Saturday, August 30, 2008


O.k. I admit it. I watched the whole convention last week. And I caught the R's introductory press conference on Friday. And, of course, I have my own opinions about all of it, but just a couple that I feel compelled to offer as discussion points.
First, the Palin selection. Initially, I saw this move as just another Harriet Miers - selected for the double xx chromosomes rather than skill and ability. But she does have a few years of experience and a couple of attractive qualifications, such as, pushing for political reform and a spouse who was/is(?) a union member. Still, her limited experiences (like lowering property taxes) are not as impressive as Obama's. Also, she may be a woman, but biology doesn't make her an advocate for women. (And someone should tell her that she is running for vice-president; that was a little unclear in her speech last Friday. When referring to Clinton's "18 million cracks," she inferred that her nomination would finally break the glass ceiling which it won't - even if the ticket is elected and even if she becomes president. She would have to be elected president to break that one.)

Speaking of elections that break with the past brings me to my second point: the Obama nomination. I'm suffering from "history" fatigue, especially of the "never in my lifetime" variety. While I am pleased by the results, I don't find myself dazed and over-joyed at this (admittedly) historic moment. How surprising is it that he got the nomination? Consider the mythic proportions that King and CRM have acquired in our popular imaginations. And the affiliations that white Americans - and white Democrats, in particular - envision between themselves and that movement/person. Is it really all that surprising? The event that would really bowl me over is having him win. Electing him president would, to my mind, represent a significant break with the past and a real, monumental achievement. I am bit concerned that Dem's are settling for this (comparatively) lesser achievement rather than the big one out of an unexpressed fear that they'll lose another general election. And this is a frightening possibility. In fact, I'm so concerned that I am going to do something that I've never done before - encourage all my friends in blue states* to squeeze your budget and donate to his campaign.

*'Cause if you're in a purple state, you could go out and campaign in person!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

seeing-red county

With our one-year anniversary behind us, I'm beginning to feel like we can settle into living in Orange County. We've met some great people (indeed, recently, some more moved in practically next door). I should remember, though, not to get too comfortable here in Red County.* Moved by misunderstanding, fear, or bigotry, some locals do the craziest things.

To wit, a parent recently upbraided the San Juan Capistrano School District for allowing its principal and teachers to run Marco Forster Middle School like (in her words) a "Mexican public school." A majority of students have Latino backgrounds and many can speak Spanish. They do so at school (in-between classes) which letter-writer McCarthy says ostracizes monolingual students - like her children - and also breaks California law mandating "English only" in the state's flailing schools. Her concern even extends to "Hispanic children" themselves. She notes that allowing students to speak Spanish insulates them from mainstream American culture by preventing them from, in her words again, "assimilating." Here, of course, is the buzzword heralded by nativists for more than a century. "They" are not turning into "us". So, while McCarthy says "the English language has become second and not as important;" she thinks "I am threatened by the unfamiliar" therefore it must (at least outwardly) conform to my sense of me. There is no compromise or accommodation in this world view.

Significantly, Marco Forster students are quite familiar with mainstream American culture of the variety McCarthy references. The school mural that elicited her contempt for featuring a Mexican flag (along with the U.S. flag) is the product of student endeavor. In 1994, after nativists left offensive fliers in the lockers of 12-14 year old kids (!), students created this mural - featuring Benito Juarez - as a tribute to human rights but also as a positive symbol of Mexican-American blending. It is telling that McCarthy chose to attack precisely this image. When seeing red, she could see little else.

This incident prompts me to wonder if it is possible to communicate with such a seemingly-intractable mind-set? Can someone like this see examples of cultural (and social and linguistic) convergence as anything but a threat? Do I need to set my sights - and expectations - lower? If so, this might make settling in here more difficult.

*Orange County has the distinction of being home to the largest, per capita, population of registered Republicans. (This can make one pine for the days when being "red" meant something quite different.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

short list*

I'm on week number two with my new, short haircut and I love it. Some reasons why it is so great:
-no more blanket on my shoulders in the summer heat,
-I have achieved the 5-minute shower,
-use less shampoo (lots less),
-my hair no longer falls down in front of my face (I used to hate that),
-it better suits my mood**: when I'm struggling with a particular section, I can work my hair up straight on end.

-it can stick straight out when I don't want it to,
-more frequent cuts which means this haircut will hold out as long as my budget does.

*This is my take on KFR's list suggestion (from a while back).
**My dad approvingly commented that this cut is a little more "energetic" than the previous version. (That's the effect I had in mind.)

New view:

Sunday, August 10, 2008

'sleigh bells ring'

I finally have my conference (and paper) behind me and not a deadline until March. (The conference was brief but great for me; I got to hear SJ give a wonderful paper!)

I can see the months stretch out in front of me and I've mapped out the next deadlines. On our way to Montana, we stopped in TrackTown where we had the rare treat of seeing people that we get to see not often enough. I also met with Adviser - so I could check in on that last chapter I gave her (ahem, the first chapter). Anyway, I came away a bit crest-fallen. My plan of draft, revise, defend, and graduate by June is a brilliant scheme that she doesn't share. She advised me to shoot for next June to have the full draft in and then spend the next year revising. (Math calculator: That is a finish date of June 2010 - or 20010, for that matter.) I was also advised that the process will take three or four rounds of revisions - three or four rounds! Instead of crazy busy for the next ten months, I saw crazy busy for twenty-two. Ugh.

So, I've decided to see what I can do to speed things up. My goal: full draft by Christmas. That would be the best Christmas present I have ever given myself. Do you hear the Christmas music? Me neither, which is fine by me because I need all the time I can get.

Friday, August 1, 2008

cake, sweet

I happened upon this website - Cake Wrecks - last night and must recommend it. I laughed so hard, I had tears in my eyes. The cakes were funny (see 6/27 and 6/24) and then I started reading the commentary. This is entertaining too (both posts for 7/4, for example). (I'm so curious about the wedding that went with the cake from 6/24 - look at it close-up.) Maybe I should note that I am a huge cake fan - they all look good (except the one from 6/16, that was too much even for me). What a great use for a blog.

Guess who has a half-written conference paper in her lap and absolutely no motivation?