Thursday, May 27, 2010

Life in 10 seconds

Now reading The Book Thief, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and getting ready to start Drood (Simmons), There a Petal Silently Falls (a collection of Korean short stories), Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Foer), and Foe (Coetzee).

Recently watched La Vie En Rose, Empire of the Sun, Maria Full of Grace, and Across the Universe for the first time.

Working. Planning summer travel. Gardening. Dancing. Movies. Not a bad life, overall, with the exception of arctic air conditioning over the only library desks near windows...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Blind Luck

Today, I read this article on human trafficking in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere, reminding me that there are a lot of things we Americans, myself included, don't like to think or talk about.

Sometimes it's easier to be blind.

Yesterday, I went grocery shopping, and as I waited to cross a line of traffic in the parking lot, I saw a near-collision between a couple heading into the store and a long line of carts a store employee was returning to the building.

The couple reacted angrily, spinning around to glare at the employee, and one yelled loud enough for all passersby to hear, "Why don't you just go back to India where you belong?"

I was not the only bystander who was taken aback. In the first place, the employee did not appear to be Indian. The accusation was full of layers: you are not like us. you do not belong here. we don't want you here. It had very little to do with the accidental collision of several carts in a crowded space.

Perhaps the speaker had recently lost a job and was looking for someone to blame. Maybe. I don't know. It wouldn't excuse their behavior, but it made me stop and think. Whatever caused that anger and aggression caused the shopper to disregard the employee as an individual with a complex story of her own.

Sometimes it's easier to be blind.

But then some unrelated incident, like a crowded parking lot or rush hour traffic or a willful child or an imperfect friendship forces the anger to the surface and causes the ugliness of our thoughts to be displayed before our own eyes.

It's easier to get upset about social injustice or the injustice others display than it is to recognize the angry thoughts I am careful to suppress or the damaging words I rehearse but tell myself I'll never use.

All of these are ugly. All are evidence of brokenness. All, I think rightly, provoke a sense of anger and indignation and a desire for change.

The problem comes when I imagine that it's possible to repair the external manifestations without dealing with the internal causes.

Sometimes it's easier to be blind.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Things that make me happy

It's the little things...
  • The soundtrack of Nine, especially Marion Cotillard
  • The Preakness tomorrow
  • The soundtrack of Next to Normal
  • The premiere of So You Think You Can Dance (season 7) in 2 weeks
  • Kindred, by Octavia Butler
  • Functional computers
  • Having jobs
  • Planting tomatoes, peppers, and basil in my garden

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I'm done! Linus celebrates by...

Well, I survived year one of graduate school. Halfway to the masters! Woohoo!!!

Now on to a summer full of research, reading, working, sunbathing, traveling, dancing, and...dead computers. Huh. I don't remember that on the "I can't wait until I can--" list.

The laptop I was given by the graduate school (Linus) has always had a strange fondness for power outlets. I get that. Not everyone feels confident trusting a battery for life and automatic updates. It's okay, Linus, really. There is no judgment here.

But this week, the handy-dandy AC adapter given to me by the graduate school has also gone kafritz. And by that I mean dead. Linus lasted about 6 minutes (his average), and then went into power cord withdrawal and promptly shut down.

*cue ominous music*
*cue epic battle footage*
*cue Darth Vader breathing*
*cue Ian McKellen voice-over*

"...the battle for Helm's Deep is over. the battle for Middle Earth..."

Okay, so maybe that was more epic than I intended. Point is, the I.T. center can't give me a new one; I would have to buy it for a substantial amount of money. Point is, the graduate school says they won't replace it because it counts as an extraneous part. Point is, I'm not buying either the new adapter or that explanation.

You give me a computer to use for two years - it's already two years old, and the battery is shot. You won't replace the battery, fine, but without an adapter OR a battery, it's useless. If I'm paying to go to your graduate school, and one of the perks is a free computer, then the logical assumption is that--sans abuse or mistreatment or extreme circumstances--said computer should be usable for two years. Seems pretty straightforward to me.


Fight face on.

This is a matter of principle. be continued...

Friday, May 7, 2010

Today's Recipe

Recipe for today's goal:

William Shakespeare's Macbeth
Bill Cain's Equivocation
Pandora's Broadway musicals
Very quiet campus

Bake for 11 hours

Makes (I hope!)
1 topic
1 thesis
8 or more pages of writing

Outcome to be determined. Not a family favorite at this point...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"If" - graduate student edition

If - for Grad Students*

If you can keep your mind when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust your laptop with the I.T.,
But make allowance for a virus too;
If you can live sans sleep and keep your eyes from drooping,
Or, after three espresso, write your name,
Or, asked "how goes it?", don't give way to weeping,
And yet don't look too crazed, nor talk too wild;

If you can chat - and not make Google master;
If you can think - and not make sense your aim;
If you can meet with "perfect" and "nice effort"
And treat the "but" that follows just the same;
If you can bear to read the words you'd written
After the three Red Bulls first hit your brain,
Or watch the drafts you gave your life to vanish,
And scream and hit restart and write again;

If you can make one heap of all your savings
And risk it on another stretch of school,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and hand and brain cells
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Deadline saying: "Git 'er done";

If you can talk with crowds whose grammar pains you,
Or read Bhabha - nor lose the common speech;
If neither B's nor minuses can hurt you;
If all steps count for you in metered rhyth'm;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of papers writ -
Yours is the book and everything that's in it,
And - no more - you'll be a graduate my friend!

*Props to Rudyard Kipling for the original.