Category Archives: Thesis

Paternity leave

I am not unemployed, and I am not a stay-at-home dad. I’ve got a “real” job; I just haven’t gone to the office since last December. In total, I’ve spent 18 of the past 36 months on paternity leave here in Sweden, my adopted country, “off” work to care for my two kids. And, yes, I still get paid.

Nathan Hegedus

(Just thought it was interesting that he said this precisely this way. Of course, he’s a man, and it’s Sweden. Still, it reminded me how surprised I was to see women trying to avoid self-identifying the same way.)


Good Enough for a PhD

Einstein’s Ph.D. dissertation was printed in Bern 30 April 1905. In 24 pages of calculations and text Einstein’s estimate of Avogadro’s number came out wrong by a factor of nearly 3, but good enough for a PhD degree in Mathematical Physics from Zurich University.

Realizing that the answer in his dissertation was wrong, Einstein made a correction for a magazine article the following year, after receiving help from Paul Drude the editor of Annalen der Physik. … After 18 pages of mathematics Einstein produced an estimate of Avogadro’s number wrong by a factor of nearly 1.5 on the second attempt. … A few years later Einstein’s estimate was found to be wrong in experimental work with chemical reactions, so a friend helped Einstein make another correction. … [N]ot bad for a third attempt.

Jerry Decker

Look! Even Einstein’s dissertation wasn’t perfect. Einstein, people.

So awesome.

Miscellaneous (Mommy)Blogging Quotes

Just some quotes from posts I had bookmarked, which may or may not be useful.

Shirley Jackson might have been a part-time mommy-blogger, had she lived in the internet age. … Life Among the Savages, a memoir of her life raising three small children in Vermont … is a direct ancestor of the current crop of mothering memoirs — someone should put together a history of the genre — and it shares their frequently jokey “if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry” tone, a tone so different from that used in “The Lottery” that I had to check to make sure this was the same Shirley Jackson. The beginning sucked me in completely[.]

Stephany Aulenback


The real problem, of course, the real reason why I’m not “squeeing” over BlogHer (ugh, what a word, squee), is that these aren’t really the blogs I read. … BlogHer is a meetup for a particular set of blogging communities, and that’s why people bond and hug and clap and get so emotional. The problem for me is that I read geek blogs and copyright blogs and academic blogs and some politics blogs and some crafts blogs, and those bloggers aren’t at this conference. This conference is for a fairly specific slice of the blogosphere, and I guess it’s not really the slice that I feel at home in.

Jill Walker Rettberg


While the first BlogHer conference, in 2005, seemed to be about empowering women bloggers, today, empowerment appears to be about “look how powerful we are, corporations take us seriously and want to give us free swag!” But of course, if blogging becomes mainly about accepting free swag and loving the corporations, well, that’s not empowerment, that’s more like oppression – a slightly more subtle form of oppression, perhaps, maybe willing oppression. It doesn’t bode well for the power of blogging to actually spread the voices of the people, though, if the people are happy to speak for the corporations.

Jill Walker Rettberg


Honesty – how truthful do you want to be in your blog? There are plenty of examples of fictional blogs that have presented themselves as real. When readers discovered they were fictional, they felt cheated and became very angry (I’ve blogged about why readers get angry at this. On a smaller scale, most bloggers leave out the ugly bits and maybe play up the good stuff, as in the quote from Lars Tangen in this blog post. I’m not saying you need to be utterly honest (in fact, the more literary blogs get, the less factual truth matters, in my opinion, but you do need to think about this.

Jill Walker Rettberg

* is now the full time job of both Heather and her husband, Jon. The blog supports an online community and a merchandise store. Heather is the author of a bestselling book, was named by Forbes as one of the 30 most influential women in media in 2009, and just signed an exclusive development deal with HGTV.

In a recent post entitled “Check Up for Self Delusion,” Penelope Trunk, another popular female blogger, recently wrote, “Probably the most accurate representation of women is in the blogosphere. There is no filter here, no need to appeal to both Peoria and Pasadena all at once.” She goes on to compare with an even more popular mommy blog, The Pioneer Woman.

Alaina Smith


Probably the most accurate representation of women is in the blogosphere. There is no filter here, no need to appeal to both Peoria and Pasadena all at once. But even the whole of the blogosphere does not represent the female experience particularly accurately.

The Pioneer Woman is largely housewife porn. The men are hot and rugged, just like in a romance novel. The author, Ree Drummond, is running an operation similar to Rachel Ray or Martha Stewart, but she markets herself as a stay-at-home mom, and a homeschooler at that. The whole thing strikes me as totally preposterous. … On Dooce, Heather Armstrong blogs about depression, her kids being difficult, and her parents being Mormon. I love Heather Armstrong. But she’s the gold standard for writing a blog about your life and keeping a marriage together, and she is not, actually, writing about the female experience for married women.

Penelope Trunk

Round-Up of #creepythesis Posts

Have I missed anything substantive? Let me know.

Someone is Wrong on the Internet!

I wanted to post this screenshot of my stats to illustrate a couple things:

  1. My blog has never seen so much traffic. I see all is back to normal, now, though, and I can go back to talking to myself 😉
  2. Even though I had 250+ visitors in two days, only four people commented. And one of those people I know. So three people who’d never been to my blog before said something. This isn’t a complaint; it’s an observation. Way more people just read than read and comment; if you’ve ever looked at your site stats you know this to be true.

Perhaps the strangest and most interesting thing about #creepythesis is the way people talked about it, about me. As if I was never going to see what they said. (More on this later.) As if Twitter were a private chatroom.

Which it most definitely is not.

While you were following #creepythesis on the weekend, an SFU staffer who monitors Twitter was following keywords of interest to him. You know, like SFU.

(You see where this is going, right?)

#creepythesis may have blown up and burned out faster than ’70s child star, but whether anyone actually intended to follow through on the twitterstorm is moot, because said staffer-who-was-monitoring-SFU-tweets emailed the dean about it anyway.

Anyhow. This isn’t about me, per se. It’s more a heads up for the next time someone is wrong on the internet.

Duty Calls

This is fair warning that I am totally turning #creepythesis into a paper. I’ll be posting some of my initial thoughts as I have time. I’ll tag everything with #creepythesis, so you can just follow that if you want to keep apprised but don’t want to read my other posts.


I woke up yesterday morning to find my thesis had its own twitter hashtag.

I’m not going to launch into a defense. Readers are free to think my writing is crap, skim it, interpret it differently than I intended, etc. That’s the nature of writing. I just wanted to acknowledge that I’ve seen the reaction.

On the bright side (!), more people probably read my thesis yesterday than read most people’s theses ever 😉


(Not the restaurant chain.)

I haven’t been very good at marking milestones of late. But apparently it’ll make me happier if I do, so what the hey… I picked up my diploma on Monday. Only 4 months after my degree was official, 8 months after I deposited my thesis, 9 months after I defended, and 11 months after I actually finished writing it. Needless to say, after all that waiting, it was a little anti-climactic (Fall is officially the worst semester* to finish if you want closure!). Hence skipping convocation—well, that and a) I’ve been to enough graduations; I know the drill b) we went up to the Okanagan last Friday instead and c) I do plan to go to my PhD convocation (come on! you get to wear the poofy hat and garish outfit! of course I’m going to that!), so you know, I think that’ll cover it.

Anyhow, when I saw Debbie’s comic this morning and went “Hey! That’s what I did! For reals! It’s even in my TC bio!” (which I guess I need to update now) I knew I had to write this post so I could share the comic.

Blog writerP.S. I do finally have the hard copy of my thesis, but it’s not online yet. !!!

*Actually a trimester. No idea why they call them semesters. (From uni website: “The University operates on a trimester basis with three semesters…” ?!?)

Blog On

Since my thesis was on blogging, it seems apropos to announce on my (oft-neglected) blog that I successfully defended it yesterday. w00t! Finally.

Final title: Works-in-Progress: An Analysis of Canadian Mommyblogs. It ended up being less about the medium (my original plan) and more about the content, partly because the content was interesting in itself, and partly because gah! blogs are hard to write about! I probably should have written it in WordPress, rather than Word. Of course, then the challenge would have been getting anyone to read it. Oooh! I could have forced everyone to subscribe to it in Bloglines! Hahaha. So now I’m coming up with the brilliant ideas. Hmm, I wonder if anyone has done that. Now, that would be creative…

Anyhow, a few more details to wrap up, and then I’m taking the rest of the fall off. I’ll be starting my PhD in January (last degree, I promise), but in the meantime, I plan to read novels! write something fun! (NaNo?) and go outside! (But of course I jest! I’ve been outside recently! Wait… what’s this wet discharge dripping from the sky called again?)

19: The Mirror and the Veil

Viviane Serfaty, The Mirror and the Veil: An Overview of American Online Diaries and Blogs.

The Mirror and the Veil

The Mirror and the Veil was another book I read for my Directed Reading course this summer. Here’s Serfaty’s explanation of the title:

[The computer screen] operat[es] as a paradoxical, twofold metaphor, that of a veil and that of a mirror. … The screen, which mediates Internet access, thus establishes a dialectical relationship between disclosure and secrecy, between transparency and opacity. There is no such thing as private content on the Internet; the pretence of privacy is de facto shattered to pieces, since anyone can gain access to any site the world over, yet the diarists feel protected by the very size of the Internet. (p.13)

The most valuable thing about this book for me was Serfaty’s discussion of her methodological approach and her reasoned justification for taking the approach that she did because it gives me a precedent for the approach I plan to take with my thesis.

Serfaty discusses the privacy issues with respect to researching diaries and discusses the literary and the social scientific approaches to such research. The literary approach rests on the assumption that the protagonist is a fictional construct (to a certain extent): “personal writings on the Internet are not be viewed as ‘slice-of-life’ documents or faithful reflections of reality. Attention is instead focused on the internal logic of the text, seen as a self-contained, self-referential artifact.” (p.10) The social scientific approach, on the other hand, requires the researcher to look beyond the text and make contact with the diarists.

Serfaty finds this problematic for a number of reasons. It requires the researcher to engage in participant observation, which is difficult and modifies the behavior of the observed (exactly my concern). Also, the exchange of correspondence between researcher and diarist creates “an intimate pact” that isn’t a very scientific approach to research. Familiarity with the diarist is likely to lead to further problems: either breaching the diarist’s trust, or conversely, being reluctant to expose unflattering aspects of the diarist’s life. Serfaty’s approach was thus to carefully avoid any interaction with the diarists she studied.

Another key issue is anonymity (or the lack thereof). The AoIR approach is to use pseudonyms. However, as Serfaty points out (and as I have reiterated many times) URLs of the blogs must be cited, making pseudonyms moot. Serfaty takes the approach that while blogs are often personal and intimate, they are not private. “Anyone who engages in self-representational writing on the Internet is not producing private material, but is engaging instead in ‘public acts deliberately intended for public consumption'” (p. 12).

On a less serious note, she quotes these very bloggy moments from “The Importance of Being Earnest” (Oscar Wilde):

Miss Prism: I really don’t see why you keep a diary at all.
Cecily: I keep a diary in order to enter all the wonderful secrets of my life. If I didn’t write them down, I should probably forget all about them.

Cecily: I am afraid you must be under some misconception. Ernest proposed to me exactly ten minutes ago. [shows diary]
Gwendolen: [examines diary through her lorgnette carefully] It is certainly very curious, for he asked me to be his wife yesterday afternoon at 5:30. If you would care to verify the incident, pray do so. [produces diary of her own.] I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

Algernon: Do you really keep a diary? I’d keep anything to look at it. May I?
Cecily: Oh no. You see, it is simply a very young girl’s record of her own thoughts and impressions, and consequently meant for publication. When it appears in volume form I hope you will order a copy.

If Oscar were around today, I bet he’d blog. Funniest play ever, I tell ya. Must go read it again.