Archive for April, 2005

History is nothing but a procession of false Absolutes, a series of temples raised to pretexts, a degradation of the mind before the Improbable. -E.M. Cioran

Friday, April 22nd, 2005

Andy and I have embarked on a new project–a history blog! Please let us know what you think–and contributions as well as comments will be gratefully accepted!

earth day

Friday, April 22nd, 2005

If everyone lived like me, we’d need 3.6 planets.
Thanks…Happy Earth Day to you too.
Reminiscense Alert: On Earth Day in 1990, I attended a little Earth Day festival at Pioneers Park near Lincoln. I was still in high school and was very into environmentalism, but then who wasn’t. Even at the time it seemed like a bit of a fad: I clearly remember one all-star environmentalism special on TV starring Bette Midler as Mother Earth. Disturbing.
A lot of things from those heady days have now become institutionalized: lots of towns have recycling facilities available, and now hybrid cars are getting popular (this spike in gasoline prices might turn out to be great for the environment), but gradually people seem to have lost interest on an individual level. For example, back in the day one of the big things was less packaging and not using disposable items; while over the past five to ten years it seems that more and more disposable items–one-use detergent-soaked cleansing towels and the like–have crept back onto the market.
My interest in environmental issues has been renewed of late. It never really waned, but when I lived in Chicago I just didn’t have many options. On the plus side (environmentally speaking) I didn’t have a car, so I had to walk or take public transportation. I couldn’t afford an air conditioner, so I had to just deal with the summers. On the other hand, though, I wasn’t able to recycle much stuff. I could haul paper, glass, and aluminum to campus or to the grocer store to recycle, but everything else had to go in the trash. Chicago supposedly had some kind of recycling pick-up, but I don’t think it worked for apartment-dwellers–at least, I never figured out how it could work.
Here in GR, my options, or lack thereof, are different. I have a car and it’s really the only practical means of transportation for me. I can walk to local stores, but the grocery store is really too far to pack groceries home from. Walking or biking into the city, however, would be all but impossible: back roads are convoluted and don’t link up in logical ways, and biking on the highways would be extremely dangerous and probably illegal. The bus is an option, but takes about 3x as long as driving if you have to transfer; and while I would actually prefer taking the bus to driving it’s not a very efficient use of time. On the other hand, having a car gives me access to recycling facilities and farmer’s markets–so it’s a bit of a toss-up.
A lot of the issues which drive my need for 3.6 earths come not from my preferred behavior, but from available options. I’d like to buy more locally-produced food, but this is Michigan: it’s only available a few months of the year; of course, I could be better about seeking it out when it is available. Unfortunately, driving is the least efficient mode of transportation, but it’s also the only choice in a lot of cases, and it allows me to access the recycling facilities and the locally-produced food.
I’m not really one to propose governmental solutions to every problem, but more and more I’ve been wishing we had more public transportation options in this country. It would be great to be able to travel within and between cities by bus or train like in Europe, but the problem is that we have much larger spaces to deal with here than in European countries, and most people still prefer the convenience of driving their own cars. But if traffic congestion, smog, and gas prices get much worse, and if public transportation were a more attractive option (besides the time thing, I have to admit that the bus does get a bit dingy, and when you go over those picturesque brick streets downtown you’re shaken around like a maraca), maybe it could happen. I would love to have more efficient public transportation in town, and to be able take a bus or train out to the beach in the summer, or even to be able to get to Chicago using public transportation instead of driving (yes, there’s Amtrak, but it’s expensive, unreliable, and its schedule makes it all but useless to me).
Anyhow, that’s my issue this Earth Day: public transportation. I’d love to see some candidate try to make political capital off of that one.

what’s up with that?

Thursday, April 21st, 2005

An odd thing happened to me as I was walking along a mall yesterday. I passed a Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and I felt my pace slacken, my head turn, and I thought to myself, “Oh, I would like to go in there to look around.”
Then I thought, why? Why after all these years of indifference to towels, sheets, and the like, do I suddenly want to take time out of my life to browse around amongst them? I don’t need any towels or sheets, and even if I did, up until yesterday I’d have thought it would be one of those errands I kept putting off in hopes it would take care of itself.
A similar thing happened to me with country music. I grew up loathing the genre, and then one day in my early twenties I suddenly liked it. I don’t know why. Nothing about it had changed, so it must be me. I figured it was just an occupational hazard of living in Nebraska: I held out for so long, then it wormed its way around and over my mental block (as Lucy of Peanuts fame once put it).
Or maybe it’s buried in the genes, hidden away until I reach a particular point in my life span when it suddenly manifests itself. At 22 it was country music, at 31 it’s linens. What could possibly be next?

you said a mouthful, T.S.

Monday, April 4th, 2005

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.”
I’m back…sans witty comments or insightful ideas, I’m afraid. Mellow spring weather puts me out of the mood to be strident. I’ve been caged indoors with my own personality all winter, and now seems a good time to give it a rest.
So…we went to Chicago on Saturday–me, Andy, and a friend of ours. They went to a game store and I spent the afternoon at the U of C library. The library, like most, if not all, other aspects of the U of C, has given me quite a few moments of pure aggravation. Books are frequently not where they are supposed to be, due, I guess, to the fact that they get read a lot. But, I got some stuff done, turned in some dumb paperwork to my advisor’s empty office, and visited the C-Shop (that’s me on the left; at least it feels like I’ve been at the U of C for at least 63 years). So all’s well once it’s finally over, to adapt a quotation (not that it is over yet, I still have a dissertation to write).
Today, I must go to work and try to put together something to say for my proposal hearing, which is a week from today. Guess I’ll get on that.