Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Trip to Philly

So, I went to Philly last Saturday with a couple of friends. It was a really great trip--it was good to get out of Salisbury for a few hours. The day was really nice; I think it got up to the mid-fifties. This is a picture of Independence Hall (it is a little off-center in the picture because I basically refuse to use the screen display on my digital camera and I forget to make the necessary adjustments).

Friday, January 27, 2006

New Hobby

So, this is my first quilt (well, actually not my first first quilt. I made a very, very small "quilt" to try out a couple of things. But this is my first "People can actually use it" quilt.) As you can see, it is a Christmas quilt. It is not perfect, but I'm proud of it.

I've started working on a new quilt. Smaller, but more complicated. If I am somewhat pleased with the results, I will post a picture.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

GRANDmothers and sisters

I'm starting to get concerned about my grandmother. She is back in the hospital. She went in for surgery a while ago and now she has some infections which just aren't healing. She's a tough ol' broad, but she is a diabetic and not in the best health.

What really bothers me about all this is my sister. My grandparents haven't seen my sister in a long time--I think about seven years. The only time they get to talk to her is when they track her down and call her. When she moves she doesn't even bother to give them (or anyone else) a new phone number or address. She doesn't return phone calls. She only occasionally returns e-mails. But mainly, she never initiates contact with any of us.

My grandparents love her--as well they should. She is their second grandchild and was, for a long time, the baby of the family. Whenever I see my grandparents they want to know all about her: what she is doing, how she is, how her life is going, if she's going to have children, etc. And I get so angry because this is all stuff she should be telling them.

At this point, if there is anything I could give my grandparents, it would be my sister. I would just throw her in the trunk of my car and drive out west so they could see her one last time.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Bundles of... Misery

I've been saying this for years--since I was about eight, actually.

(Article shamelessly copied from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/02/AR2006010201513.html?sub=new)

Bundles Of . . . Misery
Parenting Got You Down? You're Not Alone, Says Study
By Elizabeth Agnvall
Special to The Washington PostTuesday, January 3, 2006; Page HE01

Just as we're taking down the tree, organizing the new toys and stepping onto the scale comes a study finding that may make us wonder why we do it all: Parents are more likely to be depressed than people who do not have children.

Published last month in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, the study of 13,000 U.S. adults found that parents, from those with young children to empty nesters, reported being more miserable than non-parents. The researchers analyzed data from a national survey of families and households that asked respondents how many times in the past week, for example, they felt sad, distracted or depressed.

Unlike earlier studies, this one found moms and dads equally unhappy.
So: After all the sleepless nights and drowsy mornings, the cycles of feeding and throwing up, the American Girl doll accessories bought on credit, the toothpick models of the solar system and the algebra tutors . . . we would have been happier without it all?

In a word, says study author Robin Simon, an associate professor of sociology at Florida State University, yes.
"Parents don't do as well as non-parents," she said.
Simon's own kids -- she has an adult daughter and a teenage son -- were unimpressed by the study results. "They're like 'Whatever,' " she said.

For her part, Simon felt oddly cheered: "It's validating and consoling to know that you're not alone."
But how can the findings stand? Politics, culture and history -- to say nothing of those annoying Baby Gap ads -- all reinforce the message that having children is the greatest pleasure in life.

Michael Lewis, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry and director of the Institute for the Study of Child Development at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J., says that the idea of parenthood as pure joy "was always a bit of a wonderful myth." He said he's surprised the study findings were not even more negative.

Over the last 150 years, he said, children have moved from being an economic advantage to an economic burden in the United States. We used to be able to send children to work in the fields; older kids tended to the babies. When not pressed into service, they mostly stayed out of the way.

With the advent of Dr. Spock, the parenting industry, obligatory music and soccer lessons and a colossal marketplace that propels kids to desire and parents to guilt, children have become the center of the household.

Consider the "Mom's Letter to Santa" e-mail that went zapping around just before Christmas: the mom is hiding in the laundry room using a crayon to write her wish list on the back of a receipt while the laundry is between cycles: She wants a car with fingerprint-resistant windows, a radio that plays only adult music, a television that won't broadcast programs with talking animals and a place where she can talk on the phone in peace.

"It would be helpful if you could coerce my children to help around the house without demanding payment as if they were the bosses of an organized crime family," she writes to St. Nick.

Lewis himself has somehow worked through all of this with his four kids.
While he's sure he had the messiest children in town -- he once found the skeleton of a decayed mouse under his son's bed -- he's raised a doctor and a lawyer. One child is in college and the fourth is in high school.
Still, he notes, even when children are doing well, "there are always issues to deal with. One hopes that it gets better. Parenting is never done. It's an endless task. Lots of pleasure, but a lot of pain."

His advice: If life as a parent leaves you gloomy, realize that it's not you. It's your . . . situation.
"Don't think you are crazy" for feeling low, he said. This study shows that "lots of people are feeling the same way."

Meredith Small, a Cornell University anthropologist and author of "Kids: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Raise Our Children," sees cultural forces conspiring to make life lousy for parents.
"Western culture is the worst place to be if you want to be a parent," she says. "If you look at any other culture, people would think that this is nutty."

She said parents have never been as alone as they are in the United States today. In places like India, lots of people sleep in one big house. When the baby wakes up at 2 a.m., six people are available to help. Higher birth rates mean there are older children to take care of the younger ones. Worldwide, she says, 90 percent of child care is done by other children.

Even in many European countries, things are better; working mothers -- and sometimes fathers -- are paid a portion of their salaries to stay home during the first year or more with their young children. Parents get six weeks of vacation and extra time off to take care of sick kids. Good child care is subsidized by the government. College and graduate schools are paid for by the government.

Here, Small said, nuclear families aren't large enough. "Parents are tired, they are overworked, they are extended, they are irritated and they've got nobody to help them."

So short of sending the kids back into the fields, having more babies, inviting the neighbors to live with us or charging the kids rent, what's an overwhelmed parent to do?

Family therapist Neil Bernstein, who has offices in the District and Virginia, offers this simple advice: "Get a life."

For the record, he doesn't necessarily accept the study's conclusion that people with children are more depressed. Still, "What parents need to know and should take away from this is that it's important to look after your own mental health, not to live vicariously through your child," he said.

People should have their own interests and look after their relationships the same way they look after their children. And if it all seems too overwhelming, it's worth seeking help from a professional.

"Being a good parent does not mean being totally absorbed in your children," he said.
Bernstein, who has been treating Washington area children and families for 25 years and has grown children, cites his own experience.

"Not only did parenting not make me depressed, but it was without question the happiest years of my life," he says. "I wouldn't trade them for anything, and I couldn't imagine being anywhere near as comfortable or happy with myself had I not been a parent."

And for those who have chosen not to have children? Simon said her study validates that their choice might just be the healthiest one of all.

"At least if you're going to do it," she says to those contemplating parenthood, "know what you're getting into."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Five Minute Metamorphosis

I totally copied this from Greg Nagan's _The 5-Minute Iliad and other Instant Classics_.

Franz Kafka's novels and novellas are so Kafkaesque that one has to wonder at the enormity of coincidence required to have produced a writer named Kafka to write them. A bourgeois Czech insurance underling, Kafka was gifted with boundless imagination and an acute case of paranoia, both of which found an outlet in his writings. Despite the tremendous success and popularity of his work, many of the novels of which he was proudest never saw publication (Someone's Trying to Kill Me, They're Watching Me, Watching Me!, and For God's Sake, Don't Look, Just Pretend They're Not There). Kafka never married, but he did have a series of Czech mates. At the peak of his writing, Kafka because "sick" and "died."

Friday, January 13, 2006

Some picture of Assateague Island

Job Posting

Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63701

Enclosed is an announcement of a tenure-track position in philosophy at the rank of assistant professor. We hope to fill this position rapidly; the target date for our final decision is June 13. We are more interested in looking at candidates with real teaching experience than in newly minted Ph.D's, who might have unrealistic expectations about the possibilities for academic growth at an institution such as ours. Southeast Missouri State University is a regional university which serves students in the southeast portion of the state including St. Louis. Our students tend to be poorly prepared for college level work, intellectually passive, interested primarily in partying, and culturally provincial in the extreme. We offer a major in philosophy. but do not usually have more than two students officially declared as majors at any given time. There are a few good students, however, and we are proud to say that our current graduating major, William Knorpp, won the 1985 Analysis competition and will be undertaking graduate study in philosophy at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill next year. Mr. Knorpp's upper level work was mainly accomplished through independent tutorials; and prospective candidate must understand that there will be virtually no opportunity to teach upper-division seminars in philosophy. We also offer a religious studies minor; most of the students who declare this minor are shocked to learn that Moses might not have written the Pentateuch and regard higher criticism as secular humanist propaganda. The 12 hrs/semester teaching load is devoted mainly to general education courses at the freshman/sophomore level. In another five years, if the general education curriculum is revised as promised, there may be seminars which are to "capstone" the G.E. program. The academic environment at SEMO is distinctly non-intellectual — somewhat like a Norman Rockwell painting — and the candidate cannot expect to attract students by offering courses that assume innate curiosity about ideas and books, or intellectual playfulness, or independence of moral and political thought. Nevertheless. in order to earn promotion and tenure it is necessary to be involved in curriculum development and to sustain an interest in research and publication. It has occurred to me that the best candidate would be someone who has held the Ph.D. for more than two years, has taught at a community college or a rural state institution, and who would like to continue in somewhat the same vein but at a slightly higher level.I will be interviewing at the Central Division Meetings in St. Louis. If you have an questions, you may call me at my office.

(Stolen from: http://www.snopes.com/college/admin/jobpost.asp)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

No new is... no news.

So. I have my second Tai Chi class tonight. The first one was last monday and I spent most of the hour practicing the breathing "prep" move (along with some time practicing fist flicks). Dude. I am seriously lacking in grace.
Which makes the Karate experience even more amusing. Okay, I like to look at a few different options before I make up my mind, so I decided to check out Karate (just to be able to compare it to the Tai Chi). First of all, I get there and I see that the Karate place has a buzzer on the door. Hello!? Who the hell are they protecting themselves against? And, more importantly, why? So, I got myself buzzed in and found myself facing a mat chock full of kids, teenagers, and adults. Mixed age class? Ewwww. I filled out a form, was introduced to a karate chick who taught me a couple of simple blocks and a kick. About ten minutes into the whole thing, she informed me that I was a natural (hello, miss graceless wonder here. Was she just not paying attention?) So, yeah. Not a good vibe overall.
Actually, the main reason I went to check out the Karate was because "Wayne" kept calling and leaving messages on my answering maching. Last month I sent the Karate place an e-mail with a couple of questions and, next thing I knew, they had their minion Wayne calling me every other day wanting me to set up a free lesson. So I figured I'd go ahead and set the lesson up. I mean, best not to piss off some Karate guy, right? Then, when I was there, I got to see Wayne. Wayne looks like he's more into cheeseburgers than Karate. (Whew.)
So, yeah, back to the Tai Chi thing in a few hours. I find it pretty amusing that I probably managed to pick one of the more obsessive compulsive martial arts out there. Yeah. Oh, and the big spiel always involves some comment on how martial arts teaches discipline. I actually do have discipline. In fact, I should probably find something that does not require discipline. Hm. Drug farmer? Naw--you still gotta remember to water the plants.
Bowing to flags and other people might be a little tricky for me to get used to too, especially considering my oh-so-negative experiences with the military. I just keep reminding myself that it is all part of the experience (teaches discipline). (I'm also reminding myself that, if worse comes to worst, I always have the option of telling someone to "fuck off.") And bowing to a series of flags is still worlds better than chanting (I tried Yoga last week. We chanted. And the yoga instructor had a crystal bowl.)
Voila. C'est ma vie.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Ordering pizza...

So, I put myself on a strict diet yesterday... and was actually able to maintain it all day yesterday and (ahem) most of today. Until the pizza.

I ws at Barnes and Noble, talking about France to one of the Salisbury Business school profs (who is heading to Grenoble in a few days). When I walked in the door of the apartment, the first thing my Dad said was "speaking of Valence..." and then both he and my mother burst out laughing. Turns out they had decided to order a pizza and had looked through the stack of pizza flyers. They picked a store and tried to visit the website advertised--and discovered that the website led them to a pizza place in... Valence, France. Trop bizarre. Try it: www.pizza-city.net

Anyway, watched _Downfall_ tonight. Watched _Crash_ last night. And watched a lot of _Arrested Development_ in between. (Finished the Stephanie Plum books). So yeah, haven't made much headway with my whole "understand and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over Christmas break" resolution. Maybe Spring Break...