succumbing to peer pressure

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I'm going to have to be a lot more disciplined about this whole dissertating thing. About 45 minutes into working on some code tonight I was already surfing the web and pondering what I could put off for the weekend. Starting as soon as my 1/2 semester class is over I'm laying down the law with myself and assigning a minimum number of hours a week for dissertating. Yes.

Meanwhile, time to go celebrate Canadia/Andy's birthday with Strange Brew and a keg of something cheap.

The Social Contract

Do we still have one? I guess this is what I was trying to get to several posts ago, when Sid was distraught that I was not my usual Pollyanna self. I was always taught, from a very young age, that we live with two contracts, each with varying degrees of tangibly laid out guidelines and implied responsibilities. One is the general social contract we have with each other as humans, the other the contract of citizenship we share as Americans. Michael Ignatieff had an excellent essay about this in the Times's Sunday Magazine a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I've waited too long on this post and the archived article now costs money to view, so no hyperlink for you guys. But here are some excerpts:

What has not been noticed is that the people with the most articulate understanding of what the contract of American citizenship entails were the poor, abandoned, hungry people huddled in the stinking darkness of the New Orleans convention center.
"We are American," a woman at the convention center proclaimed on television. She spoke with scathing anger, but also with astonishment that she should be required to remind Americans of such a simple fact. She - not the governor, not the mayor, not the president - understood that the catastrophe was a test of the bonds of citizenship and that the government had failed that test.
"We are American": that single sentence was a lesson in political obligation. Black or white, rich or poor, Americans are not supposed to be strangers to one another. Having been abandoned, the people in the convention center were reduced to reminding their fellow citizens, through the medium of television, that they were not refugees in a foreign country. Citizenship ties are not humanitarian, abstract or discretionary. They are not ties of charity. In America, a citizen has a claim of right on the resources of her government when she cannot - simply cannot - help herself.
Let us not be sentimental. The poor and dispossessed of New Orleans cannot afford to be sentimental. They know they live in an unjust and unfair society. They know their schools aren't much good, that their police protection is radically deficient, that their neighborhoods have been starved of hope and help.
Knowing all this, the people of New Orleans still believed that, as Americans, they were entitled to levees that would hold, an evacuation plan that would actually evacuate them and a resettlement plan that would get them back on their feet. They were entitled to this because they are Americans and because these simple things, while costly, are well within the means of the richest society on earth.
The betrayal cannot be made better by charity and generosity. Americans have turned out to be - not surprisingly - very generous toward what has become the largest population of internally displaced poeple since the Civil War. But private benevolence cannot heal the wounds - of humiliation and abandonment - caused by government failure. Nor can exemplary performance by some agencies - the Coast Guard, for example - do that much to redeem the abject performance of others.

Mental Health and being judgemental

I'm in this group, Active Minds*, and part of our 'mission' is to reduce the stigma associated with mental health. We do various activities, but a large part of reducing that stigma, in our opinions, is very personal - for example, if I tell my friends about going to therapy last week in the same way that I might mention going to the movies or attending a seminar, hopefully, it normalizes it a little. If I talk about what I went through this summer, and my other friends share their experiences, it makes it all seem more common (which it is) and a lot less weird. The whole idea is that the more you realize you know people and are friends with people with mental health issues the less judgemental you'll be about them in a more general sense. And yet...

Last night Active Minds hosted a panel on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and one of the members of our group shared her story about suffering from PTSD last summer after a particularly harrowing car accident. And I have to admit, my very first gut reaction was, it was a car accident! Get over it! Not exactly the 'safe space' reaction I'm supposed to have. So I have to admit that I'm also judgemental about these sorts of things. Even when it comes to me - I have to deal with the fact that part of me keeps thinking, it was just a test! It's only school! Get over it already. Which, you know, isn't really helpful.

*Active Minds was started by my amazing friend Alison. I met Ali four summers ago, when I was interning in DC. Her brother had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and sometime later committed suicide. Her way of dealing with it was to start this group on her college campus at Penn, to try to help other college students realize that they had resources available to them. A few years later I found out Ali had moved to DC and Active Minds had become a non-profit, with local chapters on 24 college campuses around the country, with five more in the works. Because she's amazing like that.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I haven't managed at the moment to wrap my brain around the whole Miers thing, or even do any worthwhile research about the woman, so instead I'll send you to Amelia, who has, as usual, spent some time thinking about a few of the issues involved. Go read the whole thing, but just to give a little encouragement:

the bible is an immensely conflictual document, and if one is serious about living one's life to its purposes, choices must be made. certain passages must be privileged over others. certain passages must be privileged above all.

the somewhat uncomfortable conclusion that i reach in thinking about all of this is that, as far as public service goes, revisionists and mainline folks have it easy. i think that it must be very difficult (and this goes back to the "fundamentalists aren't pluralists" line of reasoning above) for a person who is serious about the gospels as the infallible word of God to advocate honestly for anything other than theocracy.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Trite? Maybe. Necessary? Absolutely. Some excerpts (from Whatever, via Reen)

Being poor is going to the restroom before you get in the school lunch line so your friends will be ahead of you and won't hear you say "I get free lunch" when you get to the cashier.

Being poor is stealing meat from the store, frying it up before your mom gets home and then telling her she doesn't have make dinner tonight because you're not hungry anyway.

Being poor is Goodwill underwear.

Being poor is thinking $8 an hour is a really good deal.

Being poor is relying on people who don't give a damn about you.

Being poor is an overnight shift under florescent lights.

Being poor is finding the letter your mom wrote to your dad, begging him for the child support.

Being poor is a bathtub you have to empty into the toilet.

Being poor is making lunch for your kid when a cockroach skitters over the bread, and you looking over to see if your kid saw.

Being poor is needing that 35-cent raise.

Being poor is crying when you drop the mac and cheese on the floor.

Being poor is picking the 10 cent ramen instead of the 12 cent ramen because that's two extra packages for every dollar.

Monday, October 03, 2005

From Cryptonomicon

"My point is that precision, and getting things right, in the mathematical sense, is the one thing we have going for us...We make our way in the world by knowing that two plus two equals four, and sticking to our guns in a way that is kind of nerdy and that maybe hurts people's feelings sometimes. I'm sorry."
"Hurts whose feelings? People who think two plus two equals five?"
"People who put a higher priority on social graces than on having every statement uttered in a conversation be literally true."
"What I'm saying is that this does set me apart. One of the most frightening things about your true nerd, for many people, is not that he's socially inept - because everybody's been there - but rather his complete lack of embarrassment about it."

Of course, I object to how Stephenson characterizes most of the women in his book, and the fact that all the nerds in his stories are men (though I suppose he does throw us a bone with the female lead in that she's physically strong and 'street smart-ish,' thus preventing her from being totally worthless, which is a step in the right direction) but he does nail the nerd description. Ought to be reprinted in all the CWRU (er...'scuse me, Case) handbooks. Pretty accurately describes the general student body. And I mean that in a good way.

Another reason why I love my new place

Almost from the moment I arrived in my first dorm room I haven't been very good at getting work done at 'home.' I've always needed a coffee shop or the library or to otherwise leave the house to get anything useful done. But my new place has a rather large 'laundry room' which we've turned into our 'offices.' I'm sure it won't last long, but I've finally gotten the thing set up, with our new wireless router and my newly reinstalled wireless driver, and at the moment, I feel very productive and focused here (momentary procrastination via blogging aside). Plus, it's in the basement, two entire floors away from my room, so I can attempt to hang on to my sanity by keeping 'work' mentally and physically separate from 'not work.'

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Haven't had a chance to read much of it, but Bob Harris seems to have some pretty good stuff up.
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Bah! Students! (now that Flash!topian is no more, someone needs to bitch about the young minds they're shaping, no?) I seem to have inherited a new crop this year that wants me to hold their hands way more than graduate students should need. They pop their little heads into my office, regardless of office hours, and just want to sit near me while they do their homework, then ask me to look over what they've done, to make sure it's correct before they turn it in for me to grade later in the week. They don't have any specific questions, they just want me to be their mom! They are then shocked and hurt when I ask them to leave. Bah! I say.

Plus I'm kicking myself for the crop of papers I just graded (different class) because it's obvious that the majority of the class just totally didn't get the example I went over last week, which means it's my fault, so... well, that's crappy.

And now I'm blogging to further procrastinate my own homework, which I've managed to avoid for three straight days now. Friday was all about cleaning the apartment and some much-deserved decadence in the form of candles and my new jack johnson cd and a very long bubble bath followed by some warm-from-the-oven brownies. Yesterday was brunch at the Flying Biscuit, where our new friend Spencer-the-manager gave us free mango mimosas, then a three mile hike up to the top of Stone Mountain and back (yeah, the knees are bitching about that one today). This morning I got up early to get my hair cut (I do love me some Cody first thing in the morning) with the idea being that then I would be up and functioning and productive. Which got off to a good start since I finished all my grading for the weekend, but now, well, obviously not so much.