Friday, February 25, 2005

It has been a hectic week.

I am off to Boston tomorrow. While I am not looking forward to the trip there, I am very much looking forward to being there (I am not even sure that makes sense - but at this point I don't care).

I had to drop off the dog at the kennel this afternoon because my flight leaves very early in the morning. He usually stays here during my trips and either a student or my housemates take care of him. Last time I was away, my housemates had difficulties with him, so I told them I would board him the next time I went away. He does get needy when he is stressed and he tends to get into things.

It was so difficult dropping him off. I don't even want to think about it anymore ...

Changing the subject - I submitted to present a paper at a conference in Merida, Mexico last weekend. It was accepted. This week there was a proposed session that looked interesting and I ended up submitting a paper for that one as well. So I will have to present two papers. Great! The good thing is that the topic of the second session is something Sara is interested in and she decided to make an exception to the no travel rule she set up for herself and submitted a paper as well.

It was hard for me not to be too pushy (I still was despite my best efforts). It not only gives us another opportunity to see each other, but it will make the trip fun. I have not been to Yucatan in ages, but I do remember the people there as being the nicest I have ever met in all my travels. The people in Thailand gave them a run for the money and I might even concede a tie. In any case, I was looking forward to going back, but going anywhere without Sara is just not that fun. I understood her reluctance to travel and did not want to force her to go. I was delighted when she decided to submit.

We will have to play hookie at least one day and go see some Mayan archaeological sites. My old neighbors from when I lived in Mexico now live in Merida, so I hope to see them as well. The children of that family were almost like sisters and we did have our sibling rivalries.

Ok, I am off to bed. I have an early wakeup call tomorrow and I need to get some sleep. I probably won't be around for the next couple of days...but that is a good thing - at least for me!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Remember a while back, Sara got stuck in Miami on her way back from Chile because there was a blizzard in Boston?

She had just arrived from an overnight flight and was told that she would probably be in Miami for a couple of days. So she called me and I helped her book a hotel room. All the logistics took a couple of phone calls - collect of course.

I just got my phone bill. It was $117 just for the collect calls! It was over $2 per minute! Now that is just not right. They don't even need a live operator anymore to place the collect call.

I will pay it, of course. And it was still a good thing that Sara was able to call me and I could help her. I am just getting over the shock of a phone bill that is five times higher than what I usually pay (and mind you I am calling Boston a lot!).

Moral of the story: if you have a cell phone, carry it with you everywhere (and avoid AT&T for your collect calls - although all the other companies are probably equally as bad).

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

In honor of my friend over at The Daily Texican who got awoken by a rooster this morning and witnessed chickens in Austin, I offer you an equal unnatural mix of the rural and urban:

What are these people looking at? Posted by Hello

The picture is from when Sara and I lived in Italy. I took it from our apartment's bedroom window. If you look closely, on the hood of the dark car there is a chicken! The man closest to the car is actually a police officer. In classic Italian fashion they stood around for a while arguing about what to do. The police officer made a few feeble and unsuccessful attempts to catch it and then he rejoined the ongoing argument. Eventually an old woman arrived with a cardboard box. She walked right past everyone without saying anything. She put the box over the chicken and took it away [presumably for dinner that evening].

In other news, a student with whom I am collaborating with on a research project and I won an award from the college. The award is to promote joint research between a student and faculty member on the issue of multiculturalism. We each get $1000 and together we get $500 for research expenses.

All that stuff I posted a while back on meat and the workers who bring it to you...that came out of this research.

[By the way, the vote to decertify the union was successful, although the union is challenging the vote. Since the National Labor Review Board is in the pocket of the Bush Administration, it is likely that the challenge will be unsuccessful. So if you are buying Tyson meats or meat products, don't be surprised to find bits of human fingers, flesh, or blood in your food].

It is nice to get some recognition, especially in the wake of some job rejection letters. The money is nice too.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Today I had to make up for yesterday's inertia.

Actually, after getting fed up with my lack of productivity and just about when I got as restless as the dog, I threw on some warm clothes and got out. The dog and I went for a drive. No particular destination - we just headed up into the mountains to see the snow. We went as far as we could before the snow on the road told us it would be a good idea for us to head back.

Sometimes you just need to get out and away. It was quite pleasant, just driving in the snow, listening to loud music. Of course, I think the dog would have liked to have stopped to explore every now and then, but I think he enjoyed the ride as well. On the way back I stopped and got a large caffinated beverage to bring back home with me.

Now I am waiting for a spark of creativity to hit me. In class tomorrow we are discussing an ethnography we read - Tell Them Who I Am - which is about homeless women (and a good read, if you are at all interested). I need to come up with a good way to break up the class into small groups and have them engage the material (the class is too big to have a fruitful discussion). I have been waiting all day for something, but so far nothing. I guess I am overly eager to engage the students after so much lecturing. This means I am putting too much pressure on myself and thus stiffling the creativity.

I am off to watch some teevee while I iron my clothes for the week. Maybe inspiration will hit me then.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Lazy Sunday

Today is one of those days when it is hard to break the inertia of not being productive. There is so much I need to get done, yet the ethusiasm to do it is just lacking.

It is snowing outside. It isn't sticking, but it still is not inviting - much to the dog's chagrin. He really wants to go somewhere. Add that to the list.

There is another list of things I was planning on doing tomorrow but then I realized it is a holiday. Things will be closed and my list needs to be put off until Tuesday.

I am off to look for some energy...maybe there is some in the kitchen.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Donkey II Posted by Hello

This is actually the wallpaper on my computer.

Just sitting here with my glass of wine - a good one at that. I would go look up the label for you, but I am too lazy and I am sure you don't really care. Ask if you are interested.

The dog and I went to the nearby reservoir and took a hike around it. No pheasants to chase today and the path was rather muddy. It was good to get out, though. I am finally getting over the stupid cold that had me in its grips for the past week. Everyone at work is getting it now. I am sure that's where I got it. So I probably just returned the favor.

Tomorrow needs to be a productive day. Do you ever have one of those instances when you realize how much crap you need to get done and it is just incredibly daunting? I think I am having one of those right now.

But rather than running off in a panic, my mood is tempered by the calming (numbing?) effects of the wine, the long week, and the fatigue from the hike earlier today.

I am craving chocolate.

I am really craving chocolate.

I should write in Spanish more. Or maybe in Italian. It is annoying though that Blogger doesn't have accents. I can write something in a word processing program and then just clip and paste, but that is annoying. And I am lazy. Yes, I am a very lazy person.

Quiero chocolate. Y mi amor. Extra~o mi amor. [See I hate not having my n+~!]

I rented The Last Samurai about a week ago. I still have not watched it. I probably owe a fortune in late fees.

I am going to look for chocolate. I don't think I have any, but you never know.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Sometimes teaching can be difficult and trying - like the students sleeping in my class today despite my best efforts to make the lecture interesting. However, every now and then you get some encouragement. Yesterday I received the following note from a student who took a course in Culture and Human Development for high school students:

Hi Xolo,
this is [Name Withheld] from your anthropology class this summerat [University Name Withheld]. I am currently taking an AP Psychology course and we just finished a unit on cognative development, where we had to design a preschool curriculum. I of course aced this project thanks to you. I learned so much in the summer about this and I loved reading Preschool in Three Cultures. I just wanted to thank you for making a great impact in such a short time and let you know that I learned things that I am putting to great use. I hope everything is well.

[Name Withheld]
A nice note like this one goes a long way. Thanks, [Name Withheld]!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

I have two housemates here. Very nice housemates, by the way.

A strange phenomenon happened today, though. We happened to be eating dinner together and we finished at around 7. At which point the each retreated to their corner of the living room/dinning room, pulled out their cell phones and began calling. Calling and calling...

When they weren't talking, it seemed like they were brainstorming about who else to call.

An hour later, they are still calling and talking.

This is such an alien concept for me. I do spend a lot of time on the phone (for me), but that is because my wife is in Boston. I never have had this near obsession to be on the phone, though.

It is fascinating, though. Always the anthropologist....
For those of you who are new around here, I need to explain the donkey picture. When I lived in Rhode Island last year and had some webspace, I had the donkey picture as the backdrop to my blog. When I moved away this past summer, I lost that webspace and hence now there is a blah white backdrop.

Some people say it is easier to read the text now, others miss the donkey. Perhaps the donkey will return at some point...

...for now, it was a way to play around with my new discovery of "Hello" and "Picasa" which are pretty cool.


Overheard recently at the local taqueria:

The staff working there were talking about the Motorcycle Diaries (in Spanish, of course). Among the issues being discussed were:
  • Whether the film was a good adaptation of the book.
  • The life of Che Guevara and how his ideals changed after he became involved in Cuba.
  • What Marx would have thought of Castro and Che.
Some of the ideas being tossed around were worthy of grad school banter.

I wonder when a similar conversation has taken place at a McDonnalds, Burger King, or KFC staffed by gringo youth.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Saturday, February 12, 2005

More on Meat
You may wonder where yesterday's rant against Tyson came from. There is a large Tyson plant near where I am currently living and as I have been doing research on immigrants (mostly from Mexico) in the area, it became an unavoidable issue. Tyson recruits among the foreign community here - it is the only people who are willing to work there. A student of mine has actually been following the case closely as part of some collaborative research we are doing.

As the student and I have discussed the project and where to go from here, I suggested she look into the consumption side. What are people concerned about when they purchase beef? Is there any way to inform them of the struggles and dangers workers in the meatpacking industry face? Would they care?

The only concerns consumers seem to have is the price of meat. For the few who have other concerns, they focus on one of three issues. The quality of the meat, the safety of the meat, or the treatment of the animals themselves. No one seems to think about the workers who labor to bring the cuts of meat to your table.

Let me illustrate. Take a look at the site for Whole FoodsMarket on meat. Now, I must say that I love shopping at Whole Foods (although there isn't one anywhere around here) and I have purchased meat there of very good quality. The page goes into detail how the beef is safe and natural, thus addressing the health concerns the consumer may have. It also discusses how the animals are treated humanely, thus addressing some of the ethical concerns of consumers. There is no mention of the meat packers in the slaughterhouses, however. I don't doubt that Whole Foods is probably concerned with the ethical treatment of workers. The fact that they don't mention it just illustrates that it is not a concern for consumers, even the enlightened Whole Foods consumer.

Consumers are more concerned about the ethical treatment of animals than of people. I am not saying that people are more important than animals, but there should be at least equal concern. Should there not?

It is a sad state of affairs.


On a separate meat related note. As I was watching television this evening, I noticed a commerical for Pizza Hut featuring the muppets. In one scene, Miss Piggy is about to eat a slice with pepperoni on it.

Is that not cannibalism?

That too just seems very wrong.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Now for something serious...

If you are a vegetarian, you can disregard this post (and know that you are probably living a healthier and more ethical life than the rest of us).

If you are not, then I have a request for you.

Think about where your meat is coming from. If at all possible, avoid purchasing Tyson meats. Tyson is an example of all that is evil in capitalism - profit over the well-being of people.

Tyson's record on workplace injuries is disgraceful. One in four of its workers is injured in the work place. One in four! Meat-packaging is a dangerous job in this country. The pressure to work quickly under stressful conditions with little training make for a deadly cocktail. Yes, those are sharp objects that cut the meat from the carcass. They cut human flesh pretty well too. It is not a surprise that most Americans do not want to take that risk, especially for the low wages that are paid. So most of the workers are foreign, which adds another safety concern: language.

The sad thing is that it does not have to be that way. Other countries have much safer (and cleaner) meat-packaging factories. Greed pushes companies here to have the fastest production at the lowest cost.

Some of the workers at the Tyson plant in Wallula, Washington are unionized and are trying to fight for better working conditions. However, Tyson is resisting their actions and is even trying to decertify the union. I see it as institutional racism, since most of these workers are from Mexico. What is even more depressing is that Tyson seems to have a local Latino businessman in their pocket. This particular businessman is the publisher of the local Spanish newspaper and he has used the newspaper to slander the Union leaders (there is a lawsuit pending).

I am just trying to get the word out in what little way I can. So the next time you stop to buy some meat, think about the people who suffered, perhaps in more ways than one, so that you could purchase it. And think about the people who are profiting from that suffering.

There are alternatives. Eat less meat. Buy meats that are produced by small farms. Look for organic/pasture fed meats. I urge you to pursue these.

If you haven't already, I highly recommend reading Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation.

And if you can, let Tyson know that you refuse to purchase their products until they treat their workers fairly and take an interest in their safety.

I wish I could be more eloquent, but my current state of health is impeding that. Nonetheless, this is something I wanted to get out.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

I was in a funk last night.

Now I know why. I was under assault from the forces of illness.

Last night I woke up with the dreaded sore throat. The really bad kind. Rats, I thought to myself, I don't need this right now.

Lecturing today was painful. I could not concentrate on what I was saying. The students probably think I am a total flake. Gone one day and spacy the next.

So it is saline solutions, zinc (Zycam), teas, juices, soups, and sleep for me. There is so much I need to do, but I know I won't be able to do them well if I attempt them now. All I can hope is that I beat the bug before it can settle in my head and air passages.

Gosh, I wish hibernation were an option.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Discovery of the Day: Rusted Root. I am not sure why our paths have not crossed before, but I like them a lot.

I am still pretty tired and out of it. The past few weeks have taken their toll.

There seem to have been some good discussions going on in the blogosphere lately. I am sorry I have been missing out. I'll catch up, but I won't be able to participate. Oh well. I am not sure whether I would have much to contribute given my state of mind.

I spent part of my afternoon out in the yard doing doggy doo doo duty. Yet another thing I fell behind on. At least the sun was out and it was not too cold. In fact some of the plants have decided that spring has arrived. Some bulbs are popping up and a few of the trees have buds. This always happens...the plants think spring is here and winter gives them a good whack by dumping some snow on them and/or throwing some freezing temperatures on them. Winter does the same to me. I am ready for spring.

The days are getting longer for which I am very grateful. Light past five in the afternoon is a good thing.

Enough from melancholy corner here...

Monday, February 07, 2005

Back in the Saddle Again

I have returned to the West Coast and I am missing Sara terribly. On top of that I have to deal with a huge backlog of things that piled up while I was gone.

It is 6:30 and I am still in my office. Mind you that I am still on East Coast time so it is feeling more like 9:30. Bleh.

Word to the wise: if you ever have to travel, Super Bowl Sunday is the day to do it. Boston's airport was almost empty and my first flight (Boston-Salt Lake City) was half full. I did miss the big game, but I really don't care. I got to see the last five minutes or so when I landed in Salt Lake City.

Super Bowl Sunday is probably also a good day to do other things like go skiing, go to an amusement park, or go see some action flick. In other words, anything that may draw a crowd of men and accompanying individuals (kids, wives, girlfriends, etc.).

Ok. I need to get out of here. Tomorrow's lecture will be done on the fly. I just don't have time or energy to write a detailed outline for it. The good thing is that my classes this semester are only 50 minutes each. In teaching terms, that goes by so quickly. I may be eating my words tomorrow....

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Sherri over at For Myself and Strangers complains about the phrase "Brutally Murdered" used by television news.

This is just another example of the stupidity of most newscasters (or at least their writers).

Another example. I recently heard one newscaster commenting about the film "Ray":

"Too bad Ray Charles died before the film came out. It would have been nice for him to see it."

Um...think before you speak.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

All this travel and "excitement" has really worn me down. However, I am still thinking of traveling.


Sara won't hear of it. She is done with traveling for a long while. I think that when I conjure up ideas of travel, I am dreaming of plopping myself down on a beach and not having to worry about anything. Wouldn't it be nice to be under some palm trees, sipping a pi~a colada, feeling the warm tropical breezes blow off the salty ocean without a care in the world?

That dream soon disappears as thoughts of reality rush into my head. Reality is exhausting.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Another week gone by.

But what a week it has been.

Last I wrote, it was the eve before I was to leave for Boston to see Sara. That night I got the call that in the back of my mind I always dread getting. At 3:00 am, the phone rang.

"Hello, this is N."
"N from Boston..."

It was Sara's neighbor/landlord.

"I just took Sara to the hospital. She had severe abdominal pain. Here are some numbers for the hospital."

My heart sank. I felt so helpless as I frantically called the numbers. After some dead ends and being passed along, I finally got a hold of Sara. She couldn't talk for long, but let me know that they thought it was kidney stones.

I called around trying to get on an earlier flight to Boston without any success. I called the hospital again and talked to Sara some more. It was so difficult to hear the pain in her voice and to know that she was going through the ordeal on her own. It was going to get worse. After a few hours, she was released - it was kidney stones and they gave her some pain medication. She called a taxi, but it never came. It was snowing in Boston and it is impossible to get a cab in incliment weather. Our landlords and neighbors were at work and we don't know anyone else with a car. She ended up walking home - about a mile - in her pjamas (at least she had a coat), with kidney stones, and on morphine. I sat by the phone waiting for her to call me and let me know that she made it home. I was relieved when she did.

My next concern was to get to Boston. I had to lecture before I left for the airport. I had already called off class for the next day since I was going to be gone (I gave them an exercise to complete instead of lecture), so I did not feel it was right to cancel class that day too. I am not sure how I got through the lecture since I was tired and my thoughts were elsewhere.

Getting to Boston was not easy. I had to connect through Salt Lake City and my flight from there to Boston was cancelled because of the aforementioned snow. I thought I would have to stay in SLC and leave the following morning. The rerouted me from SLC to Las Vegas and then an overnight flight to Boston. I saw if I could get there sooner by flying to Providence or New York. I couldn't.

The flight to Vegas was late. The flight to Boston was late. But I finally made it.

When we landed in Boston, the world outside the airplane's window looked like something out of a documentary about the South Pole. There was snow everywhere and it was blowing across the runway.

It was so good to see Sara, although I could tell she was weak and not feeling well.

After a follow-up doctor's visit I decided that I needed to stay here longer than I had planned. Instead of flying back on Monday (yesterday), I am staying until next Sunday. One of my fellow professors is covering my lectures for this week and my housemates and one of my former students are looking after the dog. I was able to switch my ticket very easily because I will be flying during the Super Bowl.

I am very happy I stayed. We needed to be together after this traumatic event and I have peace of mind being able to be here as Sara reovers. She is feeling better, although she is still sore. Kidney stones are extremely painful. My sister had one about ten years ago. A woman told me on my flight here that she had them a couple of times and that they were more painful than childbirth. The cause? Probably dehydration. Sara was most likely dehydrated: it was hot in Chile, she got a stomach virus when she was there, and airplanes are notorious for dehydrating you. Having to stay a couple of days in Miami probably did not help.

So go drink a glass of water, it never hurts to be hydrated!