Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Things I Learned at Antioch College

I attended Antioch College from 1991-96 and despite what a number of people have said about Antioch shooting itself in the foot, I learned many important lessons during my time there. The education I got at Antioch was so different from that I see the undergrads here at Big Ag U that it's difficult to cover everything.

In many ways my Antioch education wasn't that different than any liberal arts education, so the accusation that somehow it's Antioch's unconventional education that resulted in it's financial demise is just not true. Yes, there are some things about Antioch that are unconventional, but it's hardly fair to accuse them of not preparing their students for a competitive job market.

Everyone is mentioning the lack of letter grades and the use of narrative evaluations, as if employers hire based on graduates' GPAs. The truth is that my narrative evaluations meant that I had what amounted to numerous glowing recommendations of my academic work when it came time to apply to graduate school. Just as at other alternative schools, such as Evergreen and UCSC, it was possible to request that letter grades be placed on your transcripts.

No one is mentioning the most important aspect of the Antioch experience, the cooperative education program. This program, which started in 1921 requires all students to participate in several paid internship experiences. I expressly chose Antioch because I would get job and travel experiences. Each year at Antioch I spent 3-6 months working full time at a real job. I spent time interning at a major museum in Chicago. I worked as an environmental lobbyist in West Virginia. I tried my hand in a chemistry lab. I even ran the college's community garden, marketing the produce at the Yellow Springs farmers market. (I'm glad I got the organic farming bug out of my system.)

My first year at Antioch I worked as an assistant in the registrar's office. I must have been frustrated by the dilapidated state of the facilities, because the registrar, who had worked there seemingly forever, explained to me the demise of Antioch's endowment. It had nothing to do with Antioch's leftist leanings. During the 70's one of Antioch's presidents spent the endowment opening up satellite campuses all over the country and hiring his buddies to administer them. At some point in the late 70's most of the satellite campuses closed down, leaving the campus with practically no endowment. Since then the college hasn't had enough money to repair it's dilapidated buildings.

The commencement speaker at my graduation was Harvard professor and popular science essayist Steven J. Gould, himself an Antioch graduate. At the time I found his speech both amusing and slightly insulting in that it's thesis was that Antioch was like a bacteria or amoeba, small, adaptable, and difficult to eradicate. Now I hope that Gould was correct, that Antioch will reappear 2012.


Random philosophical problems

I'm writing a paper to do with posthumanism and the question of the moral standing of non-human animals. Today I ran into an undergrad I know who asked me what I was doing. Then I did a very poor job of trying to explain what the class was about. (I didn't even try to explain what my paper was about.)

He said something like, "I always have trouble explaining classes I really like." Thanks. I don't know how you philosophy folks do it. I felt like I had to try to explain critical theory (which I don't really understand myself) and then explain humanism before I could even get to the point about non-human animals. I have tried to say to people, "I'm taking this class about animals." This results in them saying something like, "You mean like wildlife ecology?"

Last week at an end of the year party I told some other grad students in my program that I'm interested in discourses on/about nature and everyone looked at me like, "What did you say?" I ended up explaining why I think there was a link between whiteness and and concern for "nature," which probably offended and/or confused people because I didn't explain it well.

I have also taken (when slightly drunk) to attempting to insert, as many times as I can, the word hegemony unnecessarily into conversation. One (if one is a frazzle grad student) can accuse people of being hegemonic in sort of the same way that the peasant at the beginning of Monty Python and the Holy Grail yells "Help, help, I'm being oppressed!" But it's only funny if you have recently read "Contingency, Hegemony, Universality."


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Married Date Night

Beorn and I have been having a little bit of a difficult time. We have our ups and downs, both of us being in school at the same time is very challenging financially. Beorn tends to retreat into the computer and online gaming. Last weekend, after some complaining on my part he made an effort to spend time with me and have a "date night." We went to sushi and then rented movies. Sunday night we watched "Little Miss Sunshine." I think it is now on my list of the best movies ever. It's been a long time since I laughed that hard. If you have seen it click below for the rest of my review, if you haven't, then go rent it right now!
The thing that I loved about the "talent show" scene was the way that it played up the double standard in America about little girls and sexuality. According to the pageant organizers it's OK for little girls to be sexual as long as they are emulating the proper role models.

I love this video, where the cast talk about working with the little girl, Abigail Breslin.


More Family Drama

So my father has proposed that Beorn and I move in to my grandparent's house for a while to help care for my grandmother. This will most likely be the source of much drama. My grandparents already have a caregiver living with them during the week, but my dad and my uncles are supposed to be caring for them on the weekends. This doesn't work very well because my grandmother forgets to take her medications, which she needs to do four times a day. Also, she's diabetic, so she needs have someone monitor her blood sugar and make sure she eats. She's having mild dementia so she need someone there all the time. My grandfather must have been helping to keep track of her, but now he is in the hospital.

I'm worried about him because he survived the surgery, but doesn't seem to be getting better. His breathing is very labored and his blood pressure is very low. He isn't strong enough to even move around in bed much. I had to help him to call the nurse because he couldn't find the button in the tangle of tubes and monitors. Hopefully he will be going to a rehab facility soon. If he doesn't get better there is a possibility that he would come home for the family to care for as long as he lasts.

For me, the sad situation for my grandparents isn't the biggest issue. I feel strangely able to deal with my sadness and their sadness. It's my father and uncles' inability to deal with their emotions. Any negative emotions on their parts are channeled into anger and yelling. I have trouble dealing with it, which is why I have tried to avoid major entanglements with the extended family until now.

The smart thing to do would be not to get involved, but since Beorn and I are home all the time anyway, if we lived there we could be a big help. Also my grandmother doesn't eat unless she likes what she is given and Beorn and I are both good cooks. I can't help but think of all the times when I was little that my grandmother took care of me, especially when I was sick.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Apparently this is my week to let out my inner geek.
As seen on the Paper Chase:

You scored as Ranger, The forest are home to fierce and cunning creatures, such as the bloodthirsty Owl bears and malicious Displacer Beasts. But more cunning and powerful than these monsters is the ranger, a skilled hunter and stalker. He knows the woods as if they were his home(as indeed they are), and he knows his prey in deadly detail.























Which D&D Class Are You?
created with


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

BBC Religious Sitcoms

Lately we have been watching The Vicar of Dibley, a hilarious comedy about a female vicar in small town in England, starring Dawn French. I love Dawn French. (You might remember her as the Fat Lady in Harry Potter.) She's funny, smart, and beautiful. I also love the fact that her weight doesn't seem to be an issue in the show.

Someday I want to have a face off between the Vicar and Father Ted. Father Ted stars three slightly cracked Irish catholic priests, forced to live on Craggy Island because of their un-priestly ways.

American sitcoms can't hold a candle to British ones in my mind. These two shows are so funny, they really cheer me up. Very few American shows have ever done that for me, maybe MASH as a kid. I'm not obsessed with all things British, but British TV is the best.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Fractal Geometry and Boyfriends

Tonight I'm watching The Colours of Infinity and reminiscing about old boyfriends. In the early 90's, I was just starting college. My first college boyfriend was a physics major. He was a senior and had keys for almost anyplace on campus. Why? I'm not sure, but he had a way with the campus staff. This gave me a feeling that he was strong and competent. The fractal sets playing on his computer screen made me feel that he was intelligent and philosophically "deep." I guess I was innocent in my own way. I'm sure that he wasn't the most socially competent person on campus, but he had a geeky allure. My crush had little to do with him, but much to do with the idea of a scientist, the idea of intelligence, and the glamor of the search for knowledge. I was in love with my own idea of what a scientist was and fractal images were a major part of that. (Also, he was building a robot dog as his senior project, I kid you not.)


Cyborg Grandpa

My grandpa made it through his hip replacement surgery! Yay! He's not out of the woods yet, but I'm hopeful. He already had a knee replacement, but now he has another mechanical part.

Grandpa has nothing on Michael Chorost. Chorost has a cochlear implant, which allows him to hear, but produces some interesting side effects such has a magnetic spot on his head and periodic software updates. A friend gave me a copy of Chorost's book, Rebuilt and I'm really looking forward reading it.


Sunday, June 03, 2007


I had a interesting time at my conference. Nothing terrible happened during my presentation. Unfortunately, on Friday my grandfather fell down and broke his hip. He's in the hospital, in need of surgery. For years he's been on blood thinners to make sure he didn't have a heart attack or stroke. Now they have to take him off the blood thinners to do the surgery, but that means that there will be a high risk of heart attack or stroke.

The worse part of this is that both my grandparents have terrible hearing loss, so it's difficult to spend quality time with them.

The point is that I may not be blogging much until this all gets sorted out.


Friday, June 01, 2007

Central Park Historical Trivia

A friend (who shall here remain nameless) pointed out to me that there is no such thing as a "tenement farmer," apparently the proper term is "tenant farmer." I googled this, not because I didn't believe her, but because I could swear that I heard it from other people. At least 34 other people have made the same mistake, so I'm not the only one.

I was trying to say that before Central Park was built there were people farming some of that land and they weren't all tenant farmers, some of them were squatting farmers. Saying squatting farmers doesn't sound right though. There must be a better word.