23 February 2004

I've been home for over a month now. And not much to show for it except a few mildly frostbitten toes, well on their way to a full recovery.

This month has also given me a chance to catch up with old friends. Which is of course a euphemism for saying I've had a chance to hear more gossip than is entirely healthy. I'm still in shock over the staggering number of former school chums, classmates, coworkers, and ex-boyfriends who are getting married. While most of our number are happily moving on to coupledom, I have several times found myself among people who would much rather re-contract middle school cooties than, oh say, propose.

The enchanting little game, Battle of the Sexes, is the perfect outlet for such people. I've played twice since I've been home. Teams are divided into boys and girls. The girls team has to answer questions about typically male subjects: sports, cars, war heros, etc. The boys teams has to answer questions about fashion, cooking, shopping, etc. Both times i've played the girls team has completely demolished the boys team. The owners of the board games have said this is usually the case. (I'm wondering how they keep convincing these poor guys to keep playing?) While these numbers are not statistically significant, I got to wondering about the obvious female bias in the game. I've developed three theories that are not entirely exclusive:

Theory #1: The game actually is biased towards women. The makers of the game, a man and woman I believe, did their research and found that women are the predominate purchasers of board games. They slanted the questions to favor female teams, put it in a pink box, and presto!

Theory #2: There is a regional bias. North Dakotans are much more apt to be savvy about autmotive repair and construction technology, than about what's happening on runways in Paris. Truthfully, I found many of the questions for the guys about shopping and french desserts to be much harder than the boys questions about football.

Theory #3: I'm not sure when the game was developed, but it definately plays to what a male and female were more than likely expected to know in the 1950's, not the 21st century. Since the 1950's my theory is that women have invested much more time into invading typically male dominated spaces than the reverse. It has also become more culturally acceptable to see women in male dominated fields, than the reverse (Though I think "metrosexualness" will change this.)

Of course it's complicated, and most likely some combination of all of the above, but I am very intrigued by the last theory. This seems to jive with some of the numbers I've been getting in my preliminary research into women in vocation education courses. Last year at Dickinson High School there were 44 "non-traditional" students in voc-ed classes. Non-traditional is defined as a woman learning about a historically male field, and a man learning about a historically female field. There were 35 females enrolled in automotive, welding, and construction classes, and only 9 males enrolled in cooking and home economics classes. I'll be interested to see if these ratios are reproducible nationwide.

In the meantime I'm glad that there is a trivia game where a complete lack of culture is highly advantageous.

21 February 2004

I just got back from a conference in Fargo on wind energy and rural developement in North Dakota. While North Dakota has the lowest GDP of all the states, and battles with Montana for the lowest wages, our wind resources rank the highest in the world.

The problem is that our Lutheran/Catholic/German/Ukranian heritage has made us followers. Of all the speakers, the only two who undoubtably acknowledged global climate change were Canadian and Danish. Wind is a gold mine, with incredible potential to help the states' economy. (And to clear the bird issue up: wind turbines built today don't kill more birds than a farm cat. The early research showing that windturbines kill birds was done almost exclusively on a windfarm in Altamont, CA. Windturbines built today follow two documents that guide windturbine placement, all but eliminating bird kills.)

Technology has finally made it profitable to develop our wind resources. However, a lack of pollution regulation on aging coal facilities still stands in the way. A carbon tax on fossil fuel produced energy is what I see as the key to wind energy development. Only then will utilities and consumers be paying closer to the "real" cost of burning fossil fuels. The tax will tip the economics in favor of renewable energy. Instead of paying for green energy (Leif Andersen, the Dane, found this ludicrous) consumers and utilities would be rewarded for developing zero emission energy. It's all about external cost. (What I wouldn't give to send some politicians back to intro economics.) External cost is why Conservatives who spout platitudes about "efficiency" are dead wrong.

Unfortunately, a carbon tax at the national level isn't in the energy bill that is being reworked in congress, nor is it likely to be anytime soon.

Transmission issues is another big problem. 60% of the energy we produce in state is exported. Energy flows east, towards Minneapolis and Chicago. As we develop our wind resources the wires to transmit that energy need to be built. Transmission lines do not come cheap, and nobody wants them in their backyard.

What I'm curious about is a utility owned grid. The utilites at the conference were very concerned with getting people to buy their "green tags" and with telling landowners the money they can make by allowing the utility to construct wind turbines on their land. The issue utilities are skirting around is how much more money landowners, and small co-operatives could make by owning the wind turbines themselves. With utility controlled transmission it seems to me that lines are going to be developed in areas that will benefit the utility first and foremost, and sometimes specifically to the exclusion of other producers who would like to add energy to the grid.

I asked the panelists, "Is having a utility controlled transmission system, as opposed to a publicly controlled transmission stystem one of the impediments to allowing farmers, ranchers, and co-ops to own and develop wind energy. And is a publically controlled transmission system a realizable goal?"

I directed my question toward Leif, the Dane. Instead the moderator directed the question towards a man connected with grid regulation. Leif interupted him and answered my question. Summarizing his answer, "Denmark is a small country, so it is easier. Yes, it's socialism, but it works, and the citizens of Denmark benifitted." The moderator put words in his mouth, "So what your saying, Leif, is the cost is shared by everyone." I couldn't help shouting out, "And the profit!"

It must be the environmentalist in me: the whole conference I spent working out who the "good guys" and "bad guys" were. (And I do mean guys. The conference was 600 strong and almost entirely middle-aged, white, men.) Seeing such strong dualisms isn't such a good political philosphy, but it can be interesting. The utility guys didn't like me so much, but the policy guys had kind words, and promises of internships. I even got a little smooze time with Senator Dorgan. I was so nervous I almost called him Senator Conrad. What do you say when your meeting a senator? Thank him? Compliment him? Ask him a question? I decided to tell him I am applying to his summer internships. That scared him off quick enough.

Hmmm. Now to sort through these contacts and get a job . . .

16 February 2004

Ah, there is joy in feeling warmth come to the great world. All is mud and horseshit: earth, raw and waiting.

09 February 2004

Still not sure about the honey-dijon title? Anyone?

I think that does it! Much more colorful and cozier than before (see my archives, I think they're doomed to wallow in orange and white forever.) This also means that tinkering around with my blog layout is no longer a valid excuse to procrastinate looking for a job. Sigh.

I've added some links at the side that Josh Corey recommended as starting points to delve into the literary blog community. I read the posts and am an outsider to the seemingly private conversations that echo, with the mouse click, between blogs. Poets are the biggest bunch of big-word, big-name droppers I know. I can't read a single poetry blog without having to google every other name, if not every other word. I say this with the effrontery only youth and ignorance can afford. Yes, I'm jealous.

Maybe it's a natural sort of separation anxiety. I started this blog for Josh's creative writing class. I was safely ensconced in a community of other students interested in writing. This blog served the purpose of extending class discussion time to the rest of the week. It also was a place to post thoughts and ideas on nearly anything; a place to practice articulating ideas for others. And in this regard, I find blogging a much more useful tool than a personal notebook which, in my case, is an excuse for bad grammer and all around poor writing.

Do I want to continue using this blog as a notebook of my thoughts on writing and reading? Do I want to blog about my life, and make it closer to my personal journals? Do I want to use it to practice articulating ideas on current events? Do I want to dedicate it to my Do-It-Herself school? Do I want a blog that is a melange of all of the above?

Whatever I eventually decide on, I then need to find a community of bloggers who are interested in the same topic. One of the only useful things I learned from the Catholic church was the importance of community. But community goes both ways, and can be as confining as it can be liberating. The more friends and family I've told about this blog, the more I feel like I need to edit what I say. An appropriate comment on my relationships perhaps? Perhaps if the people who read this blog gave me more feedback . . . left more comments. Ahem. (Yes you.)

A few months ago I wrote that writers are either exhibitionists or recluses, or interestingly, both. Blogging is a part of this bleeding dualism I am, unavoidably, in conversation with.

08 February 2004

Side-by-side columns . . . .yay! Now to get my archives to look the same . . .

03 February 2004

Oh, and how about that David Palmer? He has a huge following that's underepresented in the polls. Show your support tonight: 9pm Eastern/8pm Central on the one and only FOX.

Presidential primaries today in North Dakota. There's a surprisingly strong support for Clark, but that's probally because his son has been campaigning for him in Fargo and Grandforks. It's the closest thing we've had to attention from a presidential candidate, like, ever.

Clark and his unpredictableness aside, I am currently a big Edwards fan. Everyone is saying Kerry-Edwards, but I'd rather see Edwards-Kerry. Kerry on the whole seems like an all right guy and quite electable, if only he weren't suffering from Gore-itis. Edwards is poised, eloquent, and affable. If only he were 10 years older he'd be perfect. I'm afraid many voters won't put enough trust in his youthfulness. And that's what I think this is all about. Looks and trust. Rather looks that garner trust.

My mom had her friends over for dominoes the other night. They hackled away all night, and between their gossip they mentioned politics ever so briefly. Even though most of them are deeply religous and quite conservative they don't like Bush. They don't like the way he looks, they don't trust him, and they think he sounds stupid. I was surprised by their reaction. I thought he had so many people under his fear and doom spell, but now I don't think he's fooling anyone.

Another incident convinced me likewise. A few weeks back I ran out of gas, in the middle of nowhere on a highway in the northeastern part of North Dakota. I caught a ride to the nearest town with a trucker selling interstate batteries. We started talking politics and he was very conservative leaning. He started ranting about not wanting his kids to be in school and learn about sex and then learning about homosexual alternatives, and then having them experiment. "It's ungodly," he said. Well now, I was trying to be polite, getting a ride with this man and all, but I couldn't stand it. "Well I guess that's all right if you never want your kids to open their eyes to a bigger world, a world that's filled with diversity. Diversity of race, religion, sexual orientation, ... everything. And the fact is we have to learn how to undertand and accept this diversity. Just because North Dakota isn't a culturally diverse place doesn't give us the right to ignore it. It means we have to try harder to understand things and people we don't interact with on a daily basis."

Well he got mad and went of on some faith based arguement. I got a little scared, being in a truck with a strange man in the middle of nowhere and all, so I kept my mouth shut, or at least censored, the rest of the ride. Anyway, for all his purposely ignorant bigotry and religous high-horse bullshit he still didn't like Bush. Doesn't trust him, thinks he sounds stupid, and said he looks like a puppet. I never thought a conversation with a backwards trucker from North Dakota could give me so much hope.

So that's it. Kerry, Edwards, hell, even Dean. I have more hope now than I ever have. And what about Dean? I was an early Dean bandwagoneer, even back to last spring when he still seemed like a longshot and before he surged ahead in the polls. The fact is he let his temper get the better of him, and that's a damning character flaw in a presidential candidate. Dean is out with last weeks interent campaign.

In a way he's now in a position to recycle the "Vote your hopes not your fears" message. But the ugly truth is, if Dean were the Democratic candidate, he's going to have a hella time beating Bush. And four more years under Bush is simply unthinkable. In four years real environmental protection standards would be repealled, real supreme court justices would be replaced, and real people would lose real jobs, insurance, and basic rights.

Don Juan teaches that we must choose a path that has heart, and the decision to stay on that path or to leave it must be free of fear of ambition. Free of fear or ambition, I like that part. The trouble is that so often it's hard to tell the difference between the two.

02 February 2004

I can't figure out how to get my blog to go side by side with my links, and that's quite literally all I've been doing for, like, a week. That and watching home improvement telivision, but I don't want to sound too pathetic. It's funny coming home. I felt like I so desperately needed a break from Ithaca that I took a semester off of school. Now I'm home, only I'm realizing I don't really belong here anymore either. Why won't someone just offer me a job at a dude ranch in Hawaii? That' would be so much easier than slogging through the unapproachable mess of internships, grants, references, and senior thesis advisors.

One of the main ideas I'm pursuing is my Fix-It-Herself school for women which I blogged about earlier. I've gotten such a positive response from men and women alike. Home Depot is even starting to offer free classes for women. This is going to be seriously mainstream.

Right now Amy Wynn Pastor is an incredible role model and idol of mine. Amy Wynn is a carpenter on the TLC show Trading Spaces. There's an interview with Amy Wynn in the Philly City Paper. She mentions how thrilling and unexpected the feedback has been from women of all ages. She is a role model for young girls and an empowering icon to older women. She also says she never expected to have this sort of impact, but truthfully, she's why I watch the show.

She also seems completely natural on the show. I think it's great to see a woman just be herself when assuming a role traditionally filled by men. I think too often women take on hypermasculine characteristics when invading male dominated space. It's the same problem I have with "Girl Power." Girl Power is a way of telling women that they need to be violent to be powerful. Girl Power says it's not OK to just be a girl, you have to be a ninja, and a ninja in a bikini at that. Emmulating masculine violence is far from empowering to women or girls. (Whew, just needed to get that off my chest)

Girl Power aside, Amy Wynn is a fabulous carpenter and a women whom I have the utmost respect for. She's also the same zodiac sign as me. In her bio she said the book she'd most recommend to a friend would be Harry Potter And what do you think happens to be on my bedside table these days? That's right. Oh, also she just married my boyfriend's high school friend's older brother. I don't know how to type the Twilight Zone sound, so use your imagination . . .