Saturday, September 29, 2007

Greetings from the Other Side

I made it through the week--not sure how well (or poorly) I performed on the prelims, but the paper came through just shining, so that's all right.

Yesterday was a wonderful day, because:

*It was Friday

*It was sunny, for part of the day, and rainy for another part (yay weather!)

*I had a really great Peace Corps interview
*to which I wore my own business casual clothing
*and to which I rode my bike wearing high heels (yeah, that's right)

*I fixed the brakes on my bicycle

*I went to the nice grocery store with my housemate named Kate
*and we got nice things with which

*We made four awesome pizzas and

*A lot of green (Ask Ding and Emily why) whipped cream with which we

*Ate Famous Tar Cake

*We then had a small singing party that was truncated by the fact that

*We had an awesome rough-housing / wrestling match all over the downstairs for about an hour (some of us are really sore, now).

*I talked to both of my parents on the phone


Peace Corps Interview went really well (as in, quite well), and here is where things stand, now:

My last recommender has to submit his letter, and I have to fill out two addendum forms (one for being in a relationship and one for being a vegetarian, that the first won't become problematic over the Peace Corps, and that the second can change based on where I serve) which I will receive via e-mail and return via e-mail to the recruiter here. Then, all of my papers will go to the NYS regional office, and we will wait for November.

November is when Nomination can start happening--for those of you who don't know (so basically, everyone but my parents) is when they assign you to a program. The rest of the process goes like this:

* Your recruiter looks at the programs you're eligible for (region, sector, and leave-date), and then gives you a single option.

* You either "take" or "leave" the option. In the case of "leave", the recruiter then picks a different one, and this loop continues until you either become such a thorn in their side that they put you on the back burner (that takes a lonnng time), or you find a program in which you'd like to serve.

* You accept your nomination ("taking" the option), they send your paperwork down to Washington D.C., and they send you a big packet of medical forms to fill out, dotting every "i" and crossing every "t". This is often the most delay-full part of the process.

* Once your medical stuff is in and processed, as far as I know, they then send you the Big Fat Envelope with the country of your assignment and the exact thing you'll be doing [if you're a teacher, which sciences you'll be teaching--Life (Bio, Geography, Basic-Geology-type stuff), or Physical (Chemistry, Physics, and Math)], and what level of education you'll be teaching, and you will also then know your leave date to within a couple days (they reserve the right to move it around on you within a few days).

After that, it's a matter of getting ready to go, and finishing up school.

So, some answers you might want:

Why November?
Because I'm applying so early, they don't actually know the availability and etc. of the programs they'll have in January, 2009--they will know these things in November, which is why it is very cool that I am applying so early--my application will be front-loaded (my term for being totally ready to be processed as soon as programs become available)--which ultimately means I'll have first choice of programs (or, rather, my recruiter will have first choice when he chooses the one he thinks is 'best' for me).


What's a Sector, and what's a Region?

A Sector is what I'll be doing. This is what the Peace Corps has to say about sectors on their website: "[Sectors are] education, youth outreach, and community development; business development; agriculture and environment; health and HIV/AIDS; and information technology. Within these areas, the specific duties and responsibilities of each Volunteer can vary widely." My possible sectors that I could work in are (in order): Education (ED), Agriculture (AG), and Environment (EN).

A Region is a general area of the world--on the application, it is possible to specify three preferences, in prioritized order. The options are: The Caribbean, Central America & Mexico, South America, The Pacific Islands, Eastern Europe & Central Asia, Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, and Africa. My preferences (in order) are

Africa (extremely likely):
Francophone: Benin (ED, EN), Mali (AG, EN), Mauritania (AG, ED), Burkina Faso (ED), Cameroon (ED, EN), Niger (AG, EN, ED), Senegal (AG, EN), Guinea (ED, EN), Togo (ED, EN), Madagascar (ED, EN)
English: Botswana, Namibia, Ghana, South Africa, Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia

North Africa (very unlikely):
Jordan, Morocco (Arabic)

The Pacific Islands (very unlikely):
Fiji, Samoa, Kiribati, Tonga, Micronesia and Palau, Vanuatu

Given what I know, I'm expecting to be sent to an African Francophone country (that's why I listed them) to teach science or to be an Agricultural or AgroForestry volunteer. I don't expect to be sent to a country without French as a language there, because why not make use of a language I speak? I'm expecting to be sent as a science teacher because there is a dire need for French-speaking science teachers in Africa (or so I hear). If I had to guess at which four countries I'm most likely to go to (based on French and Science backgrounds), I'd guess: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, and Guinea. I guess we'll see, hey?

In the meantime, there is homework.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Seriously, people.

Those signs in women's bathrooms that say "Deposit Sanitary Items Here".

Isn't it the unsanitary "items" that we are worried about? And also, since everyone in there is aware of menstruation (and the consequences thereof), why not just say "Pads and Tampons in the trash"? Seriously.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

On insults of various kinds

So there's this guy in my lab section who is...a real pain. He was in my last semester's lab section, too, so we know each other...and we constantly butt heads. His name is Marc. The height of the hostility last semester included him trying to (a) usurp my glassware and (b) getting nearly thrown out of lab for it after he (c) called me a f****** c*** when I told him to get the holy hell out of my glassware drawers. We have quite a rapport. Through it all, though, there is a little bit of sibling-like ... I dunno. Suffice to say that I don't actually hate him. Most of the time. I just wish he'd go away. Far away.

When we were turning in our lab reports on Wednesday, and Marc (of course) says to me "That's totally an abnormally thick lab report, yo. That's like, ridiiiiiculous." My response (pretty good for right off the bat, I think) was "Yeah, well it's better than me being abnormally thick, isn't it, Marc?" (Rest of the lab: "ooooooooooooooooooooooo")

And then I felt a little bad for escalating it so early in the year--I mean, we're in the third week of class here, folks. And I felt bad because I wanted to reassure him "Not that I'm calling you fat, or anything."

What? I live in a culture in which I consider it a worse insult to be called fat than to be called stupid?! To me, being called stupid is much worse (if it's from someone whose opinion matters)--but maybe that's because I identify first of all as an intellectual. In any case, it was a bit disturbing to note that I only felt bad about calling him fat (maybe because he is, a little? Maybe because I actually think he is stupid?). Stupid, he deserves. Fat, I dunno. Weird.

Had a conversation with Rumi a few days later about the nature of "that's so gay". She thinks that because you can choose to be offended or not, people should just get over it and stop giving the people who would say something like that the power to hurt them. My position (much less sound-byte friendly) is that there is no reason to say something like that because if you're saying it because you're bigoted, then it's hate speech, and that's not ok. And if you're saying it because you're not bigoted, then why are you perpetuating a culture of bigotry? In either case, you shouldn't be saying it also because it cripples your vocabulary quite harshly. It surprised me that she thought that it shouldn't matter. It also surprised me because a part of her argument was "I don't say anything because I don't want people to worry about having to walk on eggshells (sic) around me--is that really what you want? For people to walk on eggshells (sic) around you?" Actually, yes, it is. I don't want to hear racist, chauvinist, misogynist, sexist, or bigoted jokes. I don't find them funny, and I don't want to give people an audience for that sort of unacceptable behavior. It astounds me that some people regard that as an extreme action. To me, not tolerating asshole jokes is simple, it's failing to join an activist organization that makes me class myself as tame. But that's beyond tame. It's permissive, and it's one big reason why there's so much discrimination.

(When they came for the Jews, I did not say anything, because I was not a Jew. When they came for the Blacks, I did not say anything, because I was not Black. When they came for the Muslims, I did not say anything, because I was not a Muslim. When they came for the gays, I did not say anything, because I was not gay. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak for me; they had all gone before.) (<---That's a paraphrase of a much more eloquent quotation.)

It's your fault, people!!!! All of you! All of us!

There again, though, many people (even some of them semi-friends--including Rumi) had a pretty tame reaction to the Physics 208 prelim cheating thing. "It doesn't affect your grade, so why do you care?" "I care about the principle--it doesn't bother you that ethics are not being upheld at all here?" "Well, why do you care? It doesn't affect your grade." etc.

I am falling asleep, but I have in my draft-list of things to include in this entry:
"satisfaction of doing math with lots of variables on clean unwrinkled lined paper with mechanical pencil" which I really think is pretty self-explanatory.

Paper batteries (check it out--they can be printed are cool. And I will probably write about the new winner-not-take-all electoral college fiasco currently underway in California.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It's too early to say that it's over

Since finishing my Peace Corps application ("finishing" meaning I'm now in the wait-for-them-to-contact-me-for-an-interview phase) I have discovered that I'm in another one of those "I cannot wait to get out of here" phases. You know you're desperate when you think "Well, when this semester is over, I will only have a year more, and that is not all that long at all!!!" I mean, true, it's not.

But still.

This week has really shown me what this semester will be like--Stressful.

If anyone has any good ideas for a political article for me to write, please let me know. It's for The Centrist.

Not much is going on...Mathematica is really amazing, and really hard.

That is all.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Et tu, Whitby?

A few nights ago, a bunch (about 7) of us were sitting on the roof (no, parents, don't you worry, it's a big, safe, flat roof) and some of us were drinking beers. I wasn't, because it was Tuesday night, and ... this is not a blog about my drinking habits (or lack thereof).

Something happened, and someone (to protect the innocent, we won't say who) said "That's SO gay!!"

Damn. Really? My house really has people who will say that? The first thing, obviously, is that he was slightly drunk. Not really drunk, but he'd had a few. The overweening college attitude seems to be that "If someone was drinking and was crude/rude/disgusting/inappropriate, then it doesn't count, because they shouldn't be held responsible for the things they do when drunk". I tend to look at things in the opposite way, thinking more along the lines that "When someone is drunk, they are obeying less of the rules they impose upon themselves, and so if they are crude/rude/etc, they are and should be held completely culpable, being as that's the way they really are." The question, then, is whether the person said it because he had been drinking.

If he did say it only because he'd been drinking, then I guess that's better because it means that perhaps normally (i.e. when he's obeying his internal 'rules') he wouldn't say something like that. If the fact that he said it was not influenced by the fact that he'd been drinking, then that's not so good. Either way, what he did was not cool.

The second thing is that nobody else said anything about it. I mean, not a peep was heard about "Dude, don't say that". I said nothing, that's true. The reason I said nothing at the time is because I was the definite outsider of the group, and did not want to hijack the conversation. Besides, people were drinking. When was the last time you had a satisfactorily meaningful conversation on the nature of bigotry with a bunch of people who'd been drinking? 'Snever worked all that well for me.

So I have an agenda slot up on the board in the hallway, now, for subject "that's so gay". Was approached by the house manager (who is a wonderful person) because the officers wanted to make sure that I wasn't about to attack anyone, or single anyone out in front of the group. I'm not planning to, so it was fine. I did tell her that if someone appeared to want to fight about it, then I would fight with 'em. Which is true. I'm not looking for a fight--I just want to tell the community that I'm (a) disappointed that someone in the community would say something like that, (b) surprised that nobody would protest when something like that is said, and (c) please don't say things like that because (d) in case someone missed the memo, I'm bi, and (e) shockingly, things like that are really upsetting to hear in my home.

But if someone (especially the loud, bossy housemate) wants to take issue with the fact that I'm taking issue, then watch out, man, 'cuz the fireworks will start. To be honest, I'm actually spoiling for a fight about this kind of stuff...which is why I have to be extra careful to not come off as looking for a fight. I'd like to not fight with my housemates, but about something like this I'll do it at the drop of a hat.

What I have found out, though, is that the person who said the thing will not be at the meeting. Which means I'll have to talk to him personally about it...the kind thing to do would be to approach him and ask to talk privately. What I'm tempted to do is to confront him in a common area not in front of people, but when people are around. Because it honestly wouldn't surprise me much if he came back with one of the stupid following:
(1) It doesn't mean that anymore, so why don't you get a life and move on?
(2) I didn't say that
(3) Whatever
(4) If it bothers you so much, why didn't you say anything at the time?
(5) more than one of the above

Which will be all the excuse I'll need to tear him limb from limb. But he'll probably say something like "Oh wow I'm really sorry I didn't realize I said it and I'll try not to let it happen again".

Something that really bothers me is people who go around waiting for someone to be mildly unPC and then have cats when someone is imperfectly non-neutral. Like "I am Queer/Female/a Minority, hear me roar!" Just roar, already, and don't set people up to get their throats jumped down. Puh-leeze. I think that this looking-for-a-fight business is partly that. This bugs me, because I don't want to become that person who blows everything out of proportion. At the same time, though, I think the strong meaning of "that's so gay" has been vastly diminished by apologists like me, who minimize stuff when they confront bigots about it. The alternative is to speak strongly, but without Free King Owt.

Et tu, Whitby?

Monday, September 3, 2007

As long as I'm procrastinating...

Hi!

So, since I last wrote, I have:

*spent a couple weeks seeing my family in Grand Junction, Colorado. We went hiking, and made a scarecrow, and talked about my heritage, and had a Game Night (Apples to Apples!!!), saw a cool Goodwill store, read good books, and watched a lot of movies.

*flew hectically back to school and moved in (have a roommate named Sara this year--more on her later).

*started classes:

Honors Physical Chemistry (4 credits)
Honors Experimental Chemistry II (4 credits)
Calculus III (4 credits)
Shakespeare in Europe (4 credits)

*made a bunch of peace leather and other dried fruit to send to Africa
*nb also bought a food dehydrator!!!!

*had a huge long house-cleaning day about a week ago (oof)

*have decided I LOVE my housemates (even the crabby ones...of which there are about 1.5, and the aloof ones, of which there are about 3--there is some overlap between those categories)

*have considered rushing AXE (professional Chem frat) just to have the resume connection with possible grad school and employers (yes, I know...shallow)

*have been reunited with my snake, who has grown a LOT

*have wanted to shoot many people in the face with a squirt gun

*have lined up my recommenders for my Peace Corps Application, and nearly finished the first part of said application.

*have become increasingly frantic about work

The commentary on those bullets:

*Sara--very nice person who has a great sense of humor. She is a devout Roman Catholic, the only two downsides to that are that (a) I'm reasonably sure that she is anti-gay-rights (i.e. gay marriage) and (b) she really wants the Lesbians (Google "Tanya Chalkin Kiss Poster") poster to not be on the wall. (b) is ok--Carol has it for the year. (a) makes it a bit awkward, but she is way smarter than some of the people I had to be in close quarters with over the summer--and she is so good-natured that unless I think directly about this issue, it usually doesn't bug me that much.

*Classes--Pchem is HARD and the professor is AWESOME (she is a role model of mine). Chem Lab is AWESOME because the professor is amazing and the material is cool and nonabstract, mostly. And he has managed to teach us more E&M than Fulbright ever did in Physics. Yeah, what now, jerk? English is incredibly retarded--mostly, I try not to say that about things, because I think it is silly and unimaginative (but not discriminatory; "retarded" means literally slower and underdeveloped...which this class is to excess), but in this case...it's so retarded that sometimes I nearly cry. I may have to switch out of the class. If I can find a better one at an ok time. Math is frustrating because the professor talks about everything but the concepts. Everything. Or else he says things like "a shopping cart is a vector"....I bet he knows how a raven is like a writing desk, too. Today I asked him if he'd mind doing more examples, and he said he'd think about it, but that he didn't enjoy that "teaching method" as much. As much as .... not teaching? The other thing he does is assigns really stupid "optional" assignments every weekend. "Measure something five ways" or "Find a thing that has linear data". It's almost enough to make me opt for TWO more semesters of math just to get into a class taught in a competent way. I guess I'm just spoiled, having had Matt last semester. Go Matt.

*No, literally over 20sq feet of fruit leather. And over 16sq ft of other dried fruit. And the food dehydrator rocks.

*Housecleaning day: 9-5:30 with a 15 min lunch break. Nuff said, cuz...just, ouch. But when was the last time you know of that 20 college students got up on a Saturday and cleaned all day because they on some level wanted to? Ok, now answer that when the place they're living is actually not *that* dirty, by college student standards.

*Not writing about housemates, except that they are wonderful people to live with. Senses of humor, silliness, intelligence, social and environmental consciousness, and responsibility. What more could you ask for? Why did I find Whitby so late in my Cornell time?

*Pretty much covered AXE, snake, and squirt gun (see classes for squirt gun ness)

*Not talking about work, because as we can see, I'm procrastinating.

*Peace Corps application going really well--I only need to write my two essays for this part. For those of you who are interested, the application process goes like this:

1. Do the application
1a. They look at the application and decide if they even want to bother with the
2. Interview--I go to talk to my campus Peace Corps recruiter who asks me questions about my motivation, any iffy parts of my application, and answers all my questions about applying (the main one of which right now is "what kinds of volunteers leave at what times of the year for where?")
2a. If they like my interview, then they send me a huge packet of medical stuff to fill out and I
3. Make a big long series of appointments with Gannett to get every i dotted and every t crossed, because most people have a lot of delay (either 75% of applicants or 75% of delays) because their doctor forgot to fill in EVERY QUESTION. I'm hoping Gannett is good at this because they do it rather often.
4. I send the medical stuff in, and a letter saying I've discussed my service with my Significant Other (yes, they do make you do this) and in a few weeks (or months)
5. They send me three possible assignments
6. I pick my assignment of preference
7. They (after another month or so...I think...though I'm applying so early that this might stretch out a little) send me my assignment country and stuff, and I start to shop for supplies and prepare myself mentally for going into the Peace Corps.
8. I go.
9. I come back.


Thanks to my recommenders for doing those letters!!!!!

*in other news, I'm trying to publish my comic on the web somehow, since the Cornell Daily Sun's taste in comics really sucks and refused it.