December 30, 2010 - 7:11 PM
On the Rocks, the University's all-men a cappella group, finished the year strong with a fabulous new school spirit song. "Call Me a Duck" is already an online hit, with over 200,000 views on the YouTube link : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNboYbN6wFY
The song is a tribute to the University of Oregon, from football spirit to academic diversity. The group is, as always, a fabulous combination of true musical ability and some fully hilarious performance abilities. Duck fans everywhere should check out this video.
On the Rocks finished strong with their presence on the TV show The Sing Off. I've been powerfully obsessed with their videos since their time on the show ended. They took fifth place in the competition, and several of their performances were absolutely incredible. Here are my favorites:
"Live Your Life" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2H8-M3LeKg&NR=1
"Pour Some Sugar on Me" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSwV4ZkQ-Rw&NR=1
I've been proud to be an OTR fan since freshman year. It's a hoot that they've become national musical celebrities over the last few months. I'm equally happy that they've used their musical skills to make a UO school spirit song. Be sure to check it out!
December 28, 2010 - 3:59 PM
Every year since 2004, my mom and I have kept lists of the books we read each year. When I have time, I've kept notes on the books I really like, and sometimes write a bit about the book. When I'm busy, I simply keep track of the book and the date I finished it. Being able to look back and see my reading history is something I totally love.
Have I already confessed to being a complete book lover? My mom read to me every night until well into my middle school years. We've been sharing books for as long as I can remember. She read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy to me at least twice, but possibly three times. We're both re-readers, passionate about fiction and non-fiction, and more than slightly competitive. And since we both read extremely quickly, it's sometimes been a bit of a competition.
For the first three years I kept track, I read over 100 books each year. That includes re-reads, and books I read for class. But still, a list of 100 books for the year isn't bad at all. During that time, I mostly read novels, and many were still young adult novels (this was my sophomore-junior year of high school). It was the beginning of my Stephen King phase, and the end of the Star Wars era of my reading. I can trace my favorites over the years, since they've been read over and over. I can see when I began to read more non-fiction for fun, and the patterns of reading during the school year vs. breaks.
The biggest change in my reading journal was in 2008, when I studied abroad in Chile. For the first time, I discovered an activity which could totally overwhelm my normal love of reading: travel. I read only two books during my first month abroad, and an unprecedented single book the second month (the Spanish translation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). Living abroad accomplished something that two years of college did not: it shifted my focus away from books and into the world around me.
Since then, there's been an ever-evolving reading vs. living dichotomy. Books are essential to my well-being and engagement with the world. But so are weekend camping trips, schoolwork, keeping up with the news (newspapers don't count, of course) and work.
All that being said, 2010 still might finish out as an 80 book year. The list includes significant contributions of school books, as well as an entirely new genre of graphic novels, and a summertime obsession (dare I say this in public?) with the True Blood vampire novels (please don't judge too harshly). I'm at 77 as of today, with two books in process and a novel I've been eying for a week waiting for me. If this were high school, I'd quit all other activities and power through hundred-page chunks at a time, pausing only to change the background music. I must say that a rainy Eugene day makes that plan mighty tempting--a reading goal and a pot of tea by my side and I might just read the day away. We'll see.
It was a good year, with lots of work, lots of growth, and lots of reading. Looking back, I read lots of "low" fiction when I was particularly busy, and tackled some excellent classics when I had more time. I read some wonderful non-fiction books, both for school and for fun. Most of these had to do with prison issues, particularly in the time leading up to the completion of my thesis.
Anyway, here's to a great year in books! Here's a list of my favorites read this year, for your 2011 reading pleasure.
People of Paper by Salvador Placencia
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
Kindred by Octavia Butler
My Antonia by Willa Cather
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safron Foher
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larson (the whole series)
The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
The Escapists by Brian K. Vaughn
Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
Dune by Frank Herbert
Finding Freedom by Jarvis J. Masters
Truth and Beauty by Anne Patchett
I'll Fly Away edited by Wally Lamb
Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh
Changing Lenses by Howard Zehr
Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
December 26, 2010 - 3:14 PM
It happens to us all eventually: the dreaded wisdom tooth extraction. This is part of nearly every college student's life at one point or another, and comes with a long litany of woes and complications supplied by all your college-aged friends. You hear about every possible ailment, from dry socket to infections caused by broccoli bits. Everyone's got their story. And now I've got mine.
I had my wisdom teeth pulled on December 20th. It was an unpleasant process, mitigated by my dentist being one of the nicest people I've ever met. However, nothing quite compensates for the sound of tooth roots being ripped out of your face.
What followed next was several days of "chipmunk face" or extreme and unsightly swelling in the cheeks and jaws. There is photo evidence, which will not be shared here or anywhere else, unless called upon for some medical journal.
Then: recovery. Thank goodness. Pain down, swelling down, and life returning to normal.
Or that's what I thought, until Christmas Eve arrived with an excruiciating bout of dry socket. Just on one side, thank goodness, but that was a sensation unlike anything I hope to experience again. Now I've got gauze and medicine packed into the socket, to be replaced every couple of days until I go back to Eugene.
The tooth thing has been the dominant factor of my winter break. I didn't have much time in Colorado anyway, and the extra goodies of tooth issues have meant that most of my time has been spent on a couch or bed, eating soft foods and trying to remember not to sleep on the right side of my face. It's meant that not much of the normal holiday/homecoming activities have taken place, at least not in their normal way.
But it's also been wonderful in some ways. My parents have both taken fabulous care of me, and have made break really easy for me and my pain killers-addled self. They've spent time with me and left me alone, they've watched TV and movies, and played cards. They've let me hole up in the house instead of taking my swollen face out into public. It's been all milkshakes and applesauce and chicken noodle soup for days. Thanks to their care, I finally was healed enough yesterday for a real Christmas dinner at my aunt and uncle's house, complete with some Christmas cookies.
The final step in this whole process comes on Wednesday or Thursday, when I'm back in Eugene. I'll need to extract the final dry socket packing myself, with a pair of dental pliers my dentist gave me. All I can say is I'm quite dreading the experience. Please please wish me luck.
The best offshoot of this whole debacle is that I got the serious downtime I needed for break. I've spent most of my time really resting for the first time in months. I've done lots of reading (even some for class, so no total slacking here!) and watched movies with my dad and sister. It's been calm and simple, and means I've had a real pause from the normal pace of life. I guess it takes minor surgery to get me to take a full break sometimes. Regardless, I'm pretty happy to have had it.
Just write if you'd like me to send pictures of the offending teeth. I've got them in a lovely little box, so I might as well let the world see. Just let me know!
December 19, 2010 - 8:18 PM
Now that I have a moment to pause between academic terms, I'm taking a breath and looking around at my plans and my future--both immediate and distant. So much is happening so quickly, as week follows week and classes add up, and work consuming so much of my imagination. There's so much to be done, and I'm constantly adding these side note hopes and dreams, to compile and research later on.
Some times in my life lend themselves to planning and dreaming. I get almost manic sometimes--the languages I'll learn, places I'll go, projects I'll undertake, and new programs I'll invent or get involved in. Tonight feels a bit like that--there's a sense of infinite potential right now. That feeling of being pulled in a million directions, with the inexplicable confidence that I'll be able to follow each passing plan.
So I'm daydreaming. I'm thinking about rock climbing again in January, re-starting Zumba, working harder on my Spanish, reading a pile of academic texts and novels, undertaking writing projects and new work ideas, and getting ahead on next term's homework. I'm thinking about new hobbies: woodworking, piano, tree identification, French, and pottery. It feels like it's all possible.
But I'm also taking some time to do some real thinking about my future coursework, the remaining two years in the CRES program, and the future that stretches beyond graduation. Trying to imagine the future in specific terms is still a little tough for me, but there are some exciting possibilities I'm beginning to uncover.
First, the short term. I'm the GTF for an Inside-Out class next term: Institutional Inequalities and Individual Lives with Professor Ellen Scott. We've selected our students (inside and out) and have begun the process of spending three hours each week teaching in the prison. I can hardly wait. And I'll compliment this work with continued engagement with the national Inside-Out program, including new projects and development work. I'll be taking sixteen credits, as well as auditing that Zumba class. I'll try to build in the self-care I need, and the creative activities that feed me. Plus more time in the Oregon outdoors. Rain or not, I live in a beautiful place.
Second, I've started thinking more about the shape of my remaining year and a half in the CRES program. There are some exciting required courses left, plus electives, internships, and a terminal project. I've started trying to narrow my focus of study and research, although I haven't made any solid decisions as of yet. On plan is to take courses in "Positive Psychology" or the study of human well-being and how people live fulfilling and balanced lives. I'm also thinking more creatively about my internship options: perhaps I'll go to South Africa, or maybe I'll do some media-based internship, or maybe work with Sister Helen Prejean. Maybe I'll do a longitudinal study and internship on the US/Mexico border. I've started making lists, and hope to spend the next couple of weeks thinking through the options. I have some amazing opportunities and resources for the remainder of my study at the UO. I hope to maximize my experiences while I'm here.
Third, the Future. The big time. I don't really know what to say except that I'm continuing to collect big dreams and solid career options. I'm accumulating job announcements sent through the career services folks, watching the openings for mediators, ombudspersons, NGO management, and paid internships. I'm also monitoring my networks and connections around the country and around the world, considering how I might spend a few years living intimately in the work of conflict resolution and healing communities.
I don't know if I've said this explicitly recently, but I see my ultimate career as a college professor. I can't imagine anything much better than teaching and researching, writing and speaking. I haven't quite settled on a specific plan yet, beyond a vague thought that I'll spend a few years working in the non-academic world, before settling into a PhD program and working toward a position of working for social justice through teaching and activism as a professor.
All that being said, I'm still collecting options.
Maybe the end of the year is a dreaming time for lots of people. I feel so inspired by all the opportunities and experiences of this past year, and feel such hope for the future. We'll see what happens down the road.
December 18, 2010 - 2:44 PM
Last night, my dad's Irish band played at Scruffy Murphy's an Irish Pub in downtown Denver. Between pub classics, folk fiddle music, and some rocking Irish rock, the Stonewalls brought down the house.
I grew up with music in my home and on my mind. As I've written before, I thought my dad was a rockstar all through my early years. Classic Rock cover band gigs have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. In the years since I've left for school, I've really missed being a part of his music, and being home to see his bands play. So I've stayed involved by helping him write song lyrics and giving feedback on his sound recordings.
But I've missed being here, and the chance to watch him perform. It's been a true loss since I've moved to Oregon.
To make matters worse, he's taken up Irish music as the primary new sound. And I love Irish music. Everything from the old-time music to Flogging Molly just speaks to my soul. Maybe it's my Irish heritage coming through, or the combination instrumentation and fun factor of most Irish music. Whatever it is, I am a huge Irish music fan.
So I spent last night in Scruff Murphy's in LoDo (Lower Downtown, for you non-Coloradans), watching the Stonewalls rocking out.
I took some really good video of the evening, which I'll post soon to share with you all. For now, let me just say that the evening totally rocked. I had an amazing night, particularly after 11:00, when a crowd of Santas hit the bar during their annual pub crawl. Thirty dancing Santas will really lift the energy, even if a bar is already crowded and animated. So I took video of some selected songs, then danced my heart out. I learned to dance at my Dad's gigs as a little kid. Now I was combination of roady, film crew, drink runner, and fan.
Being a fan is the best part. No doubt about it, being able to watch my dad perform with a killer group of talented musicians is one of my absolute favorite things. My dad is such a performer--he jokes, dances around, leads the "audience participation" songs, and generally works the crowd with an amazing degree of confidence and joy. This is Dad at his best, singing his heart out with guitar in hand.
So from drinking songs to folk songs, I'll raise a whiskey and celebrate the band, the music, and my father.
Keep on rockin' on, and I'll keep on dancing.