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.