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Peace Corps year 1

$100 lawn job + music dilemma

Friday afternoon I was overjoyed to come home and find that the lawn—both front and back—was freshly mowed. Apparently the guy who had stopped by the week before to ask about doing the lawn had finally returned and accomplished the seeminly unthinkable: cutting the three-foot-tall weeds in the backyard.

When he stopped back by to collect his $30, he offered to use the weed eater on the back porch to clean up the edges. I said no that’s ok, it was a friend’s (borrowed from Jennie and Mark a few weeks ago), what he had done was fine. I told him to feel free to stop by once it had grown back up again.

Monday morning I went out to get my bike on the back porch, glanced over, and saw… no weed eater. Weed eater gone.

And so I have little choice but to conclude that Steve the lawn guy is responsible… It was tucked away, out of sight from the road, and nothing else was stolen—or has ever been stolen from our house. Which instead of making me angry really just made me sad—a little disappointment of human trust.

So now our $30 bargain lawn job has turned into a $100+ lawn job.


In between mind-numbing bouts of editing, I frequently find myself thinking “In five months, I’ll…” or “For the next two years, I won’t…”—everything from what my morning routine will be like to how I’ll miss driving my car or taking endless hot showers. Mostly these thoughts are accompanied by a tingle of excitement and anticipation—even the occasional “holy crap, what am I going to be doing?!” moments.

My current pre-packing dilemma is music. I absolutely MUST have music with me in Senegal. Ideally, as much music as possible on as few batteries as possible, in a form that will hold up for two years.

Which brings me to my two current candidates: iPod vs mp3 CD player.

First, the pros of the iPod: 40gb of glorious hard drive, big enough to hold ALL my music plus digital pics/files; small enough to carry inconspicuously (though not so much if I use the Belkin battery pack); getting an iTrip would allow me to play my music on any radio; no moving parts to trap dust.

Then, the pros of a mp3-capable CD player: about 1/10 the price (therefore much easier to lose/replace); better battery life; could play CDs from friends or bought in-country.

Oh, and the iPod is damn sexy.

So I’m torn. Does the convenience of the iPod’s tiny size/huge capacity outweigh the mental stress (and guilt, to some extent) of bringing such a valuable piece of electronics with me?

I really haven’t decided this one yet—part of me would like to be unencumbered by high-maintenance technology, but the rest of me is fully prepared to lug batteries and adaptors and whatever else around Africa.

In other news, Eeyore’s Birthday Party was postponed due to rain—which is great because there’s a chance I’ll be far enough along on my thesis to schedule a break this Saturday afternoon… Anybody interested?


lab haiku two

says the haiku to itself.
Quite postmodern, no?



So here I am, 3pm on the second-to-last Saturday of the semester… sitting at my computer… trying desperately not to do work. Des-per-ate-ly.

Video editing, thesis treatise, seminar paper, history paper, RTF essays… all suddenly superseded by, oh I don’t know, cleaning my room, sorting my CDs, playing with my webpage—even posting to my blog, perhaps?


I want to do some road tripping/camping/etc out West this summer. Maybe late July, early August… a few weeks of driving and hiking and living in a tent. Who’s interested? Ideas about where to go?

This is where I want to be:


cloudy radiohead-soundtracked day

scattered moments:

Stekler was surprisingly enthusiastic when I showed him an embarrassingly rough rough cut of the thesis this morning. My optimism is doing its best to shove past the reality of time constraints. As all Plan II thesisers are lamenting to themselves right now, “Why did I do this to myself? Why did I wait this long to start…”

To which I answer: “Because, really, what else were you going to do?”

Last night at the DV lab I was very sad that I’m not a smoker. At least then I’d have an identifiable reason to take a break every 20 minutes.

The women’s bathroom at Mojo’s, which has a uterus painted on it, seems to be locked. Normally I would have no problem going into the men’s bathroom, but there’s male anatomy painted on that door. Stick figures without the skirts? No problem. Internal workings of genitalia I clearly lack? … I dunno. It just don’t feel right.

I’ll be screening the (presumably finished) thesis film in the CMB on Thursday, May 20th, 7pm or so. Big screen and everything! Party following, chicken costumes encouraged.


'bout that time

Yes, once again it’s 11pm and I’m in the lab. I’ve actually been making slow, not steady so much as in spurts (spurty? spurtish?), progress on my rough cut… putting placeholders here, slowly building sequences there, and re-watching the archival and chicken footage whenever I need to shift my brain into neutral and giggle to myself.

A title was suggested to me last night: “Pilgrim’s Progress.”

I really like it, but I wanted to run it by my faithful, overeducated readers to see who would “get” it—or really just what anybody gets from it. (Reminders/hints: My film concerns Pilgrim’s Pride, a poultry corporation led by Bo Pilgrim, a devout Christian, and Susan Nugent, a woman who sued Pilgrim’s for pollution of her cattle ranch. Most of my archival footage is cheery 1950s “Miracles from Agriculture” kind of stuff.)

I somehow feel it’s an improvement over the options considered so far. Because while “Poultry Emulsion” and “Clucking You Over for a Bawk” make admirable use of the many chicken-related puns, I just don’t know that I’m ready to betray that much gleeful bias from the get-go.

Much love to my thesis compatriots. The end is (tragically, thankfully) in sight.


saturday night's alright alright alright

So Saturday. Traditional night for drunken revelry, yes/no?

Then, the end of senior semester, with thesis deadline fast approaching. Not so much on the drunken revelry.

Temporary solution: drinks and laptops on the back porch…

*plus, I make good use of my time by figuring out how to make photos on my gallery show up here… whee!


lab time

I just spent a very productive 5 1/2 hours in the DV lab at school. They have two shiny new G5 machines with 23 inch cinema HD displays. Unfortunately, they’re still in “beta” versions, meaning more unstable than the regular G4s (“unstable but crazy fast”).

For me, this translated into Avid DV Pro eating my OMFI MediaFiles database file on my harddrive, preventing me from accessing my 18 hours of logged and captured footage. I was nearly resigned to hours of desperate harddrive maintenance, but decided to try switching to a G4 with Avid DV Xpress first. Everything opened up just fine. No corrupt database files in sight. No 23″ display either, sadly, but you take what you can get at UT.

The lab is already getting crowded, people are already getting delirious. I have 23 tapes total. I have five more tapes to log/capture (about two hours computer time per tape). I have three weeks to finish. I have two words to summarize my feelings on this matter: fucking fuck.


Chickens, at home and abroad

Thursday morning I set off for Pittsburg, Texas, and another few days of filming. The drive up there has always been pretty tolerable—scenic farmland, hills, the occasional herd of goats—but this time was especially nice because all the wildflowers were in full bloom. The road was lined in bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, red clover, and pink, yellow, and pale blue flowers whose names I don’t know.

I checked in at the trusty old Mount Pleasant Days Inn (micro-fridges AND wireless internet!) and then made a few calls to line up interviews for the next two days. Friday morning I talked with a “Corporate Environmental Coordinator” at Pilgrim’s Pride—we drove out to his farm (he’s also a contract grower with Pilgrim’s) and filmed in front of bright red 500-foot-long chicken houses (capacity: 29,000 chickens).

Then I met up with Susan in the afternoon, and we drove around her family’s farm, now overgrown and on the market. Saturday morning I got to revisit the chickens I saw placed into houses as cute little chicks six weeks ago. In that time, they’ve grown to five pounds, are no longer cute, and are headed to the slaughterhouse early this week. Once again, great footage. I’m debating whether or not to drive back Monday night to see them collected for their journey to the processing plant.

Photos from this trip are on the gallery—just a few for posterity’s sake.

So I get back Saturday night, feeling the opposite of studious or productive. Maryann comes up with the obvious solution, which is decorating Easter eggs. Which of course leads to drinking and watching Zoolander. Naturally. All of which resulted in a great series of egg pictures.

Now it’s Sunday, Maryann and I just got back from a luscious Easter brunch at Eastside Cafe, courtesy her dad, and I should really drive to campus in this nasty weather and spend the rest of the day logging footage. Thankfully, I also need to read a novel for my history class, which is much easier to do while curled up in a warm bed.

Peace Corps year 1

(here) it goes…

Welcome to my redesigned, relocated weblog/website. I offer it to you today in the midst of change and excitement and endings and beginnings.

For starters, a month ago today I began overhauling and the blog, which I’ve shifted from Blogger/Blogspot to MT/ Many thanks to Bryan and Ali for their help with this. Also, R.I.P. showcat, though I hope to keep it online for archival purposes, at least until Blogger decides to squoosh it.

Webdesign proved maddening enough to adequately distract me from thesis work for a while. However, seeing as how exactly a month from now I’ll have finished with college classes and have less than 24 hours to turn in my thesis, I figure it’s time to kick this thing out into the world and, I don’t know, start editing some video. All the same, expect a rant or two about CSS and div’s and browsers to come eventually. Design was a bitch.

Other reasons why the switch today? This morning I flew back from spring visit weekend at UC-Berkeley (my photos and Leslie’s), a few surreal days in which I fell even more madly in love with the city, the school, the program, the faculty/staff/students, the trees, the sky, the public transportation, etc., etc…. and then this afternoon I called the Peace Corps offices in DC to officially accept my invitation to Senegal.

And the butterflies in my stomach right now are only the ones that flutter around a momentous decision, not those of doubt or regret. It was strange—I was walking through the Berkeley campus feeling utterly at home, yet even in the golden sunlight coming through the storybook trees, I knew that I wanted to go to Africa in September.

And I do. Berkeley’s J-school was amazing, and after this weekend I’m absolutely certain that I want to study there—eventually. But right now I want the adventure and the challenge of two years far, far from home.

After reading more and talking with more people, I can imagine staging in the US. I can imagine arriving in Dakar and stepping off the plane. I can imagine the bus ride to training in Thies. Struggling with French, learning a completely new African language. Meeting my host family and sitting down to my first meal with them. I can even almost picture my first night alone at my assignment (the night of my 23rd birthday, according to the schedule that arrived with my invitation packet). After that, it’s still hazy in my mind—daily routines, my job, being the only American for miles and miles around… but I want all of it, scary and exhilarating and whatever else it may prove to be.

So there. New site, new plans, blah blah blah. Onward.