Monday, April 30, 2012

UPDATED! Are Good or Bad Dreams More Upsetting?

Happy Monday!

You ever have one of those days where you're really worried about something, and then it goes over exactly how you wanted it to, and you wonder why you worried so much about it? Then you wake up in bed, and it's 3 minutes before your alarm goes off on the morning of that thing you were so worried about? Yeah...

I'm to give a final presentation for a research design project tonight, and let's just say I'm...apprehensive. The project will be an investigation into the changing role of "the victim" in the transitional phase after a civil war or period of internal struggle in which a large number of people were killed, "disappeared," etc. by government or insurgent fighting forces. How has the discourse on the transition process, which IR nerds call "Transitional Justice," changed and evolved over time, from the days when war crimes tribunals a la Nuremberg were the only option, through the Truth Commissions in Latin America and elsewhere, to the emerging focus on grassroots efforts at community healing and forgiveness on the individual AND the group level. The answer is the same as you get when you cross an elephant and a rhinoceros...elephino! El-if-i-no. 'ell if i know? tap tap is this on? But I don't know, because it's not really a project. Just a project design. Look, I could get up there and wax philosophical about a project design with one eye open, OK? But the Q&A afterward, that's what worries me. That someone's going to have a really intriguing, incisive question that I can't even begin to answer, and so I stumble through some lame platitude like "mm, thanks for asking....errr that's a really good question...errr I'll have to look into that more thankssorrynextquestion," and also I'll be in my underwear. Just kidding, that would probably net me the highest grade in the class.

Ecuador things!
1. Orientation last weekend was swell. There's only six of us! Small-group cohesion FTW?
2. Still waiting to hear the final word on my placement with the Latin American Future Foundation.
3. Professor sent out the pre-departure reading list the other day. As in the stuff I have to read between the end of finals next week and the beginning of June.The best way I can think of to describe it is. . . hefty. Luckily I'll have like a million plane trips for the undergraduate commencements of various younger brothers (mine and others') to get it done, as well as a completely random train ride up to Baltimore the last week before I leave, apparently.
4. Need to reach out to a great Quito-based professional resource one of my professors put me in touch with. Why is it that everything happens during finals?

Oh and by the way: Laura, fellow SIS part-timer and Latin Americanista, started a blog with roughly the same aim as my own, only for the Dominican Republic. So GO READ IT. I've read the first couple of posts, and it promises to be considerably better-written, as well as more focused and informative, than what you're reading at this moment.

OK, blogging-as-therapy exercise complete. Thanks for reading!

Song of the day (song I hummed to myself on the ride to work): Bat for Lashes- "Sleep Alone"

(UPDATE:) Presentation went off with barely a hitch, because I believed in myself. So, that's one more thing out of the way before the end of the semester. And this morning I remembered a second part of the dream I had yesterday- after my fictional presentation went fictionally well, I went home and played WarCraft II. Remember WarCraft II? Specifically, I think I was building a shipyard so I could make some oil tankers and "try to get that oil!". I really wanna play it now. There's nothing like a dream to make you romanticize the tedious process of ship-based resource collection in a real-time strategy game from the 90s.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Trivial Synchronicities...

...sounds like the name of a song by Jose Gonzalez. But it's really a pretty good descriptor of what goes on in my head a lot of the time-- essentially, I've noticed that things around me seem to connect in weird little ways depending on what I'm doing or thinking about. This is probably a pretty common psychological and I'm most likely making too much of it. Molehills to mountains, people. That's my thing. But on to the story!

Bought a new laptop for the trip this weekend. My thanks to Carlos at Best Buy for being way more helpful than Best Buy's reputation suggested he would be. But while using that very laptop to research educational equality in Uruguay for a paper, I came across an article about laptops for Uruguyan schoolchildren. How meta! By the way, can someone explain to me exactly what does and does not qualify as meta? Anyway, THAT got me thinking about the laptop pilot program that my hometown undertook well past the time when I could benefit from it. My little brother, of course took immediate advantage of this new academic technology and promptly set his home page to Homestar Runner. Much like I gathered in the Maine school case, laptops in Montevideo have been a mixed blessing since they came about in 2009. They break a lot, (judging by the picture, they just rolled off the assembly line at the Playskool plant, so figure that out) and networks often couldn't handle the extra usage. It'd be interesting to see if anything's changed/improved over the last two or three years. Anyone out there with school-aged kids in Maine know how this program has evolved there? Last I heard, iPads were gonna be the next thing but there were severe budget issues. Or maybe just severe budget fights. I could go ahead and search for news about it, but the chances I'll run across a picture or quote of Gov. LePage are just unacceptably high. My lunch of fair-to-middling Chimerican food needs to stay down this afternoon.

Oh, and yesterday evening I rescued my Tales from the Sharrows buttons from the clutches of their creator/vendor Brian, so.....styliiiiiiiin'! Here's one gracing the wall of some place that is most definitely not my cubicle:

And one hooked to Winona the Kona's saddlebag:

You're welcome, Washington Area Bicyclists' Association.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Thoughts for a sunny Friday

I bet you thought this was going to be one of those blogs that never gets past the initial post, right? Well, joke's on you, Mom. This isn't tee-ball and I'm not 4 year-old quitter Adam anymore. Second posting, what?!

It was one of those mornings when you've got to choose between being a little too warm and a little too chilly. Opted for a little too warm, and equipped my yellow windbreaker for +5 to visibility. Once at work, I got into a conversation with a coworker concerning the weekend forecast: after an "unseasonably cool" week it'll be in the 80s by Sunday. He was considerably more jazzed about this than I. Anything much above the 70s has me feeling a tad uncomfortable unless I'm at the beach/pool. YOU GUYS DO YOU BELIEVE I'M FROM A COLD CLIMATE YET. You're shocked to learn that the temperature is a frequent topic of conversation around a typical office, I know. But it got me thinking about what I have to look forward to in Quito, where the mountainous surroundings lead to average highs in the mid-to-high 60s year round. It'll be the most pleasant, people.

Oh look, Reuters published an article just for me.  Sounds nice. A few weeks ago, I discussed the potential for bicycling in Quito with a classmate who just happens to have grown up there. His response was the very definition of cautious optimism- I could probably do it OK but I'd better watch out seriously or I'd find myself sued for damages when someone rams me from behind and I crack their windshield on account of being launched onto it. So I'll probably have to feel it out as far as trying to actually get places by bike, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't psyched about the Sunday "Ciclopaseo" rides. As far as how to actually get a bike to Ecuador, suggestions include "buy a piece of crap there" or "get a folding bike and bring it." This reminds me of one of those "Life is Full of Important Choices" t-shirts from the 90s. Did you have one? Me neither. Maybe I'll have an alternative transportation-themed one made.

Listen, I don't mean to turn this into a cycling blog. Truly, there are lots of other people who can do that tons better than I can. Still, it's become pretty important to me ever since I've actually lived in a place where you don't really need a car to get around. This is not possible outside a VERY small corridor of southern Maine, the part that sort of blends in with the rest of The Seacoast (TM) and even then it's dicey. My hometown is not located within this " Seacoast Smugness Swath," and so using a bike as primary transport feels like a trait I just found out that I was missing. Thus, a lot of my rantings will likely be shouted from the saddle.

I should probably get a nicer saddle.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Bane of Productivity

Greetings goobahs, Maineiacs, flatlandahs, folk from away, and most importantly, horse's patoots. Welcome to the blog.

Being that it's April, and those of you who know me also know I'm on the cusp of the Spring semester crunch, you might be asking "Who starts a blog during finals, anyway?" Or maybe that's just me asking. Good question, either way. It could be that I'm making a huge mistake. Maybe the fine (read: completely un-DC-like) springtime weather has me missing home a little. Perhaps I needed a way to clear my head while poring over academic journals and navigating the capricious landscape of a MA program in international affairs. Look, I don't have to explain myself to you, OK? Go do comments on some news site if you want to be snarky. I swear, you... hold it, that's no way to welcome people to my fledgling site; let's start over.

Hey kids, thanks for coming. My name's Adam and I'm a Maine expat living in Washington, DC. After pedaling my way around our nation's capital for more time than is entirely advisable (and certainly more than the average YoPro,) I've decided to write a bit about life in such an absurdly quirky place after growing up in another absurdly quirky place. Oddly enough, this decision came not long after I found out I'd be spending the better part of my summer in Ecuador. Well, it wasn't totally unexpected- let's say I had a hunch.  Anyway, in the run-up to the trip, I'll be sharing my entirely inadequate efforts to prepare. Topics will include (maybe) intriguing social issues; (probably) figuring out just how much Spanish I actually still know; (definitely) whether it's at all feasible to explore Quito by bike as I've done with Washington;  and anything else that happens to fall under my Valyrian steel greatsword of inscrutable truth. ¡A Bordo!