conspiracy theories R us

Michael Jackson’s death reminded me how talented he was, and also how incredibly disturbed.  As The D asked, “what’s up with his Voldemort nose?”  

But it also gives me the chance to come up with a conspiracy theory.  So, Iran is cracking down on protesters who have issues with Amedinejadah’s re-election (truth be told, so do I, but that’s a different post).  And Kim Jong Il is, well, ill.  And has, or so he claims, nukes.  So, Makhmoud and Jong, knowing that they weren’t long for power, got together last year, or perhaps the year before, and found a doctor they could embed in MJ’s house (hey, the news today said that MJ’s private physician couldn’t be found!).  When the elections didn’t go Makhmoud’s way, and Korea’s missile testing proving upsetting, the doctor moved in.  Gave Mikey a shot of Demerol that would have killed Bubbles twice over, then ‘panicked’ — come on, what doctor doesn’t know that CPR is useless on a soft surface, and the 911 call proves that he was giving MJ CPR on the bed.  

Look, Makhmoud and Jong know us well.  They knew that if someone really famous and really controversial — and being right on the verge of a major comeback didn’t hurt, either — died, then they could buy themselves a couple of days to crack some skulls.  After all, who’s going to pay attention to a bad cell phone video of some dead protester, or the deplorable conditions in the prison camps (heck, pretty much everywhere in North Korea) when the King of Pop dies?

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Published in: on June 27, 2009 at 12:00 am  Leave a Comment  

gee, thanks. appreciate it.

So, in June, I got an email telling me that my fellowship money had been released and I should expect the funds to be deposited in three days.  I’d applied for a couple of university fellowships, but this was the first I’d heard of actually getting one.  So, I emailed the person back, asking what for, and how much.  I got a response — a summer dissertation fellowship, and $2000.  I did the math…that meant that I could get away with only working at the pub, and could really focus on revising the draft.  YEAH!  How great is that?

So, come the 3rd of June or so, there’s the money.  Lovely, really.  I can enjoy a healthy balance for a month or so, and then use it to pay my rent for a couple of months.  All was well.  I even budgeted some funds for The D and I to have fun this summer.  Nothing big, but a road trip to Monterey, and a day or two in San Diego.

Then, yesterday, I got an email informing me that because the funds had been released in the 2008-2009 academic year, my financial aid had been revised, and I owed the university $1904.  So my two months’ worth of rent fellowship became a whopping $96 fellowship.

I emailed an administrator friend, asking, esstentially, ‘WTF?!??!’.  Her response was that there wasn’t much anyone could do, and that my fellowship letter should have pointed out that accepting the award might affect my financial aid.  Since the first, and only, notification I’d had was an email that told me that the money would be deposited, and since I’d not gotten a fellowship in a year in which I’d taken out loans, I knew nothing of the issue.  

To add insult to injury, turns out that if they’d deposited the money 30 days later, on 1 July, this wouldn’t be happening, because then it would be a new academic year.  And I still don’t have a letter that says anything…all I have are the initial email and the response to my query, and a notification of an electronic funds transfer.  That’s it.  As it stands right now, I’ve asked that they take the money back and re-release it after 1 July.  We’ll see how that goes.  

But it raises some questions:  if SOP is to keep the funds in check until the turn of the year, why did they give it to me early?  who made that decision, and is he or she going to accept that they made a HUGE mistake (calls and emails to the responsible party have not yet been returned)?  And even more puzzling…where is this mysterious letter?  Several friends have also gotten summer funding, and they all have letters, including a signature page on which they had to accept their fellowships.  Where’s mine?  Did they think I would be so grateful for the money that I’d not think about it (truth be told, I didn’t…until I had to repay it!)?  

And most importantly, anyone have two grand I can have to pay my rent?! 🙂

Published in: on June 25, 2009 at 12:23 am  Leave a Comment  

just makes me happy

My friend Mat’s partner broke his back about a year and a half ago, and the doctors told him he would never walk again, or use his legs.  Well, the doctors were wrong.  Just watching this reminds me that anything is possible, even the things that others tell you can’t be done.  Niall, you rock!

Published in: on June 22, 2009 at 4:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

difficult to reconcile

I’ve never hated my ex-husband.  I don’t even hate him now.  I’ve moved on with my life.  But every once in a while, he’ll say something or do something that makes me wonder if perhaps he hasn’t.  He told The D that I hadn’t told him that I was graduating, and said to her ‘I guess I’m no longer in her heart.’  We’ve been apart for nearly six years — you’d think he’d have figured that out by now.  Sometimes, he’ll call ‘just to chat’ and seems hurt when I remind him, yet again, that I don’t want to be his friend, that I am his ex-wife and the mother of his child.  He doesn’t want to get it.

When these moments occur, my skin crawls.  I actually feel physical revulsion.  In fact, recently, that revulsion is about the only thing I feel.  I want to take a shower when I so much as talk to him on the phone, I want to fumigate when he comes to my house, I want to run screaming when he tries to hug me (although I think he figured this last one out). 

The question is, why?  I mean, at some point, I must have loved him.  I know I did.  We had The D together, after all.  And despite the issues between us, he loves his daughter unconditionally.  So why is it that I wish that he would just disappear?  Why, given how rotten my own relationship with my father is, would I wish that on my daughter?  Truth is, I don’t wish it on her.  But I don’t want anything to do with him.  A kind word — congratulations on getting a job, or his sobriety — gets turned into an invitation to tell me all about his problems.  I don’t want to know, and as harsh as it sounds, I don’t care.  His life is his own, my life is mine.  I don’t tell him about my life because, well, I’m boring.  But the fact is, unless I’m endangering The D’s welfare by what I do, he has no right to know what I do.  

Perhaps it’s because he hasn’t respected the clear boundaries I’ve set in place that I find myself more and more repulsed by him.  I say that I don’t want to be his friend, that I don’t want to talk to him unless it is directly related to our child, that I am unwilling to allow him to take our daughter overnight, and he hears these things as an invitation to call me up to chat, to say one thing about our daughter and then try to engage me in conversation about other things, and to ask if he can spend the night on my couch.  

And I let him, because I know he loves his daughter.

Published in: on June 21, 2009 at 9:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

teaching on many levels

I used to think that history was boring.  It was a neverending list of names, dates, places, battles, kings…men.  White men, usually.  I remember asking my American history teacher in high school what was so great about Christopher Columbus.  He told me that Columbus had discovered America, and I kept wondering ‘but what about the people who were already here?’.  Unless a white man laid eyes on something, it seems, it didn’t exist.  Oh, there were the occasional women — Betsy Ross, Susan B. Anthony (wow, I’m dating myself, aren’t I).  And even non-white men:  George Washington Carver and, of course, MLK.  

But there was little that was, frankly, interesting.  It was boring and I hated it.  Until I realized that there was another way to ‘do’ history, one that looked from different angles, different perspectives, questioned assumptions, and thought that things like wars, which were so ubiquitous, were, because of their very prevalence, less than interesting.  And I got interested.  And when I started teaching, I was excited about it.  But my students weren’t.  They entered my classroom like the condemned, sure that they would hate the class — I heard many variations on the ‘history is boring’ theme.  They had gotten, in high school, the same dull, boring lists that I had gotten, and had been similarly turned off.

Thus, my goal as a teacher was (and still is!) to change at least some of their minds.  To make at least one person every quarter actually get excited about history.  For some, that means military history.  For others, it’s the realization that their gender, their ethnic group, their age group…people just like them had changed history at some point, for good or ill.  That history wasn’t what king ruled, but what that king’s subjects were doing, what they were thinking, how they lived their quotidian lives.  

And amazingly, it worked.  And then The D came along, and started learning history in grade school.  And I wanted her to be excited, so I told her stories, stories that complimented what she was learning in her textbooks, which, while a bit more diverse than, say, my history textbooks when I was in grade school, still glossed over such problematic issues as native/settler relationships, religious conflict, or early slavery.  So I told her about them.  And then I got the note from one of her teachers.  It asked me, very nicely, to stop teaching The D the ‘extra’ stuff I had been teaching her, because she was sharing it at school, and getting the other kids confused.  Instead of stopping, of course, I just told her to stop discussing it at school.  

Funnily enough, telling The D these stories also changed her view of history, but not until she went to her new school, where her teacher finally ‘got’ that I wasn’t trying to undermine the curriculum, but enhance it.  Good teachers know that ‘extra stuff’ isn’t a bad thing, but can round out a student’s knowledge, and add to their learning.  It enhances, not distracts.  And it makes them love the subject.  So, if a teacher ever tells you to stop helping your child, find a different teacher — FAST!

On a related note, I’ve started to teach The D to cook.  Tough for me, because following recipes has never been my strong suit.  I can’t count how many times I’ve heard someone insist that baking is an exact science, and that all sorts of exact measurements and steps simply must be taken.  Really?  I’ve never sifted flour in my life…there’s such a thing as a fork.  And there are few cakes that can’t be made with plain old flour rather than cake flour.  And I’ve not used a recipe for chocolate chip cookies in YEARS.  And yet, somehow, they always come out just fine.  

What does this all boil down to?  That in teaching The D to cook, I’ve had to re-teach myself to read recipes, to actually take the time to show her how to measure, how to blend things, how to fold and how to whip and how to add certain things in a certain order.  It’s odd, following recipes.  And it’s certainly odd having to stop and explain it.  I’ve explained Freud, Marx, Foucault, the Crusades, the origins of monotheism, and the Black Death.  This shouldn’t be hard.  But teaching my daughter to cook, I think, is going to be a challenge.  One I look forward to with some fear, some pride, and whole lot of mess!

Published in: on June 20, 2009 at 1:08 am  Leave a Comment  

yeah, I got nothing.

It’s not that I have nothing as in I don’t have stuff, or enough food, or shelter or physical — or even emotional — things.  I do.  I have quite a few good things.  I have a great kid, an apartment (at least through December), food in my fridge, and wonderful friends.  

But what I don’t have is an answer to why some people are so…gods and goddesses, the only term I can think of is ‘two faced’.  Why say things that are patently untrue?  Why tell one group one thing, another another thing, and then still another something else entirely?  When they know that these groups talk to each other, and that their not-quite-but-almost lies will be revealed?  Why?  I don’t have any answer for this.  I feel rather like I’ve been broadsided, but at the same time, I wonder if perhaps the whole point of it is that no one ever stands up to them, and makes it clear that this behavior will not be tolerated.  

And then I question why it is that I’m waiting for someone else…but then again, I seem to be the point person on these things more often than not, and I don’t want to do it.  I don’t want to be the person who yet again calls ‘bullshit’ on someone else.  I’ve had it done to me (although the last time, I was what, 22?), and it taught me a lesson.  Be real, be who you are, be honest.  Or at least as honest as you can be.

Published in: on June 18, 2009 at 11:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

I’m a bad mother…but not as bad as some

So, I bought The D a fedora a couple of days ago.  Black with a bit of a pinstripe, and a slight sheen.  And then, to top it off, we dyed the front of her hair purple.  I’m pretty sure someone somewhere thinks I’m a bad mother.  But I figure she’s 13…a good time to dye one’s hair an unnatural color.  I mean, it’s summer.  And she’s too young for job-hunting, and really, why not?  It’s cute and she likes it, and maybe, just maybe, it will help with the trich.  A mother can hope.

But then there was the mother at the mall the other day.  Oh, my.  The aging mean girl and her mean-girl-in-training daughters.  Mom with her too-tight jeans, sky-high heels, fake everything…and she had the nerve to tell me that The D’s purple hair was ‘irresponsible’ of me.  How about allowing your daughter, who was, perhaps, the same age as The D, to wear something that small, that tight?  You’ve taught her that she is her looks, her sexuality…and by the way, I overheard your conversation, and yes, I picked up the comment about how she couldn’t get a boob job until she was 18.  Why not tell her her breasts are fine the way they are, and that you’re happy with her the way she is?  What are you teaching your daughter?  That to be loved, she must be what you, or even worse, what some man, wants her to be?  What if she ends up not liking men at all?  Will you disown her?  Drag her to church (indeed, it was hard to miss the giant begemmed cross on your well-tanned and voluminous cleavage)?  Put her a re-education camp a la But I’m a Cheerleader?  Well? 

My daughter is beautiful, purple hair, trich, ADHD and all.  She is creative and funny and silly and smart and empathetic and goofy and wonderful.  Do I sometimes deplore her increasingly black wardrobe, her love of manga, and her incredibly messy room?  Sure.  But her good qualities outshine her bad, and her body, funky bangs and knock knees, zits and tiny feet — they are all beautiful.  And even more important, her soul is beautiful.

Published in: on June 17, 2009 at 10:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

education, smeducation

my mother sent me an article today from the Chronicle (http://chronicle.com/free/v55/i39/39masterplan.htm), detailing how the Master Plan for California, written in 1960, is often used by various constituencies to argue their point of view.  It got me thinking.  Is education actually something we should want for everyone?  I mean, as I said before, not paying for education now is sort of like requesting future monies for prisons.  But why do we think it’s so important?

Yes, of course, education gets people out of poverty…at least, that’s how the stories go.  But it used to be, graduating from high school meant a good life — a blue collar job, pension, health insurance, enough income to buy a house and take a vacation.  Then, college supplanted high school, only the jobs were white collar now.  Then suddenly, everyone needed a master’s.  What’s next, PhDs?  Really?

So what’s wrong with the European model, one that sends those that are ‘book smart’ on to university-track education, while those who are better with their hands get vocational training?  That way, you get your MBA types, your teachers, doctors, lawyers, etc., and you also get your auto mechanics, plumbers, electricians.  Educational money isn’t wasted, people’s time isn’t wasted, and it won’t matter if someone comes from poverty, or what ethnicity he or she is…what matters is what he or she is GOOD at.

Published in: on June 16, 2009 at 12:54 pm  Comments (1)  

yep, that’s me, enjoying the handbasket

So I got a card from my paternal grandfather, congratulating me on my graduation.  So far, so good.  But after the initial reading, I’m bothered.  He asked me “What are you going to do now?” and then said “Oh well, I suppose you’ll teach, and be happy doing it.”  Which is exactly what I hope to do, but why the ‘oh well’?  Did he mean to imply that there’s something else I should do, something better?  This is, after all, the grandfather who, when I took a class in Ethics as an undergraduate, told me I should be taking Business and Engineering classes, because those would be ‘useful’.  

Or maybe I’m just too sensitive.  But in light of what he says next, well, I think I have a right to be.  He writes: “I hope you can reunite your family and get your daughter back.  I was shocked by this and believe it is a further sign of decline of our civilization.”  Wait, what?!  Let’s break that down, shall we?  

“…reunite your family”:  my family is quite united, thank you.  If by this he means I should go back to being married to someone with addiction issues, who emotionally abused me, showed little ability to be responsible, and on more than one occasion jeopardized the well-being of my daughter, oh HELL no.  

“…get your daughter back”: um, as I write this, she’s in her room, sleeping (such a teenager).  She’s here through July.  Perhaps what he refers to is The D’s living with my mother this past year.  Is it a sign of the decline of civilization, or a sign that I care enough about my daughter that I sought an alternative to the excessive bullying and academic climate that caused stress-related problems for her?  I’m going with the latter.

Does this mean I’m contributing to the decline of civilization?  Maybe.  But I’m certainly enjoying teaching (oooh, I’m molding young minds to think critically…scary).  And both The D and I agree that our unconventional living arrangements actually work for us…she’s in a small school with people who appreciate her intelligence (how she learns is not nearly so important as that she does), and her abilities as an artist.  And I get to enjoy watching my daughter learn to love school again, and to blossom into a wonderful, warm, funny, and empathetic kid with a full head of hair and a huge leap in self-esteem.

So if I’m leading society to hell, I’ll enjoy every single minute of it.

Published in: on June 15, 2009 at 12:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

being a non-academic academic

I like books.  I like history.  I like being right on the verge of getting my PhD.  What bothers me the most about academia, I think, is that there are assumptions about what it means to be an academic.  You can’t watch TV — at least, not network TV…depressing documentaries, CNN/MSNBC, and PBS).  Popular movies are right out — if they’re not in French, or depressing as all hell, they’re not ‘real’ movies.  Pop music?  Pop fiction?  Right out.

Of course, this isn’t true of all academics.  But so many of us try to present ourselves as erudite, cultured.  We pretend we like museums, opera, the symphony, and dreary depressing French films with no plot — all because we think that’s what we’re ‘supposed’ to like.  Bu we like graphic novels, cheezy fantasy and sci fi, Pixar movies and stupid comedies filled with racial and sexual stereotypes.  And guess what?  It’s okay.  I can watch ‘Death Race’ and enjoy myself, despite everything.  Do I know it’s racist, sexist, and violent?  Sure.  Can I decry those things in my classroom and still enjoy a movie filled with them without being a hypocrite?  Indeed, I can.  It is precisely because I know the negatives that I can enjoy it.

Can I be a good academic if I don’t like museums (art goes there to die)?  Yes.  Can I be a good academic if I like fabulous shoes?  Sure.  But what I can’t be is fake.

Published in: on June 11, 2009 at 7:49 pm  Leave a Comment