Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Education systems -- and their results


Tonight the students of 5A will put on a presentation on Jamie Oliver, his ideas on food and some of his recipes. They read the recipes in English, translated them into German, and will present in German and English. Some other students will be presenting in French as well.

I would like to point out that these students are in the 5th form, the equivalent of the American 9th grade. In 9th grade, the year I began studying German, these kids are capable of reading, translating, and presenting recipes about unfamiliar food in English and French. Currently, after years more of study and months spent in Austria, I speak/function at about their level.

I blame my education system for my complete lack of ability to function well in any language other than English. And I am deeply annoyed by the fact that these fourteen and fifteen year old students are just as capable as I am. It's also rather humbling, and not in a good way.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Antarctica

On MSNBC.com, there's a newsteam that went to Antarctica to compile a report on ice melt and global climate change based on interviews with scientists there. They're dispatches were really quite entertaining, and of course I find it all fascinating given how great of an impact even a relatively small amount of ice melt could cause.

2005-2006 TOURISTS BY NATIONALITY
9,035
United States
4,150
United Kingdom
3,012
Germany
2,409
Australia
863
Canada
836
Netherlands
624
Switzerland
617
Japan
3,645
Others

One of the interesting questions they raise is the human affect on Antarctica, especially with the great increase in tourism. So, of course, I had to look it up. That's a LOT more people than I thought that are going to Antarctica each year.

Here's a description of what one can do on an Antarctic cruise (virtually the only way to go to Antarctica unless you're a legit scientist who works there or at the base)

"Itineraries vary, depending in part on the kind of vessel you choose. If you want to venture beyond the Antarctic Peninsula, for example, you'll probably wind up on an icebreaker. Cruises can be 1-3 weeks in length, stopping at various points of interest or bases on the peninsula, coast or islands. Activities on the various tours include viewing penguins, elephant seals and other polar animals, as well as ice walks and opportunities to visit research bases and meet the scientists who work there. Virtually every cruise offers the chance for spectacular views of icebergs and you may get to see an ice shelf or glacier calve into a new iceberg. Many icebergs are beautifully colored, showing green, blue or purple ice and crevasses where the sea water has hollowed them out or melted them into fantastic shapes."


This is a picture taken by someone who went on one of their cruises.

Here are some sample prices:
2006/2007 Sarpik Ittuk:
November 7, 17, 27:
Triple: $2995
Twin(Upper/Lower)Berths: $4495
Twin(Lower Berths): $4895
DedicatedSingle: $5995 December 7, 17, 27, January 6, 16, 26 and February 5, 15, 25:
Triple: $3995
Twin(Upper/Lower)Berths: $5495
Twin(Lower Berths): $5895
DedicatedSingle: $7495

I personally find it absolutely amazing that anyone could travel to Antarctica for a 12-day cruise for $3000 (plus excursion costs and airfare). And some people think buying a flat screen TV is better!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Sadly, I do have to grub for money


Today was a happy day because I was paid. This means my rent is paid, I can buy yummy food (bratwurst mit senf und kraut, in this case the Austrian skinny style bratwurst with spicy mustard and non vinegary sauerkraut) for lunch tomorrow - since I don't plan on waking up earlier than lunch - and some bio-yogurt, cheese and roggenbrot. It is good to have money.

I find my thoughts increasingly occupied with my concerns about my finances. This is bad obviously for a number of reasons. First, I think it's exacerbating the latent ulcer that I'm slowly nursing into mondo proportions. Second, I would much rather be thinking about something else. Third, I can't change it anyway, so why am I stressing? Probably because stressing is something I do very well.

I will be pleased to be gainfully employed in no less than two years. I will get my teaching certificate as fast as possible. I believe I can finish all the classes in one year, do my student teaching in the fall, and be teaching somewhere within two years. Who knows where, and I have to say I don't particularly care where (okay, Saudi Arabia is right out); as long as I'm making a living wage and can pay $1000/month on my student loans, I'll be happy with my job.

It will be nice to re-enter the safe haven of university life for a short time, although I'm REALLY not excited about taking courses like ANTH 107 (Intro to Anthropology) and POSC 201 (American Politics) with a bunch of undergrads. Shoot me now.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

resource waste solution

Puget Sound in Spring (although it could be any season, it's always green and beautiful there).

Dolce Vita's blog post reminded me of something I decided shortly after deciding to go back to the exact center of Washington state, aka Ellensburg, to get my teaching certificate. Would that I could go to Seattle instead.... still better than Spokane. Or Moses Lake! ugh!

No car. That's right, no car. There is no public transport in Ellensburg, and to visit my mom on the weekend, I will need to catch the Greyhound across town and then take the ferry across the Puget Sound, then take the foot ferry from Bremerton to Port Orchard, then take the bus, which appears to run every hour/half hour at random intervals, from there to my mom's house. This should take approximately 2.5 hours for the bus, 1 hour for the ferry, 30 minutes on the foot ferry, and about 20 minutes on the bus. But it can be done, and I will do it. I don't want to be one of those lame-o's who complain about damage to the environment and about Americans who drive big cars, then BE one of those lame-o's driving a V8 engine to campus when it's only a mile away.

In the 7A English class yesterday, we discussed the future of the Western world, in terms of the open areas that are left being turned into shopping malls, high rise apartment buildings and parking lots. They all told me that it was the consumer's responsibility to refuse to patronize businesses who build in wetlands because it's cheaper to pay the fine than to move the store, and the individual's responsibility to improve the condition of the planet, one person at a time.

I don't know how much it will actually make a difference, considering how irritating most Americans are about energy/resource usage, but it will make ME feel better.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Contemplation

I was trying to figure out today why I am enjoying this part of my life so much as compared to previous years. I have come to a few conclusions.

1) Grad school was lame for a number of reasons, not the least of which that it made me feel like I constantly had my hand in the cooky jar. Whether I was watching TV, doing a fun crafty thing, working out, visiting my family - whatever I was doing with my LIFE, I felt guilty about because it detracted from school. I felt doubly guilty because my life was making it difficult to do well in school, and the cycle perpetuated itself.
The other main reason grad school was lame is because I saw no real purpose for what I was doing. It was interesting to me and a select few historians/scholars in the world and that's it. I wasn't doing something of significance in my view - religion is significant to me, but apparently not to the majority of Western society. So, I felt as though I was plugging away at something that was not especially worth my time.

2) School is, by definition, not working - thus, I felt like I was "practicing" living life, rather than actually living it. Since I have been in school my whole life up until now, that is a long time of feeling bored and a little unhappy and impatient.

3) I can't remember a time since high school when I didn't have a crush on a guy or wasn't dating someone. For the first time since I was old enough to do so, I am not dating anyone, I am not interested in anyone, and I am feeling quite pleased with the single state.

Clearly, the fact that I am no longer in graduate school contributes a great deal to my current feeling of well-being. Those of you who are still in school, kudos to you - all of you had projects/topics FAR more relevant than mine. If I were to do it over again, I would have picked either comparative religions or 19th/20th century Austria, except that everyone does that, and I have a rule against being like everyone else. :) Anyway, I wouldn't have focused on fin-de-siecle like everyone, I would have focused on 1848 and Hungary's successful attempts to become more autonomous. Perhaps because of the current situation with Austria in the center of Europe and having all these historic ties to the new member states, I am quite interested in how it is all working. In fact, that was my independent project that I worked on last time I was in Austria. But anyway, the thought of working for years and years on a dissertation about Austrian villages in the 16th century - well.... it doesn't fill me with excitement. Comparative religions would have been fun too, but it would have seemed almost like cheating since I find world religions/practices so fascinating that it wouldn't have seemed like work.

So the end result is that I am happy to have a job I like, living in a place I love, working with people I like, studying a language I like, living with people I like, and Christmas is almost here! I think though, that even going back to school for my teaching certificate next fall will be easier mentally than grad school. If I ever go back, I will make sure to choose something that I really, really care about, not just something that I find really interesting. Interesting doesn't get you through pages and pages of primary documents and stacks of secondary literature.

Would you believe I read "Babylonian Captivity of the Church" for fun? Now THIS is a man too many people are studying. When I came to the UO, I wanted to write my thesis on the response of women to the Reformation - why, if we are often taught how the Catholic Church oppressed women, did Catholic women fight with everything they had to remain Catholic? And why did other women choose to support the Evangelical movement? Now THAT is fascinating. Too bad there's about zero primary sources available at the UO for such a topic.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Double Standards

I came across two interesting things within about five minutes on my nightly check-the-news-before-I-go-to-bed ritual. First, I had a bulletin posted on myspace that was supposedly attributed to Andy Rooney. I happen to like Andy Rooney, I think he's one of the few people that have the guts and the stature to say exactly what they think, and there really aren't all that many people like that today, everyone seems to be worried about being PC or something. Anyway, the bulletin was partly like something Rooney would say, but not really, because Andy Rooney is funny and fair in a way this bulletin never could be, in its attempt to legitimize inappropriate attitudes and ideas about current issues in the US. These included, but are not limited to, immigration, the use of English, homophobia, public support of minority oriented things (such as Black Miss America), and so on.

The second issue that came up was this thing with Michael Richards, the guy who played Kramer on Seinfeld. I really have a problem with the hullabaloo this caused for two reasons: a) if this had been a minority of any variety complaining about whites, it would have been ignored entirely, even though it would be just as racist. Just because someone is victimized, they do not automatically have the right to be as big of jerks as those who damaged them. b) As the article rightly pointed out, Fox news was shamelessly pulling the race card with its O.J. Simpson special (which it ended up not showing), and yet public outrage is still high over Richards and not about this network that was blatantly trying to make money off of a double homicide.

I find comments criticizing the African-American community's attempts to build social cohesion and identity to be short-sighted and irritating, because let's face it: if any group in the US today needs more social stability and a positive sense of identity, it's the African-American community. But I also find this double standard of racism offensive in that minorities can get away with saying things and doing things about/against themselves or whites that would never fly coming from the mouth of a white person, such as Richards. For example, AAs* using the n-word. I find this word so offensive that I will say it only in the case of explaining it to non-English speakers who have never heard it. I don't care who says it, it is completely and utterly offensive, and no matter how many times I'm told that it's okay if an AA uses such a derogatory term amongst their AA friends, I do not agree. It has always been, and always will be a term that represents everything wrong with race relations in the US, and a refusal to admit this and leave this word where it belongs - in the past - is simply serving to perpetuate a bad example within the AA community.

*much easier than typing them all out.

Monday, November 27, 2006

I am the High Priestess


You are The High Priestess


Science, Wisdom, Knowledge, Education.


The High Priestess is the card of knowledge, instinctual, supernatural, secret knowledge. She holds scrolls of arcane information that she might, or might not reveal to you. The moon crown on her head as well as the crescent by her foot indicates her willingness to illuminate what you otherwise might not see, reveal the secrets you need to know. The High Priestess is also associated with the moon however and can also indicate change or flux, particularly when it comes to your moods.


What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Winter of our Discontent


Caption: the words of Shakespeare, one of the greatest wordsmiths of the English language, thus reduced to crass commercialism and the pursuit of the almighty dollar. Funny, isn't it?

I'm currently re-reading John Steinbeck's Winter of our Discontent. I haven't read this book since I was a sophomore in high school. I remember it made a huge impression on me, but I didn't realize why until re-reading it today. The whole point of the story is to ask whether honesty and morality are dead (it was published in 1961).

I must say that I appreciate Steinbeck's attempt to end the novel with something akin to hope, but I must say that I'm not so hopeful as he was able to be. One of Ethan Allen Hawley's dilemma's in the book is to fight with his own sense of honor and his shame at having lost the wealth that went along with the prestige of his family name. To gain back the wealth, he feels as though he will have to sacrifice his integrity. But then, it seems to him as though everyone else is doing it; what is integrity worth, really? It certainly isn't going to pay for the children's education or let his wife hold her head high in town.

I find myself wondering while reading this book if Steinbeck is right - are people in the modern world so lacking in integrity, a strong sense of what ought to be and what ought not, a sense of pride or a sense of responsibility?

Another book in the stack I picked up last month in my written-in-English book forays was a novel by Donna Leon about the Commissario Brunetti in Venice, Italy. While one book, Steinbeck's, is about American morality in the mid-twentieth century, Leon's book is about crime in Venice at the turn of the twenty-first century, and yet the book I read by Leon, Willful Behavior, also engages the same issues. Brunetti's wife, Paola, is a literature professor who was trying to teach her students about honor as seen in specific works of Edith Wharton. Only one student actually understood the concept, because the characters who acted with honor were not rewarded for their efforts. In fact, one loses her life and one loses every chance at happiness; events such as these do not make an especially compelling case for honorable action.

What do honor and integrity matter in today's world? Leon said, through Paola, that modern students are almost incapable of understanding the difficulties of acting with honor in a world in which a throwaway culture is embraced, selfishness is the order of the day, and our idols/role models are not people who live their lives with integrity, but people like Brad Pitt, Lindsay Lohan, Rush Limbaugh, and George Bush.

Should we give up? After all, if you believe that there is only one life and it doesn't matter what happens afterward, either that you will be reincarnated as a toad if you're a jerk in this life or that you will go to hell - if it doesn't matter how you live, then honor and integrity most certainly don't matter either.

Another part of Leon's book that I found interesting was her treatment of the Bible, for which Paola is described as having no special fondness. During her lecture on Wharton, she sees that the students are disinterested and uncaring, and is tempted to say something about those who have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear, but "she refrained, realizing that her students would be as insensitive to the evangelist as they had proven themselves to be to Wharton."

In Steinbeck's novel, Hawley's son plagiarizes an essay written during the 19th century for the "I love America" contest so that he can go to Washington, DC and meet the president. When he is caught, he tells his father, "That's the way the cooky crumbles."

Is it really? When asked by Jesus if he would leave like other disciples had, Peter replied, "Lord, to whom shall we go?" If we as a society choose to "move beyond" honor and decency, integrity and respect, because they come from outdated notions in an outdated religion, where shall we go?

I wonder what the executives of Enron said when they were caught. "That's the way the cooky crumbles" perhaps?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Uh-huh....Great News!!

This is a fantastic idea. In fact, it's so fantastic that I think they ought to pass legislation right now! I've always been of the opinion that when a war is going poorly for a nation, the best thing to do is send more people. Interesting that it was a bi-partisan idea, though. blech.... bi-partisan support for the draft. Wonderful.

This one kind of makes me a little ill when I think about how much we had to scrape and save and/or borrow with our little stipend. It's supply and demand, I suppose - but so hypocritical to try to pay graduate students and adjuncts what they do when they are paid so much.

This one is lovely
: here's a quote, "The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States had changed the equation, and criticism over the Indonesian military’s human rights record and the East Timor crisis in 1999 gave way to close ties." This totally reminds me of allowing nasty military dictators to do what they thought was necessary in South America simply because we were afraid of the "communist threat." Except now they're terrorists, and they can strike anywhere, anytime, anyplace. And hurt the ones you love most. So support the President! I'm with Olbermann on this one - the President is a master of terror in his own right.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Why did the chicken cross the road?

M. and I were talking about our favorite teachers at NKHS (our high school) and why they were so great. Both of us agree that if it hadn't been for having at least one or two good teachers, we wouldn't be in the profession today. Frodel - History, Bressan - History, Driscoll - English. Driscoll was my favorite, and I base my teaching philosophy on his way of seeing the world. :) (M. wrote these answers)

Frodel: Because the chicken saw the potential to expand it's mind by crossing the threshold of uncharted territory that was the road and everything beyond it.

Driscoll: Because the chicken, in its stupidity, throwing all logic to the wind, saw all the other chickens crossing the road and followed suit like cattle, because chickens, like teenagers, are inherently stupid.

Bressan: I once saw a chicken TEN FEET TALL gun down a whole crapload of Viet Kong!! What? You don't believe me? I have the scars to prove it!!!

(p.s. Bressen wasn't actually ever in Vietnam, but he always told stories about his time there.)

I see this as competition between three different teaching styles: Frodel tried to expand the minds of his students because everything was so interesting to him that his enthusiasm for his subject was contagious; Driscoll thought all students were dumb and didn't hesitate to tell them what he thought of their 'we just want to get an A' philosophy; and Bressan was the kind of person who would just say crazy stuff and then see if you'd actually believe it. All of them were successful in challenging the idea that school is for grades, and that knowledge is only useful to pass tests. They made teaching something relevant, and they made us care. It's teachers like these that prevent the American public school system from completely imploding.

Tribute to my father

I miss my Dad a lot. I keep thinking about him lately, about how nice it would have been to talk to him about my future plans, and get some good advice. He never felt shy about dispensing advice. :) It's so unfair that his life got cut so short. He had so much ahead of him, so much to live for, and instead, he got cancer and slowly faded away.

I don't want to regret my choices in life when I'm 40. Mom said she always wondered what good could come out of this situation, since of course we need to believe there was something good about it. I think the good that happened in my life because of it is that I made a huge effort to be close to my family again. Family is SO important. The second thing is that I know, at a gut deep level, how important every day is and how important it is to make this one, short, dazzling life we're given count for as much as possible. Who knows when it will end? We could live to 80, we could get hit by a car tomorrow, we could get terminal cancer just when we're planing our 25th anniversary trip to the Mediterranean with our spouse.

I'm so grateful that in addition to being the strong role model and responsible, loving father he was, he also showed us all, his family, friends and colleagues, how to greet the end of life with dignity and grace and not despair and anger. I just wish he hadn't had to die to show me how to live.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Breaking News

Headline: FDA lifts 14-year virtual ban on silicone-gel breast implants.

"WASHINGTON - The government ended a 14-year virtual ban on silicone-gel breast implants Friday despite lingering safety concerns, making the devices available to tens of thousands of women who have clamored for them."


THIS is breaking news? THIS is the banner at the top of the page? I can't actually think of something appropriately horrifying enough to describe my feelings about this "breaking news" headline.

I am speechless.

If our goal was to oust a nasty military dictator....

We should have picked Burma, aka Myanmar. While the weather is entirely too hot for me, I really enjoyed visiting the country. The people are in general quite nice, especially if they're not trying to sell you something, and there are some really incredible historic monuments. The scenery is also quite lovely if you're into tropical stuff (I'm not). Pictures from this spring.






Just read an article summarized from the Washington Post about the Burmese government's latest push to eliminate the threat of Karen militants, an ethnic minority in Myanmar. Instead of fighting the ones with guns, the government of course realizes that the best way to break the back of the resistance is to torch their homes and villages, destroy their crops, and plant land mines in their villages so that they can never return. There are about 3 millions Karen, and almost 2 million are currently displaced. This is only one example of the kind of brutality of which the Burmese military dictator, General Shwe is capable. There aren't dirty enough, or derogatory enough words to describe what he's doing to his country's own people. No one will try to stop it though, because the military has a stranglehold on the entire country.

The only ones who dare to resist are jailed, such as Aung San Suu Kyi, 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner. Read her book, if you have the chance. I haven't finished it, but what I read when I borrowed Mike's copy was excellent. He actually hasn't finished reading it either, because he's not allowed to take it into Myanmar and reads it during vacation in the US.

Myanmar has gone from one of the richest countries in Southeast Asia to one of the poorest. British imperialism may have been bad, but it was nothing compared to what this military junta is doing to its own people.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Christmas - But not with the 'Christ' or 'Mass,' please.


I recently read an article online about schoolchildren who are suing their school district for prohibiting them from passing out gifts they wanted to at a Christmas party. One girl's pencils, printed with 'Jesus is the reason for the season' were taken by school officials.

Why do we celebrate this holiday if no one wants to admit that we have Dec. 25 off expressly because it's been celebrated as the birth of Christ for centuries? There are two options: remove the holiday entirely (also Easter days off) from being observed federally, or also make holidays of a similar stature in other religions days off as well. Personally, I'm for Hamburger B. This is done in Myanmar, where Islamic, Christian and Buddhist high holidays are observed. Lots of days off from school. :)

I understand the need to be fair in how religion is presented in schools. After all, I would feel rather uncomfortable if I felt somehow coerced into supporting faith based activities that I didn't believe in. However, I don't see why it's harmful for students to share pencils printed with personally meaningful phrases. This has an opposite side to it, though - last year, the same school district was sued for allowing Harry Potter items at a fundraiser. If you are wanting to allow your children to share their faith, others must also be allowed to do so.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veterans' Day

My sincere thanks to all the men and women who are in the military making it possible for me and others to live the lives we do. Special thanks to my cousin Sarah and to my grandfather, whose birthday was November 11. Also to the other members of my family who have given up their personal liberty to serve the US.


While the other winners of WWI will also be celebrating today as Armistice Day, I will not be celebrating it here - because, to put it delicately, Austria-Hungary - the empire that effectively started the war when the Archduke and his wife were killed by a Serbian nationalist - was pretty much smashed to pieces by France and Britain. Austria didn't suffer as badly as Germany, but it was still not an especially positive situation.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Even more good news!

Rumsfeld decided to resign today. Excellent! So, the man who espoused the doctrine of surgical warfare, or whatever he called it, has been proven to be completely and utterly wrong in his assessment of the military situation in Iraq. Rather than smart bombs and computers doing most of the work, our friends and family are instead forced to fight in urban guerilla warfare.

Not too sure about the new nominee though - he's a family friend of the Bush's and a CIA guy. How would YOU like a CIA guy in charge of the military? Especially in light of the Military Commissions Act? I'm not too sure I am interested in seeing that happen.

Mandate from the people? I think not.

I do believe American voters have given Bush what is called in technical terms 'what-for.' The House of Representatives was lost, more than half of the states in the US are run by Democratic governors, and the Senate looks like it will end up 49 Democrat, 49 Republican, 2 Independent (both of whom are liberal).

This is good for a number of reasons - first and foremost, it repudiates every claim George Dubya made in the past few months during election madness. He is clearly not in control of what's happening in Iraq, and pretending that he is merely makes him look inept and stupid. He also isn't acting like a real Republican (in terms of being a fiscal conservative) which is helping him alienate many members of his own party.

One of the most important claims that was refuted in the past few months was in a report that I mentioned in a previous blog that pointed out that the invasion of Iraq did not, in real terms, make the US safer from terrorist threat and that the war was being used as a rallying point for insurgents and terrorists. This is something Bush denied, but is quite clearly happening.

One of the things that made me most angry during the past few weeks (and Bush always has just the right mix of ignorance and confidence to be extremely upsetting) was the hullabaloo over John Kerry's botched joke. It was meant as a critique of the president, and in true Kerry fashion, he took every ounce of humor out of his little joke and then failed to deliver it properly. Republicans jumped on this saying Kerry was criticizing the troops when of course that's not what he meant to do at all.

I think it's extremely hypocritical of the President to criticize someone else for failing to respect our friends and family that are serving abroad. First, he's the one who is sending them to possible death, loss of limbs, and mental trauma. Second, he made JOKES about how the reasons for going into Iraq were patently untrue. He has failed at every instance to show respect for the men and women he is sending into harm's way, and he has the unmitigated gall to criticize someone who actually went to Vietnam instead of finding a way to stay at home because that particular veteran had his sense of humor surgically removed when he became a Senator.

George Bush deserved the set down he received from the American people. He needs to re-evaluate everything he has done from the beginning of his term, but more than likely he won't. After all, his policy is to 'stay the course' (or is it?) and he is 'the Decider.' Rather than showing that he has working brain cells and that he is concerned about the situation he has put our country and many other countries into in Iraq, he instead barrels on ahead as though everything is coming up roses. Let's all hope this will change in the last two years of his presidency, and let's all hope that he is able to do MUCH less damage in the next two years than he has caused in the past three.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Bush Recycles

Check out this clip on YouTube from the Daily Show. Priceless, typical Bush.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Christmas Queen


My latest project. Should take about a year to complete.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan


To my fellow 2004 UO Cohort - see this movie. It is hilarious - one of the funniest, most irreverent movies I have ever seen. Smart and funny - not seen very often other than on the Daily Show or the Colbert Report.

To anyone else, especially Pentecostals or Republicans, don't see it. Or if you do, wait until it comes out on video and have someone fast forward through the objectionable parts. They are not merely objectionable; they are downright offensive. REALLY offensive. I agree with the reviewer in the link I added above that if some of the scenes had been filmed in a mosque rather than an evangelical Christian campstyle meeting, there would have been a huge outcry - it's really quite bad, but it's his prerogative to poke fun at anyone he wants to.

To be fair, Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen, aka the gay French race-car driver from Talladega Nights) doesn't merely make fun of Republicans and Pentecostals, he also makes fun of feminists, New Yorkers, Southerners, Baywatch and Pamela Anderson, gypsies aka Midwestern yard sale woman, Frat boys, homosexuals, Kazakhstan, black people (sort of - he's nicest to them), white people (when they react to him acting like a black guy), and JEWS. Especially Jews. Jews in Kazakhstan are portrayed as large ugly ogres that run through the streets trying to kill innocent Kazakhs. So it really is quite the free-for-all but I am surprised that there isn't as much angst about this movie as I would have expected based on its content. After all, Mel Gibson nearly got nailed to the wall (no pun intended) for Passion of the Christ, and this is a lot worse.

My favorite line: "We support your war of terror!!" And everyone at the rodeo cheers verrry loudly.

Runner up: "Pamela Anderson, will you marry me?" "No thanks."

Second runner up: "We should go back to New York! At least there won't be any Jews there!"

Friday, November 03, 2006

Teaching English around the world

I've been looking at different opportunities to get a real job for next year because - let's face it, a couple thousand dollars per year in interest on loans is going to cost me a LOT in the long run if I don't get to work on paying off those things asap.

Oddly enough, Korea appears to be the best place to go at the moment. Their pay is quite competitive, about $25,000/yr, but the schools provide housing and taxes are much lower, so you can potentially sock away a lot of money, or finally pay off those stupid student loans. It would take me five years of full time work and economic living to pay off all of my loans. This is, however, well worth it when you consider that if I went the usual route and took my time to pay off my loans, I would end up paying the US Gov't $25,000 in INTEREST ALONE. Not cool. Anyway, while looking through info about Korean jobs, I came across this section in a teacher/school contract:

14. DISCIPLINING STUDENTS

Due to the teachers' lack of knowledge of the students' mother tongue and culture, the school principals and the local teachers will eagerly assist the English teacher should he ask for help in disciplining the students. In unlikely case of a student disrespecting a teacher, the student will be warned that he/she can be dismissed from the school, and after 4the warning, dismissal will take place. This is to prevent some inexperienced schools from taking the side of rude students in fear of losing customers, while by leaving the teacher unhappy or angry in the class, they normally lose lot more customers. For the teacher and all other students in a class will be made unhappy by one rude student. The school Will Fully support the teacher, if the teacher considers a student rude or disruptive.

My favorite part is definitely the part about eagerly assisting the teacher in case discipline is necessary. Mike's told me that his Korean students always work the hardest and are the best prepared at his school in Myanmar. It would definitely be nice to work with motivated students and have the support of the school to do your job. Discipline is definitely a problem here in Austria.

But yeah - it's all about the pay.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Computer Cleanup?

Today I began the rather dull and boring task of finding out how many double and triple copies of my files I have (since my hard drive kicked the bucket twice). I found five copies of the same pictures - that's a lot of wasted space.

This made me think about how many copies of electronic stuff that must be floating about - very easy to find digital images of great artwork or even South Park characters. This was shaping up to be quite the philosophical thought in my head - and then I decided to listen to Queen instead.

MUCH better.

Oddly enough, I have two copies of Queen, the Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 on my computer.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

For your consideration: JunkScience.com


Al Gore's constant compaigning and new movie and book, An Inconvenient Truth, have helped to spread the issue of global warming to more and more people.

Recently, I received a message on my Yahoo! Fulbright forum about using his material to teach about global warming in English classes. Another person responded with the website JunkScience.com. Here's a little about Milloy, the author of that website:

"Steven J. Milloy is a columnist for Fox News and a paid advocate for Phillip Morris, ExxonMobil and other corporations. From the 1990s until the end of 2005, he was an adjunct scholar at the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute. Milloy runs the website Junkscience.com, which is dedicated to debunking what he alleges to be false claims regarding global warming, DDT, environmental radicalism and scare science among other topics.[1] His other website, CSR Watch.com, is focused around attacking the corporate social responsibility movement. He is also head of the Free Enterprise Action Fund, a mutual fund he runs with tobacco executive Tom Borelli, who happens to be listed as the secretary of the Advancement of Sound Science Center, an organisation Milloy operates from his home in Potomac, Maryland .

In January 2006, Paul D. Thacker reported in The New Republic that Milloy has received thousands of dollars in payments from the Phillip Morris company since the early nineties, and that NGOs controlled by Milloy have received large payments from ExxonMobil [3]. Milloy has spent much of his life as a lobbyist for major corporations and trade organisations which have poisioning or polluting problems. He originally ran NEPI (National Environmental Policy Institute) which was founded by Republican Rep Don Ritter (who tried to get tobacco industry funding) using oil and gas industry funding. NEPI was dedicated to transforming both the EPA and the FDA, and challenging the cost of Superfund toxic cleanups by these large corporations. His funders have included: 3M, Amoco, Chevron, Dow Chemical, Exxon, General Motors, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Lorillard Tobacco, Louisiana Chemical Association, National Pest Control Association, Occidental Petroleum, Philip Morris Companies, Procter & Gamble, Santa Fe Pacific Gold, and W.R. Grace, the asbestos and pesticide manufacturers."

Al Gore's work was thoughtful and well presented - it was also interesting, something I did not expect after seeing him in action in 2000. He did one thing that concerned me - he did not mention the threat of an ice age. Typically, the earth will readjust itself if it gets too warm by going into an ice age (of varying magnitudes) within a few decades. This happened around 1300AD(CE) or so, when the earth cooled very quickly after four centuries of warm weather. Weather patterns derived from ice cores showing geological history for thousands of years show this cycle. An ice age could be just as threatening to the world population as the out of control temperatures Gore is predicting. As of right now, the earth has not been as warm as it is now since the Romans controlled the Mediterranean.


You know it's warm when grapes and olives grow well in West Midlands, England.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Louis L'Amour is the AWESOMEST

Quotes from a pretty awesome pulp Western-

Haney shrugged. "That's your funeral. From all I hear you have enemies enough without choosing any more. Also, from all I hear, you deserve them."
"What?" Reynolds eyes blazed. "Don't sass me, stranger!"

"Sure!" Ross smiled. "Box N men can die as well as any others. It was a fair shake from all I hear. All three had guns, all three did some shootin'. I haven't heard any Renolds men kickin' because it was two against one. Kind of curious, that. I'm wonderin' why all the RR men are suddenly out of town?"
"You wonder too much!" It was the man from the springs. "This is none of your deal! Keep out of it!"

"Ross," Sherry said suddenly, "you've promised to take me to the crater in the lave beds. Why not today?"
He hesitated uneasily. "That place has me buffaloed!" he said after a while. "I never go into it myself without wishing I was safely out. The way those big rocks hang over the trail scares a man. If they ever fell while we were in there, we'd never get out, never in this world!"
She smiled. "At least we'd be together!"

*ahem* Now THAT'S some durn-tootin' fine writing, there.

The romance in the last quote is almost overwhelming. Almost, but not quite.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

White Lilies

This is a short story I wrote as a form of therapy after my senior year of high school when I took a creative writing class in college. Senior year was a pretty tough year for a lot of us, a couple people I knew committed suicide later. Reading it now, it's kind of funny but also reflects a certain amount of self-indulgence. I wrote it at 18, a year after graduation. Hope you like it!

----------------------------------------------

My first impressions of Mrs. Weyrick are somewhat hazy, but her most remarkable feature is her hair. It is frizzy and a bleached-blond color. Her hair looks remarkably like a refugee from a bad eighties sitcom. Not only is it frizzy and bleached, but it has no body, so it sits on her head in weird angles. I am quite sure the intended effect is the “tousled” look, however, the look comes off more like “bed hair.” It is about four inches long, in tight springy curls that tend to frizz more than spring.

Her second major feature is her small, thin mouth. It isn’t particularly remarkable by itself, but she wears bright red and intense fuschia lipstick, which she is constantly chewing off. On several occasions, I have caught myself staring at her mouth, fascinated as she chews her lipstick while I’m talking. Not only is this annoying, but before she is able to reapply her lipstick, her mouth is its normal color with a brief line of vivid color in a perfect oval outlining her lips.

Mrs. Weyrick’s voice is the stuff of dreams—for a phone sex operator. Her voice is medium-low pitched, and often catches in the back of her throat, like a singer with a head cold. She speaks with a soft, gentle inflection, probably from her years as a juvenile delinquent counselor. I often marvel at how a woman with such a beautiful voice and such a wealth of experience could make so many students so upset with only a few words dropping from those thin, lipstick-edged lips.

We are playing a piece by Jan van der Roost. It reminds Mrs. Weyrick of her days belly-dancing, and she proceeds to regale us with tales of her days with tiny cymbals in each hand, and rattles at her waist and ankles. She does a tiny dance and shakes her hips to show us how to belly-dance, and I can barely keep my breakfast from making an appearance in the middle of class. I am certain her second husband, Dave, appreciates this experience. Her students, myself included, do not. However fascinating belly dancing may be in an abstract sense, it is far from fascinating, and bordering on repugnant, when it is your six foot tall, two hundred pound, middle-aged band director.

By this time, Mrs. Weyrick has retired the bleach blond hair, and now has a truly resplendent auburn color going. I could be nice and say that it looked pretty, but I would be lying. It is just a difficult to look at her new hair without strong attempts to swallow laughter, but at least her hair is longer, and less frizzy now.

She tells us a story of when she went to a horn convention as a performer in Washington D.C. Apparently, an inebriated conductor asked her to sit in his lap, an event which Mrs. Weyrick tells in its full glory and hideousness. Adam, the tuba player, turns to me, and says, “He must have been very drunk!” Although I am sure Mrs. Weyrick heard the comment because I saw her purse her lips, she displayed no other outward signs of annoyance or displeasure.

Partly because of community college and my job, and partly because of personal issues, I begin cutting classes at the high school (I only take band at high school). The only reason I stay in band is because nothing in the world means more to me as a high school senior band member than going to All-State. I see it as the pinnacle of my musical success in high school.

I finally quit band right before an important contest at Columbia Basin Community College. I remember my friend Melissa’s words when she saw me a few days later. “Why didn’t you tell us? How could you do this to us?” I broke from my friends, from the close-knit community of people for whom I cared because of my resentment towards a woman. A woman who didn’t care about me one way or the other.

I attended the awards banquet for the third year in a row. Both of the previous two years, I received “Most Valuable Player” awards. I know that I will not receive one this year, and many people will not want to see me here at all. My closest friends welcomed me, and it was their friendship and support that gave me the courage to attend the banquet and even have the audacity say hello and wave to Mrs. Weyrick. I received no awards that year, no surprise to me.

When I returned from a family vacation at the end of the summer after graduation, my friend Michelle tells me that Mrs. Weyrick has breast cancer. This woman that I had resented and nearly hated now had breast cancer, and there was a possibility that she could die. I could be glib and say that I had an epiphany, and I realized what a selfish little teenager I truly am. I could say that I realize that teachers are the worst people to hate because they have the most difficult jobs. I could say all that and more, but the only true thing to say is that the news barely affected me, and I cared far more about my co-worker Dave and his condition than I could possibly ever care about his wife.

When I came to visit before I leave for Central, I brought some white lilies with me. I presented them to her with a card in which I wrote, “I’m sorry for everything I did to you last year. Get well soon. Rachel.” She acknowledged my gift and said, “You were young, it doesn’t matter.” Although I felt obligated to offer my apologies and regrets for my past behavior, she still managed to irk me with her comments. “Young, doesn’t matter…young and stupid,” I muttered to myself leaving her office.

The last time I went home, I went to visit the band at a basketball game. Mrs. Weyrick was sporting a stylish wig due to the loss of her own hair because of chemotherapy treatments. The wig was a dark reddish-brown that looked like it came from a fashion plate made in the ‘60’s. It was short, with long, tapered sideburns. I find it ironic that the only time she is capable of having a good hair day is when her own hair is gone. I waved hello to her, and she waved back. I went to sit by my friends.

I haven’t seen her in a while, and I can’t truthfully say that I miss her.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Myspace *CHOKE* madness

I recently wrote a post in which I lamented the loss of old friends from high school, particularly my very cool - heh, cool - band friends. We were not what I would call cool in high school, but I thought they were pretty awesome, and it was nice being part of a group for a change. So, I was in the doldrums about all that, and being away from my hometown, where I run into someone I know every time I go to the store (7000 people, one store that sells good food. Central Market ROCKS!!!).

Turns out, they're all on myspace. At least, a couple dozen are anyway. I signed up so I could make comments on my cousin's page - her kids are adorable! - then I kind of got carried away 'cause I was bored and set up this whole page thing with a picture of Stephansdom in the background and everything.

So, I've been co-opted. It's sad - I refuse to actually blog on myspace though, I'm going to keep the ones I have. Too much effort to switch again for one thing, and also, people on myspace can be really intrusive. There are lots of weirdos who say they want to be your "friend" and I haven't figured out how to screen the real people from the people with no lives who add porno sites to their "friends" lists. If you have your page set to public - which I do, there's not anything to hide, I suppose - then any weirdo out there can see your page along with the old high school/hometown people you'd like to reconnect with.

On the plus side, I found some music by one of my favorite singers, Janis Ian (At Seventeen - look it up!).

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Zimbabwe or Botswana - AIDS doesn't care

Zimbabwe has been receiving more and more coverage in the news as of late because of how completely out of control the situation in that country is. Since President Mugabe started seizing the private property of white landowners about five years ago, the economy has been spiralling out of control, in a similar way to Germany after WWI. Inflation is so great here that people literally have to use bricks of currency to buy basic necessities. Zimbabwe is home to some of Africa's most important species of wildlife. The Zambezi plain, for example, was the shooting location for one of the IMAX films about African wildlife that I remember watching as a kid. Corruption, crime and poverty are rampant in Zimbabwe and the government there is unable to control their own workers. Park rangers recently killed five elephants with AK-47s in an effort to find a rogue elephant, elephants the park rangers were supposed to be protecting. Tourism, a major source of income for the nation, has suffered dramatically in the past five years as Zimbabwe has been overwhelmed by poverty and violence. Even Victoria Falls seems not to be the attraction it once was and certainly ought to be.

Neighboring Zimbabwe, Botswana is the wealthiest country in Africa - which still isn't saying much - with about half of its income derived from diamond sales. Gaborone is everything Harare is not: there are high rise buildings, a diversified economy, and all the hallmarks of a stable, modern society. Botswana has a zero tolerance policy for corruption, and is the least corrupt country in Africa according to a Berlin based research group (Nigeria is typically among the most corrupt, for example). The country's non-diamond mining sectors are growing at a rate greater than 5% per year (the US economy is growing at a little over 1% per year and slowing), and the country's overal GDP is on the rise. Still, the growth isn't enough to absorb the country's growing labor markets and many people even in the capitol city of Gaborone live without access to running water.

Both countries, however, are afflicted with an AIDS/HIV crisis that shows no signs of abating. In Botswana, 1 in 3 adults are estimated to have AIDS/HIV. How can a continent of struggling nations, beset with the difficulties of narcissistic dictators, crushing debt, and undeveloped natural resources, combat the greatest epidemic - reaching pandemic proportions in Africa - seen in modern history? You can't build a country from orphaned children and sick adults. Unfortunately, the problem doesn't seem to be getting any better, even with the best efforts of many international aid organizations attempting to provide quality health care for affected people. Somewhat well-off or just dirt poor - African nations are fighting the same battle against a disease that is completely misunderstood by most Africans.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What is beauty?

This Friday, I'm leading a discussion in one of my English classes on the topic of beauty. The questions are basically ones about who decides what is beautiful, what makes us feel beautiful, and is an obsession with beauty something that only women must deal with.

Some random observations regarding the definition of beauty:
  • painted toenails are beautiful?
  • Cleopatra's nose - if that was at one time beautiful, I want to go back to Antiquity in a time machine where my nose can be appreciated for the thing of beauty that it most certainly is. heh. heh.
  • Rubens' paintings of women v. pictures of a Milan catwalk
  • When did the mother goddess look go out of style? And why??
  • Audrey Hepburn is clearly a beautiful woman. But I must say I prefer the look in this Renoir - no gaunt cheeks or hollow clavicles here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Men are from Mars, Women ... yada yada yada

I have almost given up on my cute new black boots. They hurt. A lot.

If you're in a relationship and you're having communication problems with your partner, read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. This book is not perfect - in fact, it is riddled with stereotypes and sweeping statements about gender based behavior but - a lot of what he says to DO is rather helpful in everyday practice, even if the reasons he gives for why men and women are different can be difficult to swallow.

I think the most important part of his book is pointing out how completely essential it is to treat our partner with respect and love as much as humanly possible, and to respect that their point of view is not necessarily - or even very often - our own, and thus we need to do what we can to understand what they say and do from their point of view.

The funniest part of the book is when the author made a few plugs for his self-help tapes as a ways to improve relationships. No better promotion than self-promotion, right?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Food rantings

Last night I had a long dinner with Tanja. I enjoy the custom of eating food slowly while talking a lot. It fits my life preferences quite nicely.

Somehow I got onto the subject of food - note to anyone who doesn't care to listen to me ramble on about food - don't bring it up. The garbage that passes for food for the average American supermarket shopper is completely disgusting. You wouldn't feed your dog that food if you knew what you were actually eating. People try to tell me they don't have the money to buy the real meat, so they buy bologna. Yet they can still pay for cable. These same people who put supreme gasoline in their cars will also eat cheeseburgers from McDonalds.

I'm not against cheeseburgers, or fries, or pizza, or sugar - I'm against how poorly they are prepared, and how many additives and preservatives (and these are the NICE bits of garbage) that are added to the foods. Making a hamburger for yourself on your home barbecue from beef bought at your local market is a far cry from McDonald's swill. Potatoes you cut up and fry in olive oil and herbs in your own kitchen is even further than what passes for a starch at a fast food restaurant. Do those things even look like they're made from a real potato? There must be potato in there somewhere, but I certainly have a hard time finding it.

I ate a bite of a hamburger from Burger King this summer - the first fast food hamburger bite I had eaten since my second year as an undergraduate. It made me physically ill. Maybe because people don't realize how yummy a good hamburger that isn't slathered in cheap condiments and fake cheese can be? Maybe that's why they choose to spend their money in fast food restaurants. Either way, I think it's gross. I will stick to my freshly baked bread from the corner grocery, yummy locally produced goat cheese, and prosciutto from Italy. By the way, this all costs about 4euro here, as opposed to the $12 that would have cost me at home to buy decent food.

Portion control - the White Castle original hamburger to the McDonalds Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese (contains 62% daily value of fat, 3g of trans fat - 1/10 of an ounce of the kind of fat that doesn't leave your arteries for five years, according to the latest studies). How did this happen? Even the Big Mac is only around 45% of daily value for fat.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Is this Plato's heebie-jeebies?

Sometimes, when I'm waiting for the bus, I get in these introspective fits. I call them fits because they're usually quite short then they're over and done with. These are the fits when I think of all the people I've known and been friends with during life, and how - in the short number of years I've been breathing air on this planet - I've made and lost touch with more friends than I can count. This always gets me into a bit of a funk, then I eventually cheer up when I see an example of some really spectacular crown moulding or smell a yummy breakfast pastry. Such is life... the trivial and shallow always seems to take over and crowd out the deep and intellectual unless you fight a constant battle. Then you get a headache. I haven't yet given into the urge to buy one of the pastries - I'm being disgustingly healthy. I even make myself sick.

Highlights from the lyrics of "Existential Blues"

"You ask so many questions, what answers should I choose?
Is this schizoid paranoia, or just existential blues?

I was on a quest!
To dream the impossible dream.
Walking down the road one day, doo-dah, doo-dah,
I was walking down the road,

I was looking for the truth of life,
When I came across all these little people, little people
Little people all around me.
They looked up at me and said, "Hey, mister, are you tall?"
I said, "Yes, I'm tall, but who are you weird little whiners?"
And they looked up at me with their big, red, bloodshot eyes and said:
We are the lollipop kids, the lollipop kids,
The lollipop kids.
We are the lollipop kids!
And we'd like to welcome you to Munchkinland!

I said, "Hey! Hey, weird little whiners, I am on a quest
To dream the impossible dream.
Walking down the road one day, doo-dah, doo-dah,
I said, "Hey kids, I'm looking for the truth of life.
Where do I go, who do I see?"
They said, "Slow down, mister, in order to find the truth of life,
one must see THE WIZARD!"
I said, "THE WIZARD?
Well, where does this wizard, old wise one, live?"
They said, "You see the big, green, glow-in-the-dark house up on the hill?"
I said, "Yes, I see the big, green, glow-in-the-dark house up on the hill.
There's a big, dark forest between me and the big, green,
glow-in-the-dark house up on the hill.
And a little old lady on a Hoover vacuum cleaner going
'I'll get you, my little pretty, and your little dog, Toto, too!'.
I don't even have a little dog, Toto."

Such predicaments, I must forge ahead!
To dream the impossible dream.
Walking down the road one day, doo-dah, doo-dah.
I must find the truth of life.
I said, "But you know, kids, I can handle a big, green, glow-in-the-dark house
up on the hill, I can handle a darn forest, I can handle the little old lady,
But that's a very strange road you're sending me down!
I've seen yellow stripes in the middle of a road before, but kids,
uh, never quite that wide!"All right, tighten your shorts pilgrim, and sing like da Duke.
Follow the yellow brick road (Come on)
Follow the yellow brick road (Everybody sing)
Follow, follow, follow, follow,
Follow the yellow brick road
If ever a wonderful wiz there was,
The Wizard of Oz is one because,
Because, because, because, because, because,
Because of the wonderful things he does!
La-la-la-la-la-la-la, ha-ha!
We're off to see the wizard,
The wonderful Wizard of Oz!

Some girl with psychic power, she said, "T-Bone, what's your sign?"
I blink and answer, "Neon!" I thought I'd blow her mind.
She's reading Moby Dick by some fruitcake named Herman,
She's chomping on a knockwurst, was the duchess really German?
You ask so many questions, what answers should I choose?
Is this really Butte, Montana, or just existential blues?

Really Butte, Montana?
Is this Plato's heebie-jeebies?
Is this schizoid paranoia?"
(Star Trek-like sound effects)

Goodnight, folks!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Aiding terrorists? no way...

Article regarding NIE report on the Iraq War: "WASHINGTON - The war in Iraq has become the primary recruitment vehicle for violent Islamic extremists, motivating a new generation of potential terrorists around the world whose numbers are increasing faster than the United States and its allies are eliminating the threat, U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded."

Regardless of your political position, it should have been fairly obvious to anyone reading the news in the past three years that fundamentalist jihadists were using the invasion of Iraq - and the flimsy reasons for that invasion - as a rallying cry. Except that the President argues otherwise in his continued effort to get the American people to support his efforts in the Middle East.

The report also emphasized the threat terrorism still poses to our way of life in the Western world. Hmm, people who embrace a cult of death and vow not to desist their terrorist activities until every Jew and American (and often Britons and other Europeans) is obliterated are a threat to our way of life?

Only a government produced report could end up saying so little with so many words, funded by tax dollars.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Hollywoodland


I watched the new Diane Lane/Ben Affleck/Adrien Brody flick tonight. I think I've watched more movies in the last few weeks than I have in the last two years.

It was alright, Ben Affleck was alright. The movie left me feeling slightly confused and headachy, although that may have to do with the fact that I was tired when I went in. Basically it's about George Reeves (first Superman) and his suicide - the circumstances, the people involved, and especially about the P.I. who investigates the death. Good performances, all around, but still a somewhat oddball movie.

Critics seem to be a little underwhelmed as well, with a B rating - still a good rating, but it seems they left the movie feeling much as I did. There were a lot of good performances in the movie, but it just seemed to lack something. If you have nothing better to do in about six months, rent the movie, but it's not the kind of movie that one must needs see in the theater. Do expect to see both Affleck and Lane continue to receive praise for their performances as individuals, but don't expect to see much for the movie as a whole.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Cruise note

Mom recently (as in Saturday night) started her own blog. Her first entry is about how we very nearly missed the boat - literally - when we tried to go on our Alaska cruise. Anyway, it was a comedy of errors, quite laughable now, but not so much fun when we were in our mad dash to the ship. I had to put this on my blog, though, since I came up with it. It was slightly maddening to actually see the totals, but it's just too funny.

1 car ride & parking spot - $72.25
2 ferries - $14.00
3 taxis - $48.00
making the ship ... priceless

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Strangers Among Us

I found this interesting blog with photos of everyday people. Anyway, it's interesting - check it out.

Evil Washing Machine


While I was eating breakfast, I heard this strange rumbling start. It sounded somewhat like the garage door opening. Of course, this would be very bad because my cat was in the garage, and my mom and I were both in the kitchen. I, of course, allowed my brain to run away on very fast, scuttling little legs, and said, "What is that?!"

Mom looked confused for a moment, then caught on to my completely irrational worry and said, "I don't know!"

She went around the corner into the hallway, then came back.

It was the washing machine. Full of the load of laundry I had put into it not even fifteen minutes before.

I am an idiot.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Ignoring the advice of others: leads to wars in the giant sandbox

"Bush defends terror plans"

This is the title of an article on MSNBC in which the reporter described how our dear President was attempting to justify his support of abrogating the civil rights of terror suspects. My favorite quote:

"Bush denied that the United States might lose the high ground in the eyes of world opinion, as former Secretary of State Colin Powell suggested on Thursday."

This would not be the first time President Bush has ignored the advice of Colin Powell, much to his detriment.

My other favorite recent article was a report by the IAEA blasting the recent House of Representatives report about Iran's nuclear capability, saying that it was ridiculous to think that Iran could produce nuclear weapons when they were most certainly not capable of refining nuclear-weapons grade plutonium and uranium, as the report averred. Let me say that it would be quite refreshing to intern for the UN (where IAEA is located) in Vienna. Oh, and the IAEA was also completely dismissive of the Bush Administration's argument about WMD's in Iraq.

This would not be the first time President Bush has ignored the advice of the IAEA, much to his detriment.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Crafty Stuff

http://www.quiltindex.com/

Site has FAQs, free projects, and tips. Reason I went: Quilt as you go description, which I will be using to complete my grandmother's quilt.

http://www.quiltindex.com/ATQF/q_and_a_single.asp?QAID=58


Applique' square

Pieced square

The quilt is worked in alternating applique' and pieced squares. My grandmother quilted each block as she went, and thus the only thing left is to put the quilt together. However, it is quite large, about queen size, and I think it will take quite a long time to finish it. The quilt was made entirely by hand, hand-pieced and hand-quilted. My grandmother made it for my mom and dad, but she died before she could finish it.




Crocheted doily, made ~2004
Link to Patricia Kristofferson's website: http://www.pkcrochet.com/store.html
Her books have the most beautiful crocheted doilies and lace I've ever seen in them. However, they are quite difficult, so only experienced crocheters should take on most of her designs.




Madonna and Child based on a Renaissance painting (more like inspired by Renaissance style, but who's being picky?). Worked on silver-gray linen.


Design up close

This is a Mirabilia design (http://www.mirabilia.com/crossIndex2.html), #79 on the website. This design took me about a year to complete, worked mainly during the summer as there was little time even to breathe during the school year. These designs are all quite beautiful, but they are complex and take a great deal of time to complete. They are not difficult, however, as long as you follow the directions, anyone who has cross-stitched before would have no difficulty working this design. Note: if you haven't worked on linen before, make a small project first to accustom yourself to the different feel of linen as compared to Aida counted cross-stitch fabric.



BBQ University with Steve Raichlen was one of my favorites on OPB. www.bbqu.net

Of special interest are his tips on how to set up a charcoal barbecue. Briquettes often have many chemical additives (these mostly burn off), but it is quite unsettling to think of the chemicals that may be cooking into your steak or hamburger. Instead, buy natural charcoal, distinguished by its irregular shape, looks like burned wood - surprise, surprise - at a natural foods or barbecue store. Rather than using lighter fluid which will make your steak taste somewhat like the muffler on your car, use a chimney starter, available anywhere charcoal or grills are sold. Simply load the chimney starter with charcoal, and light firecubes or newspaper in the bottom to light the charcoal. When the charcoal is glowing and ashy, it's ready for the grill. Also note the
"three zone" system for barbecuing.

Caprial and John's Kitchen. http://www.caprialandjohnskitchen.com/

There was nothing that they made that didn't look tasty and yummy - and expensive. But it sure beat looking in my freezer for something yummy.

Last night's dessert - bananas, pineapple, grapes, strawberries and raspberries topped with vanilla frozen yogurt and chocolate sauce.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Crapademia!

I'm happy to see that there are now four former UO'ers writing blogs now. Crapademia is fantastic name for a blog. :)

I still have not received my Sherpa bag for my cat and I fly out in one week. I must say this is rather alarming because I paid a significant amount for it, and I will be paying a significant amount for Caesar to be a carry-on passenger (it cost twice as much for him to be in the cargo part of the airplane), I would really rest easier knowing I had that ready to go. For some reason, he's being very sweet this evening. I can guarantee that will not be the case when he has finished his three plane rides with me to Vienna next week.

I was thumbing through this month's Perspectives magazine and was pleased to note that there are four positions open for Early Modern Europe, all of them continental, two of them central Europe specifically. If I do go back into academia, it's somewhat comforting to know that I wouldn't face quite as much of an uphill battle as my colleagues in the US Women's History field.

I think I'm going to hold out for international relations, though. The world is changing at an alarmingly fast rate, and I want to see things changing up close. I'm currently reading a book about how the Foreign Service works for America (cheesy title, but apparently it sells well), and the job descriptions they gave are fascinating. Never a dull moment, and in interesting places all over the globe. Unfortunately for me, there are a number of qualified and capable people out there who also happen to think the FS would make a great career choice. :)

My life consists of packing and repacking the same things over and over and over again

I was bored this evening - big surprise - and decided to look up ESL jobs around the world. There are some pretty darn good opportunities out there! I don't think hardly any of them will help me make enough money to pay back my student loans, but one never knows. With my nifty little certificate, I'll have the paperwork necessary to get a "high-paying" job in China. Basically, you get paid about the same as you're paid in the US, but you live and work in a place with a much lower cost of living, so you make bank. Could be interesting.

Not much going on today. Or any other day this week really. Packing up again for my move to Austria. I bought a full bag of OTC medicines at Rite-Aid - it was kind of fun to buy the 250 capsule bottle of Excedrin. :) Speaking of OTC medicine, has anyone else noticed that pseudoephedrine being behind the counter no longer seems to be an issue? There's this new stuff called phenylephrine. Haven't used it yet so I don't know if it works very well. I've never heard of it before now, so one might think that's because it's significantly less effective than pseudafed, but who knows? I wonder how long it will take for someone to figure out a way to make this new version into a nasty drug or a bomb?

Sudafed without pseudoephedrine?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Thoughts on 9/11 - O Brave New World!

Since it is 9/11, I thought I might write a post that had something to do with that event since it's managed to completely transform the world. It's just too depressing, though. The fact that there have already been two movies made about it is also depressing. It's still too soon to pay money to see the suffering of others, people you know full well are quite real and not the invention of a particularly clever screenwriter.

I was wondering today how, in 100 years or so, President Bush will be seen by history. Will he be seen as the great prophet of the new world order, the only one who saw that fundamentalist Islamists, or Islamo-fascists, or whatever he's calling them now, were the greatest threat civilization has ever faced? I somehow doubt it. In fact, I think history will show what a nincompoop he has proven himself to be.

But who knows - perhaps the Bush-ites will win if there are more douchebag lotion bombers, more Theo van Gogh killer wannabes, more suicide bombers. The Bush-ites (and Blair-ites too) make life worse for those who are already in dire straits, and the fundamentalist imams take advantage of the situation thus helping to introduce more hate and violence into our world.

I make reference to a previous blog in which I quoted Gil Grissom from CSI: "Even if there is someone else out there, they probably have the good sense to stay away from us."

I wonder how long it will take to make a movie about the Israeli-Lebanon conflict? After all, there is still money to be made in the midst of tragedy! In fact, there's even more money to be made if one is willing to trade on the misery of others.

Miranda, of The Tempest:

"O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beautious mankind is!
O brave new world,
That has such people in't!"

Alaska and the Crocodile Hunter

Alaska is beautiful. In fact, if I don't end up gallivanting about the globe elsewhere, Alaska would definitely be in the running for a place to live. It has everything I love about the Northwest - the trees, the rain, the water, the mountains - but more of it! Plus, there are glaciers! Not for long, at the rate they're receding, right? Catch 'em while you can! The Mendenhall glacier outside of Juneau receded 600ft last summer alone. Pretty crazy... I think going to Skagway was the highlight of the trip though, history nerd that I am. I signed on for a hike partway up Chilkoot trail just because I thought it was so totally awesome to be on the same trail the Klondike Gold Rush stampeders took in 1897-99. The famous picture of the Chilkoot trail is actually on some of Alaska's license plates. Plus, the yellow raft ride back down the glacier-water river was pretty awesome too. Water was about 34`-38`F.

One part of my trip that wasn't so much fun was finding out on the first day about Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. When my family and I went on a cruise (I was protesting the whole way last time, too hot) to the eastern Caribbean five years ago, the only non-objectionable TV fare was the Crocodile Hunter and the other guy, so we ended up watching Steve Irwin for a week straight. He was a really nifty guy, and it's so completely strange that of all the ways he could possibly have left this world, it was by the barb of a stingray. I mean, people go on excursions during cruises to snorkel among stingray and pet them. They're usually pretty much harmless. So odd that after years of taking on deadly reptiles, he's felled by a relatively harmless aquatic creature.

I just hope his work doesn't die with him. He spent so much time working so hard for the animals he tried to protect. Life's just not fair when Cheney can talk about how invading Iraq was the right thing to do and not get struck down with lightning from heaven, and the Crocodile Hunter gets a random stab to the heart courtesy of a - noramlly - relatively harmless stingray.

Friday, September 01, 2006

No job, nothing to do....

Two days to Alaska... I doubt I'll ever have such a completely wonderful few weeks as I have had and will have in the next few weeks. No work, no worries, and vacation. That, of course, will all change when I have to grow up, face the real world, and pay back my school loans.

I'm taking an online TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course, and it's rather helpful. I decided to go with ITTT because it seemed to have a good reputation and a good price for their services. I figure, I'll have experience teaching TEFL, I might as well have the certification as well. Teaching English around the globe would be a great way to accomplish my real world goal of paying back my student loans. This course is a good option because they will help place you with a potential employer when you complete your certification.

I hate moving. I finally finished the last stage of my two week long move last night and threw out my back carrying all of my boxes around. Next time, I'll be sure to lift with my knees... But, when all is said and done, the point is that I'm moved, I'm done with Eugene (except for one day in September to get my pretty little pottery pieces), and I'm on to newer, bigger, better things.

Carpe Diem!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rockin' Rodeo!

I won a karaoke contest! I'm so happy. It's a weekly contest, $100 to the top singer, split if there's a tie in the points. I sang Superstar by the Carpenters and Don't Know Why by Norah Jones. I had almost given up hope that I could win a contest with my voice. I don't have a typical I'm gonna kick your butt voice like say, Christina Aguilera's, I sound much more like Norah Jones, who, while popular, probably also won't be winning any karaoke contests.

Anyway, it was fantastic, and it was lovely to finally win before I finally leave Eugene and never come back.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Geek attack

I love the function on the profile screen where you can click on one of your interests and see other profiles with the same interest listed. I put down Star Trek: TNG as one of my interests (that is the best show ever, bar none, although the first few seasons had some incredibly stupid plot lines. It got better though...) and it was really interesting to see what else people who listed Star Trek: TNG were interested in. One person was a self titled Bible thumper. Another was interested in blood. Another was interested in cemeteries, death, and so on. Another was into all the various incarnations of Star Trek in addition to various RPG games. Good stuff - it's always nice to know that a show of such import is loved by such a broad spectrum of people in our society.

By the way, if you take online geek tests (I was stuck in a La Quinta for two days straight - I was bored!), liking Star Trek is apparently a big part of being a geek, as is being in marching band, being able to describe to someone else what e=mc2 means, and being able to name more than ten elements on the periodic table. I was 60% geek, or something like that, whatever that means. I still haven't been able to figure out the difference between nerd and geek - anyone care to enlighten me?

Only good things about shows after TNG - well, not much that I can think of. A female captain was cool. Scott Bakula is arguably the best looking captain, but I don't know if that counts as 'good' since he was in a better show before Enterprise. 7 of 9 is a plus if you're a guy, but I never did get the appeal, same basic reason Jolene Blaylock is on Enterprise.

Maybe it takes actually learning Klingon to reach into the realm of being a truly and completely hopeless geek. Personally, if I were going to learn a fake language, I would go with something from Lord of the Rings - Tolkien was totally brilliant.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Wyoming sucks - so does I-84

I just drove from Eugene up to Port Orchard, WA then to St. Louis, Missouri in a 48 hour period. Not fun. Not fun at all. But, I'm now prepared to go to bed at this nice La Quinta hotel with free wireless internet access. I have essentially nothing to do tomorrow except work on the Latin transcription I'm working on for my advisor. It should be a smashingly good time. :)

Wyoming sucks. A lot. We stopped in Rock Springs because David couldn't keep his eyes open anymore and attempted to get a place to stay for the night. The first three places just told us they were booked full. The fourth front desk person said that probably every hotel along highway 80 in the entire state of Wyoming was booked. That was a fun thought, considering we were a good four miles driving time from the border and it was already 2am. We persevered, and three more no vacancies nearly made us accept the possibility of sleeping in the terribly uncomfortable front seat of my brother's Toyota Tacoma. Then we stopped at the Economy Guest Village. As you might imagine from the name, it was not a promising place to stay for the night. We were told it was full as well, then the woman at the desk said that she did have one room left but the sofa bed was busted. When told that there was a queen size bed in the "suite" I said it didn't matter and we booked it for the night.

It was a trash-hole. To put it kindly. The maintenance man claimed it was only four years since renovation, but the oven had to be early 80's at the newest. The sofa bed was indeed busted, so I got the lumpy couch and my brother got the lumpy queen size bed. We were told not to worry about the noise around 3am because that's when all the strippers came back from work, and because the owner of the strip club was also the owner of the hotels, all the girls rented out rooms in the same building we now occupied. When I woke up, I found that I had acquired a number of bug bites. I don't even want to know how.

Now I'm in this nice La Quinta, happily typing away at my laptop using free wireless (for which I paid less than my brother paid for the sad little place in Nowhere, Wyoming), and I must say that I will be extremely surprised if I find any more bug bites tomorrow morning. Which is as it should be.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

'Tis such sweet sorrow, In the parting of our ways

It is very odd living in a somewhat empty apartment. All of my furniture - except for two chairs - is gone, so all that's left are books I didn't pack, recycling, CDs, and so on. Caesar's enjoying having the extra space to knock his lime green bouncy ball around.

I'm going to miss singing with the praise team at St. Mary's. Because we're such a small group, I get to do a lot of the solos, and they're just so much fun! I enjoy singing in church because there's so little pressure. I get to sing, which I love, without having the pressure of trying to "make" something of my voice. My old voice teacher said that I should have pursued singing, but then that would take the joy out of it. Then it would be a job.

About Snakes on a Plane, or SoaP as it is called on the "blogosphere" apparently: it was actually quite funny! I was expecting a stupid, but entertaining action flick and that's precisely what I got. Samuel L. Jackson was appropriately cool and kickbutt, and there was a good supporting cast. I was not pleased with how many icky snakes there were, but after all, I was warned by the most obvious title ever. I still don't get why there was an anaconda if the point was to wreak as much havoc as possible with poisonous snakes, but then I guess I was supposed to suspend disbelief. Anyway, it's a good popcorn movie, and the snakes are probably much better on the big screen than on a little one. Much scarier when they jump at you then. :)

But seriously - if you go see it, it's funny, but very, very stupid. As long as you expect that, then it's a great weekend movie.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Sushi and ice cream at Nina and Austin's

So tonight I tried out my ice cream maker for the second time since I got it. Things tasted alright, I think, but then add whip cream, milk, strawberries, sugar and a little vanilla together, freeze and I think it's going to taste fantastic no matter what you do. Nina and Austin provided absolutely fantabulous sushi, and I actually had some of the raw stuff. It wasn't so bad, but I dunno about eating it again. I preferred the yummy shrimp, the kappa maki and the inari. mmm... inari.

I don't really have much going on right now, and I'm too lazy to go scare up something fun or amusing, so I think all I'm going to say is this:

Go see Snakes on a Plane! Not only is that the stupidest title ever, it's probably the stupidest idea ever, and Samuel L. Jackson is starring! What better way to waste $8? definitely a better bet than a parking ticket, say.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Life in Eugene during the time of no work

Well, I don't actually have roommates anymore. Their lease didn't allow for pets, so I'm back to trolling classified ads and other sites for possibilities. I'm almost to the point of paying a real estate agent to find a place for me because it's so difficult to find a place of my own in Vienna. Very narrow housing market. Back to the grindstone...

I am up way too late again, as usual. I keep getting headaches about halfway through my day (around 6-9pm) and then I end up staying up until 3 and sleeping until eleven or later. It is a testament to my inability to go to sleep as early as I ought to that I am actually watching Jay Leno. I very much dislike his show, but he's got a pretty funny guest on tonight.

I took up a beading project tonight. I bought the materials more than a year ago intending to get started right away, similar to many projects I undertake in life. Anyway, I got started tonight, and finished four rows, which I am quite proud of. Of course, I don't think I'm actually following the pattern correctly, but I'm close enough that I think it will look alright. I do know one thing - no more beading projects. I am very bad at beading. And Caesar enjoys playing with beads a little too much.