Feb 28, 2010

This might be interesting

Here's a PBS program on the recent history of South Africa. I can't watch is, as it isn't licensed outside the US, but my sister says it's pretty good. Might be worth checking out, but I think it's only available for the next couple days.

Song of the day

"Fight Test," by The Flaming Lips:

I thought I was smart - I thought I was right
I thought it better not to fight - I thought there was a
Virtue in always being cool - so when it came time to
Fight I thought I'll just step aside and that the time would
Prove you wrong and that you would be the fool -

I don't know where the sun beams end and the star
Lights begins it's all a mystery

Oh to fight is to defend if it's not
Now then tell me when would be the time that you would stand up
And be a man - for to lose I could accept but to surrender
I just wept and regretted this moment - oh that I - I
Was the fool

I don't know where the sun beams end and the star
Lights begins it's all a mystery
And I don't know how a man decides what right for his
Own life - it's all a mystery

Cause I'm a man not a boy and there are things
You can't avoid you have to face them when you're not prepared
To face them -
If I could I would but you're with him now it'd do no good
I should have fought him but instead I let him - I let
Him take it -

I don't know where the sun beams end and the star
Lights begins it's all a mystery
And I don't know how a man decides what right for his
Own life - it's all a mystery


PS: I know it's a Cat Stevens ripoff.

Sunday funny

Would you have to spin the opposite direction in the southern hemisphere? I think so, but I'm not certain I could prove it. Thoughts?


Apparently there's a new fungus that causes stem rust in wheat, defeated long ago but back for another round:
The enemy is Ug99, a fungus that causes stem rust, a calamitous disease of wheat. Its spores alight on a wheat leaf, then work their way into the flesh of the plant and hijack its metabolism, siphoning off nutrients that would otherwise fatten the grains. The pathogen makes its presence known to humans through crimson pustules on the plant’s stems and leaves. When those pustules burst, millions of spores flare out in search of fresh hosts. The ravaged plant then withers and dies, its grains shriveled into useless pebbles.

Stem rust is the polio of agriculture, a plague that was brought under control nearly half a century ago as part of the celebrated Green Revolution. After years of trial and error, scientists managed to breed wheat that contained genes capable of repelling the assaults of Puccinia graminis, the formal name of the fungus.

But now it’s clear: The triumph didn’t last. While languishing in the Ugandan highlands, a small population of P. graminis evolved the means to overcome mankind’s most ingenious genetic defenses. This distinct new race of P. graminis, dubbed Ug99 after its country of origin (Uganda) and year of christening (1999), is storming east, working its way through Africa and the Middle East and threatening India and China. More than a billion lives are at stake. “It’s an absolute game-changer,” says Brian Steffenson, a cereal-disease expert at the University of Minnesota who travels to Njoro regularly to observe the enemy in the wild. “The pathogen takes out pretty much everything we have.”

Indeed, 90 percent of the world’s wheat has little or no protection against the Ug99 race of P. graminis. If nothing is done to slow the pathogen, famines could soon become the norm — from the Red Sea to the Mongolian steppe — as Ug99 annihilates a crop that provides a third of our calories.
It's worth a read.

Feb 27, 2010

This is getting ridiculous

Once again, in Kuruman, on the same street as last time (maybe 100 yards away from the site of the last incident, with the same friend as last time even) I was harassed again by tsotsis. This time one guy tried to stop us both, then two followed us trying (in the most obvious way you can imagine) to get into our backpacks. I could feel them trying to do that, so I kind of waggled them off, then we stopped with our backs to a taxi, pushed them away, and yelled at them for awhile. They left, but not right away. They seemed kind of pissed, which is about par for the course here. The sense of aggrieved entitlement is very common here, like I owe them my stuff. The tsosti Ubuntu. It's infuriating--these drunken chumps are lucky I'm not some Afrikaner with a gigantic pistol on my hip.

Neither of us had anything valuable on the outside of our packs, and they didn't get inside them anyway, but it was still a pain in the ass. I noticed this time that I was much calmer, and we both acted more rationally and effectively. I'm getting used to it. Still, it's getting out of control. At this point I expect to have an robbery attempt every time I step foot on the street between Shoprite and the taxi rank. Three other people that I know of have been involved in similar incidents in the past three weeks, all in that same place.

I am continually struck, though, by the stupidity of the criminals around here. I was never robbed in New York (in fact, it's one of the safest cities in the US), but from stories I hear, criminals there don't screw around. None of this half-assed following two young males around for half a block pawing drunkenly at their backpacks. In New York (or in Pretoria or Joburg, most likely) that would have gotten your ass kicked, or maced, or worse.

UPDATE: Someone emails to ask if anything can be done. I've been in contact with the Peace Corps security officer, and tomorrow I'm going to call the police chief of Kuruman and file a report. I got a good look at one of the guys this time (he only had one good eye), so I think that can do some good. My feeling is that this is a relatively small group of very stupid people who could be caught or scared off easily.

I've been considering steps to take personally. I want to avoid the backpack as much as possible, and keep as many things as I can in my money belt or around my neck. I kind of wish I had brought an expandable baton, though that's probably the wrong step to take. One wonders what would serve as an effective deterrent. Hopefully the police can work some magic.

Feb 26, 2010


According to KLM, I'm still short on my fundraising for this marathon thingy. I'm about halfway to $100, so I just need a few more people to kick in some bucks. Go to the KLM website, click donate, and put my name in the Longtom Marathon field. Even $5 is 5% of the total!


As I teach more and more I realize how I'm not really cut out for the job of teaching little kids (or Young Learners as they call them). Today the Grade 5 and 6 just had me at the end of my rope. Every time I turned my back they were shouting and hitting each other, and my system of punishment (where I write their name on the board as a warning, and give them check marks if they keep talking, each check meaning two minutes after school) just didn't seem to have an effect. By the end of class I had probably 3/4ths of the kids up on the board. The really bad ones (with 3 or more checks) I made sweep the classroom after school was out (which ended early because most of the teachers left).

One of these bad kids skipped out of the class while I had my back turned, which made me so angry I about lost it. The remaining ones swept in a self-pitying and sullen manner, throwing around desks and chairs, whining about how they were hungry and tired they were. They didn't seem to be learning a lesson from this, either.

They'd say, "Me, I'm tired and hungry."
I'd say, "Well, maybe you shouldn't talk in class so much."
"Mister, it's not fair! They all went home already!"
"They weren't being so noisy in class."

Then back to half-assed sweeping. After they destroyed the room moving the desks around, I made them tidy it back up again, putting all the desks and chairs back where they were. At this point one of the grade 6 boys made like he would slap me. I'm not sure what I would do if that actually happened. I wish I could say I would remain calm, but I'm not sure. I think I would probably lose my temper. I hope I wouldn't knock him across the room.

Something about the formal teaching environment plays to my weaknesses. I'm pretty good in small groups and one-on-one, but with a whole class of fidgety little kids I'm just terrible. Gotta keep trying, though, at the end of the day all this is my own fault. If I were a better teacher, I wouldn't have these problems--therefore, it must be a matter of technique, which hopefully can be learned. I'll keep experimenting.

Feb 25, 2010

In lighter news

This afternoon I went on the longest run I've ever done in my life (as far as I can remember, anyway). An hour and a half, which by my calculations puts it at approximately ten miles nonstop (yeah, I'm a wuss, I know). It was also one of the easiest runs I've done--I put on some tunes (Daft Punk's Homework) and the miles melted away. For awhile there it felt like I was floating; my mind drifted off, and I sort of forgot what I was doing. That's a violent change from my usual experience with running, which is better called a slog: painful, boring, and high-impact.

On the way out for my run, I cross the bridge, but coming back into the village I usually take one of the side roads, which just crosses the riverbed. Because of the rain last night, it was still running, and fairly heavily at that. I didn't want to go around, so I took off my shoes and waded across. It was deeper than I thought, about knee-deep and fast in the middle (I'd revise my estimate of the earlier flood up to about 150 cfs). I was sorely tempted to dunk myself, but as I was carrying my ipod, I didn't think it was a good idea. Still, getting my feet wet triggered those old river neurons, and I felt high as a kite. I could get used to this running stuff.

So, long story short, I'm in a fantastic mood. To celebrate, here's one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite rock operas. Daft Punk's "Digital Love:"

Nighttime tribulations

It was a dark and stormy night (heh), and with the rain hammering on my roof like the cast of Riverdance, I had some trouble falling asleep. I made it though, but was woken up by a light misting of droplets on my face. The wind had peeled back one of the sheets of tin a few inches and the rain--which had slackened off quite a bit--was coming right in. All the roof beams in my room are fairly rotten from water coming through the nail holes every time it rains, so it wasn't too surprising that the nail (which went all the way through the beam) was pulled out.

Cursing every deity I could think of, I grabbed a chair and squirmed on to the roof, managing not to cut myself to ribbons. (I don't think I could do that again without the volcanic rage assist.) Luckily I had put a brick up there for this very reason, though on another sheet. I hoisted it over and dropped back to the ground. What a pain!

I've got some serious repairs planned for this weekend. They involve a whole stack of bricks and maybe a gallon of caulk.

Feb 24, 2010

Sunset progression

More from the archives today. This was from one of the weirdest sunsets I've ever seen. It started out fairly normally, but then the sun got underneath the top layer of clouds:

And it just kept getting more spectacular.

Then, though, it made a sharp turn from orange to purple:

And kept on turning.Beautiful.

Feb 23, 2010

Book review: Cryptonomicon

This piece by Neal Stephenson was unadulterated fun. It was basically what I thought Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace was going to be: big, goofy, nerdy, and hilarious. (See here for my review of IJ.)

It has two parallel stories about a related sets of people in WWII and present day. The WWII story is set around a marine (Bobby Shaftoe) who works with a pioneer of cryptography and computers (Lawrence Waterhouse) to hide the fact that the Allies have broken Japanese and German codes. The present day story is set around an entrepreneur (Randy Waterhouse, the grandson of Lawrence) who is building a data haven in a fictional pacific country near the Philippines.

The plot is quite intricate, and is developed nice and slow. For someone with a weak mathematical mind (for a scientist, anyway), it was pleasingly numerate, but not so much that I was often lost. (I confess, though, that I’m still a little unclear on the Riemann zeta function.) Even for someone who is terribly frightened of math, those sections weren’t too critical—but one will enjoy the book a lot more with some mathematical background.

Like any huge book, it does drag in spots. The ending was a little disappointing as well—it felt a little forced. But overall, it was a hell of a fun read. I managed to plow through it in two days, and it is often hilarious. I was reading it during school breaks and my teachers kept asking me what the devil I was laughing at.

I keep coming back to the Infinite Jest comparison. Cryptonomicon was just superior in every way. Funnier, less pretentious, better written, better plotted, smarter, and more meaningful. Mostly I’m still pissed about the lousy ending—Cryptonomicon didn’t have a spectacular ending but it was still miles better than stopping in mid-sentence.

Weight update

Here's a datum for those of you interested in weight gain/loss in Peace Corps: at 70.5 kg (155.4 lbs) I'm now lighter than I've been since I was a freshman in college. Back then, I went from a meager 135 to 165 lbs in about six months of hitting the weights pretty hard.

I attribute the loss to not eating very much and running a lot. A couple weekends ago, for a variety of reasons, I went almost 2 days without a meal. The old "too-lazy-to-cook" bachelor syndrome, I'm afraid.

Feb 22, 2010

Primary school jazz

 They're building a Grade R (kindergarten) classroom at my school. This seems rather foolish, as the Grade Rs already have a place to meet--in the library, (which has a few high school accounting textbooks with a good quarter-inch of dust on them). Not only that, the new Department of Education regulations stipulate that the learner/educator ratio is supposed to be 32. Here, where the average class size is around 16 or so and all the senior phase grades (7, 8, 9) have their own classroom, that can't last. Grade 7 and 8 are going to have to be combined after I leave, which will leave an empty classroom. Not to mention that enrollment has been consistently falling for the last 10 years. Oh well.

In other news, today I visited the primary school in the neighboring village for the first time and was blown away by the quality of the teaching, especially the Grade 2 teacher. The feeding scheme has broken down this week, so the kids hadn't even been fed, but she had the full attention of every single one of about 30 kids. Not one goofing off, or talking to her friend, or anything. She didn't hit them, or even chastise them at all. That kind of classroom management is spooky to watch--like a really good political rally or something, where the audience is just rapt. I don't think I'll ever be able to manage that--teaching little kids spectacularly well seems to require an uncommon mix of genuine enthusiasm and charisma, genuine love of children, and an aptitude for ruthless psychological manipulation. Whatever it takes, I don't have it. I'll have to settle for passable.
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South Africa in the news

This article from the New York Times is about the new bus system in Gauteng and the troubles they're running into there:
South Africa has erased apartheid from its statute books, but the racist schemes of white minority rule remain engraved on the landscape in an extreme form of residential segregation. Millions of blacks still live in townships far from centers of commerce and employment. Those with jobs, like Mrs. Hanong, must endure commutes that devour their time and meager incomes, while legions of jobless people are isolated from opportunity.

The new Bus Rapid Transit systems planned for South Africa’s major cities in recent years have promised to ease those hardships by providing fast, affordable, dignified travel on bus lanes cleared of other vehicles.

Feb 21, 2010


After a paltry five-month delay, the promised furniture from the Northern Cape department of education arrived this week. It's actually fairly nice!

I had assumed that it was never going to show up, and was astounded when it actually came. We've now got a desk, chair, bed, and wardrobe. For my money the wardrobe makes the biggest difference. Being able to move out of my suitcase and get my clothes off the floor is a huge step toward feeling at home.

Feb 19, 2010

The advantages of tape media

For all the quality improvements of the CD, their inferior durability is very obvious here in South Africa. Though CDs are tougher than most people think, the procedure to fix them is rather involved. Here everyone seems to have a couple CDs floating around, and every single one I've ever seen is scratched to hell. Nothing says "South African taxi" to me like Setswana songs mixed with a cheap Casio keyboard skipping relentlessly.

Yet the other day my host brother pulled out a tape of some old gospel music (saccharine, vanilla Americana stuff) that he said was 30 years old, and it still played. Better suited to this type of environment.

The last hurrah

 My camera is definitively hosed. Fussing with the lens cap to try and get it to turn on properly I pushed a bit too hard and heard a crack of breaking plastic deep in the guts of the thing. Now it won't focus at all. So in memoriam, I give you this sunset to ponder. From now on you're stuck with my cheesy cell phone camera unless I can save up some bucks for a new one.

Godspeed, Samsung S860. May your future journeys be better-constructed than you were.
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Feb 18, 2010

The river

 It's been running for the last two days. Since the last storm, it dried up and then came back during a clear blue sky. My host family tells me that the drainage is enormous, that the water is coming from Vryburg (about 200 km away in Northwest province). Whatever the reason, I love it. I walked in the drainage on my weekly visit to Laxey even though it probably doubled my trip time and had me scrambling in the brambles and thorn bushes. Something about water, especially muddy water, makes me happy.
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Article of the day

Chris Jones' profile of Roger Ebert in Esquire.

Feb 17, 2010

Blog post of the week

My friend Noah has a powerful experience:
The next sequence happened in about half a second. I saw a bright light out of the corner of my eye where my outlet and surge protector are and then I was on the ground. I shouted or at least my brain was shouting and I was paralyzed on the floor still in the sitting position both arms out in the air.
Go read.

Host family profile: Tebogo

This is my host brother, who lives right next door and helps my host mother (who's past 80) keep house. He's also one of the funniest people I've ever met. Always ready with a quip and a smile.
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News: phones woes reax

So I was down for awhile, I apologize if you thought I was dead or something. The truth is that my internet phone went down hard about two weeks ago and I’ve been waiting for it to be fixed. Apparently the volume up and power button are all part of the same little plastic widget which has a critical connector running through a 1/8’’ of ethereal plastic, and when that breaks, both buttons are kaput. Anywho, it’s fixed now, though you might want to steer clear of the Nokia 3600 slide (though about half the volunteers in our group bought one, and mine is the only one that’s broken so far).

So I recently attended a peace corps training in Mpumalanga. In typical fashion the training was scheduled for the second week of school, though we are all working in the schools in some way. They assure us this won’t happen again. The training itself was actually pretty fun. Though I felt bad for leaving the school, it was hard to muster up too much guilt. Seeing the whole group together again was a lot of fun, though people seemed to gossip pretty hard. One more volunteer had left for home, but according to Peace Corps we’re doing extremely well compared to the average. Cooler people than me organized a couple theme parties (including a “Peace Corps prom”) that were way cooler than I thought they were going to be.

The training sessions themselves were the same mediocre Peace Corps crap I’ve come to expect here. It was terribly hot, but I didn’t mind them too much as I usually brought a book or nodded off. One of the better ideas was to allow those of us that wanted to visit our old host family back in Marapyane. Unfortunately mine was not there, but it was still interesting to hang out with some friends’ family and see how the place had changed. I’m glad to be in Northern Cape—Mpumalanga is really humid. I can take that desert heat a lot better.

After the training we headed back to our villages. I couldn’t really feel like I had settled in after vacation, as the training was only a couple weeks later, but now I feel like I’m starting to get the hang of it again. I had my birthday ten days ago (thanks to people that sent me birthday emails). I didn’t have a party or anything, but it was still a pretty good time. I got to meet some friends in town, plus my kids sang me Happy Birthday in Setswana and English. Having a summer birthday was unsettling in a deep way, especially since the US seems to be getting hammered everywhere with record snowfall.

I’m still hobbling along with my teaching. My reward pathway program was a partial success, but not as much as I hoped because the same 5-10 kids tend to get all the goodies, while the rest just will not shut the hell up. I’ve started a new policy of holding exceptionally noisy kids after class. This works surprisingly well, because I write their name on the board (and give them checks if they keep it up) and they hate that. A weapon to threaten them with is great (that isn’t hitting them, anyway).

I have to admit I’m sorely tempted sometimes to just smack the kids like the rest of the teachers do—it works like a charm! Other volunteers seem strongly affected by corporal punishment, but it doesn’t really bother me. I suppose that makes me a bad person. Joking aside, I would describe the corporal punishment in my school as roughly equivalent to a childhood spanking--I don't think I could be so cavalier about real thrashings. No long-term damage and certainly nothing anywhere close to the torture practiced under Bantu Education (or still in some places today). It’s usually an eraser on an upturned hand or a switch across the knuckles. No bleeding through three pairs of pants. I do realize (in fact, I’ve seen) how hitting the kids doesn’t help their learning one iota, and in fact breeds resentment and anger. But no learning is happening when 27 kids are screaming at each other at the top of their lungs either, and howling prepubescent voices just put me in a homicidal mood. (I’m going to make a great father.)

I hear the US is buried under thirty feet of snow or something. Hope everyone has got power and heat.

Feb 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

To celebrate, here's a Jane Mayer article on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Eric Holder, and the proposed trial in New York City. Also, if you've got a suitable candidate, give 'em a big smooch for me, huh?

Feb 13, 2010

Give me some money or I kill this kitten

Speaking of thievery, there's a marathon for charity coming up. I plan to run in it--though not the full whack, only half the distance, 21.1 km. I'm supposed to raise money for a foundation called KLM, which is basically a scholarship program to send kids from poor rural villages in Mpumalanga to Uplands College, one of the best secondary schools in the country. To participate in the marathon, each Peace Corps volunteer is supposed to raise $100. Can you spare a couple bucks?

Here's how to donate. Go to the KLM site, where you can check out the program and some of the recipients, and click "Donate" in the upper right (make sure you have flash enabled). Make sure you put my name in the Longtom Marathon field so I get credit for your money (pretty easy for me, eh? All I have to do is run 21 km and not die). That's it. Now help a disadvantaged South African child—or else.
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Tsotsis (thieves)

A friend and myself were almost mugged in Kuruman today (well, my friend had it worse than me). We were walking along a side street in broad daylight, middle of the day with lots of people around. A guys walks out in front of us and stops like he's looking at something on the ground. I give him a nudge with my arm but he doesn't move and it becomes clear to me that he's being a distraction for something else. I walk around (as he's blocking a kind of choke point) and we cross the main street that connects to the side street. We realize we're being followed.

Now, you should know this is the most crowded street in Kuruman. The most popular grocery store (Shoprite) is on one side, the bus rank and taxi rank are on the other, with the inevitable liquor store right in the middle. So not sure what to do, we start walking toward Shoprite, maybe 50 yards down the sidewalk from our current position. One of the tsotsis gets in front of us and stops. Without really considering what I'm doing, I grab him and push him to the side--not savagely, but hard--and start walking fast up the sidewalk, pushing a path through the crowd. I assume my friend is right on my ass, until I'm almost there when I turn back and he's gone. I go back and see him shaking off the last of the tsotsis, backpack askew. Turns out they grabbed his bag and went for his cell phone, but he managed to get hold of his phone and wallet, and his bag was saved by his waist strap. Probably 30 people witnessed this, some inches away, and did nothing.

Nothing was lost, so we lucked out in that regard. However, we thought a lot about ways we could have performed better. Obviously the biggest mistake we made was my friend not howling bloody murder when they finally grabbed him, so that I could help, but mostly to create a scene and maybe attract some police. It's the same mistake that I made when I lost my shoes--the fact of people trying to rob you is so jarring it's hard to think what to do. Also when we first crossed the street, there was a KFC we could have run into, which I suppose would have been the smart move...though if they were willing to try robbery in broad daylight on a crowded street, what's to stop them from doing it in a restaurant?

Finally, me pushing the guy who stopped in front of us. I'm of two minds about that part. At the time, I basically thought (to the extent that I thought it all, mostly it was just blind instinct) I'm not stopping, asshole, as it was certainly the first step in being surrounded. But could it make him pull a knife or something? It seems like a bad idea to be escalating in any way, but letting yourself be surrounded doesn't seem like the best way to avoid violence either.

I carry a pocketknife, and I was hoping like hell I wouldn't see a need to pull it out. Certainly I wouldn't fight someone for my stuff, or phone, or money. But say one of them just decides to take a poke at a lekgowa for no reason? It wouldn't be the first time.

Anyway, I don't think either of us were in any real danger. These guys were gone like smoke when they realized they couldn't get anything right away. Only a fool would stab someone on the street. But it's hugely stressful to go through something like that. I was amped for hours afterward, playing the scenario over and over in my mind, seeing thieves everywhere. It's jarring to go from chatting about 19th century German history to if this fucker pulls a knife I'm going to kick him in the balls as hard as I can and run screaming.

The University of Pretoria

During my last trip to Pretoria I had the chance to take a tour around the campus of the University of Pretoria and attend a couple classes. These students represent the elite of South African society, and here’s why: out of the about 1.5 million students that enrolled in Grade 1 twelve years ago, about 550,000 actually sat for the matric test (the final high school test that determines whether a student receives a diploma), and of those, only 330,000 passed. Of the passing group, only about 110,000 scored high enough to qualify for university training, ~7% of the original group.

I met a friend from the village there, the same daughter of my ex-principal that I have mentioned before, so I ended up hanging out mostly with a bunch of black girls for the afternoon. There was a pleasingly diverse mix of people at the university—though I’m sure that whites and Asians were vastly over-represented in terms of population. Like most similar places in the US, different racial groups tended to stick together. Even in this Rainbow Nation stew, a white guy talking with a bunch of black girls was enough to get more than a few stares. Of course, it could have been my unfashionable clothes (no one wears Carhartt shorts in South Africa).

The classes were terrible. I suppose it’s not fair to judge them just yet as school has just started, but man, they were bad. I went to a sociology class that was the kind of thing that gives science majors the idea that soft sciences are a bunch of crap. Vague, boring, grotesquely over-generalized (quote: “Nazism happened because people were down, you know?”), projector notes that the back of the room couldn’t see, etc. At one point someone asked the professor what the difference was between fascism and Nazism, and she farmed the question out to the class before saying she’d Google it. Not knowing if I should answer or not, I choked back a trademark Reed College disquisition—and I’m a damn chemistry major.

I don’t mean to be cocky, either. At Reed I was decidedly middling in terms of intelligence—it was my history professor that gave me whatever I know about fascism and Nazism (again, not to say I'm capable of holding forth on any subject you can dream up. Of course there are massive gaps in my knowledge--the point was more even a silly science major picks up those kind of details at Reed). When I left Reed I was roundly sick of the place, but as I get some more distance from the experience I increasingly recognize how unbelievably lucky I was to go there. I think most people do about the average amount of work at school (especially myself), it's just at Reed that average is quite a lot.

The philosophy class was, if anything, worse. The professor was one of those philosophy professors whose sneering condescension was matched only by her inappropriate name-checking of famous thinkers. Example: “This classroom [which was very full] can be your first example of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, as what the administration considers big enough is not what we consider big enough.” WTF?

Still, it's probably not fair to judge the whole school by those two random intro classes. Hopefully next time I can have another tour and get a more thoroughly grounded opinion.


Internet is back up! I know you're all breathless with anticipation, but I've got two weeks' worth of international politics to catch up on. Stay tuned.

Feb 6, 2010

Home Front

Snowfall records shattered in RJA's old stomping ground. Nothing visible but a seven foot mound of snow out his old bedroom window. This is the sunset one might have seen, if one we're here, say, rather than out in his village, and one could have seen out. Submitted by "Pops."

Quick further update

I borrowed a friend's internet for a minute to give you more of that pseudo-philosophical rambling that I know you all are dying to hear, but I can't really think of anything at the moment that I haven't already written on my computer back at my site.

So, having a summer birthday for the first time is deeply weird. That's all I got.

More delay

I'm writing this in Kuruman at an internet cafe. My internet phone is still MIA--apparently the button that broke is one of the more sophisticated ones, requiring special parts from Joburg. So hopefully next week I should be back in business.

I've only got 15 minutes here, so I'll keep it short. I've been teaching full-time in the classroom and every day having it beaten into my head how hard teaching little kids is. I've been thinking more and more in terms of COIN (counter-insurgency) strategies, but for whatever reason little kids are a handful. Especially when you don't speak their language and they don't speak yours.

Hopefully my internet withdrawl doesn't hit too hard. Keep your fingers crossed and I'll be back next week. Until then, I'm trying to get my family to keep the place alive until I make it back. Toodles!