Friday, May 23, 2008

Doing things.

I've been mildly productive day, which it turns out comes from a place of boredom for me. I cleaned up my computer desktop, nuked my e-mail in box, and picked out a few Web 2.0 applications to try to work into my classes next semester. Should be good stuff.

Next plan, launch The Interrobang Project for real. 500 words a day. Every day.


Monday, May 05, 2008

Eight Belles.

This is a simul-post with my new blogging venture, over at If you'd like to comment, please do it over there. Kthanxbi.

If you watched the Kentucky Derby this weekend, or have turned on a TV or radio since, you probably already know this story. Eight Belles, the lone filly in the race, crossed the finish line second before suffering what appeared to be some freak accident that broke both her ankles. She was euthanized immediately.

This is a bit of a big deal. The Derby is horse racing's Super Bowl, arguably the only race that's actually relevant to a majority of the American population. Usually, the discussion afterwards deals solely with the winning horse and some feel-good story associated with it, whether it's the winning jockey pausing to thank his family for sticking by him as he moved them around the country chasing this business (as happened this year, before the Eight Belles news broke) or a group of blue-collar owners who are the antithesis of the Millionaire's Row culture of Churchill Downs (see Funny Cide, 2003).

Having the second-place horse put down in the middle of the track kinda ruins those parties.

Eight Belles has been the story this year and various people have been crawling out of the woodwork to condemn horse racing and call for changes within the sport. That's fine. Here's PETA's take, though.

Just after crossing the finish line in the Kentucky Derby on May 3, 2008, a young filly named Eight Belles collapsed when both of her front ankles snapped. She was euthanized in the dirt where she lay, the latest victim of the dirty business of thoroughbred racing.

Eight Belles' death is yet another reminder that these horses are raced when they are so young that their bones have not properly formed, and they are often raced on surfaces that are too hard for their bones—like the hard track at Churchill Downs. Eight Belles' jockey whipped her mercilessly as she came down the final stretch. This is no great surprise, since trainers, owners, and jockeys are all driven by the desire to make money, leaving the horses to suffer terribly.

PETA is calling on the racing industry to suspend the jockey and trainer, to bar the owner from racing at the track, and, at the very least, to stop using young horses who are so susceptible to these types of horrific injuries. We're also demanding that the industry stop racing horses on hard tracks and switch to softer, synthetic surfaces, which would spare horses' bones and joints, in addition to calling for a permanent ban on the use of whips. Help PETA call for an end to cruelty masquerading as sport by using the form below to take action today.

Although Eight Belles' death, like Barbaro's before hers, made headlines, countless lesser-known horses suffer similar fates—their broken legs and battered bodies are simply hidden from public view. Most racehorses end up broken down or cast off or are sent to Europe for slaughter.

Alright. There's a lot there, so sorry if it just made your head explode a bit. There's a lot I like in there, but it's wrapped up in the typical PETA craziness that makes me want to pull out my hair sometimes because, as a vegetarian, many people assume PETA gives me my marching orders. Not quite.

Here's what PETA should have written.

May 3, 2008 saw the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby, one of the longest-running sporting events in this country. After the race, the story was not about Big Brown, the winning horse, but Eight Belles, a filly who broke both legs after the race and was euthanized on the track.

The passing of Eight Belles brings to light one of the sad truths about horse racing: the races don't always end well for the horses. The events of this year's race occur less than two years after Derby winner Barbaro died from complications of injuries suffered during the course of racing.

We are not attacking the practice of horse racing. We understand that it is a beloved part of the history of much of this country, not just the south. We are not asking that the races be shut down, that jockies or owners be fined or suspended, or that we take away the infield parties, large hats and mint juleps. We do ask, though, that as this tradition moves forward, it do so in a way that puts a higher priority on the health of the animals who literally carry the sport.

We would like to see more research done into the ways the sport can be improved. Until that research has been completed, though, there are some measures that can be implemented now. First, all race tracks should be converted to the synthetic racing material that has seen increased usage in recent years. This new surface is easier on the horses than either dirt or turf, and does not have any effect on the quality of racing. Secondly, the use of whips during racing is cruel, and also perpetuates an image that is counteractive to the positive aspects of the sport. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, we ask that horses not be raced until they are four years old. By this point, the horses would be considerably stronger than many of the horses currently being raced, and this should help prevent the type of injuries suffered by Eight Belles.

The passing of Eight Belles is not an isolated incident. Studies have shown that 2.3 fatalities occur during every 1,000 starts on dirt tracks. While that may initially seem like a small number, keep in mind that the Kentucky Derby itself saw 20 horses start the race, and more than ten races were held at Churchill Downs that day. Fatalities, sadly, appear to be a part of horse racing.

"These things are our family," Eight Belles trainer Larry Jones said after the race. "We put everything into them that we have. They've given us everything they have. They put their life on the damn line, and she was glad to do it."

If that's truly the case, the least we can do is ensure that we're doing our best to keep the horses willing to put their lives on the line alive.

Or something like that.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Let's see how fast this thing can go

It's that time of year again, when things are slowly springing to life and the forces of academia conspire to make sure they choke any life they've left in you out. There's this constant white noise underlying everything, and a pleasant run to everyone's favorite neighborhood restaurant left me with the impression that at this time of the year, it's best to stay out of the way because absolutely everyone is expendable now that the group projects are done. It's the point in the year where, if grad students were armed with nine millimeters, we'd all go insane in our apartments, trying to figure out if the risk of getting shot was worth getting the chance to bust a cap in all of those people.

Today's the final round of classes before the final, where I help them cram so they don't fail the test, while silently hoping no one studies outside of class so my grade curve evens out. I'm a little easy, it turns out.

Because it's the final round of classes, it's also evaluation time. Whic is my least favorite day of the year. I feel like this semseter went better from a teaching standpoin than the last one did, I was definitely much more organized, and with the changes that are happeneing next year, that will only get better.

After today, I've got three take-home tests to wrap up, which I'm hoping to knock out this weekend, and then my first year of grad school is done. Weird.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

'Cause my tone was curt

I hate days like these, days that find me stuck up in the office with just enough time to let my brain start wandering, days where my brain wanders its way to Ani DiFranco, the type of woman (to borrow/re-work a line from Mark Z. Danielewski) I rarely think of and never visit, and thinking about Ani always ruins my day because, on some small level, I realize exactly how rarely I really burn for anything in my world.

In thirty seconds of watching DiFranco explain to George Strambolopolous why she refers to her baby's father as her "baby's daddy" rather than... "boyfriend" or... "partner" I was more inspired/ignited/turned on in a completely non-sexual way than I am by anyone who actually inhabits my world.

And it's one of those things that is at the same time amazing and incredibly destructive. Amazing because it makes me want to tear out of this office and go wage peace and write books and drive fast, and destructive because I know, a. that's not going to happen and b. I don't have anyone right now who makes me want to do that.

Knowing that, though, knowing that the impetus to do anything that will stand up as being really worthwhile is going to have to come from somewhere inside myself, and not some masked stranger I seem to keep waiting on, is an incredibly impactful piece of knowledge. At least, it should be, but I'd be lying if I said I hadn't felt exactly like this countless times before.

The little plastic castle is a surprise every time.

And the thing that bothers me most, I think, is the fact that as I'm typing this, I know exactly who the people are that I feel are stifling me. Whether or not they actually are isn't the point, because unless someone changed the rules on me when I wasn't paying attention, we're living in a world where anything is questionable, and none of those questions have answers that make any sense unless you're drinking a very specific brand of kool-aid, a brand that constantly changes based on the questions asked.

Lately, it feels like I've been drinking whatever anyone hands me, even if it is in just a red solo cup, and even if I didn't see them pour it, and even if they're telling me they've dropped poison in it. Some self-preservation switch somewhere inside of me doesn't seem to be functioning, and it hasn't been since that first time I graduated, just about five years ago.

I left home looking for... something, and surprisingly, since I had no idea what I was looking for, I haven't been able to find it. That search has left me empty-handed, except for a long string of broken promises and cell phone contacts that eventually are going to amount to nothing.

That's how I work, if you haven't caught on yet. I am something of a study in impermanence, while at the same time staying exactly the same. The chunks of space rock that make up the rings of Saturn are consistently expelled from the formation and replaced, but the planet and the moons remain the same. The problem is when you forget which group is which.

And I think I've done an incredible job of forgetting lately. My priorities have become so twisted there are times when I look at myself in the mirror and am shocked at who I find staring back at me. This is the point where I drop the phrase "cognitive dissonance" and Cara does the c.d. gesture and I melt a little bit because it's moments like that where life makes sense and I feel like I'm in the right place.

In the relatively fictitious world of television, there's allegedly a saying "this won't play in Peoria." Essentially, the concept behind it is that if something's not going to go over in middle America, it's not going on anywhere. The office is quickly becoming that to me. If you can hang there, and really hang there, not just get the two-second tour, if you can chill on the modular couches and take the boarderline harrassment that makes up a huge chunk of the grad school existence, then you are really and truly "in," I think, and that's a litmus test almost no one actually gets to take.

And I like it that way. It's the one thing I've been keeping close to my chest, and the couple times someone has been asked to rise to that occasion, they've stepped up, big time. Just like they always do.

There's been this mantra in my family, mantra's not the right word, let's go with... theory. There's been this theory in my family for some time now... and it's been one of those things that's just kinda sat there. It gets brought up every now and then, we joke about it, and then it fades away.

I think it's starting to take hold, though, and that's entirely scary. The scariest part of the whole scenario is that it feels like it makes sense. I explained it, really explained it, to new people for the first time today, and it's one of those situations where once you step back enough to tell the story to someone else, it seems like there's only one way it can end. Aaahhh.

So, it seems like the only real nextt step is to load up the car and tear off into that strange night. But I have interviews tomorrow, and i've an appointment on tuesday.

"The Code"

We live in a world that's regulated by codes. We've got rules about how to prepare food in restaurants, how long you have to wait before dating a friend's ex, and we've more or less come to a consensus on when it's acceptible to not wear pants.

Hockey's got a code, too, and the hockey code involves when it is acceptible, is not acceptible, or is required to drop the gloves and fight someone. For the most part, the code is followed pretty well. If you take a cheap shot at one of the other team's skill players, you should probably expect that big hulking guy to come after you. Crash the net too hard and try to take out the goalie, you're looking at the same consequences.

However, sometimes people don't follow to code at all. Case in point, one young Mr. Jonathan Roy (that's french, and is pronounced Wha) who found simself standing around, bored, when there was a bit of a fight going on around him.

That's all kinds of not acceptible, there.

Monday, March 10, 2008


I'm punching this out on my mom's blackberry, somewhere on the road in Pennsylvania. Graham and I are spending break in the district, then taking a rental car back, by ourselves, which should be interesting.I'll write more later, when I'm not on a phone. Peace.