Thursday, September 29, 2005
It's official: I'm old.
Overheard a guy in my class today raving about what a great actor Tom Cruise is. He wondered if any of his friends had ever seen Top Gun, as if it had been filmed in the Triassic and only recently unearthed by Raiders of the Lost Vault. He thought Top Gun was great, and described it as "old school".
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Teaching: not as hard as I thought it would be. In fact, kind of fun.
Teaching in loud room w/ bad acoustics: exhausting.
Grading exams: not bad, esp. once you get into a rhythm. Am however feeling guilty about the red pen and may use some other color next time. Red is such an angry color. Grrrr!! You got them all right!!
We gave our exam last Thursday. Before class today, I had the following conversation at least three times:
Student: Are we getting the exams back today?
Hmm, maybe if more people actually sat through the classes, they would get fewer of those disheartening red zeroes on their essays. Those zeroes hurt me, people! Do you want to break your poor TA's heart?
Began extracting DNA last week. First trial resulted in smears of something too short to be my DNA. I did the second trial today and tomorrow I'll run it out and see what I got.
Monday, September 19, 2005
All I needed to boost my output volume to new and startling levels was to switch to a different desk at the office. This new perspective, accompanied by the odd sound of water dripping (have not yet located the source but nothing seems to be wet), is just the shot in the arm I needed. Ha.
Phrase of the week, from Bookslut.com: "insane, crypto-Fascist kudzu" - referring to the mom in Fayetteville, Arkansas who continues to expand her efforts to ban every interesting book anyone might ever read in a public school. Further proof of the benefits of employment, because people with nothing to do all day have time for this kind of crap. I fear for how her children will turn out.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
1) Met an Italian greyhound at Pet Supplies Plus. Wanted to take her home but the owner was sort of attached to her.
2) Saved a white mouse from an unhappy situation. Its tail was wedged into the metal bracket holding the water bottle, so I alerted an employee and he went in and gently freed it. Unfortunately, he said it was bleeding and crimped - that's a lot of pain for a tiny little mouse. I don't know what they can or will do for it.
3) Managed to get Jazzy to barf into a wastebasket instead of on the carpet. Wastebaskets unfortunately amplify sound, but it sure beats cleaning the carpet.
I think it's fair that a birthday lasts as long as the cake lasts. If I leave a few scraps in the pan, I can drag this thing on indefinitely!
Got tons of books, and nifty bookends so I can keep my textbooks from collapsing and crushing me at my desk (and a fun story about Mark pleading with a Pier 1 employee after closing time to PLEASE let him in, he knows EXACTLY what he wants, he won't be a minute, wife's birthday, blah blah blah... apparently he was successful :)). We went to dinner at Wholly Frijoles, a really excellent Mexican restaurant tucked into a tiny strip mall. There was a line to get in all evening, on a Wednesday in Lincolnwood. Crazy. We felt a little bad for the Chinese place two doors down, empty and lonely, their food untasted. We thought they should sell egg rolls to people waiting for a table at the other place.
I went through my Amazon wishlist to delete the things I'd received. There are still 101 things left, a few of which are CDs but most of which are books. I experienced a moment of unhappy panic when I realized I'm already 34 and I still have so much left to read. There's a saying about hoping that the very last check you write bounces. My version is I hope I can end the race with my Amazon wishlist empty.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
MY birthday! MINE!
I like my birthday. I don't even mind that I get few cards or gifts anymore. I am a grown-up with a job - I no longer have to regard birthdays and Christmas as a major source of income :) The gifts and birthday wishes I do get, and my cake and dinner out, make me very happy. Besides, expecting every person I've ever met to remember my birthday implies an obligation to also remember *their* birthdays, and, well, I'm not that organized anymore. On my birthday, I know all day that it's *my* day and not yours or anyone else's and I end up just randomly grinning to myself whenever I think about it. Me me me!! Tomorrow, I'll go back to being not very special (and older, too -- *sob*) but today, it's all about Bintie :)
Outside the UIC dorm, a guy and a girl, arguing heatedly.
Guy: Two wrongs don't make a right!
Girl (sullenly): Yeah, well, two shut ups make a shut up.
Monday, September 12, 2005
See you in September
In honor of my birth month, a list of songs about September:
- See You in September (The Happenings) (live video)
- Wake Me Up When September Ends (Green Day) (live video)
- September Song (written by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson for the 1938 Broadway show Knickerbocker Holiday; performed by many including Willie Nelson, Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra) (listen - Sinatra version)
- September (Earth Wind and Fire) (listen)
- September Morn (Neil Diamond) (live video) (cover)
- September When It Comes (Roseanne Cash) (video)
- The September of My Years (Frank Sinatra) (cover)
- Try to Remember (from The Fantasticks) (live performance by Ed Ames) (Thanks, Janice!)
- September Gurls (Big Star, covered by The Bangles) (live performance by Susanna Hoffs)
- September in the Rain (Al Dubin; performed by James Melton in Melody for Two in 1937) (cover by Deborah Cox) (cover by The Beatles in a 1962 audition)
- Maybe September (Tony Bennett)
- Come September (Natalie Imbruglia) (homemade video)
- Remember September (Belinda Carlisle)
- Raining in September (Rufio) (cover)
- It Might As Well Rain Until September (Carole King) (listen)
- Wet Day in September (Pussycat) (video)
- September Rain (Sentimental Graffiti)
- September All Over (September) (bad video)
- Late September (Deepest Blue) (video)
- Late September Dogs (Melissa Etheridge) (live video)
- September Girl (Martin Klingman) (video)
- Pale September (Fiona Apple) (listen)
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Have been addicted to news sites for the past week and a half, reading about hurricane recovery efforts and new horrors being unearthed every day and bitter words from pretty much everybody in the country towards an emergency response at all levels of government that demonstrated quite clearly that after four years of "Homeland Security" and hundreds of years of experience with disaster-response scenarios of every sort, this country isn't ready for a damned thing. Then I thought I'd reached my limit for horror, and then tonight I saw the pictures of the dogs left behind by evacuated or otherwise departed owners. Or rather, I saw two pictures and then had to stop.
Argh. On a lighter note, I won three books from Chicagoist.com today - Positively Fifth Street, Middlesex, and I Sailed with Magellan. And just before my birthday, too! Thanks, Chicagoist!
Was sick with a nasty cold over Labor Day weekend, horrible sinus pressure and general misery abounding. I feel better now and am having my standard post-illness surge of energy and motivation, which won't last long enough to accomplish anything useful, I'm sure.
Friday, September 02, 2005
More painful truths
From an interview with the mayor of Nola, Ray Nagin, last night:
"But we authorized $8 billion to go to Iraq lickety-quick. After 9/11, we gave the president unprecedented powers lickety-quick to take care of New York and other places.
Now, you mean to tell me that a place where most of your oil is coming through, a place that is so unique when you mention New Orleans anywhere around the world, everybody's eyes light up -- you mean to tell me that a place where you probably have thousands of people that have died and thousands more that are dying every day, that we can't figure out a way to authorize the resources that we need? Come on, man."
Apparently there are some stupid rules about who is allowed to ask for assistance from the federal government, and somehow those requests weren't made correctly. Did FEMA say "Oh, no, we can't begin rescue operations until we receive this form in triplicate"? Gee, we're sorry, but our fucking forms were underwater! And the martial law that should have been declared days ago... well, hasn't been. The resources that should have been commandeered as early as Monday, the civilian and military buses and equipment and food that FEMA should have just TAKEN from every Wal-Mart and Greyhound station and military base within 500 miles, weren't. Nobody is in charge. The local police are exhausted and terrified, being shot at, and abandoning their posts. Evacuations to the Astrodome and other arenas in Texas are underway but it's slow going, and who is in charge of the next step there? How long can 20,000 people live in the Astrodome?
And Mayor Nagin also mentions an overlooked fact - that Nola has a serious drug problem and now there are addicts roaming the streets with weapons, looking for a fix. It's bad.
He echoes my sentiments of yesterday: "I don't want to see anybody do anymore goddamn press conferences. Put a moratorium on press conferences. Don't do another press conference until the resources are in this city. And then come down to this city and stand with us when there are military trucks and troops that we can't even count.
Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here. They're not here. It's too doggone late. Now get off your asses and do something, and let's fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country."
This makes the 9/11 response look so easy in comparison. At least New York still had its infrastructure and communications systems, and an obvious Bad Guy to direct all our hate towards. Now we have emergency plans that can't be carried out because they all assumed roads and electricity, and no obvious Bad Guy. I can't even imagine the long-term fallout - the people displaced, the businesses ruined, the architecture and history lost, the poor physical and emergency planning exposed, the bureaucrats falling down on the job. How these things are dealt with will say a lot about America's future as a nation. We must learn from history, which teaches very harsh and real lessons.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
Isn't this America?
Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Biloxi and Gulfport on August 29. It's impossible to describe the aftermath, despite up-to-the-minute coverage and a plethora of stories of tragedy on-line. Much of New Orleans is flooded, the power is out, there is no fresh water or food, looters have taken everything not nailed down, and of course it's very hot. Tens of thousands of people, many of whom are sick or elderly or infant, and most of whom were too poor to leave town over the weekend, are crammed into the Superdome and the Convention Center and any other unflooded structure they can find. Many of these are places where the city told the refugees to congregate. Now those places are no better than perching on a rooftop, are filling with the dead and dying and panicky. People are shooting at the military and relief helicopters, because they're scared and acting stupid. It's like watching footage from war-torn Africa, and yet it's one of the largest and most beautiful cities in the U.S. Or, at least it was. It's like the storm washed away everything good and left nothing but misery and starvation and disease in its wake. And here I am with not a lot of food in my cupboards but enough to keep a starving family alive, with clean running water and aspirin and a notable lack of sewage flowing around my knees, and a whole lot of survivor's guilt. It would take so little to make a difference to a few, but it will take huge amounts to make a difference to enough.
And now on the fourth day, people still perch on their roofs, fearful of looters but with nowhere else safe to go, and thousands huddle in the Convention Center and ask passing reporters and police officers why the Red Cross isn't there. Relief efforts have been at best half-assed, if you ask me. People are dying of dehydration while on the news we see FEMA having meetings about logistics. Screw the logistics and screw the 30,000 National Guard troops, who are just going to add 30,000 more mouths to feed. We're a big rich country with a massive military. We have helicopters and barges and big army trucks. Not all of them are in Iraq, although far too many are. How hard could it be to get truckloads and palettes of water and granola bars into the downtown? Get the approvals for it later. Especially since this flood scenario is something the city supposedly prepared for as recently as last year. Bureaucracy and planning are no substitute for action.
And finally, the rebuilding question. How much sense does it make to rebuild a city that is 10 feet below sea level? Congress now faces this very serious question. New Orleans only exists because of the elaborate system of levees and pumps that holds back both Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi. In the face of the absolutely inevitable rise in sea level that will come with global warming, and has in fact already begun, such low-lying cities are a virtual loss anyway. When we discuss such situations, we do so in a detached, hypothetical way that puts Malaysia and Indonesia under water but certainly not *America* because we are preordained to come out on top, so to speak, even when Earth does its best to shake us off. Well, guess what? The hypothetical has become reality and right here at home, too. If New Orleans is rebuilt, it will only be destroyed again. A quote from Will Durant: "Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice."
Now, San Franscisco was rebuilt after an earthquake, and nobody questions that decision a hundred years later, even though we all know another big one will come eventually. Galveston was rebuilt after a hurricane killed over 6,000 people. Cities in Southeast Asia are rebuilt after typhoons. The inevitable will happen again and again, and humanity's response is "You can't beat us." Or, rather, "It's worth the risk." But this seems like a particularly losing proposition - building a city that can't help but be filled with water. When Chicago was destroyed by fire in 1871, it was presented with a blank slate on which it could redesign and rebuild a city the right way, one that was less flammable. Maybe New Orleans should take this opportunity to correct its locational error and move to higher ground.