Friday, September 29, 2006

I had to take my first sick day at my new job today.

After the miserable night last night (see below), I woke up, got ready for work, and I realized that there is no way I was going to make it. I took my temperature and indeed, I had a fever.

For some reason my body has not taken kindly to the tetanus toxoid:

Seems so innocuous when pictured like that.

I have spent today alternating between sleeping and watching recorded tv shows. The dogs still don't seem to understand that I am incapacitated and keep on wanting to be taken out.

My condition is beginning to improve, but I still have a way to go.
3:50 am ...

...and I am up and awake. There is a gentle rain outside and a crisp cool breeze is gently tiptoing through the open windows. Confused the dogs are wandering wondering why I am not sleeping.

What they don't know is that yesterday I went to the doctor. He decided that I needed a tetanus booster.

I hate tetanus shots.

You might as well pour concrete into my arm and then proceed to beat on it with an aluminium bat (a wooden bat would be excessive).

This shot has also made me queezy and restless. So as I try to sleep I toss and I turn...right on to the very sore arm. I lie awake and then the thoughts start creeping into my head. Those awful thoughts of everything you need to do but cannot do anything about at 3 am.

Now the clock has just turned to 4:00 am. The alarm is going to go off in an hour and a half, informing me that the time to rise and ready myself for my 8:00 am class has arrived.

Perhaps I shall go try to find that sleep that has eluded me so far this night.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Warning: Rant Ahead

Now that I am older (and according to lore - wiser), I want to rant on a topic that I have gradually written less and less on: politics.

My silence on this topic may be a result of one or more of the following:
  • Frustration
  • Apathy
  • Distraction
  • Dimentia
  • Resignation
Or perhaps I just did not have anything to say.

We are coming up to an election. Let's call it an election lite. The turnout for the last mid-term election was around37 percent (which is more or less on par for midterm elections). Presidential elections garner about 50 to 60 percent. There are differences in the numbers based on what you take as the denominator (voting age people, voting eligible people, or registered voters). In any case, those rates are sad for a country that supposedly prides itself on democractic ideals.

That's not to say that things would be better off if we had higher participation rates.

If we had a better educated electorate, however, I think we would be both better off and have higher participation rates.

We would also have less mind-control from the corporate media. Two shameless examples are the 9-11 film that aired on ABC that distorted facts to push a political message and the confrontation between Bill Clinton and Chris Wallace this past weekend. It was amazing that there was such a direct confrontation on the air. The way it was reported, however, portrayed Clinton as the belligerent and irrational individual. If you watch the whole interview (or at least the entire part where the confrontation took place), it is clear that while Clinton is upset, he is also articulate and convincing in his arguments.

I encourage you to see the interview. Joe has kindly linked the interview, as well as some of the smarter reaction to it. I found Keith Olbermann's commentary particularly refreshing and Jon Stewarts quiet cynicism on target.

Which brings me to the second issue I want to discuss - safety. The current administration continues to hammer home the ideology of fear and that only they can provide us the safety we so desire. They use this ideology to destroy guarantees of civil rights at home and pursue criminal foreign policies. We are supposed to believe that they are creating a neat shield to ensure that we are safe.

Then we eat spinach. And we get sick.

They tell us not to eat spinach, but after exhaustive searches, they still don't know why or how the once healthy leafy green became contaminated with e. coli. Panic ensues and tons of spinach is discarded. I wonder if anyone will eat spinach ever again.

I like spinach. I will eat it again.

The moral of the story, however, is that some terrorist who did not wash her/his hands after relieving her/himself, could hurt us and create a nationwide panic and our government continues its run down the path of ineptitude despites its claims of vigilance and safety.

Maybe we should start a war on spinach or on e. coli. I should point out that we should be wary of the term war - especially when the war is "on" something. Wars are fought "against" an enemy. Terrorism is not an enemy, its a tactic. Fighting a war on terror is as silly as one on spinach.

The truth is: we will never be safe. We can be safer (remember the whole deal with safe vs. safer sex). We can be safer with world cooperation and ensuring that people are not driven to extremism. Our goal should be a world were terrorism becomes an unecessary, or at least, an unacceptable, tactic. We are so far from that world.

Voting in the next election will not bring us closer to that world, but I am going to vote anyway. Even if all the contests that I will be voting in are pretty much not contests.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

I ain't getting any younger...

That's about all I have to say on this day.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Visual NY

I have finally started carrying my camera around with me as I explore my new surroundings. On occasion I will post some of these images, some with commentary, some without - depending on my mood.

This is the new neighborhood:

 Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bright Lights, Big City

The other day, as I was walking the dogs, I noticed signs posted on all the trees and lamposts along our streets. Upon closer inspection, the signs indicated that there would be no parking along the street for one day because there was going to be a film crew for Law and Order.

Film crews have followed me around during my life. When I was four or so, I appeared in some cheezy B movie that was filmed in Acapulco. I was in the pool swimming as the camera panned to the stars who were having a conversation poolside.

In college, the campus was used as a set for several films and an episode of Quantum Leap. Living in Providence, the street I lived on was the setting for many autumn scenes for the television show Providence (most which were not filmed in autumn, requiring leaves to be shipped in and strewn about - and never cleaned up). Also a scene from the film There's Something about Mary was filmed a couple of houses down.

Even this past summer I shared the campus where I taught with another film crew (I don't remember the name of the film now).

Despite these experiences, I still find it fascinating how much effort is put into the production. A whole day of work might end up as a couple of minutes on film. It can also be fun running into and meeting celebrities. Kevin Klein and Sigourney Weaver - very cool people.

So this week, as I walked the dogs, I watched in awe as lights, cameras, equipment, and props got shuffled about. Having just dealt with moving, I thought about how these people have to unpack all this stuff for one day and then just turn around and pack it all back up.

Several apartments on our block were used as sets, including one just behind ours.

Some other scenes were shot out on the street, requiring an army of people with earpieces to shut down the pedestrian traffic while the filming took place.

I was admiring the hustle of all the production crew while Zeus and Zephyr engaged in a thorough sniffing of trees and hydrants, when out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of someone coming out of the building. This person was headed in my direction. Thinking it was someone that was about to tell me to move along or that my dogs and I had just ruined a scene, I turned to face them.

When I got a clear look at this person, the first thought to cross my mind was, "Man, that is one handsome dude." I should point out that I usually don't think about the attractiveness of males, but this guy was striking. He came up and said, "That is one great looking dog. Very distinctive," as he jestured to Zeus. On cue, Zeus turned his attention to the guy and moved over to say hello and accept further compliments.

It was at this point that I realized that this handsome man was Jesse Martin, one of the leading actors of Law and Order.

He is much taller than I expected. Usually you hear about how celebrities are usually shorter than what they appear on film. As I stood there slowly realizing who this person was, he added diplomatically, "That one is also quite nice," motioning towards Zephyr. She, as usual, remained oblivious.

So I guess I was the odd one out among this sea of attractiveness.

I thanked him. He smiled and mentioned that he had to run, which he did.

The dogs poked around some more and then we went back inside. That evening Zeus displayed an air of confidence that almost shouted out, "A celebrity thought I was good looking...a handsome celebrity at that."

Maybe I am a little jealous...

Why is it so hard to get my act together?

Life should be easier and simpler, shouldn't it?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Still Trying to Figure Out which Way is Up

I am a disoriented mess - running around trying to get things done but feeling like I am not getting very far. After several tries, we finally have desks and they are now even assembled. Tomorrow we will hopefully get internet, cable, and a phone.

This is good for several reasons.

First, it seems like our apartment is in the one little corner of NYC that does not get cell phone signal (we get a signal, but just one bar and you have to be by the window). Trying to set up life (and disconnect your old one) is so hard without a working phone. I do remember the days before cell phones, trying to set up everything from a pay-phone.

I would not mind not having a phone so much if I could use the internet at home. So much of my professional life runs through the internet. My office is nice, but driving out here when I don't have to teach is a waste of time, energy, and resources.

Cable will just be a treat. We can now watch the few shows we have been missing and procrastinate by flipping through all the other crap that is on.

Back to the desks. The other problem we have is that we only have one desk chair. The second (and third one) we had got sacrificed to the we-don't-have-room-in-the-moving-truck gods. Those gods actually got a lot of things that would have been useful...but let's put aside the tears over that flowing milk.

Time to go to class.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Culture Shock (or What I learned about living in New York yesterday)
  • Don't go to New Jersey on Sundays to shop for anything. All retail stores are closed (as we discovered pulling into IKEA needing to buy two desperately needed desks). All supermarkets are insanely crowded (probably because they are one of the few things that are open). And liquor stores are the only other place to spend your money (probably making the driving aspect of it more hazardous). Yes, we paid the $6 George Washington Bridge toll to discover this.
  • Avoid using your car to do any errands. You will lose your parking spot, especially if there is a trendy riverside bar down the street popular with the chic Domincan community. Finding a new spot is very difficult and could be a competitive sport.
  • New Jersey is a stupid state with very confusing traffic configurations.

I did not actually learn this yesterday (I already knew it from my years in Mexico and it hit me today as I took the dogs out for their morning bathroom needs), but Latin Americans tend to litter a lot. The trash all over the street from the aforementioned crowds attending the bar brought back memories of the litter lining the roads of Mexico. Why people think they can just toss their refuse on the street is beyond me, especially when there are many recepticles on almost every street corner.

Today's date has not escaped me, but I want to write a more thoughtful entry on the memorial I went to yesterday. That will be coming soon, hopefully.

Off to try to get some desks - second try.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused
Once again I find myself posting before having to teach. I have 40 minutes and I don't plan to do much today. I am just going to introduce the course and urge them to go hear the convocation speaker: Eric Schlosser.

I would like to go hear him speak, but there are so many other things I need to do. I don't think I will hear anything new at his talk, though. What would really be interesting would be to meet him, but as a new and marginal faculty member, that would probably be too difficult. It is likely that I will pass.

It was nice to hear that my absence was noticed by a few. It gives pause to the incoherent existential ramblings that take place in my head. And I do have quite a few observations to share, when I have a little more time, things settle a bit, and I get internet access at home.

I am still going through each day in somewhat of a disoriented haze. Part of it is that I have not recovered from the chaos and the exhaustion of the move - by far the most stressful and difficult one I have been part of (and I have been part of many) [on a side note - I just got a cranky message from our old landlord bemoaning the condition we left our old apartment. It was messy, but I warned her that it would be. I scuffed a wall with one of the last pieces of furniture I moved out, but nothing major. And some sticky jelly-like decorations Sara put up in the bathroom left some marks that need to be painted over. I don't think it is all that bad, but her complaining bothers me - I am not sure why. I just need to let it go]. Moreover, it really has not hit me that we now live in New York and not Boston, nor that school has started and I need to be more engaged in my classes and teaching. I am here, but I don't feel like I am. Finally, I think there is a bit of culture shock that is going on, but not only have I yet to process the shock - I am still unsure of what exactly the shock is. I know it is there, but I have yet to identify it.

Despite the confusion, I am excited about our new locale. There are so many things to explore and learn about; so many places to visit and foods to try. I am eager to fall into a stable routine and begin to engage the metropolis we are inhabiting, the courses I am teaching, the new research that is awaiting me, and the cuisines that are begging to be consumed.

I just wish I had a little more time to let things settle.

Well, I have the twenty minutes before class starts.

I am hoping to get out and take some pictures to post with my upcoming observations...let's see if that happens.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

MIA (Part II)
Some of you may have noticed that I have not been around. Maybe no one noticed...

There are several reasons for this:
Moving consumed every bit of energy I had (I think I am still facing an energy deficit).
We have no internet access at our new place (no phone either). We need to wait until September 14 for this to be remedied.
There have been other matters that have kept me preoccupied.

Given the above reasons, one might be inclined to ask how is it possible that I can be writing now (probably no one is asking this, but I will go ahead and answer this conundrum nonetheless). Well, even though I am facing an energy deficit, I am still functioning just as our government can continue to operate with a budget deficit. Just like the government situation, I know that it will all come crashing down sometime, but I choose to ignore it for now.
As to internet access, I am finally in my new office which IS connected. I used to think that I should not goof off in my office, but that code of ethics went out the window.
And then there are those other pesty preoccupations - well, like the energy deficit, I am choosing to ignore those too, for the time being.

I do have my first class of the semester in two hours for which I have done ZERO preparation, so I better bring this to a close and deal with that matter for now.