Friday, November 21, 2008

Current Obsession: Abigail Washburn

... and The Sparrow Quartet.  But I love Ms. Washburn by herself, too!  I am currently playing "Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet" over and over, especially "Great Big Wall in China," and "Oh Me Oh My."  
I've been on a female folk/bluegrass kick for the past year, listening to "The Be Good Tanyas" (oh, my lovely ladies, when, oh, when are you going on tour!),  Patty Griffin, Gillian Welch, and the cracklin' girls of Lost Highway Records, Mary Gauthier and Lucinda Williams.  There's something about these ladies and their ramblin' that has really hit my heart for the last year... 
I discovered Abigail Washburn one night listening to NPR-- she is the only musician to tour Tibet with funds from the American Government, and the only American featured on the Beijing Olympics Soundtrack.  Not like the Olympics were anything heartful or humane, but Abigail Washburn is.  She began her music career when studying abroad in China, sitting and watching Chinese dancers.  She wanted to feel a connection to the culture of America that strong-- so she picked up the banjo.  Her music is haunting, and winsome, and intelligent and sexy and imaginative, and fun and dark.  All of it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gay Rights are Human Rights

After Election Day, I was elated.  It honestly felt like the whole United States was celebrating.  Ebullient (hee, hee-- GRE, get outta my brain!).  But the celebration was tempered by the passing of Prop 8 for me (and many, many others-- nearly half of the California population).  I am very pro-gay rights (pro-human rights), but I'd like to think that even if my morals or religion took me in another direction, I would recognize Prop 8 as denial of civil rights, as guaranteed by the good ol' contested Constitution.  In the weeks following, we have seen protests, boycotts, and sit-ins-- and I hope this continues until UNIVERSALLY one person enjoys the same rights as another.  Which brings me to two actions: the first, a boycott of businesses that financially supported Prop 8; the second, Day Without a Gay.
This list is a list of companies and organizations that supported Prop 8 financially or endorsed Prop 8 through media or other methods; while there aren't too many in Fresno, I believe that knowing who is an ally, and whose businesses to not support, as they do not support my beliefs, is important.  Randomly, my childhood dentist is on this list-- I actually stopped attending his practice because he was a frightening dentist-- he had the shakes like crazy, which is not at all good when somebody is scraping away at your teeth.  Check it out.
The second action is an action which has exciting possibilities: Day Without a Gay.  Much like the economic protests of 2006 which called for all immigrant and immigrant-rights supporters to refrain from any purchases, Day Without a Gay asks for all people who support Gay Rights to take the day off of work, dedicate the day to service, and not make any purchases, to show the impact of those of us out there who did not support Prop 8, who believe that any loving family should be able to welcome a child into their home, and that denying ANY right due to sexual preference-- like race, gender, religion, or ethnicity-- is illegal and unfair.  By taking a step further and calling for a donation of time to a deserving non
-profit or other activist group, DWAG is showing that it is love, community betterment, and social justice that motivates the community--  not discrimination and hate.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My First Blog Swap EVAH!

I am so excited about this, I had to post right away-- as opposed to studying math for the GRE (see post below).  I know, what sacrifices I make.  I originally started my blog for three reasons:

1.  Because I was so totally inspired by the wonderful Sarah P. and her blogging over at Sarah Said
2.  Because I wanted to sort of chronicle the huge changes in my life recently
3.  Because I am a crafty, crafty girl, and I love reading other's marvelous craft blogs, especially after reading Knitalong: Celebrating the Tradition of Knitting Together. I loved how Larissa Brown used her blog to initiate beautiful swaps of knitterly goods!

I have really been slacking on the crafty part of the blog, though-- I have actually finished several knit objects (including a pair of striped glow-in-the-dark fingerless gloves-- hells yes), refinished a rocking chair, and made an awesome cover for this totally nerdy photo album I bought at a thrift store for $2.99!  I have pictures of all this goodness on my camera, but haven't yet blogged about it.  Just wait 'til this GRE/Grad School application stuff is out of the way.  Then I'll be non-stop!
Anyway.  The exciting thing is-- Sarah of the previously mentioned Sarah Said, and Talia, of Rejoicings and Ramblings have created a Scarf Swap called, "Girl, Get Your Scarf On!"  I'm all over it.  I am going to hand-knit it, but I won't share any secrets about it so I won't spoil the surprise for whomever I get to send it off to!  YAY!  My excitement is boiling over.  Go to either Talia or Sarah's blog to sign up, and find all the details!  The scarves totally don't have to be handknit, either, so if you're not feeling the fiber, it's OK.  Let's all get cute and cozy, scarf style.

Me and My Buddy Math

Math isn't really my buddy.  Math is like that kid in elementary school who you think is really cool, and you get excited when they invite you to their birthday party at the rolling rink, and they are nice and all, but when it's time for partner skating, Math is somebody else's partner.  You're OK with it-- I mean, you aren't Math's best friend or anything.  It would just be nice to be really good friends with Math, 'cause she seems pretty neat.  But you just don't have that much in common, so it's best not to force it.
Reading, writing, vocabulary.  Sentence and paragraph comprehension.  We're best friends.  Verbal and I have gotten down and dirty with it all my life.  In third grade, I got in trouble for reading ahead in the CAT-5 testing book to the vocab section when I was supposed to be doing the geometry section.  We even fight-- should language be prescriptive or descriptive?  I love my canon (oh, Jane Austen!), but I want space for everybody else.  Is Shakespeare really all he's cracked up to be (current opinion-- yes.  This changes almost annually).  But Verbal got me scholarships.  Verbal got me grants.  We're very close, Verbal and I.
It's not that I hate math-- I think it's endlessly fascinating, and when combined with theory, an incredibly gorgeous art form.  I have a friend who talks about math and physics like it's the one true religion, and when he talks about it, I sometimes think it is.  But all the respect in the world for math isn't going to get me a score above 600 on the GRE.  
The thing is, it's seventh and eighth grade math (supposedly).  I have freakin' taught seventh and eighth grade math!  So why can't I score above a 510 on any of the practice tests?  I've been studying like a fiend (which has brought my score up from a dismal 410), with The Princeton Review's Cracking the GRE.  I highly recommend it.  Also, working with math teachers helps, too-- I've brought several concepts to work, and the lovely ladies have stayed after or on their breaks from students to help me factor exponents and figure out the formulas for percentage increases and decreases.  I feel more confident now then when I got that 410, but I'm still really stinkin' nervous.  
So tomorrow is the big day-- eight in the morning, and no coffee allowed.  All I want is a score in the low 600's.  Verbal will be my skating buddy... I just want Math to come to the party and eat some cake.  

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Cost of an Education

I registered for my GRE a few days ago, and it was $140.00 for the computer-based test.  I am applying to three schools, and the average application fee is $50.00.  Since none of them are in the same university system, I can't pay one application fee, so that's another $150.00.  So far, including the postage for mailing what isn't covered by the online application (letters of recommendation, transcripts), the cost of applying alone is over $300.00.  That doesn't even cover any of my tuition or fees.  Now, I recognize that I am applying to three distinguished and somewhat competitive programs (although my field-- librarianship-- isn't that competitive, compared to say, business, or medical or law school), in three of the most expensive cities in the United States (L.A., Seattle, and New York).  I did complete my undergrad work in another incredibly expensive city-- San Francisco-- which left me with a little chunk of student loans (though I was lucky enough to have several scholarships and grants, which offset the cost a little).  The minimum I will pay for my masters is $20,000, not including cost of living.  Getting educated is friggin' expensive!  And with the economy crumbling, options like federal student loans and private loans are getting harder and harder to secure-- especially for those with fair or poor credit, or large credit balances-- like undergrad student loans! It's a vicious cycle.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Why I Want Obama for President-- And Why I Won't Be Voting for Him

I want Obama to be President so much that I've almost been sick with anticipation for the past few days.  Once the polls are closed, and the votes are tallied, and the winner is announced, I know I'm gonna cry like crazy either way. But I'm not voting for Obama.  And here are a few reasons why:

  • I first heard of Barack Obama in January 2006, when I was twenty years old, and before there was anything but vague speculation amongst a few about this young Senator and a presidential bid.  I visited Washington, D.C., to discuss with a national panel of people brought together by College Summit (an amazing organization that brings together students who have the odds stacked against them to ever attend college) why students don't go to college, and how to address that in our specific communities.  I met a young man named Willie, who had worked on Barack's Senate Campaign.  We had dinner in Chinatown, and he told me about this person whom I couldn't believe was in politics-- his politics were so close to mine I couldn't believe that someone that left was ever elected on the national level.  Willie said he thought Obama might try for President in a few elections (who knew it would be the next one?).  I told Willie that was a candidate I could get behind, get really excited about.  But Willie's Obama, by the nature of campaigns and politics, has had to compromise on his progressivism, courting votes from the moderates.  I understand it-- it's the nature of elections.  But I was disappointed on hearing his position on Israel (which I don't think is genuine to the way he really feels).  On his supporting immunity for telecommunication companies that violated Constitutional Rights.  For being less vocal about the disenfranchised after securing the nomination-- women, people of color, the LGBT community.  For voting for a bail-out that looks more like Bush's Trickle Down than anything truly effective for the average citizen.   So I am not voting for Obama to remind him of his progressive, leftist roots.  I want him to know there are active voters and citizens that support his leftist policies, that want to hear more about "socialist" economic policies, who want a president willing to be a diplomat before a war-monger, and not be apologetic about it.  I want a real leftist president-- a person who is concerned with the power of the people.  I saw this in Willie's Obama-- and I want that Obama back once he's in office.

  • I live in California.  I can vote for yo momma, and it's not gonna make a difference.  If I was in a swing state, or even a state that was within ten poll points, my vote would be for Obama.  But as a California voter, I have a unique opportunity to support something I believe is very important for a truly representative democracy-- and that is a multi-party system.  If you listen to enough political pundits, you'll hear references to conservatives, neo-cons, moderates, left-to-center Democrats.  All of these labels attempt to define politician's platforms, votes, and actions on a nuanced spectrum of left-to-right.  What should be noted is if the politicians show this diversity, than the millions of constituents they serve will be even more diverse.  So why just two parties?  What America does that represent?  I want to vote for a candidate who most closely represents my beliefs, and I want a Congress that isn't regularly effectually gridlocked by party affiliations-- be it opposing parties leading the executive and legislative national government (like the last years of Bill Clinton), or a judicial system that can, with one appointee, make a decision that only represents roughly half of the nation.  With the effect of third parties in recent elections, I believe it is time Washington recognizes that people want more choices in their candidates.
Yet for all of the reasons above-- I believe that Obama is the best candidate.  I believe that no other candidate (in my short voting life of two presidential elections) has the chance to change America from the Imperialist, classcist nation it is.  I think no other candidate will open the possibilities to third parties carrying real weight in America, and no other candidate will consider the working and needful classes as Obama will.  But I also believe that to be that President, Obama needs citizens who expect nothing less from him, and support him every time he makes moves in these directions-- and to keep him (and all our other elected officials) accountable every time he doesn't follow through. 
We got approval from where I work to keep the election coverage going tomorrow, and Virginia and Pennsylvania's polls will close while I'm on, and with students all around me, I don't know how I'm going to handle it.  But I have hope for change, and hope for America.  And with my vote tomorrow, I have dissent-- the best tool a citizen has for getting that change.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Fake Flyers

After reading this Wired report about people posting fake flyers, I feel like it's just so important to point out the extreme significance of voting, and of being an informed voter, from the top of the ticket to county legislature.  People are serious about taking this right away, from local idiots like this, to voting systems that disenfranchise those that need to make their voices heard the most.  It's a cliche, but only because it's true-- people have been beaten and killed for our right to vote.  Not in the "hawk" sense that some people seem to like to throw around as a justification for war, but in the South in the fifties and the sixties.  All over America in the beginning of this century.
Follow the issues that are on the ballot.  Research each proposition outside of the biased and special-interest-funded TV and radio commercials.  Don't vote the way your friends and family do just because they're your friends and family.  If you're still not sure about where you stand on some issues, check out this broadcast from KPFA-- they are a progressive, independent media source, and while they do have a strong left slant, they present each prop as well-researched, and share points of view from those on the left that aren't in agreement on how to vote.  I found this especially helpful, as the brochures that are sent out the month before elections drive me crazy-- I just can't get over THE ALL CAPS GRAMMAR and TWENTY million exclamation POINTS whoever writes these things seem to think get THEIR POINT across BETTER!!!!!! 
I'm going to take some time tonight to sit down and fill out my sample ballot, from top to bottom, and to do further reading on some of the propositions I'm not decided on-- like 3, 11, and 12, and research the options for my local school board, and other non-partisan officials that I haven't heard all that much about.   This is probably one of the most exciting elections ever, and either way, it's going to be historical.
I'm excited.  Let's all go vote!