succumbing to peer pressure

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Admittedly, I know very little about the ongoing conflict betwen Israel and Lebanon, besides knowing that it has a long and sordid past. But my understanding, albeit from biased media and blogger reporting, is that the problem is with Hezbollah, a terrorist organization, that intentionally hides in and fights from heavily populated areas, and not so much with the 'official' Lebanese government. Now it seems possible that Hezbollah could have lost the "PR" campaign, so to speak, as a result of putting so many civilians in harms way. But in today's NY Times there's an article about how Hezbollah is helping to rebuild Lebanon, and in the process gaining a lot of favor with the average Lebanese citizen.

While the Israelis began their withdrawal, hundreds of Hezbollah members spread over dozens of villages across southern Lebanon began cleaning, organizing and surveying damage. Men on bulldozers were busy cutting lanes through giant piles of rubble. Roads blocked with the remnants of buildings are now, just a day after a cease-fire began, fully passable.

In Sreifa, a Hezbollah official said the group would offer an initial $10,000 to residents to help pay for the year of rent, to buy new furniture and to help feed families.


Hezbollah’s reputation as an efficient grass-roots social service network — as opposed to the Lebanese government, regarded by many here as sleek men in suits doing well — was in evidence everywhere. Young men with walkie-talkies and clipboards were in the battered Shiite neighborhoods on the southern edge of Bint Jbail, taking notes on the extent of the damage.

“Hezbollah’s strength,” said Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a professor at the Lebanese American University here, who has written extensively about the organization, in large part derives from “the gross vacuum left by the state.”

Hezbollah was not, she said, a state within a state, but rather “a state within a nonstate, actually.”

So my question is, what happened to the 'official' Lebanese government, and why is it considered essentially absent and ineffective? And, if the international community is serious about getting involved in this conflict (whether or not it/we should is a topic I'm not prepared to offer an opinion on) why isn't it going about it from the side of propping up and supporting the Lebanese government, in the way that Iran is (allegedly) supporting Hezbollah?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The kind of subtle sexism that really gets my goat

Another CNN headline - "Boy, 5, Boasted Warrior Status While Jill Carroll Quivered." Quivered? Really? Absolutely necessary? Shaking, the word used in the text of the article, wasn't sufficient? You just had to cast her in Victorian-romance-novel-sexpot terms? I know, I know, I can hear you now. But Megan, you're totally overreacting. This piece is written by Carroll herself, maybe she used the word quivered. Whatever. It's sexist and gross.

Monday, August 14, 2006

In Celebration of 'Chick Flicks'

Quite unintentionally, I ended up with several 'chick flicks' in a row in my netflix queue. So over the past few weeks I've indulged in the five hour British miniseries of Pride and Prejudice (resulting in me finally understanding everyone else's crush on Colin Firth; I know, I know, I'm late to the bandwagon, but welcome me anyway!), then a ladies evening out to see the newer version (serviceable, with a very dreamy Mr. Darcy, albeit a very different one from that portrayed by Firth), then tonight was Casanova (overall a bit eh, though Heath Ledger is always enjoyable (if they ever put Roar out on dvd I swear I'll rent that too!) and Oliver Platt and Jeremy Irons provided some of the best moments ("We're the Catholic Church! We can do anything we want!"), and probably sometime later this week Tristan + Isolde (though already it annoys me with the '+' instead of 'and' lame!). After that I veer off in the other direction with Murderball. You've got to love quadriplegic-full-contact rugby.


The bad news - scientists have discovered the possible presence of the H5N1 flu virus in wild swans near Lake Erie.

The good news - it's not the highly pathogenic strain we're all freaked out about

The less good news - it still doesn't bode well. If it does in fact turn out to be the H5N1 virus, this will be the first time in 20 years that particular virus has turned up in American birds.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Over on AWB's site, in comments, Snowqueen says, "I just like to keep my sanity polished and in working order." Amen sister. Today was one of those days. Ever since last summer, I tend to view my sanity as a bit more fragile than I used to. Perhaps sanity is too strong of a word. I don't mean that I feel on the verge of curling up in a rubber room on a regular basis, but I do appreciate that some days I'm at a higher level of functionality than others. And I appreciate that it's a process, requiring work, to maintain that higher level of functionality. And sometimes it just doesn't work.

One of the things we talk about in Active Minds is treating mental illness like any other illness. So I'm trying that approach with myself. Today was just like waking up with a bit of head cold. I just felt a bit off, and that's ok. So I hung out in my pajamas and watched a bunch of particularly crappy tv and did actually manage to get a bit of work done. And low and behold, I'm feeling better. I know that it passes, but just like when you feel physically sick, sometimes you have to remind yourself that you will feel better, in a reasonable amount of time. And there are things you can do to make yourself feel better, but beating yourself up for feeling crappy is really counterproductive.

So there's that.

I'm leaving for Texas on Friday, so if I don't post for a week, I'm not dead, just hanging out in an even redder state (hard to believe that's even possible).

And I'm trying to get my fall schedule together. As I mentioned earlier, I'm incredibly lucky and will be funded through a training grant all year (and next year). But of course, I can't say no, so I still have all these other things going on. I have two TA positions (one primarily grading, minimal student interaction, the other more standard class attendance and office hours plus grading)...I'm guessing 10-20 hours a week total. Then there's research and dissertation work for my advisor. I put that at 30-40 hours a week. And I'm coaching gymnastics again, one day a week, so that's another 5 hours (for coaching time plus commute). And I'm taking one class this semester, heavy on the reading and writing but no math...I figure some weeks there will be virtually no work associated with that, other weeks I'm hoping to max out at 5 or 10 hours of work (including in class time). So...figuring at the high end of those estimates I'm up to...75 hours a week? So I guess that means I should turn down a third TA position, right? damn. But here's the thing. The first TA position, the on that's grading only, is actually setting up a website to post the homework assignments and the website will do the grading. Most of this work I've managed to do over the summer, and I hope to have about 95% of it done before the semester even starts. So that TA job really shouldn't take up a lot of time (famous last words). The other, more traditional one, is one that I've done before, so it also shouldn't be all that time consuming, right? And the third is online, for a distance learning class, so I could do that in the middle of the night in my pajamas sitting in front of the computer. So that practically doesn't even count...I should still say no, right? I need better willpower....

Oh, and lastly in my random stream of consciousness - I've been having these thematically recurrent dreams the past few nights. The details are different each time, but they all revolve around a long trip, and the trip itself is generally fairly stressful...once it was a fairly straightfoward road trip, but last night it was actually a forced exodus on foot...that probably means something, yeah?