Thursday, September 30, 2004
The first presidential debate is tonight. To be honest, I don't want to watch. I am afraid. I don't want to know what we are in store for over the next four years.
I will watch, though. I just wish I could detach myself and not think of the implications.
I remember past elections:
Bush vs. Dukakis - Bad vs. Silly
Bush vs. Clinton vs. Perot - Bad vs. Icky vs. Nutcase
Clinton vs. Dole vs. Perot- Ho-hum vs. snore vs. again?
Gore vs. Bush II (vs. Nader) - Snooze vs. Joke (vs. megalomaniac) ...and the joke won? Well, not really, but...
This campaign is characterized by the politics of fear. It is true, there is fear all around. The Republicans are playing upon people's fears, while I fear what four more years of this administration will mean for this country.
Off to my day of teaching about race (a tough task - how do you engage a class that is all liberal, wealthy, and white about race and get them beyond the "There is racism in this country and in the world and that sucks" mentality?).
Ah, I also have yoga today, so at least I will be relaxed for the debate. Perfect timing!
Monday, September 27, 2004
I think my transition time is over. I can no longer put all the pressures of life on the backburner and just say to myself, "I need time to adjust to my new environment, to my new situation."
Deadlines are looming once again. With these deadlines I feel the pressure of having to be more productive with my research, with my publishing goals, with my life.
Yesterday I escaped. I went up into the mountains and I hiked around with the dog all afternoon. We tracked some animals (I saw the pawprints and the dog caught the scent), including racoons, deer, and maybe a bear (I would like to think so, although if it was a bear, I am happy we did not see it). We came upon a huge ravine/canyon which almost appeared as if out of nowhere. We hiked up to a peak above the ravine where we stopped for a snack and water. Then it was back to the car, which we used to do a little more exploring. From the top of the ridge we saw the even higher mountains, which were calling us to come explore. But by then the day was done and we headed back to the lowlands.
I hope the weather holds up so that I can escape a few more times before the season changes. Although up there the trees and shrubs have begun to transform their colors, so the transition is on its way.
Winter won't be bad. I am planning on getting a season pass for a nearby ski resort and get reacquainted with the sport. I definitely need to get back into shape before then or my legs might just walk out on me in protest. I also plan on trying some snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. My new roommate is an expert on the latter, so maybe I can get some pointers.
Yes, I will need many escapes. The uncertain future, the huge distance between me and the one I love, the pressures of balancing what I have on my plate now and making the opportunity I have at the moment count, they are all weighing down on me. Escapes will keep me sane. Escapes will give me clarity.
What if I escape and never come back, though? What if...?
For now, I need to get back to my CV, to my lesson plans, to my articles, to my presentation proposals, to the books and articles that await reading, to my grant applications.
But, in less than two weeks I will be in Boston for the best escape of all...
Sunday, September 26, 2004
Thank you all for the birthday wishes.
I spent most of my birthday engaged in a battle to fend off a cold that all my students seem to be getting. This meant a lot of vitamin C, fluids, and even some yoga breathing exercises. It seems to have worked because I am feeling better now.
However, all Friday I was somewhat out of it. I had to go to a lecture on campus in the evening. As I was making my way across the dark campus, I noticed a strange bush by the side of the walkway. In my feeble-minded state, I thought to myself: "I have never noticed that bush there before even though this is the way I walk to my office everyday."
As I walked by it, the bush suddenly sprung up and turned sticking its quills up in the air. "Crap! That's not a bush, it is a procupine!" it quickly dawned upon me as I ran away from it.
I have only seen a porcupine in the wild once before, and it was at a distance. They are very shy animals, so I am quite surprised that one was rumaging around on a college campus in a small city. Moreover, this particular one was rather large. The others I have seen in captivity have been much smaller.
Yet another danger of living in a small place: rampant, rumaging wildlife.
Friday, September 24, 2004
I was sitting here at my computer, kinda working, kinda goofing off when it suddenly dawned upon me...rather it kinda hit me like a ton of bricks...
...today happens to be my birthday. I guess I am in denial. Crap. Another year. I am definitely a thirtysomthing now. Bleh. How did this happen?
I am off to try to forget. I guess in a few years I won't even need to try.
This has been a busy week.
I had a doctor's appointment yesterday and I am pleased to announce that all seems well inside the ol' Xolo body.
And in the benefits of living in a small town department - I can go to my general practicioner here for what I thought I had to go to a specialist.
I also found a good place to get my hair cut. And it is also a good place to develop a research network. This woman knows everything about everyone here.
I got invited to go on a canoeing/camping trip on the upper Snake River this weekend. I would have like to have gone, but I needed to get a canoe partner, someone to dog-sit, and figure out how to do all the work I am planning on doing this weekend at some other time. So as much as I would have liked to have gone on the small adventure, the obstacles were too great. Nonetheless, there is a potluck dinner among some of the new faculty here where there will be curry and samosas - a special treat given that there are no Indian restaurants here. I also picked up some maps of the nearby National Forest, so I might go up and do some hiking in the mountains.
In other news, during our walk at a nearby lake and nature park, our dog tracked some pheasants that were hiding in a bush, chased them, and got them to fly straight up into the air. Of course, I did not hold up my end of the deal and I did not shoot them like I was supposed to. I am not sure how our dog got stuck with such a lame and ineffective hunter. Poor pooch!
By the way, the Presidential campaign is starting to depress me. Canada is starting to look more and more attractive - and it isn't too far from here.
I learned a new word today as I was walking across campus: fershur.
A: "Are you goin' to the party fershur?"
B: "Fershur I am going fershur. Are you, fershur?"
A: "Fershur, maybe..."
Now if I could only figure out what it means.
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
I forgot to mention that on the drive back I saw something new. As we were headed back on the dark highway, we were passed by an abulance. A few miles ahead we came up to the lights of the said abulance and a cop car. The road was littered with debris. An accident, I thought. As we drove past, I saw a large SUV with the front smashed in. But where was the other vehicle? There could not be any way that the other vehicle could have driven away. As we drove further, there it was...not a vehicle but a large black bull/cow, dead in our lane of traffic.
I can't imagine what kind of damage such an accident would cause with a smaller automobile. I will need to be more careful and alert when driving around these country roads at night.
The roommate situation has started off well. She's mellow, nice, friendly. I probably won't see her too much. She is the cross-country ski coach at the college, so she is off early in the morning and back late in the evening. The students need to practice and work out before and after classes.
Disadvantages of living in a small place: I need to see a specialized doctor but there are none in this town. I am also having a hard time finding one in the next closest urban area. Hmmmfff...
Sunday, September 19, 2004
I went with the Anthropology Department to Pendleton, OR where they are currently having the Pendleton Roundup, one of the area's largest rodeos. Specifically we went to see the Happy Canyon Pageant, which they claim is "The World's Most Unique Indian Pageant."
Now I have no way of knowing if this claim is true, for I have no clue as to what an indian pageant is and how others may compare to this one. I can be certain, however, that I have never really seen anything like this before.
On our way to Pendleton, we stopped at the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute, which is the interpretive center for the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla Tribes. It is a lovely place. I particularly like how the exhibits were juxtaposed by large windows that revealed the foothills of the Blue Mountains. The exhibit illustrates the way these people lived prior to contact with the settlers that came from the east. It continues to show how this contact changed their way of life, gradually at first and how with time these changes became more and more violent. It ends with a more optimistic perspective that in the future they will be able to maintain their heritage despite the difficulties they have had and continue to have.
The pageant began with the Native Americans illustrating the way they lived before the arrival of Lewis and Clark. Apparently this is a new addition and it echoed much of what was displayed at the cultural insitute. As the "white people" arrived, there were some violent clashes and then the "indians" suddenly disappeared. The rest of the show was a slapstick vision of the "Wild West", with a lot of songs (such as "Oh Susana" and "She'll be Coming around the Mountain"). It ended with a really bad teenaged singer singing "Happy Trails," "God Bless America," and the national anthem.
Prior to this I had seen many caricatures of "country folk" from the "wild west," but in the audience here and on the streets of Pendleton I was seeing them all around me. People were actually yelling "Yeehaw" and it was not in jest. People really got into the Oh Susana song by clapping and stomping their feet. On the streets there were vendors in trailers selling big hats, big belt buckles, cowboy boots, saddles, and God-knows what else.
It was certainly a cultural experience...definitely foreign.
It is bizarre because in the town here I have never seen anyone with a big hat or cowboy boots. And it is only an hour away. There are farmers here, many of them, but they are so different. They are soft-spoken and very inconspicuous.
I am still processing this experience in my head.
Of course it was made all the more strange by the fact that when we got back my frat-house neighbors were having a "foam party" and the streets near my house were covered with soap suds.
In other news, I am getting a housemate. At least for a couple of months.
I have mixed feelings about this.
It makes sense because I have this huge house with a room that I never use. Moreover, even though the rent is not that much, some extra dollars saved will be put to good use paying down some of that student debt that I have acculmulated over the past several decades.
However, I has been a while since I lived with anyone other than Sara. I am quite fond of my privacy and my space. Having someone in it will be strange and maybe a little uncomfortable. Hmm...we'll see how it goes.
Friday, September 17, 2004
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Six-legged over at Culture Zap has made a bold prediction as to the future of the political geography of the US. He sees a fragmentation of the the country. While I agree with him on some of the new socio-political units, I am allowing myself to offer my own predictions:
The New Confederate States of America-
The same states that attempted secession in the 19th century will do so again, with the exception of Texas and Southern Florida. Indiana and Southern Ohio will also join the confederacy.
With its capital in Miami, this will include Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and if Castro ever dies, the annexation of Cuba.
The States and Commonwealths of New New England and the mid-Atlantic (SCNNEMA)-
This will include MD, PA, NJ, NY, CT, VT, NH, MA, and Maine. In the future the Atlantic Provinces of Canada may join as well along with Bermuda.
The Unwanted City State of Columbia -
DC, which of course nobody will want, will become an unruly city state.
The Great Nation of Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations -
A small country that will model itself after Luxembourg. It's desire to annex Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha's vineyard will cause great tensions with SCNNEMA.
The Federal Republic of the Great Lakes -
Known as FRRGL (pronounced froogal) will consist of northern Ohio, MI, MN, WI, IA, MO, and IL.
The Conservative Christian States of America (CCSA) -
This will include ND, SD, NE, KS, MT, ID, WY, eastern WA and eastern OR. No one is allowed to visit.
The Enlightened Kingdom of Mormonism -
Also known as Utah. It will become a theocracy (is it not already) governed by the council of elders of the CJCLDS.
Western WA, Western OR, and Northern CA will unite to create an environmentally friendly and socially responsible community.
The God-fearing and Mighty Republic of Texas -
The Lone-Star State will go solo once again. They will acknowledge that the border with Mexico should have been the Rio Nueces instead of the Rio Grande. All people's of Mexican descent will be repatriated either to the new territories of Mexico or to Aztlan. In compensation for its lost territory, Texas will annex OK and eastern NM.
Western NM, CO, AZ, NV, and CA. La Raza will reclaim what was once theirs! There will be pockets of resistance such as in the area around Colorado Springs and by the AARP resistance fighters in the Phoenix area, but they will be contained.
The Free Association of Pacific Islands -
Hawai'i, Guam, Samoa, and all the other US colonies in the Pacific will band together.
I am just not sure what will happen to Alaska. Any thoughts?
Monday, September 13, 2004
Sunday, September 12, 2004
Friday, September 10, 2004
On occasion a personal email gets sent out to the whole email list (which can number from a dozen people to a few thousand depending on the list). Usually it is silly reading the message, but a few times in can be downright entertaining (for everyone) and terribly embarassing (for the sender).
For example, I got this email from a list I am on:
[The first part lists some concerns about the scheduling of an upcoming conference - then it continues]
"This is just my personal opinion, after 5 days of eating my way through London. I smuggled back some Absinthe (illegal in the USA), and M. and I are planning a 19th-century Oscar Wilde (small) party if you are interested. Gotta try everything once, including the Green Fairy. K.M. (the lazy-as-all-get-out room scheduling person) has had more than enough time to sit down at her desk and open up the room schedule, which takes all of a minute."
So about 1000 people or so got this message that was obviously intended for one person. Now these people know that this person smuggles illegal liquor into the country, pigs out when traveling abroad, holds small intoxicating parties, does not have a high opinion of K.M. (I have removed the name), and has tried the Green Fairy at least once.
Keep in mind that this is a professor at a well-known university. Hee hee.
Lesson of the day: don't email out anything you might not want thousand of eyes reading.
Thursday, September 09, 2004
I wonder how many of them will still vote for Bush.
I wonder how many people know that the assault weapon ban is about to expire.
I wonder how many people will be killed by assault weapons that will now be easier to get.
I wonder why people in this community feel it is fine to target a teacher just because she holds liberal views.
I wonder why we live in a country that forces people to beg for money for worthy causes, rather than allocating public money to those causes.
I wonder if in this country being healthy will ever be a right and not a privilege.
I wonder if the Red Sox will finally win this year. Or at least do better than the Yankees.
I wonder if the Democrats in California who want to make "girlie men" Arnold dolls realize that they are being as stupid as Arnold was when he made the reference.
I wonder how many people realize that Arnold was full of it when he talked about seeing Soviet tanks in Austria.
I wonder how many American recognize the widespread subtle and subversive racism that still exists in this country.
I wonder if there is any chocolate left in the cupboard....hmmm....
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
Monday, September 06, 2004
I took the dog to a lake I had heard about. Originally I intended it to be a short walk, a break from planning my lesson for tomorrow. It turns out that the lake was quite a ways from where the parking lot was. So it turned out to be a 3.5 mile hike. I need the exercise and I definitely did not hear the dog complaining. We saw some hares, quail, other dogs, and a few horses.
In fact, I came across the strangest thing I have seen in a while. Some of the people who had been riding horses decided to take a swim in the lake. Instead of tying up the horses, they took off the saddles and took them in the lake with them. So there were two human heads bobbing in the water and close to them were two horses who looked very confused.
The walk in sunshine that happened to be stronger and warmer than I had planned for, however, left me pretty tired. Moreover, the glass of wine I had with dinner did nothing to replenish my reserves.
I did manage to finish my lesson plan for tomorrow. I will probably take a look at it tomorrow morning and see if there is anything that needs fixing, tweaking, or filling in. The topic is actually fairly timely: the role of morality in American politics and how morality is used to create us/them divisions. Should you be interested, take a look at this book. We are reading parts of it for the lecture tomorrow. It is an interesting read.
Saturday, September 04, 2004
Otherwise how could one explain this?
The RNC was not kind and yet people are drawn to that position.
The prevalence of the "Christian" ethos of love thy neighbor (unless he/she is a sinner) seems to have taken over this country. And just who is a sinner? Anyone who does not think like them.
"You are either with us or you are against us."
Things will be dire if Bush wins, mainly because the Supreme Court composition will change. We will have a state religion and major infrigements on our civil rights. The Republican Party is a political machine that is getting entrenched, setting up the rules so as to maintain and even advance its position in power.
It is very unsettling.
Friday, September 03, 2004
My class was better, although it was tough. I had to explain what anthropology is to first year students without boring them or the senior anthro majors that are also in the class. The next classes should be easier in the sense that we are moving on to material that will be new to everyone.
I like the students here. They are good and hardworking students (so far), yet they are very unpretentious. Conversely, they are a little shy and soft-spoken so I will need to get them out of their shell.
I also got underway with my new research by searching some databases to see what similar research has been done. The answer: very little. Cutting-edge anthropologist, that's me. I need to do more exploring and refine my topic, but there seem to be many opportunities here.
I met with the sociologist whose research does not overlap with mine as much as I thought (I was misinformed by others). He is a nice guy and a fellow Mexican-American. We met a wine bar and I got to taste another local wine (more on that later), which was very good. It was strange...while we were there we interacted more like academics. As we were leaving, I said that I was probably going to stop somewhere to get a bite to eat and asked him if he wanted to join me.
We went to a local taqueria and had some very good Mexican food.
[Aside: the taqueria was in an old Taco-Bell establishment (a taco-bell shell? Sorry). This is something I noticed during the drive here - from about Nebraska on, there were old Taco-Bell restaurants that had been abandoned (probably following the merging of Taco-Bell with Pizza-Hut and KFC) and occupied by startup Mexican restauranteurs. These were given names like El Rancho, La villa, etc. It just another example of how us Mexicans are taking over this country.]
Once we got to the Taco-Bell shell (once again I apologize, but I just can't resist), the nature of our interaction changed dramatically. We went from being two scholars to being two Mexicanos reminicing about our gastronomic heritage.
Ah the transformative power of tacos!
Speaking of Mexico. I am proud that of Mexico's four medals at the Olympics, three were won by women. And none of these medals were for speed-walking, usually the only sport in which Mexicans tend to do well.
They should have a chile eating event at the Olympics...hey, that would be as much of a sport as some of the silly events they had in Athens. The trouble is that instead of just making it the number of chiles people eat, they would try to come up with some stupid way of judging it:
"The initial point total for this chile is 9.4. It's a serrano, higher than the Jalapeno, but lower than the Habanero. She takes the first bite...oh, Pat, I see some tears, that is an automatic two-tenths deduction. But look at her finish...Amazing!"
Yeah, that would just ruin it. Forget it.
Thursday, September 02, 2004
The transition is ongoing. I am now a faculty member. I went to the first college-wide faculty meeting today. I am dealing with the library not having the reserve reading I requested and the students emailing me complaining about this. I am feeling the pressures of having to start my own research and begin to be productive.
Yes, that is what university faculty have to do. Oh, and I need to find a job in Boston for next year. Yeah, that too.
I have been working on my lecture for tomorrow and reworking the course schedule to include a guest speaker who is going to talk about race, gender, and hip-hop music.
I know I am more stressed than I realize because I had an awful stress dream last night. I also have been getting some nasty headaches. I need to find an outlet. Maybe pick up the tennis raquet I brought over here. The same one I have not used in a couple of years. Maybe I should visit the pool. There is a yoga studio in town...perhaps a visit is in order.
I have been walking the dog, but these excursions have been brief. Perhaps I should schedule a more extensive trek in the mountains. My landlord offered to let me wander about the 40 acres of land he owns in the mountains. That may be fun.
Once the snow starts to fall, there will be skiing in the area. Or maybe snoeshoeing - something I have never tried before.
But will there be time? I am already feeling the pressures of time. Balance. Yeah, that's the ticket. Balance.
Tomorrow is another long day. More preparations for the class, some errands and a meeting with a sociologist whose research overlaps with what I want to start up here. Better get some rest and hope my dreams are more peaceful this evening.