Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Very overdue for an update.

So last Friday, Sat., and Sunday, I was working away in the library, finishing up my last long paper… Discovered the joys of working in the library, surprisingly, since at MHC I avoided it during finals period due to germ issues. Jill & I actually arrived about an hour before the lib. opened on Sunday morning. Get this: during finals week, Stanford’s library didn’t open until NOON on Sunday. This seemed bizarre after MHC’s 24 hour policy, and then even the reduced early morning to 2 am compromise. I definitely took for granted the better access to the administrative powers…

Anyways, so Monday I finished up & packed… Tuesday morning I headed out early for my flight (way early, I had 3 hours to kill at the San Jose airport)… and learned the ropes of using mass transit in my new area. Still prefer my bike to the Marguerite, but… it’s helpful when you’ve got a huge suitcase.

Met up with Mer & Mum at the escalators in PDX (after some confusion), and headed into Portland for shopping. We found a very cool store (Presents of Mind), outside of which I got into a conversation with a gay rights activist & made a donation to the cause. Then Mer & I tried on gobs of clothes at Buffalo Exchange. After going through our painfully slow decision making process, we grocery shopped at Trader Joe’s (and I almost lost a mitten), drove through an unlit Peacock Lane, & had dinner at Skipper’s w/ much laughter over “hush puppies.” Great homecoming, w/ Tim at the door and Prissy expectantly looking at me (first time EVER that this cat has shown an interest in my being home again).

Select quotes:

Mom at Buffalo Exchange: “Those sweaters match really well. Too bad you can’t wear them both at once!”

On Mer’s stomach growling: “No digestion without representation!”

Gosh. So… what have I done since then. Weds. Mer & I headed down to Hood River and I got some more of my Hanukkah shopping done (aka, Andrew’s presents). We realized at some point that we were starving, so rather than grabbing coffee we walked over to the Crazy Pepper for some (as always) amazing Mexican food.

Thurs. we headed back into town – I hung out at the library ostensibly working on my intro to grad final while Mer shopped for me. Actually, I caught up on NYT articles, political blogs, and www.gofugyourself.com. I did finish writing the first paragraph, however, which seemed like a huge victory at the time.

So afterwards, we got some pretty amazing mochas at Dog River Coffee, and I got some more work done on my paper. I usually hate working in cafes due to noise issues, but (much like the library discovery) I’m finding it’s actually rather enjoyable when you’re in the right sort of café. Luckily, Hood River is not a university town, so one can still sit and drink coffee and work without being surrounded by other people doing the same. Refreshing to be the only one working on a paper in a given establishment.

Helped Mum w/ dinner – rice & bean mixture w/ kale & Mum’s amazing home grown & home canned tomatoes.

Thurs. we again headed into town – I again worked in the library, and got a first draft out. Dinner involved elk meat and spaghetti. I tried the elk (since it was wild & hunted), but found after one meatball that I just couldn’t do it. Hadn’t had red meat since the summer – wasn’t ready to really restart. Plus, elk meat has that gamey taste… The OC was excellent. Looking forward to Chrismakkuh w/ Andrew!

Anyway, Friday is difficult to remember now. At some point we watched The Bear though: a trippy movie in which bears are shamelessly personified and take drugs (otherwise known as psychedelic mushrooms).

Speaking of difficult to pinpoint events, we attempted to do something Chrismas-y each day. First was positioning & decorating the tree… I made some Christmas playlists for our soundtrack, and we got all the old favorites up on the branches. A couple days later I had a wrapping session, and got all the gifts under the tree. Mum’s been in a baking frenzy (partly due to events yet to be narrated), and has made like 7 or 8 pies in the last couple of days, plum pudding, and a walnut pie (which is amazing). We also made fudge soon after I arrived. Calculated the calories in a batch : 5800. Per square, about 200, depending upon how large your cuts are (we got about 30).

Saturday is the big crazy day. We had our self-scheduled Christmas, w/ Mer & I opening stockings and opening one another’s gifts. Surprised Mum w/ perfume & hiking boot money. I’m particularly excited about the coasters Mer got me. Must try out this mint julep recipe. Also found a perfume scent for Mer that seemed appropriate: beleaf. Mum & Tim surprised me w/ pink poodle figurines, which will stay under glass till I’m more settled geographically.

All was going well, until someone (probably me) had the bright idea of heading up to Laurence Lake to see the snowy sights. Well, as Mer was being nice and pulled aside for a small car to speed down the road, we got stuck on the none-too-plowed road up to the lake. At first it wasn’t so bad… just a bit nosed into the snow. Backing up proved fatal, as we started going into the ditch. Called up Scott, who w/ a neighbor and a handful of passersby directed our rescue operation. People shoveled snow out from under the wheels, pushed the jeep, and gave advice. The truck w/ chain attached to the jeep couldn’t pull it out, so at one point we had a truck & an SUV hooked up via winch to a tree and somehow… they finally got us out. Wheels spun without catching, the brakeline busted, and then Mom (keep in mind, no brakes) rear ended Scott’s truck (but we were the only ones damaged, luckily the fog light was the only casualty). Eek. Inched down the hill in first gear, watched one of our helpers get stuck in the snow as everyone tried to prevent him from backing into the same ditch that got us (Scott got him out, too, though his gears were messed up, something about a transmission box breaking).

Anyway, we got down the hill using emergency breaks, and turned into Scott & Linda’s, where we were greeted w/ tea & woodstoves burning. After figuring out our plan of attack in car repairs, we headed home in Tim’s truck. I made chili & compiled the blue cornbread mix from TJ’s. Yums. Kind of made up for our misadventure, and our frozen toes.

Mom started baking “thank you” pies that night – which we had to deliver the next day. SNL was freaking hilarious. The digital short about Narnia & cupcakes was our favorite. Debbie Downer’s Christmas was a close second. However, couldn’t figure out Neil Young.

Sunday was ridiculous. As Mer says, we visited half the people that we know in this valley. Scott & Linda’s for a pie drop off, Catherine & Marcus’s for an alpaca holiday event (not kidding), one of our helper’s for another pie drop off (where a pack of barking dogs attempting to get themselves run over as they “escorted” us down the driveway), Grammy’s for a visit, the café for chai & the grand electronic send off of my last final paper, Arlene’s for a visit, Rosauer’s for dinner ingredients… we were hungry, exhausted, and relieved of pies by the time we got home. Dinner was snappy, as we’d gotten a frozen concoction. Later, toward midnight, Mer & I decided to have a snowy adventure. Walked to the pipes, sat in the quiet imagining elk, and then went home for a late night of hilarious dating shows.

Ripped from Mer’s blog, here are some quotes w/ my parenthetical comments:

"He really does like, consume people."
-Becky, about a guy making out with women on Elimidate (it was truly zombie like).

"Will Mike choose Tracy, or the egg donor?"
-Host of Elimidate

"Oh, someone's gonna get elimidated. Oh, no, someone's gonna have to watch the "Bod" commercial for the 50th time."
-Becky, concerning false dramatic pause and subsequent commercial break (they seriously played the commercial up to four times during EACH break. Sometimes even back to back alternate versions of the same d&#* ad).

"He's groovin' to that windchime"
-Becky, concerning "Third Eye" commercial (in which an unshaven guy in baggy clothes strums a wind chime and starts kinda dancing).

"She just craves that fresh water like a hippie craves a windchime."
-Me (i.e., Merrie, since this is from her blog), concerning Prissy and her faucet habit

So, for today:

Mum woke me up early (that is, before 9 am) as they’d spotted a herd of elk in the orchard. Right outside our front window, really, a whole herd grazing on the fallen apples. As they moved about, we caught sight of one spike or just a few pointed bull, which was way exciting, until we realized that an even larger bull was out there. He had probably about five points, and he was just a huge animal, as Mer says, “judging from how huge the rack was,” he must have had a decent amount of points. Mer tells me that bulls take “harems” during the mating season. So guess that’s what we were seeing. We’re not really sure what was up with the younger bull, but he must not have seemed a threat. Something spooked the herd, and they headed back up to the ditch & the hills.

Mer & I later decided to track them… which wasn’t too difficult in the snow, and with all the broken saplings, droppings, and shed fur. Mer spotted a number of small trees stripped bare by antlers. Got some cool photos in macro mode to document the trip. The highlight, though, was when Mer recognized these shrill bleats as elk communicating with one another (and probably warning of our presence, as we were none too quiet with our puffy coats catching on every limb and our boots crunching through the snow). These noises went on for about five minutes, with us crouching in the snow that was quickly melting through even my three layers of pants. After the bleating had stopped, I was ready to head homewards and take in the snowy views, so I ended up leaving Mer and tried to make as much noise as possible on the return trip to (we hoped) calm the elk into thinking we had left. Had some moments looking at the views of the valley hillsides in snow, and this ancient sign on a tree…

Helped with dinner – we had tilapia w/ garlic, onions, and tomatoes, and my new favorite veggie side, involving kale.

After, as Medium was a repeat, Mer & I watched Lady and the Tramp. Realized upon rewatching (it had been years), that there are huge issues being worked out in that film… all the different representations of immigration & ethnicity, class (the “kennel club”), not to mention gender roles. EEK. I used to love those old Disney films, and now I can’t imagine showing them to kids without a whole lecture attached.

Anyway, must go now. Will leave w/ a link to an awesome article from the NYT on health care reform for this country.


Monday, December 12, 2005

Apparently, the average college graduate's debt amounts to $17,600. The NYT ran an interesting proposal for making student loans work for students rather than lenders... which seems vital right now, as the Pell Grant program is woefully behind inflation. For most of us, the Pell Grant is really just a tiny drop in the bucket, not the empowering force necessary to help working class students feel that they can afford a college education.


"It's thus no surprise that lawmakers are apt to protect lenders and not students. On Oct. 26, Mr. Boehner's committee approved more than $14 billion in cuts over the next six years, which would be the largest reduction in the history of the federal student aid program. Mr. Boehner defended the cuts by saying they mostly came from corporate subsidies to Sallie Mae, Bank One, Citibank and the rest. But that gets to the heart of what is wrong with this program - and the way to fix it. The best way to reverse the shocking trends in debt and educational attainment would be to switch from loans back to grants. Given ballooning deficits, though, that's a nonstarter. Instead, why not cut off subsidies to banks and give that money to needy students?"

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

My blog has become a digital commonplace book.

So here's some of my life:

This past Friday: Surprise birthday party for Justin -- SUCH fun. He was about 20 minutes late for the concocted movie watching date, so we all hid in the hallway whispering and waiting for a knock on the door. Unfortunately (or should I say fortunately?) none of us had matches for the candles since no one smokes... Marissa put up a good fight with the electric range top, and even got some sparks, but no outright flame. Anyway, luckily Justin didn't catch on and become overly suspicious of the multiple movie invites, or the bizarre silences whenever he entered a room where we were discussing plans. After our wine and cheese pre-party, we caught the Marguerite and walked to the Nut House. Which was a nut house. People were actually throwing peanuts at us. Seems like the place for English & Comp Lit kids (not necessarily because of the peanut throwing). We ran into older grad students, comp lit students... our table kept expanding. Talked about the OC w/ Harris, planned a slumber party with Elda Maria and Jill, unsuccessfully plotted with Elda to get unadulterated water, got scared silly by the life size gorilla man in the bathroom stall (I could have sworn he moved between my first and second trips) and felt waaaay drunk looking in the fun house mirrors by the sink, wondered over the music (blister in the sun AND tom petty), and stumbled home with everyone after we missed the last bus. Showered, and promptly fell asleep with the towel still on my wet hair. Woke up around 1 the next afternoon with a sore stomach, but luckily no headaches.

Anyway, the rest of my weekend consisted of working. Missed out on Binta's tour of the Chuck Close exhibit at the SF MOMA, but instead searched for Punch cartoons from the late 1800's for my final paper in 19th Cent. Visual Culture. OK, time for a little divergence.

So I remembered, back in the day, when I was writing my papers for the Joan of Arc/ King Arthur course at MHC, being able to search (electronically, no less) for the merest mentions of Lord Lytton in issues of Notes & Queries from the 1800's. And it was totally easy -- I was a sophomore, for Christ's sake. Also: At MHC, all the periodicals, even those dating from the 1800's, were in ONE PLACE. Easy to find and all that. So adjusting to Stanford's library system has been huge for me. From just figuring out where all the books are (they have like, 12 libraries, and auxiliary libraries where you have to specially call stuff up, and not to mention special collections for the really old awesome stuff), to how to search their online catalogue, to what databases to use, to how long I can have things out for, to how I can check out DVDs... so much. And always the little things you took for granted. So anyway, I had this breakthrough after some kind soul named Mary (this quest takes on Biblical proportions) at the library replied to my pleading email about not being able to find Punch. Basically, I had to search through periodicals specifically. Oops. But she also copied and pasted the info for where to find it (NOT where the special collections librarian had pointed me, so it wasn't entirely my fault for missing it...), which included, lo and behold, the database I remembered using back in the day at MHC! So, not only did I spend Monday morning flipping through 100+ year old magazines, I also was able to find every mention in a headline of "advertisements"! Only problem, of course, is that I just have all this stuff I love, but not exactly a thesis yet. Gonna work on that.

Anyway, today was our last Memoria class... we went like, an hour and a half over time. Eek. But it was OK because everyone had their final papers to talk about, and Prof. L. had ordered us Indian food. Ahhhh. The way to my heart. And by the time dessert roled around... I was in a pumpkin-dip-and-nilla-wafer-with-Philip-Glass-in-the-background induced swoon.

So now I've finished my reading response for my (gasp) last intro class on Thurs... and was reading some Wilde for Friday's class...

Here's a highlight for my idealistic soul:

"It will, of course, be said that such a scheme as is set forth here is quite unpractical, and goes against human nature. This is perfectly true. It is unpractical, and it goes against human nature. This is why it is worth carrying out, and that is why one proposes it. For what is a practical scheme? A practical scheme is either a scheme that is already in existence, or a scheme that could be carried out under existing conditions. But it is exactly the existing conditions that one objects to; and any scheme that could acept these conditions is wrong and foolish. The conditions will be done away with, and human nature will change." (1100) - Wilde in "the Soul of Man Under Socialism"

And here's a highlight for everyone with a Wildean sense of humor:

"Sometimes the poor are praised for being thrifty. But to recommend thrift to the poor is both grotesque and insulting. It is like advising a man who is starving to eat less. For a town or country labourer to practise thrift would be absolutely immoral. Man should not be ready to show that he can live like a badly fed animal." (1081)

OK I'm going to prep this next one by noting that William Morris and Wilde are both proposing socialism at least in part because they have decided that art in its best form -- or a democratization of art -- is not possible under capitalism. So Morris started a crafts movement, believing that everyone should work to produce beautiful objects/ art. And Wilde is responding to that in part here. But anyway, it's really funny, so here we go:

"They try to solve the problem of poverty, for instance, by keeping the poor alive; or, in the case of a very advanced school, by amusing the poor." (1079)

Well, that's it for today... time to shower and actually do some work!!
A great reminder about why, exactly, tax cuts for the wealthy should seem ethically WRONG right now. Congress is chipping away at safety net programs such as Food Stamps (200,000 people are basically going to lose $140 each month with which to buy food) and Medicaid. Unfortunately, trickle down doesn't work, and hasn't been working for these people:

"Poverty has risen across the past four years to 37 million and counting, by the government's own measure, while the number of homeless children in public schools is at 600,000 and up. In 2004, some 38 million Americans - including nearly one in five children - lived in households that found it difficult to afford food, 6 million more than in 1999. These are the numbers that should be driving the nation's lawmakers, not the cynical desire to carry rebellion only to the brink of victory, followed by still another last-minute cave-in by the misnamed moderates." - NYT Editorial, "Profiles in Pusillanimity"

What's this, you ask?

Only my new favorite website -- check out this disturbing case of "sexsomnia" in Canada. Apparently, some guy (with a HISTORY of this, mind you) got drunk, passed out next to some woman, and proceeded to rape her while supposedly asleep. The kicker? He had enough foresight to put on a condom. Awfully fishy. As someone on the above blog points out, condoms are hard enough to use even when you're CONSCIOUS. So basically, it's OK to rape women so long as you claim to have a disorder. And unlike female rape victims, you won't even be accused of negligence in protecting you/ the women around you because you exacerbated your "illness" w/ alcohol. Any judge with half a brain would at LEAST give the guy some sentence -- if you've done this four times, you're guilty by way of drinking and passing out next to a woman that you MUST KNOW you could end up "sleep raping."

As someone also points out in the above blog, if this guy had "accidentally" raped a man instead of a woman, you can bet that he wouldn't have been found not guilty.

Monday, December 05, 2005

OK. I do realize that it's after 2 am, but I still have to post these quotes because I've been having some "a-ha!" moments (not like the 80's band) while reading a chapter of Fredric Jameson from a book that he co-authored (The Cultures of Globalization). My first impression of Jameson a few weeks ago in Intro to Grad Studies was not good (overwrought prose style, the sort that takes you 5 minutes to read one page). So my excitement tonight seems miraculous (maybe that bad writing award went to his head, because the prose in this piece is amazing).

Anyway, so here are my favorite quotes, so far, in this week's reading:

After discussing the syllogism that goes: lack of democracy interferes with development of a free enterprise system, so therefore development of democracy "is dependent on development of the free market itself" (68). Ok so here's where it gets good:

"Suppose, however, that what are here identified as so many levels of the same thing were in reality in contradiction with each other; for example, suppose that consumerism were inconsistent with democracy, that the habits and addictions of postmodern consumption block or repress possibilities of political and collective action as such?" p. 69 Ah-ha!

Ok, and the second:

"But in the Anglo-American first world, I'm tempted to say, the state can still be a positive space: its powers are what must be protected against the right-wing attempts to dissolve it back into private businesses and operations of all kinds. The state is the place of welfare and social legislation, the source of the safety net of a whole range of crucial legislative powers (over employment, health, education, and the like), which must not be surrendered to the fragmenting and disintegrating effects of American business" (72).

I love this, I think in part because I've recently realized/decided that a laissez-faire model of capitalism doesn't work in the real world of post-industrialization. And why? Because big business doesn't care about worker safety or welfare until they're FORCED to. Example: I'm reading through anthologies of Victorian mags (such as Punch), and I ran across some details of the state of factory workers ... a group that included 13 year olds with phosphorous poisoning from working in match factories, which caused the destruction of vocal cords and the loss of teeth... and women and children working in cotton factories who "gained" a ten-hour work day after, get this, FORTY years of protests.

OK. So surely we've moved on now (as in, now workers can sue), but there are other areas in which we're still woefully like the Victorians. Their Smoke Acts are our "Clean Air Acts," which these days don't really do anything substantial. And the protests in Punch against train tracks in the Lake District seem eerily familiar to the administration's attack on National Parks -- their rewriting that makes "preservation" a secondary aim to certain high-up cronies' desires to go snow mobiling in Yellowstone. Not just eery, actually...

So, in my late-night Jameson-induced epiphany, I've decided that government intervention is necessary and vital for a responsible and sustainable brand of capitalism. Because people making millions/ billions of dollars don't consistently give a s*#$ about the environment (they can always buy a private island, right?) Now if only the government could extract itself from the pockets of big business, we'd actually get some real protection for the environment...

Saturday, December 03, 2005

With Mum's approval and even by her suggestion, I'm posing this snippet:

Pinkpoodledog: well, I don't know, I might watch SNL so it might not be that clear cut, but I'll at least get a chance to skim some reading tonight

Mom: i like to think of that what is it ?
Mom: the 8th chakra....message coming in from above...divine so to speak ?

Pink: mom, I honestly don't think that ayurvedic intervention is going to help me write about political cartoons from 19th century britain

Thursday, December 01, 2005

So I feel that I should document my Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving: Yet another sunny day, high 60's (actually cooler than it had been the rest of the week). Justin, James, & I headed over to our Stanford-sponsored Thanksgiving dinner around 4. I perhaps unwisely had us sit outside (the novelty factor, you know), since it did get chilly once the sun set. It was hilarious. James signed up to work -- his job? Taking pictures of everyone eating. (And he's from New Zealand so this was his first Thanksgiving.) Highlights: hearing about Justin's camping trip ("I was trying to fall asleep, and I thought 'that d--ed M!' "), the quickly-melted whipped cream on pumpkin pie that looked rather unhealthy, and my ill-timed comment of "I keep eating this, and it's not even that good" as people were walking past to get in the food line. Oopsy.

Friday: Lots of sitting about and working.

Sat: More sitting about, until the afternoon when I decided to be proactive. Borrowed The Piano from the lib. for mainly academic reasons. James came over to watch with me. Painful movie at times.

Sun.: Eek break coming to an end! But, I did get my paper done, the three novels read, and much of the intro reading done... Anyway, in the morning was my usual farmer's market expedition. And Desperate Housewives was excellent.

Mon: Double eek. Last day of break for me! Went to discussion on curiousity, Adam, and the fall of appetite... Awkward moment as one of the profs. said that it was the only lecture he'd followed, while someone who'd lectured earlier was in the room. Strange, because while I think the talk was brilliant, the prof was like me with talking too fast... but with the level of complexity of her ideas, well... difficult for a first year grad student to follow. And the prof who had spoken earlier in the quarter I thought was much better at conveying her ideas.

Anyway, watched Medium. Excellent!

Tuesday: Meeting about intro presentation... drugstore.com delivery (thank God, was running out of toilet paper. (Have you ever tried transporting toilet paper via bike? Yeah, that's why I resorted to online.)

Weds: Awesome pedagogy class. Prof. J gave us a litany of things that can go wrong, and Prof. L gave us readings that recommend listening to "rousing music" before teaching.

Today: I'm also done with my Intro presentation. I was rather nervous starting out... usually it takes me like at least 30 minutes to settle into a class and feel like talking, so basically talking first thing was uncomfortable. I stumbed at the beginning... I can always picture how horribly things could go, and then get worried, and then nervous, and that's not good. I think I recovered a bit as I kept going. I much more enjoyed talking during the discussion though! Must get over this nervous tendency... something about the Intro class is intimidating though... Perhaps because the room has no windows. Or because there are only 9 of us along that thin narrow table. I guess it's something I'll just gradually learn to work with. I am much better than I was back in middle and high school though!! So that seems to speak to the capacity for progress... right??

Rained tons today. Dumped. So after our Mantis meeting, Jill & I hung out over at the TA lounge. I read some Wilde. Definitely want to do something with socialism for my final project...

The OC... excellent.