Friday, February 28, 2014

Lawnmowers of the apocalypse

Hey, girl on the only scanner -- you want to hurry it up some?

No vaping? So do I even want to know what that is?

Dig the vertigo-inducing dots in the science building's bathroom stalls.

Hey, smoke-free campus, bro. Be respectful. And don't get mad for me pointing that out.

I don't wear a watch, and I actually find the hourly time chiming useful. I wonder how many others do, now that everyone carries a mobile that can tell them the time easily.

Ever stand at the middle of the bridge for awhile, and just watch the traffic go by? Me neither.

The Guardians of the Galaxy trailer looks fun.

Golf courses are environmentally criminal.

Frisbee throwing should come back.

People say to always go with your gut. The convolutions of the intestines are visually similar to the convolutions of the brain.

Robin Hood randomly shot an arrow, and requested to be buried where the arrow landed. Very poetic.

Check out the background of any charity you choose to give to.

There should be a website compiling stories of people who were told to do something that they knew would fail.

There should be a website where people can list their accomplishments.

How many publishers do you notice that have an “about the publisher” blurb on their book jackets?

Someone asked me if I thought I had it all figured out. It depends on what the “it” is. Scientific reality? How to be happy? How to live ethically? Without specifying, it’s hard to say.


Our Son from Cartoon Brew on Vimeo.


Dave Roel.
I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honorable, to be compassionate.
- Leo Rosten

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Things to think about

I didn't think college acceptance letters were coming out so soon, but I got into CSULB! So now I'm just waiting on UCI (which comes out by April 30th for transfer students, I believe). Honestly, if I get into both, I'm not sure which school I'll pick since my main criteria this time around was "within commuting distance."

As acceptance notifications are distributed, here's some things to keep in mind when choosing a school.

  • Cost: If you're torn between a few schools, which one has the most affordable tuition? Which college-- if any-- is offering more financial aid? Ideally, this wouldn't be an issue, but as things stand, it very much can be.
  • Living situation: Will you have to stay in a dorm? Do you want to stay in a dorm? If you're planning on getting an apartment, how expensive will the rent be? What about roommates? This of course factors into the expense portion as well.
  • Manageability: If you're working while going to school, it might be a good idea to check out potential colleges' class schedules to see how manageable that would be. For instance, at UCSD, it would've been difficult for me to work as much as I am now because many of the courses I was taking were Monday/Wednesday/Friday or required a small group section on Tuesdays/Thursdays.
  • Commute: Is it a reasonable commute? Can you carpool? How much do parking passes cost? For that matter, is parking even widely available, or is commuter parking a bloodsport?
  • Programs/Majors: This probably seems obvious, but which schools actually offer the major you're interested in? If two or more do,  it might be a good idea to speak with a department representative and determine which school's program would be a better fit for you.
  • Counseling: I don't mean the mental health kind-- but if you foresee that as a potential issue for you, that may also be something to look into since a lot of schools'mental health counseling systems seem to range from unhelpful to ruinous.  What I mean is, how helpful is the advising staff? A big part of the reason I decided to leave UCSD is because I had no idea what I was doing. Freshmen weren't allowed to meet with academic advisors, and it didn't seem like upperclassmen could have in-depth meetings with them either until their fourth year, by which point it might be too late to fix any mistakes you didn't know you made. Not knowing what you're doing-- especially with how much you'll be paying-- is an awful, paralyzing feeling, and an effective advising staff can make all the difference.
  • Environment: Again, kind of obvious. But if you're going somewhere unfamiliar, it would be a good idea to visit the campus and find out what kind of weather and feel the area has. Especially if you're going to be living on campus.

Hopefully this helps!

Stay classy,


Monday, February 24, 2014

I get into conversations

I get into conversations with people. No, there's no Microsoft Word on these computers. I think the computers over there have it. You can just use Google Drive. No, you don't need the @ symbol in front. No, I think you have to be registered in a class in order to use that room. Yeah, that would be a good idea. I'd use it. Probably really expensive, tho. I think you need an ID card to do that. I think you can get one at the student center. Oh, someone is taking chemistry. What are those flash cards? Good idea, I should do that. Redox reactions? What are those? Oh, we just call them chemical equations. Hey, funny shirt. What's that button? Oh, you like them? I haven't heard too much of their stuff. Yeah, I'll have to check them out. Oh really, no, I missed that. No, I don't get to too many shows these days. I used to go to ska shows. Is ska still a thing? Hey, what are you reading? Oh, you're into that stuff? Oh yeah, I've read him. He's one of my favorites, actually. No, I've never heard of him. Yeah, I've heard of him, I haven't read him. Have you ever heard of this guy? Yeah, check him out, I think you'll dig him. There's a lot of information on YouTube and a lot of websites. Go to my web page, I have a list of recommended books I like. Yeah, I'm on Facebook and Google+, add me. Yeah, catch you later.


Dave Roel.
There's more truth in a bigger view.
- Ken Wilber (on the reason for community)

Friday, February 21, 2014

A conspiracy of raisins

Everything people post on Facebook is incredibly hyped to an amazing degree. Not everything is the best ever, the saddest ever, something you will be amazed by.

Fullerton is certainly a very pretty campus. Pretty trees.

People sure like Superman shirts.

People still take notes, with pen and on paper. Why not record the lecture? Assuming the teacher allows it. If you need to write it down to remember it, the recording will let you do that. And you get the benefit of being able to rewind, to catch what you missed. Do people still say rewind?

Love teachers who use the tech. Powerpoint slides, Word docs, web pages. Whatever can be utilized. There’s really no excuse not to.

It’d be great if the files were made available to students, too.

For stuff that doesn’t get shared, and you have to write it down, snap a pic.

Really cold some early mornings. Glad to get in to a classroom. I can feel my toes and ears get warm. Nice.

Hey, they cut down the bike racks next to the pool. A lot of people used those. I didn’t, but I hope they just went somewhere else. In fact, I need to find a bike rack closer to my actual classroom, but I keep forgetting to look around.

It’s nice to see people playing music and singing on the school grounds. Always makes me smile.

Get to know others around you. It’s always helpful for every class. Two heads are better than one.


Reach from Luke Randall on Vimeo.


Dave Roel.
Five percent of the people think. Ten percent of the people think they think. And the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.
- Unknown

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Emotional Baggage?

          Hope you all had a great President's Day weekend! Anyways, I stumbled across this site the other day and I think it may be worth a view. It's very simplistic and very no-nonsense, you guys should check it out!

         This site (which is secretly a music site) lets you anonymously write out the things that are bothering you. If you've been feeling crappy lately, and you have no outlet or anyone to turn to, you go on this site and you can rant and rant and rant and let all your sadnesses out, no strings attached. 

          Okay, I'll explain. It opens up with a page of two suitcases, one that says "Check it", meaning you want to "check" your baggage, or let it out. The other says "Carry it", meaning you help someone else carry their baggage. When one chooses to "carry it", they'll receive something someone posted and can send a link to a song that'll get you through whatever you're going through via youtube, soundcloud, etc and also an uplifting reply to your email. Don't worry, your email is never shown publicly!
           Another upside is, like I mentioned earlier, it's incredibly simplistic. There's no sign-ups required, and the site itself seems to be a soothing relaxant the way it's designed. 

          We're all college students, right? That means something's always bothering us. At least we're no longer in high school, where it was all angst all the time. Now it's more about real-life problems, right? Whatever burden you're carrying, don't carry it alone! It may seem silly, but having an outlet to release all the negative energy you're harboring in your mind can really help, especially if a kind stranger sends you a personalized email with some strength attached to it. 
            And hey, if you are a lucky one whose life is finally coming together, why don't you be the kind stranger? Maybe you just got promoted with a raise at work, or your grades are stellar, or you're all set to graduate this May with a job ready for you and you have absolutely nothing to complain about. Can't hurt to try to make someone else feel as good as you do! All you have to do is click "Carry it", and you'll be presented with someone's post. If it's maybe too heavy for you to carry, there's a "never mind" option.
          It's at least worth checking out! 

Joy ☼

Blue is the most disappointing color

Maybe it's because a few of my friends hyped it up too much, but I thought Blue is the Warmest Color was a pretty disappointing movie. A friend of mine gave me the graphic novel for Christmas and though it's far from perfect, it was an incredibly compelling story. If you aren't made uncomfortable by the subject matter and by the prospect of a couple of graphic scenes, I highly recommend it. I actually cried at the end, which, given my cold, stony heart, is sort of impressive.

So I watched the movie, since I'd heard so much about it. And the first third of it was fairly true to the story-- it was okay, overall. And then it all went downhill; the film became more focused on objectifying the girls than telling their story, and on twisting the original plot into something more palatable for a straight male audience (which, go figure, because that's the director's own demographic). There were so many plot holes that I was surprised it had won anything at all.

The author of the graphic novel, Julie Maroh, wasn't pleased with the film either, for what I thought were some pretty valid reasons.

It's difficult because there aren't many LGBT movies that have broken into the mainstream the way BitWC has, and so LGBT representation is very limited and often based on negative stereotypes. The importance of representation is too nebulous a topic for one blog post, but the main idea to take away from it is this: the problem is not inherent in the stereotyped representations-- the problem is that these are, by and large, the only representations shown, which creates a one-dimensional, negative view of entire groups of people.

So if accurate coming-of-age LGBT film is a niche that interests you, I happen to have some (largely depressing) suggestions, all of which were written/directed by women who belong to the demographic they depict:

  1. Pariah (2011) - "A Brooklyn teenager juggles conflicting identities and risks friendship, heartbreak, and family in a desperate search for sexual expression."
    I saw a screening of this last year and loved it. It's a great film.
  2. Mosquita y Mari (2012) - "After being assigned as study partners, two Chicana high schoolers find a bond that confuses them at times."
    Arguably, it's not very good, but it's well-shot and emotionally potent.
  3. Circumstance (2011) - "A wealthy Iranian family struggles to contain a teenager's growing sexual rebellion and her brother's dangerous obsession."
    I watched this recently and it's my personal favorite of these recommendations. I have no idea whether or not it's an accurate depiction of life in modern Iran-- but it is an amazing story, and I have a serious weak spot for good cinematography.
  4. Saving Face (2004) - "A Chinese-American lesbian and her traditionalist mother are reluctant to go public with secret loves that clash against cultural expectations."
    I actually... haven't seen this. But one of my friends said it's a great rom-com, which I'm sure is a nice change from all the dramas. Plus Joan Chen is in it. She's in Twin Peaks. She's fabulous.


Happy watching!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Active reading

Last semester, I was enrolled in a very intense college reading and writing course. We read many difficult essays and wrote about them. The course encouraged active, engaged reading. The type of reading that causes one to really dig into a piece, and work with it.

I consider myself an active, engaged reader. This is the fun of reading—it's a game of give and take, active, not passive, reading. Reading where you contribute much to the meaning and interpretation of the piece. This type of reading means the engagement with a text is a unique experience—every reader will have a different encounter with a text.

Strong reading is not just reading—it's also thinking and writing. The best writing invites this collaboration. As a collaborator, I take the text as a starting point, and spin off into my own ideas, related or unrelated to the text. Reading in this way is an active act of creation.

I often find that I write to get my own thoughts out, to work out my own thoughts about a text. The process of writing helps me digest the information. Writing is often a process of discovery. I'm often surprised by what I write, and I often learn interesting things about what I think about something, and how my mind works.

Reading enriches our lives. Ultimately, this kind of reading changes us. We become better, sharper, deeper thinkers through strong, active reading of challenging works. And this will help us in every endeavor in life.


Dave Roel.
I'm a big fan of pretension. It means trying to exceed your grasp. Which is how things grow.
- Warren Ellis

Saturday, February 15, 2014

This is New

I'm having a really strange experience in my English class. By which I mean I actually like about 90% of what we've been reading.

A portion of it is things I read in high school-- Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants," Frankenstein-- but otherwise it's pretty new to me. We've read  a lot of works by authors that I'd either heard of but never really got around to reading, or hadn't heard of at all-- Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Amy Tan, and David Foster Wallace all fall into the first category, while Jamaica Kincaid  belongs to the latter.
I love it. After we read Kincaid's "Girl," I even checked out one of her books from the library, Annie John. That's honestly a new experience for me-- I've rarely read something in school that compelled me to read the author's other works.

We're also learning about different critical theories-- also something I did in high school, but now in greater depth. I think we only skimmed the topics of feminist, Marxist, and psychoanalytic theory in my high school, and now I'm learning about post-colonial theory and some others as well. And all of it interests me! With the exception of psychoanalytical theory, I guess, but that's mainly because I hate Freud.

Which is an entirely different story.

Let's not get into that.

My point is, I've never felt like a GE class was totally made for me. I mean, obviously it isn't made for me, but it's really nice to learn about things that directly apply to my own interests. Especially after my disastrous experience in the English class I withdrew from last semester.

Stay classy,


Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day Shenanigans

          So last night, I was having mad cravings for some doughnuts. I had just gotten off work at 11--thank god for the 24 hour drive thru, although the lady working the window might not think so; she told me she didn't get off work til 6:30 AM--and I really wanted doughnuts. When I was about to put in my order, I realized they had special edition Valentines doughnuts?! Okay some of you may have known that for awhile but I did not. I have to admit, I felt pretty stupid talking into the monitor. "Yes, hi I would like a chocolate heart and hug...and one kiss.." Oh man I felt so dumb I wondered how the guy on the other side kept a straight voice when saying "Yes ma'am one hug and one kiss for you."
          Wow I do not regret ordering them though. The strawberry icing on good. Also, you get a sheet of Valentine's Day cards, you know the kind when you were in the third grade and you would buy packs of themed Valentines and write one to each person in your classmate? Oh, the good old days where everyone had a Valentine. Anyway, there's 12 cards per sheet, all with cheesy (but so cute) sayings like "Roses are red but doughnuts are sweet" and "My heart is yours" with the "heart" replaced with a picture of a doughnut heart. They're all nicely perforated and ready for you to go, AND each one is good for ONE FREE DOUGHNUT! Yeah so I'm definitely keeping all of these sheets to go claim my dozen later on, heheheh.

          And today, I volunteered at a flower shop! My mom's friend owns a flower shop down in El Monte, and with Valentine's Day being one of the biggest days of the florist calendar, we decided to go donate our time and volunteer. I cannot tell you how many unprepared desperate guys I helped out today. I really can't. Okay fine some of them probably work really hard and really didn't have the time to go pick out a bouquet, but that was certainly not the case for all of them. 
          ONE GUY, okay, one guy had one bouquet all picked out--at a whopping grand total of $150!--and was trying to choose another. He was really really on the fence about it though, so one of the more expert florists tried to help him out. She was like, "well who's this for?" and I swear his whole face turned red and he coughed and just said, "I can't tell you." And the florist stared back at him incredulously and was like "Mother? Daughter? Girlfriend?" The guy didn't budge. "I can't tell you." 
Some of the salesladies began looking at each other and he couldn't make eye contact with us; he probably knew they were all thinking "two girlfriends? One wife one mistress?" 
          Yeah, these are the kind of guys that come in at 8 PM on Valentine's Day. 
          Everything else was pretty fun though; I got to learn how to make my own bouquet and the owner of the flower shop let me keep it! (Maybe because it was too ugly to sell HAHA I don't know). I hope you all had a great Valentine's Day though, whether it be romantic candlelit dinner, a date with Netflix, or a fire ritual in which you burn everything you have left of your ex-significant other, I hope it was a great one. 
          Happy Valentine's Day!

Joy ☼

Library time

So I spend a lot of time at the library. Mostly working on classwork, but sometimes, I go in to check out some books. I still have a healthy respect for the old ink-on-paper medium. I suspect that the brain processes information differently if it's taken in through a screen. Just a hunch. Someone should study that. There's a good selection of books in those stacks. The other day, I found a good book on the comedians of the 1950s and 1960s. An interesting subject, and good for some hours of reading. Occasionally I actually get into a conversation with someone. It's been known to happen. People are friendly. The recycling bin is always a good source for scratch paper. If you're in a math or science class, there's never enough scratch paper. There's a flimsy sign out in front that says Building 800. Nicely designed buildings, not enough thought given to how to identify them. Ah, slap a sign out in front, that'll take care of it. Sure, okay. It's not like anyone's here for the esthetics. People in the study cubicles can be too noisy, sometimes. Be respectful of those around you, people. What the heck are you doing with the volume on those headphones turned up so loud? You might need those eardrums at some point later in life, you know. Hey, you. How many zippers does that pack have? You gonna zip all of them? You are. Okay, have at it. Don't mind me. Anyway, library. Yay.



Dave Roel.
When we seek for connection, we restore the world to wholeness. Our seemingly separate lives become meaningful as we discover how truly necessary we are to each other.
- Margaret Wheatley

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Relatively Spoiler-Free Review of Her

I honestly had no idea what to expect from Her. It was the first Spike Jonze movie I'd seen, apart from Where the Wild Things Are. I hadn't even seen the trailer.

So first of all, I'll say it's a movie about robots with feelings, which is my thematic Achilles heel for a multitude of reasons (see: Blade Runner).

As the movie began, I had two concerns: one, that it would turn out to be yet another manic pixie dream girl story; and two, as I saw every character so enveloped in technology, that it would be yet another millenial-centric criticism of our growing dependence on technological advances.

In both cases, I was pleasantly surprised.

On the surface, it is totally a MPDG story. But what makes it distinct from the plethora of other films that abuse that trope is that it's both more realistic and more fulfilling. Samantha, the love interest, is not a one-dimensional character that exists for the sole purpose of furthering Theodore's plotline; similarly, while Theodore falls into the stereotype of a sensitive, brooding male hero, his character's personality has depth beyond that trope. They change each other, rather than Samantha being the underdeveloped catalyst for Theodore's inner potential. Through Theodore, Samantha learns about the complexity and range of human emotions-- he helps her gain a sense of individuality and humanity. Through Samantha, Theodore gains a new perspective on his life and his own emotional experiences. Both realize the validity of their own emotions and learn to question what it actually means to be human.

And rather than criticize the growing integration of technology into our daily lives, Spike Jonze seems to be welcoming it. The characters who question or who scoff at Theodore's relationship with Samantha, as well as other human-computer relationships, are shown as ignorant. I'm not necessarily advocating that anyone should consider themselves to be in a relationship with their computer-- especially not now, when they don't possess dynamic personalities and are very much objects-- but I think the story is analogous to Internet friendships in many ways. Some people deny that Internet friendships are even real, while others consider those they've met online more important to them than those they know in real life. And, as in Her, this isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Ultimately, it's a movie about change, and coming to terms with change. I completely recommend seeing it.

Stay classy,

Monday, February 10, 2014

Computer lab time

So I have to use the computer lab for a class this semester. I wouldn't have needed to, but I need to print out papers. And I don't own a printer. Actually I do, but dang, toner is expensive. So, computer lab. Go in. Need to establish your account. Not logging on. Oh, you wait ten to fifteen minutes. So, sit and read this essay I found in the recycling bin someone tossed. Learn a little about Hinduism. Now I can log on. Dang, screen resolution is enormous and unusable. Adjust to a reasonable size. Get week's assignment. Print. No money in my account. I need to purchase printing credit. At the bookstore. Pack up, and it's over to the bookstore. Buy printing credit at the counter. Get in line. My Fullerton College ID card is too old (I really should get a new one). They need my ID on something official, like a printout of my schedule. Go into the adjacent registration office, sit at a computer, pull up my schedule, print it. Where's the printer? Ask. By the pillar. Now with my schedule printout, my computer printing account can be activated. I put in ten dollars. At fifty cents per week, that means I should have about two dollars left over at the end of the semester. I guess the remainder could be used as a buffer for additional printings, if that becomes needed. Still feel oddly grumpy about it. Back to the lab. Hey, there's a teacher I took a class with ten years ago. Hey, he's lost weight. Good for him. Get my printing. Success.


Dave Roel.
Things can never touch the soul, for they are external and remain immovable; so that disquiet can arise only from fancies.
- Marcus Aurelius

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Things to do in Seattle

I actually loved Seattle! It's incredibly different from SoCal-- in many ways, I think, for the better.

Here's some things:

  • It's gorgeous.

  • There's a train you can take that goes from some of the surrounding cities to Seattle, and the view is also gorgeous.
  • There's a sushi fusion restaurant that serves brie tempura.

  • By our standards, it's freezing-- when I was there, the high was 50 degrees.
  • There's an indoor/outdoor marketplace called Pike Place, which you may have heard of. They sell freshly-made donuts and a lot of other things.

  • It's not very crowded.
  • Even when there's a Seahawks game on, despite that they are insane about their football.
  • Contrary to what I've been told, it is NOT the hipster capital of the United States.
  • Everyone's really nice?
  • I get how grunge happened now.
  • Most of what there is to actually do in Seattle involves either bars or coffee shops. 
  • In the case of the latter, most of them close around five or six pm.

My favorite thing about it is just the general atmosphere. Even at night, it feels safe. It's well-planned. It's surprisingly walkable-- and when it isn't, the public transit is fairly efficient. They have trees. They put lights on their trees.

Maybe that's not actually all that special, but to be fair, my main basis of comparison here is LA.

They also have an art museum! A lot of it is Renaissance art, which I personally find boring but unintentionally hilarious, but they have a lot of Native American and African art on display as well.
And then there was this

"Anthony of Padua" by Kehinde Wiley

which was easily one of my favorite pieces in the entire museum. What struck me most is that the style is so original-- the museum described it as something like "traditional Renaissance poses combined with urban contemporary styles."

So if you're ever thinking of going to Seattle, I definitely recommend it.

Stay classy,


Friday, February 7, 2014

Balance life and school

How do I balance school work with my other obligations?

Time management is an important skill to learn for anyone, but especially for a successful student. I'll explain a little of what it's like for me. Top priority is always class and classwork. I always make sure to attend every class (missing a class is an extreme rarity for me, if for no other reason than I figure, hey, I paid to be here). Classwork should always be done with enough time allocated for it. The main distraction is always the internet, but a little discipline can keep me focused. Several hours a day devoted to reading, studying, doing problems, etc. I never designate a specific time, but slot in more work whenever time is available. As I say, it’s always top priority. My workouts have been cut back to bare essentials -- the main resistance movements and core work, done with my home weights, at home, for about a half hour every two days. Bicycling to school and back for cardio. Nowhere near the full program I’d like to maintain, but it’s serviceable for when time is scarce. Maintaining a relationship with such a schedule can be a trick, but I remind myself that my relationship is truly the most important thing I do. I’m very blessed to have a very understanding partner -- she’d have to be, as a grad student herself. She knows that time is at a premium. But we maintain a text or Facebook connection, as we can. Yes, a full schedule, but doable.

Let’s cartoon!


Dave Roel.
Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.
- Golda Meir

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Healthy Skepticism

One of the most important things I've learned over the years is how to be a skeptic. Of everything. Personally, I think it comes from spending the majority of my high school years watching Daria, but regardless of origin, it's definitely something that comes in handy from time to time. There are a lot of things people don't think to question. And I don't mean that in a weird, condescending, "people are sheep!!" kind of way, but there are just some things that we are often taught to rely on as objective fact. This includes science and textbooks.

Which, the problem is that science-- as far as I know, anyway-- is done by people. Textbooks are most likely written by people. And all people have biases that they can unconsciously imbue into their work, which many of us then accept as fact without question. For example, you may have heard of doctors diagnosing women who demonstrated certain traits-- usually those regarded as "unfeminine"-- with a variety of mental illnesses (the most infamous of these being hysteria). The "rest cure" (domestic work, among other things) was often prescribed as treatment, with disastrous results. Or, there's also an extensive history of scientific racism. Or the fact that the DSM, the bible of psychiatry, listed homosexuality as a mental illness for decades.

The majority of these examples happened in the past, but unfortunately there's still many traces of those beliefs because they were thought of as fact for literal centuries.

I bring this up mainly because my archaeology textbook is a fantastic example of this. Archaeology is technically an anthropology class-- and in my cultural anthro class, one of the most significant things we learned is the sociocultural implications of being an anthropologist. The idea is, when studying other cultures, to rid yourself of ethnocentric views. Otherwise you end up with incredibly biased observations and that can lead to the misrepresentation of an entire culture. For example: as a result of bias, the roles of women in different cultures have rarely been studied in anthropology. We know NOTHING about them!

So, on to my archaeology textbook. The author talks about the history of archaeology-- which for a while involves a lot of treasure hunting, tomb raiding (and not the video game kind), outright stealing, etc.-- with a tone of glowing nostalgia, and uses a lot of euphemisms and weird justifications for violent European imperialism. Which, alright then. And then he goes on to talk about the subdivisions of archaeological theory and expresses a lot of distaste for the archaeologists who focus their research on, well, those who historically haven't been researched (such as women, ethnic minorities, those who live in what we define as developing countries, etc.).

And I mean, when you think about it, how often do you hear about people who belong to those groups in lessons? They all existed at probably any given point in human history, but in retrospect, it's pretty rare that we ever learned about them.

The author discredits that subdivision as some sort of radical sect of archaeology, something that shouldn't be taken seriously, and my problem with it isn't necessarily that he thinks that, but that this is assigned reading for a large class of students-- many of whom are women and/or ethnic minorities, and who may have families that came from developing countries-- who have been taught to regard this as solid fact. The implication of the author's statements is that there are people who aren't worth studying, who don't deserve a place in history, and I worry that some students may internalize that message as an objective truth.

In case that sounds like an extreme statement, I'll try to put it in perspective: were I an archaeologist, I actually would love to investigate women's roles in history and in different cultures-- partially because I am a woman, and I've never been taught much about them outside of typical domestic (or, like I mentioned, clinically insane) roles. But to be told that my interest in those things is radical/not worth researching/etc. can be more than a little discouraging. And that's as someone who has become very aware that not every word in a textbook is an undeniable fact.

tl;dr I get kind of passionate about bias, and textbooks can be pretty weird about things sometimes.

Stay skeptical,

Monday, February 3, 2014


Today I felt so stupid. This semester I'm taking physical anthropology. I walked into class today and everything seemed normal. The professor had not arrived, but it did not seem odd because that happens sometimes.

After about 10 minutes a man with a beard walked in the room and started teaching. At this point I was very confused because i had never heard of a middle aged woman (my anthropology professors previous appearance) turning into a 60 something year old bearded man. 

I knew I had made a mistake when every student pulled out their CULTURAL anthropology book. I realized I was in the wrong class. I packed up my things and left without saying a word to anyone. I went to the library and found out that my class was earlier that day and I had missed it.

Anyways the point is, you have to be sure  that you know when your classes are. I'm not too disappointed or worried because I emailed my professor and told her about my ordeal. Hopefully it works out ok.

Gently tender falls the rain washing clean the slate again


Decide on a path

I feel I am at a crossroads. I want to decide on a path, but I'm unsure where to start.

Your first step is to find out who you are. You're not going to get anywhere until you know who you are. Self-knowledge is the start. What makes you passionate, and feel alive? What are the things that you love and that fulfill you? Once you have figured that out, you'll be able to begin to outline what your path might look like, ideally.

There are many ways to learn about who you are, but it takes a fair amount of self-exploring. You need to go deep into yourself, if you've never done that before. Go past all the labels and expectations people and society puts on us -- go deeper than that. Journaling is one way people have used that can be very effective as a means to learn about oneself. It’s often very surprising what comes out when we journal, honestly and uninhibitedly. Meditation is an excellent means of exploring one’s inner realms. If needed, professional counseling might be called for. But that’s the fundamental, essential step -- discover what you are, at your core. What are the fires that burn in you? Get clear on that, and shaping your energies to a specific path will be the next step. But nothing can go forward until you first learn who you are.

Here’s a good exercise to start you off: What did you most love doing when you were a kid?


Dave Roel.
Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.
- Pema Chodron

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Conscious Traveling

I learned quite a lot from my vacations over winter break. In the case of the Dominican Republic, I saw a lot of things that I've read about or learned in previous history and urban planning classes put into practice.
I think it's incredibly important to travel if you can afford to, for a multitude of reasons. It's somewhat more important, though, to consider what your money is going to when you do travel. I think I mentioned this in my post on Ender's Game (and if I didn't-- just pretend, shh), but when you put your money towards something-- a company, a book, a hotel, a film studio, or really anything else-- you are choosing to support it and whatever goes into it, whether or not you're conscious of or even okay with that. For this reason, where you stay during your travels can matter quite a bit.

Hotels in general seem to have a reputation for underpaying and overworking their staff. This is something to keep in mind and investigate regardless of where you go. Sometimes it can't be helped-- but it's just something to be aware of. However, it's especially important to be mindful of where you choose to stay in developing countries. Many countries have an economy based primarily on tourism-- this isn't necessarily a bad thing as it definitely does create jobs, except that:
a) many hotels are foreign-owned and therefore primarily benefit the foreign owners,
b) native residents of the country trying to find a job often have no choice but to work in tourism, which brings me back to the whole hotels have a reputation for underpaying/overworking their staff thing,
c) hotels drive property values up, and if native residents are working in the tourism industry for little pay, they often can't those higher property values,
d) tourism has a tendency to promote an appropriation/distortion of that country's culture for profit, and
e) large tourist industries tend to beget mass negative environmental consequences.

A perfect example of this-- despite that it's a part of the United States-- is Hawaii. The article I've linked just sort of scratches the surface, but googling "impact of tourism on Hawaii" (or probably any other country google suggests) will likely fill you in.

So if you're uncomfortable with unwittingly supporting such an economic chain of events, I offer some suggestions:
·         Research hotels! They're not always honest about their treatment of their staff and their impacts on the environment, but it's still good to look into.
·         Hostels. As far as I know, they tend to be locally-owned and have a lower environmental impact, researching individuals hostels' policies is also necessary.
·         Learn about where you're going. I mean, I just think that's fun to do in general, but I'm also a history nerd. But knowing the history of the place you're staying it helps to provide context for what impacts you might unwittingly have.
·         Eco-hotels actually aren't as okay as they sound. Research is necessary here as well, but ecotourism, though it sounds like an environmentally-friendly alternative to regular tourism, often involves facilities that the natural environment can't support.
·         Steer clear of culture-related tourist traps. That's part of the profiting-from-distorted-foreign-cultures thing. And, though I would hope it would go without saying,
·         NO SLUM TOURS. The wikipedia page sums up the problem with this, if it wasn't evident.

It is, of course, your prerogative to visit wherever and do whatever you want, but I think the problem is that a lot of people just don't know what kind of impact their choices (and, namely, money) make on other countries. I certainly didn't know until I took a class that addressed the subject. But now that I am aware, I feel like it's my responsibility to at least be mindful of what exactly I choose to give my money/support to.

Stay classy,