Friday, September 10, 2004

More reasons I really don't want to live in Virginia 

Is it that I'm uncomfortable with the wise and scientific fashion in which the state has handled its policies towards non-heterosexuals? Doubtful. Is it because of their blind, merciful blade of justice? Nope.

Arkansas Democrats sue to keep Nader off the ballot 

This is something of a surprise, about which I'm not sure whether I ought be proud or ashamed. Given the circumstances, I'm defaulting to the former (especially if the fraud charges turn out to be well-founded).

On a sidenote, Zees's smug attitude about the process of legal repeal is yet another reason that I simply can't bring myself to accept the argument to support the Populist Party as genuine.

Nader's national spokesman Kevin Zeese said Friday that most of the claims were baseless.

"The Democratic Party is spending more time as law firm than a political organization this year and that's why they're losing in the polls," Zeese said. "It's a shame they don't want to give people a choice. It shows a real lack of confidence in their candidate."

Um, no, dude, it shows confidence in jurisprudence (which, as you surely know, is at least marginally more fundamental in the definition of a civic state than "confidence in [a] candidate"). To quote Damian from high school days, that guy makes my ass burn.

Bullshit, of the federal sort 

Over the past few days, news stories have gorged on the immodest detail that the new federal education standards have resulted in a huge proportion of schools on a national scale to have been deemed unfit. Reading over the list for Arkansas, I noted the three gems: Wilbur Mills University Studies, my public alma mater, Central, our grand public competitor, and Parkview Arts Magnet.

Now for some perspective. If one had lived in Little Rock in the mid- to late nineties, these three schools were the trumps, better than private school options, and figureheads in the AP movement among Arkansas schools. Our graduating class in 1998, somewhere around four hundred people (again, I'm sure my memory isn't accurate, somewhere between 300 and 400 graduates), we pulled in about $1.2 million in scholarships, boasted some 40 AP scholars of varying distinction, and had students going everywhere from Case Western to Emory to UNLV and so on. Our Odyssey of the Mind team made it to the world finals, which were actually held right down the road in College Park, Maryland (giving me my first taste of the District).

Now, keep in mind, both Mills and Central made it onto the U.S. News (Newsweek?) list of Best Schools in the United States a year or so ago. This isn't a bragging point (as said list is far from good analysis), it's simply a statement of fact on the scales of decision making used to assess to quality of education by the people who actually attend them. I'm always wary of rubrics that are prepared absolutely third party, as in this case where the federal scales of approval are essentially bureaucratic products imposed on a population.

In this case, details such as requiring 98% of the student body present for all standardized tests and forcing special education students to be able to perform at their actual grade level (!!!) on said tests are the greatest examples of how idiotically misled these new federal edicts are. There are already worries of declining property value around "failing" schools, especially the established and prestigious among the crowd, not to mention the hideous effect that this may have on student performance and university admissions decision-making.

Our president and his administration should hold themselves to the same standard. Could George W. Bush pass the AP European History exam? What about just midlining on the state board physics and mathematics evaluation? Would his cabinet roll their eyes if they were told that, regardless of how well they performed, they couldn't be given a good grade unless Prez scored in the same range as them? Hell, why not send them all back through to take the SAT, ACT, or even the GRE for flair?


Thursday, September 09, 2004

Thursday evening, midnight oil, and, yes, a little drunk 

Public health has turned out to be a much more diverse field than I had imagined. At George Washington there seem to be twelve separate delineations, each with a specialized programmatical track, in the field of public health. There are roughly three hundred of us unequally divided among each track, with the disproportionate amount choosing to reside in the least mathematically intensive division(s) centered around the administrative side of medicine, everything from public health policy to management of administrative health. We're all working toward a Master of Public Health degree, however, so there are unequal digs involved--case in point, though I'm in the epidemiology and biostatistics track and have no classes tomorrow, I'm still going to be awake for a couple of hours preparing tutorials for all the kids who went into administrative branches thinking they wouldn't be required to know basic chemistry, cell, and molecular biology. And I'm not even getting paid! My bitterness toward these trust funders is swayed by the fact that tutorial construction is undeniably good practice for my eventual thesis preparation, as no amount of confidence in the world will sufficiently prepare me for the rigor of an institutional review. At UALR I simply had to go over the heads of the eight or so reviewers who 'supervised' my research; here I'll be doing it for a couple hundred brilliant students, several physicians from the hospital where they take wounded presidents, and maybe a couple of Nobel laureates tossed in for good measure. For the time being, then, I'm willing to overlook the minutiae of late nights devoted to someone else's well being because, ultimately, I'll benefit. How's that for two birds with one stone? That's my rationalization, anyway. I could certainly use a certain Bluegrass CD right now (FUCKING HINT HINT), and, good lord home-stylee folk, you had better have a piece absolutely ladled, brimming with a heap of green waiting at the end of your extended arm when I step off the plane for Thanksgiving (well, maybe slightly off of airport premises), which, I woefully note, is still quite distant. Trying not to think about it, I turn back to the books.


The kind people with whom I'm staying while I search for a place to live are remarkably gracious, almost to a fault. I feel guilty accepting such hospitality with no expectation of repayment, especially when they cook for me and share their wine and cocktail-making skills with me on a daily basis; three bottles of wine are consumed among the three of us per night, minimum.

This weekend will see a block party, a grandly communal feature of any neighborhood in my opinion, and signs are already up proclaiming the no parking status for the day. As one host described this annual event, "We pretend it's a clean-up, which it technically is until everyone gets drunk." Cheers!

Over the weekend I went to Cobalt with a small group of straight friends, acquaintances of Steven from his time at Emory, southerners in this city who are hilariously engaged in various endeavors. The group is diverse and intelligent, interested in conversation, music, art and the like, and refreshingly devoid of pretense--the fact that I got them all out to a gay club at the drop of a hat is testimony enough for me. That one of them called me this morning and pointed out that he got into the 'Scene' section of Metro is even more hilarious.

I know this liberty will cease once the graduate school workload is established, but it hasn't yet, so I'm trying to soak all of this up while it's still being offered on a gleaming platter.


Tuesday, September 07, 2004


Alright, so my expectations about graduate school were probably a little skewed, but not as ignorantly as one would expect those sort of things to have been. It isn't yet difficult, but by a thin margin only; difficulty is a matter of conceptualism, of theory and new modes of intellect, paradigmatic pressures that are necessary to coax oneself into an entirely new vein of thought. This, this is simply bulk, accounting for being an effective outsider for, well, the entire existence of one's specialized field, not only filling in the holes (simple masonry work, if you ask me), but digging the pit, laying a latticework of rebar and pouring in the substrata (full-on foundational material, acres and acres of it--maybe even a few subterranean levels thrown in for good measure). My eyes are tired and my back hurts a little, but little else has changed if one analyzes my lifestyle. I've still not found a permanent(-er) place to live, so my hosts are getting me very close to drunk every night, and I'm still managing well (god bless the lessened credit hour requirement for graduate full-time status). I've only had the opportunity to get stoned a couple of times in the past couple of weeks, though, and I dislike that. It's very manageable, but I'd thought that entering this period of relative abstinence would have cleared my thought processes by some significant margin. instead I'm left confirming my assumptions that I've always been a disorganized scatterbrain, and now, without insurance and studying public health, I'm back with the full symptomology of gastric distress with nothing to relieve it coupled with a distinct need to return to a schedule that allows hours a day for quiet, motionless reading, contemplation, reading, reading, and writing. Before I left home my physician suggested that I start using nicotine gum or the patch for the benefits it imparts to individuals with smooth muscle disorders... and that is why I'm going into epidemiology and preventive medicine rather than that ignorant bane of human health that we call individual medicine.

I miss my cat. I miss my mom, and my dad. And my sister. And Loca Luna, and Megan, and Runaway Planet, and Miller Road and Scary Bridge and the Route, all of the official C-130s, of course, and gyros at Georgia's, day-old cheap bread from Community Bakery and fresh, cold avocado gazpacho from Farmer's Market ingredients, and the lake, oh god, I miss going to the lake at a moment's notice, and Brady and Dawn, and driving across the Arkansas River in the middle of the night, bored but at home and among my friends, and Marjorie, and her pecan pies, and Sonja even though she was an irritating boss, and the ginger dressing at Sekisui, not to mention their vegetable rolls, and Sammy at Star of India, Diamond Bear Southern Blond, and Dr. Sanderson's wit, and filthy uninhibited humor (which doesn't exist in DC), and listening to "Dub Side of the Moon" without weeping, and letters from Heath, and even Billy and J-Mo every once in a while, getting stoned and going to the River Market, running into Shawn at the Flying Saucer and reminiscing about France... everything, I miss it all, I hope it misses me, and I can't wait to visit every dram of it again, for now, again, I understand its value.


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