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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dropping keys in a broken wheel

Tuesday comes around, wet and cloudy again. I say again only because it was that way last week, too. However, several of the days in between were beautiful sun-filled spring days. The Miata's top has been down at least as much as up lately.

The campus is into its second week of between quarter break, which stills so much of the throb and pulse of normal campus activity levels. Those of us mortals still here, for whom the break isn't, are using this slightly-quieted time to plow through some of the backlog of things that need documented, written, edited, or sorted through.

Have you been following recent changes in financial aid policy at the federal level? You really should. How aid can be used is getting tighter and tighter. Students can now use less financial aid toward college prep courses, and what they do use will count toward a total lifetime ceiling for some types of federal aid. This will ensure fewer students who come to college not-quite-ready for college-level coursework will be able to attend. Interest will now be charged on student loans during the six month grace period between graduating and (hopefully) finding a job that will allow you to both live and pay back student loan debt. These changes, and lots of other little cumulative cuts at the availability of student financial aid, continue to chip away at who can go to college.

Did you know that student loans debt now exceeds credit card debt in our country? This isn't because folks are taking more college courses (though more and more students have to take pre-college courses to compensate for what wasn't learned in their K-12 years), but because the cost of college continues to rise as state and federal budgets continue to cut funding for higher education.

Result: more and more only the already-resourced have access to a college education and more of the general populous remains less-educated. We may still decry the fact that fewer of our citizens are qualified to do the work of the 21st century, but our clearly-intentional practices make that a hollow cry. This stuff doesn't just happen. It is engineered.

I stumbled upon a small verse yesterday, credited to Persian poet Hafez:
The small man
Builds cages
For everyone
While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
For the

In a world where opportunity continues to retract for most, continues to be further consolidated into the hands of the few, and where lack of opportunity is every bit as much a cage as anything can be, we need more droppers of keys.

I know I have quoted Bruce Cockburn's Broken Wheel before, but bear with me because I think it applies again here in this context:
Way out on the rim of the galaxy
The gifts of the Lord lie torn
Into whose charge the gifts were given
Have made it a curse for so many to be born
This is my trouble—
These were my fathers
So how am I supposed to feel?
Way out on the rim of the broken wheel.

Today's full playlist:

- Frou Frou: Holding Out For A Hero
- Don Byron: The Quintet Plays Carmen
- Fountains of Wayne: Laser Show
- The Killers: Mr. Brightside (Jacques Lu Cont's Thin White Duke Mix)

- Posted via Hermes.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Monday's windy toady

Tuesday, Monday's toady. If Monday is the ever-unpopular play yard bully of the work week, Tuesday is Monday's toady little mini-bully. At least it's not Monday; that is the kindest thing folks say about Tuesday. Tuesday is the clean up squad after Monday finishes with you.

Monday of this week saw snow for the last day of winter, icy roads in the North end of our region, lots of accidents. Tuesday is mild of temperature, but started off with some high winds, buffeting the house and shaking me awake just before the alarm went off. And the work-week cast continues its parade by...

I have thought about doing a mini-review of the newest iPad (you know, the one without a numerical designation, which seems to be causing tech-journalists a great deal of discomfort), but there are so many excellent reviews out there that it seems quite pointless (here is a good one, for example). The retina display really is all that and a bag of Skittles. Like the iPhone 4, it is hard to articulate how much deeper and clearer the screen is from the non-retina models, but you can literally feel it, if that makes any sense. I think I notice it most when the keyboard is up on-screen. The letters on the keys look so clear as to be dimensional. Yes, the camera is loads better, but I just don't see the tablet as a camera. Battery life seems identical in my using so far. Otherwise, it is every bit as wonderful as the pervious version, which is saying plenty.

Saw a news story this morning that indicates Microsoft's Windows Phone OS is now outselling the Symbian OS in the UK. Wow! They may be on pace to outsell rotary phones in the near future. Meanwhile, Apple says they sold 3 million iPad-not-numerically-designateds this weekend alone.

Tuesday may have started off with a gust of wind, but the drive-in playlist was pure genius. How could a concatenation of songs like this not set a positive pace to the morning?

Today's full playlist:

- Wilco: War On War
- John Denver: The City Of New Orleans
- Cake: Cool Blue Reason
- Bob Dylan: Jokerman
- Brat-II Soundtrack: Agata Kristy

- Posted via Hermes.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Winter's trailings into spring

Wednesday, hump day, catchmybreath day. It's March, but feels like February, with rain, wind, snow, hail, and the barest snatches of sun here and there. It is another week of pewter mornings, and not being spring yet, just like Margaret Atwood describes in her poem February:
Winter. Time to eat fat
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,
a black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries
to get onto my head. It’s his
way of telling whether or not I’m dead.
If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am
He’ll think of something. He settles
on my chest, breathing his breath
of burped-up meat and musty sofas,
purring like a washboard.

I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries
with a splash of vinegar.
Cat, enough of your greedy whining
and your small pink bumhole.
Off my face! You’re the life principle,
more or less, so get going
on a little optimism around here.
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.

Or maybe William Mathews' Spring Snow would be a better fit for this week's crazy weather, which starts:
Here comes the powdered milk I drank
as a child, and the money it saved.
Here come the papers I delivered,
the spotted dog in heat that followed me home

And ends...
If to die is to lose
all detail, then death is not
so distinguished, but a profusion
of detail, a last gossip, character
passed wholly into fate and fate
in flecks, like dust, like flour, like snow.

Or Hyacinth by Louise Gl├╝ck:
There is no other immortality:
in the cold spring, the purple violets open.
And yet, the heart is black,
there is its violence frankly exposed.
Or is it not the heart at the center
but some other word?
And now someone is bending over them,
meaning to gather them—

We could even pluck lyrics from one of today's playlist songs (Gentle On My Mind) and misfit them to this same longing-memory-of-spring purpose:
And it's knowing I'm not shackled
By forgotten words and bonds
And the ink stains that have dried upon some line
That keeps you in the backroads
By the rivers of my mem'ry
That keeps you ever gentle on my mind

So many shades of evocation in winter's wearisome trailings into spring, or Wednesday's mid-week sigh, for that matter.

This morning's playlist was suitably boundary-crossing and filled with more than its fair share of duets:
- Lountang: Ablaye Cissoko & Volker Goetze
- Gentle On My Mind: Glen Campbell & Bobbie Gentry
- Babylon: David Gray
- Raga Doll: Gary McFarland & Gabor Szabo
- Cheyenne Eyes (Children Of The Great Father): Lewis & Clark Soundtrack
- Posted via Hermes.