January 27, 2006

Critical Mass Today!

Come and ride with us in Critical Mass tonight!

Here's what my roommate wrote about it:

Today is the last Friday of the month, so it's time for Critical Mass, the anarchic bike rally ride madness thing you either know and love or are hearing about for the first time just now. Either way, you should all come. The weather is going to be great (it's supposed to hit 48 tomorrow), so there should be a good crowd. Summer and fall rides draw thousands of people, I expect this will be a couple hundred.

The way this thing works is everybody meets at Daley Plaza downtown at 5:30, and then once people get tired of standing around we launch off as a group and tool around town en masse, as it were, according to some not-always-predefined plan. January is traditionally the polka ride in chicago, so the end goal is some bowling alley in Lincoln square where a group galled The Polkaholics is playing, but since Lincoln square is a little farther than I want to ride to listen to polka and bowl even under ideal conditions (i.e. no bike ride home), we will probably splinter off and head home once things start to drift north. Also, the ride is going to stop briefly to install a ghost bike at the site where a guy who was well known in local bike circles was killed earlier this month, so those of you interested in death, commemoration, ritual, and all that stuff can write this one off as a business expense.

If we all leave together from Hyde Park we'd probably want to meet at 4:30 or so. This is by no means an athletic event. The ride tends to move at a pretty slow pace; there are generally people towing trailers with things like stereos and kegs, and nobody's going to let them fall behind. It's also very safe, as we travel in a huge group and block traffic at intersections. We'll take the lake front path up and back, so that ! will be plenty safe as well (and very nice going up at sunset). I don't know who does and does not have bikes, but we have some extras here and we can probably scrounge up more. Also, if anybody has a bike but it's been chained to a lamp post since september and you're not sure if it runs, let me know and I can take a look at it.

January 10, 2006

Argonauts of the Western Pacific and being an anthropologist

I'm reading Malinowski's description or the Trobriand Kula trade for the nth time, and I'm bored, but I guess that's what you get for starting yet another program in anthropology. But I cant help laughing a bit to myself when I read his poetic descriptions of life among the Trobriand islander, having read his diary and knowing how he hated being in the field.
"As we sail in the Lagoon, following the intricate passages between shallows, and as we approach the main island, the think tangled matting of the low jungle breaks here and there over a beach, and we can see into a palm grove, like an interior, suported by pillars. This indicates the site of a village... Soon we are seated on one of the platforms built in front of a yam-house, shaded by its overhanging roof. the round grey logs, worn smooth by contact with naked feet and bodies; the trodden ground of the village-street; the brown skins of the natives, who immediately surround the visitor in large groups - all these form a colour scheme of bronze and grey, unforgetable to anyone, who, like myself, has lived among these people." (Malinowski, 51).

Being bored of reading I tried to find some pictures on the internet by Gunnar Landtman, Malinowski's Finnish contemporary who did his research in a Papua-New Guinea. Landtman took some beautiful photos that were published in a book called "Satumaa" (Story land). But I could only find this one. I'm not sure why I find it so disturbing. Maybe its not just because I find the composition with Landtman sitting on a chair and his informant lower down on the ground disconcerting (for all that I know Landtman might have offered his interviewee a chair, but he preferred to sit on the ground), but maybe its also because I'm not sure how such power dynamics can be completely avoided in anthropological research. Truth is, no matter how you think of it, in the final run, the anthropologist is in the field to extract data for a project that will advance his or her academic career. I guess the only thing you can do, is hope you can give back at least something in return to the people you work with. But how do you do that?

January 01, 2006

CTA Turns Down Discounted Venezuelan Oil, Raises Fares Instead

I'm shocked! I just can't understand why you would not accept an offer of discounted oil that is tied to giving subsidies to the poor on public transportation. Even if it is a political ploy on part of Hugo Chavez' to attract the support of poor people in the US, instead of worrying about him finding support here maybe it would be time to start worrying about why he would even be able to do this.

From Chicago Indymedia:

CTA Turns Down Discounted Venezuelan Oil, Raises Fares Instead
by Jessica Pupovac / The New Standard (CIMC Repost) 28 Dec 2005

The Chicago Transit Authority is refusing an opportunity to alleviate commuting costs for hundreds of thousands in the Windy City's low-income neighborhoods. Instead of accepting deeply discounted fuel from the Venezuela-owned Citgo Petroleum Corporation, the city is instead raising fares to solve budget shortfalls.

In an October meeting with representatives from the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), the city's Department of Energy and other city officials, Citgo unveiled a plan to provide the Chicago with low-cost diesel fuel. The company's stipulation, at the bidding of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, was that the CTA, in turn, pass those savings on to poor residents in the form of free or discounted fare cards.

But two months later, despite claims of a looming budget crisis, the CTA president "has no intent or plan to accept the offer," according to CTA spokesperson Ibis Antongiorgi. She gave no explanation. Read More

Happy New Year!

As of today I begin what I have decided will be a celebratory year of turning 30. Turning 30 should be fun, instead of something you dread. And what better moment than turning 30 is there to take a recap on your life and make sure you're living it the way you want to. I'm feeling that I'm getting too old to just float around waiting for things to happen to me. So for the first time in my life I've made a long list of New Year's resolutions. See how I do in keeping them. I'm so new at this though, that I'm starting to get a bit worried that a year might not be long enough, especially since this here is only part of my list:
* Be good to myself
* Enjoy life more
* Give more time to my friends
* Eat better and start cooking again instead of just eating sandwiches all the time
* Explore the coffee shops, theaters, art museums, bars and clubs of Chicago
* Get to know more people outside of Hyde Park
* Get involved again with a group working on social issues
* Travel in Brazil
* Exercise more
* Sleep more

Oh, yeah, I'm back in Chicago again.