Monday, May 24, 2010

I learned something new today.

Most people will never be able to travel to foreign countries during their lifetime, it's just not feasible for many of us for a variety of reasons. While I will likely never travel to Africa, one of the continents I would love to visit, Africa comes to me. I was having a conversation with a really nice young man who is a graduate student in another department. He is from Malawi and his friend wants to join our graduate program so I was giving him some information to pass on. Malawi is an interesting country, it's a democratic nation, been that way for some 15 years. The people are free to express their opinions, they are free to start and run their own businesses, spend their money where they like, and live the kind of life they want to live without too much government interference. This student was telling me about how long it took Malawi to get that way. It's been a long road.

Our conversation led me to question him about the situations in Rwanda and the Congo. Rwanda is beginning to turn around but the genocide has torn the country apart. It will take generations to get back to something close to normal. But Rwandans seem to be resilient and they persevere. In our discussion we talked of centuries old tribal warfare. Since the time of man, there has been conquest. People went to war over land, religion and customs. Even a difference in skin color (say black to brown) in some African countries can mean a death sentence. The western nations really don't have a clue as to how to stop it. I'm the first to admit I'm clueless as to why so many millions of people in Africa have died over the last century. The tribal warfare is beyond anything we can comprehend because it's not our heritage. It's not my fault I don't understand, it's just the way it is.

This warfare and conquest in Africa has been going on thousands of years. The geography of the planet is what it is due directly to conquest. The United States was able to expand from thirteen colonies westward because they cleared the land of the native peoples. The Middle East looks as it does today due to wars and conquests. Africa is the same as is Europe. Think about the sheer size of the once dominant Holy Roman Empire. Then it all changed. On nearly every continent, the cultures, religions, and peoples who exist there today do so because one group of people defeated another. I suppose it's the nature of the beast.

In the meantime, I may never get to Africa in the traditional sense but I feel Africa has come to me. Thanks to an abundance of truly wonderful people from that continent who I have met over the last decade during the course of their education, I have become a better person. I truly am thankful for those relationships. Each of those people has taught me something. I have learned how ignorant we can be of other cultures (I don't mean in a derogatory sense, just that without having been exposed to people of other cultures, it's just impossible to understand them). I have also learned to be thankful for the nation in which I live and the most important lesson of all is the rekindling of the human spirit. Each of the individuals I've met not just from Africa but from all other nations has renewed my faith in mankind.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Remembering a wild party...

Oh gosh recalling my days in Hawaii prompted a memory of the night I held a huge party at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. I rented a really big room there with a balcony and view of the ocean and courtyard below. It was in the Tapa Tower. We filled the bathtub with ice and everyone brought beer. We listened to 80's music (well it was the 80's!) chatted, sat on the balcony, floor, beds, anywhere we could find seats and we all had a good time.

I remember we were all so tired from partying all night long that those who didn't take the duty van back to the base (last run was 1 am) just passed out in the room on beds, balcony and floor. What was really funny was waking up in the morning on top of the covers, having shared a bed (fully clothed mind you!) with a very passed out Bobby, Goose, and another one of our shipmates, I can't remember who it was at the moment. Len maybe? Don? Who the hell knows? I could barely function the next day I was so hungover. LOL. It was so much fun. Man we could get away with anything back then. I could never party like that again, I'd be yawning by 7 and asleep by 8!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Remembering Hawaii...

When I was stationed in Hawaii oh so many years ago one of my favorite things to do was take the duty van to Pier 4 and then walk into town and just walk Kalakaua Avenue from the pier all towards Diamond Head. It might be a Saturday night when nothing was going on at the base--no movies or parties and so I'd decide to go into town with just my military ID and a few bucks in my pocket. I can close my eyes and remember it like it was yesterday...

A cool night, a nice breeze coming in off the ocean at Waikiki Beach. Lots of nightlife, people driving, shopping, walking to and from the movie theaters, mall or other businesses. It was always busy at night. I'd stop and look in stores, sit and do some people watching, listen to live music, and just breathe in the clean crisp night air. Believe it or not back in the 80's it was safe for a young woman to walk down the strip alone. I'd walk as far as I could, which would be quite a long way and then when it was after midnight, I'd check into the nearest hotel, usually a Hyatt Regency or something nice like that. I'd get a high floor, a beach view and I'd keep all the lights off, open all the windows, and drift to sleep listening to the ocean, the nightlife and people below. It was really nice. The next morning wearing the same clothes I had on the night before, I'd check out of the hotel and grab breakfast at a cafe and walk back to the pier and catch a cab back to the base.

Those were the days....

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Supporting Arizona's fight...

Ever since Governor Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law in Arizona, I've been anxious to read it. There's been a lot of hype about it on both sides. A lot of people are angry about it and calling it racist and unconstitutional. Well, I finally read the bill and I find it rather reasonable. Basically it states:

"Cooperation and assistance in enforcement of 15 immigration laws; indemnification for any lawful contact stop, detention or arrest made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of this state or a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who and is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made when practicable to determine the immigration status of the person, except if the determination may hinder or obstruct an investigation.

Any person who is arrested shall have the person's immigration status determined before the person is released. The person's immigration status shall be verified with the Federal Government pursuant to 8 USC 1373(c).

A law enforcement official or agency of this state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state may not solely consider race, color or national origin in implementing the requirements of this subsection except to the extent permitted by the United States or Arizona Constitution. A person is presumed not to be an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States if the person provides to the law enforcement officer or agency any of the following:

-A valid Arizona Drivers License

-A valid Arizona nonoperating identification license

-A valid tribal enrollment card or other form of tribal identification

-If the entity requires proof of legal presence in the United States before issuance, any valid United States Federal, State, or Local Government issued identification. "


"Except as provided in federal law, officials or agencies of this state and counties, cities, towns and other political subdivisions of this state may not be prohibited or in any way be restricted from sending, receiving, or maintaining information relating to the immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual or exchanging that information with any other federal, state, or local governmental entity for the following official purposes:

-Determining eligibility for any public benefit, service or license provided by any federal, state, local or other political subdivision of this state.

-Verifying any claim of residence or domicile if determination of residence or domicile is required under the laws of this state or a judicial order issued pursuant to a civil or criminal proceeding in this state."

That's the jist of it and for the life of me I can't find any violation(s) of the Constitution. Every day in America thousands of motorists are pulled over for one reason or another. The police have a right to ask for identification when they pull you over. In Arizona, a motorist should have a driver license. In Arizona, illegal aliens cannot obtain a drivers license therefore an illegal alien pulled over at a routine traffic stop (broken light, speeding, or routine safety check) would not be able to produce a legal license, thus s/he would be in big trouble.

As to non-motorists, that gets interesting. Say a group of young hispanic males is walking down the street minding their own business. Legally speaking, the police cannot question these young men unless there is reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion excludes race and national origin. Will some police fail to abide by this? Sure they will. But in a state like Arizona where there are illegals on every corner, I believe the police will be busy enough catching illegals through legal methods as described in the bill.

The police do have the right however to target a certain group of individuals in cases of criminal behavior. Let's say in a town a group of four hispanic males with certain physical descriptions is said to have committed a crime. During the police search, it would be reasonable for them to stop a group of young hispanic males matching that description, no? Maybe they are illegal, maybe they are not? But the police have the right to profile in order to solve crimes.

The great thing is if an individual, specifically a citizen is targeted by the police and harassed because the police believe s/he is an illegal and it is later determined they are not, there is always recourse in the courts. If an individual truly thinks their Constitutional rights were violated then the courts give that person the chance to seek retribution.

This isn't about race, color or national origin, it's about a state upholding a federal law in an effort to save itself. The members of Congress bitching this bill is unconstitutional haven't read it yet or just don't understand it because if they did they would see that this bill supports existing federal law. Members of Congress swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Perhaps they should be reminded that on election day.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Being American is offensive...

I did a double take at this story because at first I thought it was a joke.

Some excerpts:

"Administrators at a California high school sent five students home on Wednesday after they refused to remove their American flag T-shirts and bandannas -- garments the school officials deemed "incendiary" on Cinco de Mayo."

"The five students -- Daniel Galli, Austin Carvalho, Matt Dariano, Dominic Maciel and Clayton Howard -- were then told they must turn their T-shirts inside-out or be sent home, though it would not be considered a suspension. Rodriguez told the students he did not want any fights to break out between Mexican-American students celebrating their heritage and those wearing American flags."

"Freshman Laura Ponce, who had a Mexican flag painted on her face and chest, told the Morgan Hill Times that Cinco de Mayo is the "only day" Mexican-American students can show their national pride."

I think Assistant Principal Rodriguez should be fired. Clearly he does not show sound judgment. The only good thing to come out of this is the school district is investigating the situation. And when they're done, they can order the school officials to give these five kids a big fat public apology for discriminating against them. Yes, this was discrimination, taking action against the non-hispanic kids because they are not hispanic! Can you imagine had this been July 4th and the school officials sent the Mexican-American kids home for wearing the Mexican flag on their tee shirt? The ACLU would have been all over that.

I never thought that there would be a moment where being American would be something to hide in my country! I never thought that American pride and American values would be seen as offensive and rude in my country! I never thought the public school system would actually prevent children from learning American history and expressing their pride in their American heritage in my country! We share an American heritage and American culture. You're in America, get used to it. We do things a bit different here. After all, if we didn't you wouldn't be here in the first place.

I don't give a rat's ass what country you're from and if you want to celebrate your heritage that's fine with me, just don't prevent me from celebrating mine.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

I don't know what came over me but I kicked ass at work today. Not that I usually don't but today I was able to clean house. I shredded a semester's worth of confidential stuff, re-organized my bookshelves and textbooks, filed all my graduated students, took care of some email replies and various other tasks. I felt really good, when I go into my office tomorrow, it's going to be well-organized and I'll be able to finish wrapping up spring term. I have to wrap up spring so I can move on to Summer as of Monday. I've got new Masters students beginning Summer B term and I have to get them orientated to the program and get them moving on their registrations in the next few weeks. Then I have to plan the fall orientation when the rest of the Masters and PhD students begin the program, not to mention all of our other students return. It's a lot of work but this is my 10th year in this particular position and I could do it with my eyes closed and one hand tied behind my back----as Rush says, "just to make it fair." :D

I'd like to add something to this. I bet you that the President's office maintains a nice cool temperature all day long. Too bad he doesn't have to deal with what we do every single day. What do we have to deal with? I'm glad you asked. On my floor of my building, one half of the hallway is nice and cool while the other half of the hallway is hot as hell. Today I was sweating in my office while down the hall one of the labs had to open their doors and windows because it was too cold in there! This university probably wastes so much money on energy because the equipment in the older buildings is sub-par and that's all I'm going to say about that. It just SUCKS. That's ok, I have a little trick up my sleeve I use to cool down my office and only "A" and I know about it, and maybe a few of my students. It works and that's all I care about.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Another semester has come and gone. In the beginning it sure as hell felt like it would last forever yet in the last couple of weeks, the time flew. Where did it go?

I earned an "A" in my Economics class. It was a rather fascinating course covering Supply and Demand, International Trade, the Fed, Investments, Inflation, Unemployment, and a host of other topics that were insightful and fascinating. I will say it has been one of the most valuable courses I've ever taken because we see and hear about these topics every day. I took the course so I could learn to apply the theory. Mankiw's textbook was outstanding with short and well-written chapters. Anyone out there who thinks it's not necessary to have an understanding of how the economy works is nuts. If you want to understand WHY what is happening in our economy is happening, I highly recommend it. There's no way you can understand what's going on in the US today without having some Economics in your curriculum.

As to my second course, US & German Exceptionalism, that was a tough course with five textbooks, and not all of them as fascinating as Mankiw's one book. This was an experimental course, as Dr. B had never taught it before but being an expert on Germany and European History he wanted to throw it out there and see how it worked. Overall I think it was a success. We learned a lot about the nature of nationalism and exceptionalism in the US and Germany. We learned quite a bit about the relationship of the Puritan mission in the early colonies to the concept of Manifest Destiny as well as the roots of German nationalism, its rise and fall. My final paper was actually about the "Rise, Fall, and Legacy of German Exceptionalism in the 20th Century". All in all there was no midterm, no final and three papers. I'd say that was right up my alley. I waited till the week prior to the due dates to do the papers but only because I seem to thrive under pressure. Don't ask why, but I have plenty of time but no...I just wait till the last minute. But I completed it and for my hard work I earned the grade of "A-" fair enough for me. My overall GPA is now 3.58, I'm happy with that.

It took me four years to get my Associates degree because I had to take classes after hours. I took two classes per term including summer, and two terms I took three classes just to get done earlier. I moved on to the University in spring 2009, one of a few hundred transfer students (out of thousands that applied) accepted due to budget cuts. I don't take classes over summer because I really need a break. Spring and fall overwhelm me and I need some down time. I'm going to have to do summer classes next year and the year after. If I play my cards right I can finish my BA in August 2012 and begin graduate school that semester. Let's try and forget the fact that I will be 42 when I finish in 2012 and let's forget the fact that every other person I know asks me:

"So what are you going to do with this degree? Are you getting it just to have a degree?"

Are you kidding? I'm 40 years old competing in a classroom full of young people who were born two years before Clinton became President--the first time. I am not running myself ragged, exhausting myself day and night with work and studying just to hang a piece of paper in a frame on my wall. No way. I really plan to do something great with it and you know what? I'm not quite sure what it will be. As I was telling a coworker today, I would love to write, teach high school, work in a museum, research for documentaries, I mean the possibilities are endless if you get the MOST out of the education.

Done right, a liberal arts education can be a great thing. So what if many of the professors are liberal? So what if the institution itself has a liberal slant? So what if the majority of the students in my classes are young enough to be my own children in college? So what? In America today if we can get an education, then we should do it. It seems a waste of my brain NOT to get my education. And so I'm doing it. I used to obsess about the age thing but a smart friend told me that whether I do it or not, I'm still going to be a year older every year regardless so might as well just do it.

Damn I wish I could remember who told me that.

Monday, May 03, 2010

I miss my dad. I called him "paypay" for the longest time. That nickname began on a day I was driving home from work on CR 232 and passed this cute little house with one of those personalized street signs on this guy's driveway that said "Pa Pa's Far Away Place" and that stuck with me. I got home and started calling dad "pay pay" and it stuck. There I was in my 20s calling my dad "pay pay" and of course he always called me my childhood nickname, "Gaga."

Today I called dad's cell phone which mom now uses, we asked her to leave his outgoing voice mail message on there so we could call occasionally to hear his voice. I called today from the car and when I heard his voice I wanted to cry. Vin was in the store at the time, I was in the car waiting for him. When I began to cry I saw him on his way to the car and quickly regained my composure. I know there's nothing I can do to bring pa back but damnit it wasn't fair that we were robbed of him when he was only 62. And I do get mad at him. Sometimes I yell at him then I cry for feeling sad over yelling at him. Who knows? Maybe if he'd taken better care of himself he still would have died at 62?

I just know I dream about him all the time and in my dreams, he comes back from being gone somewhere for a long time. And I'm thinking he's supposed to be dead, but no, he managed to get out of the hospital and stick around just a little longer, it's so weird.

If there was one person on this earth I thought would always be here, it was dad. Without him there's just this big open empty space. When we get together at mom's house it's still not the same. Mom knows it, we all know it. Life has to go on, we all are aware of that fact, but there's a big gaping hole that can never be filled. The loss is going to be there for the rest of my life, all our lives and not a damn thing can change that. In my life I have never felt a loss such as this, a loss so deep and profound, so sad, so devastating.

I guess there comes a time in every person's life when we come upon that one moment when we suddenly realize we can truly "never go back" to the way things once were, to a more innocent time, to the old days when life was simple, kind, and good, when we were protected, when we were carefree, young, and invincible, and the world was full of wonder. That one single instantaneous moment in life separates what once was from what now is. For me it is no different. And so it goes....

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Going through the motions...

Every day I go through life merely going through the motions of actually living. I think that is because that's what life is all about, just going through the motions. I doubt many actually "live" like we're supposed to live, you know, not being afraid to take chances, betting everything on a sure thing, that sort of behavior just doesn't seem what life is supposed to be about. Or is it?

I don't know if what I do every day is "living" or just going through the motions. Maybe it is and I just didn't realize it. I'm sure millions of people resign themselves to a routine existence, doing the same exact things day after day, figuring one day they're number will be called and that's it. I'm sure they have people telling them "you can break out of it, do something different, have some fun" but the thing is, they don't know how or they don't want to because the status quo is safe. Change sucks and you can't convince me any different.

I could do things differently. I could go fishing, boating, to art festivals, museums, bike rids, out to have a few beers with friends, a karaoke bar, take a day trip....but the thing is, I don't want to. I didn't want to do it ten years ago and I don't want to do it now. Once I was young, but I am no longer. No, forty isn't old, but I'm not the same Jess I was when I was 20. I was carefree then, and you cannot go back to the way things used to be, I don't care how much you want to, you can't. It's never the same.

Me? I like being in my own safe little world where I can be me and nobody else. I have my own little world and I like it, except sometimes I wish it was just me I had to worry about. You see, when you have people in your life you care about, with that comes worry and concern. I don't mind being either, it's just that when you care about people, you "feel" and by that I mean you love as much as you hate, you are happy as much as you are angry, you feel pain as much as you inflict it. When you care about others, you have to feel, there's no way around it. And there are times it's going be stressful, it's going to hurt and it's going to make you angry. And we're humans, naturally we want to avoid pain, but we cant. Hiding from the world doesn't avoid pain, it just makes it worse. There's no way you can live your life completely all for yourself if there's even one other person in it you care about. Of course I think it's good to care about people, I don't think man or woman can truly live alone, without the company of others, it's not normal. We're not the type of creatures which can tolerate isolation for long periods of time.

Let's see, my friends who read this are going to have any number of suggestions. They're thinking I have no purpose or I feel lost. Well WHO doesn't? l Some will suggest becoming a Christian because of course life isn't about what I want, it's about serving God. And don't get me wrong, while I appreciate that, it isn't my time yet for that. If it's meant to be, it will be. Other friends will probably suggest therapy. Now that's a good idea. And still some others will suggest dipping my toes into the water gently a little at a time to get used to doing things differently. I'm not ready to do that yet. I'm just NOT!

To be honest I'll tell you a secret. I'm a bit overly judgmental of myself and my own worst critic. I do not completely like myself. I am not sure if that's good or bad. I mean I don't hate myself or my life. What I am saying is I am not the person I thought I could be. I can still be that person, if only I can figure out how to get there.

They say that how you feel about yourself rubs off on others. I am not sure. Would love to ask some folks who know me well if they see me as insecure and frightened as I see myself.

Another secret of mine--I try not to let too many people get too close to me, I don't like having to open up my entire life story to more than a few people but even then no one person has the whole story, not even the few people closest to me in my life. But several folks know parts of my story, but no one individual in the entire world knows it all. If you let down your guard and let any one person know who you really are and what you are all about, that's it, you don't own it anymore, it belongs to someone else. No way is someone else going to own a piece of my life, much less all of it. At least when I own the whole story, then it's still all mine. And don't worry, if you put all my friends and family in a room and they each matched up what they know about me, there's still enough missing pieces where they will never have it completely figured out. And I am the kind of person who cannot let any one person have the whole story. That will never happen. That's just me and those who care about me just have to learn to deal with me being this way.

More later :)