Sunday, February 10, 2008

i am cold

i could also title this entry "i have a cold" or "it's awfully cold outside." both are true, truer in fact than me being cold actually, but all that would change if i ventured outside for a minute. yesterday morning i started feeling a little under the weather, and getting under this particular weather isn't easy: the wind chill itself dropped down to -40 last night and it's -36 as i write this.

it's the second time in two weeks that it has gotten this cold. the last time was the end of january, the last day of our interim term. i was due to pick up my brother from the airport in the afternoon, and i had to be at school for final presentations. my housemate showed up at the house without his car. he had been driving back to school from the twin cities, and his car had broken down on the trip. so i was going to drive him and myself in to school, at least if my car would start. it almost didn't. it came on and immediately shut off. i tried again, and revved the engine a bit, and it started. i went back inside, to let it warm up a little bit (something i don't often do). just as we were about to leave, our third housemate got up and wished us well--he was planning to stick around the house and stay warm for a little while longer.

we left, turned out of the driveway, drove a tenth of a mile and turned again, and i heard and felt something wrong with the car. i thought it was a flat tire, so we both checked our sides of the car: the front left was flat, and there was a -40 wind chill. our third housemate came and picked us up, getting himself up and out much earlier than he wanted i know. but we made it into school. i listened to final presentations, and then sat in my car for two hours until the tow truck showed up. it was cold in the car. a cop did drive by and ask if i was warm enough. i said yes. i had left on my emergency flashing lights while in at work, and when i got to the car it wouldn't start. after about an hour, it did start up again, and i was able to get a little bit of warmth. once the tow truck was there, everything was fine--i sat in his truck and got warm, then sat around in the shop while they fixed the tire. my brother landed just a little early, and i still didn't know whether the car would be ready soon enough to pick him up, or if he should head elsewhere for a while. but they had it fixed quickly, and i left town for the airport only twenty minutes late. it was a cold day, but it worked out.

this time around, because i'm not feeling well, and because it just makes sense, i'm not driving anywhere today.

we've had some cold weather this winter, more bursts of colder weather and wind than in the last few years--probably since i was in high school. but when i was in high school, i have two memories of weather and wind chills much colder than even what we've had this year.

the first was when i was a freshman in high school. following in the steps of my older brothers and building on my experiences doing sound for my band, i was the sound man for the winter theater production. actually, i was one of three, but i was sort of in charge of this particular one (we alternated who ran the mixer and did the effects cues--it would have been a lot easier even a year later with mp3/cd-burning technologies). there were two days in the week before the performances where school was called off because of the cold: -60 to -70 wind chills. but the die-hard theater director was still having walk-throughs, for most of the day, both days.

even though my family lived pretty close to the high school, my parents didn't want me to be out in the cold, with a good chance of cars not starting, that sort of thing. but more importantly, they thought it was stupid that we'd have extracurricular activities when we couldn't have school. honestly, i didn't really want to go in also, and i thought it was stupid too, but i had the social pressures of my friends calling me up and telling me that they needed me there, and even putting the director on the phone (whom i would have the next year for english class). my friends offered to come to my house and pick me up, all that sort of thing. but my parents didn't budge and instead said they were fine with talking to the director (for some reason, she passed... go figure). this play marked my turning point away from theater (having acted in oliver when my older brothers were running sound, lights, and managing the stage). i still ran sound for another play and helped dismantle sets for another year (this was my favorite part any way), but i moved on to other activities...

the second time that it was terribly cold, cold enough to cancel school, was my sophomore year of high school, the year that we had more snow than any other i've been alive. in addition to numerous 100+ mile round trips to play indoor soccer, i was also playing full time with my band. because three of the four of us were in choir that year, the new choir director had agreed to let us use the choir room and a bunch of equipment to record an album over a long weekend. it happened to be cold then, too: a -50 to -60 wind chill. the choir direct let us into the room the day of school before that weekend. but the first problem was that the microphones and cables had gotten locked away in another room, and we didn't have the key to that, and the teacher who did wasn't going to drive in to school 10 miles (and back) just to open the door for us. so we called up one of my friends who could get in to the microphones. he came through with a little bit of illicit magic (which he had learned from my oldest brother, passed down through a few senior class generations).

once we started, the actual recording went pretty well. this was the last time we recorded tapes (my bands had made and sold tapes quite a few times before)--that summer we became the first high school band in the area to record a cd, which was sweet. but aside from making some pretty decent recordings in a matter of hours, the highlight of the experience was ordering pizza and the impressions done about the pizza guy on the phone, along with discussions of mung, which was our singer's word for the thick saliva/snot junk that collected in the back of his throat and gave his voice a rough texture. i can't remember enough about the pizza guy impressions to tell the story, but if i remember right, it wasn't very nice (but very funny), and was probably doubly unkind given that the pizza people brought us food in the coldest weather of the year.

so there's a few cold weather stories. the craziest cold weather stories i know involve my parents and grandparents, but i'll save those for another time. in terms of my life lately, i've watched a few basketball games this weekend, spent most of my time in bed, and watched the princess bride again (i guess this movie is kind of like comfort food for me: i've watched it a couple hundred times--no joke here--and still love it). it's a good movie for a sick kid, whether it's 1980s era fred savage, or me. it makes me smile and laugh and do all those other things i like to do with movies. it's sort of like this song, something that could easily be a springtime song, but still feels relaxed and happy on a cold day. besides her voice, i like the way she connects words with near-rhymes. her songs don't astound me with their literary prowess, but her aural aesthetics are amazing (she sounds nice).

clam, crab, cockle, cowrie by joanna newsom

that means no
where i come from
i am cold
out waiting for the day to come
i chew my lips and i scratch my nose
feels so good to be a rose

oh don't, don't you lift me up
like i'm that shy
no just give it up
there are bats all dissolving in a row
into the wishy-washy dark that cannot let go
i cannot let go
so i thank the lord and i thank his sword
though it be mincing up the morning, slightly bored

oh morning without warning like a hole
and i watch you go

there are some mornings when the sky looks like a road
there are some dragons who were built to have and hold
and some machines are dropped from great heights lovingly
and some great bellies ache with many bumblebees
and they sting so terribly

i do as i please
now i'm on my knees
your skin is something that i stir into my tea
and i am watching you
and you are starry, starry, starry
and i'm tumbling down
and i check a frown
it's why i love this town
well, just look around
to see me serenaded hourly
and celebrated sourly
and dedicated dourly
waltzing with the open sea
clam, crab, cockle, cowrie
oh will you just look at me

Saturday, February 09, 2008

i hope you're resting quietly

if you haven't noticed from the last couple posts, i sometimes have a tendency to write a lot, here and elsewhere. though i much prefer brevity when possible (student papers for example), i also think that writing as much as possible, whenever possible, is the best way to improve writing. add to that list reading (and reading good writing), getting and giving feedback on writing, and a near-obsessive tendency to always be thinking. basically i have to play sports to keep from thinking sometimes, and sometimes music helps... and sometimes it distracts in an unfortunate way (i think music and sound harmonies/textures a lot, so that can be just as distracting).

i'm not the kind of person who has always wanted to be a writer, and has spent the last twenty years trying to make it happen. in fact, i'm not the kind of person who has wanted to be any certain kind of person, or do any certain job, for my entire life. i have a hard enough time sticking with something for a few years, and only since i found teaching have i been happy because i'm doing so many different things--i have new students, new classes, new books, new assignments, new everything every semester. i do enjoy some continuity of students (a major reason i prefer teaching at saint olaf to umn). even this semester when i am not teaching a course, i have a couple independent study projects where i'm working with students to develop and think through interesting new books. add to that the wetland work and the dissertation work, and even this "down semester" (teaching-wise) promises to be quite busy.

after a disappointing day yesterday, writing wise, i rebounded today and wrote quite a bit (close to 2,000 words). i finished the new draft of an introduction, and while i'm not terribly happy with it, it's better than the others i had written. even if it changes in content and form, the approach and framework will likely remain from now until it is published. it also gives me a short, and i think engaging, way to introduce my dissertation to people. in other words, i could see myself giving a presentation on the topic, and people would enjoy it pretty well.

surprisingly enough, i've likely mentioned, at least in passing, the various book projects i'd like to complete at some point in the next couple years (with the exception of #1, the most recent idea). i list them below, along with a short description. but obviously with all the other things i want to do, it's not going to go as fast as i might like, not to mention the necessity of revising any of these projects which takes more time than even the writing process. but here they are, and if you have any feedback on what ones to work on first and why (with the exception of #4, which will likely be the first one since it should emerge from my dissertation).

1. muddying the waters (brainstormed in early 2008): i've toyed with a bunch of different titles and ideas revolving around my family's relationship to our homeland, especially the two rivers area. and i think i've finally kind of settled on it. the good thing is that kathleen dean moore's the pine island paradox helped me figure out the metaphor or narrative for this book, but i also need to take some time to really think it through so that i'm not writing the same kind of stories/essays that someone else has already written, only better. i'd still have a local audience (friends, family, acquaintances), but i'd like it to extend beyond that. the other remaining question here is the extent to which my brother or father would write parts, or even most, of this book. i'd be fine with that--they're smart, but it would definitely make for a different book project than some others (maybe it could be a great point of interest). but i guess rephrasing this last question or concern, i don't want to write a book about this if they already have something planned. definitely not. so we'll see.

2. subpopculture (brainstormed in late 2004): this book is probably the furthest from completion as of now. my hope was to describe and offer clever insight into the people pop trends (what's cool) among the group of people i considered myself a part (my subculture), in much the same way that chuck klosterman did with his cultural buddies in fargo rock city. the other play on words was the subpop record label out of seattle, and their role in cohering a group of people who liked much of the same art, music, tv, movies, and books.

3. the great sodiak nation (brainstormed and started in summer 2007): this is probably the furthest along in development, since i have written a couple chapters and have a few others briefed out. basically it's the creative, narrative story of my life right now--living with the people i've lived with the last few years, doing the things i do, trying to find my way through the world with my various jobs, interests, activities, friends, and travels. the only thing that held this up (aside from being busy, but that's easy to overcome) is that when you're writing about what's currently happening, there's no real sense how any characters are going to change, what the penultimate experience is going to be, or the overall reason why someone would want to read the book (it's kind of the problem illustrated in will ferrell's stranger than fiction movie). so i've been toying with making up a fictional ending, or acting like something bigger and more unifying actually happens. on the other hand, it could be one of those books where nothing big really happens to unify and give closure to the plot. but for some reason, both these options seem somewhat cliche and cheap. instead i'd much prefer that something big did happen in my life. but i certainly can't force it.

4. the practical environmentalist (likely to emerge from dissertation, brainstormed in 2007): so this is likely the book that i'm working on in full force, and it's going to get done decently soon. i plan to have a draft by late july if not by late may. the remaining questions i have for this project revolve around who my audience will be, and whether to use this title (which i really like) for a book that will be quite scholarly. if the dissertation to book revision process makes it more engaging and interesting to everyday readers, then i'll be fine with this. otherwise, i may be calling it volume i (the scholarly approach), and will have to follow it with one or two more volumes that could appeal to a wider audience.

5. don't sweat on my stuff... and it's all my stuff (first brainstormed as a satire in 2002, secondary approach of cultural criticism started in spring 2007): i have included some of the second approach here (last spring/summer i think) along with an explanation of the title: how it came to me in a dream where i was on a book tour. this idea may reemerge next year if i teach a cultural studies and consumerism class. but otherwise, it's probably the second lowest on my list to complete right now.

so there's my list as they currently stand. whenever you publish something like this (even on a blog that nobody reads), it does make you a little cautious (or paranoid? take your pick) because you really want to write these books before someone else does, or before someone else writes something with the same title or something like that. it makes me want to copyright the title, or to do the next best thing in today's internet age, register the domain name. but i haven't yet. and maybe i should. what are your thoughts? are there particular books of these that you'd like to read, or some that you definitely wouldn't? any feedback is appreciated as always, as is your continued readership. i will try to remain committed to writing here for a while, but i just never know when i'm going to become incredibly busy next these days, so nothing's guaranteed. you can always set up an rss feed of the blog so that you don't have to check here unless i write something new. that might work...

this song is a good song, one that i've been playing on guitar and with my housemate some recently. i have listened to it regularly for the last six years, and enjoyed it for years before that even. and as i said in title of this post, i hope you're resting quietly. and i hope that you're okay. take care...

goodnight elisabeth by counting crows

i was wasted in the afternoon
waiting on a train
i woke up in pieces and elisabeth had disappeared again
well i wish you were inside of me
i hope that you're okay
i hope you're resting quietly
i just wanted to say

good, goodnight elisabeth,
goodnight elisabeth
goodnight elisabeth

we couldn't all be cowboys
some of us are clowns
and some of us are dancers on the midway
we roam from town to town
i hope that everybody can find a little flame
me, i say my prayers
then i just light myself on fire
and i walk out on the wire once again
and i say

good, goodnight elisabeth,
goodnight elisabeth
goodnight elisabeth

i will wait for you in baton rouge
i'll miss you down in new orleans
i'll wait for you while she slips in something comfortable
and i'll miss you when i'm slipping in between
if you wrap yourself in daffodils
i will wrap myself in pain
and if you're the queen of california
baby i am the king of the rain
and i say

good, goodnight elisabeth,
goodnight elisabeth
goodnight elisabeth

the moon's a satellite yeah
now won't you fall down on me now
won't you fall down on me
come fall down on me now
wont you fall down on me
'till i'm all alone
you ain't coming home
you just settle down down down into bones
i said i'm all alone
you ain't coming home
you just settle down down down into bones

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

washed out in the flood

one of my favorite books when i was little was euphonia and the flood. it was one of my dad's favorite books to read to me, along with cloudy with a chance of meatballs and alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. euphonia and the flood tells the story of a woman, her pig friend named fatly, her broom, and her boat. when the creek in front of their house floods everything, they go on a boat trip down the creek, stopping to pick up a few extra friends, and finally stopping to have a picnic at the end of the line. i liked the story when i was younger because of the phrasing, things like (if i remember correctly): "roll over, fatly" said euphonia, and the pig rolled over fatly... or: and marianne (the boat) floated along nicely, thank you (the boat always did whatever with a thank you). i like the story now because i think that it offers a good way of dealing with natural events--how to get along with them and work with them, to use them to build community and to have fun.

now perhaps this is a very inopportune time for me to be writing this, in the wake of devastating tornadoes in the south, which seem to me to be six or more weeks earlier than they should be arriving (not to mention the tornado in wisconsin in january, which is unheard of)--i'm more likely to point to a changing climate that will change severe weather potential, possibly allowing, even encouraging such extreme events. and i wish that we were doing something to deal with climate change from the front end, and also doing more to set up support structures for the back end. am i talking about enjoying life and having fun when tornadoes destroy people's homes and take people's lives? no. certainly not. but a little spring flood along a creek--is that something to live with? yes. but that hasn't been the traditional response among americans. rather, it has been to build bigger and bigger, and more expensive (and also less suitable) dams, and to control floods and rivers, decreasing the riparian flood pulses that allowed for rivers to be interesting, to meander, to deposit nutrients, to allow for the regeneration of cottonwoods and willows along the rivers i know and love so much.

people have a tendency, or desire, to live close to nature or interesting places and things, but then they have the secondary tendency to eliminate all the excitement, nature, or wildness from the very places that made them so attractive in the first place. it's all for the protection of their homes (from floods, from forest fires, from wild animals). but there's an existential and a social/political cost. the existential cost is the loss of experience where things are only slightly in our control, and the wonder and excitement that accompanies that. the social/political cost includes the insurance bailouts, the federal disaster aid, the loss of meandering streams and recharging aquifers, and the politicization of something that used to be up to nature. the existential/political cost comes when the corps of engineers decides who should have water, when and where, rather than the weather and geography determining that. as my grandfather said once, it was a lot easier to deal with a flood or a drought when it was nature's decision than some person living hundreds of miles away. he called it a real grievance. and i agree. i'd much prefer euphonia's response to a flood that arrives on my doorstep: find a canoe or boat and my favorite pig (or other friend) and go figure out where the flood came from or where it's going, and then use it meet my neighbors, to have a picnic, and maybe to get out in the world.

it's the start of second semester here tomorrow morning, and i met with my independent study student (kind of an awkward phrase) this evening, planning out some projects and readings. it should be an interesting time. and i may end up with a couple more (students who can't seem to get into classes they want). even though i'm not getting paid for it (and i'll have advised nine independent projects this year), i still feel like this is the best kind of educational experience. i took full advantage of these kinds of opportunities as an undergrad, and i remain committed even now. the other things i did today include playing basketball (want to get addicted to that), watching basketball (wish i did less of that), feeling stunned at the shaq/marion trade, and writing the first few pages of an introduction to my thesis. of course, this is the fourth or fifth different introduction i've worked on, and i haven't been happy with any of them, but this one promises to be okay. i'm using will ferrell's earth to america clip as the framework in which to introduce and discuss the clip. and i think it might work.

if i can finish the more creative introduction tomorrow and get to the literature review part, that should go much faster since i've written a literature review with some basics in my master's thesis, and the preliminary exams can also serve as good "stock writing" (like stock footage for video editing). i addressed many of the issues that will be covered while writing my exams, and they should just need to be rearranged, edited, and in a few places developed in the context of the larger project. once i get this done (it will also serve as my prospectus to defend at the end of the month), it'll be on to analysis, and that's where the scholarly life should get fun and interesting.

i would guess that many of my readers aren't entirely up on their wetland/river hydrology, and since that's a big part of my work in modeling the effects of climate change on wetlands (and because i almost became a phd student on river modeling), maybe a little primer here would be good. my job as an ecological modeler is to use systems of mathematical equations to approximate how wetland surface water dynamics (the water that you can see) change when the climate does (if it becomes hotter, and either wetter or drier in this area of the continent). what this means practically is that we have observations of actual wetland surface water depths, and we have a model that does rather well to predict those surface water depths based on weather inputs. we calibrate the model (make the observation dots line up with the simulation dots), and then we use the model to predict responses under various climate scenarios in various parts of the prairie pothole wetland region (parts of minnesota, iowa, north and south dakota, montana, alberta, saskatchewan, and manitoba).

the important thing to do when calibrating the model is to get the spring flood pulse (where water from snow melt and rain goes into the wetland) and the summer/fall drawdown (where evaporation off the water surface, drainage into the groundwater aquifer, and evapotranspiration by plants causes water to leave the wetland). getting these two dynamics to fit right (with all of the factors that contribute to them) can be tricky, but after working on this for a few years (and having previous models that have done it rather well for single basin wetlands), we're now working on papers that give results of our work. it's really quite interesting and fun, and i'm looking forward to having more time to spend on the research and presentation of our work.

in keeping with the theme of this post, the cycle of flooding and drawdown is different for different wetlands, and the wetlands end up with different classifications depending on how long they generally hold water. a permanent wetland would be a lake (and in some cases, even they dry up sometimes), but we mostly study semi-permanent, seasonal, and temporary wetlands (in decreasing order based on how long they hold water). because they have different sizes, shapes, and flows among basins, there is a very large diversity even within these types. but just as interesting, because of their size and elevation in the landscape, they also can fill up at different times of the year with rain events, and even have different times when the snow and ice melts and makes them functional wetlands. in other words, the spring flood pulse is slightly different for different places and wetlands.

in the end, climate change will cause wetlands to get more water earlier in the calendar year because a winter/spring warmup will occur earlier most of the time. but the wetlands will also dry up much faster with high temperatures and different distributions of precipitation throughout the year and in terms of number and size of precipitation events. we've published a number of papers on these topics and have studied the effect that land-use decisions and management can have on these wetlands also, so it turns in to a big interesting topic. this time around, we've even brought in three economists to help us scientists understand how climate, crop prices, and land use relate to each other and to wetlands--it promises to be quite interesting. the take home message here is that if we aren't all that interested in a destabilized or messy world (in terms of climate, food and water, human health and wellbeing, animal and plant species long term prospects, etc.), we need to do something about climate change, because we're already going to experience some of the messiness associated with these changes, and we should probably minimize it. i won't go into detail here, but i'll write some more later about this.

now, i don't make a habit of writing about my day-to-day life here, and i'm going to try to stick to that. but in order to keep the content a little more regular, i'm going to allow myself to do a little more present/personal writing, falling more into the traditional blog genre. forgive me if that's a turn-off. but i'll continue to stick with the song lyrics (or other similar media that i recommend you check out). today, you even got two (a children's book and a song). i might also write about interesting books or other things. obviously the theme of today is flooding--rivers and creeks, children's books and real people's lives (like my grandfather, and me), wetland flood pulses and the life of an ecological modeler, and music lyrics.

i remember i first heard this song when i watched monumental, a documentary about david brower, the sierra club leader, called endearingly or otherwise the archdruid. the video itself was quite interesting for a biographical documentary, but more importantly, the soundtrack was very good, and this was my favorite song. i had heard of this group before, perhaps even listened to them a little, but i went and got the album and have enjoyed it ever since. this is still my favorite song (second is slipping through the sensors), and i hope you'll enjoy it also.

when you love somebody by the fruit bats

baby, remember on the bus and my hand was on your knee.
when you love somebody, it's hard to think about anything but to breathe.
baby, i am the cub who was washed out in the flood,
when you love somebody, bite your tongue, all you get is a mouthful of blood.

when you love somebody, it's hard to figure out, it's hard to figure out
when you love somebody, it's hard to think about anything but to breathe

Sunday, February 03, 2008

a piece of the game

it's been a hectic month or more. in some ways, it has been a saner experience, but it's still been busy. so this will be the update order this time around.
1. superbowl
2. election primary
3. teaching
4. research
5. babies
6. a song

1. superbowl

i start with the superbowl because it happened tonight. a few people came over to my house--mostly friends of housemates, along with my brother and his friend. we had a good day--some good food, watched a good game, and then played a short game of football in the first annual lotion bowl, under the lights, in the backyard, and it was great. as far as game analysis goes, i was hoping for either a new england blowout or a close game that new england would win (note that this doesn't cover all the options: i didn't think they would win by 14 or anything).

the game was close. new england lost, which was slightly disappointing to me (i emerged as a patriot supporter, mostly because i like their wide receivers). the commercials were solid enough (i liked the fedex pigeon one, budweiser's training montage, and will ferrell's bud light out-takes). i thought that the giant athletic trainer (been there since 1948) sparked the funniest comments at our party. and i definitely don't think that eli manning deserved the mvp even though i find myself impressed by the overall play of the giants. i thought the first two drives eli played well (INT wasn't his fault), and after that, he was definitely nothing special. the play that made the game for them was beyond lucky (just try catching a ball between your hand and your helmet while getting tackled, after eli had three guys pulling him down), not to mention all of the potential turnovers, especially on the last couple drives when just about every single eli throw could have been picked off (and these would have been his fault). in any event, i wanted moss, welker, and belichick to win the superbowl, but i started to like strahan over the last few weeks. my mvp would be the giants' defense, especially tuck.

i have to say i probably watched more nfl games this year than i have in 8-10 years at least because i have next-room-over access to a nice tv. this has been good in some ways, but mostly i could probably handle doing something a little more useful, creative, and/or active with this time (the same could be said for college basketball, and to a lesser degree, the nba). i think it does tell me that making this a little more deliberate would help. on the other hand, i've gotten done with a lot over the last few months, so i'm really not too upset or frustrated.

2. election primary

so it's primary season, and i have a lot of thoughts about the election as so many other people likely do. even though i'm on break right now (and a much needed one at that), i decided not to travel until after the primary here in mn on tuesday. it's a caucus, so it will be a new experience for me. i've had five phone calls from the obama campaign, none from any other democrat, and this morning i had a recorded voice message from the ron paul campaign (too little too late i think).

when the obama people have called me to remind me to caucus, and to ask whom i support, i always say, "well, dennis kucinich, obama, hillary, edwards, and probably a few other people who aren't currently running." they respond, "so who would you vote for, or who do you support specifically?" i respond, "probably obama." they thank me and hang up sooner or later.

regarding republicans... first of all, i think that our country needs a regime change, and the republican candidates can probably make some small claim to this, but i think it's far weaker than the democrats. recently the republicans had control of much of congress, the executive branch, and a lot of influence on the current makeup of the supreme court. this is in addition to the stronger ties of republicans to corporate interests, which i find to have far too much power in the u.s. today, especially multinational corporate conglomerates. this has cascading effects into the corporately controlled media (and journalism is supposed to be the fourth estate). so yeah, i think that the republican/neoconservative group has had far too much power in recent years, and i don't think that they've done a very good job with that power. i think that in almost every way, our country (and from a trickle-down standpoint, my life) is much worse off than it would have been had al gore been president for the last eight years. and i'm willing to live with that.

beyond the regime change argument, i think that the republican candidates are far worse (less intelligent, worse policy plans, corporately controlled, that sort of thing) than the current democrat candidates. many of the things that i would like for our government to do have a better chance of happening with democrats than republicans: strengthening health care, doing something about climate change, dealing with issues of poverty and responding to domestic problems (see katrina, etc.), and improving the economy along with increasing international peace and stability. not a bad list... of the current republican candidates, i would much prefer john mccain than mitt romney because he is more centrist/independent, more intelligent, and would do much better with the above issues. ron paul would shake things up, and in some ways, has circled the spectrum to represent a libertarian version of kucinich. some things he would do would be okay. others would not only upset me, but possibly throw us into a messy international confrontational state.

i guess i support obama even though i feel hillary is probably more intelligent or competent, or something (not quite sure how to say it). obama is a better speaker. he's a better leader, with better vision. i think that hillary resembles john kerry more than i would like, from a candidate makeup point of view, certainly not physically. she seems to me to be a good, intelligent senator, and i would certainly support her for president. what she lacks in charisma and speaking ability, she makes up for in intelligence and competence. none of the candidates in either major party has as much international competence as i might like (exceptions being biden, and to a far lesser extent, mccain), but it seems like this is something presidents pick up rather early in their tenure.

i think that obama would have a better chance of beating mccain or romney when it comes to swing voters. for a number of reasons, hillary is a household name and has been able to run on name recognition for the very same reasons that she will have a hard time with swing voters. i'm not sure why people dislike her so much, but here's my theory, and it relates to media undercurrents and simple socialization. during bill clinton's administration, hillary was in the spotlight for two main reasons: her liberal-ness early on (92-94) that included her part in health care and gun legislation; and second, her strange way of handling (or perhaps not handling) the bill clinton sex scandals of their various types. she was in a catch-22 situation, and it's unfortunate that bill put her in that--for her and for him... in my view, had he not had that scandal, he might very easily be considered one of the better presidents we've had, certainly in the last fifty years.

because hillary was talked about by conservative talk radio (rush, hannity, etc.), and because a large number of people listened to this (nowhere close to a majority, but let's say 2-5%, just for the sake of a thought experiment), chances are that any person who knew any conservative people ended up talking about the problems with hillary at some point in their lives, and they realized themselves that some people really hate her, and also that many people would have strong questions about her. this had a social (larger) effect, basically because people knew someone who really had a problem with hillary. this makes her unelectable in their view, and this tendency to question her spread. this is analogous to the point that i try to make to young people who care about the environment, or perhaps don't eat meat: what you need to do is try to make caring about the environment normal to all your relatives and friends, so that even if they don't care too much, they at least recognize that someone they know and care for does care. this has a transitive property of algebra, with perhaps some bit of weakened power.

before continuing, i should say that i really like edwards, and have since 2004. he made my decision difficult, and i really appreciate the populist, help-the-less-lucky people out approach he had. relating this back to football, i have to say that the standard thing i hear about rooting for underdogs in sporting events--all while not working harder to help the less fortunate americans and global citizens--is one of the stupidest and most hypocritical things i've ever heard. it matters so much less whether you cheer for the giants vs. the patriots, or the twins vs. the yankees, than if you make deliberate decisions to help smaller businesses (rather than walmart or target) or vote for candidates that will do the same (edwards' populism, or kucinich's positions come to mind) rather than supporting multinational corporations and the candidates they heavily subsidize (mostly republicans). in other words, i know a lot of populist, somewhat libertarian republicans that i like, but i know very few neo-conservative, corporation-supporting republicans that i like (though there might be a couple who are okay on a personal basis... they just don't have things figured out in a community sense).

in any event, in a perfect world, i would vote for kucinich because i support many of his policies more than those of others (i have a whole theory i should write up about kucinich and the primary season debates... forthcoming). in a slightly less perfect world, i might vote for hillary or obama equally (a toss-up) because hillary has more of some things and obama does better on others. but in the world i'm living in, with my desire to elect someone who will do something about climate change and health care and those types of issues, i want a democrat with the best chance of winning in my uncertain, guesswork view. and right now, that's obama. i think he matches up better against republicans.

3. teaching

teaching a january term class was awesome. though i can't say i like spending january in minnesota, i definitely enjoyed spending time with my students, thinking and talking about issues i find really important. the course was a first and second year history seminar on environmental discourse, and we considered presidential discourse, early and contemporary nature writing, climate change and other crisis rhetoric (which worked quite well with the focus the nation events on campus), and other kinds of discourse and communication (media, academic, physical/material landscapes and stuff, that sort of thing). i had seven students, so there was no place to hide--we all did the readings, did the assignments, and learned a lot together. i was able to give more feedback (quantity and quality) to my students because i didn't have fifty of them, and while it was oftentimes draining and busy, i found it quite worth it, and i think they did also. we took field trips and had guest speakers, got food in the campus cafe and pizza place, and got to know each other pretty well. i also had a couple independent study projects (one on green blogging and the other on animal photojournalism) that went quite well, and my off-campus internship advising didn't require much from me, but i'm looking forward to speaking with my students when they return to campus. there were numerous assignments and activities that i found very interesting, but i have to say that some of my student projects (along with their interview projects) were amazing.

4. research

my wetlands and climate change research was on a back-burner yet again (got some work done and will be focusing on that for the next couple weeks), and my dissertation research was nonexistent until the last few days (again, more of a focus the next few weeks). i wrote a book review for publication that i'll be submitting tomorrow morning, and i'll be working on my dissertation when i get up tomorrow.

5. babies

friends and family continue to have more and more babies, or at least get pregnant, so i find myself purchasing more and more copies of the book _having faith_ by sandra steingraber. this is one of the books that will be a focal text for my dissertation, so i know it rather well (and have had my students read sections of it in four courses i've taught now). but i just wanted my friends and readers to know that if they are pregnant, thinking about getting pregnant, or know someone else who is, please get this book and have them read it.

i think the experience will be worth their time, and i think it will make the best case possible for why anyone who cares about babies, infants, or the next generation, should also care about their environment, and should make sure that they are electing leaders and making personal decisions that protect the environment, because if you get beyond the word "environment" and all its other connotations, it really is the world around us, our homes, our air, our water, our food, all those things that we depend upon, and that we need to take care of for them. i don't have kids, but there are far too many kids and infants that i care very much for, and sometimes i wonder about the disconnects in our lives: why it's okay for neighbors to frown upon someone who doesn't make their lawn look perfect, or abuses their pets or yells at their children, but we don't have the same social indignation or call to action when someone does something that hurts our air, water, food, or earth generally. or even uses up resources, or despoils things that our children might like to have around, that might make their lives a little better. again, this is a rant, but it's an important one.

6. a song

we've been playing a lot of rock band in our house lately. it's a video game, yes, but it's a very social one, and almost imaginative (we have our own band name and personas), not to mention slightly more active than just thumb action. but it's not the only social dumbed-down musical experiences i've had lately. last night, my housemates and i went to karaoke (for two of us, for the second saturday in a row), and i sang this song (along with let her cry by hootie and the blowfish and take me home country roads by john denver). and the important thing about karaoke is to go all out, to give much more to the song and the experience than might be necessary. but that's what makes things interesting and fun. on a side note, the song below is difficult to sing with karaoke because the first line doesn't have any music cue--it's much easier with a live band where you can sing it, and then everything else can start. i've also been playing more guitar in the last month than i had in four plus years, so it's been fun to get back into it (not that i ever really played much guitar--more bass and keyboards). so that's been good.

as far as this song goes, my early memories of it were from my first year of high school when it was released, and i listened to the mellon collie cds quite a bit. i liked the songs a lot, especially track 1 on the pink cd, the piano one. they stopped near my hometown on the tour also (in sioux falls, sd) which was awesome (got everyone with their arms up in the air yelling, and then told everyone "you can wave your arms all you want, but you're still just rats in a cage"). but i remember my band trip to florida to play in the orange bowl parade, and my chair partner on the bus would sing this song and just scream "what do you GOT" and so we both started yelling that. it was obviously memorable, and now i'm singing it for karaoke. screaming "GOT" as loud as i can. have a pleasant night, or day. take care.

bullet with butterfly wings by the smashing pumpkins

The world is a vampire, sent to drain
Secret destroyers, hold you up to the flames
And what do I get, for my pain?
Betrayed desires, and a piece of the game

Even though I know - I suppose I'll show
All my cool and cold - like old Job

Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage
Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage
Then someone will say what is lost can never be saved
Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage

Now I'm naked, nothing but an animal
But can you fake it, for just one more show?
And what do you want?
I want to change
And what have you got, when you feel the same?

Even though I know - I suppose I'll show
All my cool and cold - like old job

Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage
Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage
Then someone will say what is lost can never be saved
Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage

Tell me I'm the only one
Tell me there's no other one
Jesus was the only son, yeah.
Tell me I'm the chosen one
Jesus was the only son for you

And I still beleive that I cannot be saved