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So I am back in blogging-land today, and hopefully for at least the next couple months, for some very exciting reasons.

First of all, after an amazing year-and-a-half our little baby Re/Visionist blog is all grown up and getting passed along to its new owners. In May the current editors (myself included) will have finally attained mastery (or at least managed Master’s Degrees) and will be moving on to exciting new projects…like jobs…and loan repayment! The new crop of graduate student editors is absolutely fabulous and will definitely bring a whole new burst of energy, enthusiasm and good-old-fashioned smarts to the blog. While I will be sad to leave the regular editorial staff of Re/V it will hopefully free me up to do some more personal blogging which is important because…

I am officially one month away from my big Thailand adventure! 

As part of our Corporate Social Responsibility initiative Informa Business Information, the company I work for, is sending volunteers to work in communities around the world. I am really fortunate to have been chosen for the company’s first trip to Thailand! From our volunteering website: 

There are various childcare centres which provide a safe place for those children with poor working parents. With monthly wages as low as £50 for an adult working on a farm this is an essential resource. Moreover, in many cases parents move to the cities to find work leaving grandparents to bring up the children. The use of the centres is a very welcome break to these people and therefore provides an essential service to the local community and you will soon feel that you are part of the community.

There can be up to 50 pre-school children (up to 4 years old) at one time at the centres so the volunteers help is vital to ensure that the children are well looked after. Volunteers will help the local staff look after the children during the day organising games, activities, teaching lessons and preparing food. Volunteers can also get involved with renovation and repair work at the centres which may include painting walls or renovating kitchens.

While phone and internet may be a little spotty where we’re staying, I’ll hopefully be able to get online periodically to post updates and pictures from my trip! In the meantime I’ll be able to rant incessently about planning and packing, and doesn’t that sound like fun?!

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The city that launched a thousand entirely non-sensical and uncalled-for song lyrics. Nome.

It is t-minus 36 hours until a chapter of my master’s thesis is due and we’ve entered the dangerous, rewriting-lyrics-to-songs phase of the process.

For those of you who haven’t written a master’s thesis (or, more to the point, for those of you who aren’t LUNATICS) I’ll explain.

It starts out innocently enough. Punchy from hours staring at a computer and days without wearing real pants, I casually change the lyrics to a song I’m writing about:

Tell the folks in Nome, what you’re doing Roger

I’m finding one sled dog.

My roommate laughs nervously. Not only isn’t it funny but it doesn’t actually make much sense… or rhyme with anything really. But at least I’ve stopped talking to myself and gotten off the couch.

Little does she know it’s only the beginning.

Two hours later it happens again, this time at least it’s topical. Putting my sweatshirt on to go get my wash from the laundry I serenade her by inventing not one, not two but three unique choruses of Laundromat Races:

Laundromat Races sing this song

Do da do da

Walk to the Laundromat two blocks long

Oh the do da day…

The situation here is grave.

Now, it’s not like this is the first time this has happened. A fateful, undercaffeinated walk in the park several years ago led my last roommate to not only learn all the words to my stirring epic, I Hate My Internet Boyfriend, but also left the tune inexplicably lodged in her brain for weeks afterward; an original melody is hard to shake.

Still, if history tells us anything (and hopefully it tell us something otherwise I have even less of a clue about why I’m getting this master’s degree) it’s that this recent rash of stupid song lyrics is a bad scene. And a sign of much worse things to come…

Photo courtesy of icanhascheezburger.com - They'll thank me when my scholarship restores them to their rightful place of glory in the halls of academia...probably.

# 5 – Otherwise horrible tasks suddenly seem strangely appealing to you: “Gosh, when WAS the last time I washed the outside of our windows?”… “Man, I’m excited to get a jump on my taxes!”…”Did someone say the drain needs to be snaked?!?”

#4 – News and information that would normally not appeal to you suddenly becomes vitally important: “Wow, that was a really interesting Jezebel post on things the movies don’t tell you about pregnancy. I’d better go read all 500 of this hilarious foulmouthed baby bloggers’ old posts, even though I am not now (nor do I really have any intention in the next decade of being) pregnant!”

#3 – You start bargaining with yourself the way you might if you had to reason with a toddler…“Alright, let’s make a deal. If you can sit still and write three more sentences to finish this paragraph…” … only the rewards are really, really crappy…“…then you can get up and use the bathroom.”

#2 – You fantasize about funnier, more entertaining research topics and waste time by researching and outlining them more effectively than you’ve prepared for the one you are actually writing…“Is it too late to change my topic to – “LOLCats: The Historical and Social Implications of Cheezburgers”?!”

#1 – It seems like a good idea to start blogging.

 

And we're back...photo by jesusskateboarding.com

And we're back...photo by jesusskateboarding.com

Alright, so some might say I neglected/ failed /flat out forgot to blog for six weeks because I am more or less a lazy bum. Some might say that, but I like to think I was making an important statement with my silence…I just haven’t entirely worked out what that statement was yet. 

  Thank you very much twenty-first century, for creating a world where, by email, text, facebook status, tweet, and blog, I can boldly proclaim to the world – “World…I don’t particularly have anything interesting to say.”

Not to worry though, friends, that fact has never slowed me down before!

 

 The straightforward lesson learned is that I am a simpleminded sort. And while I am frequently ensorcelled by new technologies, between my twitterpation and my smart phone swoonery, good old fashioned blogging accidentally fell through the cracks. 

…When you don’t have time to write – steal!

 

So, I have been unusually busy with work…I know, I know it is shocking to find that I do in fact work…somtimes. So, in lieu of writing a post I have decided to present you with some inspirational poetry stolen, like all truly great things in this life, from a friend’s facebook wall. Not to worry though, my friends aren’t clever either, he has in turn stolen it from bash.org.

Happy reading:

 

once upon a midnight dreary,
while i pron surfed, weak and weary,
over many a strange and spurious
site of ‘ hot xxx galore’.
While i clicked my fav’rite bookmark,
suddenly there came a warning,
and my heart was filled with mourning, mourning for my dear amour,
” ‘Tis not possible!”, i muttered,
” give me back my free hardcore!”
quoth the server, 404.

Photo by mozzercork via flickr

Photo by mozzercork via flickr

A brief word before we begin: as you may have heard, I have recently become interested (read: obsessed) with Entourage, all the more so since someone told me that Adrian Grenier owns an eco-friendly house…in Brooklyn…with his mother. Swoon. Therefore, our heartwarming, vaguely current, only marginally related lead-in today comes from the mouth of none-other-than everyone’s favorite potty-mouthed philosopher king, Ari Gold. In the second episode of season 3, as the viewers watch eagerly to see if HBO can actually get Toby Maguire on the show so that the guys can tell him to suck it, Ari tells E to “manage your client’s expectations”. Granted, I don’t particularly want to take Ari’s advice, because I don’t particularly want to find myself shotgunning beers at a high school party in the valley – but this week, they may be words to live by.

 

For reasons that I can’t explain (lest a certain crazy Editor discover that I’m talking about his Journal and link his blog to mine), several of my coworkers are periodically responsible for sorting through a considerable number of photos of social scientists from around the world. It sounds like fun already, no? But it gets better! Because they’ve taken to playing a little game that I’m going to call The Managed Expectations Dating Game. The essential narrative of the game is as follows: there comes a day in your life when you have to lower your expectations, we think that day is today, we have identified a potential match for you accordingly. Nothing brightens up a Thursday afternoon like suggesting that someone date Dr. So-and-so with the coke bottle classes and offensive nose hair or Dr. Whats-it with more than twenty years experience studying the hallucinogenic effects of certain species of mushroom on Holstein cows in Bolivia. Want to find true happiness? It’s time to Manage Those Expectations!

 

February is a prime month for managed expectations, like New Year’s Eve or your high school prom (if you are a character in a movie marketed primarily to ‘tweens), February 14th is a High Holy Day on the Should’ve-Managed-My-Expectations Calendar. It’s exactly the kind of holiday where you get your hopes up only to have them dashed when  a) it turns out your next door neighbor hasn’t been carefully monitoring your work schedule so that he can surprise you with flowers and declarations of his undying love (after he introduces himself) as you climb the stairs after a long day, or b) your boyfriend wasn’t asking if you thought his sister would like that necklace for her birthday (back in October) because he was secretly running it by you as a potential VDay gift, or c) despite advice to the contrary, your fiancée decided that a second wii would be the most romantic gift this year.   

 

 For the sake of honesty I have to admit, I’m not a VDay Hater. New Year’s Eve I could live without, and Christmas and I have some major beef with, but Valentine’s Day and I are pretty much cool. I’ve had some really romantic ones and plenty of perfectly lovely single ones with the girls – I highly recommend chocolate covered strawberries and The Cutting Edge…in either case. But, nevertheless, over the next couple days I am going to try to post some tools for managing your expectations this Valentine’s Day even though, for once, I don’t think the reality of my expectations need too much management…although it is a strange coincidence that Adrian Grenier and I are both living in Brooklyn this Valentine’s Day…right?

So, a lot of friends have asked me to describe what DC was like, and I’ve had a really hard time doing it. Granted, part of the difficulty is my complete inability to write anything (blog post, email, grocery list) without a healthy dose of sarcasm; I just don’t have much that is snaky or tongue-in-cheek to say about what I saw. Beyond an inherent inability to be anything resembling earnest or serious, it is incredibly difficult to put an experience of that magnitude in to words.

What strikes me the most, I think, is how significant everything was – how much every moment of it meant to me. So it seems like the best thing to do might be a play-by-play, there are a thousand things I could say about the trip, a thousand kinds of moments and images I wish I could capture and share and replay in my mind every time someone jostles me on the subway or cuts me off on the Garden State Parkway, but its getting late and I’m tired and I’m sure that you don’t want to read a 39,359,283 page blog post, and my memory has never been that good anyway, so…

Our epic journey began, as any proper adventure would, in Jersey…in a snowstorm. I should back up a second and say that I really didn’t want to go. I mean, I wanted to go and I was really excited about it. At least, I was excited until my friend Darren called me last week to firm up plans. It wasn’t really Darren’s fault, he had no way of knowing that when he called I would be standing at a bus stop in single digit weather with a broken butt (don’t even ask, that’s a whole other story). He had no way of knowing that to answer his call I would have to remove my hand from the pocket of a coat that isn’t really warm enough, take off my gloves and hat, curse his name, and think to myself ‘well crap, I must be out of mind if I think I can stand outside for twelve hours in January’.

For those of you who know Darren, no further explanation is needed to understand how I went from name cursing to navigator. If you don’t know Darren – suffice it to say that the words “historic” and “incredible” were used liberally (no pun intended. okay, in all honesty I do sort of intend it – sue me) as were the words “awesome” and “roadtrip”. Darren shares none of my trouble with earnestness (he also still manages to hold his own in the sarcasm division) and has some sort of twisted power to convince people to do crazy things (just ask the musicians, dancers, actors and singer involved in last Sunday’s concert). And so, on Monday night I found myself in a car, with Darren and his friend Charles, in a snowstorm and heading south.

After a late dinner and an hour nap at Darren’s dad’s place in Philly we set off for Maryland around 3am. By 5:30 we were in a parking lot at a metro stop in Maryland, pulling on hats and gloves (and wondering if we hadn’t been better off with the name cursing). Okay, that last snark was a total lie- yes, it was freezing and yes, there are few people who can manage to be less pleasant than I am before 9am, but even a chilly pre-dawn parking lot felt incredibly exciting and historic – and that was only the beginning. We entered the station with a huge crowd of people (or rather, it felt like a huge crowd of people – we would shortly have to relearn the definitions of words like “huge” and “crowd”), we were able to buy tickets and board the first train that came with no trouble.

From that early morning train ride and straight through the rest of the day we talked to everyone – locals and visitors, young and old – everyone was happy to share strategy, talk hope, or just say hello. There was an incredible sense of camaraderie in the city. The hundreds and probably thousand of volunteers, restaurant and store staff, and police and military personnel that kept the city running (and the people fed!) were consistently friendly, patient, and incredible at hiding the fact that must’ve been at least as frozen and exhausted as the rest of us. Standing on the mall was like standing in a group of friends and family, jokes were tossed around, theories and excitement were shouted across the crowd, and a sense of shared purpose and uninhibited joy was palpable…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

It was still dark when we boarded the metro and descended underground, toward Washington. As we left the metro and clmimbed toward the city, we saw the sun rising over a sea of people and the capitol building, glowing in the morning light, in the distance. Humanity is the only word to describe what the streets were like. It was a city devoid of cars and completely awash in people and excitement and energy. We literally dove into the stream and joined the crowd winding its way toward the mall. Winding is actually an understatement because we wound up walking a gigantic loop around the middle of the city in order to reach our final destination (there is nothing like a brisk multiple-mile walk with 50,000 of your closest friends at 6am to start a day right….except maybe coffee, coffee works too).

The walk included a brief jaunt through a closed car tunnel (although for the entire descent into the tunnel we pretty much had to take it on faith that we weren’t trapping ourselves beneath the mall to drink the underground kool-aid). As we passed the midpoint of the tunnel Charles turned around to check out the crowd, literally a tunnel full of people moving together. He told me to take a picture as he provided some tunnel-related color commentary. Don’t believe me? Ask the Washington Post:

8 a.m., in the Third Street Tunnel

Hustling with the stream of humanity through the Third Street Tunnel, Charles Bergell wondered whether the inauguration’s planners intentionally funneled people through the tunnel to symbolize the nation’s rebirth. Bergell, a 43-year-old West Orange, N.J., actor, then turned toward the thousands of people behind them. “Look at that scene,” he said excitedly, holding up his hands like a director plotting an important moment in a play. “That’s the picture.”

Well, Mr. Del Quentin Wilber, you had better get your watch checked ‘cause this was closer to 6:30 am and the party was just getting started! Also…that isn’t really what theatre directors do…but hey, I appreciate the effort!

By the time Mr. Wilber got around to phoning this quote in to his editor, we were arriving on the mall. We wound up in what (I think, at least) was probably the best non-ticketed spot on the mall. Standing on a hill just in front of the Washington and dead center on the mall, our whole field of view was hundreds of thousands of people with the capitol building as a backdrop. I’m sure that a lot of you watched the whole thing on TV so I won’t give you the play-by-play of the ceremony except to say that when the replay of Sunday’s concert ended and the live-feed across the mall began, the crowd seemed like one single enormous whole, and waves of excitement, cheers, and jeers flew back and forth and up and down the length of the mall. More than anything else, this is the part that it is literally impossible for me to describe and I just can’t do justice to the magnitude of what happened or the spirit of the crowd that I was a part of, but suffice it to say that watching the history of a nation change for the better, live and in person, was easily the most amazing thing I have ever done. Monument

Once the ceremony ended and the final (awesome) benediction was given, the crowd began to disperse. Obama’s new era of responsibility was already in the air as Darren and I joined many other people helping to pick up trash from the lawn on their way toward the street. It was a really simple thing and it was incredibly inspiring. A man thanked me for helping as I reached for a discarded paper cup, he said “imagine how easy it would be if everyone picked up just one piece”. Imagine how easy it would be if everyone did just one little thing, you can’t get a much clearer example of Obama’s vision of hope and change than that!

By the time the ceremony (and garbage collecting) were over, we had been standing in the cold for at least six hours and it was time to escape. We sought refuge in the local restaurants (and bathrooms!) with approximately 1.2 million other cold, hungry people. The atmosphere stayed collegial and excited throughout the afternoon, even though we were all sleep-deprived, starving and just starting to thaw. We ate some food and managed to walk outside in time to catch a good portion of the parade (including the Cadets and some awesome Alaskan dancers) at the crowdless tail end of the route. From there it was pretty much a long slow trek home, or at least that’s what they tell me. Thanks to Charles’ extreme generosity in driving a large portion of the way home, I spent most of the car ride happily passed out on my coat.

I guess this was kind of long and rambling, and it certainly didn’t do justice to the enormity of the experience or the historical significance of the event we were privileged enough to witness. I guess if this says anything it says that I saw, first-hand, a country that is ready for change. I saw people of different races, religions and sexual orientations. I saw young and old, northern, southern, eastern, western. I saw locals and travelers, groups and individuals. I saw a great sea of people who heard a call to action, thought “yes we can”, and were so moved by those words that they traveled great distances and endured the crowds and the cold to see history made. I saw a great man stand before his nation and promise not only to preserve and protect, but to change things for the better. I saw one million people make their presence a promise, a pledge to help him get there, to take responsibility, to continue to be there every day for the next four years. I saw history being made, to be sure, but I also saw new futures created – and standing in Washington, in support of those futures, I was, more than I have ever been before, being the change I want to see in the world.