on Friday, and it really made me pause.  After all, that line is asking for more than just a number.  It is asking for me to put a value on my time and effort, and that is not an easy task at the best of times.  Last week, however, I was already struggling with some self-concept issues.

You see, someone was flame-slinging on the internet recently.  To make a very long story short, Joe Peacock claimed that most pretty girls in geek culture are exploiting the boy geeks, because said pretty girls are incapable of getting non-geeky boys.  In essence, attractive girl geeks are not likely to be true geeks, but instead are a ‘hollowed-ego’d pox’ on geek culture.  They dress up in sexy costumes to get attention from boys that they wouldn’t ever actually date.

This kind of attitude really bugs me.  While Mr. Peacock is correct in stating that there are girls who will go “slumming” at cons just to get attention, in my experience those are few and far between.  The truth is that there are all different levels of geek, and just because someone is not capable of reciting every line of Star Trek: Nemesis does not mean that they are faking their fanhood.

These generalizations about women in geek culture perpetuate the idea that girls can’t be viable geeks, and therefore can’t be treated the same as male (or “true”) geeks.  This makes my life really suck sometimes.

You see, I am a girl geek, and I work at a video game store.

If I had a dollar for every time a customer has asked for a coworker “who knows about war games,” “who actually plays video games,” or “who understands Call of Duty,” I’d be able to fund NASA’s return to the moon.  These comments always come with the not-s0-subtle implication that because I am a girl, I do not play or even understand first-person shooter or war-based games.

People, GameStop did not hire me because I have pretty eyes.  I had to prove that I know video games across genres and consoles, and can explain those games to customers.  I am expected to know release dates of upcoming games, stay current on reviews of best-sellers, and help each customer who walks through the doors find the perfect game, just the same as my male coworkers.

And quite frankly, I can do it better than some of them.

When the idea goes around that girl geeks don’t actually exist, or that girls aren’t able to be as geeky as guys, I end up with days like last Thursday.

Last Thursday, a customer referred to me as a “chick.”  As in, “Hey man, look!  They have chicks here!” (True quote.)

Now, I live in the South and I look much younger than 25.  As such, I get a lot of nicknames: “Sweetheart,” “Darling,” “Honey,” and even a memorable “Sugar.”  When said with a touch of Southern gentility, I don’t mind these.  It’s a cultural thing, just like the young boys who call me “ma’am.”

That said, there is nothing cultural about calling a girl a “chick.”

This particular customer was a bundle of charisma.  He followed up on his initial comment by walking straight past me to ask my male coworker about war games, since “that guy probably knows more.”  When I rang up the customer’s purchase of Battlefield 3, he called me “sweetheart” twice.

To him, I was just a girl working at his local video game store.  I wasn’t a reliable source of information, and I certainly wasn’t worth referring to by my name (which is clearly written on my nametag, by the way).  I was just a thing to be smiled at and placated with nicknames.  That customer left with more than just a new video game.  He left with a good chuck of my self-esteem.

So when I came across the “salary desired” line on Friday, it made me pause.  I thought about the amount of money that I’d like to receive for my work, yes, but I also thought about what other recompense I desire from a job.

I desire for my job to pay me for my work, because that provides a way for me to enjoy the things that I do.  I do not desire for my job to define me, but I do want it to become part of who I am.  I desire for my job to make my time and effort seem important, and for my work to result in something in which I can take pride.

But most of all, I desire for my job to not make me feel like less of a person at the end of the day.

As long as we allow negative stereotypes to continue, we allow people to treat others like that customer treated me.  Perhaps he wasn’t intentionally trying to patronize me, and perhaps he’s never heard of Joe Peacock or the myth that girls can’t be geeks.  In any case, his actions were hurtful, and just another example of an attitude that I see far too often.

I’m not going to let one (or even a hundred) guys’ ill-informed manners keep me from pursuing my geeky interests.  If I did, I’d be no better than the stereotypes that Mr. Peacock rails against.  But I don’t think it’s too much to ask that I be able to work at a job that I enjoy without having to worry about when the next customer will talk down to me or treat me as less important simply because of my gender.

So what salary do I desire?

The one that includes self-esteem as an eternal benefit.

Do you think I can fit all that onto that one line on the application?

Blog Search Term Challenge, Part II

27 Jul

As promised, here are the 8 finalists in the Blog Search Term Challenge (click that link if you missed part I).  The finalists are all actual search terms used to find blogs, complete with spelling and grammar errors.  Vote below for your top 3 favorites.  That’s right- you can vote for up to three terms at once.

Next week, the top 3 winners will be announced.  So, you know, stay tuned for that.

On Student Loans, Via A New York Times Editorial

26 Jul

A friend on Facebook posted a link to the following New York Times article today.  It’s a fascinating editorial piece on student loans, so I thought that I’d repost the first few paragraphs here.

Better Disclosure for Private Loans

About two-thirds of bachelor’s degree recipients borrow to complete their educations. The fortunate among them rely on federal loans that offer a low, fixed-interest rate and broad consumer protections that allow them to defer payments — and stay out of default — if they lose their jobs. But many students have been roped into costlier private student loans that have variable interest rates and few consumer protections.

This means that borrowers who fall on hard times have few options other than default, which can make it more difficult for them to obtain credit, find jobs or rent apartments.

A new study issued jointly last week by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Education makes clear that the government, Congress in particular, can do a better job of educating families to the significant differences between private and federal loans while making sure that colleges and lenders are upfront and honest about risks.

The study’s most distressing finding is that more than 40 percent of students who borrowed privately were in fact eligible to borrow from the safer and generally less costly federal program. Those students, and the parents who co-signed for them, simply may not have known the difference between the two kinds of loans because no one told them. But because of variable interest rates, even sophisticated borrowers may not be prepared for “payment shock” when graduation rolls around and the first bill arrives in the mail.

You can read the rest of the article by clicking here.  You can also read the study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Education by clicking here.  Both of these links are also available in the Other Links You May Want To Click section above.

I’ve talked about this before, but I am a big proponent of personal responsibility. If you sign to take out a loan, that is your decision and you ought to own up to it.  However, there are some very deceptive practices out there, and I don’t think that every 18-year-old kid is wise enough to understand all the intricacies of signing a loan.  I certainly wasn’t.  I signed for my first student loan when I was 20 and halfway through a college degree, and it still took me quite a while to understand the seventeen pages of information that I was given by the loan company.

Student loans are invaluable ways for people to gain access to higher education, but if lenders are allowed to keep taking advantage of young adults new to the financial world, all we’re doing is setting the next generation up for a lifetime of financial failure.  Surely we can do better.

$1,200 And As Many Reasons Why

24 Jul

I did a bad thing this weekend.  I broke the cardinal rule of budgeting.  Actually, I broke three cardinal rules of budgeting.

1. I went way over budget on a non-emergency trip.  I’m still totaling up the damage, but it looks like it’ll be around $1,236.  That number includes a round-trip (late-booking) plane ticket to Pennsylvania, parking at the airport, a hotel room for two nights, food, and all the other expenses that come with out-of-town travel.

2. I paid for the trip using a credit card.  I put the plane ticket, hotel room, and pretty much everything else on my credit card.  I know that I’ve railed against doing that with credit cards before, and you’re all probably shaking your heads at me and my financial hypocrisy, but at least I know I can pay off the balance on the card this month.  Which brings me to bad move #3.

3. I paid off the credit card using money from my emergency fund.  My trip out of town was for a family wedding.  It was not an emergency.  As much as I would like to claim that the chance to see all my dad’s siblings and most of my cousins is a rare enough opportunity that it constitutes an emergency, the fact remains that it just isn’t.  By using the money from my emergency fund (and with a trip cost of this amount, it was a fair share of said emergency fund), I broke the rules.  Bad finance blogger.

Having said all of that, let me be perfectly clear on this point: I went way over budget to attend a family wedding for a cousin I have not seen in person since I was 10, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I had the best time this weekend.  I was able to catch up with family members I haven’t seen since I was a kid, be introduced to cousins I’ve never had the chance to meet, hear the “true versions” of family stories, discover definitive proof that my weirdness does come from my dad’s side of the family, and most importantly watch my beautiful cousin marry the love of her life.

See? I told you she was beautiful.

While I may have spent a lot of money on this trip, I don’t regret it at all.  For every dollar, there were at least a dozen reasons why it was money well spent.  The best example I can offer is this:

Ladies and Gentlemen- meet my family. 14 grandchildren, 5 children, and the woman who managed to get us all into one picture.

This past weekend, I got to reconnect with my family, and that is definitely priceless.

Blog Search Term Challenge

19 Jul

Over the last few days, I’ve had at least three conversations with various people about the search terms people use to find our blogs.  Most of the time, I win.  This is largely because people insist on Googling “transvestite panda cub” and winding up on this picture:

 I wonder if the zoo knows?

However, I want to give the internet a chance to beat me.  If you have a blog that tracks search terms, and you have a term or two that you think is a real winner, post it in the comments below.  You can submit as many as you want, but they must all be real search terms used to find your blog.

Most bloggers announce a giveaway at the point.  As in, “if your search term beats mine, I’ll send you this!”  For those of you who read this blog regularly, you’ll already know that isn’t going to happen.  I don’t have anything to give away (except for a VHS copy of Dinotopia, and I’m not sure there’s anyone out there who wants that).

But what I can do is write.  So, I offer this: I will write a short story using the best three search terms submitted by you, my dear readers, as central plot points.  (This idea comes from a conversation on Twitter a few days ago, in which the viability of a children’s book about transvestite panda cub with self-esteem issues and misadventures with Spanx was discussed.  Sadly, that book may never see publication.)

So, here’s how this will work.  Post your favorite weird search term in the comments below, or tweet them to me @kdidd.  Next Thursday, 7/26, I’ll put up a poll of my 10 favorites.  You’ll have a week to vote.  On August 2nd, I’ll announce the winners (and try to convince someone to take Dinotopia off my hands).  On August 9th, I’ll post the story.

Start posting those search terms.  Someone found my blog this morning by searching “how to stop bugs from eating my brain.”  The bar has been set high, ladies and gentlemen, the bar has been set high.

What Remains

16 Jul

Today is an important day for me. No, it’s not because it’s the seven year anniversary of the book release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (but hey thanks numerous people on Twitter for making me feel old first thing on a Monday morning).

No, today is important to me for an entirely different reason.  Two years ago today, I took a literal right turn and my life took a figurative hard left.

At 6:45 pm on July 16th, 2010, I was driving to a community function.  As I turned right onto a side street, I was struck from behind by a drunk driver.  My car skidded 180 degrees before barrel-rolling twice and coming to a rest on the passenger side.  More details about the accident can be found here, in the letter I wrote to Honda Car Company the day after the accident.

But that isn’t the story I want to tell today.  I’ve talked about my accident a lot, and I’ve talked about finding the replacement car and dealing with the lawsuits, bill collectors, doctors, and insurance companies.  It was a year-long process, but all the financial stuff finally got settled.

What remains to be settled is the story I want to tell.

What remains from my accident is a set of back muscles that will never be as strong as they once were, and the knowledge that they will always be sore after a day of hard work.  What remains are the nightmares about car accidents, the difficulty watching car accidents in movies or television shows, and the redirected fear of elevators that has seen me climb 11 fights of stairs just to avoid a crowded glass elevator.

Seriously- seeing this effect in a movie provokes a more visceral reaction in me than seeing someone get their toes chopped off with a bolt cutter.

What remains are the lingering fears: the moment of panic when a car comes up behind me too fast and I tense for the impact that never comes, the insistence that the mechanic run a safety check on my car at every oil change so that I know the air bags will be there at the ready, and the never-ending anxiety that the accident will happen again, this time with someone I care about in the car with me.

There was no one in the car with me at the time of the accident. Had there been, all of this would have been in their face.

But there are good things that remain.  I have an extremely reliable car that I know is even safer than my previous one.  I have a reason to remember to slow down every once in a while so my body can rest.  I have a slightly healthier lifestyle from all those flights of stairs.  But most importantly, I have a new path in life that I would not be on if my world had not been flipped over two years ago.

You see, if I had not been in the accident, I would never have:

  • Found out the number of people in my life willing to help me needed it.
  • Spent three weeks on the couch watching Star Trek:TNG reruns.
  • Fallen in love with science-fiction television shows.
  • Gone to Dragon*Con 2010 by myself to see the TNG panels.
  • Posted an idea for a new Star Trek series on, based on a comment someone made at a Dragon*Con panel.
  • Met James, who shares my geekiness but makes it seem cooler since he does it with a British accent.
  • Helped him develop his idea for sci-fi web series.
  • Attended Dragon*Con 2011, where thanks to my handicapped badge, I got to lend Wil Wheaton my pen three times, including this time when he signed Colin Ferguson’s chest.

  • Started a production company for the aforementioned web series with James.
  • Finally learned how to express that I want to be a creator of seriously cool things, and to do so without fear because it is what makes me happy, and sometimes that is more important than making others happy.

I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t had the accident. Maybe I would have come to the same realizations.  Maybe I’d be just as happy.  I don’t really care to wonder about it.  I love where I am now (aching back  and student loan debt and all), and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Sometimes accidents throw us off track, but sometimes they throw us onto the right one.

Off To A Good Start

12 Jul

Last month, I twisted my knee oddly and ended up with a partial patellar dislocation.  This meant I got a fancy knee brace, three weeks of bonding time with said knee brace, and a referral to a physical therapist.  It also meant that I received a bill for a five-digit amount.  That’s right- at the bottom of my bill was a red Pay This Amount box with FIVE DIGITS inside, three of which were even in front of the decimal point! (Wait, did you think I meant something else by five digits?)

I reluctantly accepted this amount, waited until this month to address it, and sat down this morning to finally pay it.  I hate writing checks, since it takes a while for the amount to post to my account.  I don’t know about you, but I always spend that lag time trying to decide if the check made it to its intended recipient, or if it is wandering in a strange town stuffed in an ill-intentioned man’s back pocket.

Luckily, this doctor allows payment by credit card.  I grabbed my silver rectangle of instant-debit-gratification and dialed the office number.  The receptionist pulled up my account, and read me the outstanding balance.

People, I almost dropped the phone.  I asked her to repeat it twice.

My balance had lost two digits.  It was now a size three, with only one of those digits before the decimal point.  The offered explanation was that my health insurance company had paid up.

My health insurance company has never voluntarily paid on anything, ever.

I take this situation as proof that there is a God, and He knows how to work insurance companies.  In any case, I happily authorized the amount charged to my credit card, and hung up before the office could realize they made a terrible mistake and that decimal point was supposed to be two digits to the right.

This was a good beginning to the day.

Last night ended well too, actually.  I made these at Art Club:

Bonus: Dalek photo bomb.

Bonus: space painting my roommate made last night.

The only problem is that I’m too fond of them to put them on the bookcase.  I’d rather have them on my desk so I can play with them as needed.  So I did this:

Yes, that is a robot ball and a Ziploc bag of magnetic silver balls and words.  You should have known my desk would be odd. The Doctor Who bookends were your first clue.

I hope all of your days are off to a great start.  If not, do what millions of O2 subscribers in England are doing right now- turn it off and turn it back on.  (I’m betting exactly one of my readers will understand that.  For everyone else, it is a piece of recent advice from a cell phone company a la iPhone 4’s “hold it the right way” campaign.)  Talk to you all on Monday.

%d bloggers like this: