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Country Music & The Service

I have been completely inundated, by choice, with country music. Something has changed in me since becoming pregnant and having a baby. I used to tolerate, better, swearing, cuss words, in every day language and in media I would watch or listen. But not anymore. (That’s not to say that I don’t need to clean up my mouth.) So, since Peter has a plethora of country music on the computer, it’s easy to pick from and listen. A song by Kenny Chesney was played at Cristi’s funeral, and that helped tip the balance in favor of country music.

One of the artists on the computer is Toby Keith. When Peter and I would take trips to Mt. Hood or the Coast, the CD Shock ‘n Yall would frequently be played. Most of the songs have a catchy beat and easy lyrics. When we’d come to the songs regarding our War in Iraq, though, I wouldn’t enjoy the music as much, listening to the music and feeling a pro-war agenda being sung. I’ve been listening to these same songs now for months, and I have listened to the lyrics better. (I’m one of those people who needs to at least try and understand the lyrics of the song I’m jamming’ too.) It became clear that the lyrics were not pro-war but rather pro-soldier. One of my biggest pet peeves while expressing distaste for this war is being chastised for being anti-soldier, and that’s just not the case. Those who are saying, “Bring the Troops Home, Now!” want our American Boys and Girls to be safe and with their families. They would rather see their energy and enthusiasm used for causes at home instead of abroad where the motivations are sketchy at best. I must say I was surprised to learn that Toby Keith had similar sentiments. He is quoted as saying,

“Here’s the thing. Just because you’re pro-troops doesn’t mean you’re pro-war. And just because you’re anti-war doesn’t mean you’re anti-troops. Just because you don’t support the war people think you are anti-troops and you are a bad guy. And just because you go support the troops and rah-rah the troops up all of a sudden you’re pro-war. Those are the two biggest misconceptions of the whole thing.”

I had been listening to this guy for so long and getting irritated with his songs which I thought were misplaced patriotism. And, then I learn he voted for Clinton, twice.

Now, I may be wrong here, but it seems country singers are more likely to sing and support our troops. I don’t care what your feelings are about the wars in which we partake, it’s so important to support our troops. (And I know I don’t do any job of that.) My brother-in-law is in the Army National Guard and his mother regularly sends him care packages. My uncle was in the navy, another was in the army, another in the air force. Two of my grandfathers were in WWII, one a nurse in Germany and the other in the Air Force serving in the Pacific. We all know someone who has served. I get this idealized image of heroic men and women who put their wants at bay to serve the greater good, whether or not we agree with their orders.

There are more disorganized thoughts running through my head, so I will close with a question. Do you know anyone who has served in the military, someone relatively close, and what have you done to “support” them?

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The Political (Rat) Race

This person, who knows my cousin, has been sending a few emails to everyone on my Aunt’s email list. The latest email was an endorsement for Ron Paul, a House Representative for Texas by way of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Gary claimed that Dr. Paul was the first worthwhile candidate he has every seen and that it is now time for him to get off his lazy bum and endorse a candidate that means something.

I think it’s safe to say that we’re all tired of the political process. Many people want to stay out of politics because it’s dirty and corrupt, but politics is the life-bread of America. Everything is run by politics, and to ignore politics is to ignore our own fate. It’s nice to see people becoming impassioned enough to get involved, but the question begs, who are they really supporting? Is the candidate saying a few choice things to rally the troops, but the straight-talking politician, is he as two-faced and double speaking as the rest of his colleagues? Yes, yes he is.

I was curious why this person would be so adamant to support Dr. Paul, so checked out the link provided. His front page reminds the viewer of the next two primaries, New Hampshire (22 days) and Iowa (17 days). He also has his 4th quarter donation totals, $18,358,611.00. My first thought was that maybe he’s upfront about what he’s received. I have no concept of an amount of money that large, so I have no idea if it’s a large or not. So, I checked out Open Secrets and see what money they’ve tracked. Compared to rest of the candidates he is very low in his fundraising. I think now the $18,000 was a total and not a per quarter total.

I also examined his stance on the issues he details as the important ones. He’s listed Debt & Taxes, American Independence, War, Life & Liberty, The Second Amendment, Social Security, Education, No Taxes on Tips, Border Security & Immigration, Privacy & Personal Liberty, Property Rights & Eminent Domain, Health Freedom, Home Schooling, Health Care, Environment, and Racism as the important ones. It certainly seems like an extensive list. But, when I examined the text of lists I found that he often contradicts himself while trying to make a point. He wants to protect our borders without detailing funding and cut taxes. In each point, he only tells how he feels about such point without giving clear paths, ideas, goals for achieving these things. And, more recently, he has been “snubbed by Fox and shut out of a GOP presidential candidate forum. If he’s been snubbed by a supposed right-leaning network, how far off the spectrum of your chosen party do you have to be?

And, Barack and Huckabee won the Iowa Caucus. Clearly, it seems, Americans want change, a reason why my cousin’s friend would blindly vote for someone. And, clearly, we vote for candidates who do obvious double speak. But, what will it take for a true straight-talking candidate to emerge, and win. A candidate who isn’t clearly imbued by one bias or another, a candidate that can speak to the various aspects of America. What will it take to get a candidate that sees hope and wants to preserve our future for future generations, so my kids’ kids’ can have a green, healthy, planet in which to argue the constitution and dubious candidates?

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The Computer Age

Finding Forrester is about a young boy who accidentally finds a famous author past his prime. During his time with Forrester, the boy learns how to write, better than he ever has. He learns how to focus his thoughts and put them to print, all by using a typewriter. The question I have is what has happened to our writing now that we are in the computer age. Everything is so much faster. It’s clear that punctuation has gone out the window. When we write something for publication, a paper or otherwise, when you make a mistake it’s a quick point and click fix, compared to the typewriter age where you’d have to retype the entire page you were working on, if looking for a perfect final. I suspect that now that we have computers to make our lives easier, things take longer and are less correct than if we were using a permanent medium to construct our work.

I believe that in our computer age, all of these things are fluid or forgotten, and that along with many other electronic solutions, computers don’t really help us do anything faster. Rather, they add to the complication of our lives when we are striving for simplicity. To examine this point, I will look at three segments of writing: the main point, punctuation, and deadlines.

The Main Point
With the advent of email, stream of consciousness is the prevailing method of writing. With stream of consciousness as the guiding writing, principal basic tenants of writing seem to be lost such as focus. I’m guilty of this in many of my writings. Although I will have a main point, or central theme, I will get sidetracked with tangents and often not go back to the theme.

It feels like if we were not in the computer age, we’d be penning these thoughts instead of typing them, and the thoughts reserved for type would have had several rough-written drafts before being committed to typeface. Once committed to typeface it was permanent. What’s on that page better be complete because after you set it to go, there is no turning back once you’ve printed thousands on the expensive paper. You would hope there was a coherent theme, points to integrate the theme, and a conclusion to tie it all together. Nevertheless, with our Computer Age, we just sit back and type whatever comes to mind, hit send, and let it wander around forever in its permanent editable state on the internet.

Punctuation
Punctuation really needs to be included with proofreading, and simply the ability to type. I type fast. The fastest I’ve been tested is near 100 words per minute. Although my speed is great, it’s not that required of legal secretaries. Moreover, to top it off, my error rate is high at 1-3%. That means I do a lot of backspacing and spell check use. In fact, as I write this I’m typing it into an email which will be sent to Blog Spot. I use the email method, Outlook, instead of Word because the formatting is less on the actual blog. Regardless, I have the things required: spell and grammar check as I type, spacing corrections, and all grammar styles I could dream of. Actually, it’s telling me right now that I need to change that “of” over there because it’s an end-of-sentence preposition.

Spell check, as we’ve all seen, doesn’t catch everything. I could type a correctly spelled sentence that made no grammatical sense, a sentence that might not even be caught properly by the grammar check. This could be The Dumbing Down of America. Blindly correct all words and phrases and you have forgotten your grammar school grammar and you’re left with a paper that doesn’t make sense.

We’re living in a world so fast that it’s easy to hit the send button instead of forcing ourselves to look over what we’ve written. If we looked over what we have written we might see that the apostrophe doesn’t belong where we put it, the “I” really belongs with a “T”, not by itself, and quit is really supposed to be quiet or quite. We’d make questions questions, and we’d ignore Microsoft’s advice on where to put that comma before which or that.

Timelines
I have a feeling that deadlines were deadlines back in the day. I have a feeling that people had a better sense of how long something would take. Pushing out a letter for a business certainly doesn’t take long, but if it’s for the Medical Director and three others need to see it before he does, you may be making changes until next week when the letter really should go out tomorrow. We print, review, print, review, and print and review again. Each time on screen and in print, we notice several changes that need to be made, never closer to a perfect publishable draft. So, what has happened to our timelines and sticking to them? What happened to working backwards, understanding how long it took for each segment, completing each task on time, and then, when it’s all done it’s done on time. They do it in the construction industry, with misspelled construction documents, but they get it done. Why not in the written world, the other business world, why don’t timelines mean anything anymore?

Every publication I’ve had a chance to work on has gone past its deadline. A good portion of the blame can be put on my shoulders as the inexperienced one with no clue what the timeline would look like. Nevertheless, in each instance, I was working with people who had been on the project before or had been on a similar project, so they should then have an idea of the required timeline. Therefore, you would think that their input would maintain the schedule they said I should follow. Except they were sidetracked with an email alerting them to the day’s fire that needs to be put out and the timeline is pushed back yet again.

To sum up these points, it feels like the computer age has assisted us in loosing focus, forgetting grammar, and disregarded timelines. This predicament reminds me of the vacuum cleaner. The vacuum cleaner was touted as an electronic device that would save the housewife time in her daily chores. What happened was a different story. The vacuum raised the bar on expected cleanliness. Now that it was easy to make sure the floor was swept on a regular basis, other things that were dusted weekly now needed to be dusted daily. It was a mark of accomplishment and comparison when people would visit each other’s homes. Her house must be as clean as mine must, or mine should be cleaner. Now, it seems we have a warped version of that trend, how much can we get done is the theme throughout. It’s no longer about quality but now about quantity. Fix “x” number of fires per day and just get them done instead of getting one done well.

I suppose the solution is one person at a time taking the time to stop and smell the roses. But who will start?

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America’s Wars – A Disorganized Rant

How many wars do we as Americans fight every day? How entwined is the concept of war in our daily lives? I think it’s so entwined that we can’t get away from fighting for anything. We’ve got the obvious: Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Spanish American-War, WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, Gulf War II. And we have the less obvious, but still obvious: the War on Poverty and the War on Drugs. This doesn’t even take into consideration the covert operations of the CIA. Every day, our country is fighting against countless things, and for what?

WWII, and other wars, taught us that a war economy is good for the nation. Not only did it boost American worth compared to other nations with America coming out on top after the war was over. It certainly helped that Japan and Europe were devastated after the war so for some time they were unable to compete in the growing global markets. We were also united for a cause, regardless of other dissentions Zinn would talk about, this was the age of the Good Ole Boys. What kind of affect has war mentality, more specifically modern warfare had on our national psyche and our economy and our ways of conducting business? I thin it’s further empowered us to be zealots. Certainly, there are many examples of this mentality throughout history.

It seems that all major civilizations need be fighting about something in order for their society to work. Why is that? Why can’t we just have peace? Why can’t we learn to live in moderation, get along with others, have regular rough-n-tumble combat games to get out our aggression, and all the while learn to live peacefully with one another and take care of the planet we call home? Why can’t we learn that everything needs to be taken in moderation. (I’m not going to touch meth, crack, and heroine on this.) Remember that opium is medicinal when used in moderation, it doesn’t have to be heroine.

As anyone can see from reading my rants and raves, I’m fed up, in many areas, with our society. I’m terrified of bringing Levi up in this world where so much violence and abuse is flaunted on a daily basis. I’m sick to have to bring him up in a world that will most likely be wrought with more violent wars that we are dealing with now, and the possibility too several resource declines. What if he will have to wear a gas-mask to work in order to breath clean air? Where will his food come from? Kids who are on the street, in other words the street is there home, do drugs to abate the feeling of being hungry. What if everyone is homeless in 20 years? It’s so depressing and frustrating to think of the future we are creating for our children and our grandchildren, and yet what do we do about it? Mostly nothing because we are stuck going to work to pay the bills so we have a house to live in and a car to drive to work, now get back to work so you can afford to drive that car.

There’s a stream of consciousness rant that could be a creation of our Computer Age.

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The Pedestal on which We Sit

I have remembered what I said to my dear professor that may have irked him. Immediately after his class (Cities & 3rd World Development), I emailed the two other instructors who encouraged this thought, thanking them for their insight. The thought was in regards to Academia having all the answers: if we do have all the answers, and we’re so enlightened, why aren’t the problems of the world solved? The obvious answer is that we don’t have all the answers. When discussing 3rd World Development, my dear professor seemed taken aback that I would suggest the university system may be flawed.

The point is that there is no panacea to our problems. I’ve said this before in various writings for class or otherwise, but there are many different problems of this world that haunt many different people. If we have such diverse problems, regardless of any connections or similar roots, it will require diverse solutions if we would like any semblance of a solution.

It seems we can classify us, us peoples, in several different ways. For the sake of this blog, I will do it in two ways, those who think we have a problem and those who think the problem seekers should be squelched. I would fall into the category of believing that we have a problem. Someone who feels simply that might is right would likely fall into the latter category. Us Tree-Huggin’ Hippies, as my brother likes to call me, would fall into the former category. Those thinking that Bush was too liberal for them would fall into the latter. This reference is only used as an example to showcase The Myth of the Panacea (I need to copyright that).

The former group, the problem seekers, generally believes that more education will right the wrongs done to our earth and to each other. The problem squelchers believe that eliminating the problem seekers will solve the problems, because ultimately there is no problem that those with know-how cannot fix. Both sides believe they are right and that they have the solution, but unfortunately neither side is talking to the other. Without intercommunication, the other side can be vilified more easily and made to be less human. Once the other side is dehumanized, it is much easier to vilify, hence a nasty cycle. And, once the other side is vilified, then The Myth of the Panacea really comes into play, for if you just eliminate the other side then you will win and your problems will be solved (see above). Notice that now both sides can switch and become each other, problem seekers turning into eliminators and vice versa.

But that’s not how the real world works, not completely anyway. If the other side were to succeed in eliminating their supposed enemy, soon they will be called to testify for their genocide. The wrongs of history must be righted, although not necessarily today. But, where does that leave us in the meantime? Where does that leave us when dealing with obtuse professors and people that only see black and white? I don’t know, and I suppose that’s what I would like an answer to – how do you speak reason to someone who doesn’t want to understand logic?

Any thoughts?

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Bus Rides

I enjoy riding the bus. This, among other things, makes me an anomaly. (It’s difficult to type with a little-guy pulling at your arm and trying to type with you.) I enjoy watching the punk rockers with the stiff colored hair, the teenagers who think they are punks, the true punked teenagers, the yuppies who just got done shopping downtown, the dreary person getting away from work, and the average Joe reading a book with his messenger bag. Now keep in mind, a lot of these views are specific to the current place I call home: Portland, Oregon.

Upon moving to Portland late 2003, I became a frequent Bus Rider. I got a temp job downtown, and the bus stop was only 4-7 minutes, walking, from home. Pregnant Kate and I would sometimes walk (she’d waddle) to the stop, we’d chat, we’d comment, we’d fall asleep once on the bus. I got off at 6th & Columbia, while she road further to 6th & Washington. Currently, the stops are all changed around because of The Next Big Thing going on downtown. My stops that were on 5th, are now on 4th, and my bus was switched, so I have to connect closer to City Hall than before, just to get home. But, as good Bus Riders, we take these changes in stride, and ask questions while going along.

This past year has felt like an abyss in so many ways, and overall I felt in a funk without my regular bus riding. But, now I’m in school fulltime again, and I’m working on a project that puts me downtown everyday. I have resumed my bus riding instead of that boring car riding. I can now eavesdrop on conversations and people watch.

During my people-watching on the MAX headed home, today, A girl with an Elephant’s Deli bag sat near me. I didn’t pay too much attention to her, assuming she was headed off to a party with all those sandwiches, until she pulled a small bottle out of the bag and proceeded to squirt herself with perfume. A huge plum wafted my way, practically making me gag. (I’m very sensitive to smells.) She continued to arrange herself, finally pulling the hood on her cape up over her head, and pulling it down so low that you could not see her face. Why wear the perfume to be noticed if she didn’t want to be noticed? Soon, I noticed that to accompany her warm, black cape, she was wearing very short shorts.

This is why I love riding the bus. Where else, besides LA or New York do you get to see such ironies and fantastic sights? The kids so skinny they look like skeletons, but they still exude a scary confidence juxtaposed with the Baby Boomers who just did their shopping at Macy’s and Nordstrom’s, or caught a flick at the NW Film Center Theater Guild. Where else do you get such a lesson on human nature that is so in your face, than when on public transit open to all?

Clearly, lots of places, but to me, it seems that there is no other place, so condensed where you gut such a variety of personalities. That’s why I enjoy riding the bus, it’s never a dull moment and there is lots to entertain you.

A question: where do you like to people watch and what are the things that stick out most from the people watching?

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Tonight’s Blog

I have been trying to get in the habit of writing more in order to continually jog my mind, reflect on the day’s or week’s events. I like to write to synthesize what’s going on around me, comment on something I think is funny or ridiculous, and vainly hope I’ll get a following someday.

That said, I’m going to let someone else do the talking for me.

Check it out! http://www.storyofstuff.com/index.html

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Professors are sheep too?!

It’s been almost two years that I’ve been Wisdom Tooth Free. I finally had a job with insurance, and quite respectable insurance at that. There was a $20 co-pay, they didn’t argue about the chiropractic benefits, and they covered nearly everything for dental. Sadly, one of my wisdom teeth impacted, which decayed the tooth in front of it. I had a porcelain crown put in, and after checking benefits for the year, we had to wait until the year rolled over, which was soon. Then, we scheduled an appointment for me to get checked by their orthodontist. After the consultation, we scheduled a date for me to get all four wisdom teeth taken out at the same time. I’d be put under and everything. They just had one disclaimer, you need to have a ride home, and the person giving you the ride had to stay there the entire time, which would be a little over an hour.

Kate was quite perplexed, when she had her wisdom teeth out a few months before, her dentist had a room where the patient slept until their ride was there to take them. So, I questioned the office. The receptionist threatened, what if something were to happen? Well, that didn’t make sense, because if, God forbid, you were to get in a car accident on the way there or home, the person giving you a ride would too! No one would make it! No one said they’d be libel. In a follow-up appointment after the operation was over, not having liked the receptionists fear mongering reasoning, I questioned the doctor after he gave me the A-Okay. I chastised the office for fear mongering as a reason (it only perpetuates hate and the problems in our society), and I begged (practically) for better reasoning. It didn’t come, although he did say they didn’t have beds there, and they didn’t babysit. He clearly didn’t’ like my questioning, and in irritation, I muttered, “So you would just prefer everyone to be like sheep then.” The thing that pissed me off the most, and still does, was that he agreed. He noted my comment and he agreed that he would prefer everyone to be like sheep. To agree with him, mindlessly nod, never question, and move on. It would certainly make his job easier, but where’s the challenge? Where’s the learning? Where’s the learning new ideas, experiencing new things?

Fast-forward two years. This school term has been hard, really hard. I’ve been having a very difficult time managing all of my roles as mother, wife, and student, not to mention those side roles like friend, sister, daughter, daughter-in-law, and aunt. Take out a few roles, and it seems like life would be more manageable. But, as they say, you made your bed, now you have to lie in it. And, furthermore, who would trade being a mother when you’ve got such a cute bug like Levi? I wouldn’t’ trade his chipmunk cheeks and watching him grow up for anything. The husband is nice too; it’s nice watching how quickly our relationship has progressed in such a short time. I’m getting teary-eyed just writing this!

As Kate will attest, I am not passive aggressive. I’ve noticed that my passiveness occurs only when I’m trying to figure out what to say. After that, I will tell you what’s on my mind, and usually, I will try diplomacy (years of customer service work, thank you). Nevertheless, like my mother, I am blunt, and I don’t stand idly watching while I can do something about something. If that means speaking at a City Council meeting, writing a letter-to-the editor, telling someone if they’ve been rude, or disagreeing with a doctor or professor.

The classes I signed up for this term were more unrelated and diverse than other terms or semesters. One of the classes I enrolled for was Cities and 3rd World Development. I had purposely avoided that class because I had an idea what it would be like, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with those mindsets. But, this fall, I had to change a lot of things around, and I was going full time again, versus the previous part-time, new mommy term. I had to take classes during the day to accommodate Peter’s new night schedule. And since this was offered at noon, and was on my minor list, I finally relented and signed up. Meeting only once a week meant you had to pack a lot in during the two and a half hour meeting time.

Three books were assigned, Global Rift, Globalization and the Postcolonial World, and my least favorite, Planet of Slums. For the most part, this class was very informative in giving a good solid ground on how 3rd world countries came to be. It was very interesting learning that a lot of this was repeated patterns from colonialism and slave trade; the same nations that were subjugated then are worse off now. The powers to be have only shared roles, they have not relinquished them. During an early class, I did not agree with something our dear professor said, and I told him so. And, I kept going back to it during his long winded lectures where he often forgot to give breaks and frequently had to be reminded. I told Peter after class that I hope that day’s episode didn’t come back to bite me in the ass.

On the day of the midterm I did not feel well. Simply, I was menstruating again, after having an absence of nearly a year-and-a-half, so I was in pain. My doctor even prescribed me Vicodin, which wasn’t working. I felt so sick that I felt I was going to throw up. After missing nearly every other class that week, I had to go to this one, it was the midterm. I answered the two chosen essay questions, the best I could, and I left, mentioning I wasn’t feeling good, but not staying to explain because I needed to leave right then and not linger while some jerk face idly nodded. A week later, when we got our scores, I was not surprised to see I got a “C”. I didn’t give it my all because I was physically unable to do so. But, that’s life, what’s done is done, and I certainly didn’t feel like explaining further to him my physical aliments, what it’s like to be a woman, and beg why I should get a retake. It wasn’t worth it, and I didn’t care.

The next assignment was a series to get the student primed to turn in the paper. The first step was to turn in the proposal which included a narrative, research question, a paragraph how one plans to answer the research question, and an outline defining the steps one would take. After we turned it in, me and a handful of other students had their proposals returned, “Resubmit” was the instruction with a vague reason why. After five grueling resubmits, all of which were rejected, he sends an email to me and three others saying we should consider taking an incomplete for the class as we’re nearing the 8th week and it’s far too late to write an adequate paper. I wanted to scream in his face, “No shit Sherlock, it would help if you would have told me what the fuck was wrong with my proposal.”

His instructions in the syllabus were confusing and convoluted. He had instructions scattered over several pages, and no one set seemed coherent to my feeble brain. After complaining to another student, it was revealed that our dear professor’s criticisms of our proposals being too vague was vague in and of itself. This is sick irony, I realized. I’ve had another professor like this, the type where you constantly get worse in the class instead of better. In retrospect it seems to coincide directly with what you say in class. The more vocal you get, the worse you do.

If in my other classes I was also getting a “C”, it would be a different story, I wouldn’t have complained, I would have assumed it was a product of my work. But, in my other classes I get As. Consistently. In fact, my time here at PSU has been my best college thus far. I’ve felt direction, improvement, and beamed at being on the Dean’s List, if only once. I took 16 credits, something I would never have done at MSU, the term I got pregnant, and got a 4.0. And, now I have a vague proposal and a “C” on the midterm.

The final comes around, and I studied as before in a group. Tami and James were quite helpful. I spent the entire two hours on the exam this time. I made my standard outline, jotted down several notes for each of the two chosen questions, wrote for about 40-45 minutes each, double checked my work, more than twice, and after I was satisfied, it was almost two hours past, I turned in my exam. I spent twice as long on the final as compared to the midterm, I should get a grade that two-times better, right? Not so, this time I received a “C+”, which was realized after being chastised during my lame presentation for NOT BEING specific enough. Again, I wanted to scream, “Well no shit Sherlock, you think you could have told me that earlier this week when I resubmitted my proposal, four days ago!” His answer was that he just hadn’t gotten to it.

So, now I have until January 11th to finish this ridiculous paper. Now, I will try paper topic number four, and resubmit number eight.

Then, I will complain, but to whom? Will anything be done? Will it be worth it in the end? I complained on the evaluation, but seriously, I’m going to be one of 30 students, maybe the only one who didn’t like him. All the other students seemed awed by his presence, as if he was the god. So many times during the class, I felt like I was in a remake of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Was it only me seeing the naked king? Can’t anybody else see it? The books we are reading are not good, they are long-winded, dry, and redundant, so how can everyone in the class really enjoy it? The realization I had was that Professors are sheep. They want to go along spouting their truths they have learned while in Academia. They do not want to be challenged. They want to be reassured why they are right. They want to follow what they already know. Professors, they are sheep too.

After this nearly 2,000 word Blog, I have a few questions for those reading.

Have you ever challenged an authority figure and paid for it by getting a poor grade in class or being chastised at work? If so, what did you do about it? Do you agree with my ending assumption that most professors are sheep just like the normal Joe?

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Technology Challenged

The first developers of IBM PC computers negle...
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I ordered a SanDisk 1 GB MP3 player from WOOT! on Thanksgiving Day, and it came today! Two weeks later, but it is seemingly worth it. The MP3 player was only $15.99 plus the mandatory $5 shipping. A $21 refurbished MP3 player, how could I go wrong? I read a review on CNET that explained this one was good for the beginner! My husband later translated saying it meant it was probably crap, come on, he goaded, it comes with an FM tuner! How could it possibly work up to par?

As soon as I got it, I ripped the package open with the razor blade that sits in the junk drawer, like a kid on Christmas Day, so eager to see what lay hidden in the box. It was an Amazon book sized box, so I was startled to see that the giant postal service air bubble took up 7/8 of the room inside! The MP3 player consisted of three small plastic-wrapped packages: one bubble wrapped MP3 player, one USB plug in sealed a plastic bag, and one set of ear buds in a small Ziploc type baggy. At first, I tried to take out the battery, but I was afraid I’d use too much force, so I gave that up. Then, my husband looked at it, and he hit the power button, and the thing immediately lit up! It even held a charge! This was something the Wooters warned against, shipping will probably drain the battery, and mine had a charge! I tried to sync it, again, according to the Wooters, and it didn’t work. Maybe the first-timer tragedy was appearing. I unplugged it from the PC, and turned it back on, tested out the choices such as the FM turner. It seemed to be working, and quite well for something that was doomed to be crap. After fiddling with it for a bit longer, I was able to get it Synced, added a small horde of songs stashed on my PC, and after the baby was put down for a nap, sat on the couch, doing what I wanted all along, study with music stuck in my ears. This is the extent of my technological insight now a days.

Growing up, we played Oregon Trail in 5th grade, I was typing 20 wpm in 8th grade while playing that silly space-alien game on our IBM 386s, and by 10th grade, my speed was up to 65 wpm, and when I was a senior, it was 75 wpm. I knew how to manage most software programs that I came across. I started on the blue screen version of Word Perfect 5.1. I gradually learned when it changed to the GUI 6.0, I started on Works 3.11 for Workgroups at home, and when Word really was rockin’ and rollin’, I used that too. It was especially handy that my favorite math teacher had the Windows 95 educational version of the Office Suite where I was able to play with PowerPoint for the first time, and it was wonderful. We made our math presentations on a projector that was placed on top of the projector to translate the computer screen to the big screen. We thought we were so cool.

I went to college in ’96, and MSU had PILOT email, a telnet based email program that was so slow, and you had to flip through email pages manually. There was no reading it on one screen. I got a job in the computer labs, where you babysat labs for 20 hours a week. Off duty, I helped a girl “fix” her computer by closing down a new document she accidentally opened, I was a hero. New friends were into text-based games, and I started playing Eternity’s Trials, a modified version of Zork, which was introduced to me by Barry and Chad in our high school computer class. In that computer class, we learned basic BASIC. But Mr. Carlton suggested that knowing software was far more transferable than knowing how to program. Maybe he just understood my personal limitations. In that on-line computer game, I eventually was “promoted” to immortal, and that trek lead me to sub-imp, which showed me the inner workings of the MUD. I learned how to reboot the mud from the UNIX server by logging in via telnet. I felt like I could learn anything.

College wasn’t working for me at the time; I just couldn’t get my head in the game. So, I moved back home. The next 6 years were spent working, trying to go back to school, and working some more. I stopped looking at office catalogs regularly. I stopped seeing what new software was out there. I stopped hanging around people where forever interested in Linux. But, I still knew Word, even backwards and forwards; Excel a little less so; and Access even less, but a great working knowledge of Access. I had managed databases, and created flow charts, so although my software skills were improving and expanding, I was in a technological funk. There was limited new information being processed, and I was beginning to feel like the older women I would teach to use a computer at whichever job I held at the time.

Now, I have an MP3 player. I’ve always been slow on the musical end of things, slow to get tapes, slow to get CDs, slow to put music on the computer, just slow musically. So, naturally, I have been quite slow getting an MP3 player. It chafes at my ideas of community and bonding. It goes against many things I hold dear, like why someone doesn’t need a cell phone. But, I have one of those now too. Studying and focusing has become harder lately, and it feels like the problem-solver will be an MP3 player. My future brother-in-law, Min, introduced Peter and me to WOOT! WOOT! was this site where they get new or refurbed products, and they sell only one a day. Min and Stacy bought two sweet looking, sweet performing cameras from the site. So, when we got home from Justin and Gina’s wedding, we started watching WOOT! everyday. One day, we saw a 2GB MP3 player for a price that seemed reasonable, just more than what we wanted to pay. Then, on Thanksgiving day, a reasonably priced, memory charge MP3 player was posted. I saw it at 10PM Pacific time, and when I was starting to prepare for the meal Thanksgiving morning, I researched it, checked to see if we could really use it here, and then I bought it.

My MP3 buying, as alluded to, is late coming. I’m getting a refurbished, first-timers MP3 player when most people have moved on to iPhones and other synced Apple products. I’m getting an MP3 player maybe as the wave of musical players is at its peak. They are all sleek, slim, and handy. This low-grade MP3 player has a color screen, basic options that let me do what I want with it regarding music listening, and I can even record voice. How can this be low-grade? Wouldn’t low-grade be an 8-track in your car? We’ve moved so far beyond 8-tracks and personal CD-players it’s dizzying. So, although I feel in many ways that I’m behind on the technology bandwagon, I think it’s just fine. Technology changes so fast, it seems almost better to be behind so you don’t get the first-run screw ups. You can wait for the $21 refurbished deals and have mild confidence, better than no-confidence, that it will do exactly what you want. For now, I’m happy to be behind the technology know-how.

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Soggy Days are Here Again

While the other parts of the country are blasted with snow and freezing temperatures, Oregon is blasted with rain and wind, the Pacific Northwest Winter. I’m taking a class at PSU this term about the Pacific Northwest, taught by a tall red-headed Prof. with a fantastic dry sense of humor; too bad he doesn’t see that we laugh at the same things. Regardless, this has been an insight on PacNW history and culture. We learned about the early explorers, a base understanding of how Oregon was settled and current issues that plague our society. A breath of fresh air has been breathed into the insight on the pride Pacific Northwesterners hold for their beloved region. An understanding has been formed on why people west of the Cascades are so damned proud of their webbed feet.

One thing we learned is that many of the first explorers to the Oregon Coast, Spanish and English, dreaded it. They hated the un-land-able rocky coast, they hated the wind, they hated the rain, and they hated the soggy. So many of the things Oregon prides itself in where detested by the early explorers. Even Lewis & Clark, regional (and national) icons of adventure and exploring hated the weather. They hated walking in the water all the time, they hated, as stated previously, just being soggy.

In Today’s age, now that we “tamed” the Pacific Northwest, we brag that we have webbed feet, the rain isn’t so bad, and we tell the exact opposite to Californians, thank you Gov Tom McCall. In addition, this weekend should be a testament to those webbed feet of ours. If we love the rain so much, we should love this soggy weekend. It was so soggy, and still is, that our beloved Sitka Spruce, 700 years old, and although nearing the end of its lifespan, will be missed by all due to an unfortunate wind gust that knocked it down from half way up. Hurricane force winds of bogged down the coast, and so much soggy, windy weather that the Governor has called a State of Emergency. What happened to our webbed feet?

The question begs, what would the early explorers have thought about the Pacific Northwest if they had Gortex Rain Coats and weatherproofed hiking boots to help them? Imagine if Lewis & Clark had plastic coated tents and an unlimited supply of tarps to keep the ground warm. Imagine if any of the early explorers stepped foot on the Oregon Coast with a fancy pair of hikers that would keep feet dry for a week without taking them off. Imagine Lewis & Clark marching along the Columbia balancing a kayak and wearing a slick outer shell from Marmot. What would their opinion be of the PacNW then?

We can claim that we have webbed feet, but it’s only with the help of the technology that has grown up with living here. Many of the people who helped raise this area to the civilized society it is now did it with an ingenuity and desire to tame nature. Of that taming was born icons like Columbia Sportswear, Leatherman, and Nike. Without these technological tools to help us, many of us would be complaining worse than Lewis & Clark. We have technology to thank for our webbed feet.

The irony lies in the self-reliance that is the base of the Pacific Northwest pride. The “man can do anything” attitude boosts confidence and makes people feel like they can accomplish anything. No Goliath will stand in the way of someone who holds the PacNW attitude. The realization is bolstered by invention. Pacific Northwesterners would not have the confidence they do without the technology created to tame the environment in which they live. So, the next time someone brags about their webbed feet, remember that they would not have those webbed feet without their protective gear.

Perhaps that protective gear is the real accomplishment of the Pacific Northwest. It is gear that enabled people to appreciate the land in which they live and create laws to protect it.