February 2005 Archives

Politics by Other Means

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Since some of my readers are compulsive worriers and had asked, let me reassure everyone that I was not in Tel Aviv at the time of last Friday's bombing. Although I did spend a lovely afternoon playing with the Tel Aviv Go club, I was back in Rehovot by the evening.

Overall, I would not expect this to become a routine event again, like it was in the early days of the present Intifada.

Winners

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Thanks to the insane masochists at Wampum, this year's Koufax award winners have been announced. Pop on over when you've got a spare moment (or afternoon) to find out what was judged best and most worthwhile in the bustling left end of Blogistan in 2004. I all but guarantee you'll find something good to read.

I won't spoil the ending my letting on who won, and for that matter I'm not really familiar enough with a number of the nominees to comment on the awards in several categories. Being, you know, a grad student and not actually a full-time blogger. But I still feel entitled to distribute some props of my own, just to mark the occasion.

For the category of Best Group Blog, I was rooting for Crooked Timber. Not having the patience for all-politics, all-the-time, I like eclectic.

The competition for Most Humourous Post was fierce, as the world has fairly oozed snark this year. I'm sad to say that my favorite nominee didn't even make it to the finals.

Now call me biased, but I thought Blue Skies Falling was Deserving of Wider Recognition this year. Connor's still too small fry to be nominated for this sort of thing, I'm afraid. It's probably normal that I don't know much about any of the nominees in same category.

Finally, if you find yourself particularly wanting to spend an enjoyable and unproductive afternoon, I am happy to direct you to the finalists for Best Post of 2004. Iraq loomed large, as you might imagine, both in the one I voted for and in the eventual winner. My recommendation: browse all the finalist posts before reading who won.

P.S. You can safely assume that EGAD was not nominated for anything. For one thing, I don't post often enough. But the bigger obstacle is that there's probably some requirement that you have more than two consistent readers (Hi Mom, Sis!).

[Late Update, 1 March '05 -- Okay, okay. To be perfectly fair, if I judge by the people who comment here, it would appear that I have more like five or six loyal readers. Many thanks, dudes and dudettes.]

Iran

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Click above for an expanded view of this CIA map of the Middle East (Greater Near East, Southwest Asia, whatever you want to call it), from the University of Texas PCL Map Collection.

Over the weekend, journalist Scott Ritter gave a speech asserting that inside sources tell him that the Bush administration has already signed off on plans to bomb Iran in June, and that it manipulated the January elections in Iraq. It would seem that the story has been noticed, since I've seen it on half a dozen web pages and in my email this morning. The folks breathlessly declaring these to be historic revelations need to get a grip, immediately. Though it says something that it's now a notable event for someone stating the obvious to be taken seriously.

So this week's map is presented so as to provide a bit of geographic context to current events.

Crosstalk

Since I had to head over to the other end of Rehovot to talk to a travel agent -- just one step in the suprisingly active process of not leaving the country in two weeks -- I made my weekly shopping run this morning. Which means I've been nibbling freshly-made baklava all day and have a freezer full of pitas. It hit me the other day that I'm actually getting settled in here, since I've stopped grumbling about the lack of tortillas so much. Pitas get the job done well enough, and I don't know that hummous would be all that great on a taco, anyway.

Yvette over at Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast said nice things about my blog and even threw me a link, so it only seemed reciprocal to hop on over and browse her posts. Right now she's in the midst of a series of 31 daily posts on Black History Month (February, at least in the US). Obviously she has far more blogging discipline than myself.

From what I've read so far, I'd like to highlight this post, which deftly pinpoints an intersection of three strands having some present currency: Black History Month, the fact that 2005 is the Einstein-honoring World Year of Physics, and the media's tendency to ignore significant but inconvenient stories. But of course, that's exactly why we have a calendar full of days and months and years earmarked for commemoration. Without a reason, a good hook, people can't be bothered to remember much beyond the personally relevant.

On the other hand, give a person a clear interest in the past and memory can be very long indeed. I need only pick up a paper, or glance at the heavily armed guards outside, to remind myself that this isn't always a force for good. One of the lead stories in today's Ha'aretz documents a recent decision in the Israeli Army to stop demolishing Palestinian homes in some cases. It would seem that the supposed benefit of a population scared of having their house knocked down without warning didn't quite outweigh the downside of thousands of suddenly displaced people stoking old grudges.

Just at what point does remembering the past doom us to repeat it?

Map of the Week: The Old City

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Click the image for an expanded view of this map of Jerusalem's Old City, Aer Atika. Never mind its efforts at a "vintage" look; this comes from the map they hand out at the Tourist Information Bureau at the Jaffa Gate.

I've always enjoyed poring over a good map. I can tell a good map because, after studying one, I come away with the feeling that I know something about the place depicted, that I have the beginnings of a feeling for what it would be like to be there. A good map invites the eye to an open-ended narrative of exploration, and in so doing distills the notions of Place and Journey.

It may come as no suprise, then, to hear that I've accumulated a fair collection of the things since I left the States. Since this blog is partly about digging into the various forms of locality, and partly about communicating my travels to the folks back home, I think it makes sense to share some of these maps. Let's try weekly.

Change of Plans

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I must confess, the prospect of diving into Methods five weeks after the semester began was starting to loom somewhat daunting. And on the reverse side of that coin, I was just coming to the disappointed realization that I would be leaving this place before I'd gotten to see any number of interesting things, and just as I was managing to feel like I'd gotten my bearings.

Change of plans. New date of return is unknown, projected for late spring or early summer. Discuss.

Pilgrimage

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The pinnacle of, I believe, the Tower of David poking over the ramparts near the Jaffa Gate. While the present tower is no older than the rest of Sulimain's wall, it stands on the foundations of a far older structure, claimed to date back to the time of King David. Aside from housing a museum, one can also ascend via the tower to take a stroll along the ramparts, but that would have been really unpleasant on this particular day. 2005:02:06 12:17:23

Ash Wednesday today. Well, yesterday my time, but most of you in the audience have seven or eight hours left as I write this. Of course if you're reading this in the archives three months from now -- sorry, it's over.

This was the first time I can recall not attending the dust-to-dust Mass. Sadly, my good Catholic upbringing was no match for a day full of meetings and the fact that I have no idea how to get to a Catholic church and back in less than most of a day. Which is why I made something of a pilgrimage of my field trip last Sunday. Consider this the continuation of my previous post.

Milligan: 1, Weather: 2

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Click above for an expanded view of this road map of central Israel; the route taken by my bus to Jerusalem is highlighted in light blue. The total distance covered from Rehovot to Jerusalem is about 30 km. Just take a moment to really appreciate the settlement density implied by this map.

With my advisor out of the country and the usual Sunday seminar moved to Tuesday, yesterday seemed an ideal opportunity to poke my head up out of Rehovot and survey something. Only having time for a day trip, I decided to take a proper look around the Old City in Jerusalem (i.e. without spending most of my time in shops picking up Christmas gifts). This is absurdly easy to do as, despite Rehovot's diminuitive stature, there are no less than two inter-city bus routes directly connecting the two cities.

The Rehovot central bus station is in the Rehovot mall (every town of more than about 35 people here has a mall), about a 15-minute walk from my dorm. Generally a pleasant walk, especially if breakfast is a pastry from the bakery next door. However, a cold front blew through over the weekend, which in this case meant that it started pouring quite chilly rain about halfway there. Fine, I thought, score 1 for the weather. I put up my hood and figured I'd dry out on the bus.

[Ed. update: lest you think it's just me]

More Begging

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It's just past midnight here, which means it's just past 5 pm EST, which means there's officially nothing more I can do for this latest fellowship application. Ah, the joy of begging NASA for money. At least the NSF is pretty competent about doing things electronically. While I was able to fill out basic information and upload my proposal online, the process of -- essentially -- getting permission to apply was truly an adventure. NASA and the University of Minnesota are both institutions with pretty hefty bureaurocracies, both of which have been ordered from on high to go paperless.

The interaction of the two was somewhat hilarious. That NASA insists that you get an institutional sign-off on the cover sheet of an otherwise electronic proposal for a lowly graduate fellowship is somewhat puzzling to me. So I filled out the please-sign-my-piece-of-paper form, which is obviously one of those things that used to be a triplicate carbon paper affair. Now it's paperless, and it goes from office to office by email. Cool, actually. Still, the volume of forms (some online, some by faxing things around) I've handled to actually submit this propsal, I'm fairly sure, exceeds my actual proposal in length.

And now, to distract you from any suspicion that I'm just whining about paperwork, allow me to point you to the nominees for Most Humorous Blog Post for the Koufax Awards.

This post, courtesy of the above, should make at least one of my readers happy.

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This page is an archive of entries from February 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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