merry christmas!

"Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, hath shined upon the world the light of knowledge; for thereby, they that worshipped the stars were taught by a star to worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Dayspring from on high. O Lord, glory be to Thee."

"Christ is born!"

"Glorify him!"

Those were the shouted greetings in the wee hours of the morning at our Orthodox Christmas service. The day was ushered in with a Christmas liturgy, followed by a meal to break our month-long meat/dairy/eggs fast...it was a great way to start a holiday full of family get-togethers and gift giving.

Merry Christmas to everyone else celebrating out there!


here i am!

Wow. Can I still call this 'blogging'? I think the '-ing' somehow implies that the activity is ongoing, which my updates certainly haven't been of late. I could tell you that I came down with a disastrous cold and couldn't muster the strength to blog, but I've been pleasantly healthy. I could claim that I was trampled by herds of Wii-happy gamers or Tickle-Me-Elmo obsessives during Christmas shopping, but my buying is blissfully over. I could tell you that I was displaced from my home because our Christmas tree went up in flames, and I wasn't able to save the computer. But that would be a complete lie. (Our tree is a fire-redtardant synthetic fir. Where is the fun in not knowing if your tree is going to spontaneously combust, you ask? I couldn't agree more.) In all reality, I guess in the end-of-semester, pre-holiday rush, my priorities got in a tussle, and blogging did not come out on top.

What actually has happened since the last time I updated has not been all that amazing. But if you really want to know, here's the rundown.

- I officially ended my first semester as a college freshman. Finals were fantastic; anthropology and mass com were easy as expected; two days of hard-core studying in macro paid off. It's a load off my mind to have these prerequisites behind me - now I can look forward to next semester's load: Art History, Sociology, News & Feature Writing, Linguistic Anthropology...and a Botany lab at 7:30 a.m. across campus. Oh, the joy.

- I packed up most of my life and got ready to switch dorms at semester. It's amazing how much stuff you have that you never rememberd was there.

- Came home for break. It's good to be back...the Christmas decorations are pretty much the same as every year; I'm ready to do some relaxing. After this week, that is...I'm headed back to my university town to work for three days, then coming back.

- Celebrated my brother's birthday today. We went out to see a movie and went to a Chinese restaurant afterwards. It was fun to eat with chopsticks and make fun of each other's weird fortune cookies.

And that's pretty much it. I'll be taking a three-day dive into blogosphere oblivion to do some work, as stated above, but hopefully I'll be able to be a little more consistent here with my entries. Maybe that's something to put on the list of New Year's resolutions...



The other day before our last Macroeconomics lecture, our teacher started off with a random story, as she sometimes does. She explained that she has a habit of listening to snippets of people's conversations as she walks to and from class. She mentioned a particular day where she was walking behind the anthropology building and overheard a young man walking with his girlfriend past some "ugly" trees with big brown pods. The guy turned to his girlfriend and said "Do you think that's a potato tree?"

It's definitely interesting to hear what people are saying when you walk by. My teacher sounded a little sheepish about listening in on others' conversations, but I think it's pretty entertaining. If you just happen to catch a little bit of what is being said, almost any conversation can become amusing, or even profound. Here are a few things I've overheard on my daily walks.

"Oh my gosh, they got married in Vegas!?!"

"Every time I'm about to fail something, I have the same dream. It's about my brother, and this ferret is trying to bite his toe."

"One time we went camping and I was scared to go to the bathroom in the woods, so I didn't pee for four days."

"Free speech is over, man!"


miniature earth

Sometimes we don't realise how fortunate we are. This video shows a breakdown of what the world would look like if there were only 100 people living in it - how many would have homes, how many could read, or have access to clean water. Sometimes watching these things can be a little overwhelming, so I'll also include this story that my anthropology professor sent out to our class after the last lecture:

This story is an ancient story from Latin America, often attributed to the Aztecs though it seems to have been known by others as well.

The elders would sit around and tell this story about a little bird and a great fire. The fire started out small and harmless. The people and animals saw the fire and thought nothing of it. They thought it would go out on its own. But it didn't. The fire grew and grew and by the time the people and animals realized how dangerous it had become it was too late. It was hopeless. The fire was going to devour the world. The people and animals all fled, running up a mountain for safety. As an owl was flying along, fleeing with the others, he looked down and saw a little bird by the fire. The bird was hopping between a small stream of water and the fire. Looking closer, the owl could see that the bird was filling its beak with water and then hopping to the fire to dowse the fire. Again and again the bird did this as the fire raged on. The owl dove down to the little bird and yelled, "Are you crazy?! This fire is out of control. What are you doing?!?" The little bird emptied his beak full of water and offered this simple yet profound reply, "Everything I can."
Inspired, the owl joined the little bird. Others followed. And now the elders tell the story of the little bird who saved the world.


our little world

This might clarify some of my ramblings from my previous post about our anthropology simulation. My group was the Starbark-Crombie in the southern hemisphere on the 'New Zealand-ish' island.


where does it come from?

The other night some friends and I went to a coffeeshop to study. These are what we sampled, along with a white chocolate cocoa (my friend) and an iced green tea (me). After anthropology, being in a store that markets things like coffee, tea and chocolate makes me more contemplative. Where did those things come from? Who grew them? Who packaged them? How much were they paid?

end of the world

The world as we know it has come to an end. In our anthropology world simulation, that is. The culmination of eleven weeks studying rituals, subsistence, love and marriage, gender roles, economics, art and religion played out in a two-day interaction last week. And boy, was it interesting.

All the "cultures" made up of the discussion groups in the class were each assigned a table that was our landmass for the game. We had Froot Loops to represent a rich natural diet, a stuffed fish to represent our dependence on fish and respect for nature, and various cards representing natural resources and power. We played five rounds of the simulation, each representing about 150 years, beginning in 1450 and extending into the future. Our goal was to interact in the way that our culture would normally respond to things like being attacked, trading, or making alliances.

In breif, our small foraging group, the Starbark-Crombie, formed trading alliances with our peaceful neighbors, were attacked and colonized by an industrialized group, and forced to produce luxury goods for them. Fortunately our population eventually increased dramatically due to a food surplus (dictated by an instruction card we received) and we were able to take back our land from our colonizers. However, our indiginous money was no longer useful and we had only the coffee we had been "growing" for our colonizers, so we had to produce even more buy food in order to survive the round. We ended up buying a surplus of food, so the final round, set in the "future", was spent distributing food to other starving nations and protesting against the one industrialized nation who was using cruel methods to colonize many small nations.

Although this simulation was just a "game", it really brought out interesting traits in some of the players. Instructions and classroom knowledge aside, some people were really in the game to win, and to wipe out everyone in their way. Of course this was the product of the way the game was set up, and I'm sure it was the intentions of my instructor that people realise how these feelings come about, at least in part. The results of some competetive players and heat-of-the-moment decisions resulted in the following during the simulation:

- One nation was "killed" by genocide because they peacefully protested against their colonizers and refused to give them the luxury goods they wanted.
- One "suicide bomber" from a colonized nation retaliated against his colonizer and removed one person in the more powerful nation from the game.
- One nation was destroyed by an atomic bomb. It turned out to be an honest mistake on the part of the attacking nation, but the smaller nation was destroyed all the same.
- When most of our "island-like" nations were colonized, they were forced to produce Froot Loop necklaces for their colonizers. During the simulation, 273 Froot Loop necklaces were made, for which the industrialized nations received $42,000 in our "world exchange" store. The "workers" were paid less than $300 total.

Going through this simulation was definitely a valuable part of my anthro class. It makes it real to people how many people are starving, working for literally cents per day, or being abused by nations who come in to simply take over thier natural resources for monetary gain with no thoughts about whether the ground they are taking over even contains the plants that certain groups need to survive. I was only "producing coffee" (wrapping Cocoa Puffs in aluminum foil) for 17 minutes, and it was no fun.

It makes me wonder exactly where and how items are being produced that I buy every day, and how the corporations are being run that produce them. If you're wondering too, here is a website that explains about unfair labor policies in some countries, companies that practise them, and what you can do to help out, because even though some sweatshops really do have terrible conditions and unfair pay, it is all some people have to live on. What I got from the simulation was that we have to remember we are the ones who are a part of this system, and we're the only ones who can change it. In the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

If you're interested in seeing a video of our simulation, you can check out this link. Unfortunately, we weren't able to post the video on YouTube, and this site is a little more frustrating to use. To see the video, you have to click on the blue 'start downloading' button about two inches down on the right side after typing in the number code directly to its left. The downloading does take quite a while, but I think it's worth seeing how our simulation played out. But of course, I'm a little biased. Anyway, I hope this rambling made sense to some of you, and maybe you'll be able to see it in the video too. Enjoy!


christmas shopping and finals mania, part i

Yesterday was my first official outing expressly in the name of Christmas shopping. I got a few cards, a present for a friend, and some random items for a white elephant party I'll be going to next weekend for Yosakoi. I went with my cousin; it was actually a pretty fun trip considering the biting cold outside. It was also fun to see some of the more "interesting" items that some of the stores carried. Some of my favourites were:

1. Origami paper. Who knew they sold it in a gift shop several blocks from my dorm? I looked all over at Hobby Lobby and settled for decorative scrapbooking paper instead.
2. Incense sticks. I hadn't realised how much I missed incense until I walked into a little shop that had an entire wall of incense sticks. I could have stood there smelling them for a loooong time.
3. Scarves and hats. There were lots of cute ones in stores I visited: Fuzzy scarves, soft scarves, downy hats and felt-lined stocking caps. So cute, and so warm.

...and here are some of the items we saw that won't end up in anyone's Christmas gifts this year.
1. Leopard-print rubber duckies. Who knew the classical bath toy could be so hip. Or so weird. The facial features were all wrong, too, and the ducks just looked creepy.
2. Marijuana smoking accessories. Or so I'm told. It's whatever they sell in the partitioned section in the back of those Third Planet-like stores...even though I'm old enough to enter the curtained area, I did not feel the need, or the desire.
3. Books of Bushisms. Don't get me wrong. I'm going to laugh when I hear anybody say "I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family" or "Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?". But give the guy a break - who hasn't screwed up what they wanted to say when the pressure is on, at one time or another? I'll have to admit these quotes are definitely more fun to read than the newspaper...but I digress.

Later in the evening I went to a coffee shop to study with some friends, in preparation for finals. I had an iced green tea and read my Mass Communications book, and later some fruity chai while studying in my friend's room. It was a good way to ease into studying for the week ahead and wind down for the night.

Now it's early afternoon and time to organise my tasks for the day. Which are, at the moment:
1. Write Christmas cards
2. Finish tweaking final English paper
3. Organise my University Experience and English portfolios
4. Watch a documentary and take notes for anthropology.

I guess I've got my work cut out for me...