Friday, December 12, 2008

60 Years of Universal Human Rights

Where after all do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home, so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world, yet they are the world of the individual person. Such are the places, where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, and equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world. -Eleanor Roosevelt

December 10th was the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Prior to this document there were concepts of human rights, but any protections of them were confined to individual governments. This document created a standard and a universality that wasn't there before.

The first time I read this declaration was at the beginning of the law and ethics course in my Master's program. I could not think of a better way to start that class, but I was struck by the fact that I had never seen it before. As I read through it, I felt like it was one of those documents that I should have encountered in middle school as I was memorizing the preamble. If you have not had the opportunity to read this document, I submit that there is not better occasion than now. Celebrate the anniversary by taking a moment to read it again or for the first time.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

If you have access to students who need a catalyst for discussing their rights and responsibilities as humans, the UN has some additional resources that you might find useful.

Monday, December 01, 2008

I didn't know... did you?

I found the rates of new information being created really inspiring. That means it hasn't all been said or done. There's more potential now than ever.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Executive Compensation

Writer's Note: During my Master's program, I had planned on posting the papers I wrote and some of my smaller writing assignments. I posted a few, but then stopped. The reason I stopped is because the phrase 'guided reflection' became the number one key word for hits on my sight. The written assignments for my counseling courses were called guided reflections. Worried about plagiarism and academic dishonesty, I decided to stop posting my work. I have decided to post one of my older papers today because I don't feel I am at the same risk of plagiarism accusations as I was at the time. This is my work and it is not to be copied or used by anyone else without proper referencing.

Every year the Chronicle surveys universities about their salaries. This year's survey was released last weekend. It is always an interesting set of information to look at. Last year they had a full pull out from the paper discussing executive compensation and some of the scandal that was exposed over the past couple years. I decided to do more research and discuss this topic further in a paper for my budgeting class. When I looked for the paper on my blog so I could link it to you, I realized that haven't posted it here, so I am including it in this post for those of you that are interested. Near the end of my paper I discuss what I saw as a major difference between CEOs and university presidents: altruism. I was happy to see that in these financial difficulties, when students are more worried than normal about how they'll pay for next semester, president's are giving back. I like seeing these presidents doing the right thing. Especially when we can't trust the CEOs will do as well.



Executive Compensation
(written November 2007)

During a 2006 presentation at Idaho State University, Barbara Ehrenreich stated that the ratio between the wages of worker and CEOs in America is 400:1. This means that the annual salaries for 400 employees could be paid with the money spent on one CEO salary. If we carry that line of thinking through, the ratio of student tuition to president salary at the universities is not quite as striking, but it is still upsetting. At the University of Delaware, David P. Roselle makes enough as the highest paid leader of a public university to fund 60 students to take classes and live on campus at his own university. At Wilmington College, Audrey K. Doberstein, Mr. Roselle’s private institution counterpart, could pay tuition for 106 students with her salary. Universities are drawing a lot of attention for the amounts they are willing to give their leaders. The parallels between presidents and CEOs are becoming more direct and both educators and the public are put off by it.

The cost for colleges and universities to provide education is increasing every year. The Collage Board attributes the increases above inflation to health benefits and rising utility costs. (Kelly) In addition to these growing costs, higher education has seen huge cuts in state funding in the past decade. “Higher education continues to receive fewer dollars than it has been getting as of the 2001-2 fiscal year.” (Schmidt) These strains have resulted in tuition continuing to increase at rates higher than inflation. These raises are even happening where the states is trying to keep costs of public schools down. For example, in Virginia funding for higher education was increased 5.3 percent, “in hopes of holding tuition down,” but their schools still had an average 6.8 percent tuition increase. (Smith) They were not able to off set the increase because Virginia schools are still struggling from the 22 percent decrease they saw during the 2002-4 appropriations. Staff with tightening budgets, students who are taking out loans, parents who can no longer afford their students’ tuition, state lawmakers who have to justify appropriations are all taking a closer look at how higher education is spending its money. No one has attributed the rising cost of education to the rising costs of presidents, but many people are muttering suspicions under their breath. They all want explanations for the money going to pay the administration.

There are three major problems that immerge in the discussion of Executive compensation. The first is abuse of power. Benjamin Ladner resigned from his position as president of American University in Washington in 2005. His resignation was preceded by an anonymous letter to the board of trustees and an audit of his travel and personal expenses. “The investigation found that Ladner’s alleged expenses included an engagement party for his son, trips for the couple’s chef, drivers’ costs and alcohol purchases.” (Green) In the end, the university asked Mr. Ladner to repay $125,000 in expenses and $398,000 in taxes on income he earned between 2002 and 2005. This money was taken out of his severance package which was a one time payment of $950,000, $2.75 million in deferred compensation, and up to $20,000 in relocation reimbursement. This arrangement didn’t appease either side of the argument. “Although some observers were surprised that Mr. Ladner accepted what appears to be a relatively small severance package, his critics were not placated.” (Fain)

A more recent example took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma this year. Richard L. Roberts, the president of Oral Roberts University, has been accused of backing a mayoral candidate and spending university funds on a stable of horses, a senior break trip to Florida for his daughter and her friends, and scholarships for the friends of their children that were neither need nor merit based. The university is now facing a lawsuit from several faculty members who claim they were fired or forced to resign in the process of covering these wrongdoings up. (Gravois) Since these accusations arouse, the president has resigned despite the university founder’s insistence that he would return. The university has also decided to separate from the evangelical organization that Mr. Roberts is still overseeing. Both of these examples have dealt with private schools. Public institutions are being affected by the increasing costs of presidents in a different way.

Between 1987 and 2002, the University of Iowa lost three presidents. The fourth left in 2006 after being with the university for only three years. Since 1990, both Iowa State and the University of Northern Iowa have lost two presidents. This exodus of the Hawkeye State comes back to the bottom line. These presidents were all offered better paying jobs at different universities. According to Raymond D. Cotton, a lawyer who deals in university contracts and compensation, “Presidential-search consultants look at Iowa as fertile recruiting ground because it grows good leaders who are paid relatively low salaries.” (Shuppy) The Iowa system is complex, and university boards are willing to pay for someone who has been successful there. Not all public systems are facing the problem of private schools tempting away their administrators, but in Iowa, it has gotten to the point that even the faculty are demanding better pay for their university presidents. Unfortunately, increasing state appropriations to fund better pay is not a decision the board or the faculty senate can make. For now, Iowa will continue to take the recruiting of their presidents as a compliment, and try to find a way to fund competitive salary without state support.

The final problem that large pay for university presidents is more theoretical and less clear cut than the first two. This is the problem of the corporatization of education. The management, leadership, communication, organizational, and other skills required to be a successful president of a university are directly comparable to the CEO of any business. The problem with this correlation is that there is a certain amount of altruism to higher education, especially at public institutions. Leaders with these skills have always been capable of working in the private sector, but they have chosen education because of nonmonetary goals and values. Roger Bowen, a former university president in New York, spoke directly to this when he said, “Universities do not exist to make money but to educate our students and citizens, a role that is central to our democratic society. We send the wrong message when we transmogrify our campus president into C.E.O.’s.” (Dillon) In education, our primary focus is the success of the student not the bottom line. We certainly have to care about our finances to be successful, but if we switch around those priorities we will fail at our mission. As university presidents are stepping into the spotlight and proving that they are worth every penny, they are leaving behind the rest of education. Faculty members could be writers and public speakers, superintendents and high school principles could be working in upper level management in the private sector. Instead, they are working in education, despite society’s inability to compensate them as much as we would like.

Can we force the altruism of education to stay? Iowa cannot. They are keeping their executive compensation low out of financial restriction as opposed to policy, but they are not getting legislative support either. The California school system was involved in a large scandal about illegal pay practices, and in response, the Board Regents is going through the system and increasing oversight. The system’s president, Robert C. Dynes, is putting in place new policies for pay, recruiting, and disclosure practices. Their new policies include several new staff members in the president’s office that will oversee spending, increased involvement with the board during hiring, more transparency on all aspects of compensation, and even a rule that the administrative position must be offered to at least 3 candidates to give the university more power in salary negotiation. Mr. Dynes has publicly said that they are paying under competitions, and they will continue to do so and focus on their other strengths as a place of employment. By having these policies in place, future candidates will know what the limitations of compensation are in the California system and will be applying with those expectations. Those expectations are not going to work as well for everyone as Dynes is expecting them to work for California. For example, presidents being hired in Iowa at low salaries will likely be expecting to gain a tremendous insight and experience before being recruited by a large research university. There is the possibility that if more universities adopt similar policies it could drive executive compensation back down or hold it where it is at for a while. It is doubtful that the private institutions will implement these types of policies, but a level playing field for the public schools with help keep some of that strain off the taxpayers.

My opinions on this topic are difficult to nail down because I don’t find myself at either end of the spectrum. I believe that the abuse of power issues that are being uncovered at individual universities are strongly rooted in this executive compensation issue for two reasons. The first is a lack of trust. When looking at the compensation packages of presidents across the nation, something that struck me was the variety of ways that compensation was awarded. In my husband’s current position we consider his room and board part of his compensation, and in the positions we are looking at as we job hunt, we consider benefits packages as part of what we will be receiving, but the presidents’ packages seem much more elaborate. Few of them place value on the residence that they are expected to live in, or the vehicles that come with the position. They do however have regular bonuses, payments to trusts, insurance plans that pay out when they leave. When all of these things come out to the public and add up to much more than what is being claimed as salary, it seems sneaky. As more of these stories are uncovered, people become much more comfortable as skeptics. So, even if the administrator is only receiving what was part of the contract and taxes are being paid on all income, watching all these different sources of money pool together for a final number is disconcerting. It reminds people of the scandals that have recently been uncovered in the private sector, and it fuels an environment of distrust and accusations.

On the other side of the coin, I think that in many of these cases, we are over-compensating the presidents. I don’t mean this in a hindsight observation that since they are so unethical, they clearly did not deserve the amount they were being paid. Rather, I feel that working so hard to give them a great package can give them an inflated sense of importance. They feel more irreplaceable so they do not mind abusing their situation and do not expect much in consequences. I do not mean it quite as malicious as it sounds. I am not trying to accuse them of villainously plotting to extort money, but I think that there is a sense of security there that allows rules to be bent. Unfortunately, that sense of security is not necessarily unjustified. In appearances, boards are clamoring to get the talent of some of these leaders and the position they are filling may not have any or enough oversight of how funds are spent. It is easy to see how these abuses can happen.

I find the issue facing Iowa the most frustrating. It is my understanding that the funding discrepancy between public and private schools has been around longer than this current fight for presidents. The new issue is a combination of the number of schools willing and able to bid higher than before, and just the elevated amount that is required as a starting bid. The reason this is frustrating is because there is no go-out-and-fix-it answer. As long as there are enough institutions willing to compete monetarily for quality leaders, the individual college does not have the luxury to say it is exorbitant. They are too caught up in day to day issues of not being able to keep or recruit quality leadership. I think that the California system is on the right track, but they are in a uniquely supported situation. The most obvious example of this is the current ad campaign to come live and work in California. It is much easier for them to say they are going to rely more heavily on the inherent benefits of the area when someone else is already selling those benefits to perspective employees. A sudden confidence in the state is not going to be enough for the Iowa system.

Here is where my opinions on the last two problems start to blur together. What Iowa could really use is a field wide rededication to the altruism that used to be here. Unfortunately, you cannot force altruism on people. Altruism is the term that was used in the anti-corporatization articles, and I’m still not convinced that it is the right term. It conveys the meaning that we should want to be in education to teach not to make money, but I am not sure that is the feeling people had prior to just wanting the money. Growing up, the adults in my life gave me the sense that state jobs did not pay well, but the benefits were worth it. I cannot cite it or prove to you that it was the case, but it was how the people around me felt. They did not want to deliver mail because of the good it would do or the joy they would bring people. They wanted dental and health care. Granted, these positions are not comparable to a university president, but they may be an indicator that the problem is not a lack of altruism but rather an ability to buy better benefits.

Pursuing better government health care is a completely different topic, and I do recommend that universities fight that battle with the purpose of fixing executive compensation. I think that higher education should stop looking toward corporations to make changes and start looking toward non-profit organizations. Organizations like the Red Cross, Heifer International, The Salvation Army, and Sesame Workshop have the same leadership needs that we do. Their leaders deserve compensation for their skills just as much as ours do. The difference is their obligation to donors to make sure a minimum amount of each dollar given goes to supporting the organization. They probably have a lot they could teach us about creating a reasonable benefits package as well as recruiting talent that could be making a lot of money at for-profit corporations.


References

Dillon, S. (2004, November 15). Ivory Tower Executive Suite Gets C.E.O.-Level Salaries. Interesting-People. Retrieved November 2006, from http://www.interesting-people.org/archives/interesting-people/200411/msg00194.html

Fain, P. (2005, October). President of American University Resigns, Winning a $950,000 Settlement. The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Retrieved October 15, 2007, from http://philanthropy.com/free/update/2005/10/2005102501.htm.

Fain, P. (2006, November 24). Q&A: The University of California’s Leader Responds to Media Scrutiny on Pay. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Special Section: Executive Compensation Volume 53, Issue 14, PgB10.

Gravois, J. (2007, October 3). 3 Former Professors Sue Oral Roberts U., Alleging Political and Ethical Misconduct at High Levels. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved October 15, 2007, from http://chronicle.com/daily/2007/10/2007/100303n.htm

Green, L. (2005, October 26). American University President Resigns Following Investigation. A United Methodist News Service Report. Retrieved November 2006.

Huckabee, C. (2007, November 27). Businessman Promises $70-million to Oral Roberts U. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved November 27, 2007 from http://chronicle.com/news/article/3502/businessman-promises-70-million-to-oral-roberts-u

Kelly, R. (2005, October 18). College Costs Going Nowhere But Up. CNN Money.com. Retrieved October 15, 2007, from http://money.cnn.com/2005/10/17/pf/college/

college_costs/index.htm.

Montoya, V. (2006, June 5). Getting Compensation Under Control. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved October 15, 2007, from http://insidehighered.com/views/2006/06/05/montoya.

Schmidt, K. (2006, December 15). State Funds for Colleges Continue to Rebound. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved October 15, 2007, from http://chronicle.com/weekly/v53/i17/17a00101.htm.

Shuppy, A. (2006, November 24). Brain Drain in Iowa: State board studies how to keep its college presidents for longer stints. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved November 2006 from http://chronicle.com/weekly/v53/il4/14b01101.htm

Smith, L. (2007, October 5). Many Public Colleges Have Raised Tuition Despite Increases in State Support. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved October 15, 2007, from http://chronicle.com/weekly/v54/i06/06a02002.htm.

(2006, November 24). The Million-Dollar President, Soon to Be Commonplace? The Chronicle of Higher Education. Special Section: Executive Compensation Volume 53, Issue 14, PgB3.

Staff Reports (2007, October 23). ORU Founder Returns to Defend School. Tulsa World. Retrieved October 25, 2007 from http://www.tulsaworld.com/common.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

CNN Tech

Without the constant stimulation of grad school and academic discussions, it has been easy for me to let this blog and its semi strict topic standards be neglected. Now my ideas are more like fleeting bursts that come and go with each article that I read and less like the hashed out opinions that came from discussing these ideas with other students and coworkers. It is my hope that my next job will give me that stimulation again and I will once again be offering my opinion on all sorts of things. In the meantime, I've been more about my personal life at a different location. I don't keep it out of this blog because I think it is less important or worthy of readership; it is just targeted for a different audience.

That said, last night was nothing if not stimulating. There are a lot of things worthy of discussion, and there are plenty of pundits, analysts, and professional bloggers to tell you about them. I want to talk about the technology CNN used in the coverage of this election. There were two extremely different uses of technology that really struck me.

First, the technology that they wanted to strike me. Early in the evening they spoke with a corespondent who was in Chicago by "beaming" her in and creating a hologram of her in the election center. Here is a video of that.

They want me to be struck by how exciting and new this is. A scifi staple is now reality for reporters on location. Instead, I was struck by how inappropriate the technology was for this use. They said it was great to have because they could now hear the reporter with out the crowds, and that was partially confirmed by the fact that the reporter in the crowd was inaudible. What they really needed was just a quite space to shoot from. This was technology to the point of distraction. When you ask everyone using the technology how it feels (to be "beamed" in) than the technology is the story. It was novel and exciting (to the point of cheesy) so it deserved to be the story. On principle though, I am disappointed in this poor use of technology and the pretenses that they were covering the election. I can't fault CNN too much though. It was early in the evening, the polls hadn't closed. Projections couldn't be made and there was nothing for the analysts to discuss. They needed a distraction.

What I did find remarkable was Mr. King and his SmartBoard. I didn't find any video of him, but here is some of the information that he was using it to share. The SmartBoard wasn't what excited me, it was Mr. King's flawless use of it and the incredible planning for the information they had available to him. There were constant updates of the votes coming in which he used to compare states and counties to both the primaries and previous elections. He outlined geographic regions that the candidates were specifically interested in. He zoomed in and out and drew on it, and did all the cool stuff that SmartBoards can do, yet there was never a nod to the technology. It was as natural as pulling out a road map to give directions. It was seamless, and that is why it was perfect. Technology is at its peak when it seems the obvious and only option. It is because he never said anything like "and look at what else I can do with this" that I was so impressed with it. As an educator, I was giddy to see those capabilities being shown off so effortlessly by someone who is not trying to sell me the product.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Difference Between Me and You

The time has come again for the Beloit Mindset List. As Tom McBride shares the givens of the class of 2012 he points out their relationship with Harry Potter, Pearl Jam, Haagen-Daz, and Seinfeld. While not technically by dates, but in my experience of the world, I still have a few things in common with this incoming class.

I have always been looking for Carmen Sandiago.
I have felt that some people just don't get it.
Macauly Culkin has always been Home Alone.
The Green Bay Packers had the same starting quarterback for as long as I've been watching. (And now he's come to New York so I can still see him play and cheer for the 'home team.')


Unlike them:
I've seen Pee-Wee's Playhouse.
I remember the Rosanne Barr National Anthem, though I didn't care.
I saw the original The American Gladiators.
The only Iced Tea I had (before moving to Arkansas) was made by my grandmother and we called it Sun Tea.

How do you compare to the class of 2012?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Gotta Love 'Em

I just love hearing about people who care about the same things that I do and are doing an amazing job at what they do. I would like to share with you 826. It is a national organization that I heard about on NPR. The story talks about the The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company in Park Slope that not only offers your everyday crime fighting needs, but also hides the (not-so) secret entrance to 826NYC. Students who make it though the store and through the secret passage are in for a creative writing party. I recommend listening to the NPR story if you can because you'll get to hear the in the middle of developing their stories.

If inspiring creativity wasn't cool enough, I am stalking their events page because I want to be a part of some of their fund raisers. Now that I'm in the neighborhood, I don't plan on missing another game of Scrabble for Cheaters. 826 is in several large cities so keep your eyes open for Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co. in Seattle or The Boring Store (for all you spy needs) while you're in Chicago.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Four Things I Miss About Arkansas

To be fair I don't think these four are really specific to Arkansas, but rather the living situation Arkansas gave me. It would probably be more appropriate to call this the four things I miss most about my old home.

1. People -- Moving away meant leaving behind some incredible people. I have some great friends in Arkansas who don't compare to people that I have met anywhere else in the world. I regret that I didn't spend more time with them this past year, but imagine I'd have that regret no matter how much time we spent together.
I kind of want to make them their own number in this list, but they are people two so I suppose they belong here. I miss the triplets. It is a completely different kind of miss than the friends I left behind. I miss the adults, but I've moved a lot in my life, and experience has shown me that the important ones keep in touch. Friends don't have to disappear when they move away. In fact, last weekend I was in a wedding for a friend that I haven't lived near since high school. These kids are different though. I went to Branson and the zoo with them. We sat around the table and ate dinner together. I read them stories and tucked them in at night. I have a picture of them in my wallet because I talk about them so much I need the visual reference for people. I'm hooked on these kids, and I'm going to miss seeing them grow up. That is a lot harder than leaving a friend I talk to mostly over e-mail anyway.

2. Acquaintances -- This is less about specific people and more about friendships that my living situation allowed. There were people that I "lived with" on campus who I would only see once a month or so in passing. They are great people, and we probably would have been good friends, but we never really spent time together. Living on campus made that ok because we would still see each other and get the updates on one another's lives.

3. Conveniences -- I'll be the first to admit that I am living in a pretty convenient place. Restaurants open past nine, 24 hour pharmacies, cultural experiences at my fingertips, and public transportation to take me to all of it. There are some conveniences that you get only by living on campus. I'm going to miss working in the same building as the library. I am going to miss having the blood-mobile on the walk home every time I am eligible to donate. I am going to miss knowing what "restaurant" all of my friends are going to be eating at, and that I can catchup with them there sometime between 5 and 7. I am going to miss the posters and sidewalk drawings telling me what bands are nearby and who is doing the current food drive. I am going to miss having the ability to live, eat, work, and socialize all in the same place.

4. The Energy -- You could probably call it an aura, or personality, but I fed off of it like energy. Especially these past two years living in a freshman hall it was fantastic. August comes and the students are just bubbling over with the excitement of being there and the potential of the upcoming year. Finals come and the whole campus is calmer yet supportive. Living on a campus and being a student instantly creates a community where we all share stresses and deadlines. You may be working on a film and I may be finishing a research paper, but they all have to be done before the semester is over. We also all share the same new beginnings and renewed excitement. There is a distinct undulation to the amount and types of energy on campus that is fueled by the students and their shared experience. I already miss being a part of that as a student.

What do you love about where you live?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More Fours

Four things I have done since my last post:
1. I graduated from UCA with a Masters in CSPA.
2. I attended my first Virtual Symposium in Second Life.
3. I moved to New York City.4. I stood up in a wedding for the most beautiful bride I have ever seen (and I looked pretty darn good at my own wedding.)
Four things I have not done since my last post:
1. I have not finished unpacking.
2. I have not found a job.
3. I have not caught up on the internet (20 e-mails, 451 in my Google Reader, and 103 Podcasts).
4. I have not gotten caught up on Battlestar Galactica or Lost.

Friday, April 25, 2008

One of the Four

Jenn tagged me with a four meme. My understanding is that I should be sharing four lists of four with you. I think I am going to shoot for multiple posts with this one, so I'm taking a packing break to share the first one with you.

Four reasons (other than Sesame Workshop) why I am excited about moving to New York:

1. Public Transportation -- "With 714 miles of track, 469 stations, and 6,089 subway cars, NYC's subway system is the largest in the world. The subways run 24 hours a day and carry 1.2 billion passengers a year, while the City's public bus system consists of 300 routes and carries 600 million people a year (by far the most in the nation) on 4,200 buses." *

I seem to be missing a sense of direction. My friends call it a disability. What it means is, I can get lost anywhere. Even on my campus where I've lived for 7 years, if I find myself between two buildings that I don't regularly frequent, I can get turned around. Because of it, I hate driving and I rarely go to new cities on my own. While we were in NYC, all of that discomfort was gone. I happily walked all over the city knowing that no matter how lost I got, I would be a couple blocks from a subway stop and it will take me home. That is just in and around the city. There will be trains waiting to Boston, D.C., or Atlantic City for the weekend. I'm so excited, I am selling my car.

2. Theaters -- I've always been a fan of stage performances, so how could I not be excited about moving to the home of Broadway. Of course there is also Off-Broadway, and Off-Off-Broadway, local theaters, community troupes, and the constant live entertainment on the streets of the city. I've already prepped my hubby by telling him that if he is in a bind and doesn't what to do for an upcoming birthday or anniversary, he just needs to organize dinner and a show and he'll be golden.

3. Cultures -- We expected to hear a lot of people with New York accents when we visited over spring break. We didn't hear many at all. Instead we heard everyone talking in different languages. I didn't understand a thing any one was saying, but I really liked it. I guess part of me expected to see the machine at work in the heart of the city. People acting as cogs, going to and from work to fulfill the needs of 'the man.' Why I had expectations of mindless drones is beyond me, but I am happy to say it wasn't like that at all. Everyone was colorful and individual and I felt like I was in a place where everyone is so different that there is no normal. It was welcoming.

4. It just felt right -- I I wish there were some way to easily explain or quantify this, but it felt really good to be in the city. I felt more at home walking around in Brooklyn than I ever have in Arkansas. Don't get me wrong, Arkansas tried and took good care of me, but we weren't meant for each other. I'm already attached. I feel a sense of pride when I hear about new green initiatives that are going on. I cheered for the Giants this Super Bowl. In emotional ways that I can't really explain, I am ready.

As a sub reason under that one, I am moving closer to my little brother. I would really prefer it be a reason of its own, but it is a conditional closer. My brother is stationed in Albany with the Army so we will be a lot closer and we should get to spend some time exploring the city together, but since it is the army, they could ship him out at any point so we might not be close for long. I do have the secret motives of getting him to fall in love with upstate New York and trying to talk him in to settling down there after he gets done with the military and school.

Now, I should head back to my packing, but you can look forward to what I am going to miss about Arkansas next time.

*Ellen R. Shapiro in Relocating to New York City and Surrounding Areas (yes, I am the type of person would would buy a book about NYC)

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Inevitable

My husband and I are in the same Master's program. In fact, we are in the same cohort so we take the same classes and use the same books. I've been told that it is so cute it is almost sickening. After spending any time with us, it is easy to see that despite our similar interests we both have different strengths and backgrounds. We find ourselves passionate about some of the same problems, but we approach them differently and use different tools to solve them.

A small example of how we work differently is the job search. I regularly check job listings on The Chronicle, HigherEdJobs.com, and Inside Higher Ed. When I find a job that interests me, I start researching the university and building up excitement. My husband learns about a university, decides if he wants to work there, and begins looking at the job openings they have.

Right after the December vacation, I saw a job listing on The Chronicle website for a First Year Counselor. I loved the time I spent advising Freshmen this summer, and living in the freshman dorm the past two years has really given me an appreciation for how influential this year can be. I moved on to looking at the university and was impressed with what I saw. According to the website they shared some of my values in education, and it was in a place that I would like to live. So I applied.

A couple nights ago my husband finished scouring the university he was currently working on and decided to start looking at the one I have been talking about so much lately. For the past two years he has been coordinating a large part of the living learning community that our honors freshman go though. Every time our Honors College has an Interview/Inform day, he comes home energized and excited about everything those incoming students are about to become a part of. So when he came across a job posting for a First Year Counselor, he thought about how much he would like to continue working with Freshman. He wants to apply.

This was inevitable. We knew it would happen. We just never thought about the possibility that we wouldn't realize we both wanted the job at the same time. We had already worked out a plan of talking it though and deciding which one of us should apply based on our strengths and the job description, but I jumped the gun because a couple months ago I thought he wasn't interested. Now we have to decide if he should apply. He is really excited about it, and he would do a great job. Technically, we'd be competing for the position, but we would both benefit if either was hired. Will it make him look bad that I applied over a month earlier? Is there any chance we would both look bad? What really could he/we loose? Would they throw both of our applications out? Tell me what you would think if you received an application and then a month and a half later received an application from that candidate's spouse.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Then and Now

In December I read Sesame Street and the Reform of Children's Television by Robert Morrow. It was a great book that talked about the beginnings of the beloved show and how they've been working to improve children's programming ever since. The other night, I started Getting to Sesame Street: Origins of the Children's Television Workshop by Richard Polsky. I am barely a dozen pages in, so I can't tell you much about it yet, but there is something that I've already noticed. So far, they both paint a drastically different picture of Joan Ganz Cooney.

It wasn't until I read the Morrow book that I really understood who Cooney was and what role she played in the Workshop. She is one of the original creators of Sesame Street and founders of the Children's Television Workshop. (She wasn't alone in doing either of these two things, but I am going to talk about how these two books have conveyed her so I'll be focusing on her involvement.) I really liked the Morrow book because he explained the setting that Cooney was working in and the research she did to justify her decisions. I wish I had the book here so I could find some quotes for you, but it has disappeared back into the interlibrary loan system. My impression and what I remember from the book is that Cooney was working against a lot of nay-sayers. People were criticizing head-start programs so the education purposes she wanted were under scrutiny. Parents were up in arms about what the television was doing to their families and the violence it was bringing into their homes. This meant that she was under attack for her choice in medium. Despite that, she wrote grants that funded research that ultimately shaped and justified Sesame Street.

The Polsky book is a little different. Let me share with you a paragraph from the second page.

One evening in February or March 1966 in New York, at a dinner party given by Mr. and Mrs. Cooney, the conversation turned to television. Among the guests that night were Lloyd Morrisett, vice-president of Carnegie Corporation and log associated with the foundation's activities in early childhood education and its more recent interest in television, and Lewis Freeman, director of programming at WNDT. As. Mrs. Cooney recalled that evening, Freedman said he felt television was going to be the great educator of the future. Morrisett then became intrigued with designing a TV series for educating young children and suggested that Carnegie representatives soon meet with Freeman and Mrs. Cooney to discuss in detail television for preschoolers.
That difference has really struck me. In one book she is a heroine standing against criticism and fighting for low-income children. In the other a television show was seemingly handed to her on a sliver platter (or her own china). I don't want to be overly critical of Polsky or call him sexist. I've just started the book, and it was published in 1971. I am just fascinated by my own reaction. I had to actually set the book aside because I was put off by my hero being described as a housewife. I am going to be working woman who also has a husband, children, and dinner parties. In fact, I've thought a lot about how much time I want to take off of work when my children are born. I am not at all put off by the idea of staying home with them while they are babies. If my perception of her is changed this drastically just by reading a second book, won't it be great to actually meet her and see how she conveys herself instead of how other people present her.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Eats, Shoots and Leaves

When my friends recommend books to me, that is usually all it takes to put them on my reading list, but when Eats, Shoots and Leaves was recommended to me, I was reluctant. She's a great friend, but she is also one of those writing people. That is certainly not a bad thing, in fact, I'm a little jealous of those people. In complete honesty though, when a person who uses colons with confidence recommends a book on punctuation, I am not expecting a real page turner. I thought to myself, "Ya, that is something I should probably read." When it was recommended by a respected faculty member, I thought, "Ya know, I should probably buy that. I'm more likely to read it if it is lying around the house." When I finally accepted that I was going to be writing a lot of cover letters this semester, I thought, "Now is the time. Where did I put that book."

I was in for a great surprise. This has been the most entertaining book I have read all year (I'll even say academic year so we can start that back in August.) I was expecting so dry grammar rules and punctuation talk. The first night I was reading this, I laughed so much that my husband came in to see if I was crying. Don't believe me? I don't blame you I was skeptical too. Let me share with you a couple short passages.

"...But to be honest western systems of punctuation were damned unsatisfactory for the next five hundred years until one man - one fabulous Venetian printer - finally wrestled with the issue and pinned it to the mat. That man was Aldus Manutius the Elder (1450-1515) and I will happily admit I hadn't heard of him until about a year ago, but am not absolutely kicking myself that I never volunteered to have his babies."

"If there is one lesson to be learned from this book, it is that there is never a dull moment in the world of punctuation. One minute the semicolon is gracefully joining sentences together in a flattering manner, and the next it is calling a bunch of brawling commas to attention."

"In the family of punctuation, where the [period] is daddy and the comma is mummy, and the semicolon quietly practices the piano with crossed hands, the exclamation mark is the big attention-deficit brother who gets over excited and breaks things and laughs too loudly."

In short, if this is the type of book that will take several recommendations for you to read it, add me to the list of people who are telling you to check it out. It is punctuation for everyone.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Six Word Memoir

NPR's Talk of the Nation Interviewed the editors of Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure. The idea started with a rumor that Ernest Hemingway was asked to write a story in six words and came up with, "For Sale: baby shoes, never worn." I found these fabulous.

Some of the ones that I really loved are:

Catholic school backfired. Sin is in!
- Nikki Beland

Painful nerd kid, happy nerd adult.
- Linda Williamson

On the seventh word he rested.
- Stephen Dubner

A Sundress can cure ones woes
-

Just let me finish this row.
- Libby

The stories range from funny and general to heartbreaking and personal. I've added mine.

Fairy tales abandoned, dreams coming true.
-Amanda D Allen

What is your six word memoir?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Fuengirola Zoo

My series of European journals is over, but there is one more thing that I would like to share with you: The Fuengirola Zoo. It is a small zoo in the heart of the city, but it feels much larger. There was only one spot in the entire zoo where I could see the high rises outside. It is a cageless zoo, so the animals all looked happy and there were monkeys swinging in the trees above our heads. In the places where we were separated from the animals, it felt much more like we were in a cage than the tiger on the other side of the glass. I haven't found any proof or documentation, but the people in town told us that it was designed by the same people who built Animal Kingdom. What do you think?

Disney's Animal Kingdom:

Fuengirola Zoo:
If you find yourself in Spain and anywhere near Fuengirola, you should definately go see it. It is just a short walk from the bus stop, and a great adventure.

It isn't without cultural differences though. As Mike and I walked the zoo, I decided that I was going to pick up some Fuengirola Zoo coloring books for my friend's triplets. I even considered some cute little monkey stuffed animals if I could convince Mike that we had room in the bags for them. When we walked though gift shop I was surprised to find out that they didn't sell anything at all that said Fuengirola or Fuengirola Zoo on it. Nothing at all. Even the postcards, which were obviously pictures of the animals we had just seen were missing the name and logo on both the front and back. I was disappointed, and I felt like an American consumer.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Silent Poerty Reading

Thanks to the Yarn Harlot, I just discovered that there is a silent poetry reading going on. I don't think I'm breaking the rules, but I am actually going to post a song. Music and poetry are so intertwined, that I don't think I'll be questioned. This song was written for me and about me by the inspiring Rachel Tavares. At the time she was Rachel Hodges, but what hasn't changes is what an incredible woman she is. She was only a part of my life for two weeks, but she completely changed the way I viewed my self. She made me comfortable in my own skin.


Well she's kickin' herself
and she tired of life
and she's asking for more and
maybe she's right
'cause life isn't perfect
but it can get damn close.

So she's up every mornin'
and working from dawn
Tryin' to better herself and
she's moving on
There's hell at her back door
and she keeps it locked down tight.

Chorus
And she screams:
What do you do when ambition's up late?
What do you do when you can't even think straight?
I filled up my damn plate hours ago
and now there's overflow
but I keep piling on.

So she looks in the mirror
and she puts on her face
and she brushes her hair as
she curses this place
Just gotta keep movin'
Can't stand to waste her time.

Chorus

So she's runnin
there's no use denying it
nobody's hiding it
it's nothing but fact.
She's stunning
clad in success dreams
the rarest of life's themes
the underdog wins.

Chorus

6-3-07 Malaga

I know that Spain was not part of the trip that I have to report back on, but I do want to say something about it. Spain is the first place that I truly felt uncomfortable and out of place. First, it was not visitor/stranger friendly. There were no signs anywhere. Not in the stations. Not in the streets. Not even in the lobbies of tourist heavy buildings. I'm not talking about the beautiful multilingual with diagram signs that I had gotten use to everywhere else. I'm talking about signs in general. There were none anywhere; not even in Spanish. In addition to that, it was the first place that I looked different. I've written about my excitement when I may have blended in, I think it would be much harder here. The people we encountered before we got to the resort were shorter with dark hair, dark eyes, and darker skin. This white skinned red-head was clearly out of place.

Friday, February 01, 2008

6-1-07 Paris

While we were at the Louvre we saw a troupe of performers signing. I would guess that it was a dress rehearsal because they kept starting and stopping, but since I didn't know what they were saying, I can't say for sure. I've taken some sign language, and I had hoped that I might understand some of it since American Sign Language was developed by a man who spoke French Sign Language. Unfortunately, I couldn't get enough to confirm that what I did get was right. Something about the whole scene struck me though. I wouldn't be surprised to see community performances at a museum in the states, but I was surprised to see it there. I kind of felt like, "This isn't just a museum: this is the Louvre for goodness sake." It's hard to explain why I felt they shouldn't be there. I think it had more to do with the Louvre than the performers. It just seems like this great entity that is stoic and static; not a lively changing place where something as fleeting as a performance takes place.

I have a confession to make. After everyone left us in Paris, Mike and I had an American indulgence. We went to a theater on the Champs-Elysees and saw Pirates of the Carribean (in English to boot). I decided it was ok because if we were to move to Europe and fully immerse ourselves in a foreign culture, I would still want to see Disney movies.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

5-31-07 Paris

There was a familiar smell in almost all of the cathedrals we went into on this trip. It wasn't until Brussels that I was able to place it. It was in Notre Dame and Sacre Cour too. I'm not exactly sure what it is. It is incense or a candle, I'm not sure, but it is something that burns. The reason I recognize it is because it is the smell of Catholic special events. There is a special ceremony that a priest does where he takes a little ball on a chain full of this smoky smell and waves it at the congregation as he walks up and down the aisles praying. A similar thing is done with holy water, and he flicks everyone with it. Growing up, I only remember this happening on special occasions or unique days like when a visiting priest was speaking. It seemed like this was just the regular smell for the churches we visited, but it really made me uncomfortable. Having that smell and thinking of special events make me even more aware of how much of a visitor I am. I feel like I am intruding on their religious ground even though it is a religion I could claim as my own.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

5-30-07 Paris

I had my "Wow, I'm in Paris" moment our first night here. We decided to eat near teh Champs-Elysees so we could check the hours on the tourist center. It's a good thing that we did because they moved the tourist center to the other end of the Champs-Elysees and it would have been awful to go looking for it with the entire group. Dr. Ness joined us and we took the metro to the Arc de Triomphe. The entire city is full of wonderful sights, but nothing prepared me for coming out of that metro exit. We walked up the stairs to the street and right there was the Arc. It was surreal. I actually teared up. It was an amazing sight. The sun was setting in a hand painted sky and wrapped the Arc in a pink glow. The Arc itself was so much more majestic than I had expected. I had seen tons of pictures, but none of them were able to capture the truth. I now understand why Pairs is such an inspiration to art. It is not just a saying, my breath really was taken away. I had a similar experience with the Eiffel Tower, but it wasn't quite as powerful or shocking. We saw the tower from everywhere. I didn't much want to go up in the tower, so I thought that I had seen it. Fortunately, Mike insisted on taking Brandi and me to the base. It wasn't quite as shocking as the Arc because we got off the metro and watched it grow as we walked closer instead of it just being there. I could feel my mind struggle as it tried to comprehend just how big it really is.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

5-29-07 Brussels

I enjoyed our presentations today. I hadn't realized what assumptions I had made about Bologna until she explained it. I wasn't trying to be the bad American, but sometimes it is hard to realize that the words they are using have different definitions and connotations even when they are English words about higher education. I was entertained to everyone's reaction to the grading system. We all know and understand the bell curve, but we are also horrified to see it implemented and enforced. I think what is hardest to accept for us is that in a true bell curve system, a C is not bad. We can all say it, hear it, and know it, but we can't believe it. We are all in graduate school which means we are successful students, and we've been conditioned that Cs are bad. I had a professor who used the bell curve, and tried to assure us that Cs were ok, but he was wrong. He was happy with my grade, but Financial Aid was not, the Honors College was not, and the SURF committee was not. I spent the rest of my undergraduate time trying to explain away all of the courses I took with him. I understand the entire group's uneasiness with the bell curve, but I worry what this will lead Europeans to think of American grades. She had joked that a 15/20 was an 18/20 somewhere else. When the system works the kinks out here, what will an American A be worth?

If UCL (the Catholic University of Levon) had the beautiful architecture that I've been spoiled with for the past week, I would have had to get my bags off the bus. I am very excited about everything I've heard about these university communities that they are thinking about in the U.S., and working in one that has been up and running for a couple of decades sounds like a great opportunity. I don't think that I'm ready for French language immersion, but it would speed up the process of becoming fluent.

Monday, January 28, 2008

5-28-07 Brussels

I've never really had an occasion to use my French, and I assumed that I would lose all of my ability. There have been a couple times on this trip where I heard announcements in several languages and I wasn't sure if I had heard French or not. Between that, and seeing how similar Dutch and German are (in my mind which has never spoken either), I was afraid that soon I wouldn't even be able to recognize the language. I certainly never let myself believe that I was a master of the language by any scale, but my hearing comprehension was starting to near conversation speed,a nd my vocabulary was almost enough to read the news. When Mike asked me to look at some of the Paris website and help him find the information he needed for the tour, French was clearly foreign again. I had to exercise my memory, and eventually sing a little song to remember the days of the week. Being here has made me feel much better. I can't understand anyone's conversations, and I can't completely read any of the signs we come across. I am remembering things. I asked for the bathroom in French yesterday, and in the shops, I don't need to ask them to speak in English. These are not situation where a lot of verbal communication is taking place. It is usually just smiling and nodding, but they've made me feel good for a couple of reasons. First, it has been nice for them to not immediately speak in English for me. I like the idea that I could fit in here if I learned the language. Secondly, I like that I don't have to make them stop and rework their thoughts into English for me. As a girl who majored in communications, I hate the feeling of being the cause of a communication barrier. French was fresher in my mind when I was in Switzerland, and I probably could have spent more time talking in French than I realized. Unfortunately, I was young and scared, and my host family was eager to practice their English. I vividly remember the panic I felt each time someone spoke to me in French. In response to that panic, people spoke to me in English. There have been a couple occasions on this trip in which I've seen that same discomfort. In response, all I can do is appologize. I can't offer the same courtesy that I've been offered.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

5-27-07 Masstricht

Some things are universal. Last night while we were walking we saw a guy cat call and rev his engine at the woman crossing the street in front of him. She responded with what I would assume was Dutch profanity. I was very glad to find out that it wasn't a successful pickup in their culture either.

I noticed in both Amsterdam and Maastricht that when we tell people we are from the states they become a type of modest, and expect us to want things bigger and better. Both of the universities we were at emphasized how small they were. The University of Maastrict has as many students as UCA. All the people we talked to in Maastricht and Aachen began by telling us that it was a small city, but they loved it because... I guess they don't expect Americans to come from small towns or value small communities.

Mike and I have always talked, though rarely seriously, about moving out of the country for a couple of years. I think that it is something that I've wanted more. Mike has already lived in Germany for 3 years, so he is not as intent on it as I am. I've thought about Australia a lot because I am worried about the language barrier, but it is becoming clear that I would have quite a bit of time to learn the language in Europe if I could only find a job that would hire me. This trip is doing a lot to make my desire stronger. At this blissful moment the only thing that worries me is my family. I have an aunt who refuses to watch Johnny Depp movies because he moved to France, and, "The French hate Americans." I'm afraid my reasons for wanting this would be lost on them. It really would be a great adventure and Mike seems to be getting easier to persuade. We'll see I suppose.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

5-26-07 Maastricht

cont.
I know that some of the things we are seeing are just the result of a large number of people living together. A lot of the thing that I'm not use to are happening in the US; just not in Conway, AR or Crivitz, WI (the small town where I lived up North). On the other hand, I wonder how much we are missing because we are staying in hotels. I certainly wouldn't want to try and find host families for all of us, but hotels are generally more conforming to their guests. This one is even a Best Western.

Even tough we were hijacked yesterday. I had a great time. I know that if Mike and I had met Peter by ourselves, we never would have gone along for the tour he brought us on. I'm still not sure which of his stories to believe, and which ones were merely to lead up to his punchlines, but I had a great time anyway. I'm not certain what we would have seen the way the day was originally planned, but I was glad we did it his way.

Yesterday, I realized that everyone I've talked to is very good with European history. In America we have history buffs, and those individuals usually focus on a particular war or period of time. here it has been everybody, and most Europeans history. I thought that it was just the girl studying Dutch at first, but then it was also the concierge, the student worker at Maastricht, Peter, the women we talked to on the bus. They all made simple history references in conversation, seemingly without wondering if we knew what they were talking about. I felt a bit bad. I was always bad at history. I love the stories, but I can never keep the names and dates right.

My family is Irish Catholic, so cathedrals have always been a major part of my travels. The Dom was quite possibly the most beautiful one I have ever seen. I know that it has my favorite stained glass window. In the little prayer room off to one side the window was outlined and accented in the most beautiful teal glass that I have ever seen. I'm not exactly surprised that I liked it so much. I've always heard that European cathedrals would put American ones to shame, but I suppose I expected them to be too much for my taste. I expected to be impressed and awed, but I didn't expect to like it this much. There were sections that I found overdone. I wasn't as impressed by the pulpit as I was the tiling on the ceiling.

Just as much as I wasn't exactly surprised by The Dom, I wasn't exactly disappointed by the American Cemetery. The Cemetery was immaculate, beautiful, solemn, and every thing I would have expected from an American military memorial. I guess I just had different expectations for this one. I was looking forward to seeing how the Dutch created a memorial to the American troops. The Cemetery however is how the Americans create memorials. The dedication and gratitude that they show is moving, and I don't want to seem untouched, but I'd be lying if I denied that my expectations were not met. I am completely aware that it has everything to do with my expectations and is in no way the fault of the Cemetery. It was perfect.

Last night my feet and my husband were exhausted, so we stayed in to relax and go to bed early. While I journaled, I watched a couple Dutch cartoons and an episode of Will and Grace. It was interesting to see how they regularly switch between Dutch and English all the time. I laughed out loud when I saw a commercial with George Clooney. I know that Europeans watch American movies so I wasn't surprised to see him as a celebrity on the commercials. What struck me is that doing commercials in America is considered a sign of a failing career. I wonder if it is the same in Europe of if it makes them more excited about the star.

The caves were incredible! There were not at all what I was expecting and I am so glad we went. I doubt that Mike and I would have made the time if we were traveling alone because I thought that the tours would have been similar to cave tours in Arkansas. Expecting stalactites and stalagmites, we probably would have skipped it to do something else like a castle or cathedral tour. I'm glad it wasn't up to us. Jacques was a great guide and he and Christine were a very sweet couple.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

5-25-07 Maastricht

The train ride yesterday morning started out a little crazy, but it was in no way an indicator of how the day was going to go. Maastricht is beautiful. It is exactly what my mind fantasizes about when I think of a European town. The old buildings, the small shops, and the cobblestone sidewalks are what my mind's eye had predicted.

The campus tour was interesting, and ours fortunately went very well. One of the only difficulties we had was finding the Student Center. it seemed to me that it would be very difficult to find things at that university unless you knew exactly what to call what you were looking for. We were assured by everyone we asked that there was not a student center, but they all also recommended we lunch at the Econ Building. We ended up spending on hour and a half, if not more talking with a student who works in the Communications and Relations Department. She was mainly working on putting together the university's Open Day which sounded like UCA's Welcome Week.

Now that I've gone on about how quaint the city looked, I must admit that I was surprised by the brands of the stores we saw walking around. I also saw several Jesus statues and crucifixions, and they had the think Jesus faces that I am use to. I wonder how many other things I have decided were cultural differences that really weren't.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

5-24-07 Amsterdam

If you think of embarrassment as a spectrum, I'd say that I've never been more than mildly embarrassed before yesterday. I've been embarrassed several times on this trip, but none of them were comparable to how I felt when our speaker made a comment about our decisions in Iraq. Here I am American. I am not a democrat or a liberal. I am not even a college student before I am American. At home, I can exercise my freedom of speech; I can use my right to vote. Here, I am responsible for those decisions. I could feel the heat of my entire face turning read as I thought about the news stories I heard of who did and who did not support us and our decisions in Iraq. I was embarrassed of my country. I was embarrassed for not knowing what our decisions made us seem like for them. I was embarrassed for wanting to make excuses.

The campus visit to Vrije University was very nice. I've known about the binary system for a while, but it is still amazing to see it in action. I'm turning 24 next month and I still haven't decided what I plan to do for the rest of my life. Right now, I am still planning out experiences to have that will help me narrow down my options. I can't fathom making that decision at twelve. At twelve I wanted to be an animator. My aptitude tests said I should be a mime or a puppeteer. Higher Ed Administration is pretty far off from all of those. I remember being horribly upset when my career test came back. I was a very talkative kid, and I couldn't understand how I would be best at a job where I wasn't allowed to speak. The irony of the whole situation is that my current desire is to work for Sesame Street.

I wonder if there are societal status differences between the students who go to the research universities and the students who go to the professional universities. I have a friend in Switzerland. They use the same system and her track was to go to the university, but her family couldn't afford all of it. While I was visiting her, she was taking a year off to waitress and save money to pay for it. She would tell me stories of how guests would look down on her because they thought that she wasn't going to the university. I know that there is a clear separation between honors students - regular(?) students- and the at risk student in our education system. I also know that there are classism issues in America. I wonder fi the binary system supports or reinforces those problems.

After the visit Mike and I went to the Van Gogh Museum. I loved it. I spent a year studying the impressionist artists so I knew the Van Gogh story. I could see the influences of the other artists in his work, and I appreciated watching how his work changed. I don't know if Mike enjoied it as much; I'm glad we went.

Last night we went back out to the Dam. There we got to see the Amsterdam police in action, some very interesting hookah bars, and a restaurant that only served fries. In the square there was a huge crucifixion statue. I'm not sure how I missed it earlier, but fortunately I didn't miss it all together. It was neat to see Jesus through their eyes. He was still in the submissive/beaten pose, but his face was so different from what we normally see. Our Jesus face is petite, fragile, and feminine. So often in the crucifixion, he looks broken. In this statue the face was strong, full, and masculine. He looked like a Roman hero. It reminded me of art made of the Greek and Roman gods. I wonder what the difference I'm seeing is. I don't know if it is a European difference, a Protestant difference, or just one artist's preference.

Monday, January 21, 2008

5-23-07 Amsterdam

Yesterday was a good day despite my lack of sleep crankiness. As a group we went to the Anne Frank House. It was somber, but in a good way. In fact, it reminded me that I was cranky because I was traveling the world and wonderfully privileged. I guess the most cultural observations that I did there were of the tourists. It was hard to watch people being less than somber, but I suppose you can't force anyone to be respectful, especially Americans. I was disappointed in myself for how much I had forgotten about her book. I remember it affecting me in school, but now I'm starting to wonder if I was old enough to appreciate all of it. I'll have to read it again.

They had a little movie running after going though the house. It was about human rights and freedoms, and it was clearly biased and liberal. According to the pamphlet it was an EU production, but it struck me as very similar to American, liberal propaganda directed at college students. I don't know that I expected Europe to be more subtle. In fact, I don't even know if they strive for impartial and unbiased like America claims to. I value unbiased reporting, but I think that opinionated reports have their place too. Whether the Anne Frank House is a place for those opinions is something I hadn't thought about. I know what bothers me in America is the claim to be neutral when it is not. I know that some countries have a blatant and open bias for the government (usually because the networks are government controlled), and I don't think that is always good. If all of the media works on behalf of the government, and the people get upset with the government, the media won't be able to tell them anything - even if it is good or unrelated.

I knew in my head that people rode their bicycles everywhere in Europe. I even envied the stories I heard about well-sized and well-respected bicycle lanes. My head never worked out what it looks like to see people riding their bicycles everywhere. When I previously thought of bicyclists, I imagined kids, and people in sportswear. Here it is everybody and every type of attire. The men and women in their business suites is what I couldn't imagine before. It makes sense, but it still caught me by surprise to see. The women in skirts still makes me curious. Do they do something (like wear shorts underneath) that makes it ok, or is it completely a social difference? If I rode a bike with a skirt I would be extremely self conscious. Short skirts I would worry about riding up and long skirts I would worry about them flapping against the tire and possibly getting stuck in the spokes.
Bicycle Parking Deck