Friday, September 23, 2005

press release

I've been quiet recently. It's gotten to the point that even the people who are closest to me have said things like "You're going WHERE for three months?" or "You're bringing WHO home for Christmas?" So here's a run-down of what's been happening for me and what's going to happen in the next while.

This summer I finished writing my dissertation and worked on experiments at a lab in Vancouver.

Over the past week I've done a lot of travelling. I spent last weekend in Ottawa with my baby brother (who is 28 and a homeowner) and his friends. It was my birthday on Sunday and we all went out for drinks. My brother's friends were the sweetest. One of them was charmingly astonished that I was actually turning 31. "I wouldn't have put you at more than ... (long pause) ... 30." Riiiiight.

As a birthday/graduation present, my parents gave me a stethescope--because how can I be a Doctor without one? I put it to good use when I finally met my long-time internet buddy Corey.

Doctor Rachel's first patient

We are soooo cool--rockin' out in the Rideau Centre food court.

totally badass

Travelling TO Ottawa was somewhat...problematic. The night before, my otherwise-lovely boyfriend tried to poison me. I'm not sure exactly how much I had to drink, but I learned yet again that any drink that includes both vodka and cranberry juice should be handled with extreme care because of the way that the cranberry masks the alcohol. About all I can say for myself on the plane trip to Ottawa the next day is that I didn't actually vomit into the first-class drinks cart while squeezing past it on my way up from the "Hospitality" cabin to the first-class bathroom. We of the Hospitalitariat have to line up for two little bathrooms while the first-class overlords have a bathroom all to themselves. Using their bathroom was a big enough act of class warfare in itself that I thought it was redundant to escalate hostilities by vomiting on anyone.

I got to spend a couple of days in New York after Ottawa, visiting with T-regina (whose birthday falls on International Talk Like A Pirate Day, yaarrrrrr) and with my friend Willem, his wife Debbie, and their new family member Isaac. His 84th-day birthday is today. When I told them my retreat is going to be 84 days long, they had a really visceral (literally!) appreciation of exactly how long that is.

At the moment I'm back in New Haven, sitting at my old desk in my old office. I got back here to find that someone had used the printer in the outer office to print out the results of a Google image search for "porn" with (get this) the Safe Search on. The results included things like images from the Muppet movie, for some reason. I'm hoping that this was a joke, because surely no physics grad student can be that stupid, but fearing that it really was just someone being dumb.

I'm packing up my stuff for my retreat. I'm leaving tomorrow and getting back on Dec. 16th. Lots of sweaters are going into my bags. (Also my wikkid-cool meditation cushion, which takes up a good chunk of space by itself.) Before I go, I'm going to hand in my thesis to the graduate school, and while I'm gone I'll be officially doctor-ified.

(And yes, the last paragraph does mean that I'm going to be out of contact until Dec. 16th. If I'm not commenting on your blog during this time, I'm not snubbing you. I'll catch up with you when I get back.)

I'm cramming for my retreat by listening to Leigh Brasington's Jhana talks. He just shared a brilliant quote: "You can't have a belief system without BS." har har har

After my retreat, I'm heading over to the UK to start my new job. I'll be working as a post-doc at the University of York. Before I start that, I'm taking a trip to Turkey to visit my parents, who are settling in nicely there.

So that's my life. Between that and my flickr updates, you know everything. Doesn't that feel better?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

it just occurred to me...

...that if my name were Katrina I'd be royally pissed at all the headlines about how Katrina is the worst disaster in the history of the US.

Also, everyone has to go read Waiter Rant's latest. Sample:

God suffers with us. He shares in our pain. If you’ve ever been to a child’s funeral you know the only thing you can do is cry. God is like that person weeping in the funeral parlor. It was God who was pulverized when the Towers fell, it was God who burned in the Nazis' ovens, and it was God who drowned in that nursing home in New Orleans.

Contrast this with Pat Robertson's usual pronouncements, and ask yourself which one of them should be talking theology in public.

(Don't even bother going to look at what has to say about the storm. It's revolting, as usual.)

(Oh, and my favourite bit of Pat Robertson? His "biblical" justification for why you shouldn't get a tattoo. "The Bible does talk about scarring and marring of the body and cutting the body. These are pagan customs, and the Bible condemns it. All these scars, you look in pagan cultures, they cut themselves. They leave great scars in their bodies. And usually it was a scarring to indicate their allegiance to some pagan deity. So that’s what tattoos are all about. Plus the fact, they’re ugly.")

Saturday, September 03, 2005

This is what the era of small government looks like

An online acquaintance of mine bragged yesterday that he had given "$250 EACH to the Red Cross and the Salvation Army". I had to step away from the computer and take a few deep breaths after I read that. This is someone who, like 16% of eligible American voters, voted for Bush, and who has made the argument that charity is "more meaningful" when the donors get to decide how to allocate their money.

To that latter contention, all I can say is: people are dying because of your sentimentality.

If you fight tooth and nail to cut the revenue of the federal government by cutting taxes, thereby undermining the kinds of services that could have saved thousands of lives this week in New Orleans, you are NOT the good guy when you donate money to the relief organizations. That money should have been contributed in the form of taxes and used to reinforce the levees. But as long as individuals, and not the government, get to choose which "charity" projects they're going to support, the projects that will actually save and improve lives will always be underfunded. For example: me. I give money to the Nature Conservancy, Amnesty International, Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, Doctors Without, I'm missing a few, but one thing you'll notice is that there's not a single civil engineering project or water purifying plant in the list of the Causes I sponsor. People will donate to libraries and schools (both vitally important) before they'll donate to the things that actually make life in the developed world possible.

This somehow is connected in my mind to Salon's review of "The Dukes of Hazzard". It's been bothering me for weeks now.
The press notes for "Dukes of Hazzard" feature a quote from producer Bill Gerber: "I was searching for a project that really captured the American spirit," he begins. "The heart of 'The Dukes of Hazzard' is family and protecting what you love."

Is that really the "American spirit"--to fight for the people you are genetically related to, and to say to heck with the rest? Another name for that "spirit" is "tribalism". It's the system that the most regressive Muslim states effectively operate under; heck, it's the spirit that most social animals operate under. Is that really what America has come to? What happened to "Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses"? Has that spirit really been replaced by greed, racism, and xenophobia? If they haven't, what explains the fact that some of the busses to evacuate the people without their own cars STILL haven't arrived--instead of having arrived in the days before the hurricane struck? Why have so many of America's own poor, tired, huddled masses essentially been left to drown?

I forgot one of my charities: Plan International (a.k.a. Childreach). It runs projects in developing countries where the governments don't have the money for social services because of corruption (giving tax breaks to the friends of the leaders for example) or because there's no money (in some cases because the entire budget goes to the military). Right now I have a sponsored child in Indonesia and one in Thailand. I wonder if they'll let me sponsor a child in New Orleans.