Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Ah, off on my first of two vacations tomorrow. It still seems odd to call going to Duluth a vacation, as I still think I live there half the time.

The past week has been hellish. Papers to write, papers to grade, ornery professors to deal with. I thought I would be done by the time I left, but alas! It was not to be. I've got to rewrite a paper by the end of the summer, without benefit of a marked first copy to aid in revision. Because when this guy sets someone up to fail, he doesn't do anything by halves.

All that is being shelved until I'm back from sunny California (presuming I don't chuck it all and stay there). Hopefully Shanna will work her mojo and I'll return with the patience to deal with this shit.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

I'm suffering extreme nostalgia, mixed with a huge dose of wanderlust tonight. There's a lunar eclipse this evening, and I realized that the last time I experienced this amazing sight, I was on a plane headed for Russia with nine other eighteen-year-olds and two chaperones. The eclipse was on one side of the plane, the Hale-Bop (sp?) comet on the other, and our seats were scattered all over. Much to the annoyance of passengers who could actually sleep, we used our dispersed seating to get a full view of both celestial phenomena, playing musical chairs from one side of the plane to the other.

Oh, to leave again...

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Yes, it's been done... and done... and done... The BBC has jumped on the bandwagon, attempting to devine whether this years new "Matrix" installment carries hidden biblical meaning. Perhaps I'm a sinful heathen (oh wait... I am a sinful heathen), but I find the philosophical underpinnings more interesting, especially the obvious comparison with Plato's allegory of the cave (an artical in Sunday's Strib has a rudimentary discussion of the philosophy behind The Matrix). As the BBC artical points out, most of the biblical parallels are plot points, with little or no reference to the ethical or philosophical ideas of Christianity. As most screenwriters -- wirters of any stripe, actually -- will tell you, there are very few new plots, just more or less interesting elaborations on the classics. If you've seen one messiah, you've seen 'em all.

Monday, May 12, 2003

CJ, on her impending Duluth trip:
"I'm coming up on the 22nd. And I expect paddling."

As Robert pointed out, the funniest part about that quote is the fact that I didn't realize how bad that sounded until he pointed it out. I was talking about BOATS, damnit!

Although a non-paddling friend was rather amused today when she saw that my boat is called a Dominatrix...
Paddling as procrastination: discuss.

In an attempt to get my mopey ass in gear this afternoon, I finally hauled the boat out of the garage. No whitewater anywhere too close, but there is a convenient lake just a block's walk from here that's been calling my name. I decided to explore a little (no upside-down-ness for me today, as I was all by my lonesome), and paddled into the reedy area of the lake that runs along a strangely wooded, uninhabited smidgeon of this otherwise over-developed suburban nightmare in which I live.

There is a path through the reeds where the waterway "bottlenecks" between the two halves of Twin Lake, which I paddled in hopes of making it all the way to my uncle's back yard -- you know your family lives too close when it's feasible to paddle to their house in a dinky little playboat (small kayak meant for pulling tricks in whitewater rather than going long distances). Alas, it may be feasible to do, but this was my first shot out this spring, after spending much of the winter not doing anything thanks to a shoulder injury. I turned around just short of my goal (how short? Who knows. I can't even guage distance on land; water's impossible), and paddled back into the reeds.

I did make a few friends on my travels. I got within a boats length (and my boat's only 7'2"!) of several mallards on several occasions. I saw a goose and her gosling out for an afternoon swim, though I gave them a wide berth, as mama goose became a bit anxious when she heard my splashing. Best of all, I saw two turtles, one on land, though it slipped into the water when it heard me, and one swam up right next to my boat. I landed, pretty well wiped, to the greetings of curious kids from the daycare next door. The boy, who looked about four, wanted to know how I made the boat go, so I showed him how to use the paddle (on dry land, of course, pretending the air was the water). All three of the kids wanted to sit in the boat, so they took turns, the one- and two-year-old girls sitting together. I wish I'd had a camera, so everyone could see my tiny little kayak that barely fits me holding two people comfortably!

Exhausted, amused, and feeling much better, I toted my toys home, looking forward to Duluth in a week or so, where I can (hopefully!) put the darn thing to its intended use.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Happy mommy's day.

My grandmother's move back home from California has created way too many opportunities for extended family togetherness. Witness today's fiasco:

1. The bad-ass children whose parents don't believe in discipline because it "stifles creativity." They ran around the restaurant while their parents sat and ignored them.

2. The incessant hockey talk. Yes, the Wild are doing well. Let's move on.

3. The complete disrespect for anything outside their conception of a "normal" career. Namely, me. My uncles tag-teamed me with the you-have-no-work-ethic, you're-getting-a-Ph.D.-in-burger-flipping taunts today. As they do every time they see me.

Shit, at least come up with new material, guys. I can practically recite along with you. As the sole academic amongst us, I seem to be the only one who deserves to be teased about her career. The rest of the cousins have decided to do something useful with their lives. Glad to know I'm a valuable part of the family. I offered to help a cousin with his basic stats course, as I taught a lab for stats in undergrad. My uncle promptly handed me the check for dinner and said "here. make yourself useful. split this up."

I know I should stop whining and enjoy the fact that I HAVE family, but they make me feel like shit every time I see them.

So, I've got an idea. On the "don't get mad, get even" front, next family gathering I'll give them what they want: a nice, normal, Allen-style life course. I'll tell them I've met the man of my dreams and am dropping out of grad school to work for the county and have his baby out of wedlock. I'm moving to a trailer park out in the boonies, and trading in my kayak for a fishing dinghy. I'll come to every one of my cousins' hockey games, poorly behaved child in tow. I'll cook huge, meat-filled dinners for my family every night, and eat them with gusto. Afterward, I'll do the washing up while nominally minding the poorly-behaved child so that my man can take it easy and watch hockey on the fucking television. Come hell or high water, the poorly behaved child will grow up to play hockey in college. I know this because I will spend most of my adult life carting him around to practice, because I'll work only part time while he's growing up so that my man can bring home the bacon.

Fuck this shit. I'm just not going to the next gathering. I'm not a good enough actress to pull that one off.
Nuggets of humor from Ryan B.:

CJ: Guess what I did tonight?
Ryan: Oooooo.... did you have a DATE?!?!
CJ: Um, no... Has hell frozen over?

Geez, Ry, have you MET me?

What I DID do last night was, if you judge by the usual success of my dating life, more worthwhile. I went to hear John Reese, a hydrologist with the Palestinian Hydrology Group, also affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement, speak about ecological and humanitarian efforts and conditions in Palestine.

I don't claim to espouse any of these groups (many reading this will be familiar with my line: I don't join things). I do know, however, that the people involved in them have first-hand information that is not available to me. This is especially true for the PHG, as I know jack-snot about water conditions, wells, irrigation, sanitation, etc. Was the presentation "biased"? Sure. The mere fact that the presenter has an opinion and an agenda, however, does not change the reality/truth/fact of what he experienced.

I was particularly struck by his description of the Israeli-enforced curfew in Palestine: over a 120 day period, curfew was lifted for a total of 100 hours. That averages to less than 1 hour a day. This is not the curfew your mother imposed, either; it does not take effect only after sundown, after the streetlights come on. This is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you walk out your front door without say-so you get SHOT. Aside from being denied basic freedom to go outside, Palestinians face more concrete problems stemming from this, from unemployment to health risks associated with not being able to take out the trash to sanitation trucks not being allowed to pump out their septic tanks -- when the trucks aren't just confiscated altogether.

As Ryan and I were arguing about this last night, he posited that the Israelis had paid for all of the roads and trucks the Palestinians complain of not being able to use, so therefore should be able to say who gets to use them. This is not the case. Nice, paved roads built by Palestinians have been appropriated by "settlers;" UN trucks meant for sanitation or to deliver water are regularly stopped by Israeli soldiers and are not allowed into cities. Etcetera, times three.

The Washington Report was started by former US foreign service and government officials to provide a more balanced look at Middle East affairs than is available through mainstream media sources. Once again, I do not endorse this publication as gospel; as one of many available resources, however, it seems to have a higher content of critical thought and a lower likelihood for suppressing stories that don't fit its "slant."

Have I become a militant anti-Israeli over night? Nope. Nor do I maintain my neutrality. I do not think that this is a matter of the Israeli People versus the Palestinian People. It's a matter of those in power using that power to make their own lives as comfortable as possible, regardless of the effect on those who don't look or think like them. Hearing John's stories of industry purposely locating ecologically destructive plants so that their waste runs onto Palestinian farmland, I was reminded of the way companies here in the US will locate plants in depressed economic areas because they know that people there will not have the resources to cause legal trouble for them.

There were quite a lot of these "cross-national" comparisons to be made. There were also some disturbing similarities in rhetoric between the US government's current campaign against Muslim states and the introduction given before John Reese before his presentation. The introductory speaker, whose name I did not get, introduced herself as a Palestinian activist, and went on to characterize the struggle in Palestine not as Israeli versus Palestinian, but as "justice versus Zionism and evil."

If both sides continue to characterize the other as categorically evil, there is no room for understanding. This is what troubles me most. No side "wins" until each accepts the other. Bandying about the word "evil" does nothing to bring about acceptance or understanding; it only increases division and hate.

Back to Ryan's original question, I did go with my friend Keith, who IS kinda hot... (sorry Keith, I had to say it).

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Two Star Tribune readers from St. Louis Park (a suburb of Minneapolis) appear to have simultaneously realized that cutting school lunch programs will hurt children whose parents can't afford to pack a lunch for them. While I'm always glad to see people begin to think critically about government, especially where taxation is concerned, I had to smile at the gentleman who wrote, "[w]hen the economy turns sour, you do not batter those unable to weather the storm."

Yes, we usually do. I tend to rather cynically call it "the American way." But maybe, if the 'burbs are coming around, one of these days I'll have to stop. Here's hoping.
If you havent yet seen Russell Mokhiber's Ari & I, you're missing out on some of the worst spin money can buy. Ari's latest quip, when asked about the ethical implicatione of "president" Bush appearing at United Defense, which has his father on payroll:

"What if the President's father was on Social Security and the President wanted to strengthen the Social Security system so that all Americans could have a strong retirement?"

Ethical implications or no, we'll never have to worry about that one, Ari.

He honestly seems to think that his jackass responses put Mokhiber to shame...
Democracy Now has a story today about a cop who had a high school janitor let him into a classroom at 1:30 in the morning to take pictures of anti-war materials. Was he collecting evidence of vandalism? Nope. He was collecting fodder for Rush Limbaugh's show.

There's an interview at Democracy Now with the teacher. The cop, unsurprisingly, would not speak to Democracy Now. His legacy lives on, though, as the pictures are posted on Rush's website.

My friend Jon had an interesting follow-up to all of this, when he emailed the links to a number of soc. grads:
"Makes me wonder: hey, we're all teachers....we have anti-war stuff on our door and walls.....I wonder if Rush would pay me if I took snapshots???"

Hopefully soon I'll be rolling in cash. Thank you, Rush.
I spent way too much time figuring out this publishing business. If you're looking at this, chances are you know me and therefor know what a compluter idiot I am. Chances are also good that I haven't seen you in quite some time, especially if you're in Duluth. I've been too busy this term to make the drive this term. I presently have a stack of ninety freshman papers to grade and one term paper to write, but after all of that is done the boat is on the car and I'm there.

If for some reason you don't know me and you're confused, here are the bare essentials:
Duluth: small-ish city at the tip of lake superior where CJ went to undergrad.
University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD): said undergrad institution.
CJ: aka Turtle, the one writing this mess.
Boat: whitewater kayak.
Freshman papers: the crappy part of being a TA.
Term paper: end-of-term information regurgitation.

I've reduced my life to a primer... it's time to go to sleep.
Figuring it out... the contact button should now work. In case anyone is bored enough to write...
Does anyone really read the ramblings of people who are far to old to think that their everyday musings are earth-shattering ideas?

Consider this the research question, and this blog the site of my observation.

The social sciences have apparently currupted my mind completely (my mind seems detemined to return the favor).