Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I'm finally fat enought to smoke again...

Nicotine is a proven appetite suppressant. How long before we prescribe it for obesity?

Read this and you’ll see that smoking isn’t so bad anymore. Eating is the new morally reprehensible sin, and we have to stop this “plague” because it’s “worse than 9/11”. And let’s face it, is there anything worse than being worse than 9/11? It must be bad, because no-one would trivialize the senseless murder of innocent civilians by comparing them to people who make bad, sometimes misinformed, choices based on what feels good. But I digress...

Smoking is bad for me; that’s not in debate. So is being fat. But do we really want to demonize more than half the population? If we make people feel like shit so they get skinny, is there really a net improvement in their quality of life? If fat people can’t get skinny on their own through better eating and more exercise, do we want them turning to more desperate and dangerous methods because we’ve turned up the social outcast quotient? Haven’t we done that enough already? Has that helped so far?

Monday, January 30, 2006

Zoe is a tramp

Where did I go wrong?
Turns out my cat is a bit of a tramp, at least for the last few days. She was out all night last night, hanging with what looked like every male cat this side of the Cascades. Some kind of kitty gang bang, I guess. Finally, at about 1 PM, she finally dragged her sorry butt home for some food and a shower. After all I've done for her.... I guess its off to the vet for her.
I thought I raised her better than that.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Smoking makes you a dumbass...

CNN has a story about a bank robber who got busted after a 10 1/2 hour standoff when he sent his last hostage out to get cigarettes. Read the story here.

He shoulda been a Ninja. Like me.

It's been just over 2 months since my last cigarette, and I have neither killed myself nor anyone else. But it is still hard. I just switched to a swing shift schedule and MAN, did I want a cigarette today. Working nights was easier; there was no way to smoke even if I wanted to, and there were no people around to bother me. Now, I'm bothered constantly by students and I see folks out smoking all the time.

Speaking about bothersome students, my new dorm is full of 'acting out persons', and I suspect I have alot of work ahead of me to get the dorm in shape. That works for me, since I was bored over in my old dorm anyway. Ninjas aren't afraid of this sort of thing.

I'm just rambling, I know, but I am comitted to writing more often, and sometimes that means you get crap. Hopefully I'll have something meaningful to say later.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Seth Farber is the greatest Pianist ever!

Well, maybe not, but he's the best I've ever heard. He plays on Odetta's "Looking for a Home" CD which Kathleen recently got me to listen to. Odetta is one of those old-time folk singers that has infulenced everybody (Dylan, Harry Belefonte in particular) but that no one else has ever heard of. Unfortunately, most of her music has that weird, sort of tinny, screechy sound (like Lena Horne) that I can't stand. But the CD I have is more contemporary, and it's really great. Plus I can talk about a Dylan influence and sound smart (always a treat!).

Anyway, Seth plays the piano on that CD and he was so good I bought the only CD of his I could find; "Late One Night". I liked it so much that I actually paid for the CD rather than download it from the Russians (see below). He plays mostly ragtime music on this CD but I really love it. For the next few days, you can expect me to look into piano lessons until the next shiny thing comes along.

You can get his (and Odetta's) CD at CD Baby. They have great samples there, if you want to hear him. And, you get a cute letter about how they ship it to you when you order, which Kathleen really liked. A great independant CD store.

If you hate iTunes, like I do, and want to download music cheaply, go to Allofmp3.com. It's legal, but only just barely, and of questionable moral standing. I like to think I'm helping out the Russian economy, (it softens the blow). Don't get struggling independants there, though.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Man Weds Pregnant 14-Year-Old, Is Charged With Rape

OK read this and then tell me what you think. This is going to be an interesting discussion, so jump in.

Monday, September 12, 2005

What's a guy gotta do to become a Supreme Court Justice?

Jose Padilla, a US citizen held as an "enemy combatant" for the past 3 years in connection with a plot to detonate a "dirty bomb" does NOT have the right to a trial, or to confront his accusers, or to even have his case reviewed by a judge, according to the 4th US circuit of Appeals. (See the story here). This is after a different Judge said he did have a right to a trial. The unanimous opinion, written by Judge Michael Luttig, states pretty clearly that the court believes the President can detain ANYONE he sees as a threat, without having to actually have any proof, or even explain why he thinks they are a threat. This will almost certaintly go to the Supreme Court.

Speaking of the Supreme Court, Judge Michael Luttig, who wrote the unanimous opinion, is being considered for the Supreme Court vacancy. Imagine that.

Invest in Halliburton!

Katrina has devastated Louisiana, so much so that I can't even bring myself to post on it, despite my strong feelings on the subject. The issues of race, class, political appointees, the Dept. Of Homeland Security, and the resulting unbelievable, inexcusable and massive failure of the federal government for 5 days in the Gulf coast deserve more words better written than I can provide.

But one thing is clear. With over 60 billion dollars invested so far, and much more to come, for the "reconstruction" of New Orleans there is only one thing left to do; buy up Halliburton stock like mad. Yes indeed, if we had all done this just before the last national disaster (Iraq), we'd all have seen about a 500% increase in our net worth. With a former head of Halliburton sitting in the VP seat in DC, we can only expect HAL stock to continue rising. The feds suck at helping the poor, but they rock at helping each other, and it's time we all cashed in on that.

Halliburton is listed as HAL on the NYSE and is currently selling at $66.10 per share, up about $2 from yesterday, and up about $56 from mid 2002.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Bad doctor, bad "man"

There's a story I've been following in the Seattle P-I (Here) about a pediatrician who was suspended for inappropriate behavior with his male patients. Everyone was surprised when he was suspended and many rushed to his defense. The details of his actions were not revealed at the time, and it looked like he had a lot of support. The board that was suspending him would only say they had 'good evidence'.

So this guy is now responding to his charges, which have been released. His defense is that he had personal relationships (he described them as "adult mentor, financial supporter, friend and confidante") and so he did nothing wrong. Forget the whole boundary thing with him being their doctor or whatever (there's lots to be said just on this, but I have another point). He is accused of making one boy "strip off his clothes and submit to being hosed down as punishment for a transgression" and taking pictures of another boy naked, along with a few other things. So you tell me, what kind of "adult mentor" does this guy think he is????

I've had adult mentors, but none of them have ever asked to take naked pictures of me. The thing that freaks me out about this is that he seems to think he hasn't done anything wrong. His main defense (that he is their friend) is aimed at saving his license to practice medicine. He makes NO apology, and says "I never crossed any line. My passion is my albatross." In other words, he is such a good friend that he has now given up his license for these "friendships" because he's so passionate about being a good mentor. What an asshat. Someone should tell Pat "we'll save money if we just kill him" Robertson about this guy.

"My passion is my albatross". Give me a break.

The Yankees SUCK

I was reading a story about how Fenway park is trying to get rid of the "Yankees suck" T shirts that are so popular (See the story here). Supposedly the Red Sox is referring to the park as "Friendly Fenway", and asking fans wearing the shirts to turn them inside out.

Excuse me? First, the Yankees really DO suck, and so wearing the shirt is a public service, because everyone should know that they suck, so they don't accidentally become fans and embarrass themselves. Second, Fenway park is no place for PC bullshit. IT'S BASEBALL! Third, the only friendly thing in Boston is the restaurant, and locals won't even talk about them to 'strangers' (mmmm ...Fribbles).

So put on the shirt and go to the game and if someone asks you to turn it inside out punch them in the face, and tell 'em Dave said it's OK.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I wish I were a Ninja

I wish I were a Ninja, but taller. I think they're kinda short but maybe that's just a prejudiced stereotype I have of Asians. But since I'm European I could be a real tall Ninja but still be able to hide and jump and be invisible.

If I were a tall European Ninja, I could go around and kill bad guys ('cause I'd be the good kind of Ninja, not a bad one). I'd sneak around (like the summer wind) and cut off the bad guys' heads and everyone would think I'm cool because I'm a bad-ass good Ninja. And tall.

And because I'm a stone-cold killer/good ninja, people would be freaked at the power of my mind and I would use secret ninja-mind powers to make them do things like make me sandwiches or change lanes on the highway so I can pass.

I'm not a Ninja but I might kill someone ANYWAY because I quit smoking yesterday WITHOUT patches or pills or ANYTHING and pretty soon I'm gonna do that 'hari-kari' thing where they stab themselves but instead I'll do 'hari-kari' on someone else because it would hurt too much but I don't actually have a ninja-sword on me AT THE MOMENT so I guess everyone's safe for now. But soon, I swear.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Racism and Me

OK so here is my paper on racism and my role in it. I'm really tired and so I'm just going to post the essay without alot of explination, but I will write more on this subject soon. Hope you like it!


White Man’s Fear
David Baker
BAC308F: Diversity, Power and Privilege
Phoenix Raine, MAEd
March 9, 2005

The language of oppression is rife with the term “white men” designating the ruling, oppressive class. In recorded history, it has been primarily white men who dominated over other peoples, setting up pervasive systems to perpetuate a bias that continues to influence us today. A survey of global and particularly American government and corporate power structures reflects this. For example, in America, where women make up slightly more than half of the population, and non-whites about 20% of the population, there are only 14 female Senators and 5 non-white Senators (GenderGap, ¶9). As the current power structure is dominated by white men, and has been throughout history, white men are clearly the oppressive class.

For many men, the natural instinct is to look at the current situation and claim that they are not a part of “those” white men; that “we” do not oppress, “they” do. This delineation of “us” and “them” can protect white men from being associated with the outright oppression exhibited by “them”. This both soothes their own feelings of guilt and separates them from the “problem”. The need to see themselves differently from the oppressive ruling class and protect their own sense of self often overrides a desire to see oppression with a critical eye. While many white men believe they do seek equality for all people, few have looked deeply into their own behaviors, instead seeing only the surface, where they monitor for overt racist or sexist behavior. So long as they do not actively oppress, they believe, they are doing their part.

The fact remains that most white men do participate in oppression, despite their good intentions. The most common way, and perhaps the most insidious way, is in the passive acceptance of “privilege”, or the unearned advantages most white men receive in American society. This privilege comes simply from being a white male, and is the default standard rather than the exception (McIntosh, ).

This presents significant issues for white men. Understanding privilege impacts white men’s sense of accomplishment, and calls into question their character. What if, a white man may think, I got my apartment because of privilege, rather than because of my obvious good character? Suddenly “obvious good character” becomes suspect. Is part of that obviousness white skin and gender? For many white men, looking at this kind of question is devastating, and shows how privilege hurts them as well.

Power dynamics “loom large in men’s competition with other men – the jockeying for status and trying to measure up to mainstream standards of masculinity” (A Johnson, p 64). The associations between power and manhood are simultaneously supported and usurped by privilege by providing a false sense of accomplishment. A “real man” makes things happen, American society believes, sometimes by “force of will” alone. What then, of the man who is given what he needs simply by virtue of his gender and race? He has lost before he has even begun.

Another issue is blame, as they have neither asked for (at least not outright) nor even been aware of their privilege; but, having accepted it anyway, are now a part of “them”, and so their morals have been unwittingly corrupted. No longer can they say that they don’t actively oppress, once they see the privilege they have been receiving. By accepting their privilege, they have become a part of the larger picture, and the line between “us” and “them” becomes blurred. For most white men, this can lead to anger (at having received this terrible “gift”), defensiveness (I didn’t ask for this.”), guilt (I didn’t mean too!”), or all three.

There are other reasons white men (as well as other privileged groups) choose not to face this issue. Some are actually prejudiced, believing some other group to be “less” in some way; some want to keep their privilege; and some are afraid of being rejected by their own group if they bring up these issues (A. Johnson, pp 74-77).

Because of these issues, many men simply choose not to look deeply at oppression issues in America, taking the path of least resistance, focusing blame on others and accepting what they receive as either earned or inconsequential. For those that do see it, the scope and vastness of what they see can be overwhelming.

Rejecting privilege is hard work. Few people really want you to. Every day hundreds of people give that privilege; not just other white males, but oppressed groups, as well. People rarely insist that you treat them equally when they have been treated unequally for so long.

To reject privilege, you must work against learned, ingrained behaviors. You have to actively acknowledge the basic humanness of everybody; you have to present two forms of ID at the bank even if not asked; you have to assume people are what they say they are, rather than what they look like; you have to do this even when you feel unsafe and you have to do it all the time.

This is true for all people, not just white men. People who are oppressed should not stand for it, even when it would be “easier” to let it happen. But oppressed people by definition have less power, and forceful confrontations can have serious repercussions. Because of this, asking oppressed groups to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” is faulty. Nonetheless, overcoming oppression must be a cooperative effort.

For me, fighting oppression is a constant struggle. I recently applied for a new apartment, and was told myself and another were in competition for it. I needed a place badly, and this apartment was just right for me. I have poor credit and I make very little money, but I had a good reference from my previous landlord. The owner was a white, middle-aged man. I got the apartment.

Initially, I was relieved and very happy that I got it. Later, however, I began to wonder who the other tenant was. Were they black? Hispanic? There were two of them, and they had a child, he mentioned. I told myself the place was too small for them but I had to wonder if race had anything to do with it. I wanted to find out.

Asking the owner could backfire no matter how he answered. If they were white, he might think me a “troublemaker” and not rent to me. If they were black (and that really was the reason), then neither of us would’ve gotten the apartment. And what if they were black and he was open to listening to my discourse on privilege? Would I be willing to give up the apartment? That’s the hard part. If this was a case of privilege I would be morally bound to reject the apartment, no matter what.

I never asked.

I am disappointed that I didn’t. I struggled with that choice, finding reasons why it was not a good place for 3 people, knowing I had little chance of finding a place like it, determining the owner was “a good guy” and wouldn’t do that. But in the end, the truth is that I never did ask.

Does this make me a racist? No, I don’t think so. But it does connect me to oppression; I have participated in it, and because of my awareness, can only say that I have actively participated. This may seem like a small transgression to some, and in comparison it may be. But it is in these details that life asserts itself, and it is these details that oppressed people live with every day and that affect them the most.

I have won some of these battles, perhaps even most, but still there is room for improvement. But when everybody is fighting, it gets easier to do. I didn’t ask this time, (and not all the reasons have to do with oppression or privilege), but I ask whenever I can. I think that helps a little.

Citations:

Gender Gap in Government; (2004) State government. Retrieved March 2, 2005 from : http://www.gendergap.com/governme.htm
Johnson, A. (2001) Privilege, Power and Difference. New York; McGraw-Hill
P McIntosh (1990); White privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Retrieved March 7th, 2005 from: http://seamonkey.ed.asu.edu/~mcisaac/emc598ge/Unpacking.html






Thursday, July 21, 2005

A bug flew in my eye!

Today I had a bug fly in my eye and then I blinked and I think I tore like just a leg off and it was stuck in my eye for a minute, but the rest of the bug flew away. So I had this bug leg in my eye and it hurt for a few minutes until I could blink it out. Weird.

So anyway, I thought I had that paper about oppression/racism on my computer, but its actually on my work comp. I'll try to post it Friday while I'm at work.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Rebelling against Antioch

Antioch is very big on diversity. There are 2 classes you MUST take and I refer to them as the ‘Antioch Indoctrination’. They are required because about a third of the class is spent on how AUS (Antioch University Seattle) works, how the degree process is, how to get an advisor, etc… The other two thirds is spent on diversity issues, education theory and Antioch’s beliefs about … what ‘good’ culture is. Lots of feminist theory, lots of preaching. This was first 'reading response' paper, which was supposed to be a response to 3 of the readings we were assigned. It was originally called "Men are Bad". Hope you like it.


David Baker
Art Of Learning
1st Reading response paper (rewrite)
June 20, 2005

Reading Paulo Freiere’s “Banking Education and Problem Solving Education”, Audre Lorde’s “Poetry is not a Luxury” and “Women’s Ways of Knowing” by Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger & Tarule, I heard a lesson beyond the larger lesson of how people learn. I learned that men are bad. Men’s thinking is fundamentally different from women’s, and is less valuable. I learned that nearly all men are like this.

How did this happen? It happened because these readings cast women as oppressed victims of violent men, who have dominated and even beat them to maintain their status. The men in these readings only rarely encourage or support women, and frequently suppress women. At best, the men in these stories are absent, allowing women to overcome their oppression.

In Audre Lorde’s Poetry is Not a Luxury, Lorde speaks specifically to women, to the exclusion of men. She says “for women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence.” (p.37, Lorde, 1984). Poetry is not only a luxury, but exclusive to women, she argues, specifically discounting “the sterile wordplay that, too often, the white fathers distorted the word poetry to mean” (p. 37, Lorde, 1984). According to Lorde, men can’t even write poetry. As a man and a poet, this is powerfully insulting.

Lorde talks about poetry because she sees women’s power as lying in their feelings, a “hidden source of power” (p 37, Lorde, 1984). Ideas, according to Lorde, are “what our white fathers told us were precious” and feelings are the domain of women. Men’s power lies in their rational ideas, she says, and feelings were “expected to kneel to thought as women were expected to kneel to men.” (p39, Lorde, 1984).

If men cannot write poetry, cannot let go of their need for ideas, then where is the male student at Antioch to look for ways of learning? The course is called “The Art of Learning”, but this ‘art’ does not include ideas. Art, like poetry, is apparently the domain of women, as the main text of the class makes this clear. We are here not to learn of ‘learning’, but rather “Women’s Ways of Learning” (Italics mine).

In “Women’s Ways of Learning” oppression of women is further described, but this time it is clearly labeled as the result of men savagely holding women back from knowledge.

There are countless stories of men humiliating and outright beating women who seek, or show any signs of knowledge. The very first chapter begins with this quote; “Where language and naming are power, silence is oppression, is violence (Adrienne Rich)”(p 22, Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger & Tarule, 1997). Throughout the book, stories of physical and sexual abuse abound. Men are consistently described as jealous, rage-filled ogres, using their positions as males only to further their own power and desires. Women believed they would be punished - physically - by men for speaking out, for using words. One woman’s husband, used as an example, is described as “a brutal, violent husband” (p 29, Belenky et al., 1997), another’s is described as a violent brute who steals their “meager resources” to support his drinking (p 29,Belenky et al., 1997).

Finally, in Freiere’s piece, a pedagogy is articulated that has been adopted by the rest of our reading as the ideal. In his article, Freire refers to the dominant culture as “the oppressors”, describing a culture that endeavors to “turn men into automatons - the very negation of their ontological vocation to become more fully human” (Freiere, 1987). He does not explicitly describe this culture as male, but in the context of our other readings, leads me to feel that we are again talking about men, particularly ‘elite white’ men. Freiere used exclusively male pronouns in his article and seems to describe a system of one kind of male teaching another kind. Women as students and men as teachers is assumed, as nearly all of our other readings describe this environment.

“One does not liberate men by alienating them,” (p 66, Freiere, 1987) Freiere says, yet much of the language used in these readings is, indeed, alienating. There are inherent value judgments made about men, and they are illustrated in these stories of abuse. These men are not usually described as any particular kind of male, and so the inference is that this is how all men act. By taking this as a starting point, we are then led to believe that things must change, that we must change our dominant culture, that we must adopt “Women’s ways of Knowing”.

Conclusions

There is little doubt in my mind that women have been oppressed, beaten and restricted by men. That women come to ‘truth’ differently than men seems obvious to me, and is bared out in research and in our texts. I do not take issue with most of the conclusions set forth in our readings, and I truly value the various ways of learning that exist. Having grown up in a female dominated environment, I value the perspectives I have gained, and work hard to balance ‘reason’ and ‘feeling’ in my thinking. The point of this paper is not that women haven’t been oppressed, but that by ignoring the valid and useful ways of Men’s thinking, men are told, indirectly, that they have nothing to contribute, that their ways are the ways of evil, oppressive automatons who seek their own power over ‘truth’. Hearing these stories of abusive men, I felt weakened by each successive story. Individually they were small drops, but without even one male voice I could look to for inspiration, the effect was of being awash in despair. This culminated in the receipt of a handout about debate versus dialog. Primed by the discussions and the readings, the handout read like an indictment against the very form of knowing that had served me so well for so long. I, like the women before me, had my voice taken away, because I was one of them; I was a man, and I was at fault.

I have come to see that many people at Antioch are lost souls who have finally found a place where they can be free. Many of our students and faculty have seen oppression up close and have found sanctuary here, and I am grateful for that, as it is my sanctuary as well. But that sanctuary is based on respect for all cultures, not all cultures except white male culture. There is value in white men, despite the many things we have done there were not right.

This class is not really about the “Art of Learning”, it is really about feminist theory and empowering women. This is a valid area of study, but as this is a required class it should be labeled for what it is. To be a class about “learning” it needs to include more than just one way of learning. Otherwise, the oppressive methods used by men for so long will emerge in Antioch’s culture, only it will be women who will be the dominate class. Having been a member of the oppressive class, I would not wish that role on anyone.

Bibliography

Belenky, M. F., Clinchy, B. M., Goldberger, N. R & Tarule, J. M. (1997). Women’s Ways of Knowing. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Freire, Paulo. Banking Education and Problem Solving Education. Pedagogy of the Oppressed Continuum of Publishing Company, 1987, 18

Lourde, Audre. Poetry is Not a Luxury. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches Crossing Press, 1984, 4.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Antioch Entry Essay

This is my Entry Essay from Antioch. Very biographical, it's supposed to talk about why I am in school and what has brought me to this point in my learninng. Good stuff about my family in this. Hope you like it.

Also, just a reminder; please feel free to leave comments, but remember that anyone who logs on will be able to see them!

Here's the essay:
David Baker
Art of Learning
Entry Essay
10/20/04

I remember holding onto my father’s leg, my arms wrapped around his calf, barely reaching around. “He’s so big, “ I thought. “I want to be big too.”

I remember wetting the bed when I was in the hospital with whooping cough. I couldn’t undo the oxygen tent in time.

I remember my parents rushing my younger brother Paul to the hospital in the middle of the night, and I remember the last time I saw him there.

I remember him crying, and I always thought he had been mad at me that last time. Years later my father told me that Paul had actually been glad I was there, that he had loved me as brothers do. When he told me that, I went home and cried, thankful for that story, and for Paul’s love, at last.

I remember when my father came to tell me Paul had died. I cried then, too. I was five.

My father also wept, as he sat on my bed that night, and I got angry at him. I thought he was mocking my tears. Why I thought this I do not know. My father has never asked me to hide my feelings, was always nurturing to me. Perhaps Freud knows, but I don’t. But I still feel some shame, some guilt when I cry, and it can be hard for me to be vulnerable. That’s changing, though.

I remember my parents telling me my mom was pregnant when I was seven. I remember that that explained the BIG egg I had observed growing in my mom’s belly. That was also the first time I realized my parents could keep secrets from me. I realized she had been pregnant for awhile but hadn’t told me.

I remember my sister Julie’s birth, once again rushing to the hospital in the middle of the night. Did I connect this with that time with Paul? I don’t remember, but I do remember the joy when the next morning my aunt announced Julie’s birth. I think I first felt relief, then the joy came. It was exciting.

The next few years are mostly lost.

I remember my father coming into my room at night, back from a business trip, his cheeks still cold and kissing me goodnight.

I remember my mother sending me to the store for napkins and then laughing when I brought home ‘sanitary’ napkins because the box looked so cool. It had horses on it.

I remember trying to change my sister’s diaper and dropping her. My mom was there and assured me Julie was fine, but Julie sure seemed upset.

I remember my mother’s family. Grandpa and Nana, Aunt June and Uncle Chuck, Aunt Dot, Uncle Steve and Aunt Carol. They were loud and exuberant and fun. They were boisterous and expressive and hard-working. They didn’t have much, want much or need much, but they sure loved each other.

I remember my aunt June taking me to the store and it was my job to remember where we parked, because she never could.

I remember my uncle Chuck, an engineer, trying to explain circuit boards to me. What the hell was he talking about? I had no idea, but I liked it anyway because he talked to me like I did know, like I was as smart as him.

I remember my grandpa chopping wood at 60, splitting logs one-handed. To this day, he is the strongest man I had ever met. He gave me quarters on the sly and made race-car sounds while he drove and that cracked me up. I loved him.

I remember this family with stories of love, acceptance and warmth.

My father’s side was the Yin to my mother’s family’s Yang.

Grandpa Baker worked in shipping and was an Army Reserve Officer who painted pictures of the sea in his spare time. He loved, too, but not as loudly as my mom’s family. The Bakers are in many ways “traditional New England”.

I remember Thanksgiving dinners at grandma’s house; special china and silver, little gravy boats and special dishes to hold the pickles and the cranberry sauce. Grandma cooked while we watched the parade on TV.

I remember grandpa standing at the head of the table, carving the turkey with a special Thanksgiving knife. Grandpa and my dad (the oldest son) got the drumsticks. I remember that was a special honor.

My dad was 11 years older than his brother. I think my dad felt disconnected from his family, perhaps because of his age. Certainly I felt then a bit of an outsider, a bit of a disappointment, perhaps. It was this family that first talked to me about losing weight. We dressed up and we washed our hands a lot there, it seemed. It was more formal; there were rules about how to act. Roles were more delineated.

The best times were when I was with my grandpa alone. We would walk to the park that was nearby and the formality lessened. We were two guys, and while there was still this self-containment, things loosened.

It has taken some time to appreciate what I learned at that house. It was sometimes hard to be a fat, sorta sloppy nine year old, but now, as an adult, I see and value the lessons learned about respect and protocol, about roles and rank. These were powerful gifts, but it took a long time to see them.

As an adult, I enjoy my father’s family much more. The roles I once found so stifling I now see as expressions of love and respect. Those roles are earned, not arbitrary. They are sometimes a burden, but they also provide structure, purpose and safety.

My parent’s divorce, however, challenged that structure. Nothing was said about the divorce, in fact I don’t remember my grandparents ever talking about it. It was like it never happened.

The divorce was a surprise to me. I never saw it coming. One day my mom and dad sat me down and told me they both loved me, but did not love each other. My mom, sister and I moved to an apartment and my mom went to work as a secretary. I saw my dad on weekends.

It seemed that my mom got everything and my dad nothing. He lived in a series of sparsely furnished rooms, cooking in his trusty Toaster oven. I delivered the checks each month. It made me angry at my mom.

My mom is tough. She moved to Boston from Martha’s Vineyard, which at that time was very “small-town”. But she moved away anyway and did what she had to do to see the world. She survived my brother’s death and now she worked to raise us. I think she had to keep her head down, doing what had to be done to get us through this. She had to be a little distant, I think.

My dad, however, went the other way. He awakened to his emotions in a new way. He practiced communication and openness. Did they divorce because he hadn’t been able to talk to my mom before? I don’t know, but after the divorce, he was constantly analyzing and thinking about his feelings. This new journey into introspection was a journey I took with him. By far, his greatest gift to me (besides his unyielding love) was this journey. The search for understanding, since then, has been my life’s work.

Each weekend he would pick up my sister and I for our visit. We drove a lot, and during those drives, we talked. It was during those talks that I learned about compassion, generosity, psychology, philosophy and yes, even circuit boards. We covered it all, at least two hours a week, every week, for four years.

I used to think this time was when he taught me about life. But now, looking back, I think we were partners, walking the same path for awhile. I hope that’s how it was.

I remember going with my mom to the garage where she worked. I saw her talking to a mechanic and intuition hit me like a brick. She liked this guy. Really liked him.

My life changed at that moment. I knew something about my mom just from looking at her. Something she was hiding from me. For the rest of my life, I would work to develop this ability, this way of knowing. I could know things, hidden things, if I just “let it happen”.

Unfortunately I could not know my schoolwork this way. School was hard for me. I knew how things worked, I could see the forest, but not the trees, and we were tested on the trees.

My mom went on to marry Bill, the mechanic from the garage. He rode motorcycles and drank Jack Daniels and Coke. He yelled when he was mad and could get physical.

I remember one time he came to me when we were having a party at our house. He was drunk, and he told me if I thought I could “kick his ass” well then we could step outside and see. Whoever won would get to be the “man of the house”. He wasn’t angry when he said this. I think he was trying to be nice.

(A note: I hesitated to put this in because I didn't want people to misunderstand. Remember this was 20 years ago and that alot has changed since then. This experience is just one part of that time, used to illustrate just one aspect of my learning. I am grateful for what I learned from this experience, and would not change it.)

This was a new masculinity for me. My father was peaceful, compassionate and internal. My father talked stuff out, whereas Bill did stuff, without all the talk. He expressed himself by what he did. He made sure we had what we needed. He built us stuff, provided stuff.

It took some time, but I came to greatly value this view. Expression through action was new to me, but it changed everything. It was empowering.

Men often relate wordlessly through action. For me, I used this action to explore my power, my capability. To make things happen, to impact the world, I had to do more than think up ideas, I had to do things. I could cause change through example, through demonstration. I validated my values of honor and compassion thru work. And I grew confident. I had proof of the validity of my ideas because when I demonstrated my ideas I could see the results. For me, this combination of thought and action gave me great power. I now believed I really could, in a concrete way, change the world.

Bill has mellowed with age, and to my surprise, worked hard to develop introspection. He has done well with it.

Doing is useless without mindfulness, as knowing is useless without action. For me, mastery of skills is just as important as mastery of knowledge. They compliment, expand and illuminate each other. This has become how I learn.

Theories fascinate me, but I rarely believe them until I have seen them in action. I must “act out” theories to really understand them, to internalize them. Once internalized, an intuitive knowing takes place; the forest is reveled to me as I do the work. As I see more of the theory, I can begin to anticipate what will happen when I change things, when I adjust the theory to fit a situation. Thinking about the mechanics of how a theory works begins to be replaced with a feeling of how it works. I am then able to stop analyzing and let the work happen, to be in harmony. Finding this harmony brings me a lot of joy.

To explore, you must first be free. The driving force behind my life is to gain my freedom by helping others gain theirs. As others become free, they reveal themselves and by being a part of or observing this freedom I grow more free. Empowerment ensues. That’s my goal; empowerment.

Psychology has been a good place to start. To me, psychology is about unblocking, about revealing, about empowerment. But if psychology empowers people to “follow their path”, then I wonder where the path itself came from.

This is a problem for me. This is philosophy, this is perhaps, about God. God and I don’t get along. He took my brother.

I am afraid of dealing with questions about whether god exists or not and his nature if he indeed exists and influences our lives. Petrified, actually. What if we are not free at all? How can we be free and have an all-powerful god at the same time?

I know there is more to this for me, but I am only starting to look at it.

For now, my BA in psychology will give me some tools to explore my ever-expanding forest. In time, I may need to head down the path of philosophy, but we will see. I fear there is not much “work” I can do as a philosopher, unlike the work I could do as a social worker.

But I don’t think I get to choose. I may need those questions answered, and if I need that, then that is what I will do. Thoughtless action is worse than no action at all.

God help me.

Good Times

So I just got off the phone with my buddy Mike, and with the Fourth coming up and him visiting in Boston, I can’t help but think of all the great times we had.

Mike and I met in a writing class in high school when we compared letters we were supposed to write to a celebrity. Mike was writing to Steven Spielberg and I was writing to Jane Fonda. He wrote a nice, respectful letter telling Spielberg how much he admired his work, and I wrote to Fonda and asked her to sit on my face. Thus began a great friendship. Mike went on to work with Spielberg, but I never did get to meet Fonda.

So anyway, he and I have been friends ever since. He’s in Boston now, and we had a lot of good times there. Boston is great any time, but it’s a whole different place for me when we are there together. The drinking, eating and hell raising we did there is legendary, weather it was the time we started drinking at 10 AM and were smashed by the time Ann-Marie showed up (she was pissed!) or the Halloween and New Year Eves we spent there, we always had a story when we were done. Those were good times.

One thing I always remember are the 4th of July cookouts his family threw. The food, the people, it was always the best. I always said Christmas was for my family, but the 4th was for my “other” family, Mike’s family. Mike told me today that his Uncle Joe passed away after succumbing to cancer. I remember Joe well and liked seeing him at the cookouts. He was one of the ‘guys’, the group of men of our father’s generation, and watching them together, all the uncles and Vinnie’s friends, was a sight to see. Always, they would have a toast of Sambuca with us, and we sons could be the ‘guys’, too. Then, after a bunch more shots (and those little Vinnie beers), they’d all lapse into Italian and drink, talk and smoke until it was over.

OK, so I am still working on some postings, but I needed to say hey to Mike, Cat and Gregg. They’re taking the harbor cruise then hitting Legal’s for dinner. Have some chowder for me, guys.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Antioch Admission Essay

This is the Essay I sent in with my application to Antioch University. It’s supposed to describe why I want to go to school. Re-reading it, I see that it mostly stands up today. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’ll give it a 7.

Admission Essay
David Baker
August 6, 2004

In 1983, responding to a flyer at my high school, I entered one of the first peer leadership programs in the country. The year-long training and development I went through gave me, for the first time, a structure to the process of helping others. This process was heavily dependant on self-reflection and “growth work”. For a number of reasons, this peer group became my passion, and the woman who developed and led the group became my first and most influential mentor. Her name was Liz Coughlin.

After high school, I left the peer group to join the Army. Throughout my service, I had kept in touch with Liz and when I returned home she offered me a direct care job at a public detoxification center she ran.

“The Detox”, as it was affectionately called, was a free-standing, 22 bed facility staffed with a collection of dedicated, colorful, brilliant people with little formal education. Many were in recovery. All of them worked with the city’s most difficult addicts, accepting them intoxicated, cleaning them up, feeding them, healing them as best they could in the five days they had them. Counseling happened whenever it could, as soon as they were sober enough to hear it. Most clients were “regulars”, coming in for a few days each week, then heading back out to the streets as soon as their cravings overpowered their need for rest.

I became a jack-of-all-trades. I did admissions, facilitated groups, made beds, served meals and took vitals. I learned about Alcoholics Anonymous from 20-year veterans. I learned about disease and pharmacology from doctors and nurses who treated it everyday. I learned about politics and grants from community leaders who supported us in our constant search for funding. I learned about compassion, unconditional love and the philosophy of helping whoever wants to be helped, on their terms, whenever they want, no matter how many times they’ve tried before.

After a few years of working there, I was starting to feel like things were getting routine. I believed I had mastered the job and was getting restless. One night, Liz had stayed late to work in her office (as she did occasionally), and I admitted a patient who was drunk and badly depressed. He had been an addictions counselor for 15 years and “fell off the wagon” after 19 years of sobriety (these dates are not exact, but close). The nurse and I were talking with him, assessing him. After a half hour or so, I was seeing him as “routine”. I believed I knew what I needed to know about him and that I had him “figured out”.

About this time, Liz came down and dropped in at the nurse’s station where this man was. The next few minutes changed my life. In those few minutes, Liz talked with this man and saw more deeply, showed more understanding, and connected so strongly that I was completely blown away. It was like magic. She just knew. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to “know”, too.

Liz eventually left the detox to open one of the first AIDS hospices in Massachusetts. For the next seven years, I bounced around various programs, maintaining my detox job but working part time with most every other population. I carried that moment with Liz around with me wherever I went, striving for that understanding, that connection. I got pretty good at it. And then came a revolution.

Addictions got into the DSMV-III. Insurance companies were now forced to pay for treatment. Government money got involved, and with that money came conditions. One of those conditions was an educational requirement. Recovery or experience alone wasn’t enough anymore, we now needed degrees, as well.

There was no place left for me at the detox. We were a 28-day program now, with certified counselors and third-party insurance. My last job there was as a utilization manager, negotiating with insurance companies for coverage and monitoring contract compliance. The person who replaced me was a nurse with a master’s degree in Public Health.

Hurt and angry, I left “the field” and eventually became a manager at a potato chip company. Six years ago I moved to Washington and took a job at Secret Harbor School.

Secret Harbor School is a residential treatment center for troubled boys on a remote, secluded island in the San Juans. My first week there another staff and I tackled a boy who was threatening us with a four-foot 2x4 with nails sticking out of it. It never stopped. Secret Harbor School was an intense, physical, isolated environment. There were no “so-so” staff. You could either do it well or you ran for the boat going off and stayed off. Every day, it seemed, was a test. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced, and I was hooked. The whole staff became my mentor.

A year later I was a supervisor, the top of the direct care chain. I was being groomed for my boss’ job, the program was evolving, containments (of students) were going down and we applied for accreditation. When my boss left, he was replaced by someone with a master’s degree in psychology. Accreditation demands degrees.

I enrolled at Skagit Valley College shortly after. I was excited, but ended up hating most of it. Some classes felt pointless. The students were young and inexperienced. Although some teachers were brilliant, some definitely weren’t. Few classes were challenging, and out of frustration, I dropped out after taking all my electives.

School wasn’t easy. I found that I have a great anxiety about school. I am frightened of failure, of finding out that I’m not all that smart, and that this is the best I can hope for. I have a large ego, and school challenges the very foundation of that ego. I fear not being able to do the things I want to do in the world, and that my dreams will never come true. I want very much to impact the world in a meaningful and noticeable way.

But the hardest part for me is this feeling that there is so much more out there for me to learn. I have yet to have had an experience in school like that one I had with Liz so long ago. Those moments come to me away from school, in the midst of my work and life.

There are other challenges, as well. I struggle with Attention Deficit Disorder, and so am easily distracted. I will be working full time and commuting from Burlington. But I learn from talking and doing; it is through discussion with people smarter than I that I learn best. It is from trying to do what I want to do that I achieve mastery. Antioch seems to be able to provide what I need.

I am counting on Antioch for a lot of things; a quality education, an accurate and useful assessment of my abilities, and opportunities to meet people with the same mature passion, knowledge and experience as I.

I will learn what I need to learn regardless of weather or not I’m in school. That is who I am and I will do my work always. I seek awareness and knowledge wherever I am. But I imagine a room of smart, compassionate people discovering how the world works, and I imagine myself in that room, with those people. When I visited the campus and spoke to the students and faculty there, I realized they were those people.

I can’t wait to get to know them.

My Big fat disclaimer:

Ok, enough screwin around.

I have been 'planning' to start this for a few months but I am finally ready to get it going, but first, I have to tell you a few things about what I'm doing here.
This started out as a way to post my schoolwork for interested people, esp. family. I write in school a lot about my life, and I thought my family would like seeing the work. This idea has evolved into this blog thing. I actually hate blogs, but I thought this might be a good way to do some writing and try out some things.


So, a few disclaimers;

These are not well thought out essays (except for the school papers I post), they are simple, spontaneous rants, musings and observations about what is going on in my head. You should NOT see what I say here as my final, definitive word on any given subject (unless I say otherwise in the post).

These posts are not heavily edited. The goal here is to write as much as I can, and what usually holds me back is my incessant editing to get it 'perfect'. This is not going to be perfect, in fact, its going to be full of impulsive, uneven ideas that may not make a lot of sense to anyone but me.
What these posts will be is honest. I am trying hard here to be as honest and open as possible. So, feel free to be honest back, if you choose to respond to a post. Let me say that I hope not to hurt anyone's feelings, but the combination of impulsiveness, honesty and experimentation may hurt someone's feelings. Just keep in mind that this blog is an exercise in ADD, and is a reflection of the many fleeting things that go on in my head.

Ok, so there is my disclaimer.

Let the madness begin.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

this is my first post!!

So here it is, my first blogger post. Let's hope it works!