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The latest "what are you?" quiz...
Are You Marty Or Zomberg?
It's really disconcerting when a person speaking in Spanish throws in "like" all the time the way she would in English. At least say "como."
I apologize to those of you who have never read "El Yaciyateré," by Horacio Quiroga. We were discussing the story in Spanish class and I had ideas about it that I wanted to get down before I forgot them.

The story is like this: The narrator and his friend are testing a new canoe that they built, which they think will be able to withstand anything. A storm comes along while they're on the river and shipwrecks them. They spend the night with a family whose youngest son is dying of meningitis. They do little to help him, because they have a superstition that he is under the power of a bird (which we hear but noone has ever seen) called the Yaciyateré. Four years later, the narrator returns to find the family gone, but the sick boy is still living -- albeit in a bestial state, starving and unable to speak.

I said that the three episodes seem to show a progression from reason (the firm cause and effect understandings of boat engineering), to superstition (the illogical cause and effect of the bird), to a complete lack of understanding (on the part of the boy). Prof. Luciani said that to him the canoe trip is much more surreal than the night with the family, and the starving boy at the end seems an example of a "harsh reality." I drew a little Levi-Strauss diagram juxtaposing the two ideas, and thought that perhaps that was the point -- that reliance on reason is self-delusional. But then, the narrator survives to the end and seems in good shape, while the superstitious family disappears and the irrational boy is starving. And the boy at the end is fascinated by the narrator's canoe.

I think the problem is that there's too much we don't know in this story. Some people raised the possibility that the boy at the end is a ghost -- which would suggest that the superstition was right -- or that he was a figment of the narrator's imagination -- which would be wishful thinking about the wrongness of the superstition. The story doesn't say for sure. The story doesn't say where the family might have gone -- are they dead? Did they abandon the boy (thinking he was a goner) and move away? Quiroga purposefully creates this situation by using first-person narration. The narrator is a person in the story, with the limited and situated perspective (as opposed to omniscience) that comes with it. There's nobody who knows what's "really" going on, who understands the entire situation.

I think the story ultimately raises a bunch of questions about how we understand the world and then says "I don't know, you don't know, and there's really no way of finding out for sure, because none of us have the necessary omniscient view."


I'm not sure if I should be worried that the Navy is searching for a lot of morticians.


Something Barbara said reminded me of a philosophical-type post I had wanted to do (and since I haven't done one of those in a while, here goes...)

We tend to put a lot of stock in choice. Things are bad if they're imposed on someone, but as long as they choose their situation, then they've found the best alternative. It came up a lot in Environmental Justice last year -- it sucks to have a nuclear waste disposal site in your village, but if the Goshute tribe thinks that the additional jobs are more important than the increased risk of cancer, who are we to say they're wrong? Any comparison between unlike things is inherently subjective, so it makes perfect sense that it can and should only be made by the person(s) being affected.

But then we combine that with the fact that, with a few exceptions, almost any situation is something you've chosen to be in. Even if you can't choose to leave (for example, people in jail), it was your choice (to commit the crime) that ultimately put you in that situation. You chose to accept the risks of playing paintball. You chose to work for less than minimum wage in an unsafe sweatshop instead of starving. You chose freely from the alternatives available to you, and that's all that matters.

All that's well and good. Except for the part about "the alternatives available to you." Because everyone does face only a limited set of options. Some people's options are really bad -- prostitution or starvation. Do we have any sort of a moral duty to give people a decent option? How do we define decent? Some people (probably far too many) are insatiable -- they can always think of a better option than what they have. We can't make anyone's choice for them, but are there some choices that people shouldn't have to make?


Canada Beats USA in Hockey
But the picture clearly shows the American team celebrating. Darn patriotic newspapers.
So, my last Colgate hockey games. If we get home ice for the playoffs I might be able to go to the first game before Beth and I head to Fredonia (provided she's not anti-hockey), but without the band there it won't really count. And it would be anticlimactic, because even if the team makes it to Lake Placid -- which I had been hoping for and looking forward to all season -- I won't be there. I'll be in LA at the Association of American Geographers' Annual Meeting. Which will be exciting in its own way, but it won't be Placid.

But they were good games. I finally got to play drums at the Clarkson game, which I had wanted to do just to see what it was like ever since we lost all our trained drummers sophomore year. And we got to use the "It's Saturday night, and you can't score!" cheer against SLU.

I can't help but look at grad school as if it's another go at undergrad. I know grad students aren't supposed to do extracurriculars and non-academic stuff the way undergrads do, but I find myself spending less time thinking about the classes and professors and more about whether Clark has a pep band and how quickly I can become an editor of their student newspaper.


"Enter is a key arming with line breaks and new paragraphs of mass destruction, while hiding next to the popular apostrophe key.

The window key aggressively opens the Start menu and exports submenus.

Insert continues to flaunt its ability to make us type over what we've already written. The Insert regime has plotted to move closer to Backspace for over a decade. This is a key that has already used its sneaky ability to type over thousands of characters -- leaving the words of authors lost forever.

Keys like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of annoyance, arming to threaten the continuity of our typing. By seeking functions of mass destruction, these keys pose a grave and growing danger."

-- from President Bush's State of the Keyboard address.


The heck with this whole journalism thing. I want to be a mountain man when I grow up. I want to wear greasy raccoon skins, and shoot things with one of those guns that you load by ramming stuff down into the barrel. And I want to go to Boy Scout events and teach little kids to throw hatchets at things.

On second thought, maybe not.
"I'd like to get this case to come to a head before I die or commit some bad behavior for which I would be impeached." -- U.S. Dictrict Court Judge Jim Corrigan, speaking in the Denver Post about the cleanup of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal chemical weapons factory (from my reading assignment for GEOG 332)

Somebody has a guilty conscience.
It is before 2 a.m. I am done with The Maroon-News. Your PigAir flight has been delayed due to snowstorms at HEL airport.

(edit: Dratted Blogger clock is ahead of the clock on my computer. Ah well.)


I organized the Maroon-News photo archive today. As I was going through stacks of old pictures, I found a bunch of shots of campus before major architectural changes. So I thought I'd share some of them.

Cushman House as the home of Phi Gamma Delta.

Kendrick, Eaton, Dodge is now the lower section of Curtis.

Olin under construction.

The secret passage on fifth floor East is not so secret anymore.

Persson Hall wasn't always there.

A more schematic view of life before Persson.

Building the Persson steps the first time.

The side of Ryan that is now attached to Little. I had Basic Studio in the classroom whose windows you can see there.


No more haikus now.
I am tired of that form.
I won't write ... Darn it!


Question: Does printer
Have a manual feed tray?
I feel so useful.
Studying for test.
I hope that I did enough.
Never really sure.
Coughing all the time.
Kristin thinks that I'm dying.
Infecting the lab.
Sitting here too long,
Motion sensor lights go out.
Then Bobby comes in.
No one is in here.
I could dance around naked.
Forgot my music.
Scanner is making
Loud, clicking, grinding noises.
Where is Myongsun now?
Geography lab.
No one steal these computers.
I am watching you.
Brits Storm Spanish Beach By Mistake
"The British military apologized Monday for invading Spain over the weekend – by mistake.

About 20 Royal Marines went slightly off course in an amphibious exercise and stormed a Spanish beach Sunday morning near the British colony of Gibraltar, a British Defense Ministry spokesman said.

The HMS Ocean, which had stopped at Gibraltar for maintenance, was heading to the Indian Ocean to support military operations in Afghanistan, the spokesman said."

I have renewed confidence in the military operations in Afghanistan.
Screw you, George Washington. I wonder how banks stay in business with their "never open" policy.


The anime defense:
Whenever I express my dislike for anime, I am always told that I just haven't seen *good* anime. Sometimes I will humor the anime fan in question and watch an episode of their preferred anime. When I continue to dislike anime, they claim that the episode I saw wasn't a good episode.

I just can't win.
Bill Bradley is a scary, scary man.


Nevada Nuclear Site Is Affirmed
"Bush affirmed Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham's recent finding that the proposed project beneath Yucca Mountain is "scientifically sound and suitable," and would enhance protection against terrorist attacks by consolidating nuclear waste in an underground desert tomb."

More proof that Bush can use September 11 to justify anything.


Ugh. Here's a cheesy publicity photo for you. It was the big photo on the Washington Post site, accompanying the story about the cloned cat.
Ugh. Here's a cheesy publicity photo for you. It was the big photo on the Washington Post site, accompanying the story about the cloned cat.
You would think that at 6:13 a.m. I would be heading to bed. But when I got home from The Maroon-News, I went into the kitchen to put away some sodas and discovered that Bethanie had made the cranberry-apple yogurt stuff. So now I have to find an excuse to stay up long enough to eat a bowl of it, as I don't want to run the risk of it being all gone by the time I have dinner tomorrow. Mmm, cranberry-y.


Va. Nixes 10 Commandments Bill
"Lawmakers said that the measure, even with the other texts added, would not sustain a court challenge. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a similar law in Kentucky was unconstitutional."

The "In God We Trust" bill is still active, though.
Happy Robert Thomas Malthus' birthday! While you're out appropriating this special day for celebrations of love, take some time to remember the doomsday predictions of the great 19th century economist. Love often leads to reproduction. Reproduction causes the population to grow geometrically. Eventually population growth outstrips our capacity to produce food. Then we all starve.


"When you have a pile of crap, you don't want it to be bigger."
-- Greg, talking about a writer who writes very little, poorly
Virginia Senate Approves Motto Bill
"The Senate today followed the House of Delegates in passing a bill to require all public schools in Virginia to post the national motto, "In God We Trust," in a prominent place."

I'm taking a collection. If we buy in bulk, it won't be too expensive to get a little plaque to put on the desk of every federal or state legislator that says "SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE!" If we're lucky they'll actually look at it.


Webmail's suckitude has driven me to set up Outlook. See what you've reduced me to, webmail?
OK, so now I've switched to for my comments. And the commentcount thing was working. Then I transfered the comment files over from, and suddenly commentcount no longer works. It's those darn French, I tell ya. Ah well. It's got no pop-unders, so it's a step up.


I'm getting really tired of the way either webmail or webmail2 is always broken. Hey ITS, I talked to your mom last night...
Danielson's Second Law: The potential validity of a commentator's opinion is inversely proportional to his or her inclination to use the term "chattering classes."
Marty may be giving up on the media, but I'm finding myself drawn more and more to it. AASA led the service at church this week, and it was a really good service. The Sojourners sang, and there was a jazz combo type group that played. But I couldn't properly enjoy it because the whole time I was thinking "you know, this would have made a good photo box for the Maroon-News, or at least for the UC newsletter, if only I had brought the digital camera." And I've gotten really nitpicky about some things that slip into The Maroon-News. I'm not talking about obvious mistakes, like the Arts&Features headline about "Colate Students." I'm talking about the sports story that said "ten" instead of "10," or the place in Doug Miller's article where there was a period outside of quotation marks. Heck, I even have strong opinions about whether to do dashes "tight--like this--or with spaces -- like this. Spaces all the way, man. Now if only the AP would change its rule about not using a comma before "and" in a list.

The problem is, I suck at reporting. I'm bad at it and I don't like doing it. But I can't just skip straight to copy editing and layout, and I certainly can't just go on to being an opinion columnist. So I don't know.


Portland failed me. Let's try
OK, I've signed up with to host my comments, so we'll see if they're any more reliable than Affari.


The War Keeps Growing
"In his State of the Union speech, President Bush stapled terrorism and proliferation together by declaring that our "goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction." Which is like saying that you want to stop child molesters from robbing banks."


Bush to Promote Marriage, Job Aid
During the campaign, Bush was constantly criticizing Al Gore's targeted tax cuts for being meant to encourage certain behaviors, such as going to college. He said his tax cut was better because you got money no matter what, and could spend it as you please. So now he turns around and implements incentives to get poor people to get married.
I feel like my brain has been overactive lately. Like it's trying to suck in all the learning it can in these last few months at Colgate, from whatever source it can. I spent an hour reading a book about terrorism that Ryan had left in the Maroon-News office because my brain felt I could learn more efficiently that way than by reading anything that was relevant to any class I'm taking. I randomly read a post in william's blog, and had to restrain myself from following his links to learn more about Mormonism.

I can probably chalk it up to the law of diminishing returns. To a certain extent, the more you know about a topic, the more work it takes to increase that knowledge -- to find something new or make some new connection. So when I come across something like Mormonism that I know squat about, I can very easily learn more, whereas I have to dig to find new knowledge about agricultural failure in the Aral Sea basin.

I woke up a little bit ago because I had a profound breakthrough about statistics, of all things. Well, not so much a profound breakthrough as a sudden understanding of a concept that I had known was true but never quite grasped why.


I need to stop talking in my religion class. Today Prof. Vecsey was so excessively impressed with some point I made that he said he was going to start calling me "mini-Claude."


My blog looks real weird in Japanese. It's real weird how it translates "Stentor" but not "Danielson." And Marty's blog becomes "Gegenw?rtigkeit." Darn Japanese and their inability to handle umlauts.
Urgh. Two-hour lecture bad. Writing two articles about two-hour lecture bad. AIDS crisis in Africa very very very bad. Splashdown good.
I needed to look at a copy of the State of the Union address while I was writing my commentary. Yahoo News, which I usually use to search for commentary material, told me I'd have to pay a dollar for it. Then I did a quick Google search and found that was giving the transcript away for free. Yay government handouts.
I told myself I wasn't going to post any more doo-dah headlines, but then I saw this on today's Washington Post:

Daschle Says Stimulus Dead, Report Downplays Defecit, Referendum Votes Looming

Granted, you have to mess with the accents on the words a bit, but it's three nearly-doo-dah headlines in a row.


This is some of my favorite weather.
How Much Metal Should Be In A Medal Of Honor?
"It would probably come as a shock to most Americans to learn that the Medal of Honor — the nation's highest military award — is made of brass and costs only $29.98."
And this is a top story from the Washington Times? I don't see why the price of the medal is such an issue. The point is the recognition and honor of getting it, not the market value of the gold it's made from. It's not like the honorees are going to go sell their medals (and even if they did, I think that the fact that it's a Medal of Honor would be much more important in setting the price than what it's made out of).
The Super Bowl really could have been the script from a sports movie. You have the Patriots, who are huge underdogs, with few stars on their team, playing the Rams, who outdid the Patriots in every category during the season and boast start after star. The Patriots make the sentimental choice to introduce themselves as a team, rather than individuals. They're behind early, but then step up and shatter people's expectations by taking a big lead. They look like they're going to put it away when they stop the Rams in the red zone and run a fumble back for a touchdown that would seal their victory, but it's called back on a holding penalty, and the Rams score. Then the Rams score again, evening things up. Finally, at literally the last second of the game, they kick the game winning field goal. And for weeks afterward people will be pointing out the inadvertant symbolism in the Patriots winning the first Super Bowl after September 11.


Flordia Town Bans Satan
"Although some commissioners support the mayor, others acknowledge that using city stationery went too far. But all are emphatically pro-God, anti-Satan, a crucial campaign position here."


Tom just looked at what I was doing and said "Clipping toenails and surfing the internet. I cannot think of a more exciting way to spend a Saturday evening."


will there ever be more stuff on god on this website? i've memorized the 491 sins and i need more guidance!! haha just curious..buh bye ^_~

Why is it that the sketchiest people are the ones who visit the Potato God site?
One-Note Symphony
This is one of the better columns I've read about the State of the Union address. But rather than comparing it to Beethoven's Fifth stuck on the first four notes, maybe Final Countdown would have been a better analogy. One little phrase repeated over and over and over and over and over until you just can't stand it anymore.

I also like his point that "evil" is just a label (and an oversimplifying one at that). It tells us nothing new, gives us no new way to understand the situation. All it does is give a veneer of righteousness to what we're doing.
This is going to be a rambling and only marginally coherent post. I'm just trying to get a bunch of thoughts I had during Native American Religions down somewhere before I forget so I can ponder them more at a later date. And writing stuff like this out can help clarify it in my own head.

We were talking about two myths. One was a Yanomamo myth that talked about how the moon used to come down and eat the ashes of the people's children until a hero shot the moon with an arrow. The other was a Bororo myth about a man who killed his wife because she had been raped, then secretly buried her instead of giving her a public funeral in which she would be put in the water. Their son, in order to get revenge, turned into a bird and pooped on his father's shoulder. The poop turned into a tree. Every time the father sat down, water would form and the tree would shrink. Essentially, in expiating his sin he created the means for others to avoid committing that sin. But I'm digressing from my main point here.

In both of these myths, the focal sin was not what we would think it ought to be. Eating ashes sounds bad to us, but it's a regular practice that the Yanomamo say helps to keep them connected to those who have passed away. Moon's real sin was eating the ashes by himself. In the Bororo story, the myth doesn't focus on the rape, but rather on the lack of a proper funeral. In both cases, the sin is essentially one of being antisocial, refusing to share with society a practice that is important to social cohesion.

This got me thinking about my own ideas about religion. The first point to understand about that is that I can't say what God is, and I don't expect to be able to. But in thinking about the Bible, I had picked out two themes of how God is manifested in the world (or at least the social world, which is what I'm most interested in. Ethics is more important to me than cosmology) -- love and wisdom. Love in this sense refers to the condition in which one's own happiness is dependent on the well-being of the object of the love. Wisdom is knowledge and understanding produced collectively, by the interaction of human minds and synthesizing of observations and ideas, rather than by the (supposed) triumph of an individual great mind. There seemed to be some kind of a connection between the two, but I hadn't quite figured out what it was.

This is getting more difficult because the things I was thinking about are starting to slip away. God can be found where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. That missing quantity -- the extra 2 that makes 1 + 3 = 6 -- is God. God is essentially holistic -- a part of the system can't exist without the system. To bring in a point that Prof. Vecsey raised (and which I had been thinking about this summer in somewhat different terms), you can't be human without having a (socially created) culture. Cultural norms and values aren't something imposed on us that holds us back, as many people put it, but rather things that make us more than just a collection of chemicals with electrical impulses running through it. Levi-Strauss cited an article that explained how voodoo curses can actually kill people even without having any "magical" component (or maybe it would be more accurate to say that migic is, like any other explanation, just a shorthand for the same infinitely complex and therefore impossible to fully understand process), because when the society and the cursed person both believe he is dead, and therefore no longer part of society, he is cut out of the system and diminished. Which is not to say we shouldn't try to change the culture that we are given. Every culture is full of contradictions, and the process of social interaction is constantly trying to resolve those contradictions by either (rarely) acheiving a non-contradictory synthesis, or (more commonly) trading off one set of obvious, problematic contradictions for a set that isn't at the moment (kind of like how a person without a chair will shift from one leg to the other and back as her knees get tired and need to be rested).

So coming back to the myths, it seems like the focal sins of the myths are essentially actions which reduce the role or presence of God (or it might be better to say "the ideas and phenomena that I define as being manifestations of God"). They individualize what is properly collective.