Monday, June 30, 2008

Indignantly Angry

My brother had the nerve to send me an e-mail entitled "In Obama's Own Words." I would post it, but I don't think I should. Instead, I'll quote the main message of it:
"We should all be very afraid. This man wants to be our President and control our government."
Ah, yes. Because (as we all should know) our government is in the control of one man. Silly me, I thought that we had three branches of government and a system of checks and balances. Whoops, that's right--Bush has everyone thinking that he's in control and that Congress needs to listen to his dictates...

Anyway, not the point. The e-mail then went on to give quotations (they're real!) from Obama's book Dreams From My Father (the e-mail didn't even get the title right, incidentally). These quotations were all taken out of context and meant to convey one thing: Obama is black; Obama doesn't share our white Christian ideals; Obama sympathizes with Muslims; don't trust Obama.

The quotations don't say anything bad. In context*, I'm sure they convey his struggle as the son of a biracial couple and his quest for identity. I would think that it was a difficult experience for him, yet ultimately a positive one. But out of their racism and bigotry, the originators of this e-mail want us to be afraid of Obama's race and his racial identity. They want us to believe that he'll ignore all the Christians and promote Islam. They're idiots, and I just couldn't stand it. So I sent a firm reply back to my brother (and my father, who sent the e-mail to my brother initially). Here's what I said:
I'm not sure what the message of this is supposed to convey, but the biggest sense is that it's racist, and that's not something I'd like to think of you as. Please do not send me stuff like this again. It makes me angry and a little upset.

I don't think selected quotations (taken out of their context, a context that could change the meaning of those sentences) is supposed to convince me that voting for Obama is the wrong choice for president. Nor are the insinuations (ungrounded, based on the fact that he's a Christian and raises his family as Christians) that he's Muslim. The final quotation could be taken to mean that if the political winds should shift in such a way as to target Muslims with prejudice and racism, that he would stand with them, as would I.

Not all of those quotations are negative either. He expresses admiration in one of those quotations for black men who represent intelligence and courage--DuBois, for example, was an intellectual writing around the time of the Civil War who spoke for freedom and equality for black and white. That's nothing to be ashamed of.

What we should be focusing on, when looking for a President, is not race, not that fact that he uses some of the best representations of men of color as role models, nor the fact that he struggled with his identity as the son of a biracial couple. We should look for a leader who is capable and strong, a person of intelligence and reason. I don't care who you vote for, just as long as you don't vote against someone just because they are of another race or believe that people of other faiths should be treated with respect. I see you as intelligent and rational, so please use intelligence and rationality before forwarding things of this nature. Don't support racism and bigotry.
And this is why digging beneath the surface matters. It's too easy to listen to the lies that others want you to believe. I'm sure my family will protest that its message is not racist; rather, it says that we shouldn't elect a person who doesn't have the same ideals as us**. But strip away the superfluous, thin veneer, and you can see what it really is: a promotion of continued racism.

*I'm going to go read that book so I can argue more about it. Uggh, family.
**White, Protestant. Everyone else doesn't count because they're going to Hell anyway. We gotta make sure that the minorities are trying to oppress us!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pain in the Leg

My leg injury is a weird one. Sometimes there's no pain. Sometimes there is. It's not sharp like it was when I first hurt it, but there's a definite feeling of not rightness going on. I tried to look up different running injuries, but apparently what I've done is either not related to running or is not common, so I still don't know what's wrong and what to do about it.

So I thought I'd toss my injury out here in the blogosphere and hope that someone (Kerry??) might have some advice. Or tell me to haul my cheap ass to the doctor, since they'd probably figure out why I'm still not better.

Where is the pain, exactly? Well, I say "knee", but it's not my knee. It's on my right leg on the back side of my knee. If I stretch my leg out straight, there's a tightness/soreness that's concentrated on the outside of the back side of my knee. I suspect it's the bits that connect my calf muscles to my upper leg muscles.

It was a sharp pain when I first injured it, but now it's a stiff/sore feeling that hasn't faded. It seems to be worse when I haven't moved my leg around for a while, and then fades when I move and get it warmed back up. I notice it when I bend my knee as far as I can and sometimes when I straighten my leg out, like when I'm doing forward bends (stretching/yoga). It's not constant or consistent. Icing it and elevating seem to help. Exercise *might* make it feel a little worse, but it seems not doing anything also might contribute to it feeling sore.

Any ideas? My treatment has been alternating between trying to stretch it carefully with yoga and light cardio (except for Frisbee--that's pretty intense, and it made it a little sore), and propping it up on pillows while applying ice. I've also been taking ibuprofen before I go to bed at night, since it's stiff in the morning. I'd really like to be able to return to my running schedule, thank you very much. I suspect that I might need to make an appointment to see my doctor if I want to know precisely what's going on...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

In Pursuit

(Currently Reading: Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst*.)

I'm not sure what's wrong with my knee. It hurts, then it doesn't anymore. I don't really notice it when I run, just when I'm walking around and bending it a lot. Lance is probably going to yell at me for saying this, but I think I'm just going to stop worrying about it too much (even though I've been taking it fairly easy--I haven't really gone running in a few weeks, just playing Ultimate).

Yesterday, we kicked off our summer league. It's mixed teams, so usually two women play with five guys at a time because there are usually only enough girls participating for each team to have four anyway. The number of girls on the field is set to allow for subs and to also make sure that the teams don't just end up being all dudes who want to win. Because guys can be rude like that.

But my teammates are pretty cool. I didn't know anyone on my team when I walked on the field yesterday, and I left feeling like I knew some people. There is a range of experience in the players, anyone from total newbie to seasoned handlers. I even got to play handler for a bit (people who are responsible for the disc, for the most part), which I like. I'll like it even more once I get a bit more experienced with being a handler. Usually I get stuck playing wing, which isn't too bad--just kind of boring**. Last night I got to play all the positions.

I'm really, really glad that I've gotten back to playing Ultimate. It's great exercise, a fun game, and I'm actually not half-bad. And I'm learning some things. This time around, I'm not going to let my inexperience become an intimidation factor***.

*Donna, I'm enjoying it. So far, it's living up to your high praise.

**Wings, while important, don't tend to get in on the action too much. Newbies tend to get stuck in this position, if that tells you anything.

***I let that happen with the first league I played this summer. And let me tell you, it's hard not to be intimated by hard-core women who have been playing for years. Next year, I'll know more and be able to play a lot better instead of feeling like a hindrance^.

^Even though I wasn't entirely. I did help them score a couple of times, provide a substitute, and give them an extra set of legs, as well as being a defender. But it's still hard to remember what I did right when I felt like I was doing so poorly.

Monday, June 23, 2008

An Ultimate Sport

Years and years ago*, I learned a new game that I really enjoyed. That game was Ultimate Frisbee. I then joined up with the UCA team as one of the few girls who would play. Then I moved to Fayetteville, where you thought I would have joined up with the Ultimate crowd (which is bigger then in Conway), but I never did.

Until this summer.

Saturday found me playing in a Women's Summer League tournament, enduring the beating sun, glaring heat, and fatigue (as I fought to keep myself hydrated and my legs moving). Usually game play is at night, when the sun is starting to go down, and it's cooler. But oh no, not for the tournament. It was fun. It was harsh.

I had a lot of fun. I'm pretty new to play, so I get confused a lot about what we're supposed to be doing. But I did all right--I at least was an extra pair of legs for the team. We won our first game, and then got brutally beat in the second game, partly because we were so tired and it was so hot. The first few points were great for us though.

My hurt leg seems to be healed. I've been taking the advice of someone who has had a leg injury, and I iced and elevated and rested it adequately; there haven't been new complaints and the original pain seems to be gone. I promise I'm taking it easy.

Tomorrow the summer league starts (co-ed). Co-ed ultimate is more my speed; girls get a little...competitive sometimes. Yay for lots and lots of running and chasing of a disc! It's wonderful to be involved with a team again, playing something I really enjoy.

*Somewhere around 2003, I think.

Friday, June 20, 2008

What's for Dinner?

I'm a huge fan of Michael Pollan's new book In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. I finished it up at the beginning of the summer, and recently Lance had a chance to read it too. He thought it'd be good if we had a list of Pollan's "guidelines" for eating.

Basically, Pollan argues that Americans have lost their "culture" of food. We have no culture-governed rules, as do the French (for one). He explores the implications of that loss and continues the journey he started in The Omnivore's Dilemma (another great read). I thought it'd be nice to post the guidelines that I typed up, but I warn you--they are good advice, but the book offers great reasoning and details under each guideline, so I encourage you to go buy this book. Seriously. If you're interested in healthy eating.


· Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.

· Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a.) unfamiliar, b.) unpronounceable, c.) more than five in number, or that include d.) high-fructose corn syrup

· Avoid food products that make health claims

· Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle

· Get out of the supermarket whenever possible


· Eat mostly plants, especially leaves

· You are what you eat eats too

· If you have the space, buy a freezer

· Eat well-grown food from healthy soils

· Eat wild foods when you can

· Be the kind of person who takes supplements (health-conscious!)

· Eat more like the French. Or the Italians. Or the Japanese. Or the Indians. Or the Greeks.

· Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism

· Don’t look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet

· Have a glass of wine for dinner


· Pay more, eat less

· Eat meals

· Do all your eating at a table

· Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does

· Try not to eat alone

· Consult your gut

· Eat slowly

o Eating with the fullest pleasure—pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance—is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend. (Wendell Berry)

· Cook and, if you can, plant a garden

If you can't buy this book, at very least check it out from the public library. Personally, it's a book that I plan on loaning out, rereading, and otherwise getting more than one use out of, so I consider it a good investment. If you're extremely interested, pick up The Omnivore's Dilemma first--In Defense of Food is a continuation of much of the research and ideas he explores in that one.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

One Leg Down

Two weeks ago we went camping. My calves were sore for most of that trip because of hiking a lot on hills and playing too much Ultimate Frisbee. Either way, Thursday found me with a sore leg. A soreness that was painful, not just tight like normal muscle reaction. The pain increased as I tried to stretch it out and do my normal soreness-relieving techniques, so I opted to stay off it until it felt better.

This was difficult. I may be a little bit of a slacker when it comes to working out, but I at least work out a couple times a week, even if it's something light. Now, I was afraid to do anything. So I didn't, even though I figured I could do my Pilates video or go swim if I concentrated on my arms (instead of kicking).

Exercise is one of those things that I have to do consistently, or I get lethargic and lose all motivation to try to improve my physical fitness. Then I feel bad because I'm not as energetic AND I'm not staying in shape. Then it becomes a vicious cycle...

Anyway, I finally decided that two weeks of resting and taking anti-inflammatory medication was enough. So I went for a run yesterday. Just a little slow two-miler, but damn did it feel good. And today I went to yoga, which also felt great. I'm monitoring the bum leg, and while it feels a little sore or tight, it's not the same sort of pain I had two weeks ago. I'll continue monitoring and slowly increasing my workouts--though, tomorrow I'm supposed to play two games of Ultimate...

Have any of you all ever had a mildly irritating injury that kept you from the gym (or just from being active)? How did you handle it?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Return of the Favorites

Since I have significantly less reading to do during the summer, I like to read books I don't have the opportunity for during the academic year*. In rapid succession, I consumed The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and The Lady of the Snakes, not to mention reading all sorts of magazines and other publications. What can I say--I love to read!

Right now, however, I'm working my way through a permanent favorite: The Lord of the Rings. I came home one day to Lance watching the films, which reminded me that I hadn't read the books in a year or two. So I picked up The Fellowship of the Ring and was quickly reminded of how wonderful a storyteller Tolkien really is. I could go on and on about why I love these books (including having done research on them**--nothing like immersing yourself in a topic to solidify your feelings about it!), but I'll just list a few reasons:
  • In his essay "On Fairy-Stories," Tolkien argues that the mark of a good story is its ability to pull you--and keep you--into a Secondary World. His own fiction does just that: while I'm reading The Lord of the Rings, I'm in Middle-earth, walking with the hobbits. Enchantment, pure and simple.
  • Tolkien is painstaking with his attention to detail: dates, moon-phases, maps, geography, etc. It really enriches the story and makes it into something believable. Even his made up languages sound possible, not...well, made up. Most fantasy books fail in this regard because the names and vocabularies aren't rooted or consistent.
  • The structure: but only because I wrote my thesis on the that, so I really pay attention to how the story is set up, and I marvel at how simple--and yet complex--it really is.
  • Tolkien plays around a lot with different ways of being a hero. The hobbits don't look heroic, yet they are the ones who can best resist the temptations of the One Ring. Boromir looks every inch the hero, yet he is seduced by the promise of power. Aragorn is far more than he appears, as the story reveals. All that is gold does not glitter...
Anyway, if you haven't read them (I'm looking at you), you should. Especially since I know you already have the first book in hand...

*Yes, I know I should be doing thesis reading. But I've been working on it and talking to people! So ha!

**My Honors senior thesis. I really wish I had spent more time on it--which I may still.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Fruit and (Going) Nuts

I keep thinking of lots to write, but then I never get around to sitting down and doing it. Partly because I've been working a lot this past week with the start of new student orientation at the university. I worked until 8 both Monday and Tuesday*.

My main reason for writing is to relay my current happenings and to share a recipe. Friday, I went out with two of my friends to see Sex and the City, a delightfully girly film that I truly enjoyed--even though I've only seen a few episodes of the show. I've discovered that I really like films/TV shows that concentrate on the relationships between women, leaving relationships between men and women on the periphery**. Gilmore Girls is a lot like this too--and we all know that I love Gilmore Girls.

Afterward we went and enjoyed the most amazing sushi and a decent cosmo (appropriate, no?). I ate my weight in sushi rolls and sashimi, and it was the best I'd ever eaten. I had a hard time stopping, it was so good. Shogun gets my vote as best NWA sushi-seller.

Saturday, I goofed off most of the day, went to farmers' market and a pool party, then headed to my parents' house for the rest of the weekend. Sunday being Father's Day and all, I hung out with my dad, ate, glared at Fox News until it got turned off, rolled my eyes at politics, and played with my nieces. Overall, a fun day. Since everything in my parents' house is processed and contains corn syrup, I brought a lot of my own food (tofu dogs, sprouted grain buns), including something tasty to share. My contribution to the party was the following fruit salad.

Fruit Salad
  • 1/4-1/3 fresh pineapple, cut into chunks
  • 2 nectarines
  • 1 orange, peeled and sliced against the segment grain and cut into smaller pieces
  • 1 mango, cut into chunks
  • grapes
  • blueberries
  • unsweetened shredded coconut
  • crystallized ginger chips (I love The Ginger People)
  • lime juice
  • rum
Put all of your fruit into a bowl in the quantities you desire. Splash in some lime juice, and a bit of rum (maybe one shot's worth). Stir up and enjoy with yogurt*** or some whipped cream.

  • If using more berries, omit the lime juice and use some lemon juice. Rum might still be good--but a bit of vodka might work too. Or none at all...
  • Some citrus zest would look pretty.
  • Go for a variety of colors and flavors. Avoid banana since it gets weird when it sits for too long.
  • Citrus juice keeps the fruit from browning or getting a little weird. No browned apples!
  • Obviously, the varieties are endless. I particularly enjoyed my variety.
(Incidentally, fresh pineapple kicks canned pineapple ass. Seriously. You can use it, but you might not get the same deliciousness I did.)

*The upside is that I got to use my extra time by taking off early on Friday. I went home and lazed about and watched the rain.
**Those relationships are important, but they seem almost secondary or more transient than the friendships among women. Male-female relationships seem to carry with them the threat of deterioration; friendships among women are more lasting. If you break up with your lover, you always have your girlfriends to talk to about it.
***Greek God yogurt (plain, or with honey) is AMAZING. So creamy, so delicious. I may be converted away from my precious Brown Cow.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Meditations on Sugar

I have a post all worked up in my head about Rachel Pastan's Lady of the Snakes, but I'll have to write it down tomorrow. Right now, I want to talk about my weak time of the day. It's about now, just so you know, so this post is really therapeutic (hopefully preventing me from raiding the ice cream in the work freezer). Must resist the 3 pm urge to eat sweets!

I'm cutting out sweets. Someone asked if this meant that I'm not eating fruit. Do you see that orange on my desk? How about the bowl of fresh pineapple in the fridge and pint of strawberries from Lance's garden? There's no way that I can not eat fruit. I love it so; apples are a staple afternoon snack. Fruit is way too yummy to ever give up, and I shouldn't anyway since it's packed with nutrition and deliciousness.

Obviously there are ways to eat fruit poorly. Take yogurt with fruit in it. Yum! Yogurt is the ultimate health food, right? Now look at the ingredient list and the amount of sugar in it. Even if you're not eating a HFCS (high fructose corn syrup)-loaded yogurt (or worse yet, Splenda-loaded), even the Brown Cow (all natural!) variety is packed with sugar in the form of cane juice and maple syrup. No thanks--unless rarely as a treat (I like the Low Fat Vanilla Bean, personally--reminds me of ice cream!). Better to just toss some fresh or frozen fruit (without added sugar) into plain yogurt if you're have a yogurt craving and can't stand plain.

Fruit has juice and sweet without any need to add more, but we've gotten our taste buds accustomed to eating sweeter and sweeter things. Just try buying cranberry juice that's all juice and without freakin' HFCS. You have to dodge anything with the word "cocktail" in it because that means it's loaded with death in the form of chemically-produced corn-sweetener. I'll save the rant against labels for another day, but reading the ingredient list is all important if you want to eat in a manner that even resembles healthy.

HFCS has revolutionized the food industry. Mammals evolved to crave sweetness. The food industry has realized this, even if you haven't. If you don't believe me, go read the labels in your refrigerator or pantry. Most anything processed will have some form of added sugar (though you may not recognize it by name), I guarantee it. And much of that sugar will be derived from corn. It's the industry's way of making sub-par food taste a bit better to induce us to keep on buying it.

Instead, we should return to the simple, wholesome apple if we want sweet. Or fresh pineapple. Or berries. They offer more than just something for the sweet tooth--the have fiber, vitamins, anti-oxidants, and they just might help you live forever. Or at least help you live a more quality life. When we quit believing that "peaches in heavy syrup" is somehow more satisfying than a real peach fresh off a tree, we are making a step toward health and a better world, and a step away from industry-controlled crappy food. Off I go to peel and eat my orange!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

No S?

Since I renamed this blog and stated I had a new direction, you all have just heard of more English stuff. After all, I've been accepted to present at a conference! English stuff is still really exciting!

Okay, so basically today I have something health related to talk about. Mostly because I overindulged at work today on leftover treats, and now I'm sitting here with an unhappy stomach because my body does not handle sugar well. Oh no, it does not. I feel off, slightly nauseated, and just sorta droopy. And yet, I love the stuff and struggle to stay away from it, especially in my food-obsessed workplace (offices are crazy about food, and not good food either!)

A few months ago, Donna introduced me to the charming No S Diet. I say charming because it's so simple and so straightforward. Full of common sense ideas: eating less will help you lose weight. Eating fewer sweets will help you lose weight (or keep from gaining weight). What? So simple? I love the idea and am glad that he's so honest about it.

Well, I think I'm ready to take on part of the No S Diet--No sweets/sugar. (I'm personally a fan of eating small snacks between meals because I tend to eat smaller meals). I'm publicly declaring this because maybe it'll help me stick with it. I've done it once before and was amazed at how well I felt and how easy it was to control my appetite and not feel ravenous before every meal.

I'll even occasionally report to you all to let you know how I'm doing--but not daily or anything. Because really--then when would I talk about all my cool English stuff?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Now Presenting...

Last week, I received an e-mail on the English listserv that invited graduate students to submit a proposal for papers on eighteenth-century literature to the EC/ASECS Conference*. It just so happened that I had worked on a paper in the fall over a bit of eighteenth-century literature--and I even had an abstract from our mini-conference!--so I submitted it. And thought happily about going, then forgot about it on my camping trip.

Today, I return to find this in my e-mail inbox:
Dear Jennifer-
I am pleased to inform you that your proposal to present your paper, "How to Be a Man: Homosocial Friendships in The Monk" at the 2008 EC/ASECS Conference at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, November 6-9, 2008, has been accepted. More information on the conference, including registration, can be found at . Would you please respond to the request for information (below) as soon as possible?
I will be in touch again about a month before the conference for your basic info (including any recent publications, what you are working on, etc.) as well as any changes to your paper title (if any) for my introductory remarks.
I look forward to meeting you in Georgetown! Thank you, and congratulations once again.
I squealed with delight. I've been accepted to a conference! My first! I'm so excited. It's in Georgetown (Washington DC) in the fall. I'll be presenting with other graduate students and receiving constructive (I hope!) feedback from more experienced scholars. I'm just so happy to be accepted--and I'm looking forward to going, after I get all the travel arrangements, reservations, and registration taken care of.**

Look out academia, I'm on my way!

*The East-Central American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies. Yeah, I have to join it too in order to present/attend this conference. But that's what graduate student rates are for!

**Our graduate school offers modest grants to graduate students to travel to a conference, except for employees of the University. Somehow, that makes me less deserving of the modest sum to pay for my expenses? Guess I've got something to save for now^...

^Ah, shoot--should I buy a suit now? Donna or other experienced academes, what do you think? Is a nice suit out of order for presenting? I want to look good and make a good impression and have people remember me who might want to work with me later...Nah, I'm going to keep focusing on the good, the happy, and the fantastic.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Wandering Jenn

For the first time since Saturday, I'm sitting inside a house. I also took a shower and rubbed aloe into my sunburned shoulders and anti-itch cream into my bug bites. That's right, folks, Lance and I went camping.

It seems we never get a chance to just camp, so I took a few days vacation, and off we went to part of the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT). We left Saturday morning, arrived at the trail head, and strapped on our packs to hike 5 (or so) miles to where we'd be hanging out for a few days. I was very sore from playing two hours of Ultimate Frisbee (as well as recovering from a sinus cold), so by the time we reached the Hurricane Creek Wilderness Area I was tired and congested. We first had to find a campsite, however, and when you're camping off a trail, there's no tidy place to set up a tent, let me tell you. We finally settled a nice outcropping of rock next to Hurricane Creek, so we built a fire, ate some dinner, and settled on the rocks to sleep.

About 5:45 am on Sunday, we awoke to discover a front moving in--RAIN! We got up, ate some breakfast, packed up our gear, and stood in a wooded area to wait for the rain to pass. It did. So then we took a nap on our rocks. We noticed that the rain looked like it might return, so we decided to find our campsite for the next couple of days. After wandering around on the river's edge and in the brush above it, we found a clearish spot with good river access, and set up camp. It then began to rain again while we were setting up the tent, so once it was up, we crawled inside and took another nap--it took a while for the rain to pass. Once it did, we worked on gathering firewood, setting up our camping area, fishing, and fixing dinner.

Monday dawned and we set out to explore the along the water, setting our sights on some interesting rocks. We did lots of things I'd never done before, including hiking around off a trail, clambering over rocks, and swimming in really, really cold water. We played in the water for as long as we could stand, then headed back to camp. Lance took off to get a piece of oak to make bows, and I played around more in the water, eventually falling in but having a blast. The day was gorgeous--and to top it off, I got to do a little star gazing. Amazing.

Today, we pretty much got up and hiked the 5 miles out to our car. I felt much more energetic (my legs weren't sore and my cold is almost gone). It was a nice hike out and a nice drive home--and I'm glad to be back home. Camping was wonderful, though, so I look forward to doing it again, perhaps in the fall since it's about to be too muggy and buggy to enjoy being outside for three and half days!