Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Operation [Yet to be named] Part Two: On Studentry, Part One

I deem it unwise to write about any battle at the time it is being fought, mainly because the proximity of the thing, the chaos of the combat, and the fatigue which sets itself like a plague on my body, mind and spirit, all serve to distort the sort of objectivity - the third person-ness - that I feel is important in recounting something with "the written word." However this bit of advice is matched in fervor only by my undying urge to break my own rules. It isn't without a certain sense of irony that I realize my desire to write has given birth to an intuition not to write, and in doing so rendered, or apprehended, the act of writing as both a disease and a treatment (I don't think that there is a cure). I digress long before I progress.

Lately I've been giving the question of the goal of education some thought. What is the purpose of getting an education to the student, what does a student look like after she is finished 'being' a student - how is she different, if she's been changed at all?

Earlier in the semester my conclusion was, shakily, that the goal of education was to make the student a better person. This is at once a broad and vague definition, but alludes to more than mere book learning, or vocational skill building: it has to do with someone's ability to function, to be healthier in mind and body, and to positively impact other people and society. "Good" things, right? I'm not convinced, however, and feel the urge to qualify what I mean by education, as it can be said that all of life can be an education, and it follows that everyone is a student of some sort. But I do not want to reduce my definition to simply mean the modern institution of education, namely, the university, because I fear that this reduction will lead to the inevitable conclusion that the only person who can adequately be called a student is that person who pays a disproportionate amount of money to learn a few things. This, the reader might note, is also how we define a dumb-ass.

So for the purposes of the treatment of this topic here, I'll let the formal definition of education remain nebulous, and hope that the reader infer my meanings from the context of my experiences as I relay them.

This morning, while walking up a set of stairs in the direction of the sun, the image of the word "student" was impressed upon my mind. I am a student, I thought, as I grunted up the stairs in the blinding light. What does that mean? It means the obvious: that I suffer for want of knowledge. That I dedicate resources towards the end of learning, or of at least being within an atmosphere where I can sit and think (which I like doing best of all). But WHY? WHY?!

Years ago, while on a church trip of some sort, I sat on the floor of a tour bus, towards the front, my legs dangling down the front steps (very obviously over that little yellow line you aren't suppose to cross while the bus was in motion), and watched the highway stretch out before us. I remember quite clearly a moment, while we were driving through eastern Colorado: the sun was shining brilliantly over the plains that reflected a warm golden hue, and a thick cloudy mist hung over the dark forms of the Rockies to our west. I was sitting there, elbow on knee, chin on hand, eyes on the road, and something dawned on me. From my vantage point it because very clear to me that I was supposed to spend time in my life learning. Learning what? Things? About what? My self? The world? What? Perhaps I've had a vocational vacuum chamber somewhere within my person from childhood but I remember feeling quite positive that I was suppose to do this, and I gleaned satisfaction from this experience.

Needless to say, I ignored this vocational aspiration - in the formal sense of the word - for quite awhile before reconciling myself to it. By that time I was a grown man (officially), husband (also officially) and father (results still pending just kidding).

So here I am, but why?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Jump puddles, puddle jumper! (raBt tRayLZ 2.2)

Earlier the thunder sounded like somebody was doing a bad job of moving a large piece of furniture around next door. The storm is over us now, and it rolls all the way across the sky, from our west windows over the house, to our east windows. The latter of which Estrella is lying beneath and pouting, telling me that "she wishes she could go outside and jump in the puddles." For my part I haven't really got out of this chair since I woke up, seeing as how I fell asleep at 3:30 and woke up at 7. Seven is actually a bit late for me lately. Still tired though. Soon I'll get up and make some coffee. We don't have much, but we've got coffee - and a little bit of milk and sugar to boot.

At first I thought it was cute (except not really) that kids these days were dressing like what they thought kids dressed like in the '80s, and then it really annoyed me, but then it dawned on me: aren't we in for a timely grunge revival? If you think the 80's brouhaha is bad, it's going to be really annoying when kids start wearing green cardigans and flannel shirts again. Anway that's my prediction - we're going to skip Ska this cycle which is fine, as I like my Ska-ffinity to remain relatively confidential. Already, the winds of change are blowing.

On a completely different note, I've found the amazing website of a group of architects based in Bethlehem, whose goal is to "to extend the analytical reach of our respective investigations and engage with the spatial realities of the conflict in a propositional manner. The project includes multiple ways of architectural intervention and activism and it uses architecture as a form of tactical intervention in a political process." In other words, to address the reality of colonial occupation in the West Bank through creative and critical means. I haven't had much time to peruse the site, but it's refreshing and encouraging to see the multitude of strategies and fronts on which the colonial program can be critiqued and ultimately (hopefully) dismantled.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Culled Blog Draft/ Gratuitous Tired Post #1

The words roll like an avalanche, being pushed by a vicious gravity. It isn't a sentence, it's a calamitous cavalcade, a rolling maelstrom, behind which the residue of experience is left: it is a sentence, a sizzling white wake that dissolves into the blue.

It swirls into the eddy of a paragraph and piles up against the others at the checkpoints and the margins. Eventually the story will swell and coalesce into an explosive potential.

Google search:maelstrom

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wait, What?

Once, a long, long time ago, I had what we called in prison terms, an "internet girlfriend." Shortly before meeting my wife I began chatting with a young woman whom I'd "met" online. This was when I lived in Kansas City, next to the swimming pool and the statue of St. Francis across the way with no head. I also still had the old sofa I'd inherited from my Grandma.

Once, while chatting with her online, I asked her what movie she'd gone to see earlier.

"Dude, where's my car?" came the reply.

Ummm... I typed. What?

"Dude, where's my car?" again.

I think you're getting your IMs mixed up, you must be talking to somebody else.

"No, that's the movie I went to see: Dude, Where's My Car?"

I didn't believe her that a movie existed and was called that.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Operation Dumbo Drop*

In the fall of 2006, after having worked as a carpenter for a couple years, I became acutely aware that I was in need of a change - that we, my family and I, were in need of a change. At that point I had been married for over four years, my daughter had just turned two, and I was going to be 28 years old the following spring. I perceived my life as having a certain lazy, quasi-fatalist arc to it: I had done what had come my way, trusting - loosely - that everything would work out for me in terms of stability, success, etc. Having scrutinized the narrative of my life following my graduation from high school almost ten years prior to that point (and even before), I realized that it was pointedly lacking in the personal volition department. That is, I hardly ever asserted my will to live as deliberately as I, ironically enough, always knew I wanted to live. At the close of 2006 this began to change, and I still distinctly remember waking up to a brave new world on January 1st, 2007.

After a brief but victorious skirmish with the kind folks in Admissions I was admitted as a nontraditional undergraduate transfer student at the University of Kansas, and the transition began. At the time, as I mentioned, I was building houses with a local sub-contractor in Lawrence. He agreed to let me work 3/4 time in order to begin attending classes part-time. That summer I took a course at the Edwards campus, taking advantage of the K-10 connector, and by the following Fall I was taking classes part time, having shuffled off the mantle of blue collar hard labor (at least for the time being). This was the Fall semester of 2007.

The following semester my wife and I's second child was born, a boy, and the difficulty in sustaining a successful academic career was raised a couple of notches.

At the time of this writing he is just over a year old, while his older sister is almost 4 1/2. They are used to their Papa leaving early in the morning with a bag full of books, returning to eat and play for a bit before sitting down to shuffle papers, push pens, click the keyboard and jump through the various hair-graying hoops of academic life. What is next in this story involves them even to a greater extent, and is the purpose of this series of posts: the transition from undergraduate student to graduate student, and the subsequent and impending exodus.

The reality that in a little over a year from now my family and I will be packing up and moving to a new city in order for me to continue my studies is one we've anticipated. It has always been part of the plan to see this new track through to the end, but now it seems as though it has crossed the threshold of the horizon, and is creeping ever more perceptibly towards us.

Knowing that my time here will soon be up inculcates everything with a sense of significance. I basically grew up here in Lawrence. Growing up in a small town 15 minutes northwest of here, I spent the vast majority of my teenage years haunting Mass street. I was as far west as Manhattan, Kansas, for a couple of years before I ended up in Kansas City for a couple more. Seven years ago this summer my wife and I were married and moved to Lawrence, and the rest, as they say, is history (albeit recent). As reflective pieces like this often do, I'm tempted to descend into a number of tropes that illustrate perfectly the position I find myself in, but in the process of writing this sentence I've lost it. Something about a chapter in my life coming to an end, whatever.

So in the future this series of posts will address our impending move by reflecting both on the past - my experiences at KU, my family at Liberty Hall and St. Sophia Orthodox Church, my former educational experiences, etc. - as well as the future: my search for a graduate program, the logistics of moving a family of four to an as-of-yet unknown locale in the near future, our plans, etc.

My first order of business is to give this operation a name: I was thinking "Operation Exodus" but that seemed too obvious. Then I thought "Operation Get Those Children Out of The Muddy, Muddy" but that seemed a bit much. After that I thought "Operation Dumbo Drop," but realized that was something altogether different. So as a first order of business I'm soliciting a title that will work both for the physical act of moving as well as the title of this series of posts.

Operation __________________?

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Unlike the over popular/rated "micro" blog site "Twitter" (where the name has no material relation to what you do there), my new site "" will be a social networking site where users can document when and where they pass gas. This especially comes in handy if you have an iPhone, because sometimes you fart when you're not at your computer, but you always have your cell phone on your person at all times. Future plans include a quick-code system to easily document your toots' musicality, olfactory quality, etc. Hopes for the site's popularity are high, with designers anticipating spontaneous "Toot-ups" to begin forming in cramped spaces across the country.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


New developments concerning the so-called "robber's council" of the lately formed Ad Hoc Committee on the Formation of Great Ideas - a sub-committee of the slightly less lately formed Pan-handle-nic Society, which is itself a standing committee of the even soer-called Shadow Citizenry, a nebulous hodge podge of people who are actually only thoughts in my brain that refuse to sit down:

WHEREAS, the formation of a club whose primary focus is the appreciation of Epic poetry and it's recitation, re-enactment (to a reasonable degree), and general ethos, and

WHEREAS a pitifully small number of opportunities to don a wooden sword tucked into one's belt whilst reciting epic poetry with a small group of comrades exist for the bettering of our young(ish) people and the lifting up of our women-folk,

BE IT HEREBY EXCLAIMED WITH UTMOST ENTHUSIASM that the formation of a club whose primary goal is the above stated recitation of appreciated classic epic poems and whose secondary goal is to wear wooden swords in our belts and/or belt loops, waving them around at befitted and/or spontaneous instances during the recitation of the text - like, say, during a battle or nefarious murder - be undertaken as soon as possible.

So let it be written, so let it be done, so say we all, sew, a needle pulling thread, la, a note to follow sew, etc.