Friday, June 27, 2008

Just so you know

Maybe it's all the disasters, but I've been thinking about my own mortality lately. Not in a Lord-Byron-morbid way, just in general. I'm not extremely fatalistic, but life can be a crapshoot in a lot of ways.

So if I am to meet an early demise, here are things you must or must not do to avoid being haunted by me:
1. DO NOT, under any circumstances, make a Facebook group in my memory. I don't need posts by my kindergarten classmates telling the world they "didn't know me that well, but she was a beautiful person blah blah blah." If you knew me "that well," you would know that I'm not beautiful; I'm flawed and messy and neurotic. But dammit, I'm me.
2. Use every part of me that you can. Kidneys, liver, heart, lungs, corneas, skin - take it all. I'm not going to use it.
3. When you're done harvesting me for other people, give what's left to some plants. Seriously, compost me.
4. Throw a party. Better yet, throw several. Family, get some party trays and some coolers of beer/pop and spend some time together. Friends, get some kegs and drink fixins and play kings until you can't see straight. All I ask is for a ceremonial rum & diet coke toast at some point.

And if my 7:20 train to D.C. derails tonight, make sure this gets on

Monday, June 23, 2008

Monday Roundup

This guy's island - ahem, "crown dependency" - is the size of my backyard

George Carlin, advocate for free speech.

Amy Winehouse, please take better care of yourself.

I can't blame him, but life in Zimbabwe isn't going to improve anytime soon.

Um, want.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I'm increasingly preoccupied with my stomach. It seems to have gotten so much bigger in a relatively short time. This is probably due to my lack of a stable body image, but I just don't know - could I really be gaining weight? Part of me is scared shitless by that; part of me is brave, a little resigned, and accepting.

My eating habits have been wonky, which is no doubt contributing to the overall uncertainty. I've been eating little incidental things - a couple of saltines or wheat thins here, three or four peanuts there. I don't know the impact of these things, though. It could be negligible, it might not. I know my doctor, mother, and most of the people I know would say I, of all people, do not need to be worrying about the stray triscuit or two. But I do.

I'm of two minds - either this summer experience will make me completely insane, or it will help me get to a place where those little things really and truly don't bother me any more. The boyfriend once said after I had creme brulee at a restaurant that it was nice to see me eat and not worry about it - I didn't realize I telegraph my anxiety so much. And think of how many brain cells I could free up.

New York, part 2: the non-serious one

I fooled around and fell in love ... with a small section of a very big city. I and two other girls wanted to stretch our legs after the WTC tour, so we took Church Street up to Broadway and headed to Soho. We incidentally skirted Chinatown without realizing it. The lack of Mandarin characters on the fringes fooled me.

For an Ohio girl who likes her shopping, Soho is wonderland. For an Ohio girl who's an anthropologist, it is CRACK. Actually, all of NYC is anthropology crack. There. Are. So. Many. People. Why were so many of them out shopping at 1:00 on a Wednesday? And oh, the hipsters. They started to wear on me a bit; going into Urban Outfitters was traumatic. Pearl River was fun and fantastically cheap, as was H&M. I bought some earrings (of course), a skirt, and a lot of things for other people.

Around 3:00 we decided to split up, and I just ... wandered. It was so much fun; I couldn't stop smiling. Underneath its hipster exterior, Soho is a massive and glorious capitalist enterprise. I learned what a sample sale is and fought the temptation to try on a $400 dress (even if it was 50% off). I called my mother from Bleecker Street and found a bunch of Fiestaware, which she collects. And I kept walking and looking at people and then it was suddenly time to meet up with everyone else. I only got to see a fraction of Chinatown, and this was walking at warp speed.

In other words, there will be return trips. Someday.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

New York, part 1: The Serious Post

The whole reason we (got up at 5:30 AM and drove for 2.5 hours) went to NYC was to take a guided tour of the World Trade Center site. Several of the faculty at the Disaster Research Center conducted research and continue to do work on the waterbourne evacuations and supply chains that developed after the event; also it's a good example of how disasters are part of and affect the fabric of a society.

The site is ... well, it's big, but I wasn't completely awed by its area (16 acres). When we got above it and looked down, that did a better job of conveying its size. Our tour guide was actually one of the founders of the WTC Tribute Center, a resource for members of the "9/11 community." I gathered that this included people personally involved with the attacks or the recovery - in the towers, working next door, an EMT or firefighter - and the families of these people. Our guide, a retired firefighter, lost his son (also a firefighter). His perspectives were ... interesting. He talked about needed to "enlighten" people in foreign countries who just don't know any better, which got my hackles up a little. I didn't think it was the right time to engage in political debate, though, and that wasn't the point of the tour. He wanted to share his story, and we wanted to listen. Though I wonder about the Tribute Center's plan to "adopt" a village in Afghanistan and "send teachers out there to enlighten the people." That sort of thing could go very well if the local people and outsiders get together and figure out what each can do for the other. It could go very, very badly if we just barge in there and start telling people what to do.

As for my own reaction ... I was surprisingly stoic. I know that the world changed hugely after 9/11, but what I remember most about that day are my own reactions, and those are all part of a life lived a thousand miles away. If you look at the event as a catalyst for other events, then yes, it has had an impact on my life, but not nearly to the extent that it has for the men and women who created the Tribute Center. Our guide kept talking about a "mission" - to him, the Tribute Center is his mission; to remember his son and all the others who were killed that day. I couldn't help but think that he's fighting a losing battle. It's been nearly seven years. People treat it like they would any other construction site - that is, they walk by it and watch for debris. Bitch about the noise. I could wax philosophical about that, but I don't feel comfortable making a statement about a place of which I know very little.

A less-serious post to come.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

New York, New York

I owe you guys a longer blog about New York. For now, let me say that I rode the subway (twice!), stared at people like a crazy person, and had a wonderful time. And I didn't get any further north than Greenwich Village.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I've never been to Utah, but this might be worth seeing. When they let regular people in.

I can remove coffee from the (long) list of Habits that will Kill Me Prematurely.

Chimps are sweet. No, really.

Good luck.

This doesn't sound like a good idea, although all I know about NYC comes from

Monday, June 16, 2008

An Amish paradise

On Saturday all the interns drove up to Lancaster PA. One of the guys lives up there, and we raided his house for pots and pans. The landscape is gorgeous - rolling farmland, horses and cows and even alpacas, and more Amish than I've ever seen in my life. I was on a buggy high.

We wound up having a great time - the boys were fantastic cooks (veggie lasagna) and nothing brings young adults together like pop music from our youth (and, well, the beverages didn't hurt). It's odd, but I think the intensity of the first week has made us all feel really close. Last night my three roommates and I sat and talked for an hour - it was very cozy. Of course it makes me miss my Athens roommates hard. And the boyfriend. Oh, I miss them.

Food was really difficult all last week, because a) everything was willy-nilly and unpredictable and b) they kept feeding us. We went to a cookout, a reception, and a lunch. Plus living in the dorms again brings its own challenges, although we have a stove and full-size fridge. I don't want to have to buy a scale, but I don't want to go for nine weeks without knowing what I weigh.

Sorry for the super-personal post. I'll get back to my hard-hitting commentary, I promise.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A one-woman disaster

Last night I discovered that screwdrivers are not my drink. The combination of citric acid and alcohol does not do my stomach any favors. I also should probably not send whiny emails when I'm ill and a little drunk. Sorry.

Anyway, I'm much more aware of disasters now that I've been here a week. There's a lot of shit going down, folks:

Flooding in Iowa, an earthquake in Japan, wildfires in California, nasty tomatoes ...

Friday, June 13, 2008


Why was this not proposed ten years ago?

Speaking of childhood ....

UPDATE: Sexism, classism, and bars? Yep, just as bad as I expected.

Well, of course they aren't going to trust us if we keep sending them our underwear.

With all this talk of fists and slaps, you'd think Michelle Obama was a battered wife. God forbid the two congratulate each other.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Green Morality

American popular culture attaches moral values to certain things. I've talked about the way certain foods are labeled "good" or "bad" - trans fats and fast food are "bad"; organics and low-calorie foods are "bad." What you or someone else eats becomes a way to evaluate your lifestyle along that "good" and "bad" continuum.

Environmental issues are heading down this track. I'm guilty of it myself - I've judged my share of Hummer drivers and over-air-conditioned store owners. But this Eco-Sins "confessional" goes too far. The concept is that you confess your non-environmentally-friendly habits to the world to alleviate the guilt that you (naturally) feel. But some of them don't seem guilt-inducing. The woman who feels awful about using DEET because she lives in a tick-infested area? Gee, you should really ditch that stuff and take the risk of getting Lyme disease. Sidewalk salt? Heaven forbid! Let those silly pedestrians fall on their asses. But of all the issues, paper towels appear to be the greatest sin of all. But wait! One poster is there to assuage us - she composts her paper towels, thus helping her (organic) garden grow and eliminating the need to use energy to clean cloth rags.

It's perfectly fine to want to reduce/reuse/recycle - hell, I try myself. I don't think rampant waste is a good thing, but don't lose sleep over the paper vs. plastic decision. You've got other things to feel guilty about: eating that doughnut, not spending enough time with your family, getting to work late ...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Stuff goes down when I'm not paying attention

Monkeys are so cool. Why do creationists say "monkey to man" like it's a bad thing?

Well, at least we haven't started killing each other over gas yet.

If you can gross out a lawyer who's made a career of defending pornographers ... (what, you aren't a little bit curious?)

Jim Borgman, one of the smartest Cincinnatians we've got.

This one's for you, Mimi.

Sexism, classism, upscale bars - yes I will be upset if you go (you know who you are).

Don't look so itsy-bitsy to me

To the hippie-boy in the computer lab:

Yes, I killed that spider. I killed that spider because it was bigger than a quarter and I hate spiders. No, I do not care that you think it had a soul or that it was an essential part of the local ecosystem. I know it splattered all over the glass front of the computer lab. I know my facial expression was probably priceless. But then I went and got some paper towels and cleaned it up so the custodians wouldn't have to. Oh wait, I killed some trees with the paper towels. Next time, instead of glaring at me when I smush one of those eight-legged motherfuckers, get up and carry it outside on an index card.

I think the heat is getting to me.

Not dead yet

Survived the flight! And the ensuing two days. Hopefully I'll be able to have longer blog in a little while, but I'm about to go into a meeting.

This is crazy. There's a lot to do.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Oh hai

I feel all kinds of crazy. The 1.5 pounds I gained disappeared - not sure how that happened, since I went out last night with my mother and had a Cosmo and a Pometini. Let me back up - by "go out" I mean we went to the most low-key bar in Athens and sat at a table and talked. When we went home I tried to open my apartment door with my office key. She looked at me funny, but that really is something I do even when completely sober.

Crazy, yes. My flight leaves at 3:40. I'm wearing a shirt with DELAWARE emblazoned on the front in order to make identification that much easier.

I can do this. Really, I can.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Downloading anxiety

1. I am pretty sure the directors of the DRC program already dislike me. I've sent them about 600 paranoid/clueless emails since March. I made a business-etiquette gaffe that still makes my skin crawl. Right or wrong, part of success comes down to being liked by the right people. Generally your bosses/supervisors fall into that category.
2. Tomorrow I am going to climb into a big hunk of metal which will enter the lower atmosphere. And STAY THERE. WTF.
3. The fifth-grader who lurks at the back of my mind is absolutely certain that no one will like me. As soon as I get off the plane I'm going to morph back into the painfully self-conscious, braces-wearing, nervously giggling person I used to be.
4. What was I thinking? I can't do this. I'm not smart enough/old enough/creative enough.
5. The boyfriend is driving his old van to D.C. today. It has all his earthly possessions in and thus it's riding about 2 inches from the asphalt. I am certain this will either cause an accident or will induce highway patrol to search his vehicle, and probably him, for narcotics.
6. I gained a pound and a half. Believe me, it's anxiety-inducing.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Panty raid, pt II

On Monday I wrote about why I'm uncomfortable with the Panties for Peace campaign. Today I came across this brief report of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's comments on why using panties to harass suspected terrorists is not torture. The comments on the article are pretty dismissive of Rohrabacher's justifications.

Are these two cases different? In both, you're using cultural symbols to cause some kind of psychological dissonance. Does it matter who's doing it, and why? Do the ends justify the means?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thursday Throwdown

Interesting approach to community health care.

You did NOT just use "The House Bunny" to promote female solidarity. You did not.

Jim Borgman, my favorite political cartoonist.

Animal crackers are an acceptable treatment for anxiety. Who knew?

Saved by Jessie.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What I'm Doing on my Summer Vacation

I should probably post about what I'm going to be up to in the coming months. Long story short, I applied for and got an internship position at the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware. Every summer, they bring students to the DRC to learn about the social science aspects of disasters. I fly out on Sunday and I'll be there through August 8th. It's a fantastic program - they pay for my housing in a UD dorm and I also get a weekly stipend. The goal is for each intern to develop their own research project, which will continue through the academic year. This will be the basis for the lovely senior thesis I (stupidly?) signed up for.

I've known about this since February, but of course it didn't seem real until a week ago. I'm excited and terrified. I get learn stuff and meet people, but this is going to be a lot of hard work. At the moment the excitement is slightly more elevated than the nervousness.

My work at the DRC might affect the material of my posts, but don't expect juicy office gossip. We're a bunch of social scientists, remember.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

If you thought Sex and the City was bad

This is bad. This is real bad.

Tom Hanks let the fruit of his loins appear in this movie.


Tuesday roundup

I can see the future, and so can you.

Not news: men would rather be single that have an unhappy marriage. And they don't mope about it.

Celebrities living in California: please justify your existence and go campaign your asses off to make sure these guys don't erase that whole gay-marriage thing.

Only Hammacher-Schlemmer's going-out-of-business sale could beat this one.

Since it's all going to go to crap anyway, there's no need to blow $25,000 on a wedding.

Monday, June 2, 2008

I see Burma, I see France ...

I'm torn on this one. The gist is that a couple of Canadian activist groups are collecting women's underwear and shipping it to Than Shwe, the leader of Burma's military junta. Said junta has been responsible for numerous human rights violations, rape and "systemic sexual violence" against women, and the violent crackdowns on peacefully protesting monks last fall. Said junta is also made of up of "superstitious" men who apparently believe that contact with women's undergarments will weaken them.

Ending violence against women is imperatively important, don't get me wrong. But there are undercurrents to this that make me itchy. I'm wondering - if women in Burma are aware of this "superstition," why aren't they panty-bombing Shwe's headquarters themselves? I think what's being labeled a "superstition" is probably part of a more complex symbolic meaning system. Menstrual blood and women's personal items have significance in many cultures. If Burmese women don't see this as a way to overthrow the junta, that indicates to me that their undergarments and menstrual blood do have some symbolic power. However, it's something to be respected and not used as a weapon. The Canadian campaign seems to trivialize this belief and reinforces stereotypes of developing countries as backward and ignorant.

The groups do have the backing of a Burmese activist. However, she says sending the panties will "shame" the junta, which is an entirely different way to frame the situation. "Shame" and "superstition" bring to mind different concepts.

And what are the odds that Than Shwe opens his own mail?

UPDATE: Apparently this campaign was initiated by Burmese women. I'm still not entirely comfortable with it - the demographic of women in support of this might not be representative of the majority. Think about it - can you imagine someone saying that "American women" were unanimously in support of anything? There'd be objections faster than you could say "intersectionality."