Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Rage, rage against the night

There'll always be a few things, maybe several things
That you're gonna find really difficult to forgive...

We're gonna commandeer the local airwaves
To tell the neighbors what's been going on
They will shake their heads, and wag their boney fingers
in all the wrong directions, and by daybreak, we'll be gone.
--The Mountain Goats, "Up the Wolves"

I really hope you're happy, you 50+ percent who put the same administration in office twice.

Yeah, I know. You don't care. This is a great day for you: now, finally, you can smite the evildoers who dare suggest that all people ARE equal and merit the same treatment from us because who the hell are we to know what's better in the eyes of whatever god may or may not be watching us? (For the record, I'm Catholic and believe in the same God, supposedly, as a lot of people back home. Sure doesn't feel like it most days.) You can kick people out of schools who teach ideas that you find too liberal (sorry, but since when has it been established that something labeled "liberal" suddenly means it can't possibly be correct?) Screw the poor because they should have worked harder in the first place to overcome the insurmountable cycles of poverty and inadequate resources and screwed-up, self-righteous public policies that enable some of us to sit easy in Belltown and Manhattan while others wade through the streets of New Orleans. Enact abortion laws that throw up a dozen hurdles for impoverished moms while retaining all sorts of loopholes for people who can afford to drive to clinics, rent hotel rooms for mandatory 24-hour stays, take time off work. Screw the environment and anyone still willing to wear the "environmentalist" label: what value could Nature have unless we can exploit it? Why preserve a meager shred of frozen "wasteland" that gives us at least some idea of what the world was like before we left our tracks on every last mile? After all, we can turn it into oil! Because an oil-based global economic system clearly makes us free, financially secure, and able to gift our children with a great future.

I can't write anymore. I'm too tired and too angry. Except, I'm not even angry. I'm heartsick. You want to call this a victory? Fine. Have a freaking parade already and rub it in my face a little more. I have news for you: we won't quit. I'm not talking about being a self-righteous martyr. Martyrs don't fight back. Maybe the entire purpose of my existence is to serve as a thorn in the side of those self-aggrandizing people who think they're fooling anyone by preaching about less government oversight while pushing for the same governments to regulate every last, microscopic aspect of our personal lives. So be it. I'll be the sharpest thorn you've ever encountered, and I'll dig down deep until nothing will root me out -- not a Supreme Court appointee, not a presidential win, not a moral majority.

Just try to stop us.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I'd talk to you right now but...

soon I have to crawl back into bed and ball up beneath the covers.

The quarterly newsletter published by my scholarship funding body arrived today, full of stories about the kind of hyperachieving peers who make me feel like an underevolved species. Read about the girl who's publishing a book this year -- WHILE she finishes her PhD and BEFORE she's even 25! Oh wait, flip the page to the guy who's become a professional photographer while he's still a student here! Then there's the great one about the kids who are planning a 15000-mile expedition driving little three-wheeled vehicles from western Europe to China! Hey, those last kids aren't even grad students yet!

The great thing about studying here is that there will always be at least a herd's worth of other students who are smarter, better-looking, more accomplished, and decidedly more organized than you are. Do you speak two languages? Well, I have a friend who speaks 7 (and those are just the ones in which she's fluent). Like to ski? There's an Olympic cross-country qualifier here. Trust me, within a few short months of being here, you develop self-esteem neuroses you never knew were lurking in the dark crevices of your psyche.

So far, my major accomplishment for the academic year involves spotting a rare subspecies of squirrel that few people ever see around here. Take that, expedition kids!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Armageddon approacheth

We're not going to talk about Alito. I can't talk about Alito. I can't even think about Alito right now because it sends me into quivering fits of rage that are completely unsuitable in stiff upper-lipped England. Plus, it would frighten my flatmates.

So, lighter-hearted signs that the end of the world is nigh:

1. The freaking Seattle Seahawks are in the Superbowl. How the hell did that happen? It sort of ruins our reputation - other cities might be cursed because they can't win anymore, but we never won at all! It even makes me want to be a Seahawks fan for a day (and no more than that, apologies to all professional football acolytes).

2. The UPN and WB are merging into one large, unremarkably mediocre network. That's right, the network that brought you "The Mullets" and "Homeboys in Outer Space" and the network that introduced us all to "Dawson's Creek" (*retch*), "7th Heaven" (why won't you die?!?) and "Reba" are teaming up to bring us more intellectually insulting, poorly scripted television.

You know, after that last one, I feel like running into the kitchen and shoving the television off the refrigerator (it's a small kitchen). The worst part of globalization may be that countries can send their worst shows overseas now: hence, the UK sends the US the show that spawned "American Idol" (damn them), and the US sends us "Invasion" (sorry, not digging it). The day that we start swapping episodes of "Neighbors" and "Days of Our Lives," I may have to take out a few television satellites.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Zen student

Please, please forgive me, Berkeley girl, for misusing the word "zen." I know you get annoyed with people who adopt Buddhism-related monikers and completely misuse them, but I admit that I'm suffering from a lack of originality tonight...degrade my karma later. ;)

Anyway, if you're feeling stressed out about student life, damn, do I have a combination for you: acupuncture and yoga (the slow, "hold that pose 'til your legs collapse" kind). I've had a few acupuncture treatments now, and I actually feel like I spend the hours after treatment floating six inches off the ground. I just spent two grueling hours holding tree poses and twisting my arms between my legs and behind my back -- and I feel amazing...

...which is good, as this is officially the Term from Hell, circa Dante's seventh or eighth circle. I have three major papers due between now and March 3rd, in addition to planning my fieldwork for May and surviving an eight week, mandatory statistics course. Gosh, Auntie Em, grad school sure is wholesome fun! No wonder absinthe is legal here.

Off to bed for me, where I've no doubt my blissful, post-yoga state of mind will evolve into a brutal, post-yoga sludge of budy by tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Losing streak

After a few experiments, I’ve concluded that board games are the best way to discover your cultural ineptness.

On Saturday night, a few girlfriends and I got together to have a room-warming for my flatmate. We were seated on the floor in a semicircle, which had grown progressively more ragged as the evening advanced. Candles and white Christmas lights cast sideways shadows in the dim room.

After a lot of talking, we elected to play Taboo – you know, that really fun but challenging game where you have to get your team to identify the word you’re describing (e.g., “plunge”) without using any of the taboo descriptors that could evoke the word (“dive,” “water,” “marry”). My team lead until it was my turn to identify the mystery word.

“Okay,” Marie said as she flipped the timer. “When you have things you need to get rid of, and they aren’t really worth selling…”

“Throw out!” I cried.

“Right, but in what?”

I grinned and took a sip of wine. This was going to be easy. With triumphant elocution, I said, “Garbage can.”

Marie shook her head impatiently. “No, the other word.”


A spark of concern flickered across her face. “No…”

Suddenly, as the other girls cracked up, I realized that I had run into a dreaded British Word. You know, like boot or bonnet or carpark.

“Rubbish bin? Wastepaper bin?!” I started throwing out gibberish, in the hopes that “Refuse receptacle” might actually be a proper English term for freaking trash. I spouted utter nonsense for a good minute as the sand trickled through the hourglass neck, mocking my inability to think of any British vocabulary beyond “tart,” “snog” or “shattered.”

By now, Marie had stopped trying and clutched the card, glaring at me in utter disgust. “Wheelie bin,” she intoned as the last grain fell. “It’s a bloody wheelie bin.”

My showstopping performances have made appearances in Taboo, Cranium and Trivial Pursuit. The only game in which I've managed to hold my own is a card game that involves clawing each other to ragged shreds over a token. I've decided I have to stop playing board games or risk losing all my friends when I screw up the next answer, although I don't think I'll ever refer to a wheelie bin as anything else again.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Just when I develop a modicum of respect for my country

The good ol'Bush people just reversed a freaking Reagan-era decision (not exactly the heyday of environmentalism) and opened up a highly ecologically sensitive area of Alaska for drilling. Screw you, caribou!

Lousy, stupid, short-sighted administration...I guess things only matter if they can be commodified.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Damn you, Blogger!

Stupid posts...I'm supposed to be able to edit the time I posted them so they don't show up out of order like the ones below...um, just scroll down to the new stuff and read it in reverse, I guess. Sorry...

Winter views from the valley

These were taken in a wildlife refuge near my parents' house, at a lake where trumpeter swans winter each year. We spent about an hour down there one evening watching them fly in to sleep (on what apparently was the very last night evening before this record-setting run of rain).

Hometown valley at sunset

Sometimes the combination of fog and weak winter light at dusk make the valley so pale that it almost seems washed-out.

More from the same storm

These were taken just before sunset, when the rest of the sky was already darkened by storm clouds.

Double rainbow over the valley

These aren't digitally altered, and the light really did look like this.

And now, we resume our regular programming

Sorry about that...but I couldn't bring myself to blog when I was home, and I'm having a little trouble getting started here...Stupid, stupid jet lag -- who else but me could take three sleeping pills, pound a complimentary mini-bottle of wine, and STILL wind up staying awake through "In Her Shoes," "Proof" and "Dreamer"? (Look, by that last film I was getting desperate and actually thought the movie might bore me to sleep...but no, instead I managed to nod off as we prepared to land, thereby managing to sleep for all of 35 minutes.)

Anyway, wanted to post a few pics of home to let you know just why I miss it. I do actually miss the people, too, but I'd hate to put anyone's mug up here without receiving their permission to be associated with my ramblings (hey, can't be too careful after all that wiretapping nonsense -- in my case: hello, dear Gale Norton, I hear you breathing on the line. Don't you have better things to do, like become the first Secretary of the Interior to dismantle the very national park system you're supposed to protect? Or f'ing annihilate the entire Arctic in eight brief years?)

So, without further ado...