What is wrong with Nebraska?

The headlines in the Associated Press read "Neb. parents rush to leave kids before law changes." The sad part is, the headline actually means that parents from Nebraska and states within driving distance are abandoning children, uh, with abandon, in efforts to abuse a loophole in the state's safe haven policies. The AP followed up when Nebraska legislators closed the loophole with a 30-day age maximum for drop-offs, but how did someone in the legislature not notice the loophole in the first place? Especially if people stupid enough to abandon their teenaged children were smart enough to notice the loophole. One would hope the state government were smarter than that.

The law also didn't say that abandoned kids could only be residents of Nebraska, and so a handful of parents actually carted their kids from other states to get rid of their pesky children. Can you imagine how awkward the car ride from, like, Iowa must have been? Does a parent have to drug the kid to get them to willingly be carted to be abandoned? Is there a Chuck-E-Cheese near the hospital to entice them, or what?

Sheesh. I do not want to go to their house for Thanksgiving. Speaking of which, I cannot wait for Thanksgiving.


On, you know, voting.

An audibly elderly Yes on 8 phone bank caller apologized today to my roommate for her views after he mentioned his homosexuality. Why she apologized is beyond us-- if you put forth the effort to volunteer your time calling in support of a particular proposition, why apologize to someone directly targeted in that proposition? For that matter, who did this woman think she was calling-- like-minded individuals for a cup of tea?

I can't imagine how a conversation between me and a Prop 8 supporter would go, not because I am avidly against it, but because of what it means to even put Prop 8 on the ballot.

But I don't need to climb on a soapbox about Prop 8, especially not while living in a liberal bubble writing on a blog likely read by reasonable people who may not believe in gay marriage but who believe it shouldn't be constitutionally forbidden, either.

But in the spirit of standing up for my beliefs and not apologizing for them, I've decided to list my decisions for the state-wide propositions. It's also convenient since I will probably forget how I voted in this election after tomorrow morning, owing in part to the vast extent of California propositions and even vaster extent of Alameda County ballot measures.

So here we go. My unsolicited proposition choices for the 2008 general election:

1A: Yes
2: No
3: Yes
4: No
5: Yes
6: No
7: No
8: No
9: No
10: No
11: No
12: Yes

And some explication:
1A: Folks tell me 1A is expensive and won't do anything in any reasonable time period, and while that's probably accurate, 1A gets the ball rolling for something that our kids can pay for later. We know that public transportation in this large state is unnecessarily absent. Something like 1A was on the ballot last election and failed probably because of NIMBY impulses against increased train traffic in towns quieted by the slower pace of freight trains. That's a lame reason to vote against a lot of things, among them public transportation and the UC's sports facility construction at Memorial Stadium (where the Panoramic Way residents supported the Tree People merely because they didn't want construction noise).

2: The eggs I eat are already pretty happy and free range and kinda local and stuff. Those are probably better-selling anyway. That aside, if it's an issue about animal cruelty in our food animals, making California a safe haven for our chickens won't solve the problem; it only moves it to other states or countries where standards are lower and costs of transport and demand are higher. A parallel: Maquiladoras in Mexico were/are an easy way for American companies to avoid accountability for environmental impact and gain cheap and abusable labor-- does that make it any more ethical to say that environmental regulations and labor laws have improved the quality of life for those in America whose jobs were lost? (Also, the whole point of veal is that the calves can't move around, whether or not one believes they should have the right to.)

3: I don't really care, but it makes me feel like a better person to support children's hospitals. I'm sure I could find something terribly wrong with the written proposition, but I'm too tired to bother.

4: No question.

5: It's nice to see something.

6: Eh. Seems a bit much.

7: Researchers barely know what "renewable" energy even means, and the government shouldn't be forcing utilities to follow certain timelines dependent upon uncertain technological advances.

8: Shouldn't even be on the ballot; government shouldn't even be involved in the issue.

9: Potential costs outweigh potential benefits.

10: Why is the government/us in the long run helping us buy a Prius?

11: Ugh. More bureaucracy. No, thanks.

12: Veterans have seriously gotten the shaft lately. "Farms" or "home aid" sort of sticks out as an awkward moment, but maybe those are refreshing changes from the battlefields?


Clap your hands!

The BBC says many Thai people are lately really tired of clapping their hands. So tired (or lazy) that plastic hand clappers are a reasonable and suddenly fashionable substitute for actually clapping one's hands.

Are they attending a lot of performing arts events or something?


BREAKING: rampant use of ironic headlines renders them less funny

An unsolicited style note from a neurotic Strunk & White reader:

Not that I didn't use this witty strategy myself back in ye olde Clogging days, but seeing as the Clog failed to publicly archive any posts from the time I was actually working, I can't prove the infraction upon its use I've observed in recent weeks. (And, more importantly, neither can they.)

I'm talking about headlines. Breaking! Important! Ironically important BREAKING NEWS that isn't really breaking but is sort of funny anyway because the subject of the article is painfully and hilariously so obvious that the article itself would clearly be less funny if the painfully and hilariously obvious nature of the article wasn't alluded to in the headline.

Only under the aforementioned circumstances should such a headline be invoked, and only sparingly for optimal effect.

The judging the former is up to the reader, but the latter? Twice in one week is sort of pushing it.


Choking on the sweet, sweet air of freedom

I already have spring fever, and nothing confirmed this more than my sheer glee while registering for classes (classes I'm not terribly interested in taking) for the last time in my undergraduate career. It's not that I'm particularly looking forward to moving on or finding a job or paying my loans, so much as I'm just really, really over the whole "school" thing.

In other news, I still have no idea what to do with my life, and I have a paper due tomorrow. As typifies my behavior as a quasi-jaded senior, I have neither finished the reading nor started writing.


A mid-midterm evening

My first night without rehearsal or performances since September 2, and I'm spending it writing a paper for the director of the play I'm about to finish this weekend.

I don't know what's different-- maybe senioritis, maybe complacency, or maybe being just plain tired-- but I am so much less motivated to write this darned thing than any class I've been in while in college.

Frankly, I'm cool as a cucumber about having finished less than 2 pages in the nine hours before it's due. I know I should feel the pressure soon, the pressure that kicks me into a writing frenzy and cranks out 7 pages in a matter of hours. Deep down I know I want to do a good job, but just above that deep down feeling is a general wash of apathy.


Why can't the occupants of the offices of Eshleman Hall spell its name?

There's a big sign above the main door!

And in the most recent email from the ASUC, which I deleted because I was so irritated with their abysmal attention to detail, they spelled 'Eshleman' as 'Escheleman' or some equally annoying bastardization of the name.

The same goes for the return address on every paycheck I ever got from the Daily Californian.

The University, interestingly enough, does not misspell the name of its buildings (in an e-letter sent to the students about a week after the ASUC's), even buildings like Eshleman Hall which are occupied by allegedly independent student organizations like the ASUC and Daily Cal.

I'm nonplussed by the ASUC busily scheming to make absolutely no meaningful use whatsoever of my fees, nor the conceptual misgivings of its constitution (as highlighted by Beetle, in his day). But misspelling the name of your office building? Totally lame.

At least the marketing firm from Woodland Hills, CA--the people credited at the bottom right corner of the ASUC website--can spell it. Though I wonder how they know if they aren't expected to be in the building ALL THE TIME.


...Dude. Get a life?

So... Facebook is a little less intuitive, and a little less pretty. Admittedly, I'm not a huge fan of the new Facebook design. But I'm not vehemently opposed to it, especially now that I've left the phase in my life where facebooking my roommate to meet for dinner was more effective than a phone call.

But I've received several invites to many large groups against the change, and on a casual perusal of the opposition, I came across an excerpt of a stunning revelation by Cherri Borg, from a Canadian network:
Maybe if each one of us sends them a postcard or a fax or an empty envelope with 4 simple words on the front : OLD FACEBOOK BACK PLEASE..... maybe then they'll get the hint that over 2 million people are pissed right off.......

This will disturb their mail process and hopefully finally get their attention. Daily operations are a delicate balance..... can you imagine how irritating it will be to discover hundreds or thousands of these in the mailbox with their daily bills and on their fax machine every morning?? Kinda like how irritating it is to those of us who are spending way too much time navigating over this cluttered mess.

I'm serious about this and I hope you are too. Right now they think we will just accept it and carry on regardless of joining groups and signing petitions. Let's stop with the threads that the powers that be never read and the schemes to collect 1 penny from every user to sue with. Let's get in their faces instead. I for one do not want to lose my beloved facebook but I fear that their actions will indeed cause the end of this site.

A few things about this (portion of) commentary concern me. For one, she assumes that people care enough about Facebook to spend money on envelopes-- not to mention stamps. That's what email is for, right? For a free service, it seems she's spending a lot to keep it the way she likes it. Secondly, and I'm not sure I understand her English, she mentions there's some scheme about gathering pennies to sue with.

Sue? You have to be kidding. On what grounds would anyone (even 2 million anyones) sue a business for the right to do what they want with their (virtual) property. Oh, right.

The very fact that this Cherri woman is contemplating the various ways to best "reach" Zuckerberg and his evil cohorts is vaguely disturbing. But I guess it's probably more disturbing that the commenters following for the most part support her.


Tree people are STILL HERE.

As if the saga couldn't have ended, like, last year, or even the year before that. It took millions of dollars and wasted hours on journalistic coverage to come to the same conclusion the university did more than the 21 months ago that tree sitters first invaded.

And now I have to walk to school or home hearing the constant hum of helicopters and buzz of street chatter about the Lone Tree and how sad it is that it's finally ending.

Come on.

These people aren't even university students, but they've made a fool of Berkeleyans in the eyes of people all over the place. As a friend of mine pointed out, mention of our school prompts "oh, with the tree people?" instead of "oh, with the atomic bomb?" or "oh, with the free speech movement?" Just to name a couple potentially more notable things.

How pathetic.


Missing Rice student found in... Dwinelle?

I always thought Dwinelle was a black hole, and now that Rice University student Matthew Wilson was found there recently, my suspicions are confirmed.

Sure, his car may have been found on Allston Way in June, but by that point he had probably already been sucked into the depths of Dwinelle, never to be seen again until 8 months later.

I would not be surprised if he had lived there the entire eight months he was missing. Who would notice? And even if some lost freshman did recognize him and care (unlikely), how would the finder lead the police to him? Telekinesis?


Cleaning up

You may have noticed I updated the blogroll to reflect Websites that actually exist or get updated on a moderately regular basis, and also to reflect the sites I actually read (for the most part). About the time I slowed down on the blogging, I also slowed down on reading blogs. Perhaps there's a correlation, but I still haven't caught up to all of my old bookmarks yet.

I also changed the title and description again, because (big surprise) I'm procrastinating and the previous one was stupid. Not that this is much of an improvement, but I'm more satisfied with it at the moment.

Now I'm off to scrub the stove and clean the bathroom and the other two square feet of apartment, because there's no better way to procrastinate than to please one's roommate with one's cleanliness.


And I didn't graduate early because....?

I know this is totally unprofessional of me, and I promise it won't happen again, but anonymously vent I will. This on-campus job I applied for* in mid-July asked for a phone interview yesterday, to which I happily agreed because it's a job I would enjoy doing and I think I could do it pretty well.

I was so excited about it that I told the good people who offered me a different, lower-paying job at a café this morning that I'd have to wait and see about this other job first. Then the campus job (that took forever even to give me an interview) tells me they can't hire me because I'm a student.

Isn't that illegal?

I don't have the time, energy or willingness to devote to fighting it, but I'm annoyed that a job I would have done just as competently as an outside contractor (and for lower pay because it's a university) isn't available to me on grounds synonymous with "my paycheck would go right back to the university."

*by "applied for," I mean did about $50 of sample work for free, explained why and how I did the work in the cover letter, and researched relevant competitors. At least now I have an unpublished writing sample? Though I will be supremely peeved if they use the work anyway.

UPDATE: I've done some Googling, and it appears that my position as a student would not preclude me from entering an independent contract with the university, but my current employment with the university (in a different capacity) would.


Yes, the white girl said it.

Ok, look. I don't want to make waves or anything, but I am glad Prop 209 was passed in California and I'm sticking to it.

I harbor no enmity against the family I've left over at the Clog, but I will heartily disagree with the sentiments expressed in this post.

I don't disagree that minorities have had problems because they're minorities, and some of those problems have contributed to making it more difficult to afford college. But whether or not minorities are more prone to these problems than people of other races, a person's racial status shouldn't factor into his or her merit as a student.

Does this make me an evil conservative? I don't know. But as someone who has been economically disadvantaged as a result of her race-- yes, the white girl said it-- I am tired of people assuming that race, socioeconomic status, and opportunity are necessarily correlative.

Maybe I'm missing something besides eligibility for 85% of available scholarships.


The Complicated Drama of Photosharing

You know, I've been under pressure to put my photos online, and I finally got around to uploading the European photos to Flickr. I'm sort of cheap, so I stuck with the free account-- to which one can only upload 100MB of photos per month-- and figured I would wait to upload more pictures until the next month. In general I don't take that many pictures, except I took a ton when I was abroad, so really I just need somewhere to put what would otherwise be several year's worth of photographs in one place besides my computer.

So now that it's August 3 and there's homework to procrastinate, I decided to upload another set of photos out of my several thousand from the last six months. Until I discovered that the free account has a totally stupid limit (not just per month) of total space.

And that's when I decided to switch to Google's Picasa. It's going to be a lot of work to re-do everything I've already done to Flickr on Picasa, but I'm annoyed enough that I did all that work just to discover I couldn't keep the free account.

In any case, I don't know that all of my pictures will fit on Picasa, either, but at the moment I know it's more than Flickr's willing to offer. Another reason why Google is totally going to win the battle against Yahoo, whenever that comes to fruition.


Final countdown

Now, before any of you two or three get all huffy, I just thought I would clarify the edits I've made to the blog while I'm procrastinating writing another paper. Why I am writing a paper in July is another story for another day.

I'm ambivalent about maintaining this blog because, well, I haven't really done a very good job of it in the last year or so. The archives are pretty fun, especially the parts before I told my mom about it, but I just seem to have lost the energy to write as regularly. Right now it's sort of a "whenever-I-feel-like-it-or-when-something-is-due" blog, and that's not reliably readable. I do want to write about my travels, though, but maybe that's for another day.

I still reserve the right to begin blogging regularly in the offchance that me publishing that I am considering stopping will subconsciously change my mind.

In any case, "final countdown" still seems to capture the "old" vision of "old lady syndrome," since aren't all old ladies just in their own final countdown, anyway?

At least that's the story I'll stick to when I delete this post and begin regular posting again.

I'd say 'stay tuned,' but I think that's a bit disingenuous.


Big surprise

Wait, the people who had a right to do stuff to their own property won three lawsuits that challenged them?

Who knew justice could be so cruel?!

It would seem the hippies just invested hundreds of thousands of dollars (on their end and the end they're repaying the university) to come to the same conclusion the university made when it decided to cut down some trees in the first place.


American Cultural Reacclimation

A summary of the last 8 hours:

I have been sitting around the house catching up on Kathy Griffin reruns, writing to-do lists and reading junk mail. During commercials I read job listings, wash the dishes and tear out coupons for dish soap at Walgreens.

And I'm not even kidding. All I need now is a husband, two and a half kids and some Valium, and I am the ultimate retro housewife.

Jake is at work, not distracting me with his company, and I should be using this jobless and school-less day to do any number of productive things like finish moving in or my homework. But my dedicated readers (Mom and Christine) should know me well enough to know I would rather pretend I have absolutely nothing to do.


Old habits die hard.

Guess how far I am in a 5-page paper that's due in two and a half hours?


I may have said I was excited to be back in school, even summer school (and it's true!), but that didn't mean I'd stop procrastinating. Sometimes I disgust myself.

Also, I had to cross a stupid picket line to sit here and procrastinate over coffee and bran muffin and Henry James. Whose brilliant idea was it to strike at 6:15am? And why do some of the protestors have to cross the picket lines themselves in order to pee in the same establishment they yelled at me for entering? I could go on for years about how it's just silly to hold labor protests on Bastille Day (also Becca's birthday!), the French independence day, because that seems like an organized effort. Everyone knows the French don't work, and while of course they would also not work on Bastille Day, it is for entirely different reasons than custodial workers here wanting a living wage. Perhaps the symbolism is lost on me.

And now there are news helicopters circling campus and DISTRACTING ME. Not that everything hasn't been distracting me this entire weekend, like trying to sleep past 8am, moving in, or my neighbor's kitchen (which I can hear more clearly from my bedroom than I can my own kitchen).


Oh, Right

I'm back, by the way, to the dollar and my new and exciting apartment and school and work. I guess I like to hit the ground running.

Still contemplating future blogging. We'll see how inspired I feel, and how this double-major-in-one-year plan goes through.


Roma, mamma mia!

I am currently writing from my Couchsurfing host's flat in Rome, where I have had simply a fabulous time. All of the hell I went through to get here, namely lugging my entire world across Europe only to end up paying 45 euro for my pithy 3 extra kilos of weight in my luggage (thanks, Ryanair!) and then paying another 26 pounds to mail those extra kilos home, was totally worth it.

London was great, but the weather reminded me too much of mid-spring Holland. The weather here, however, is beautiful. So is the city and all of its people.

I do miss Holland, but I'm rooting for the football team secretly from afar, since their win last night in the Euro Cup brought them one step closer to edging Italy and France out of the competition. Not that I don't want Italy to do well, mind you-- anyone who spends more than an hour would be easily charmed to their side-- but Utrecht has been my home for the last 5+ months, for better and for worse, and that won't change just because it's sunny and gorgeous here in Rome.

In any case, I am sure there is plenty more to say, but there is plenty more here to do.

The final hurrah of my itinerary includes Zurich, Basel, Berlin (briefly, again), Tallinn, and Oslo. Perhaps more updates then?


Catching up

There are a lot of things I've been catching up on while I bask in the Dutch humidity-sans-sun, among them: sleeping, eating ice cream, and sleeping.

I suppose it's time to catch up on the blog posts, too, but it's always harder when it's been longer since the last time. What to talk about? I went to Eastern Europe the night finals ended and met privately with members of Estonian Parliament, representatives of the Latvian Finance Ministry, and assistant directors of the Vilnius European Capital of Culture Project.

I'd like to say that I suffered a great deal of complicated hoop-jumping to grab those opportunities (and the stuff!) but our fellow student and fearless leader, Hans, did everything. As it turns out, in this case by "everything" I mean he just emailed the aforementioned figures, who apparently were so tickled Western Europeans were interested in visiting that they pulled out all the stops.

The biggest boon of my previous weeks of utter suffering has been finally having the time to enjoy Utrecht. Almost for the entire semester, I have used Utrecht as a means to other ends; for the HEMA to get A4 paper, for the Albert Heijn to buy a snack at the train station, for the Dmitri's to get a delicious 5 euro gyro. For the first time, I get to enjoy the city on its own terms, and that's a relief. It's almost a shame, then, that I am only here for another few days before I am off again.

I pick up a Berkeley friend studying in Lyon later this afternoon at Utrecht Centraal, and who knows what a homework-free weekend will bring.

At this point I am trying to tucker myself out as much as possible, in hopes that I will be thankful to take my summer course the day after I get back to the US.

In the meantime, I'm going to take another nap.


Hemming and hawing and basically not doing work

I was bored last night, and the prospect of actually doing relevant work on my two final papers just didn't seem interesting following the completion of a final for which I studied altogether too much.

So I took a practice LSAT.

I realize this makes me sound like a really big dork, that in the time I spend procrastinating I play online Scrabble and take diagnostic LSATs, but (and this will make me sound even dorkier) I actually enjoyed the questions. Like, this is what I had hoped my SATs would be like, and yes, it's challenging but not impossible.

I have been told that law school is nothing like the LSATs. And that's good, because I don't much like standardized tests. I thought about grad school but that might require me to take the GRE, and I've heard rumor that there is a math section. I haven't even looked into the possibility that math isn't actually a part of every GRE, that it's only for the relevant subject GREs, but I don't care. I am that afraid of math.

I guess this means I have no idea what I want to do with my life. Yeah, law school seems interesting if anything to be one of those people who walks around judging the 60% of graduates who become lawyers. "Yeah, I went to law school, but I decided not to be the tool of a corporate black hole." In other words, "Yeah, I went to law school, and it was a big waste of money because I didn't want a job that pays me $145,000 to get the boss some coffee." But it seems like a lot of money to blow on general interest, especially because I am picky and would only want to go to the best school possible. I don't know, maybe attending a highly-ranked undergraduate school has made me all high and mighty, but I don't see any point to applying to a school I have no plans to attend.

Then there's theater. I love stage managing. I love the camaraderie of rehearsals and performances and stealthily making a lot of things possible on stage, and I feel like I'm good enough at it (at least with the work ethic) that I can make a relatively stable, if not unusual living.

But since I've been doing it so long I feel like it's my safe bet. I know it's there, I know I can do it and that I would enjoy it, but I don't know if ten years from now I will feel like I settled for the path of least resistance.

So there are my anxieties. I think I am ready to be back in Berkeley, if anything because I know that I do not spend my spare time taking admissions tests for fun.



I know I don't post often anymore, and believe me it pains me that I can't even maintain the one thing I wanted to keep doing while I was abroad because I'm so busy abroad.

Excuses aside, Queen's Day (Koninginnedag, as it's called) was a hoot. The picture I've included is of the crowds, taken from a carnival ride in Amsterdam's Dam Square just before my camera battery died.

This was the light crowd. It got worse-- much worse-- as the day wore on and depending on where we were we didn't even have to set foot on the ground to move through thousands of people pushing and shoving each other along.

But now I go to Berlin with Brenda until late on May 5. Hopefully I will not go broke, but that remains to be seen depending on how many museums we end up in.


Blogging Saves Lives!

According to CNN, anyway.

The story piqued my interest because it's about a Berkeley grad student who narrowly escaped Egyptian jail by Twitting (tweeting? Twittering?) 'Arrested' to his blog. Ah, the powers of technology. And just think of Berkeley's next superlame recruiting slogan (though I can't imagine it could get worse than "Do U.C. Berkeley?" Get it? Get it?): UC Berkeley: Turning Ordinary Dorks into Global MacGyvers.

Not going to lie, I feed off of Berkeley news and Craigslist ads to keep myself going as I pitifully procrastinate invisible piles of papers to write.

Speaking of which, I cannot afford to live in the Bay Area. Despite the housing market crisis (or because of it?) rent has not remotely stabilized in either Berkeley or Oakland. Half the landlords are charging far, far too much (come on, $2800 a month for a barebones 2BR more than 2 miles from campus?), a quarter are expensive but understandable, and the last quarter is suspiciously affordable ($10-1300), probably because those apartments are dumps or you will get shot walking home from the mini-mart to which it is so conveniently located near.


Check me into a mental institution now.


Just for the hell of it (and at the behest of a boss to whom I have always been rather loyal), I decided to add another major today. I also plan to complete it in two semesters. Welcome to the department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies!

Secretly, I've always sort of felt at home in the department. I've worked there longer than I've been a rhetoric major and despite having only taken one 9-person class in TDPS, I could profile the academic interests of more students in the theater department than I can in my own.

Part of completing the major includes stage managing for the rest of my college career to satisfy participation requirements. At those words, I am sure my roommates are choking on their Camparis, because I am fairly confident that I exasperatedly declared after strike last fall that I would take it easy in every subsequent semester.

Stage managing is the antithesis of "taking it easy."

I've known it was hard work since my sophomore year of high school, when I began stage managing. Despite being markedly more experienced about it now than I ever was (I've come a long way from leaving post-its on an actor's locker), I find that no matter how good I felt I was my job, after every show there's something new to learn.

I guess that what keeps me interested. Or I'm a masochist.



As the Daily Clog points out, Yale academic artist Aliza Shvarts used herself as a performance piece and runs into parallel ethical issues as the Vargas piece.

I certainly hope Intellectual, Philosophically Controversial, And Often Misunderstood isn't the next school of contemporary art.

McSweeney's lists aren't even this good

I've been thinking about ethical and philosophical issues facing the art world today, and I know this sounds pretentious, but I am not kidding you, my interest in such a dorky subject is legitimized by a Facebook group about it discusses, pragmatically called, "Prevent the 'Artistic' Death of an Innocent Animal-SIGN THE PETITION!".

These 410,000+ group members advocated against Guillermo Vargas' recent art installation piece entitled "Eres Lo Que Lees" ("You Are What You Read"). They believed that it was completely atrocious that the artist would consider displaying an emaciated dog as the subject of an installation art piece. The crucial assumption the protesters made, of course, was the link between the images of a tied, starving dog they saw on the Internet and the (incorrect) news stories that suggested the image's subject was the art piece, not the performance of the image of a starving dog.

It's clearly the artist's on how consumers assume facts based on images we see proliferated around us: we rely on narratives suggested by images that may or may not be true. The artist was not, in fact, starving a dog and calling it installation art. Vargas was, in fact, proliferating the image of a dog starving on a YouTube video, "press" images, and other unconfirmable sources of media.

While the point of the art piece, as the title of the piece makes clear, deals directly with press and Internet proliferation and how we always assume the worst because of what the images are suggesting (or, rather, what we assume by our own subconscious narrative-making), the issue at hand is the fundamental misunderstanding these 410,000+ students had while imperializing the issue on all their friends.

I applaud their efforts to think in the abstract about the potential philosophical dilemma presented by the notion of live presentation of animal abuse as art (versus representation of such things in films, etc, which is totally different). But somehow, I don't think Damien Hirst's job is on the line quite yet-- least not from these folks. Here are some choice quotes from Facebook group commentary, which I promise I did not make up, and I apologize for including the last one which is comically long (last names omitted due to irrational fear of lawsuit):

From Colleen S., E. Michigan-
Yeah, I've seen something like this before, but what was it? Oh yeah, the HOLOCAUST. Thousands of people collected, subdued, and starved to death. Was that an artistic masterpiece? If you call this art, you'd have to call Hitler an artist, I mean after all he was trying to make a culturally altering statement as well, right Shiggmasta? It's not art; it's sadistic, immoral, and completely disgusting. This poor creature did not deserve this, and neither does any other animal on the planet.

From Kaylee M., Armada Area High School-
I agree with Colleen S[-----} on this. Saying that this is art is saying that the Holocaust was art. If I were the artist I would've tooken the dog to the vet. and let him get fixed up. [Hidden grammatical error: Kaylee also misspelled Colleen S.'s last name. Plus two points!]

From Telisha P., E. Kentucky-
whoever is doing this is going to hell.

From David M., Wash. College-
[posted as several posts, separated by author's own "(cont...)" notes.] While I will say that most humans obviously value human life over animal life, it does not make this situation any less cruel. I have read several posts on the pictures of this group, and the ones that support this as a work of art, I respect your opinion.

I will ask, however, was Hitler trying to make a statement about those he starved and had murdered en masse during the Holocaust? Could one call all slaveowners in history "artists", then? Obviously (because I know those of you with an opposing view are rolling your eyes and freaking out), these people never viewed themselves as artists. However, if we categorize the above photo as an artwork, a masterpiece that exhibits a situation in the world and humanity's resolve to fix it, cannot the things I have mentioned also be seen as art? Now, who would dare call slavery and the Holocaust "art"?


I believe sometimes in this world that we, as a collective western civilization progressing into the twenty-first century, we thoroughly enjoy breaking the boundaries of the past. We watch television shows that make mockery of things that were once revered, and we listen to music that would make the lowest bottomfeeder of the Victorian era blush, and so on. But that is a television show or a song. You may choose not to watch or listen, and your ignorance will cause no physical or other kind of pain. When we become too desensitized to the power and responsibility attributed to breaking boundaries, we ourselves become a steamroller that pushes through and destroys the beauty of this world. Will we destroy boundaries until the chaos of some borderless world (in the philosophical and physical sense) comes to be?


What Mr. Habacuc should realize is that his artwork is lacking an evalution of importance and need. Does this work even *need* to exist? It is a dog, and it is without voice or language. Yet it does have feelings, emotional and physical. One of the criterion used by the US federal government for judging obscenity in media is in regards to something's artisitic value. If all that can be said of the artistic value of this piece is that it can be used to make mankind band together to fight animal hunger, I'm afraid the argument falls rather short in light of the opposition.


Basically, all I mean to say is that this kind of art does not *need* to happen. A poor animal (and that includes snake, vulture, etc.) should never become the focus of humanity's art in this way. Would you give praise to an exhibition of ants dying in insect gas, just because it happens everyday and you want to bring attention to it? This is clearly, in my opinion, the wrong way to use art. It is a violation of Art, and all the beautiful things that it has given to the world through centuries and generations.

I apologize for this rant; I never do this on facebook, trust me!

[p.s. this was posted between 5:30-5:31am]

From Jordan G., Edina Senior High School-
re: all those comparing this to the Holocaust:

you are idiots. you trivialize the deaths of 10 million+ people to try and make a point about the death of an animal. you sicken me.

[Glad to see the Holocaust still being taken seriously. Seriously.]

Thanks for sticking with me. I don't know if you paid attention this long or whether you also take pleasure in the irony of an installation artist's successful performance piece, but in any case it was good to get it off my chest and maniacally laugh at fellow Facebook members.

I say fellow because there is plenty to mock me about. I just found that video on the Internet, and if you know who I am, you can probably find me (circa 2004) in the first segment.


By the way,

This is the theme-photo for my birthday's dinner party next week.

I expect it to be een prima feest (no guarantees on proper Dutch grammar), though I may have undertaken a bit more than two hot plates, a microwave, and a toaster oven can accomplish for upwards of 20 guests.

For such a small school, the parties sure get big...


-The dryer is broken, and I have approximately negative three items of clothing I could potentially wear.

-25% of my final grade in one class comes from group work: in other words, other people. Another 10% comes from an in-class presentation about one field trip which, due to my trip to Scotland (and I don't regret that part one bit), I will be missing.

-I was the only Californian cleaning the bar yesterday, and one of a few who stupidly ordered the Thai Curry Chicken-- the only lame item on the menu at Wok to Go.

-I have still not mailed Jake's birthday present. The good thing about this is that I can mail Jake's and Cassidy's together now that I will miss both birthdays.

-I have still not found stamps to mail already-written postcards that I bought and wrote in Spain (though I did manage to mail my parents theirs with the one stamp I did find on my desk).

-Firefox keeps "unexpectedly quitting" (at this point, I should say "expectedly quitting"). It pretty much happens all the time, but I don't care unless it involves me uploading photos I have painstakingly selected for uploading to the Flickr account I have, to date, neglected. I've stopped bothering to report the error to Firefox because every time it asks what I have been doing, I just say "existing."

-Must go to group meeting, delayed because one member (not surprisingly) missed his train to meet us.


Getting the ball rolling

Before you nay-say, I know. I know I have neglected this blog fairly extensively. In that time, my plants have died and my fictitious children have starved. I've basically fallen off the planet into the warm caprices of a particularly studious academic building and some very annoying schoolwork.

I've been trying to write, even to procrastinate, but I am at a loss for where to begin again. Spelunking in Menorca? Returning to dining hall? Realizing that student government elections are no different between a 600-person school and a 30,000-person school, except in the former the likelihood of getting a free beer for your vote is much higher. And also chalk is completely impractical in a country that rains twice a day.

It's sort of like I've been holding the refrigerator door open, staring blankly at the plenitude of available snacks. Which do I choose first?

Except the refrigerator is getting more and more full of options, and I'm not eating any of it and in this extended metaphor I begin to lose my bearings on the English language and regress to a time in my childhood when things were much simpler.

I'm headed to Scotland to visit my friend Elizabeth next week, a trip I am very much looking forward to if for no other reason than to please my mother, at whose behest I have accepted a mission to buy golf-themed things for the men in my family.

And also because I am getting antsy sitting around, drinking beer and doing homework all the time.



Happy birthday, Amanda!

You turned 21 a month before I do, just three days ago, but luckily I moved to a country where the drinking age is 16, just so I could celebrate with you legally in spirit.

Me: 0, Lunch Lady: 1, Crossroads: 10

I do not know anyone who would get as upset about this as me--I had a silent tantrum and I stubbornly refuse to return today out of sheer embarrassment--and I might just have to marry the first cool person who feels the same way. I am also positive this will go down as the story I tell my grandchildren about eating in dining halls.

Don't get me wrong: I love the rules. Whenever I was sent to my room, I would stay the whole night. I was so unnerved by accidentally cheating on a geography quiz in the seventh grade that I confessed before we had even finished. In my first year of college I was accused of academic dishonesty, and despite bearing no fault in the case, I still felt guilty about the professor having suspected me.

But today, the forces were against me. I felt rebellious, I felt hungry, I felt like making the best of one of the most disappointing aspects of my study abroad experience: the food. For the first time since I arrived in the Netherlands (for the first time ever, in fact), I tried to sneak an extra roll past the lunch lady in the cafeteria, because God forbid that after weeks of late nights studying and early class, I was JUST THAT HUNGRY.

She followed me while I made my rounds and only after I approached the counter targeted me and made a big fuss at the rush hour when everyone was trying to get to their tables. Then she sent me home to get my wallet to pay the one euro for the extra roll. I have been sitting here stewing and writing and ignoring my midterms instead.

She kept going on about how "it's too late for sorry" and that "you'll pay for this" as if the degree of satisfaction in her career serving prison food (literally) to several hundred Dutch and international students every day is carefully measured by the guilt trip she can afford on the Example Student Du Jour.

I say "du jour" because there is always one, always someone who gets caught among the entire student population whose standard tray carries far more food than one can reasonably consume in one sitting. If there's one thing that is oversized in the Netherlands, it's the cafeteria trays. And bread loaves and stacks of cheese are piled, PILED on top of soup and sandwich spreads and cucumber slices without question. Just don't take more than one roll.

Technically you are also not allowed to take any food with you when you leave, but enforcement is minimal and often making the gesture of hiding it is enough to get you past the dishwasher dude (as long as you aren't stealing a dish)-- hence the loaves of bread. I am not kidding, there are students with enough food to feed a small African nation on their tray, who if questioned would probably coolly retort, "would you like to watch me eat it?" And mean it.

I am rather bothered that the punishment for this minor infraction of the (ridiculous) rules does not consider that I have missed countless meals on account of not being in town, or not being awake, or whatever. Quality of food aside, it is principally wrong to pay for one instance in which I have more food of one type than I am supposed to when I have missed probably one hundred euro worth of meals.

This is where Crossroads, my beloved Berkeley dining hall, comes in. I never thought "beloved" and "Crossroads" would end up in the same sentence, but they actually make sense. Why? Because, you see, they operate on a point system-- you can use as many as you like in one day, or as few the next, with no consequences. That I miss a meal just means I can swipe a friend in next time. And also they do not cater to San Quentin, meaning the coffee is caffeinated. Win-win!

As much as I don't miss Crossroads, I miss Crossroads.


Too true, despite all probable stereotyping

Read the paragraph about the European city bike. Excepting the fact that the picture offered is considerably more flattering than the bikes I see (and own) around the Netherlands thus far, I do ride around to bakeries and cafes and cheese shops while gleefully humming to myself about the expedience of bike-riding over walking, not to mention just how Dutch I feel as I ring my handlebar's bell past crowds of tourists waiting for the bus.

Spijt me, I've been off eating stroopwafels

Terribly sorry for the lackluster posting of late. As the title suggests, I have been eating stroopwafels to procrastinate all of the not-that-hard-but-annoyingly-time-consuming work I have to do to pass my classes. Le sigh.

I would gladly announce my imminent return, but I'm afraid that once my midterms are done this week, I will still be M.I.A. as I skip off to Spain for spring break. On second thought, I'm not really that afraid at all.

But despite my latent posting, I did happen to notice that it's time for ASUCk elections, and the rumors are still flying.


Adult stuffed animals, now $349!

Does no one else see that this is just an overpriced, battery-operated stuffed animal that does stuff?

Selling points: no allergies, no housebreaking, no attention required!

Next thing you know, pet therapy studies will weigh the costs and benefits of lower maintenance robotic pets with the warm blooded compassion of real pets.


More tree sitters, less rational argument

Apparently two masked someones missed the memo about tree-sitting in Berkeley being old news.

Maybe they were riding the publicity coattails of the equally inane Nonstory of the Year.

Speaking of which, if you read that Paper Trail link be sure to also read the commentary. Here's an excerpt of a response (presumably by a hippie who actually goes by the name "Tree Helper"):
I do say though that any claim of odor is exaggerated. We have dozens and dozens and dozens of visitors everyday, and nobody has every told me or anyone I know that we stink.

Homelessness is a real problem affecting real people. If you are concerned about the issue, be part of the solution.

We don't have Tibetan prayer flags.

I'm glad to hear the masked tree sitters outside Wheeler Hall don't intend to stay long, and for that matter that Tree Helper clarified the nonexistence of Tibetan prayer flags, but how is sitting in a tree going to democratize the UC Board of Regents? It sounds like just as much of a non sequitur as our Tree Helper thinking sitting in a tree is being "part of the solution."

Nominated for a misquote award

Gee, it's a miracle no one got hurt here. Do 4.7 earthquakes even make the news in California anymore?

As a brilliant survivor told CNN, it felt like "someone very big and angry jumping on the ceiling below you, rather than the floor."

Maybe the floor was having an existential crisis and could no longer face being both ceiling to the room below and floor to the room above. Or the fat angry dude jumping knocked some sense out of it.

Wrong end of the rainbow

I removed Google's AdSense thing from the blog yesterday, and I feel better for it.

I followed the rainbow to find a pot of gold but realized I didn't make a penny doing it, and besides, there has to be somewhere on the Internet that an ad doesn't appear.


North Korea: "We're not evil! See?"

On the same day the Associated Press announces that the NY Philharmonic plays the U.S. national anthem in North Korea, North Korea invites 62-year-old Eric Clapton to play for them.

This reminds me of yet another South Park episode. Can you guess which? I'll give you a hint: Rod Stewart in a wheelchair.

I'm not trying to draw a distinct parallel of North Korea and Jesus, but they appear to be in similar predicaments of producing something incredible to show off to the world, and all it seems such figures can come up with is Rod Stewart and Eric Clapton.

Where's Bono when you need him? He's busy leading a group of politicians in a rendition of "All You Need is Love."


Other things Stanford spends its money on

-Tom Brokaw
-Sandra Day O'Connor
-Steve Jobs

It seems Stanford has acquired the maven to check off yet another big name that will probably follow through on the university's Commencement Address, unlike some rival universities whose speakers are too afraid to cross picket lines of workers who claim they don't want to ruin graduation.

Let's see what big name they come up with at Berkeley this year, who probably will not actually speak but will probably still get paid.


Stanford for too much money on sale!

Get your degree while it's hot! Freshly farmed diplomas are now available at a cheaper price because Stanford doesn't know what to do with all of its money.

I guess now that the price has dropped, I've lost one of my main excuses for not applying to or attending Stanford.

It was bound to happen-- Stanford needs to improve its image beyond a bourgeois playground shaped like a taqueria. I just didn't expect tuition to be discounted to essentially the same as UC Berkeley (Stanfurdians under this plan would still contribute a rough equivalent of our tuition and fees) for those of us unfortunate middle-classes to earn less than $100,000 per year. At least they're stooping to our level.

But for whatever moves they make and however successful their efforts to encourage high school applicants from broader socioeconomic backgrounds (somewhere between the Pell Grant and three Beamers and a Lexus for Christmas), it's old news. Princeton has had a similar plan for years, and Harvard and Yale recently announced their own financial-aid-package-to-die-for.

Offering such glorious financial aid packages means competitive schools have excuses to remain selective, without looking like total douchebags. Princeton is a great school, but when it comes down to it so is UC Berkeley, Harvard, Yale, and Stanford. I got into UC Berkeley but didn't even consider applying to the others-- for monetary and personal reasons, like that I didn't want to pay many hundreds of thousands of dollars to attend a giant taqueria-- and I guess this is precisely what those schools are trying to eliminate.

If money isn't an issue, it's just about admissions criteria. Which has its own consequences, like battling the trend that poorer people are less likely to have the opportunities for good educations to earn them competitive college admission (a study probably conducted by Stanford or Harvard, anyway). It sounds good to say merit-based (as it should be), but offering cheaper higher education doesn't help those who can't afford to get there in the first place.

Oh, well. As much as I hate to admit it, Stanford's food-stamp degree is probably better than nothing.


Crab Tree people step closer to Earth, one supply line at a time

No one in the Netherlands knows anything about the high-and-mighty (pun intended) tree people in Berkeley, and I couldn't be happier. Luckily, it's becoming less likely now that UC Berkeley-contracted arborists started cutting supply lines down in Memorial Stadium's oak grove.

Frankly, I can't wait for the trees come down and the whiny tree people to get off their high horses, take a shower and recognize all the time and money and resources they've wasted on their cause. It just seems a bit strange that people who claim to be so down to earth have to sit in trees above ground to prove their point.

The only reason I care in the first place is not the tree issue-- in fact, at the spry age of twelve I advocated, via published letters to the editor, to save 200 oak trees deemed "in the way" of planned construction. It's more of a subtle and increasingly seething loathing of the ignorant group mentality that has plagued the tree people in much the same way as the crab people and metrosexual trend in that South Park episode. Kudos to anyone who got that reference in one of my early Clog articles about it.


Why I Have Become a Barfly

My mother has grown concerned about my increased drinking habits, wrongly assuming that I was an alcoholic before I left the United States and that the condition of my liver cirrhosis will inevitably continue to atrophy until I am dead before midterms.

Admittedly, I drank on occasion back home, but probably less than my parents and definitely no more than any civilized person might do after they have exceeded the age of 55, because I am boring and basically a 63-year-old version of almost-21.

The fact that I have roughly tripled the regularity of my drinking since my arrival in Europe merely indicates one or both of two things: 1) I don't have three jobs anymore and 2) the beer is cheaper than coffee, soda, and water.

Only the first of these reasons I suppose explains why I have gone to the bar almost every night. The reason I claim now? There's a mouse in my unit, and I live on the ground floor.

I am not freakishly afraid of them or anything, but I definitely don't plan to store food here and my room will become a beacon of cleanliness and everything in which a mouse would not be interested.

Of course, this would all be a lot easier if I had just remembered to pack a cat in my suitcase.


Repetitive and Redundant

Oops. I wrote about the criminally decaffeinated coffee twice. While that doesn't mean the travesty of my morning ritual is any less important, I feel I should fess up to the fact that my redundancy was entirely accidental.

Am I senile already? Probably.

In other news, I've got my second shift at the bar tonight; 0100-0400. I took a nap hoping it would revive me from the bizarre and far too-long day that began at 0845, but it seems only to have made me more lethargic.


Chocolate Yum-Yum bar, anyone?

I came across a Facebook group that's been noticeably and decidedly absent from my profile: "February is Post Everything You Eat in Your Blog Month." PEYEIYBM (The Acronym Has Gotten Out of Control, anyone?) is a celebration not to be outdone by, say, Black History Month, which happens to have been around since 1976-- longer, I think, than the Internet has been available to us measly bloggers.

They say you can tell a lot about a culture by what natives eat, but even the Dutch don't know what "Dutch food" is. I think that says enough. In any case, I am sad to report that Dutch food (whatever that means) is not nearly exciting enough for me to blog about.

But, as loyal readers should know by now, 1) I love food and 2) I don't usually care if it isn't interesting. (I tried to find some old tree people posts here, but since the Clog's redesign, I seem only to exist on the About page.)

The food here is, according to a source who visited me recently, better than the food in Ghana. Frankly, I should hope so.

However, the food at the dining hall is provided by the same company that caters the nearby prison. The most critical observation about this, besides that the peas are always mushy and the carrots are just steamed and rejected ends of what were formerly carrots, is that the coffee is decaffeinated.

I have never understood the point of decaffeinated coffee. There are those who like the taste of coffee (myself included), but I also like to multitask-- no need to take a caffeine pill with my cup of joe; just have the caffeine IN THE COFFEE. The spelling is close enough: c-o-f-f-e-e, c-a-f-f-e-i... maybe I'm rationalizing this a bit far, but it's still a bitter point when my ten housemates inhale a bag of coffee like there's no tomorrow.

And speaking of coffee, I ambivalently report I am no longer addicted to espresso. I haven't had an espresso-involved drink since I came to the Netherlands, but this must be because supply is so limited that the cost of an espresso is absolutely egregious. There's no other excuse for coffee (or koffie, in Dutch) to be usually less than one euro (.20 on campus) when a latte is something like 3 euro. With the exchange rate, that's a $4.50 latte. And, of course, since the Europeans believe in small portions for everything, the $4.50 latte is in a mug no larger than the fist with which I am poised to punch the pretentious barista.

But back to the food. I could write a novella about the dining hall, a space so poorly designed to accommodate crowds that one has to plan meals around the common class schedules. This sounds typical of all dining halls, but I am not kidding when I say that this place is no bigger than your average cafe but allegedly feeds 650 students in the 1.5 operating hours allotted for each meal.

There are usually two meat options besides the one vegetarian option and a questionably leftover option from the night before, which are typically one heart attack each (example: bacon-wrapped fried chicken), excepting the nights when surprisingly edible yet minuscule serving of salmon is on the menu. But, of course, having the item on the menu doesn't mean it will be there.

For whatever reason, I find myself eating at each meal with reckless abandon, as if not eating between 1 and 5:30pm is the school's way of forcing me into borderline anorexia. My excessive eating habits, combined with my (not excessive but certainly consistent) drinking habits, may soon make me reminiscent of a South Park-esque Sally Struthers.

At least I'll still be wearing a party hat.


Wait, what?

So the Reverend Fred Phelps, my favorite evil radical religious zealot/conservative/protester (though the late Jerry Falwell comes close), will be counter-protesting (I think) Code Pink's protest against the Marine Recruiting Center in downtown Berkeley.

With the tip from Beetle, who apparently can stand to read the Berkeley Daily Planet, Phelps' "God Hates Fags" group finds it perfectly logical to attend:

Responding to an e-mail query asking why they would be protesting, Shirley L Phelps-Roper responded: “We are picketing at Berkeley because you are a cesspool of filth! .... You freaks are going to kick the brutish Marines to the curb because they are not filthy enough for you. It is not enough for them to be raping, murdering, fag infested perverts. You want them to be ONLY fags and ONLY raping/murdering perverts. You want them to violate the lame and wimpy executive order that is called Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and aggressively recruit fags into their numbers.”

I am not clear on Phelps' position here. Are they anti-war and trying to keep filthy potential Berkeley recruits out of the recruiting pool?


Almost Spring

It's obvious that things have been rather exciting here-- otherwise I would have had the time to post more frequently.

In a moment of peace, however, I'm back at the keyboard. What's happening in my world:

-Chillary took California. Strategically speaking, this is probably a good thing.
- Huckabee came out of the woodwork. On what planet would a candidate who still believes that people with AIDS should be quarantined be an adequate candidate to lead a country that no longer lives in the '70s?
- Gordon B. Hinckley died in the prime of his life, at the ripe age of 97. My claim to fame: I sold him his ticket to see an opera in Utah last summer. President Monson came, too.
- The bar. In efforts to save money on my drinking habits, which have tripled since I've left the States, I've decided to become a bartender at the college bar. Like most jobs I've taken in my life, this is unpaid (excepting the free beer). I consider it a fair trade.
- Classes. Four of them, four days a week. I now understand the exchange/transfer student syndrome that plagued students at Berkeley. You think you're going to a fancy school because it has a good name and costs money, and that means you have to work harder than wherever you just came from. Wrong! Now, just to apply my discovery in practice...

Basically, things are going well here. I'm getting work done and having fun, and aside from adjusting to living in, well, subpar levels of cleanliness I'm having no trouble meeting all twelve people who go to school here.

I hate to cut this short, because I know how lame I have been in posting and such, but the sun has been out the last two days and it is simply criminal to sit inside writing a blog post instead of sitting outside doing homework.


First Snow

I wrote a brilliant post a few days ago, but Blogger was experiencing "technical difficulties" and couldn't post or even save the post I wrote, so my wisdom about the American primaries (namely, that I secretly don't care if it's Hillary or Obama, and that until I was invited to join a Kucinich support group I had no idea that Kucinich was still running) disappeared to the Interwebs and we are left with what I have written now.

Today (or tonight, I should say) was the first snow I've experienced while I've been abroad. Frankly, it's the first snow I've truly experienced ever, excepting the few times it snowed for ten minutes in California or the one week I spent in Vermont many years ago. Nevertheless, every Californian inevitably has some amazing experience of the snow to share after The First Snow.

My story is, I suppose, a bit simpler. I went to the bar while it was just a regular rain. I walked out of the bar a few hours later and it was snowing. Windy, cold snow, but still snow.

Still, I hear excitable students running around campus at this late hour, and my housemate has just told me that there is, in fact, a snowball fight going on well after midnight.


In Which Krista Gets Her Groove Back

I suppose it's been a few days, and I can honestly say that I've found what I came looking for: the perfect balance between studying and having a life.

And the Dutch? They are fabulous. I am secretly regretting staying for a full year, but I count my blessings because it means I spend less time in the dining hall, which as it turns out is stocked by the same company that stocks the nearby prison. That also means the coffee a) tastes terrible and b) is decaffeinated-- a sad fact I discovered only after taking a rather large gulp in favor of the caffeine that apparently did not exist.

And speaking of coffee: no one has coffee pots or individual filters (or maybe they do but I live in a green-gated bubble?), but rather Philips Senseo coffeemakers, which are individual or two-cup makers very similar to a coffeemaker my sister bought me for college a few years ago. However, you don't buy ground coffee or beans that you grind to put into the coffeemaker-- you buy pre-ground coffee "pads." They are slightly bigger than a Double-Stuf Oreo and each one is perfectly sized for one serving of coffee. Want two cups? Put two pads in. Convenient, it seems, but different.

And my flat/dorm/whatever you might call it is, in fact, a wall. Two soundproof walls, connected by three stories of bedrooms, five toilets and showers, and lots of brick and concrete compose one of the more bizarrely-designed student housing projects I've ever seen. I'm sure my mother knows the story better than I do, but I guess my campus was part of a military base and my housing started as the wall between the highway and the base, until they needed housing and just added a second parallel wall and some hasty design and voila: student housing. I don't think my toilet had been cleaned since the place was built, but a few more bleach washes and it should be good as new.

But speaking of the dining hall, I should go stuff my face.


In Which Krista Meets Technology

Last week isn't nearly as exciting now that I'm involved in this week, so I probably should have just written about it then instead of putting it off, drinking beer and watching the Chargers lose (and I am not ordinarily into football, but apparently every American in the Netherlands who cares enough finds the one bar in Utrecht that shows the games and suddenly it's a big party).

So. Last week.

-The camera: I love my camera. It's the fancy end of the portable handhelds, an Olympus SP-310. There are moments when I want to throw it against the wall, but overall I'd say it was a good buy. Last week I was uploading pictures from the camera to the computer when the camera turned off. I knew the battery was sort of low but I suspected that had nothing to do with it.

I spent the next few days sort of not really playing with it, replacing the batteries, replacing them again, plugging the camera into the computer as if to resuscitate it, but to no avail.

Until I discovered, of course, that one of the batteries was installed backwards (this part happened as I was writing this paragraph, as if tinkering with it would expand the narrative. And it did).

I have no idea how the camera functioned without the proper direction for so long, or why it suddenly revolted or even why I am such an idiot to not even look at the direction of the batteries as indicated twice in pretty pictures on the camera itself.

-The Bike: I heard a rumor that students could buy a used bike from 25-70 euro, depending on where and how clunky or ugly or semi-disabled it is, and I had also heard that there's some questionable guy selling rebuilt second-hand bikes out of his backyard for 25 euro. My expert advice in such a situation is 1) to be highly suspicious but also 2) to proceed with caution if others before you succeed.

Other students in my program got bikes from the dude earlier in the week, and as it turns out he not only gives you a cheap bike but brand new locks for 12.50 and free maintenance for big problems-- chain falling off, etc.

With that outstanding record of excellence, Erica and I sought Bike Man right after class let out on Tuesday. This will become relevant later, but I also was carrying my mother's 7.5lb package in my backpack, as well as my computer and class books. But back to the Bike Man. He lives off the map in an Italian suburb. You have to call in advance to tell him you're coming and how tall you are so he tells you if he has an appropriately-sized bike, and after some clever bus maneuvers and kind bus passengers we made it.

The Bike Man is kind of sketchy in a 40-year-old-guy-selling-bikes-as-a-"hobby"-to-complement-his-day-job-at-the-post-office sort of way, but he had a decent-looking wife and a cute dog and a kid, so he's a far cry from Junkie at the Train Station. We had to go after 5 because that's when we are out of class and Bike Man is off of work, so it was dark by the time we got there. He found us two bikes perfectly sized, maybe a little big, and we test drove them around the neighborhood.

Mind you, I have not ridden a bike since I was about twelve years old.

Erica and I were satisfied, though to be honest we have no idea what we are looking for beyond something that goes when we pedal. Bike Man replaces my seat when he notices the cover is loose, adjusts Erica's and we're off.

It starts to rain as we ride back into the city center, but not very hard and we are doing fine. Things are a little shaky, having not ridden a bike since age 12 and trucking the aforementioned large load on my back, but not bad. We are sort of lost trying to find this filmhuis for a required film screening but get directions from a nearby store, and we make it with twenty minutes to spare.

Watch the movie, that's fine.

We get out and it's pouring. Great. 21:30 and we've got to bike back from downtown to the Ikea Palace: a ten-minute bus ride, 45-minute walk, 30-minute bike ride. And no, they don't have bike racks on the buses here. But that's not all-- Erica's tire is flat.

She's pissed off enough to ride on the flat and we trudge back through the rain, bitching (for lack of a better word) about the rain and how her dumb bike is already broken and she should have known better, blah blah blah. I am sympathetic, but also dying from the most extensive workout I've had since carrying all my luggage from the train station. My back hurts from carrying crap, my legs hurt from using them for more than just walking, and I am terrified of being hit by a car.

We make it back and thaw ourselves out over hot Chocomel. Homework drearily ensues.

Since then, Erica has yet to fix her bike, and I have moved into a new place-- the one I'm stuck with for the rest of the semester. Rest assured, I am loving most of it at the moment. Little funky, little dirty, but functional. Pictures when I get around to decorating.


Decisions, decisions

I've been going back and forth on this decision: to publish or not publish the links to my photo albums, and my primary reason against it is because my mother and her potential new Facebook account do not need to see photos of my friends trashed in Europe, which is precisely what Facebook's photo option was invented for in the first place.

I have a Flickr account for almost exclusively this purpose, but I am lazy and uploading to two different servers just seems silly and cumbersome when I have already created the Facebook album. See the dilemma?

But then I remembered that my mother is afraid of black helicopters stealing her identity. This is key, because it means that Facebook, which is totally evil and will send her spam for decades, will never see an account with her name on it.

If you don't have Facebook and love me (or Europe) so much that you have been itching for more pictures, here are public links to the family-approved photo albums of the Netherlands:
* The Adventure Begins.
* California in the Netherlands-- The DLC.
* 8 Days of Paris.

Don't worry, epic tales still coming up.


Ik heb een druk week gehad!

If I recall correctly, the title says "I have had a busy week," or similar. Pending my final tomorrow, we'll see if I remember more than just that.

Clearly a lot has happened, hence the lack of posting. I will recap the week once the DLC finals are over tomorrow (and the imminent bar festivities to follow).

-Camera won't turn on.
-Bought a bike. Haven't ridden one since age 12; still sore.
-Moved into new place; my view is of one of the humanities buildings, by which I mean it is within spitting distance. I'd take a picture, but see highlight #1.
-Writing highlights instead of studying.


The Weekend

We're earning our four units in two weeks by being assigned unsupervised field trips over the weekend.

Today, we go to a "minority neighborhood" and observe differences, or something. Women are advised not to go alone, and not to be surprised by jeers or shouts for not wearing headscarves.

Tomorrow, we were all assigned into small groups to go to various cities around the Netherlands. Me and my group are going to Rotterdam to the Boijnmans museum, about which I'm rather excited because of their surrealism exhibit. Others are going to Haarlem, Delft, and Leiden.

Then we have to write reports and presentations. I kind of feel like I'm in a much cooler version of the fourth grade.


Field Trip

On Friday we went to Den Haag (The Hague) for action-packed visits to the Binnenhof (Parliament), Mauritshuis Museum, and the Peace Palace.

The itinerary seemed heavy, and frankly, it was. After a week of homework and classes and errands, a field trip was both a welcome distraction and a daunting task. Like every good fourth grade class, we packed our own lunches and were more or less in our seats on the bus by 8:45AM. We zombies crashed on impact into window seats until we arrived an hour later, apparently late for our guided tour.

The wind and rain didn't help matters much, but the experience made me really appreciate my raincoat, which added more pockets to my ensemble and made it unnecessary to use the umbrella that probably would have blown away anyway.

For those interested, details of each tour follow below. I don't blame you if you have no interest, but I'm sure my mother appreciates it.

The Binnenhof houses the Dutch Parliament and is, according to every single document and Web site I have read on the subject, the "political center of the Netherlands."

We first walked into the Hall of Knights, the room in which Queen Beatrix reads the Parliamentary agenda every September. I was disappointed that, as cool as it is, this was the only part of the old building open to the tour, but instantly gratified by the modern architecture so bluntly and cohesively attached to the original building.

Our DLC seminar instructor, Rutger (here's a Dutch lesson: Try rolling the 'r' and pronouncing the 'g' with the throaty 'h' with which one might say 'chutzpah'), told me that the modern expansion features purposefully transparent walls around the chamber corridors to symbolize the transparent functions of government. I think that's a great idea. The execution in design is perhaps less effective, namely because the chamber corridors have nothing to do with what actually happens in Parliament, but in principle it appears to represent what good architecture is supposed to do: meld form and function in an aesthetically innovative and meaningful way. But I am not an architectural expert, at all.

The second chamber itself (Tweede Kamer in Dutch) was much smaller than it seems on television, and I couldn't help but notice the striking difference in decor from perhaps more traditional chambers. The room is rather austere in a clean-cut sort of way, but it's still rather '90s and the entire wall that Parliament and the press face is composed of several vertical and off-set panels featuring a boring modern art installation commissioned by the Dutch government during construction. The boldly-colored swirly things are supposed to "evoke motion, suggesting the effective pace of government." Not really much more to say about that.

Mauritshuis Museum:

Next was the Mauritshuis Museum, located conveniently just outside the Binnenhof grounds. We all swiped our fancy Museumkaarts for cheap admission and immediately noticed the swarm of people. The coat check was full, so the staff let us use a classroom for elementary school field trips to put down our coats and get organized. Since 30 don't fit very well in small rooms of art-- empty or crowded-- we split. Half started with the exhibition, our half started with the permanent collection.

I'll be honest, 17th century art is not really my thing. There are elements I can academically appreciate, but it isn't generally the art that I would want to own. That said, the 17th century was the Dutch golden age of art, and everyone has to go see Rembrandt blah blah-- they had his most bestest works there, either on loan or as part of their permanent collection, and in the exhibition was one on loan from the Queen of England herself, who claims it is her favorite piece of art in the Royal collection.

They also had Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring, which is always a crowd pleaser, and Potter's The Bull, which was one of my favorites.

I may have said this already, but I generally dislike museums. Maybe I'm just a snob, but I have yet to find an excellently curated one or one that is sufficiently vacant or spacious enough to accommodate its visitors. The difference between a museum and an art book is being able to experience the art. I could go on for years recalling Benjamin and Heidegger on similar points, but the fact of the matter is that art books reproduce the art fairly effectively. The only work I've seen so far that disputes this point is Rembrandt's Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, where in the deteriorating canvas you can see where Rembrandt painted over what were once hats on two men. I can't see those shadows in a print.

I find the art book far preferable to vast crowds with murmuring audio tapes in several languages and the inevitable old man standing front and center directly in front of a large painting, so immersed in his audio tape that even the security guards can't capture his attention.

In any case, we covered enough ground in our little pack of guided students to sufficiently annoy most of the other visitors.

Peace Palace:

If anything has made me start thinking about law school again, this is it. They won't let you take pictures inside, hence the lame photograph, but it's beautiful. The Peace Palace is just a really big, uh, palace, where several organizations "rent" rooms or courts for settling disputes or evaluating other cases, etc. The UN meets there, the International Court of Justice meets there, and the Permanent Court of Arbitration, among others.

The tour wasn't very long considering the sheer depth of ornate detail in every square inch of the palace. We sat in various courtrooms and meeting rooms-- rooms where corporations spend billions of dollars to keep their financial or legal distress behind closed doors, rooms where the United Nations settles border disputes between states-- and I couldn't shake this affect of ... importance. Everything felt so important. No statue is arbitrary (they are all diplomatic and symbolic gifts from Palace member states), no stained-glass window design is "just pretty." Every single piece of art or decor or furniture has a connection to the Palace and a history far exceeding the grandeur of those who use the Palace.

Oh, and we're not supposed to touch the grass. It was a gift.


Home Sweet Home

Ah, nothing like the Berkeley City Council to really tackle the tough issues at hand.

Meanwhile, Kanye's mom (bless her heart) kicked the bucket during plastic surgery. To be clear, the hospital specified there was "no misadventure."

And as the dollar continues to plunge, the US Government doesn't seem to be doing much about it. In fact, they seem to be making it worse by stiffing the phone company.

Oh, America. How your Mittemelism, Hillary Rodham Deco, and Baroque Obama-inspired art movements make me miss thee.



I spent the only two complete hours of "free" time today doing absolutely nothing productive. I also have spent the only two complete hours of "free" time I had today not doing homework or writing up the group debate we're presenting in nine hours (which, for some typically inane control freak reason I volunteered to do).

I'm back to the old habits: doing and procrastinating everything. Couldn't this have been a fresh start?

I guess it's a good sign that I'm settled and relatively comfortable enough to even channel old study habits, but I don't even want to be awake right now, let alone still procrastinating another two hour's worth of work.


Lingering Angst

As I sit here procrastinating my homework (what's new?) I have been poring over the accreditation report for UCU, the college at which I'm studying abroad this semester. Don't ask me why this sounded more interesting than the Dutch constitution. I think I was really looking on UCU's website for their scheduled holidays and just got distracted.

But I digress.

Part of the accreditation report outlined the excellence of UCU's study abroad program, especially because it selected exchange students from the honors programs of their respective universities. Now, I am not a grade monger, but admittedly it depresses me a little bit that I am not actually an honors student. I don't feel like sharing my GPA on the Internet but let's just say it isn't the 3.95 required of students on the Dean's List at UC Berkeley.

It was not my goal in life to be an honors student at a notably difficult university in an equally notably difficult department (which is arguably difficult, really, but that's just because rhetoric is so subjective), but I still find myself staring longingly and cyclically at the list, the requirements, and my grades.

I feel close enough to think there's a chance, but I realize that I secretly want to do even less work and just be smarter about it. Read: be smarter. I have long dreamed of being the encyclopedic kid who gets an elusive A+ just for showing up and exuding brilliance; one of those kids you just know can say something really smart about a book without having read it casually more than once five years ago. They don't work very hard because academia isn't a chore, because money isn't an issue, and because they have jobs or trust funds or law school waiting for them after they grow weary of undergraduate life.

I'm getting closer: my grades improve every semester and, though this post might presume otherwise, I seem to be caring less about the grades than I care about my engagement with the professors and the texts we read. For traditionalist and obvious reasons I use the grades to gauge my success in those engagements, but I find myself procrastinating more because I'm completing the work in less time.

But enough procrastinating and complaining and wishing and hoping. I'm learning to take things one step at a time. First: obtain hot Chocomel and return dinner dish to kitchen. Second: read. Do lots and lots of reading.


Bureaucratic Survivors

The picture to your right is of the dramatic staircase in the bizarre house in the upscale and out-of-the-way neighborhood which Ana held a dinner party to celebrate New Years. I find this to be the only remotely flattering photo of that house. My Parisian vacation was fabulous, but like all good things it had to end.

I left rainy Paris by train on Jan. 3 and stopped in cold and overcast Amsterdam long enough to get a train discount card and ticket to cold and overcast Utrecht.

We suffered through the pre-departure bureaucracy and, some with less sleep than others, arrived safely to Utrecht. I made my way to University College by about 3 p.m. and into my temporary apartment by about 5:15. I managed some settling and unpacking before I came back to UCU to meet the others.

Representing several UC campuses, we 29 EAP students were treated to a well-deserved feast at a pancake house along the canal near the center of town. Tip: if you order the Pirate Pancake, they give you a sword.

Since then, we've managed to get more settled and unpacked, to spend a few Euro at the grocery store (and learn to bring your own bag), and to discover that despite the widespread use of spoken English, very little is actually written in English. Websites often don't translate, pamphlets never, and only a few food products.

Here is what me and a fellow UCU-er (Brenda) have dubbed The Ikea Palace. Everything-- sheets, light fixtures, dishes, furniture-- is from Ikea. The floors are red, the curtains are blue, and the front door is purple. One wall in my room is yellow. The place is brand new and I am on the 17th floor, which would be great if I had a view of anything besides the grasslands. I think I have a roommate, judging by the non-Ikea rice cooker, dead roses on the table, and groceries in the cupboard, but I'm guessing she's on vacation (I gathered gender by the hair in the drain and girly shampoo in the shower).

In any case, I've got a quiet/lonely place to study for what seems to be a daunting language program. We may have survived the bureaucracy, but ahead of us remains two weeks of 9:30-4 classes with field trip assignments on weekends.