Barbaric Blog Yawp

Long Misty Bio:


My name is Misty McNellis. The first five years of my life were spent in Willow, Alaska. My parents had a cabin on a lake, and I have many memories of that area. When I was around three, my mother opened her own store—The Tackle Shack. It was a small store next to Montana Creek. She sold fishing gear, fishing licenses, and groceries to the people in the area, with the majority of revenue coming from tourists. The store was operational during the summer time. So, from the time I was three until the time I was ten, that store and the surrounding area was my summer home. I spent my summers playing in the river and surrounding woods. I’d ride my bike for hours, pick raspberries, collect rocks, and climb any tree that could hold me up.

My mother remarried when I was nine, a year before the lease ran up on the store. When my mom remarried, we moved to Meadow Lakes with the man that would later adopt me and become my father. Even though the summers at the creek were in the past now, we had many acres of land that I could play on. Plus, there was a dog: Gwinney. She was a black flat-coated retriever. She was very sweet. Unfortunately, she passed away early due to cancer.

In sixth grade, my parents allowed me to get a puppy (which was amazing seeing as how I already had a cat, multiple fish tanks, lizards, a gecko, frogs, crabs, birds, and rabbits). I went to a rescue day at the local pet food shop, and I found her: Pixie. I saw her from across the store; a little boy was holding her. I walked over and hovered around the boy that was holding her until he put her down. Once he did, I picked her up and didn’t let her go. She’s been my best friend ever since.

 (This is my sweetheart, Pixie)

Before graduating high school, I was looking into attending Humboldt State University. However, just before graduating, I found out that I was awarded the UA Scholars award—which was a good chunk of change. The catch was that I’d have to go to school in Alaska. I weighed the options and decided being financially secure was more important than going out of state. So, I enrolled in UAA. I completed two years there before transferring to UAF to finish my degree. I graduated from UAF in 2010 with a B.S. in Biological Sciences.

Of my four years in college, two stand out: my sophomore year and my senior year. My sophomore year was very difficult for me. That year, I was taking some tough classes including physics, calculus II, and cell and molecular biology. I remember spending up to six hours a day on calculus alone. I’m sure glad that year is over. My senior year was completely opposite: it was great! By my senior year, my class load wasn’t so hard. I was only taking a few classes, and would spend around five hours a day in the rec center rock climbing, lifting, and learning jujitsu. By my senior year, I also had time for friends—not just study groups. My senior year in college was one of the most fun, relaxing times of my life.

 (Me at Boulderween my senior year in college)

To pay for college, I worked for fish and game during the summer (the scholarship helped, too, but not as much as working). My job allowed me to spend the whole summer (May-September) outside while getting experience collecting data and working with live animals. I couldn’t have asked for a better summer job.

 (This is my office)

Shortly after graduating college, the time came where I needed to start thinking about grad school. If I were to become a biologist (my goal at the time), I would have to get at least a Master’s degree. I found myself dragging my feet, putting off things, and generally just not giving it my all, which was really unlike me. So, I took some time to reflect and realized that I was about to pay around $40,000.00 to wait 5 years to MAYBE get a job where I spent almost all my time in an office writing reports, grants, and budgets just to make around $50,000.00 a year if I’m lucky. Is that really what I want? Ever since I was five, I wanted to be a biologist (or paleontologist), but as I grew up, I realized the reality of the situation. What I wanted—to work in the field—was typically the lowest position. The hands on stuff is what generally pays the lowest, and it was usually only temporary. I’ve heard too many biologists and foresters mention how much they miss the field and how that’s all they wanted to do when they entered the field. I was reaching this point—the point of office work. I didn’t like it. So, I thought about the lifestyle I wanted to live, the money and time it would require, and the cost of obtaining that training. I talked to people around me to gain insights regarding a variety of career fields, and here I am, in education. Teaching (in Alaska) would let me live the life I wanted, and the degree wouldn’t cost too much to get. So, I’m planning on finishing up my Master’s in December and am hoping for the best.

Misty Summed Up:

Love: Dogs, my family, my friends, being outside, animals, plants, biology, natural healing, fresh food, my worm farm, cleanliness, anatomy and physiology, rock climbing (although I haven’t gotten to do it much lately), working on my camper van (in progress), sleeping, traveling, dancing (not professionally), the sun, and the tropics (but I also love Alaska so I’m living here).

Goals: Be a successful educator, find a balance between work and personal life (it has been too much on the work side for the past 6 years..), get back in shape (physically healthy) because all this school work can really make your muscles shrink, finish my camper van, play fetch with my dog and cuddle her every day, pay off my student loans, pay off the jeep, go on a cross country trip in the camper van once it’s finished, make sure my family and friends know I’m thankful for all the support they have given me, get a legit ultralight sleeping system, go see more live music, and grow my own veggies for the year (once I get some my own land).

Misty’s Online Life:

Currently, I can only be found online at two locations: Facebook and Pinterest. A couple years after I finally got a Facebook, Instagram started becoming a thing (yes, I’m talking about THIS long ago). By that time, I had already seen how involved people were with their online life. I would be hanging out with people, and they would be spending so much time on their phones that no real connections could be made with the people around them. At that point, I vowed to not join any other social media sites. I would stay with Facebook until it became the next MySpace, and then I would be done. Also, I vowed to not spend much time online, period. I am already forced to be in front of a computer so much (with school and work) that I feel like I’m missing out on real life. When I’m 90, I want to look back at all the amazing memories and experiences I’ve had with the people (and dogs) around me—online fads, videos, or social media won’t matter. Therefore, I want to live my life as free from technology as I possibly can (which is unfortunately not as much as I would like). —Another reason my summer job in remote Alaska is such a good fit for me: I don’t have reception, and I have to take a boat to the nearest lodge for internet, I love it, it makes you get real human interactions and connections… something I think this society is losing—

4 Replies to “Barbaric Blog Yawp”

  1. Great work! I imagine there are some students in the middle of the journey you have already almost completed who could benefit from your experience navigating the twists/turns/up/downs!

    And I completely remember The Tackle Shack.

    There is one cluster of assertions you make in the last paragraph that I want to push back a little bit on. Not because I disagree (nor necessarily agree) but because it gets at a central point of exploration for this course: what is the value of technology and the web? Of distributed communication? Is it necessarily the zero-sum proposition you implicitly make, with “real life” on one side and “no real connections” on the other? What are the benefits of being able to make connections that couldn’t otherwise be made? Do you feel the same way about talking on the phone to a friend or relative who can’t be in the same physical location? Is there a possibility, through technologically assisted communication and connection, to build/foster/maintain relationships that would be impossible due to not being physically proximate? Are your assumptions about what is happening when someone is looking into a phone (or taking a picture, etc) true? Is the arbitrary construct and privileging of physical proximity as all-encompassing as you implicitly make it here?

    In a larger frame, you speak about technology as if it does things to us and almost as if our reactions are out of our control, so the binary logic is engaged of technology or not. Is that true? And for that matter, what do you even mean when you use the word “technology?”

    These are all questions I urge you to explore more fully. Particularly as you are going to be teaching and I think it behooves teachers to facilitate learning and experiences that allow for a different world-views than their own.

    You might enjoy this video (though it is very old in web years) because I think Ze Frank was ahead of his time in considering some of these ideas:

    I am sorry that you are going to be forced to spend a lot of time online as part of this course, though it really can’t be helped with the topic. Hopefully it isn’t too dreadful for you.

    1. They are all very good points. I did not mean to suggest that technology was useless or that it should somehow be erased. I do believe technology is an AMAZING resource and tool, and I think it can and should be used for that purpose. The point that I was trying to make is that just like any other tool or resource, you use it when it’s needed. What I see nowadays is people using it as the primary form of communication or obsessing over it. The point that I’m talking about is when it becomes a hindrance instead of a tool. When you use a keyboard so much that you’re ability to write is bad, when you get anxiety whenever your phone rings or buzzes because you HAVE to see who it was and what they said, when you refuse to turn your phone off on the airplane for 15 minutes because you just CAN’T be disconnected for that long- those are the types of situations that I’m talking about, and I see it quite often and I actively try to make my life not that way.

      Because of work and school situations, many people must sit in front of a screen for many hours during the day (I happen to be one of them because of school), and it’s the things I miss out on that bug me the most—things like spending time with my parents when they can make it down to visit or even as simple as carrying on a conversation with someone sitting next to me. Yes, technology allows people to connect that typically wouldn’t, and that is an extremely valuable thing. However, I feel like it is too often at the expense of us loosing the connection with the people around us, and words on a screen are not the same or a replacement to person-to-person socialization.

      As a society, we also seem to be making a huge shift in terms of our reliance on technology. I feel like we are unnecessarily replacing some very important things with technology (yes, replacing, not additionally teaching). For example, many students that I have worked with have very bad handwriting and make many spelling errors. When I have spoke to them about it, they have openly said they’ve never needed to because they just text and spell check fixes it for them. I also see students struggling to carry-on a constructive conversation or introduce themselves. These are skills that are necessary and useful, and shouldn’t be replaced.

      You asked me about how I feel about phones. As I said before, technology is a useful tool and resource. I believe phones and other forms of technology assisted communication is a wonderful thing. Personally, I can’t stand to be on the phone for more than 10 minutes, but that’s just me. However, I also believe many individuals have gotten so accustomed to having that tool and depending on it that many people get anxiety when that resource is not available. Being able to communicate, navigate, and find out information without technology (in this case phones, smartphones to be more exact) are vital skills that I believe we are losing.

      You also asked me to discuss what I believe to be technology. For the purposes of this discussion, I am referring to mainly computers and smartphones. (I don’t see too many people with flip phones obsessing over it for 4+ hours straight, lol). I do understand the term “technology” encompasses many things, such as calculators, GPS, and engines, but for this I’m speaking mainly about the two types previously stated.

      Speaking of different world views, my boyfriend and his guardian (who he is currently the guardian of) have very different views than I do. Both connect to friend through technology often (and in some cases exclusively). They feel a connection, but they both do admit that it is not the same as a face-to-face connection. I understand that my view is not super common in our society, but there is much research that suggests technology use negatively effects us in a variety of ways, including depression, sleep issues, anxiety, and fatigue, and that’s something to consider.

      And I will say that I didn’t always have this view. I remember when I first started communicating through technology. At first, it was very stressful, but then I was hooked. When I was a teenager (16-17yo to be exact) I thought it was awesome. I know the students that I work with also think it’s awesome, and that’s completely fine. What I try to do is teach them to use it as a tool/resource, instead of an emotional comfort. There’s been many times that I’ve said “I don’t know that answer- look it up and tell us when you find it.” In those cases, I think technology is serving it’s purpose. Now, when a student can’t stop snap chatting for 45 minutes without experiencing anxiety..well, then we have a problem. I think the key thing is appropriate use.

      I hope I answered most of your questions. You brought up some good points.

  2. Please know that when I ask questions or push back it isn’t because I think you are wrong, but because I want to hear more of where you are coming from and am genuinely curious. Thanks for your generosity in sharing!

    A few things I’ve come to believe after many years of being engaged in this area:

    Skepticism—almost all positions, really—often has an ebb and flow…you’ve experienced it yourself, as have I. No position ever seems to be “final” as technology changes (and we do!)

    Predicting the future is hard. I could write a book (as could many) about dire predictions about how technology was dumbing us down, ruining our skills, etc. There’s been much writing, often very funny, examining people worrying over this 10, 20, 50, 100 and more years ago. It goes back to Plato at least, who complained that writing was ruining our memory…so I’ve learned to take with a grain of salt the idea that X is ruining our ability to do Y because…so often it just turns out not to be true. Maybe you’re right and maybe you’re wrong…the important thing is to remain aware of how fallible our reasoning can be (and how biased the “research” can be supporting various contentions, pro and con).

    Our view isn’t everyone’s. I completely agree that tech mediated connections aren’t the same as face to face. I completely do not agree that this means they are inferior. Certainly many people think so, even those who value such connections. But many people feel like I do. So who/what is right? Maybe many/all of them. Which leads to:

    Binary thinking can be a big fail here…maybe it is less often either/or and more often both/and…

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