Thursday, February 24, 2011

Opposing Viewpoints

I came across this article from the BBC about the arrest of a Saudia Arabian student in Texas for attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. He was apparently researching ways to make and conceal bombs in order to conduct 'jihad' in this country.

Please, let's contemplate for a moment this situation: the U.S. government, as we speak, is conducting research on new and insidious ways of hurting people that we cannot imagine. That same government invaded the country of Iraq on the false pretenses of looking for weapons of mass destruction, and then proceeded to drop thousands of pounds of bombs and cruise missiles on the people there (among other atrocious acts of violence). What are those weapons but highly sophisticated killing machines, or weapons of mass destruction, designed to terrorize and destroy.

And yet, here, back in the heartland, this fellow gets arrested for conducting research into committing violence of a similar nature, only on a much smaller scale.

I am not condoning his actions or suggesting that I want him to have had the chance to hurt people. I don't believe that violence solves problems, ever, no matter the scale or intent or justification.

Still, this brings me back to a questions I have been grappling with since reading Derrick Jensen's The Culture of Make Believe. I can't wrap my mind around the fact that some violence is allowed, condoned, even celebrated, whereas other forms of violence are punished. What is the difference between George W and Aldawsari? What is the difference between one one man's actions and another's, if their intent, to hurt people in order to further their cause, is the same?

It is perhaps most poignant that Aldawsari included former President George W.'s house on his list of potential targets. How many people in the world would like to see George W arrested for his role in the use of weapons of mass destruction?

I know what the supposed difference between these two men is, but I don't think it is as big as some might have you believe. The ends don't justify the means; the ends are the means. Violence breeds violence, always. War is terrorism dressed up in a uniform waving a flag.

The sign in this image, held by supporters of Julian Assange, pretty much says it all.

Ich sollte schlafen


I attended the most of a spaghetti dinner and presentation on Food in the City tonight (missed the 'ghetti unfortunately). With presentations on everything from backyard poultry to a yogurt-making-and-sharing cooperative to subirrigated gardening to the 'ag bag' project (tyvek growing bags slung over windowsills, staircases, fences, you name it, started in NYC and coming to Boston soon), it was a great time.

Perhaps even better than the evening's program was visiting its venue: Sprout. This is an incredible space, basically a big 2 story garage that has been converted into the following (their website says it better than I can): "a community education and research organization devoted to creating and supporting the community-driven learning, teaching, and investigation of science...united by a passion to reclaim science as a richly personal and creative craft."

Basically, as the evening's moderator described it, Sprout is dedicated to fostering playful, practical, and approachable science-based inquiry into people's problems and interests. It is an open studio of sorts, an incubator, a communal laboratory, and it seems really cool. I had no idea something like this even existed, but then again I know very little about what goes on in Somerville. I don't know the everyday logistics or what goes on there besides tinkering and events, but I will be going back 2 weeks from tomorrow (okay, really from today) for a project night on ag bag construction. I hope to come home with my very own ag bag so I can be part of this nifty urban agriculture experiment.

Did you know snails are the fashionable new urban meat? Who can say no to a vertical grazing animal? Hmm...I don't think any snails will come with the bag.

Speaking of creepy crawly critters, there is a tub of worms sitting in the basement of the Hive! I am excited for this chance to dabble in vermiculture, and I hope that I can use the castings to help grow some tasty vegetables this season.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Today is an auspicious day for Lentils

A living Medal of Honor recipient stands in military dress under a 600 ton-160 foot long television. He is recognized for killing brown people in Afghanistan in order to save his comrades in arms. The reality of Restrepo and the gaudy circus, fanfare, and inflated patriotism of the super bowl cannot be reconciled. The night is a spectacular synergy of bland bands and brands. There is no saving this land from the top down. There is no saving television nation. It has inculcated everyone and everything.


The curve of the edge of the clouds and blue sky mountain arcs down away to the horizon like supple birch wood rainbowed
Under pressure.

The professor's words still vex me. We wouldn't want to jeopardize
their future ability
to serve in the government
by exposing them to (shh, come close, you musn't tell a soul...)
secret government cables--better to pretend these things don't happen, to keep them in the dark as long as possible, to retain their ability to be utterly inculcated by later service.

I give thanks that the plutocrats can't touch Blue sky mountain.


I am utterly enchanted by the idea that other people would choose to read what I have to say. It is a self-aggrandizing truth that I believe: I have something to say.


I winced at the strangely human cries of her dog. The van smelled strongly: stale beer, cigarettes, old coffee.
I fear Mommy will comment on the dog in the presence of its owner, just like the gaugearedmariecallendar's waiter. The squawk box says he was not politically motivated, but I find that hard to believe.
Her smoker's cough was throaty, disguised, soothed by aguafina, and her lap dog was entirely unremarkable except in its pampered look, need for attention, and inability to fend for itself in nature.
In one way or another, everyone is politically motivated.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Food Geographer

Or maybe, a geographer of food. Sounds nice, eh?

My attempts to summarize my chosen area of study have enjoyed a wide range of success and failure over the past few years. There's the old standby, the definition from my department of "the study of the spatial organization of human activity and human interaction with the physical environment." I used to (and sometimes still do) rattle that one off with a matter-of-fact tone and a straight face (for some reason substituting 'distribution' for 'organization'), as if I am fulfilling the stuff of everyone's childhood dreams. But I have received enough blank stares, quizzical looks ("that's a real major?"), half-smiles of suspicion ("you're serious?"), and I-tentatively-think-I-get-it-but-don't-care-to-press-the-issue facial expressions to know that the old standby is not enough.

These days I usually proceed in a fashion similar to the following:
"I study human geography-it's the study of human activity and society, like, the distribution of our activities, in relation to the's somewhere between the social sciences and hard sciences, like, an interdisciplinary focus...yeah, it sounds broad, I know. You can study just about anything and call it human geography, like transportation systems, economic geography, urban planning, uh, and, lots of people go work for government agencies or as consultants...yeah, and I'm really interested in agriculture and how we get our food..."

Of course it is natural to get so many questions about such an obscure and inglorious field of study as mine--I would be wondering too if I wasn't the one studying it. Heck, I still have those what-the-bleep moments at times, and I don't feel at all like someone who is wrapping up 4 years of studying to be a human geographer. Looking through the lens of geography and environment and the above description of my major on the website, my classes and academic program have felt about as cohesive as wet sand drying in your hand in the sun. But that is the subject of another whole post, and probably a letter to BU too when this is all over. You can peek at my course list for the entire college career below.

However, I wasn't studying for 4 years to become a career or a specialist; I was studying to become JD.

That food/farming part at the end of the description of my studies, I added that within the last year and a half or so. (I found this great entry, in the online Encyclopedia of Food & Culture, on the geography of food; it neatly sums up the applicability of geographers to food studies.) That is something I am sure of, something that grounds me whenever I get waves of panic about not leaving school with 'marketable skills' or a job lined up for my favorite I-banking firm (did you know people, young people like students, have favorite I-banking companies? it boggles my mind, but it is true) or a clear sense of the direction my life will take in the next 5 or 10 years.

Whatever happens, I know that I want to devote part or all of my life to reconnecting people (including myself) with the landscapes that sustain us and with sources of healthy (in many senses) food. I daresay I might feel passionate about local food systems, sustainable agriculture, urban and peri-urban agriculture, and the many associated benefits these production systems can provide to people, communities, the environment, and our societies as a whole.

So yeah, it took a few years, but I feel I can say, finally, with confidence, in my last semester of undergraduate liberal arts studies, that I am a food geographer.

CAS CC101 Ancient World Hume 1
CAS CC105 Core Natural Science 1
CAS GE100 Intr Envron Science
CAS PS101 Gen Psychology

SPRG 08 CAS CC102 Core Humanit 2
CAS CC106 Core Nat Sci 2
CAS ID116 Africa Today
CAS LG212 4th Sem German

FALL 08 CAS CC201 Core Humanit 3
CAS EC101 Intro Microeconomics
CAS GE103 Economic Geography
CAS MA121 Calc I-Soc Sci

SPRG 09 CAS CC202 Core Humanit 4
CAS EC102 Intro Macroecon
CAS GE309 Envir Analysis
CAS MA213 Basic Stat&Prob

FALL 09 CAS GE250 Fate of Nations
CAS GE275 Intro Env Modelling
CAS GE356 Third World Development
CAS LA111 Hausa 1

SPRG 10 CAS HI384E N Afr History&Relig
CAS LY111E Modern Arabic 1
CAS LY112E Modern Arabic 2
CAS WS351E Women Islam&Pol

FALL 10 CAS GE302 Remote Sensing
CAS GE304 Sustainable Dev
CAS GE460 Resource Economics
CAS HI589 Hist Food Envir & Soc

SPRG 11 CAS GE492 Local Food
CAS GE365 Intro to GIS
CAS GE394 Envir Hist Africa
CFA MU567 African drumming&dance
PDP DA179 Afro-Jazz