23 February 2005

I really liked the article by Thomas Friedman in this week's New York Times. He makes a great point about changing our energy consumption patterns to drive change in the Middle East, something we certainly aren't doing now. An excerpt from the end of the article is below:

". . .[T]his is a serious moment. If Britain, France and Germany, which are spearheading Europe’s negotiations with Iran, fail, and if the US use of force in Iraq (even if it succeeds) proves way too messy, expensive and dangerous to be repeated anytime soon, where are we? Is there any other way the West can promote real reform in the Arab-Muslim world?

Yes, there is an alternative to the Euro-wimps and the neocons, and it is the ‘‘geo-greens’’. I am a geo-green. The geo-greens believe that, going forward, if we put all our focus on reducing the price of oil — by conservation, by developing renewable and alternative energies and by expanding nuclear power — we will force more reform than by any other strategy. You give me $18-a-barrel oil and I will give you political and economic reform from Algeria to Iran. All these regimes have huge population bubbles and too few jobs. They make up the gap with oil revenues. Shrink the oil revenue and they will have to open up their economies and their schools and liberate their women so that their people can compete. It is that simple.

By refusing to rein in US energy consumption, the Bush team is not only depriving itself of the most effective lever for promoting internally driven reform in the Middle East, it is also depriving itself of any military option. As Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, points out, given today’s tight oil market and current US consumption patterns, any kind of US strike on Iran, one of the world’s major oil producers, would send the price of oil through the roof, causing real problems for our economy. ‘‘Our own energy policy has tied our hands,’’ Haass said.

The Bush team’s laudable desire to promote sustained reform in the Middle East will never succeed unless it moves from neocon to geo-green."

-Thomas L. Friedman

03 February 2005

Back in Uris library. I haven't done serious studying here since I was a sophmore. I haven't sat here pouring over a brobdignagian science text since freshman year. I'm going to revisit AD White library and review plant osmosis. I first learned it in intro biology four years ago. I was fascinated by it then, but somehow I lost sight of that in the years since. Now I have the same intro biology professor for plant physiology and I think I've finally found something I can stay passionate about for more than a few months. Years even, maybe a lifetime. It feels very, very good.

02 February 2005

It's my last day at the language lab after 3 1/2 years. I feel ready to move on, but can't say I won't miss this place: the office gray/slate blue decorating scheme, the sexy spanish movies I've seen a thousand times, the wall of windows overlooking Beebe lake, the art and architechture students studying Italian who never know that it's the ICR tape series that they need, the intensive Japanese students who spend almost as much time here as I do, and the occasional ambitious student who wanders in saying they would like to do some indepent study of Javanese or Quechua or Urdu, and I do everything I can to help them. I''ll even miss the finicky laser disc players and telling students time and again to press the REC button (RECeive sound, not RECord) to get sound from their tape deck. And that's what it all comes down to in the end, it's the students and the people I'll miss the most. Isn't it always that way? Something special happens when people learn languages, and I'll never get tired of being around it.

Once I'm gone I'll probally regret not making copies of that Russian series like I meant to, or not listening to the Swahili series like I said I would. For as much as I can carry on about the magic in a new language, I haven't done more language learning here than watching the Spanish and occasional French movies we broadcast.

All in good time. My all-consuming fetish these days is plant physiology. The language of gibberelins and auxins and signal transduction pathways. I'm taking 8 credits of it this semester. Who knew plants were such fascinating creatures? For example, some kinds of sage can recognize when insect grazers are near by the chemical scent that is releazsed from other leaves that are eaten. The leaves that receive this chemical signal then increase their production of enzymes that inhibit digestion of plant material in an insects body. And we've all heard of insects that imitate twigs, but have you heard of plants that mimic animals to avoid predation?

I know I tend to be flaky about my passions, bored quickly, and never learning more than an anecdote or two for a cocktail party (which might be useful if I ever were invited to such events.) But something makes me feel like this might be it. I like it at all levels, the nitty gritty of the physics and chemistry of biological reactions is fascinating as is the ecology of global climate change.

So fairwell my dear language lab. I have some plant samples to grind.