Tuesday, December 06, 2005

International Adoption News

Appalling! Australia should be ashamed of itself... again!


While I concede the point that homes and help probably can't be found for all of these hundreds of thousands of children in China, Kenya and Ethiopia, certainly some can be helped by those adoptive parents willing to go that route. Australia! ::tisk, tisk:: In this case, you're right up there with the British attitude of near-indifference during the Irish Potato Famine and the US during WW2 when they turned away the refugee ship "Saint Louis" full of German Jews trying to escape the Nazis.

Romania, on the other hand, should be very proud!


That's right, Romania, don't let the US try to tell you what to do. You're a sovereign nation and I can't see why this issue should be of concern to the US government anyway. I think there's probably some funny business motivating the Helsinki Commission in this case. Can't see why they'd stick their nose in it if there weren't...

Blogger, blogger, where are art thou?

Blogger's been sporadically down for the last day or so. It's been hell trying to update posts. And now, my blog isn't formatted right. I am hoping that this is just another symptom of their problems and I didn't do anything to screw up the code. I've changed my template 6 times to see if that would correct the problem, manually changing the links and other changes I had made to the code before I noticed the problem to see if that would correct it, but every time it still has my profile, etc. at the bottom of the page instead of up at the top right hand side where it's supposed to be. Since even after I've reset the template and before I've altered it, it is still doing this, I'm going to assume that it is their issue, not mine, and that it will correct itself soon. Let's hope so.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Other stuff about the concert

They had really good catering. The cookies were *evil*... double-chocolate macadamia nut, and pecan caramel chocolate. There was also fresh fruit and cuban food... pulled pork, rice, beans, that sort of thing... and steamed veggies. There was soda to drink and the best bottled water in the whole world, Zephyrhills, which comes from a spring 45 minutes north of my house. There was probably beer too, but I don't like beer so I didn't notice.

Andrea went to the concert seperately from Maria and me. She flew down from Chicago pretty much just for the show. She was in the mosh pit while we were standing on stage. She body-surfed twice. Jared stopped singing mid-song twice to save people in the pit. The first time, he said, "Hey, hey, all you crazy mother f-ckers, if someone falls, you pick them the f-ck up!" And the second time he said something like, "Everyone, pick everybody up!" I think Andrea said she fell once. She was certainly bruised enough at the end of the day and came home with Maria and I around 4:30. She wanted to stay until the end of the show at 9pm, but she was feeling sick from too much heat and not enough water or food since 10am that morning. We got her some cookies and water from backstage and then headed out.

Everyone warned us of the parking in downtown Clearwater, but it wasn't too bad. We had found a lot that was free about a mile and a half from the park and the walk wasn't too bad. Taffic was quite light despite the show, it being Sunday afternoon downtown. And even though I had blisters and my feet were throbing, I barely noticed and I was feeling surprisingly little pain 'cause I was floating somewhere up in the stratosphere, and didn't come down until this morning when I realized I still have a mini-term paper to write... I still haven't written it, but I'll be working on it in a few minutes once I've finished with this. It's not due til tomorrow at 2pm, so I've still got time...

Next Big Thing 5 & Jared Leto

Warning: this is going to get very "fangirl" at times... It was unavoidable.

I love my brother, but I don't always like him. Yesterday, he really came through for me though. He got me tickets for myself and my friend, Maria, so we could go to completely sold out The Next Big Thing 5 concert at Coachman Park in Clearwater, FL. Then when we got there, he gave us backstage all-access passes. I will be forever grateful to him for that. Josh was at the concert because Alkaline Trio was playing and he works for them right now. And while Alkaline Trio is great and it was awesome to see them play, the real reason both Maria and I were there was to see 30 Seconds to Mars and Jared Leto. We stood on the stage while both of those bands played, for over 2 hours in all, about 15 or 20 feet from the leadsingers' microphone, and needless to say we were both partially deaf when the music stopped. But we *so* didn't care!

After Alkaline left the stage, we knew within minutes we would be seeing Jared Leto in the flesh, and had to quell our fangirl reactions to that. If we made a scene, we'd get thrown out and that was pretty much the only thing stopping us I think... that and the fact we didn't want to scare him. So he and the rest of the band walked on stage from the back entrance and I was like, "Oh my god, there he is," and did my damnedest not to stare. He and the rest of the band had a little pow-wow at the back of the stage, standing in a circle with their heads together and their arms across each other's shoulders, and then the master-of-ceremonies announced the band. The crowd of approximately 15,000 went wild! Jared was the last one to take up his instrument and microphone. He said "f-ck" or a variation thereof *a lot* while talking to the screaming masses... It was awesome. I, being the good former Girl Scout that I am, came completely prepared. I had my trusty camera with the telephoto lens so I could get good close-ups, and it's a damn good thing I did 'cause during "Buddha," Jared climbed to the top of the scaffolding and sang from 50 feet in the air. Crazy, crazy!

He climbed higher than this, but when he got above the lights, I couldn't see anything but his feet from where I was. The crowd was loving it!

Just before he jumped back down to the stage:

I couldn't believe that he did this, but I have since found out that, apparently, he does this a lot... Andrea said later when I found her in the crowd that his insurance company must love him.

They sang 5 songs. These pages, pictured below, were taped in various discreet places around the stage, I guess so everyone could remember the order of the songs. The one with 97X on it (the name of the radio station sponsoring the event) was Jared's... I suppose so he could remember the name of the station he was supposed to thank.

After the performance was over, the band all left the stage. They said they were going to be signing autographs on "CDs, posters, t-shirts, bras, panties, and jockstraps" in the merch tent. Maria and I were going to head over there, but first we had to get off stage without getting in the way of the roadies setting up the next band's equipment. Maria stayed where we had been standing the whole time to see if she could get ahold of one of the guitar picks that the band had left on the stage floor. I made my way around to the back to the passageways that led out into the open. The opening in the black tarp where people and equipment could come through from the stage and backstage areas was almost completely clogged with amps and speakers and the drum kit, so much so that I couldn't get through there. So I crouched down under a part of the tarp that was being held up by the amps about three and a half feet above the floor to get backstage. And as I stood up on the other side, I nearly smacked straight in to Jared who was standing on just the other side. He was just turning to face where I was coming from, and my eyes went wide and I'm sure I blushed and stopped breathing, and I skittered off to the right as he and the rest of the band were trying to get oriented. They seemed to be in a big hurry. I can't remember if it was Maria or Andrea who said that I should have let myself fall into him or bump into him, in the hopes that he'd actually put his hands on me and ask me if I was okay... ::sighs:: The things you think of after the fact...

Once Maria and I were back together again, we left the backstage area and headed over to the merch tent. We wanted to get our laminated backstage passes signed. The crowd was overwhelming and after repeated attempts to get it organized and under control, the band had to retreat to the backstage area because it was getting scary. Lucky for me and Maria, we were able to get through the crowd a lot faster than they did and had just gotten through the backstage security when they came through themselves, black permanent markers in hand. Maria was quick as they were walking in through the fences and got Shannon's autograph and the drummer's too? (sorry, I'm a bad fan and don't know the other's names) Then, once completely backstage again, Maria, being the brave one, went up to Jared when his back was partially turned, and touched his arm and asked for his autograph, which he scribbled quickly, thanking her, and I sidled up next to him and got him to sign my backstage pass as well. He touched my finger when he held the pass steady. The fangirl in me squealed, but outwardly I just shyly said "thank you," as he thanked me, and stepped away.

Let me tell you, it is physically *painful* to look in that man's eyes, they're so pretty. ::sighs:: They're blue-gray, ya know... yesterday they appeared more grayish than they naturally are because of the heavy black eye-liner he had on.

There will be more about the concert later, but for now, here's some more pictures. All of them are mine, do not post them elsewhere or steal them for yourself. Ask, and I'll consider it.

All of these images can be clicked on to get bigger versions of the image:

Everytime Jared would drink from a bottle of water, as pictured above, he'd chug it down as much as he could at one time and then turn around a throw the rest of the bottle out over the crowd, which just made them scream louder. He did this maybe five or six times during their set. Andrea said everytime he did that, all she could think was "yeah! water!"

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Grad school & dissertation defenses

Anybody have any experience with dissertation defenses? I've been thinking about what it would actually entail and...

Have I mentioned before that I have horrendous, petrifying stage fright? The only "D" I ever got in my entire life was the direct result of my outright, steadfast, obstinate refusal to stand in front of a class to do my French oral exams the entire last semester of my high school Freshman year because I was so traumatized by the first one I had to do. My teacher, Dr. Groux, tried to embarrass me into capitulating by announcing to the entire class each time I elected to take a zero and publicly detailing the consequences of my actions, but I still wouldn't do it. Mind you, I got an A on that first one, but I just *couldn't* do it again. People said the entire morning that I was looking like I was about to be led to my execution or something, all white as a sheet, glassy-eyed and shaking. My heart was also pounding so hard I thought it would burst and my throat felt like it was closing up, and when it was all over, I went back to a desk at the back of the room and cried for like 20 minutes. I actually scared my classmates. My whole class talked about it for like *days* afterward, people asking if I was okay... people I didn't even know... Three people *in another grade* came up to me on the bus even, saying that they had heard about it and had been praying for me. But that's all the details I can give about it without having flashbacks (not as hyperbolic a statement as I'd like it to be).

Even before the horror stories I've heard from Zinzi and some of my professors, just the thought of doing a dissertation defense made me feel nervous as hell... Now, I just feel like I'm going to burst into tears, faint or have a nervous breakdown, or all three, every time I think about it. Unfortunately, I'm not the kind of person who can ignore the unpleasant eventualities and focus on the other details right up to the last second... like the reason why I'd have to go through that in the first place... to get those nice little letters added to the end of my name, "MA" and "PhD," to increase my monetary earnings by a significant percentage, and just to get to do all the things one with a PhD gets to do (one must admit it opens a lot of doors). No, no, I've got to dwell and brood over my worst fears...

Mom keeps saying that I need to just say to myself that "my dissertation committee would just be trying to help me" over and over again... She thinks that even if it's not true, if I convince myself of it, I'll be able to to it. That works up to a point... Then I remember what certain profs have said about ripping apart candidates' dissertations at the defense just to see if they can get them to flinch and that argument starts to loose merit... and the mantra turns into "my dissertation committee is going to kill me" or something like it. In addition to the mantra, Mom has also suggested anti-anxiety meds, but I have, as some would delicately put it, personal "opinions" on medication for non-organic problems... She would have suggested therapy too, since she seems to think it's one of the best things *ever*, but she knows better, having suggested it a few times before for other issues of my adolescence and, as a result, didn't hear the end of it for *weeks* afterward. Needless to say, I took the very suggestion as a grave insult, nevermind that she was just trying to help. Though intellectually I know that therapy has helped many people through problems and some people even *need* it in order to function, I can't help but insist that I don't, come hell or high water... I could detail a number of reasons why because I am self-aware enough to know why I think this way, but that might be getting a little too far inside my head for my own peace of mind in such a potentially public venue.

Now, some might say I should worry about finishing my BA first... or maybe worry about getting into grad school first, or even topics, before worrying about a defense, but I just can't seem to worry about any of those things. I'm going to get my BA, it's just a matter of when. And there's going to be *some* grad program *somewhere* that will take me, even if not one of my top picks, though I don't even think that will be much of a problem, so I'm not worrying about that. And I have a list as long as my arm of topics I'd like to research and write on, and narrowing research topics and academic writing has *never* been a problem for me. It's actually one of my strengths. So my next thing to worry about is the defense... Enter my extreme performance anxiety, et voila! The problem and I panic. Because what would be the point of going through all the trouble of grad school and dissertations if I couldn't get my degrees because of this? 'Cause until I convince myself emotionally that it's not going to kill me (cause while intellectually I know it won't, that really is the level of gut-wrenching fear I'm dealing with here), I don't see all that much point in trying. And yet, it's still something I feel I need to do... to bide my time 'til I figure out what I'm going to do with my life and/or I get my "MRS degree" (a suggestion and term I first heard in a Sociology class much to the horror of my Sociology prof. She was even more scandalized that no one in the class found the idea particularly offensive, but that's a whole 'nuther subject), if for no other reasons. But I'd also just generally like to get at least an MA with the possibility of going on to my PhD, just to have it, if one can understand that.

So, what I think I need to know is people's practical advise and first-hand experience dealing with this sort of thing, grad school and dissertation defenses... procedure, preparation, how much of it is just the formality of arcane & archaic tradition, etc. Not sensational exceptions to the rule, which I'm hoping is all I've heard thus far, but rather, what one would generally expect... Anybody out there willing to help me out?