Tuesday, 12 October
Take the Lead!
I do not have time enough right now to write details about my time in Massachusetts with Take the Lead, but I do want to say a few words. It was amazing. I know I've told all of the girls I met there, and now I'm telling whoever is reading this, and the whole world deserves to know - the people there are incredibe. All have visions of how they wish to change the world and make a difference. It was and continues to be an inspiring experience. I learned a lot from the workshops, but even more from spending four days with these other young women.
I keep meaning to do something to make this page look nice. Or not icky. But I'm don't. And that's not entirely my fault, either.... school is crazy: never had so much work all due at the exact same time. German class is coming along nicely. Just got two books about the Berlin Wall - in German - and can't wait to start reading them. One which looks very interesting is on Amazon.de for about 10 dollars (around 8.80 euro). So many things I want to buy and so little money!
Friday, 24 September
Hi Tony! Mom says you were wondering about my take on PGW. Evil, evil scum. And surely Republican, which, of course, only furthers my claim that they are evil scum. Although we have the stove working again, there's some trouble with the chimney and we don't have hot water hooked back up. So, tea and coffee is possible, but pleasant showering is not. I did a type of sponge-bath this morning: awkward, not too effective, and damn cold. In the universal sense I know that our trouble is nothing. It's the smudge of dirt on the huge piece of gunky chewing gum stuck to the bottom of the cosmic shoe. But still - evil Republican scum. Because of our taking shifts at home waiting for PGW, the Kerry rally was missed. Gragh.
If you exact pleasure from hearing of others discomfort, however amusing it may be, I woild like to direct you to Keith's Mexican Journal. Keith is a friend I met through ESL. He and his girlfriend moved south recently to teach. His journal is a very interesting look at another culture so similar and so different from our own.
Going up to MHC next Wednesday - not quite sure exactly when. I should be back on Monday.
Finished Don Quixote last night at 1.00am (we were up until midnight waiting for the gas people). It was very good. I cried at the end. Today I was the only person in the "group" which read it, and so Erin and I had a very wonderful talk about it. Came up with the theory that Cervantes was making an even bolder statement against Isabella and Ferdinand than might immediately appear - it looks like Quixote and Sancho are rather good parallels to the two rulers. More details can be given if you all are really interested. It is certainly something I want to learn more about and explore.
School goes on... and on.... It seems endless: work, work, and more work. Each week we want to have a party simply for finishing. And I'm not even taking Bio, or playing a sport. Dear God, what do those students deal with? Latin is lovely: only five people in the class. We're working on Ovid now (Metamorphoses and later Amores). Ovid is spectacular. He's so... passionate. You can feel his passion for his work when you read it. Next semester or quarter we will start on Vergil. Yep. Vergil. Vergil as in "Arma virumque cano"-Vergil. I'm swooning. Y Español... Me encanta la clase. La profesoressa es muy cariñosa, simpática, cómica, e inteligente. ¡Qué perfecto!
German class seems to be flying by. Even though I know everything we are doing right now, it is still an incredible four hours a week; I'm really sorry that I will miss one class. The professor is incredible, and the students are proving to be more interested now than they were before. Yippie! frustrating German note: LEO wasn't working today. Of course, this was the day I really needed it to be working. Translations must wait for later, as I am just not in the mood to look it up in a good old paper dictionary. But oh! Happiness! I have requested some books and one video to be sent to FSS from various libraries around PA - all in German, all dealing with 1989 and the Montagsdemonstrationen, which I am studying for class. I cannot wait for them to arrive.
Listening to Gregorian and Ambrosian chants right now.... It's making me feel like reading more of The Name of the Rose which I put on halt for numerous other books sometime last year. If only I could finish books! I mean, finish them consistently. There are at least five books I am in the middle of which I desperately want to finish (The Name of the Rose, A Hole in the Heart of the World, Mein Kampf, Crabwalk, The Count of Monte Cristo) and scores of others I want to start (eg: Gadji, Fairy Ring, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, The Judgment of Caesar - just to name a few). Because I cannot ever focus on one book long enough - the others are too inticing - and because there is always something I am reading for school, too, it is very rare that I get around to completing a book. I am also perpetually in the middle of Dracula which has to be my No. 1 Book of All Time. Not quite sure why... it isn't that well written or anything. Not bad, no, but not a stunning masterpiece. And the Dracula of Stoker's creation isn't the sexy and mysterious image Lugosi showed us. Oh! I have this amazing bio of Lugosi, which I also want to finish: The Immortal Count: The Life and Films of Bela Lugosi. I guess I should stop typing and read a bit more of one or two of these books, huh?
Sunday, 12 September
"Separate but Equal"... no, Separate damn it!
First day of classes was Friday. I love my teachers, but am pissed about the way they split students up this year for classes. Ugh. Not writing a big rant about it, but something must be done differently in future years. I believe the main problem lies in with having History and English in 9th and 10th grades be an IDS (interdisciplinary sequence) course. It is pretty damn pointless as far as I can see, and no other students I have talked to are thrilled that the two subjects are called IDS - because, simply, there is not much interdisciplinary about them. The whole idea of IDS in 8th grade is okay - you have the same teacher and the classes aren't really different classes: you have double blocks and end up doing both history and English. However, in upper school, you have different teachers. And different homework. And quite frankly you have different subject material. The History and English classes in Upper School are no more related than Geometry and Chemistry were last year, or as I imagine Algebra II and Bio are this year. The school makes them IDS classes so you can make connections between the subjects and study history while reading lit from the same time period. Okay. Then why do you read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings while learning about Japanese Shogunates? Huh? Even in the rare case that the two classes line up nicely, the having them linked is not useful for several reasons:
Since they are linked, the same students are in both English and History together. If it is a strong class, that sounds delightful, but in the chance of it being a weak class, keeping the same group together for two major academic classes will not help. Also, English and History use many similar skills, if not identical, in terms of thinking. Students should have a chance to think in this way with as many people as possible, not with just the same group. Keeping students together also leads to dead conversations in one class if the topic is related to that in the other. What I mean is this: In discussing Beowulf, an observation was made about the value of religion. In history, we had just debated about this for forty minutes. Now our english teacher wanted us to debate the exact same thing again. Aahh... no, thanks. Not unless there are fresh viewpoints, which is not possible when you are with the same students you had just minutes ago finished conversing with.
The curricula - especially English - could be stronger if separated. Last year it often felt as if the department was trying to make connections between their course and History. This shouldn't be. Let them make a strong ninth grade curriculum. If it fits with History, great. If not, then don't stress. Students should be expected to have the ability of relating the subjects to one another if there are links to be made. When the school makes the classes into the IDS course, it is like saying that we need to be told to make connections. Why, then, do they not make math and science IDS classes? Come to think of it, how did I manage to make all those graphs for Chem? And I was really quite lost in both my math and science classes because the students in each were different. Oh, no. I could never have thought of applying my knowledge from math class to something being done in science class... that's impossible! And learning with a different set of students? Scandelous!
Wow. That was longer than I had planned. Yes, I really must ask Doug about this. On the flip side of things, there are only five people in my Latin class. This rocks. And after doing a summer of anylising Catullus, I am now doing my English homework and critiquing Shakespeare in the same way one takes apart Latin poetry - all these fancy words are coming to my mind, but I don't feel like explaining all of them, so let it be known that everyone should read Shakespeare in this way: I am really seeing things in it I wouldn't have thought of without Catullus behind me. Huh... crazy thought... Latin/English IDS classes! Oh, by the way: Ovid and Vergil this year for Latin. And subjunctives in Spanish. My brain will promptly turn to mush when we reach these. Nevertheless, the subjunctive in any language cannot be more complex than in Latin. That is not capable of happening.
German class is picking up pace... We have started Kapitel Eins. The video which goes along with the textbook is quite a soapopera. I can see them dubbing it and showing it on Channel 65. On Monday I predict we shall learn.... present tense regular verbs and the ubiquitous sein. Right on. It's about time we did some actual grammar. Catchy phrases will only get you so far. For my cultural research project, I have decided to research the Monday Demonstrations (Montagsdemanstrationen) around 1989, which is when, as I am sure you all know, the Berlin Wall fell. This will be researched and written in German. So, yeah. I'm already half regretting my choice to do it all in German. The good part of this is that it will force me to learn new grammar and vocab, as well as get used to reading and writing German. There are many people I know who just might be willing to read drafts of the paper and clarify things for me if I get super lost.
Ahh! Speaking of German writing... Sara, my English teacher, told me about this program for American (or English speaking?) students to go to Berlin and do writing - concentration on poetry - with German students. Work on translation, etc... all paid for by the German gov't. Sounds like a good deal to me. It's too late for this year, but she said she will find out if I could go next year, even if I am living in Germany as it is. If she had known last year that I was learning German she could have gotten me applications for this year. If I knew last year that I was going to be learning German, I would have started a lot earlier.
And now the best phrase ever to be learned in any language: Ich muss ins Bett. I need to go to bed.
Monday, 6 September
News in Brief
Important news first: I did very well on both Spanish and Latin exams, and now I can stop stressing about them. A whole summer's worth of stress ended. Classes start on Friday.
My class at Temple is going well... or, going better. I have reconciled myself to the fact that most people do not want to be there, but have to be. I think they are also accepting that fact. If I lower my standards, and they just deal with the teacher's standards, then maybe we can all make it through unscathed.
As said above, classes do indeed start on Friday. I have counted the days on our calendar, and it looks like there are about 166 school days this year. I must recount, as I got 167 once as well. Strange, this is the first year I've ever cared how many days there are. I just want this year to be over. I am not looking forward to it all that much. It has some to do with going to Germany next year, but more to do with the fact I spent my entire damn summer doing stuff for school, and now it is just more of the same. Eh. My classes:
Women in the History of Art (second semester)
Please notice that there is no Biology listed. Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, no? I am very, very happy. Also, Religious Thought is under the "Bad" category simply because of my experience last year. I believe the class has true potential, but if it remains the way ninth grade RT was, then it goes immediately and without question into the Bad pile.
To make up for the class and homework time not spent learning about enzymes, I am taking a college German class (albeit at Temple), and teaching ESL on four out of five school nights. Friday night I'm free.... so.... !!
For everyone yearning to know just when I'm leaving Philly, the expected date is next August. Sometime between the 10th and 14th at latest. That is less than a year. And did I mention there are only ~166 school days left here?
Tuesday, 31 August
Herzlich Willkommen auf... Universitaet
Yeeks. It's way past midnight. And yet I am buzzed. Darn coffee. Today was an unsensibly long day: No one should put themselves through such long days as this. That is self-hating, and I want none of that going on in the world.
Started with ESL in the morning. I have learned, yet again, that I am not a morning person. I am not functioning, tired, and am cranky. I do feel for my students, really. After class I went to FSS to take my Spanish II final exam. Well, lemme tell ya: I did fine. However, I consider it kind of teachers to make sure students are at least aware that certain vocabulary exists if the student is going to need to use it. If the student ignores the teacher, that is the student's fault, and no pity. But if a student is unnaware that they were ever obliged to know about hachuelas (small axe, hatchet) or hornachuelas (cave, hut; hole in a wall) or what-have-yous - it is unfair to demand the student translate this.
And then there was German. Ahh... German! I went to Temple about 45 minutes early because it was raining and I wanted to stay dry. After getting off the elevator on the wrong floor - twice - I found the room. No one was in there yet, so I crashed at a table in the kitchenish area. A guy sat down at the table next to me and started to tap out some music. Then, another young fellow asked to sit at my table as there was no other room. Okay. He saw I was reading Guenter Grass and asked if that was for a class here. I explained that, no, it wasn't, but I am interested in it as I am here to learn German. And here starts the only fun part of the day which involved school-ish stuff: HE SPOKE DEUTSCH! Or, he spoke a heck of a lot more Deutsch than I. It turns out he is taking classes at the Main Campus and is in his fourth or fifth year. We talked about the teachers, the textbooks, etc. Inflicting his friendliness on the music-tapper, he asked him what he was here for - music, no? Music-tapper said he is a music major, but is here for German. My eyes must have twinkled. I promptly went up to him and introduced myself as a fellow student named Sarah. He understood nothing. This was in German, of course. His English is quite fine. Then the other German student - the main campus guy - and I modeled for him: Ich heisse My name is.... Wie heisst du? What's your name?... etc. It turns out that er heisst Christian.
Class started. Katrin Holzhaus, my teacher, is a very nice woman. She is from Germany and is interested in linguistics as well. I am not yet challenged by the classroom material. It is all review, and I imagine it will be for a little while. This is okay, as it provides the new challenge of shutting up in class. The one new thing I learned today is how to say that one is feeling so-so. Here:
- Wie geht's? How are you?
- So la-la. So-so.
Apparently, if one answers with So la-la, he or she will not be asked why they are not feeling very well. It will simply be accepted. However, I want to know how anyone can feel down when saying So la-la. Go on, say it! It's cheery. You must smile when saying it. Either it makes you sound really happy... or really high. Maybe both.
Besides the fact that Temple University won't let me register with the school (why??), and thus I cannot have a Temple email addy, and thus cannot access many things needed for the class, I think my biggest challenge will be staying quiet. I like to talk. I especially like to talk when it's a language class. I want to learn more, to push the limits of what I know already. However, I know far more than the other students at this point, and it is unfair to ask them to deal with me and my knowledge. Thus I fear I shall be asking Frau Holzhaus to read some stuff I write, translate, etc. It'll keep me occupied, at least. Hmm... "Frau Holzhaus"...
At Friends Select, we nurture the Quaker in us all by addressing teachers either as, "Teacher Bob" or "Teacher Mary" - and in Upper School, this would just be, "Bob" or "Mary." I am now having to not only say "Frau Holzhaus" (Mrs. Holzhaus), but also use the formal form of everything when addressing her, and in return she also uses the formal with us students, albeit with our first names. This is quite awkward. I can do the formal form of things rather easily, but saying "Frau Holzhaus" just doesn't feel right. I keep saying, "Katrin...." I also really wish she would use the informal when addressing me. To my rude, immpolite American upbringing, this degree of formality is disturbing - I see it as, we are both learning, we are in this together. Yes, you are the teacher, but if you are a good teacher you will realize that you, too, are learning from the teaching. Thus, let us break down the formality so we can learn - together.
It's late, and I'm not tired. And it is raining. And the Republicans have invaded NYC. Ewww.
Sunday, 22 August
Being the lovable nerd that I am, this summer I have been working on three languages: Spanish, Latin, and German. Given that Latin is, more or less, obselete, and that Spanish is in a completely different category of languages than German is, one would think I could keep them straight. This is not so. Like clockwork, I routinely mix up all three, though Latin far less than the others. My goal is to have these errors corrected by the time I finish my class at Temple, in about six months. I swear, I feel like Bush when I make some of these mistakes! I should not be messing language up in this manner. It is not right. Ah, anyways - some of the things I keep doing without fail:
Conjugating & Verbs in General
* In Latin, Spanish, Italian - and other Romance languages - one does not need to use a subject pronoun with the conjugated verb. It is optional, and often is not used, though sometimes is - for example, distinguishing between "he," "she," and "it" as the subject of a verb: for each subject, the verb looks the same, so to clarify it is sometimes necessary to use a pronoun. However, most of the time, the ending of the verb will tell you all you need to know to understand what is happening. In German, one must use the subject pronoun, otherwise the conjugated verb is useless. I almost never use a pronoun. It just seems like extra baggage to me. German verbs are conjugated differently in almost all of the persons, and so one can tell who is doing what by looking at the verb itself. The pronouns can be used for clarification. Or at least that is the way my mind works. However, when I say "Gehst ins Kino" it is incorrect. I should be saying, "Du gehst ins Kino" ("you are going to the movies"). This drives me crazy. The sentence makes sense without the subject pronoun, so why throw it in there? In English, the verbs are not conjugated very differently for different persons, and so the use of pronounds makes sense - otherwise it would be weird, but German conjugates! German has logic! Agh!
* From forcing myself to recite subject pronouns with German verbs, and ignoring them in Spanish, I often end up conjugating Spanish verbs with German pronouns.
Ich hablo, du hablas, er/sie/es habla; wir hablamos, ihr habláis, sie hablan
Nothing seems wrong with that to me when I say it, but it looks kinda funky.
* German has a very special type of verb, called a "separable-prefix verb" -- these verbs have a root and a prefix added to it, but the prefix is removed from the root and put at the end of the clause (unless the verb is at the end of the clause, in which case the prefix remains attached. Yes, this is confusing and annoying.) So, the word zumachen means "to close" - zu is the prefix, meaning "toward" or "to" and machen is the root, meaning "to make" or "to do" - hence, "to make something toward something else" is "to close" - zumachen.
The word separates in this way: Ich mache das Buch zu. "I close the book."
My problem is that, whenever I see a prefix, or prefix-like beginning, in Spanish, I think about separating it from the rest of the verb. Last time I checked, Yo pago la elecricidad a is not a sentence. Yo apago la elecricidad is. It means, "I turn off the electricty."
General Mixing Up of Languages
My teacher would sign an oath in blood that he has never heard of anyone mixing up German and Spanish. Phah! I do it all the time!
- Gehst du al cine?
- Ja, ich gehe ahora!
You get the point. I am calling this "Españeutsch"
Last time I was with Anni, we spent a good deal of time talking about introductions - name, age, where you're from, what you do, etc. Sounds simple enough, and it is simple enough, but Spanish and German have two different ways of expressing age. In Spanish, one says, "I have XX years" and in German, the forumla is, "I am XX years old." The Españeutsch method is, "Ich habe XX Jahre."
I also like to make German sound sexy. Romance languages have a very soft, "sensual" feel to them: the sounds are muted, and gentle. The "roughest" Spanish gets is the "j" and "ge" or "gi" sound - but even this is not too forceful. Jorj tells me that I speak German like a Romance language. I do. What can I say? It sounds weird for me to spit sounds out of my mouth (what one is supposed to do with German). I will say, "ich bin, du bist, er/sie/es ist...." instead of "ICH BIN, DU BIST, ER/SIE/ES IST" Combining my American accent, the South German influence I'm getting from Jorj and Sue, the Northen influence from Anni, and who-knows-what-it-will-be from my teacher at Temple (classes have yet to start), it coulld be a very interesting year over in Germany!
And of course, English!
Little things about German sometimes creep into my English. For example, when I am writing to someone that "I am going to my house" I will occassionally write "I am going to my haus." And I have been known capitalize nouns once in a while. It is not rare to hear me reply to a question with, "Ja" or "Nein" -- I try to force myself to think in German, because that helps me to learn it. Therefore, my thoughts will sometimes come out in German - or something related to it.
Thursday, 19 August
No, no, no! Not that type! Cats! Kitties!
If "Gordianus" was not such a perfect name for Gordy, I am starting to think I should have named him after Don Quixote; likewise, Bethesda is a Sancho Panza if ever I saw one. They are so much alike! Quixote inspires his audience with an endearing pity for his folly; as he chases after windmills and slays bails of hay, one cannot help but be swept along in his adventure, albeit with an indulgent smile normally seen when humoring children. Sancho willing goes with Quixote, even though he is aware that his master is crazy, though at times Sancho's own imagination runs away with Quixote's, and the squire himself is dreaming of governing islands and vanquishing demons. I would like to take a moment to tell you about my knight in shining armor, Gordianus, and his beloved squire, Bethesda.
When he was very little and could still fit in my hand, Gordy was sick. We are not sure what he had, but without medical help, natural selection would probably have seen to it that he did not survive. Nevertheless, he was a fighter, and that spark has never left him. I, for one, am convinced that his current oddity is due in part to that illness. Now that he is well and healthy, Gordy has adopted some strange habits.
One day, while wandering about the wilds of our house, Gordy came across a small, stuffed horse, not much bigger than an average cell phone. The horse was stuffed with both fluffy material and little plastic pellets. As dogs, not cats, are wont to do, Gordy began to carry the horse around with him. Soon after, we began to find some of these pellets around the house - on sofas, on beds, on the steps, in the bathroom... Thanks to my logical reasoning skills, we decided that the pellets had formerly belonged to Gordy's Buddy. I found the horse, and took out all of the pellets, stitched it back up, and returned it to Gordy. Sometimes Gordy is not so nice to his Buddy. He will often attack it, and then carry the body around the house, showing off his hunting skills.
Testosterone kicking in, Gordy decided he needed a bigger challenge than killing his puny horse. For a couple of days, he abandoned Buddy and was intent on dominating another stuffed animal. "The Big Pink Thing" is almost as big as Gordy himself, and is big, pink, fluffy, and resembles a bird in some ways. Seeing Gordy carry The Big Pink Thing around in his mouth was too much. I could not help but laugh at him and his adorableness.
One of Gordy's other passtimes is pushing his food dish around. I have never seen this, and am relying on accounts told by my parents. After eating (or during?), Gordy will nudge his dish across the floor with his nose.
Bethesda is much more sensible. Usually, she is the perect, unquirky cat: Queen of the World. But every now and then, she will relapse into Kittenhood Behaviour and chase her tail around and around and around. Or she will, seemingly randomly, run full-speed up the stairs, into a sofa, or into the refrigerator.
Despite all of their strange attributes, I do love Gordy and Thes very, very much. It is their uniqueness and "flaws" which I find endearing. Something I do not find so endearing is the subject of this article from BBC.
Tuesday, 17 August
What a Lovely Day for... Surgery!
A while ago, one of my ESL students from Japan gave me a CD from a group called Supercar. She describes their music as being "cutting edge" in Japan, and not very popular... yet! Yesterday I got a mixed CD of a Romanian group, O Zone, and am very impressed. I normally do not like pop music that much, but both of these groups have a good mix of rock (more in Supercar than O Zone), and some techno (more O Zone than Supercar). I also do not normally like too much techno, but they are both groups which sing in different languages, and for that they get a billion bonus points.
In other news, I hate hospitals. On Friday I had two moles removed because the doctors were concerned about various diseases. I had planned on getting a "conscious sedation" version of anathesia, where they would have doped me up on Valium and then given me local anathesia, but I was a mess at the hospital and they had to give me general. Not too bad of an experience, kind of relaxing, once you start breathing the gas. I wonder if that's what it is like to die. I hope it is, or at least that death is not any worse.
After about two hours or so I woke up in recovery, and did not need to throw up!! The anti-vomit stuff worked. Wow. My throat has been sore from having a tube down it and other such pleasntries, and I am aching in general, especially my back and chest, where the moles we removed from. Well, they are getting their due, as they are now being chopped and tested this way and that. Will have results sometime next week. The scars, as far as I can tell, will not be too bad. Not Miss America perfect, but hey, I've never been a beauty queen, nor do I intend to start.
Just realized I sent all my info off to Mount Holyoke without a picture, which they requested. Oops.
Wednesday, 11 August
Have Laptop, Will Travel
Big news first! Got the laptop (Dell's Inspiron 600m model) not too long ago. I have completely fallen in love with it. Granted, it spends most of its time on the living room sofa than braving the wilds of Philadelphia, but nonetheless, I couldn't be happier. And once school starts up again, I'm sure I'll make more use of its portability.
I just opened the mail and had a lot of stuff from Mount Holyoke, for the Take the Lead! program this fall. Wow. I didn't know that the project had to be a six month project!! I had been counting on something more along the way of six... years? Eh. We shall see how it all falls together, but now I am urgently trying to turn my original idea into something doable in half a year.
This entry is very choppy and short (speaking of which, my hair is now kind of choppy and short), because I really hate the way the website looks. I think I'll mess around and try to make a somewhat better one after I write this, or after I read more Don Quixote... ugh...
Today I had a three hour session with Anni, an ESL student from northen Germany (Norddeutschland, as I learned today!). We went over the alphabet, which I still cannot get right, and did some vocab, etc. After this I came home and was looking for some food, when I realized that we have no food, only cake. Yesterday I was making a hazelnut cake from this recipe off of Sue's amazing baking website, and completely messed up the eggs. It turned out flat, sticky, and yummy. I then made another cake, doing the eggs correctly, and this turned out fluffier, less sticky, and yummy. Made a huge batch of chocolate buttercream frosting, and fixed the good batch of cake up with that. Mom came home later and made "sandwiches" out of the failed attempt and the leftover icing. Now the refigerater and freezer are both filled with cake. I think I might order some take-out pasta stuff tonight for food.
Tuesday, 3 August
What Type of **** is THIS?!
In this country there exists an independent menance to society, and I am not speaking about Ralph Nader. No, my friends, my fellow Americans, I am speaking about Hausbrandt Cafe on 15th Street between Walnut and Locust.
Alright, so Hausbrandt is not exactly the most independent of all indies, but it is certainly no Starbucks. The first time I went there was sometime during the winter. Got a small black. Not super impressed, but okay, whatever. I had coffee and it was snowing outside, so I was content. In the Spring I had gotten an iced coffee, not too remarkable, but not terrible, either. Today I went back and ordered a small of whatever their darkest roast available was, and a croissant. Once again, not God's gift to coffee adicts. And you know what they say, three strikes and you're out.
Plain Old Problems
* The coffee - yes, the darkest roast they had - tasted like brown water.
* The croissant was not crispy enough to rival La Colomb, nor soft enough to claim the ignorance of Americans making a French pastery.
* Said coffee and said croissant cost $1.45 and $2.00, respectively. That's just wrong.
* Too-cool-for-this art student type (possibly fired from The Last Drop? if not, she will end up there eventually) working behind counter. I gave her $3.00, and it was almost as if she assumed I didn't want my change. I had to remind her. And to think I was in a giving mood and might have tipped... Eh, who am I kidding. I did tip. I'm a soft-hearted girl, I suppose.
And the Point of This Would Be...?
Alright, so, I have ordered my colored water and semi-fresh carbohydrates, asked for my change, and then against better judgment have deposited that change into the tip jar. I am given the coffee in a doubled cup without a lid on. Pet peeve. Always put a lid on the cup unless the customer specifically asks for it without. Not only is it just polite, it's practical. Now they have less chance of spilling coffee on the way to milk/sugar/etc, or of messing up and knocking coffee over when they try to put the lid on. I have seen both of these happen when I worked at Joe's. And it is not fun to clean up 12 oz. of hot coffee. So, baristas of the world, save yourself the trouble, save the customer their frustration, and put the lid on the cup. It really is not hard. Unless you're an art school student, I guess.
While I am engaged in lidding the cup, Miss Artsy gets my croissant. I am handed a rather sizable bag (13.5" x 9" x 5"), made of high quality plastic, all red and pretty with the Hausbrandt logo on it. Ironically enough, the bag's message boasts: HAUSBRANDT: Be Happy for a Moment Yeah, I'm trying. There is even a little piece of cardboard in the bottom to help the bag keep its shape. Inside this bag, looking like a pebble among boulders, is my croissant. And three napkins, printed with Hausbrandt advertising.
Now I know where all the money I paid for the "coffee" and "croissant" has gone - to a bag I cannot give to anyone for fear that they will go to Hausbrandt, expecting something to inspire their moment of happiness, only to find that the true happiness comes from disposing of the foul coffee-ish product and walking, feeling as if you have been stabbed in the back by independent coffeehouses, to the near-by Starbucks where you order a small coffee, with a lid.
Wednesday, 28 July
Ker-ry! Ker-ry! Ker-ry!
It was not a pretty day for a rally, but that did not stop thousands (according to the Metro, take that stat as you will) of Kerry-Edwards supporters from showing up at the Philadelphia Art Museum on Tuesday. The sky had opened and everyone was wet. Miserable and cold, I was one of the lucky few who found a seat on part of a wall. I sat and waited. And waited. Kerry was not scheduled to show up until 6.30pm. Cheesey music blasted and American flags were handed out. A few local politicians and well-wishers spoke, trying to warm the crowd up. No one really seemed that happy, until...
It was fairy-tale like, actually, the way the rain stopped and the sandstone Museum began to glow with an almost firey brilliance. The cheering started in one corner and spread. Peole began to point - "Look! There he his! There's Kerry!" Suddenly we were all standing on the wall, looking at the standing ovation given to the presidential hopeful John Kerry. The entire square in front of the Museum was flooded with noise and red, white, and blue. It took Kerry a while to quiet the crowd, but when he did, it was a silenced suspended by only a string. One could feel the crowd's want to scream, to join hands and voices and raise Kerry up.
He only talked for about 15 or 20 minutes, but it could have gone on forever and not one person would have complained. He spoke about education, about jobs, about tax reforms which will help the people, about himself, and about his vision. He made the mistake of calling the Art Museum the Library, and took the error in stride. He was plain-speaking, but eloquent. He did not talk down to us, or talk to us, he talked with us. His charisma and warmth matched the sunlit and brilliant colors of the Museum's walls. The entire plaza was filled with light, with passion.
When you watch old movies like "Ben Hur," you can see the way Jesus was represented before advanced special effects. He is portrayed as a figure from whom a great light is shining. Often as he walks, carrying the cross, the people who approach him are touched by this light. Kerry was much the same. One could almost reach out and touch this warmth from him, his fire, his concern. And one could feel his humanity, the fact that he knows that he is not perfect, that he knows that no one is. And that is fine. It is okay to be just another guy. But more than anything, you could feel the need of the people gathered there. You could feel their yearning, their physical want for a change of administrations, their torment at the thought of another four years of what the country has become.
John Kerry & John Edwards
Friday, 23 July
Against All Odds
Just when I was about ready to write something regarding the fact that I haven't heard anything from Mount Holyoke about this fall's Take the Lead! programme, I got a lovely letter in the mail. I got accepted!! Yay!! I was quite surprised because my essay was, in my mind, not very good. And I sent everything late (oops). But obviously the admissions folks felt differently and decided to let me in. I'm very excited, especially as the project/topic I have chosen to work with is about German/Jewish relations, and now I will know I'm going to be spending some time in Germany, it brings it all together a bit more for me.
Friday, 16 July
Every Friday at 12.30 there is a group of Quakers in Rittenhouse Square. Their mission? Engaging the public in dialogue about politics, no matter the beliefs of the individuals. The first time I found out about this event was a month ago, while walking - an innocent pedestrian - around the Square. Greg, one of the organizers, stopped me and convinced me to speak on microphone about my feelings regarding the rumours of a draft. That Sunday in Meeting, it was requested that anyone who is interested in helping out go and talk about it during Fellowship. I went. I agreed to go on Fridays and try to be of use. Soon after making this decision, I talked with a friend. The conversation started with my asking for advice on how to balance my Quaker beliefs with my inclinations to work with some groups which don't always use the most Quaker tactics to get what they want. After a very amazing discussion, the talk came around to how groups present themselves to the public, and what they accomplish - or don't - because of the way they present themselves. We used this group of Quakers as an example. My friend observed that, while the idea behind the group is good, the people who will be attracted to talking with them at Rittenhouse Sq. are people who already know/believe there is a problem. They are already concerned. Soon after this we ended our conversation, and I went to bed, with a lot of thoughts on my mind.
The next Friday I was at Rittenhouse Sq., as I promised, and was given a pile of flyers about JROTC, the military, etc. I stood on the corner of 18th and Walnut handing things out and reciting, "Hi, Sir, would you like some information on X, Y, and Z?" By 2.00, when we were wrapping up, I felt good. It had been frustrating - a hot, sticky day in the sun, people brushing you off, all that - but also rewarding. But still, part of me kept thinking that the only people who I talked with were already concerned, and that this wasn't doing much to help at all.
Sometime next week - perhaps Wednesday? - I was at Barnes and Noble. I went up to the third floor were there is a big table and lots of chairs, a very lovely place to get some work done as long as the air conditioning isn't on too high. I got out my German and began practicing some different sentence structures. A gentleman at the other end of the table asked what I was working on, so I explained how I am trying to learn German, and might want to go study over there some time. This prompted a long (too long) debate about "The System" and how to get somewhere in life. According to this fellow, I would be wise to go to school in the US, go to Harvard, or even - maybe - Princeton, become a lawyer, joing The System, and if I was so determined, try to change things from within. Oh, and make a lot of money, because with money, you can make change. Why should I go live in Germany or Spain for a year? Why should I move there after high school to go to University there? I tried to explain to him that I am interested in German/Jewish relations, and that no New England college can teach me about this as well as spending time in Europe, seeing the camps for myself, talking with people who have grown up "on the other side" - in Germany, and trying to pull all of this together for myself to find answers to a question - a question which I can't define. This got nowhere. Ivy League, he said, money is where it's at! No, I replied, not for me; I first need to find myself, and that won't happen at HYP. Maybe it won't happen in Central Europe, either, but I know I need to try. Again, no progress on either side. I am not going to join The System, and he isn't going to consent that maybe I know myself better than he knows me.
By this time, two other people are sitting at the table, watching us curiously. When I made some comment about how Harvard won't get me anywhere unless I truly want to go there, one of these men said, "Yeah, screw the Ivy League," and the other nodded in agreement. All four of us began to talk, sometimes as a group, sometimes one-on-one, sometimes three of us, or any combination you can think of. The man I originally was talking with got up to go find another book, and left us alone. It turns out that one of the men - the nodding one - is a music teacher at an innercity public school, where they forced a kid to retake her SAT's because she got better than a 1300 on them, unheard of at an innercity, under-funded, under-staffed, over-enrolled school. But this girl, he said, was just smart. She took initiative outside of class, and truly wanted to learn. The other man moved down from New York about five years ago, and can't stand people who are crazy about The System.
I talked with these two gentlemen for a while, about everything imaginable: music, education, travel, politics, etc. A woman came over, looking shy, with a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) prep book and a dictionary. We were very welcoming, which apparently (though not surprisingly) was a rare experience for her. We talked about ESL, and I got a lot of amazing advice from her on how to teach. She unfortunately couldn't stay very long, but we did have a nice time talking. Her English was not very good, but before she left, she managed to put together: "It was very nice to talk with you. I hope to see you again." I think I almost cried (N.B.: I cry at Disney movies).
The conversation started again with the two other men, and somehow the New York guy mentioned "this group of people out at the Sq. who always try to get me [NY guy] to talk about stuff." I asked if this was on Friday afternoon, and he said yeah - did I know about them? Yes, I explained, I do know about them. I told him that it is A Quaker Action Group (AQUAG), and the idea is to get people talking together about stuff - like we had been doing at this table for the past hour or so, to register to vote, even if that is a vote for Bush or Nader, etc. This brought about a discussion of Quakerism, what it means to me, and how he is interested in it - kind of. He is intrigued, and is enamoured of the fact that taking action is part of the belief of Quakerism. I told him to drop by Meeting one day, if he is interested - no forcing him to: we Quakers are a very low-pressure group when it comes to seeing if Quakerism is right for you. He said he just might do so.
That Friday, I was at Rittenhouse Square again. This time was not frustrating. This time was invigorating. I didn't want to leave at the end. Greg and the others decided that as a young person, I have no shame in approaching people with information and asking them to talk to me. This is quite true. And for this reason, I have been given the duty of handing out whatever is to be handed out on the corner. Although a lot of people don't take the papers, a lot do. That week I was handing out a sheet about the USA PATRIOT Act and how it can affect everyday people. I had a fantastic time. Some of my best memories, which I hope never to forget, are:
Meeting a Future Student: Although I knew that Philadelphia has a very diverse community, and many people do not speak English, or are not citizens, or anything along those lines, it never really sinks in just how large this group is until you try to stop people, ask if they are registered, and have them say that they are not citizens, or apologize because they don't speak English, or what have you. One of the women I got to stop - surprising, as she was on a bike - was from northern Germany, right near the Baltic Sea. Her English, not very good, but her personality was amazing! I talked to her not about the PATRIOT Act, but about ESL, and how I am going to be teaching at Nationalities Services Center. She told me that she will be taking classes there. Her level is Beginning II. It turns out that I am not teaching this class, but I know the fellow who is, and he is fantastic. I hope to drop by class one day to say hello to her.
The New York Guy: He told me that he was going to try to stop by on Friday, and he was true to his word. When we talked in Barnes and Noble, he told me that he was not registered to vote in Pennsylvania, since moving here, and hadn't voted in about 7 years. He told me that the reason was that he didn't believe one vote could really change anything, and he didn't want to vote for any of the monkees running for office, anyways. He did some research after we talked, and it turns out that yes, one vote can change some elections. And so, he told me, he would like to register to vote. I was shocked when he said that he used to be a registered Republican. Amazing what a few years can do: Now he is registered again, and a registered Democrat, at that.
JROTC Information: I stopped a gentleman who had two little kids with him and asked if he would like some information on the PATRIOT Act. He declined, but must have been at the Square last week, because he noticed that, "Weren't you all handing something different out last week?" I told him yes, last week we had a lot of information on JROTC, and youth and the military. He didn't know what JROTC was. I explained. I got him literature while he stayed with his kids. He told me thank you, and said he was going to call the school and ask if they have a JROTC program. He doesn't know where he stands on the issue, but wants to know if this is happening with his kids.
Strangers Talking: Over that Friday, I had the joy of watching two - count 'em, two different groups of strangers talk about politics. Each group had about 4 people in it. Some were vocal conservatives, others were militant Democratcs, and they were talking to each other! Okay, maybe yelling a bit, but there was certainly some creative, constructive dialgue happening. I don't know if anyone changed their views on anything, but it was the first time I have seen a group of people being vocal about their politics - and their reasons for these politics - in a public forum. It made me think of the Forum Romanum, and how back in those good ole days, old, "learned" men would debate politics. These weren't all men, and they weren't all old, and from some of the things I heard said, I am hard pressed to think of any of them as particularly "learned," but I think that is progress which has been made since the times of Cicero. It's taken a while to get women, youngsters, and ordinary people to talk about this stuff, but it is happening.
Thank You: A woman came up to me, just to say thanks. She was so grateful that somebody was out here getting people to talk, getting people to register to vote, and that we weren't letting our own political views interfere with whom we registered, or with whom we let talk. She was impressed that I had asked a very strong-willed, hard-core Republican to speak on the microphone, even though I myself didn't believe in his views. This, she said, is a true statement about patriotism, and what it means to belong to this country.
Today it is Friday, and I was intending to go to Rittenhouse Square again, but that didn't happen. I got sidetracked by some Jehovah's Witnesses who stopped by my house. I'm wary of religious evangelists, because, simply, I hate the thought of trying to make someone believe something. But these two women were very nice. We talked about all different types of things - war, science, God, Quakerism, fate, etc. This was a very great talk which made me miss two busses into town, and, therefore, miss Rittenhouse Sq. and the Quakers. Nevertheless, I had a fantastic time. They did not take out the Bible once, and let me talk about my experiences and thoughts as much as I let them talk about theirs. They seemed truly interested in what I had to say, just as I was in their words. I have never felt this way before about people coming to my door for religious reasons, but I hope I see them again.
The lesson of all this is that while small interactions, small dialogues, might only be getting a few people engaged in the discussion, it does not make the effort pointless. This will not change the world overnight, but given time, this can help individuals find themselves, connect with others, and learn about other points of view. And it is, afterall, ultimately individuals who make a difference.
Monday, 12 July
Walking on Air
Sometimes it just seems like everything is going right, you know that feeling? It's raining cats and dogs outside, and I was soaked right down to the undies several times today, but nevertheless, I can't wipe this silly grin off my face! Wonder why, given all this:
On Saturday, from 9.00am to 4.00 pm I had a day of intense ESL-training, with a group of about 15 people. It was fantastic! We were all so excited to be learning how to teach, that there was this energy in the room. Absolutely great. Today was my first day of classes. I am working with a lovely woman who is a retired librarian. Although our ideas of how to do things differ a bit, we get along pretty well. The students are incredible! They want to learn, and you can see it in their eyes. The class is Advanced Conversation. I can't wait until Wednesday, when we meet again!!
And, of course, there was Sunday.
Tobi's parents are in Philly visiting Jorj, Sue, and Johanna's host family. They came to Meeting and had been told about my trying to learn German. We talked and the topic came around to Junior Year Abroad. Long story short, I now have a family to live with for a year.
I AM SO EXCITED!!! I never imagined that I would be able to actually find a family to stay with, let alone one which is so amazingly warm and caring, funny, intelligent, friendly, Quaker, one which I already know and have met, the list goes on and on. This is too much! I must stop writing about it before my happiness overflows more than it is and this entry turns into a lot of, well, this: non-stop blabbering which tries to express how happy I am, but cannot come close.
Saturday, 3 July
Yes, I know. I haven't been working on this site at all recently, and it shows. I have been busy with another website, one I am building for Teens Organzing for Reproductive Choice (TORCH), a group I work with. The page is not nearly finished yet, and not all the information is 100% accurate, but check it out!! It will NOT be on tripod for much longer, I pray.
I have found myself so busy recently that I wish there were more hours to a day, more days to a week, and so on and so forth. It's certainly one of those summers in which I feel like I am actually accomplishing something! Yay me. And while it seems that I am all over the place with what I'm busy with, it all keeps pointing me in the same direction: I need to get out of this country. Here's what I mean:
Spanish and Latin: I am working rather intently (ahem) with Drew to complete Spanish II and Latin III curriculums this summer, so that I can take Spanish III and Latin IV next year. I am tempted to say that the worst part of the Latin is done with - no more Caesar!!! A little more Pliny, and then some sensual and sultry Catullus. I don't worry about finishing Latin, but I do worry a bit about Spanish. Not because I do not have faith in Drew to get me to understand it all, but because I am not as interested in it as I am in the other language on my plate: German.
German: I cannot say what exactly has driven me to start learning German. A number of factors played into the choice: Tobi's leaving, my becoming more interested in German-Jewish relations, Sue and Jorj being willing to help me with it, my wanting to understand the lyrics in Herbert Groenemeyer's music, boredom... Maybe because German is so different in many ways from Latin and the Romance Languages I have experience with, but I find it fascinating!! It's exotic. It's fresh. It's new. Yes, I do get very bored with languages very quickly. It's quite a shame, but no one is perfect. I am trying to get better at this, though... at this stopping a language soon after starting. More thoughts on this below.
English: Heh... not my own English, though I am told that I need to work on it a bit. I will be starting to help out with English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at the Nationalities Service Center very soon. There is an orientation and training which I will go to on 10 July, and then.... let the fun begin!! NSC offers ten-week-long ESL classes for immigrants and refugees. I am looking forward to this a lot. It will be hard, I am sure, because for a native speaker to be conscious of grammar and such is not an easy thing. At least it isn't easy for me. And all the experience I have with ESL is from talking with friends who are learning English; I have no experience teaching it. I just hope the class is fun and that I am able to help rather than hinder.
Reading: So, I am supposed to be reading Don Quixote, but of course I have managed to find other books - shorter books! - which I am more interested in. For example, I started yesterday to read A Hole in the Heart of the World: The Jewish Experience in Eastern Europe After World War II. It is an amazing book so far. Very moving. It also makes me want to learn more about this stuff, but again, more on this later. Back to reading. I will still try to finish Don Quixote, but at this point I am seriously doubting my will to do so.
TORCH: Teens Organizing for Reproductive Choice. We're scrambling to get this event in October (check out webpage for more info!) together, and I am supposed to be writing stuff for newspapers and all, but I am also rather busy with other stuff, and the website, and this, and that.... *sigh*
Day Dreaming: I think the Spanish for "to day dream" is much more accurate. Estar en las nubes, to be in the clouds. The topic of these dreams? Junior year abroad. If I do not get away from here, I will go crazy. Fact. Not a question up for debate. I will. Earlier this year, I was certain I wanted to go to Spain. I would still like to, but more and more I have been feeling that Germany would be a better fit for me as a person, though probably not for my (lack of) language skills. The reasons are only a few, but those reasons cut to the heart of what I am interested in now. German-Jewish Relations: I found a book at Barnes and Noble today about American Jewish/German relations since 1945, and I would have bought it in a hearbeat if it had cost less than $44.00, pre tax. Eh. The book is about the exact thing I haven't stopped thinking about since, maybe, January. I have always had this on-again/off-again relationship with Judaism, but recently have decided that I need to learn more about this history, and current situation, in order to understand something about myself. So, yeah, I think that going to Germany would be a hard thing for me to do, but also a vital one. Quakerism: I know of no Quakers in Spain. None. At least in Germany, there a few. Not many, no, but more than none. Maybe there is even a Quaker school? Hmmm... Languages: This does not make much sense when I try to explain it, but I hope you can follow! I want to learn Spanish, and I also want to learn German. I am better at Spanish, and it just makes more sense to me - it is what I have the most experience with, not only as a language, but as a type of language. German is harder for me, but I am determined to learn it. I think, therefore, that I would have the best chance of improving my German by staying in Germany and studying Spanish than I would if I was to reside in Spain and take classes in German.
So yes, that is my summer to date, and most likely will be until it becomes Fall.
Thursday, 24 June
Can you find all of the following in this picture?
I spy a baby, a barcode, a lizard, and two smiling faces,
A metric unit, an alien, and a few CD cases.
I spy a stapler, a shoelace, three frogs in a line,
An armband, a reflection, and a bathroom sign.
Wednesday, 23 June
Once Upon a Time, in a Land Far, Far Away...
It's 11.30 pm, and I just returned from the quaint town of Narberth. Narberth - how to describe it? It's almost as if you have stepped into a movie, and wake up in a town separated from the rest of civilisation, in a town where stores close at 5.00pm, in a town where you cannot get a cup of coffee after 7.00pm, in a town where the natives have glassy eyes and lack fingerprints, in a town where something is not quite right... That said, the Narberth Theater is a wonderful treasure. It's one of those old theaters with one big screen, asiles where you can fit your legs, a chandelier, red carpets, and the like. My folks and I try to see movies there whenever possible, because the experience is well worth tolerating Narberth the Town. This evening we saw "Shrek 2" and had the entire theatre almost to ourselves: only three others were in there. "Shrek" was great, and "Shrek 2" might not be as good, but Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots is above terrific.
On a more techy note, I know this site looks kind of icky. I'm working on tables so I can get it formatted better, but they are so far not working out perfectly. It almost is ready, so almost! Soon, I promise, this place will look a lot nicer and more together, and I will also get pictures up.
Monday, 21 June
Dobie Gray explains the way I deal with shit happening. I don't write about it myself, but kind of bury myself in other people's music. So without further ado, I give you my emotions:
Day after day I'm more confused
Yet I look for the light through the pouring rain
You know that's a game that I hate to lose
And I'm feelin' the strain, ain't it a shame
Oh, give me the beat boys, and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away
Give me the beat boys, and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away
Dobie Gray, "Drift Away"
but time runs on, it's a leaky faucet, / and I couldn't catch all those drips in a bucket, / even if time were mine to keep. / Yeah even if time were mine. / When I fell for you, well you know I fell too fast. / I was bare feet, / you were broken glass. / When I fell for you, you know I fell too far. / Now you try to tell me about the way things are, / but I know sometimes things they fall together, / and just like you can't predict the weather, / sometimes they fall apart, / and sometimes none of the broken pieces seem to fit, / and sometimes everything just turns to shit, / and all you get is a broken heart. / Yeah all you get is a broken heart.
Evalyn Parry, "Bucket of Time"
weiß man, wie oft ein herz brechen kann?
Do you know how many times a heart can break?
wieviele sinne hat der wahn?
How many minds does this illusion hold?
lohnen sich gefühle?
Are the feelings worth the pain?
wieviele tränen passen in einen kanal?
How many tears fall from these eyes?
leben wir noch mal?
Do we still live again?
warum wacht man auf?
For what reason do you awake?
was heilt die zeit?
What does time heal?
Herbert Grönemeyer, "Letzter Tag"
translation not very accurate, but the general idea is there
Oh, mirror in the sky,
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Fleetwood Mac, "Landslide"
I have stood here before in the pouring rain
With the world turning circles running 'round my brain
I guess I'm always hoping that you'll end this reign
But it's my destiny to be the king of pain
There's a little black spot on the sun today
That's my soul up there
It's the same old thing as yesterday
That's my soul up there
There's a black hat caught in a high tree top
That's my soul up there
There's a flag pole rag and the wind won't stop
That's my soul up there
The Police, "King of Pain"
Friday, 18 June
A Realm of Infinite Potential
I find that starting to learn a new language is a natural high. It makes me feel excellent. It's kind of like the beginning of a roller coaster ride (forgetting that I hate high places): you know that first big hill you climb right at the very beginning? It's incredible, because from there you can look out at the entire fair, and imagine endless possibilities of where the ride might take you, and where you can go with it. That's the same with languages. When you first start to learn how to conjugate verbs, or when you learn how to pronounce the alphabet in the language, or the endings for nouns in the nominative case - suddenly this magic carpet rolls out in front of you and gives you a glimpse as to what could follow if you stay with it.
Later That Same Day...
Languages are still at the forefront of my thoughts. On the bus into town today I was quizzing myself with flashcards, studying some German vocab. I looked at the penciled-on card.
"Small," I say to myself. By now the bus is rounding City Hall, and I'm getting some odd looks from other passengers - it's summer, why is she studying? what is she studying? wouldn't she just shut up already? I put the flashcards away and look out the window. I think that public transportation is a great resource for philosophizing, or simply letting thoughts wander. All one has to do is sit there and look at the changing landscape, see peoples lives going past you, history... and suddenly your mind becomes a whirl of this intangible something. And every now and then you reach this amazing moment where an idea makes perfect sense to you, or you realize that it doesn't need to make sense in order to be valid. That's the way Meeting is sometimes. Not always, but certainly on occassion.
Today I had one of those moments. Looking out at the crazy intersection at City Hall, everything seemed small. Everything seemed klein, but it was also piqueño and parvus, piccolo and mikros. It was quite a moment of revelation for me. Think about it -- how would you define something which is "small"? It is not of as great a size as something else, it is less than something else, etc. But these are all rather flimsy definitions. The moon is "small" when compared to the Sun, but I would never say that it is small, in and of itself. That's the same for anything, really. There is always the possibility of something being smaller than something else, and there can never be something which is the smallest: It's Zeno's paradox.
If you want to cross a room, say, you start at point A and aim to reach point Z. First you must cross half of the room, and that halfway point will be point B. Then you must cover another half of the remaining portion of the room, giving us point C. This continues, and in this way of traveling by halves, one may never reach the final point, because you are always travelling less than the full length, leaving more room left to be halved.
Obviously, there is a flaw of logic in Zeno's idea. But nevertheless, the idea is there: how can you reach the smallest of something if something could always be smaller that that which you already deemed to be smallest? The same thought goes for largeness. Something could always be larger than what was thought to be the largest. Given this, how can anything be compared by calling it "small," when it is in fact larger than something else?
And yet over history, cultures have developed ways of expressing this, what I find, esoteric idea of "small."
Wednesday, 16 June
Abstinence and the City
I decided today that I must get over my distaste for Sarah Jessica Parker and force-feed myself episodes of "Sex and the City" - which I have so far been avoiding. What can I say? It's, ah... ehh. Not bad, just not what I imagined it to be, what with all the hype it's gotten for Emmys, etc. The best part about it is the writing: not that it is witty and hilarious, but that it is colloquial. That is, (sadly?), the way people really do talk with friends.
Yesterday the BBC News had a short thing about "taking the sex out of sex eductaion" and the push for abstinence-only eductaion in America. I've no idea where to start with this rant. I'm furious. Very few things, if any, about the Bush Administration make me happy, but not many make me so frustrated and tongue-tied. I'm speechless. I don't even get this way with the gay marriage issue. Let me try to organize my thoughts. They might not be very organized.
Truth: Abstinece works. If you do not engage in any sexual activity (for the moment, will not define what qualifies as "sexual" & will not take into account sharing needles, and genetics), you will not contract/spread STDs/STIs, or be impregnated/impregnate someone.
What is "sexual"? For this, I will define an action as being "sexual" if it involved a transference of bodily fluids, be it saliva, semen, vaginal fluid, urine, breast milk, or blood.
Truth: Humans like to engage in sexual activities. There is the natural sex drive which develops with puberty, and there is also the fact that it is nice. No one can deny that. Teens, in particular, the group George would like to "protect" with his abstinence-only education, are interested in sexual activity, and will follow their instincts and curiosities. This is human nature.
The Media Factor: A lot of parents out there are not happy with the portrayals of violence and sex on TV and in the movies. But it's there, and we're watching. People, especially kids and teens, spend a heck of a lot of time sitting around the TV or in the movie theatre. Online ads pop up advertising Pepsi in which Britney Spears (gag me now!) is wearing this skimpy silver-and-blue bikini thing, sexifying an object which, in and of itself, if not very sexy. I, for one, am not turned on by Pepsi. Even music is sexual! Pick up any pop, rock, country, classical album, and there will be something about sex and/or love. It's everywhere.
Sex = Love, or Does It? Once upon a time there was a princess, who was stuck in a coma, and then there was a handsom prince who came and kissed her. She awoke and they lived happily ever after. What child hasn't grown up with a heritage of fairy tales? And don't a lot of fairy tales involve the forumla of GIRL + BOY + KISS = LOVE? So right away, from Pampers-age, we are brought up to equate kissing with love. As we age, kissing is not the only form of sexual activity known to us. So if you love you boy/girlfriend, won't you kiss them? won't you sleep with them? etc. Only catch is, how many people have said "I love you" to their high school sweetheart, and are now married to someone else? And we all know that love = marriage.
The A-B-C Approach: This is the Bush & Co. way of teaching how to be a good person. It's as easy as.... Abstinence: be abstinent, and if you can't do that, at the very least Be Faithful: stay loyal to your partner, and if you are not being the poster-boy/girl for fidelity, Use a Condom: no need to use them if you are being faithful, but just in case you stray...
And What if I Do Stray? Well, if the GOP gets its way (see below), then there will be no education in schools about forms of protection and contraception other than preaching abstinence. So, in this utopia, I know nothing about condoms, because who ever sees characters on TV actually bother with a silly thing like that? Thus you have a bunch of people engaging in sexual activity who don't know how to protect themselves.
Government Funding: There is a great amount of money ($55,000,000 for 2003, and a requested $73,000,000 for 2004) out there which the government is providing to finance sexual "education" programs which teach abstinence only and do not mention any other form of contraception/protection except to highlight the products' flaws. or, taken directly from the White House's webpage: "The purpose... is to provide support to public and private entities for the development and implementation of abstinence education programs for adolescents, ages 12 through 18, in communities across the country. Projects funded through the SPRANS Community-Based Abstinence Education grant program must promote abstinence-only education as defined by Section 510 of Title V of the Social Security Act and agree not to provide a participating adolescent any other education regarding sexual conduct in the same setting." - source
Separation of Church and State: That little detail about our country which seems to be escaping Reublicans, Inc. The CHURCH advocates for abstinence, which is a moral choice made by individuals. Fine. Cool. Whoopie! But since when is the government allowed to bring Church doctrine into legislation? to make moral choices for the country's population?
Arghh.... I'm just so mad that the government is claiming to protect its citizens, and its way of doing this is by denying - and promoting the denial of - information which could save lives. Bush says he wants America to be "a nation of life" -- that is why, he says, abortion is wrong. Well maybe girls wouldn't have to get abortions if they knew about contraceptives? and the morning after pill was over-the-counter? (don't even let me start on that one!!)
Instead of teaching people not to have sex and nothing else, what about teaching them about how to protect themselves if and when they do? Why not bring out the dildos and the condoms and lube and make students learn how to use protection correctly? That's sex ed.
Monday, 14 June
Run, Sarah, Run!
I hope you all have seen "Run, Lola, Run" -- it is an amazing film! So are "The Princess and the Warrior" and "Wintersleepers," two other films by the same director. Fantastic. But back to "Lola"...
I went over to Tobi's after Meeting on Sunday, and Sue - courageous person that she is - bleached and dyed my hair. Well, bleached and dyed most of it. We kinda ran out of bleach... and dye... but it's all good. I'm going to go down to South Street or something tomorrow and buy more dye, and just freshen it up a bit, because we started to spread it thin, and parts are more orange than red. So it goes. Tobi commented that I look like the girl from "Run, Lola, Run" - it's not entirely off, either, just not perfectly true. I will try to get some pictures up soon.
Thursday, 10 June
But It's Your Future!
Got a viewbook from Colby in the mail today. I've often sent away for information from colleges on my own, but this is the first time I've gotten something without requesting it. I guess that means colleges are officially starting to enter my life, and along with them, piles of papers from X University and College of Y. Eeeeeeewwwwwwwww!! It seems hypocritic, coming from someone who does admit to spending a lot of time learning about different colleges, but our system here in the US is disgusting. It's the summer before fucking sophomore year! Nooooooo need to be thinking about specific places yet. Sure, maybe having a general idea of what colleges will be looking for, or what you should be looking for in a college, is a good idea, but knowing about each different institution? Hell no! At this stage in the game, if you're interested, then you should send away for info - and more power to you. But having these places start sending you stuff out of nowhere is gross.
Wednesday, 9 June
Summer Plans, Life Plans
I got pictures up!!
Graduation was today, and so now I am officially a sophomore. Look out, world. The "Graduation Exercises" were pretty bleh, but I could imagine worse. At least the student speakers were nice.
And now summer is really underway! Hurray! I guess "hurray," anyways. I always have reservations about summer, because I like to be busy, and summer is traditionally the un-busy time. No wonder I always try to do stuff and be active over these months; without that I feel really shitty. So, my plans so far:
1. Latin and Spanish with Drew. I'm excited about this, but also really kinda scared. I love languages, and I love the chance to work on them one-on-one with someone. But with Spanish... I'm doing this intense a study in part so that I can go away Junior year and get a lot from it. The only thing is, no matter how happy I am at the prospect of leaving for a year, it's a scary thing, being in a place where the language is not your first one, being away from old friends, etc. I'm getting mini-panic attacks and I haven't even made solid plans yet! Uh-oh.
2. Interning with Babette Josephs. I found out from her Aide that they have some projects going on over the summer, and would be interested in having me come in a few times a week to help out. I am awaiting more details. This is soooooooo exciting!! I am very fond of Representative Josephs, and I see this as a great chance to get more involved and more knowledgable about politics, especially on a more local level, which I do not follow closely.
3. TORCH (Teens Organizing for Reproductive Choice). This is a group I am active with outside of school, and we are having a Fest on 24 October, with workshops about sexual, reproductive, and gender concerns. There will also be bands performing in the evening. This date is coming up soon, and so we are all working hard to get details ironed out, tabeling shows and concerts, etc.
4. A Job?? I would like to work this summer, too, not only cause I could use the cash, nor because it looks nice to colleges, but because I find it fun. Joe right now has a full staff, but I'm looking around at some other coffeehouses and bookstores. Only problem is that I also need to have time to do a lot of language studies.
Monday, 7 June
Reading, reading, reading...
It appears that my summer reading time will be spent almost entirely on Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes' impressively long satire about the so-called glory of chivalry. My edition, which Drew so aptly noted is "not the abridged version," is all of 952 pages. Yeesh. I don't think I have ever finished a book which is longer than 300-ish pages. I just don't have the attention span for it. But maybe this time my will power will pick itself up, dust its rear off, and let me finish. I hope it does so, because Don Quixote is such a great book so far! Laugh-out-loud funny. No, I'm serious. It really is. And who cannot identify with Quixote's experience -- haven't we all wanted windmills to come to life once in our lives?
On the other side of the visionary spectrum, I would also like to finish - or at least read a lot more of - Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, the book he wrote while in prison which outlines his basic political beliefs and is also somewhat an autobiography. Though no one else really seems to understand my motivations behind reading it (contrary to popular rumour, I am not going to go rounding up people for my own Holocaust), I find it a fascinating read. To explain - I began reading it, not knowing what to expect, after our Spring Break trip to Italy. Over in Rome I had a huge-ish fight with Jonathan and Andrew about a Holocaust joke which had been made. Andrew, activating his oratory powers, made me think about why I was so upset. I didn't know why. And so I started to read Mein Kampf, not to understand Hitler better, but to understand myself, and where my emotions were coming from that day back in Italy. I still don't know why I reacted the way I did, and I don't know if finishing the book will help me understand, but I hope it does.
Branching off of Mein Kampf and that discussion, I finally got all my stuff together for Take the Lead! It's about damn time. I'm almost a month (!) late for the application deadline. The project I proposed doing has to do with Jewish-German relations, a topic which has been on my mind almost non-stop this past year. Tobi approved of the essay I sent up, which is good, seeing as it was more or less about him. Now, if only I can get accepted....
Writing, writing, writing...
According to my AIM window, I have been online for 6 hours, 25 minutes. And counting. I have spent a significant amount of this time writing. Or, rather, typing. Tobi helped me out with some web-programming questions, and then set me loose to play on my own, which is exactly what I have been doing! Wow! I keep finding out new ways to do things, new things to do, and all that jazz... So I broke down and started an actual webdomain. Weehee! Now I can see things ONLINE which I am writing. That's beyond cool. I'm so impressed with myself. Hehehe... and with the poor soul(s?) who have had to teach it all to me. I actually came home early from town today because I was so eager to work on this stuff some more. Which is exactly why I want a...
Yep. You heard me right. A lap-top. L-A-P-T-O-P. I never, ever use the computer in my room, partly because it doesn't have internet access, and partly because my room looks roughly like a micro-version of Iraq. Anyways, be that as it may, my grandmother has been askign to get a computer. Heavens only knows what she would do with one, but I opportunely suggested that we give her my desktop and get me a laptop. I could do work in town, which I just adore, and, I don't know... bring it with me... Nifty, eh? And thus begins the long search for a laptop which my parents and I will both approve of!
Okay, well... I need to eat dinner and other such activities, but I bet more than anything I will be working more on this later tonight. I will get some pictures up ASAP, but for some reason it isn't working the way I want it to right now....