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


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:


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.