It's all about perspective

Archive for the ‘Journal’ Category

Updates, conferences, and vacations

It has been a while since my last post. I’ve been busy with school and frankly I had nothing to write about. I had meant to do some blogging while attended the Midwest Sociological Society’s annual conference the weekend of March 28th, but the hotel did not have free wifi and I refused to pay $10 per day to use what they had. It was the best time I’ve had in years.

I’ve gone to a couple of conferences before for the Student Government Association when I attended O.T.C., so the general format I was prepared for. It’s quite simple; people present their research for review to an audience. Sometimes it is under the umbrella of a theme and other times it stands by itself. What I was not prepared for was how open and willing to talk to me everyone was. It was an atmosphere thick with legitimately intelligent people who wanted to talk to other intelligent people about their passion. I was like a kid in a candy store. I talked to as many people as would talk to me and I had such great fun.

The highlight of the conference for me was twofold. First I attended a session titled: Research in American Indian Communities. First, a woman by the name of Susanna Carlson presented her paper about how “agents of the law have interacted with Native Americans in reproducing identity,” then Mrs. Carlene Sipma-Dysico presented research on “education and the juvenile system in South Dakota’s Indian country,” and finally, Dr M. Kayt Sunwood presented research on “culturally responsive curriculum in Alaska native schools and communities.” Fucking brilliant from beginning to end. This session just hit home for me and refocused my attentions. Ms. Carlson started discussing a historical view of how the image of the Indian has been formed through a semi-symbiotic relationship with authority, and then Mrs. Sipma-Dysico began speaking of how Indian children in public schools are treated with institutionalized racism and are being groomed into the Indians the whites want them to be, and finally Dr. Sunwood brought it all together by presenting the research she co-authored in Alaska about using Native cultural icons to help teach children the basic units of school. Take note that none of these women had planned this or collaborated on what they were going to present or how it was going to be presented; in fact there were supposed to be five presenters and two never showed up. But there it was: from the historical roots of the modern Indian as created by white dominance to the tree of institutionalized racist policies that grew from them and ending with research that showed a more than promising solution to the problem! Just writing it down almost two weeks after the fact gives me goosebumps. It was a very moving experience, but the second, and ultimate, highlight came when I was able to talk to one of the presenters from that session several hours later.

I went to another session, the last round of them that day, and saw Mrs. Sipma-Dysico walk in and sit in the back. The last presenter to this session had shown up late and had just started to talk when I saw Mrs. Sipma-Dysico head for the door. I knew seeing her was providence and so I excused myself from my companion and bolted after her. What followed was the most fascinating conversation I have ever had with another human being. I had wanted to talk to her about an idea for a paper I was working on to present next year, and since it was on the image of the Indian I thought she would be an invaluable source of information. Not only did we talk about my paper but we talked about everything else you aren’t supposed to talk about with a stranger: religion, sex, and politics. It was the best three hours of my life. Yeah, we sat outside the conference room on a rather uncomfortable bench for three hours laughing and talking about everything. My only regret was I never had a chance to see her again before my group had to leave.

More than ever I am confident in my choice to go on to grad school. I’m looking forward to the summer intersession when I am going to drive to the west coast to step foot on some of the schools I’m courting for my masters degree. The first week of June I’m going to Washington State University in Pullman, the University of Oregon in Eugene, and then Colorado State University in Fort Collins. It’s going to take me about 5 days of driving time and I’m giving myself around 7-ish just to account for whatever might happen. I’m really looking forward to it as the farthest west I’ve been is Salina, Kansas.

This is the route I’m planning on taking:

Eventually I will be able to append Dr. to my name. This makes me giggle internally because even if it takes me the maximum time, about 7 years, I will still get the degree before my ex-girlfriend does. I know that is horrible, and it isn’t the reason I’m going for the degree, but it will give me a small sense of satisfaction when I get to mail her letterhead from the institution I’m teaching at with Dr. appended to my name in the salutation. It is the small things in life that make me happy.


While driving home from my weekly visit with the family, I was listening to classical music on the radio and trying to fit together several of the sociological concepts I’ve been working with over the last few weeks when this phrase came to mind:

What if the reason we have faith, or believe in things we can not see, or need to escape into a fantasy world; is because we don’t want to take responsibility for our own self-development?

Before you call the mob, sharpen the pitchforks, and light the torches; allow me to explain.

I am a very firm believer in a simple truth. We messed up the message. We were not created in god’s image, god was created in ours. We took the best things about us, what we wanted to exemplify, and created an anthropomorphic deity that takes care of everything for us. In the history of mankind we have done it not once, not twice, but countless times. We created this god and then he “gave” us a specific set of rules that allow us into a paradise after all of this “suffering” on earth. Instead of dealing with the problems that arose to cause this suffering, we took the easy route and put all the responsibility for our “salvation” into the proverbial hands of god.

But think about what this world would be like if every single one of us took responsibility for our own self-development, for our own failings, and for our own arrogance? Instead of throwing our hands up and saying, “god has a plan,” we instead worked on solutions to problems, where would we be as a culture? Is this what blind faith leads us to?

I understand faith because regardless of what people may think of me, I do have faith. I have an extremely strong faith. It just doesn’t lie with religion. My faith does not allow me to fall into a trap wherein I find myself in a situation that looks for answers from some figurehead that has never talked to his people or actually solved any problem. Where every solution to every problem has failed the test of time.

The argument needs more work, but I have faith that it holds more than just a ring of truth to it. Perhaps the greatest achievement of god’s so-called “plan” is the realization that we don’t need it and never did. Perhaps we just need to own up to our own potential.

A Montague’s Woe

I am currently sitting at the Mudd Lounge drinking a Bogtrotter (a delectable combination of Guinness and espresso) and doing my homework. Reading through my sociological theory book on the chapter regarding Max Weber. I decided to take a break to start work on actually writing down my responses to the questions assigned me for the class and found that I have wireless connectivity here, woohoo!

I’ve been thinking about something in the back of my head ever since I got here over an hour ago; how in the hell can I get any meaningful studying done in a place such as this? Oddly enough though, I find I actually study better in a loud and semi-crowded environment. This place is hopping right now too. There is a D.J. up by the door spinning some great groove tracks and there are friends talking, laughing, and generally enjoying themselves all over the place. Is it possible that I have an easier time studying about the underpinnings of sociological theory when in the social world? I am a student of society. I’ve decided to make it my career, my life’s work, what better reason could there be?

If any of my previous posts have been read you’ll know I’ve been in a funk since pretty much the beginning of February. But somehow when I sat down here in the corner where the black and white tri-fold wall decoration sits and began reading and watching everyone, my funk has slowly been ebbing, washed away or at least partially muted up by my work. Do I dare let my work consume me? Is the answer to some of my problems merely to give my heart and body over to the work that already consumes my soul? I want so much for the answer to leap out at me and say something, but I fear that is a pipe dream.

I love school and my studies, it is the one mistress I could never leave, and woe to the significant other that asks me to. Yet this funk, this streak of procrastination, this whatever it is has paralyzed me to an extent. I have been unable to keep up with my studies instead letting it sit for another day. Two weeks I have let work and readings pile up. Speaking of which, what the hell am I still doing here?

Hell is in my mouth

I have been slowly getting some dental work done over the last several months. To date I’ve had: a root canal and temporary crown put on, two fillings, and six teeth removed. I have to admit the root canal wasn’t really as bad as the rumors say. It did feel weird for my dentist to insert the files into the deadened root canals and start tapping them against my skull. I’ve never had to force myself not to vomit so hard in my life. I could feel it, it didn’t hurt, but I could feel the tips of those tiny files tap, tap, tapping away at my skull. All the while the brain is going, “this should hurt and I’m far too confused that it doesn’t so I’m going to flip out now, ok.”

But what has been the worst experience by far has been the extractions. I’ve had three wisdom teeth removed and the molars in front of them removed as well. I didn’t have enough room in my head for the wisdom teeth and when they came through, it was at an angle. They really screwed with the molars in front of them and so everything started to decay because of them. I had the first wisdom tooth/molar combination pulled years ago due to the pain, but nothing bothered me up until about six months ago. Now I’ve had dry socket, not once, but twice!

For those of you who don’t know what dry socket is, let me enlighten you. When a tooth is pulled it leaves a hole in your gums that leads strait down to your jaw and the exposed nerves. Normally, this socket fills with blood, forms a scab, and begins the healing process. Sometimes though, when you smoke, when you spit especially hard, or when you don’t keep the area clean enough, the scab process gets screwed up and a dry socket can occur. What this means is that there is no protection or covering for your little nerve ending and sweet baby jeezus does it hurt like hell.

I had the last two teeth pulled last thursday and went to the dentist today about some minor pain I was having. Since I had gone through this on the last round I figured I wasn’t going to screw around. Now that whatever particles were in there have been flushed out it hurts worse, but I guess it beat having an infection in there. From what I’ve been told that is a fate nearly as bad as inquisition torture. It is a persistent dull ache that feels very much like needles are being scraped along my jaw bone while iodine is being slowly poured over the wounds. It hurts clear up into my ear and gives me headaches that can take me to my knees if I don’t keep ahead of the pain with lots of ibuprofen.

Hell, I have found thee and thy name is dry socket.

Stuff has a story

At least, that is what Annie Leonard says from the documentary video “The Story of Stuff.” You can watch it at Never before have I seen the process of consumerism brought under the magnifying glass like this has. From where the raw materials come from to where they eventually go to; this movie walks the viewer step by step through it all. No matter your level of education about this issue, no matter your social or economic status, you should watch this film.

We all know: from the lowest-paid worker in the overexploited nations to the meagerly-paid blue collar American, that there is something wrong, we just can’t seem to all put our fingers on it or wrap our collective heads around it. Annie Leonard helps put some of the pieces together.

One of the interesting concepts she brings up is “externalized cost.” As she explains on the website: “[…] the price tags on consumer products don’t capture the true cost of producing and distributing all this stuff.” In the big box stores, or in any stores for that matter, when consumers want a product sold to them cheaper the store only has a few options to them. They can either: take a cut in profits (highly unlikely), buy it cheaper (more likely), cut their cost in the item, or not care what you think. The problem comes in when the store chooses option two or three. To cut their cost in the item, or rather, their cost of storing and staffing the store house, they have to cut pay or benefits. Failing to meet the customer’s price at that point, they will buy it cheaper. This results in the same problem as before; too many people get their wages or benefits cut just so the consumers can have something they didn’t need in the first place cheaper. By putting the excess cost of the items on the actual people that produce the goods, distributors and manufacturer can enjoy the same amount of profit and still provide consumers with the lowest price.

This has to end. And only the consumers can end it. We are the ones who create the demand. We are the ones who settle for products that will not last longer than a few weeks. We are the ones who are turning a blind eye to the injustices visited upon our planet, our fellow people, and ourselves.

Visit and get educated on what we are doing to the planet, our friends, and ourselves.

It is time to ensure the continued story of our planet.


It is, as the title says, 3am. I point this out not because that is the time where I am, but because I am awake to see said time. I am having one of my many sleepless nights. Where the mind is racing in all manner of directions while the body is trying to tell it to shut up and go to sleep.

I am exhausted, but alas, sleep is not on the menu tonight. Or is it this morning?

I have several things floating around the gray matter tonight, and perhaps I should share them with my electronic friend since I haven’t been able to articulate them to my living friends. My monitor’s warm silhouette has kept me company on many a lonely night, and tonight is no exception. Which leads me to my first bit of soul-baring; I am a coward. This, to me, is a rather recent realization. Having always been the one to step up and take charge when necessary, the thought that I might be a coward never occurred to me. I have always been afraid of different things, but most of them I have either conquered or have enough of a respect for them that I know my limitations. For instance, I have a terrible fear of heights, but I have climbed to the top of a three story house and survived to tell the tale. I also have a similar fear of drowning, but I know how to swim. When we are faced with obstacles that create fear within us, it is our ability to overcome those fears or move on in spite of them that makes us leaders, but it is when we can not do these things that we know we are cowards. I have come face to face with the cold hard reality that I am a coward. Even if it is only temporary and amounts to nothing more than a momentary speed bump on my road through life, this realization has given me pause.

Thankfully, my dear e-journal, I do not have to listen to or see the groan when I divulge what ails me. The fear that I have thus far run away from every time I am confronted with it, is women. I am an absolute coward with women, and I have told people as much, but never before have I felt like a coward until the other night. I invited this woman I know out to a birthday part for my roommate. I’m not going to go so far as to say that I am smitten with this woman, but I find her funny, attractive, and intelligent (I am always attracted to this combination). So I would like to take her out on a date; nothing more or less. This is normally when I get the groan, everyone tells me to just say something, and while I understand how easy that sounds I just can’t bring myself to do it. The words will not form, my vocabulary goes on vacation, and my mouth goes on strike. She is already a friend and so I am comfortable enough around her, but every time I think of putting her in the role of “a date” my confidence falls apart completely.

Bless my friends, I love every one of them, but their prodding, albeit gentle, did not help the matter. I just don’t have the confidence to do it, and at this stage of my life I don’t know if I ever will. And this, this my electronic friend, is what depresses and angers me the most. I start thinking that I will never get over this, or that I will never get past it, and start feeling sorry for myself, but then I just get angry at myself for throwing the pity party to begin with. I am a grown man and I shouldn’t be doing this to myself. Yet there it is. My real greatest fear is that I will never have the family I want so badly. That I am going to grow old with only a couple of friends and maybe my nephew to keep me company. No wife to laugh at me when I lose my glasses on my head. No children to pass on the family name and heritage to. I am frightened that my life will be devoted to work, married to research and learning, and my only children being the papers I write and the students I teach.

I can’t be the only one like this, I just wish whoever it was would get over that one fear; telling others. So I can at last get the feeling that I’m not alone. Do not let your fears run your life. It is sad and very lonely existence. When I wake up I will have replaced the masks and locked all of this back up behind them, but right now, at 3am, I am sad and I am lonely.

Good night, maybe morning…

Non-traditionality sucks

The singular issue I have with being 29 and still in college: everyone is younger than me. I have so very few people to relate to in college because of this. Anyone that is even remotely close to my own age is about to graduate and go on with their lives. I get invited to parties and they are nothing but drunken frivolities that I want nothing to do with. I’ve outgrown those lecherous alcoholic desires. I like the occasional beer now and then, but the thought of hanging out with several people in the 21-22 range just does not sound like fun to me. I remember what I was like 8 years ago, and I know these people would not have liked me then. Gah!

I guess this next semester I am going to further socially segregate myself by going to night school. As much as I dearly love the atmosphere at Drury’s day program, it is far too expensive for me to continue, and so I’m shipping of to night school. I’m not really looking forward to it, as one of my required classes wasn’t offered in a classroom setting so I have to take it online.

Being labeled as non-traditional sucks so much. You are expected to be able to do everything that the 18-22 crowd does at their pace and sometimes above their level because of your age and experience. It is really just annoying and I’m quite tired of the ageism within the system. Perhaps at night school I’ll be treated like the adult I am, rather than the child they expect me to be.


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