October 1-3 See trip report from Mt Whitney
October 4 First day back from Mt. Whitney. I've a sore back, presumably from the 30 pound pack I was carrying. Hope it wears off. Made it to all my classes in the morning. Had a big lunch which gave me indigestion. Met with a professor I had over the summer to discuss history and methodology. It's a bit intimidating realizing that in 20 years, I'd like to be in the sort of position he is. Can I do it? Hmm... Spent most of the afternoon studying for the French quiz and reading for history class.
October 5 A busy sort of day. We had our first French quiz today, which took the whole period. History class dealt with the creation of Turkey out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. Section meanwhile dealt with emergent nationalism, and its nastier elements, like the Armenian genocide. Spent much of the afternoon trying to coordinate to meet a grad student, as well as finish my history readings for my seminar. Since one of the books for the course was only in the library, that meant I had to dig into the stacks too. Never did manage to meet the grad student, but I did get some useful information from her on the phone. Guess lots of people have busy lives.
October 6 Felt pretty tired, but did get up early enough to finish my mini-paper for my history seminar. I hate overly broad essay criterion. French class went well, as did history lecture, where we dealt with the modernization of Iran under Reza Shah. For a half a Iranian, I guess I'm still pretty ignorant :-/ Afternoon seminar was a pleasant surprise, and I felt every bit as at home as the 12 grad students in the class (12 grads, 5 undergrads). Was tired enough that I went to bed before 10.
October 7 As usual, catching up on things. First had some flute practice, then French class, then more flute practice, then a flute lesson, and finally, by some miracle, got a ride to flute choir. Flute choir's a lot bigger than last year. There're probably 10 people I don't know in the group. We fill the room up quite nicely, which makes moving around quite tight. However, we played all right, so perhaps all will be okay. Came back and feverishly worked on math homework for the remainder of the night.
October 8 Today was somewhat of a blur. Couldn't quite finish my math homework before turning it in at 9AM. Not good. Classes were okay though, and had an early lunch for once. For most of the afternoon, did various unuseful pursuits like rearranging my room's furniture and posters. My dad came by in the evening to drop of the photos from our trip to Mt. Whitney. I liked a good many of them.
October 9 Woke up today with a mission: post the photos from my last camping trip. Didn't happen. About 2/3 of the way through examining them, my hard drive started making some truly unpleasant noises, and the machine just seized up completely. So turned the machine of, rebooted, and tried again. Same problem. Hope I don't have a dying HD. Anyhow, had breakfast, did some errands, and wandered off to the business school to do schoolwork. Came back for dinner, and ended up spending a goodly chunk of time watching Matrix Revolutions. It actually seemed a lot better the second time. More intelligent.
October 10 Had a moderately productive day. Ground my way through some of the upcoming math homework, as will as French work. Also spent a good chunk of time backing up my computer. Yesterday's hard drive issue means I now have at least 14 cds of backed up data. /me wishes I had a DVD burner. In the afternoon, took a walk with my dad and cousin to the radar dish. I was the only one without a camera. We had dinner over at Wilbur, which brought back lots of memories. Sadly, the sautee bar has been changed, so you can no longer get a dinner with a salad and breadstick for $8. In fact, they don't even have the breadsticks any more, period! Helped my cousin with printing out homework. Looks like the printers in Sweet Hall are not reliable in the slightest.
October 11 Many people dislike Mondays. I tend to agree. Soldiered through class from 9-12 today. Spent almost the entire afternoon going through history reading. Hoping that the time was well-spent. We'll see. Completed my backups and found a utility to surface scan my disk. It claims things are just fine. Hmm...
October 12 Had my usual Tuesday's complement of classes: French, history and history section. Dealt with the creation of modern Iraq, Jordan and Syria. Despite having to gloss over most of the interesting details, learned some amusing bits too about the "flying Hashemite brothers" (Faisal and Abdallah). Section dealt with nationalism in Egypt and Iraq. I wonder if there are any historians concentrating on the relationship between governments and their militaries, and the policies that result. Hmm... In the afternoon, located (online) a debate between the 4 'minor' party candidates: Libertarian (Badnarik), Green (Cobb) Constitutional (Peroutka) and Socialist (Brown). Any of them'd be better than Bush, but I was particularly impressed by Badnarik's debating style. He's sharp, concise and also witty. How many other politicians can claim such traits?
October 13 Spent a frantic few hours writing for my history class. I'm getting better at writing under pressure, but I'd be much happier if it didn't only happen under pressure. At any event, had French class, and history class covered the emergence of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. All things considered, Abd al Aziz ibn Saud deserves a fair bit of credit for creating an enduring kingdom without imperial sponsorship. The history seminar worked pretty well too, as we discussed the parallel development of Zionism and Palestinian national sentiment in Mandatory Palestine. Afterwards, had a hard time avoiding the presidential debate. I really did want to avoid it because to me it has no meaning. Both candidates are pro-war and that's as much as I need to know.
October 14 Morning was pretty full what with flute practice, French class, and flute lesson. Have a somewhat sore throat which made flute a bit difficult. Afternoon was devoted to French and math homework. Flute choir in the evening was fun, but tiring, and my bike in the process reverted to being a one speed. Tough going up hills.
October 15 Finished off math homework a bit before it was due. Had a French quiz after that. Then... nothing. Actually, had lunch with friends at a not-usual place (not FloMo) and spent a hefty chunk out of the afternoon reading history and updating these pages. Would you believe I was almost a month behind (don't answer, yes I was)? Had dinner in another different location. Food was not great, but it was different, and as I'm learning, variety makes up for a lot. With people too, perhaps... All my friends were off doing their various things, so I did laundry and catalogued my Mt. Whitney photos. They're actually better on computer than on paper (Longs printing service leaves something to be desired often). Finally, watched most of 'Matrix Reloaded'. Most of, because it got late, and I was tired.
October 16 After a morning of miscellanea and a rather dull breakfast, I wasn't feeling too good. Miraculously, finishing most of next week's homework fixed that problem. At this point, the readings from my two history classes as well as one of my courses from last year have converged. This not only lightens the reading burden, but gives me different vantage points for analysis. Wrote a 5 page paper in 2 hours which is close to a record for me. Finally, watched "Lawrence of Arabia", or rather the first half, since the whole thing's 3 1/2 hours long. Despite its flaws, a fun moview, all the more so thanks to a rather quirky and erratic T.E. Lawrence who never quite decides what it is he's doing (he's trying to lead an Arab revolt, yes, but why?).
October 17 First thing in the morning, I finished "Lawrence of Arabia." Following brunch, my dad came by to try and do some bike repair. My bike's stuck in the highest possible gear, which makes going up hills nearly impossible. One derailer automatically shifts up (a broken spring, I think) while the other causes the chain to get stuck. After a good hour of work, my bike now has 2 operational gears, but it's a lot noisier than before. We went off for a walk to the dish after that in weather that really doesn't fit for October. In particular, it was windy, cold, and towards the end, very rainy. We had a late lunch at the Cantor Museum before I headed back to the dorm to be productive. I wasn't, particularly, but did have some fun at dinner.
October 18 Gave my cousin his print-outs from last night. Math came, followed by French, and History. I managed to nab some lunch, and then do some history reading. Met with my history professor for a discussion of next summer's prospects. It was a good meeting, and who knows, maybe it'll be summer in Damascus? At any event, moved on to dinner, which my cousin came over for. He enjoyed the Flo-Mo food, unlike some folks who constantly complain about it (not me), and we tried to print out his lecture notes in the cluster. Turns out the lecture notes are massive PDF files, which causes the (laser) printer to just grind to a halt. Took a good while to print them out, and we ran the printer out of paper once. Now I know where to get more though.
October 19 Had the usual run of Tuesday morning classes. History section was the most interesting, with a number of folks arguing as to the causes of the debacle of 1948 among the Arab states. Good thing both my history classes deal with the topic this week. In the afternoon, finished my paper of the week, and got to work studying for tomorrow's math midterm. If that doesn't sound exciting, it isn't. But that's just the way things are.
October 20 Yesterday's frantic studying appears to have paid off. The math mid-term seemed reasonable. No massive blank spots on the answer sheet. French class followed, and then History, and the war of 1948. As if we hadn't had enough of 1948, the history seminar was spent entirely on 1948, nearly 3 hours of it. Not that it wasn't a very important year, mind you, but 3 hours of discussion, including some extremely long-winded summaries from class-mates, really does take its toll on you. Returned to the dorm for dinner, and starting math homework.
October 21 Yawn. Managed to wake up and get cracking on math homework. It's mostly done now. My next pursuit was filling out my absentee ballot. This took far longer than it should have, but I had no idea about most of the propositions, and so had to do some on the spot research. My philosophy with propositions is, when in doubt vote no. Usually the status quo isn't too bad. Plus the initiative process is really a bad way to govern (consider Prop. 13 and the defunding of public education for instance, or the recall of our last governor, about a year ago). In the afternoon, I had flute choir which was pleasant, though not enormously eventful. Finally, came back, right as the Red Sox made history, becoming the first baseball team ever to come back and win a best-of-7 series after being down 3-0. Woohoo! I'm not really much of a baseball fan, but I'm content to root for the underdogs.
October 22 Was pleasantly surprised at how comprehensible math class was. Mid-term exams came back, and the results were decent. Had French at 10, which was okay, except some people really need to work on pronunciation. It is quite challenging to try and decide what they're saying. Had a break then, until lunch. Group met for lunch at the Thai Cafe which I bought food at for the first time. Pretty good, though I'm morally opposed to styrofoam containers. For the afternoon, plowed through math homework and a backlog of e-mail. Had dinner at Stern for variety, before returning to do a variety of miscellaneous tasks. Yup, it's Friday.
October 23 Began the day with math work and breakfast. My cousin and uncle from L.A. came up around lunchtime, at which point the weather looked pretty menacing. Cousin was content to read, play, cards and eventually visit the Cantor Art Museum (she's 8). We had a good time of it in spite of the by that point heavy rain. Had a quick dinner (they had a plane to catch), and then went back to the less enjoyable pursuits of reading history and math. Had a late night visit of dorm-mates from last year who I hadn't seen in a while.
October 24 Yawn. It's Sunday. Up latish. Had a long brunch before wandering back to my room. Discovered Andrew Sullivan, a well-known gay, Catholic conservative. His explanation of why one should vote for Kerry was like a laundry list of why I wouldn't. Among other reasons, likelihood of being more brutal in Iraq, and being able to get the international community to stop complaining about the whole thing. A John Kerry who walks, talks and acts like George Bush, but without the credibility problems, does me no good. For the evening, we had dinner down at Wilbur, before I wandered off to the library to finish my book for history class. Managed to finally check out "Exodus", the fictionalized story of the creation of Israel based on a Leon Uris novel of the same name. I'd seen the movie last-year, but wanted another look.
October 25 I am far less thrilled about 9AM classes than I've been the rest of the year. They are a serious pain. Survived however, to make it to French at 10, History at 11, and lunch shortly thereafter. Had a little chat with an Arabic professor who was extremely unconvinced that I would have a chance of catching up and starting with the 2nd quarter class. Hopefully I can prove him wrong. In the evening, watched most of the rest of "Exodus," which I returned. Also completed the take-home French quiz, and wrote (most) of a paper on the historical aspects of Sahar Khalifeh's "Wild Thorns".
October 26 Finished off last night's take-home French quiz in class. This was followed by a lecture on the Egyptian revolution of 1952, and the policies of our good friend Gamal abd al Nasser, once described by British Prime Minister Anthony Eden as "Hitler on the Nile." I always thought the chap got rather a bad rap. Section was a bit strange, since almost nobody had anything to say. Odd, I say, because the amount of required reading this week was very minimal. At any rate, spent the afternoon writing about the place of the Holocaust and the Nakba in Israeli and Palestinian historiography respectively. Thought it was a rather nice little paper, though I got sidetracked repeatedly into poll-watching and Bush-bashing.
October 27 Up early to finish editing my two papers due today. Of course, when I went to print them, the printer was out of paper. Good thing for that 10 minutes between French and History class. In history, we dealt with post-1948 Syria and Iraq. Had lunch with a friend at a Row House which was good and tasty. The history seminar dealt with, among other things, the role of the Holocaust in Israeli history and perception of history. Unfortunately, some people weren't quite able to get beyond asking ahistorical hypothetical questions, and some people were just plain ignorant. I always assumed that everybody, in this country anyhow, knew the basic history of the Holocaust. Thus the eminently stupid question from one classmate: "Why didn't anybody do anything to stop it?" This was followed by the question of whether the Zionist movement in Palestine was justified worrying about local politics rather than the unfolding catastrophe in Europe. Good heavens, I'd assumed I wasn't in an ethics class.
October 28 Felt pretty groggy this morning. Did some flute practice, had 10AM class, then did more flute. One of thosssse kind of days. Had my flute lesson in the afternoon, followed by flute choir a bit later. In the evening, helped carve a pumpkin and collected a sizable quantity of pumpkin seeds. Those are edible, right? Even found a candle and took pictures of the pumpkin, without setting of smoke detectors in the process. Was more than a bit amused by the continually wobbling polls. It appears that the 380 tons of armaments that disappeared in Iraq from the Al Qaqaa plant were in fact there when U.S. troops arrived in April, 2003. Which means Bush's "war" plan apparently didn't include securing them. So much for keeping weapons away from "the terrorists." Oops. Oh, and Yasser Arafat is on his way to Paris, with something much more major than a flu.
October 29 Succeeded in making it to both my morning classes without falling asleep. Returned to the dorm for miscellaneous chores, before having lunch over at Terman Engineering. A reasonable nice cafe there. Helped a friend with his computer after lunch, and then did a number of my own errands, plus laundry. Had a very lengthy dinner, with some extremely varied conversation, before wandering back to my room. We were going to watch a movie, but couldn't find a good method of doing so (place, lighting, lack of decent sound from my laptop). So I actually went to bed early for a change. Also noticed that Mr. bin Laden has reappeared. All I can say is that he's got a damn good speechwriter, and a damn good sense of timing. Not only will his speech appeal to much of the world, especially in reference to what the American and Israelis did to Beirut in 1982, but the timing was impeccable. He pretty much completely wiped everything else off the front page. Even news of Arafat's arrival in Paris has all but disappeared.
October 30 What I should have been doing was homework. Unfortunately, I got a little bit wrapped up in following election news and opinions. I did accomplish numerous odds and ends, including updating this page and cleaning the dorm room, but somewhat less of the truly productive stuff.
October 31 Halloween. Unfortunately, the only thing scary I personally got to experience was a book dealing with archaeology in Israel. It's a brilliant study, with the ironic title "Facts on the Ground" (by Nadia Abu El-Haj) but it reads like a dissertation. The author clearly has a better grasp of the English language than I do, I just wish she didn't have to demonstrate as much so directly. She did make a very convincing case for the fact that science (or at a minimum archaeology) can be as ideologically oriented and as biased as anything else. Facts supporting the existence of an ancient Israelite civilization may well exist "on the ground", but the context in which they are placed is as much a function of the researcher's mindset as anything else. In a broader sense, the framework of analysis used by the researcher in many ways determines the history (or arachaoligical narrative) that the research constructs.