May 31, 2008

blogging calories project

one of my blogging projects for the summer is to write blurbs about different dining experience here in Cache Valley, Logan. Restaurant reviews will be too long and tedious so blurbs will have to suffice. I've been exploring different eateries in the past months but I haven't blogged about them yet (but soon). Local restaurants, food chains--which I haven't been to or seen--and cafes/bakeries etc. are some of the spots in my gastronomical journey.

The thing which makes my job easy to do is the convinient location of these eateries. Most of them are in downtown Logan, along Main Street. There are of course some further away, but Main Street is my starting point. Some of the places that I've been to several times but neglected to blog about are: Indian Oven, Korean BBQ, the Thai Kuisine, the Blue Bird Diner, Angie's Diner, Citrus and Sage Cafe, some food chains, such as KFC, and many more. I'm going to revisit some of these and see if I can capture the good first impression, which encourages me to return, while of course trying new ones and blogging about them immediately so I don't have a list of places piling up.

To start this project, I'll write about the two places I visited today. I'll update later the approximate location and correct name, but for now just know that they are in the Main Street vicinity.

Today, I ate a late breakfast. Nonetheless by 12:30, I knew I had to eat something especially since I would be walking around; I needed sustenance and energy. While trying to find the thrift store downtown, I noticed the "Great Harvest Bread Co." bakery. I remember passing by this bakery several times last semester but I always ignored it because from the outside, it looked like a bakery that sold overpriced muffins (I have this notion that fresh goods are more expensive than processed food because they are FRESH). Inspite of this misconception (?), I somehow convinced myself to enter and just "see" what they offer. The starbucks menu board came to mind when I saw their menu board. But instead of having many different kinds of coffee, it had many varieties of salads and BREAD. My first reaction: I didn't want to just eat bread, and even though a salad was healthy, I wanted to eat something heavier. Then I saw a soup sign: $1.50 for a cup of Chicken with Wild Rice Soup, and then I was convinced. I knew that a cup of soup was not lunch, but I still ordered it and took it as an appetizer for a later lunch. But what made this soup extra delicious and a great bargain was that it came with two slices of bread (I was already thinking about sampling their bread but hearing these additions from the cashier were icings in the cake. I made a mental note to return again). I tried the Asiago Sourdough and the Cinnamon Apple Crumb. They were scrumptious, fluffy but still hearthy with whole wheat substance. I ate the Asiago with my soup, and I saved the apple crumb for later (when I ate it four hours later, it was still fluffy and fresh). So even if a place looks posh, see if it's still in your price range and sample the goods. You'll never know, you may find a bargain and a place to frequent in the future for delights.

After this, I found the thrift store, "Somebody's Attic"... after the thrift store, I found this Spanish Bakery (two stores down, same street and side) called "Ana" something. I decided to enter this store because I saw people walking out of it with quartful of fresh fruit, such as strawberry, melon, etc. I wanted to see if they did something different with it. I was about to get it but then I saw these kids eating something similar to a Filipino dessert called Halo-halo (crushed ice with syrup, fruits, condensed milk, etc.). I was right in my comparison. I thought about how Filipinos might have adapted this dessert during Spanish colonial days and used local flavors to 'naturalized' it to suit Filipino tastebuds. The people in the store spoke Spanish; I was afraid to practice my Spanish. Luckily a brave soul stepped in and translated. The cashier spoke little English, and I spoke little Spanish. In the end we both said thank you in the other's language: she said "thank you" and I said "gracias." The ice treat cost $2.50, and I ended up getting the Coconut and Strawberry flavored one with condensed milk and caramel, recommended by the cashier.

In summary, today's treats totalled ONLY $4 (taxes included). So don't forget to do something good for your tastebuds and always remember the three/four E's: Explore, Eat, and bE m'Erry (?) :). Until next time...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 2:00 AM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2008

some plant folklore? (folk belief)

one of the things I like about my field of folklore is that it's somewhat interdisciplinary. (if you want to make your graduate experience more interesting get to know people outside your master's program, outside your department, outside your own culture and outside everything you know etc....)

one of my friends is doing her PhDs in plant biology studies (this is the general idea- I forgot the name of her program)... and she's Thai too (I met her through my first Thai roomie)... [I like plants (especially flowers), I might have inherited my father's green thumb (maybe?), plants can be artsy and metaphorical, I've had experience raising a few plants: Edel, Weiss, Sammy, Heart and Faux-Hawke, and for the most part I can follow scientific biology-talk]...

you wouldn't believe some of the interesting discussions I've had with my plant biologist-friend(s)... here are some of them

one of them is doing her thesis on this type of plant that grows well in dry and salty places (she wants to learn more about this so she can apply the knowledge to help improve her country and the world)...the other one is concerned with improving vegetation/plant in urban areas...

while talking to the latter, we started discussing ONIONS and modifying genes. She brought up square watermelons, seedless grapes and she was excited about removing the gene in Onions, which makes people cry. I was totally devasted (I wasn't bawling though) about the idea of tearless onions. (on the week of this discussion, I was teaching my english 1010 students about "showing versus telling" and using the senses)... to make the case that eliminating this tearing gene is detrimental, I argued that future generation who would grow up with tearless onions would miss out with this visceral example of association and personal experience. this generation wouldn't experience for themselves the feeling of their eyes swelling, getting filled with tears, tears rolling on their cheeks due to the smell of onions... they wouldn't understand the irony of a trapped housewife crying while chopping onions... what will happen to the story about onions (even though new stories will be formed)? Can you just imagine a footnote explaining why the onions no longer made people cry or a footnote explaining the irony in the housewife/ or a brokenhearted cook and the ONION? (progress- you gain some, you lose some...)... in the end, I remained pro-Onion for the sake of the IMAGINATION (the irony- the tearless onion idea is thinking outside the box)...

(my biologist-friend can usually tell if I understand what she's talking about or not and if I don't understand she just go on, most of the time I ask questions to clarify...)

another discussion I recently had with another friend dealt with Heart, the pothos... it started out when I noticed a yellow leaf. I told her and the first thing she said was that Heart was sick. Of course I got worried and started asking questions. She examined Heart; it wasn't an infection from a bug because the yellowing didn't occur in spots or patterns, the yellowing occured at the edge following the normal growth patterns of the leaf... she concluded that Heart was lacking her nitrogen. I had two options: to replace the soil or buy plant food (I will buy plant food in the near future)...

another incident with Heart occurred just tonight. I haven't seen Heart for 3 weeks because I was in Philadelphia (my biologist friend "plantsat" for me). Heart looked healthy; she was spreading out her vines with new additions. While combing through her leaves, I noticed a YELLOW mushroom growing on her soil. I panicked and told my friend. Her response further startled me. She didn't see the yellow mushroom on monday and I was alarmed at the fast rate at which the mushroom grew. In three days, one of the mushroom was passing the one inch mark. My friend came to two conclusions: the mushroom is either poisonous or beneficial to the plant. I let the plant-biologist take care of it (I'm an English major and I wouldn't know a poisonous mushroom from another, luckily today I learned a bit about poisonous mushrooms- most of the colorful ones are poisonous [I associated this with the brightly colored tiny frogs of the Amazon forest]- you have to digest dozens of grams of mushroom to get poisoned, skin contact can't absorb all those poison at once [maybe a rash will occur but not full poisoning])...

she took out the 1 incher, and it calmed me... I started exploring the other possibility that these yellow mushrooms could be beneficial for Heart. My friend told me that certain mushrooms grow with plants (they help each other like a symbiotic relationship- also mushroom remnants are in the soil- the enviroment, damp soil, and low light will encourage fungus growth). She hypothesized that if the mushroom belong in the 'mycorrhiza' family then it might be the good mushroom... we had to find out what type of plant Heart is and then google it to see if there's something in the internet about mycorrhiza and Heart...

the internet gave me a good start.... I totally forgot what type of plant Heart is so I typed in google image "heart-shaped leaf" and I tried to find the closest picture resembling Heart. I was reminded that Heart is a Pothos, not a rhodendron (the differences are the yellow-whitish variegated leaves and the subtle curve at the tip of the leaves)... the internet helped me to identify Heart but didn't explain directly the appearance of yellow mushroom... I found lots of personal stories from people with similar experiences...

I also found folklore on the Pothos, which is sometimes called Devil's Ivy (I wonder why?) and in some part of India,it's considered the "money-plant"... then I started thinking about mushroom folklore, in some part of the Caribbeans, the yellow mushroom is called the "Spirit Umbrellas", and in the Philippines, mushrooms are believed to be homes of magical beings such as "'dwende" and fairies...

we didn't find a clear answer (my friend might ask her adviser, who has a phD), but one personal story was comforting. the person pointed out that the yellow mushroom didn't harm her lavander. they co-existed peacefully so she just "let them be"...

Heart and her yellow mushrooms will just be... they'll exist side by side, and we'll just see what'll happen in the near future...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 2:42 AM | Comments (0)

May 28, 2008

Top 6 things to do when stuck in an airport...

Because of lack of and or (mis)communication, I was stranded in the Salt Lake City (SLC) International Airport for 6 hours. Here's the reader's digest version of the story: I missed the shuttle bus that would have taken me to Logan, UT because the operator told me to wait in the wrong gate; therefore I had to wait for the next shuttle, which arrived 6 hours later. I cancelled my plans for today and improvised so I didn't waste 6 hours of my life just sitting in the airport.

Here are the top 6 things I did to entertain myself and pass the time (maybe these'll give you some ideas just in case you would ever get stuck in the airport for 6 hours or more).

1. Read- unfortunately I finished reading my beach novel/ roman de gare book in the plane. I only brought one becaue my carry on was occupied by my gigantic SHU portfolio (I decided to bring it to show my students). I didn't want to spend money on an overpriced beach novel when I have tons of unread books in my own collection (I only brought one because I planned to write but when the situation came up, I didn't feel like writing). I had other magazines and books, but they were more difficult to digest. After a couple of minutes, I decided to read some of them anyway (my rational- since they're harder to digest, they will "take up more time" to finish reading). I read a nutrition and supplementary magazine front to back, and two essays on Children's Art.

2. Listen to music- I had my mp3 player so I listened to that (the shuffle program in my mp3 player is not that good; several songs repeat before new songs are heard). One of the good things about my mp3 player is that it has a radio. When I got bored listening to my collection, I tuned in the radio and listened to popular hits of the area.

3. Play a game in cellphone- in today's society there are lots of pocket video game systems, such as gameboy, nintendo DS and others. I used to have a gameboy but not anymore. Good thing my cellphone had a game I liked to play (Bubble smile- tetris-esque). I played this for an hour, and I even beat one of my old high score.

4. Look at art- most airports, which I've been in, exhibited artworks. In terminal 2 of the SLC International airport, I looked at and studied 7 landscapes depicting Utah. The medium used was oil (oil painting), and the landscapes were rendered in the style of impressionism (contemporary artists but I still couldn't read their names). I observed the compositions (dynamic diagonals, vanishing point, fore/middle/background, etc.), the colors (complimentary, cool, warm, dark, light), and the textures (lines, smooth, thick, fuzzyness, etc.), and tried to figure out how the artist made them. While looking at them closely, a stranger started talking to me about their beauty so we chit-chat for a bit (he starts talking about his children who are USU alums); then I moved back and magically the impressions of light started to focus and solidify the shapes and contours of the land.

5. Eat- I drank starbucks (surprise!), and I had a whooper and onion rings from Burger King for lunch, and for dinner I ate an overpriced cafeteria food with the "gourmet" label. I didn't want to but I had to because I was going to get home very late. Good thing I had my bottle of water and very ripe and delicous orange fruit.

6. Take a walk- My brain had a work-out from reading, listening to music, playing games, and anaylzing art. My stomach did its work to digest the food I ate. In order to complete the "head-to-toe" workout, it's only fair to do some sort of physical activity like walking. With my heavy carry on on my back, I pulled my luggage from one end of the terminal to the other. It made me exhausted and made me forget for a while that I was stuck in the airport for 6 hours.

Lessons- communicate, be prepared, be flexible, and triple check everything. Around 8 p.m., I called the shuttle service (the lady was probably annoyed at me) and triple checked: "So I'm supposed to be at Gate 11 by 8:10 p.m.? Right?"

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 2:06 AM | Comments (2)

May 6, 2008

Where in the U.S. is Michael B. Diezmos?

The semester ended for me when I turned in my final papers and my students' grades. I only have three weeks of vacation before the summer session begins so of course I want to make the most of it. So to start off my "summer vacation" I rode the Amtrak train (instead of the airplane) from Utah all the way to Pennsylvania. This was a very tiring endeavor but very rewarding (beautiful scences, cities, and lots of stories). I had some time to spare and it was now or never.

I left Logan, UT on Thursday afternoon on the first day of May. Can you believe it? It was still snowing. It looked as if the winter semester just began (so I was glad to go somewhere snow-free in MAY [I know snow in May is possible- I once saw flurries in Greensburg PA, also on the first of May- nonetheless, there is a difference between flurries and snow)...

Clue #1 of first city stop: The 2002 Winter Olympic was hosted by this city...

If you said, "Salt Lake City" UT, then you're CORRECT!

Can you believe this? I've almost lived in UT for a year, and this is the first time I've actually explored Salt Lake City (SLC) [I've been in the airport several times though].

Here's the story: I had a choice of paying $126+ for a shuttle to drive me to SLC on the day of my Amtrak departure at 4:25 a.m. OR I could pay $32 for the SLC express shuttle to drive me 12 hours earlier. I opted for the latter and explored a bit of SLC (used some of the money I would have spent for the expensive shuttle for sightseeing instead)... the only awkward thing was ME lugging my green rolling luggage around the city (a person thought I had just arrived in town to settle- al contraire, i had arrived to leave). I heard a story that "tourists" were often approached by missionaries to be converted. Nobody approached me and tried to convert me (in my situation the rumor turned out to be FALSE)...
the shuttle dropped me off at the Conference Center. I found door 15 and asked for direction (I had a map but I didn't know the ratio of distance to depiction of picture). The guy was nice, he helped locate the address of Amtrak and told me about the UTA 'trax'... he offered a tour of the conference center but I had other agendas (I was surprised that some of his co-workers didn't know where the Amtrak station was located [let me tell you something, the SLC amtrak station is not a "30th Station" of Phila. or the "Grand Central Station" of N.Y.C.]).

After situating my self, I went first to the Information center and then to the Art Center (next to it). Gaylen Hansen's, a contemporary artist of the 20th century, work was displayed. I enjoyed the exhibit (sample of works). After this I rode the "trolley"-- I didn't have to pay for the fare because it was in the "free zone" area. Riding this led me to the Amtrak station. I then went to the Gateway Mall, bought my bro a souvenir for his b-day, I walked around, window shopped, ate at the food court (panda express), and drank a starbucks (I tried to drink a starbucks at every city I visit)...

I returned to Temple Square, went to the LDS Church History and Art Museum, and then at 8, I went to the Tabernacle and watched and listened to the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir practice singing (held and open to the public every Thursday 8-9:30 pm)... I took lots of picture of the SLC temple and the surrounding art and area...

I watched "Iron Man" at the Gateway Megaplex at 9 p.m. (I had to ask the movie people if I could leave my luggage at the guest service area- they concurred and I watched Iron Man)... this ended around 11 p.m. from here I took the trolley to go to the Amtrak station. I got my tickets.

when I arrived at the station, I got coffee (amaretto flavored), my plan was to stay up till 4:25 a.m. and then as soon as I get inside the train, I'd sleep. Plans changed especially in this type of adventure. My train- the California Zephyr- was three hours delayed. The cashier left and put a sign "Will be back at 3:30 a.m.", I was left in the station with one other person (the situation could have been scarier). The pot-belly man with dull blonde and unkempt hair, wearing a baseball cap with a phrase "Jesus is my boss", started talking to me and I learned some info about him- he just came from Idaho and he's diabetic (he also smokes). A couple of hours later he fell asleep- he snores, his head would bob/lumped down and head straight up jerkily. It took me a while before I couldn't hold my eyes open any longer... I moved to the wall so I could rest my head along the wall (i didn't want to do the "bob")... sun started rising and more people started appearing and finally the train arrived (the double decker type that have "sleeper" compartments- I just got regular coach to save $800+)-

I asked the lady cashier if this delay would affect my schedule (missing my connection)- She LIED, she said that "delays" were configured in the scheduling equation (there was time allowance)...warning- if you have to be at a certain place at a certain time: DO NOT take AMTRAK across the nation. I sort of expected the delays, but not the magnitude that I experienced. It was one delay after another (and I started losing the spirit of Adventure)...

the first delay happened somewhere in Nevada before SLC and other delays occured on the way...

On the way to Colorado, we passed by Bryce Canyon, Soldier's peak of the Wasatch mountain and we went through a 6 mile tunnel in one of the Rocky Mountain chain (pine trees, snow on the ground instead of snow falling, wild animals). Originally, i took this trip so I would have time to "reflect" and to start reading an epic novel, "The Tale of Genji" (considered to be the first novel in the world)... but I was so distracted by the delays that I couldn't get myself to reflect or to read. When i did start reading, I still found it difficult (tip- only bring beach books or something a bit lighter or bring novels, which one has already started [reading in media res])... I stayed at the lounge car, and there was a bunch of old ladies playing cards... they were having a blast (hearing them laugh cheered me up)... people from New Zealand talking with an American student...

lunch and dinner time-
Con- eating overpriced cafeteria food
Pro- being forced gently to sit with strangers (just to fill the table and to encourage socializing). During lunch, I sat with this old couple- they wore clothings with similar color schemes (shades of purple, marroon, mauve, and grays). The lady had curly brown gray hair and brown eyes, the man had blue eyes and fine whitish hair... at the end of dinner they argued in the typical fashion- "I told you shouldn't have taken that..."

During dinner I sat with three other people, a lady who had a son, who is teaching English in Thailand, a blonde-haired middle -aged man (who looks like a "William or Bill", he has a beard and later on in this adventure, he'll be known as Mr. Information Guy), and a old guy, with hazel eyes and a hunched back... there was talk in our table and it wasn't strained... I mostly listened and if asked I answered...

We made other stops in Colorado, and we heard more bad news when we reached the state capital of Colorado.

If you said, "Denver" then you're CORRECT again!

We picked up more passengers at Denver (we arrived and it was dark already). They told us that one of the bridge that span across the Mississippi river is damaged.

Con-
Communication between crew and passengers wasn't that great. Sometimes the crew doesn't have all the information and sometimes they withhold information (which irks the passengers)... in the middle of the trip, the intercom started malfunctioning (word of mouth has to be employed)...

Pro-
certain crew members especially those in the dining service started being more personable- making the situation better by having high spirits, telling jokes, and just being troopers...

Sleeping-
was not easy especially in the coach section, the good thing was that the train wasn't full, each person can occupy two seats, lay diagonally in fetal position (advantage of being short)... sometimes the motion of the train can rock one to sleep or wake one up....If one is not careful, one can strain one's neck depending on sleeping position... I eventually fell asleep and if I was lucky, I slept in intervals of 4 hours...

I woke up one morning and I was in Lincoln, Nebraska - a soft golden orange sunrise... we stopped at a station and locals were setting up for a craft fair (Con- Amtrak encouraging smoking by saying "next stop, you'll have time to smoke"- the first thing that they usually say) and more bad news was received in this city in Nebraska, which is the main setting in the novel "Alas, Babylon" written by Pat Frank.

If you said, "Omaha" then you're on a ROLL!

The damaged bridge is confirmed. Passengers heading to southern Iowa had to transfer into a bus, and the rest would go on to Chicago using the northern route of Iowa. Prospect didn't look good. We were way behind (no chances of making the connection). Passengers were pissed and a decision had to be made.

Because the northern route shared the track with freight trains, we had to stop often to let the freight trains go first. Boiling points were reached when we stopped in the middle of nowhere Iowa, surrounded by empty fields and an occassional farm house here and there (because of the culminating inconveniences, the dining service decided to give passengers free beef-stew dinner [a funny dinner, I sat with three other people, one was a 29 years old guy, very taciturn, another guy from Michigan, and an older guy, who seem to ramble. the Michigan guy asked the Rambler where he was going, and the Rambler told him New Jersey and then he continueed with his mini-biography])...

Later that night, the decision was made... they called us by our connecting train number. They told us that we would be staying overnight in CHICAGO and that they'll give us a voucher for a hotel and some cash for the cab and food. SWEET! This decision was clarified as we crossed the famous U.S. river which has 4 "i"s and 4 "S".

If you said "Mississippi" river, you're dead wrong. JUST KIDDING!

After the assistant conductor explained to me the situation, I continued to hang around the area and chat with other excited passengers... after all the inconvenience we were rewarded a free overnight stay in Chicago (maybe at the expense of a butchered schedule)... William aka Mr. Information Guy was the calmest out of all of us. He'd been in Chicago, and he'd experience similar events. I asked him questions about Chicago... I wanted to make the most of my brief stay in Chicago (my rescheduled train would leave at 7 p.m. the following day)...

We arrived at the Union Station Chicago at 2 a.m. and I got a voucher to stay at the Swissotel, at East Wacker Drive (this hotel was the bomb!). The first thing I did when I got my room was take a hot bath and shower and then slept on the bestest bed on the planet (it was soft and firm at the same time), all those hours sleeping on the train, this was a humongous difference. The next day, I woke a bit earlier than the alarm because of housekeeping. I still had a restful night. Check out was at noon and I had six hours to roam around Chicago.

The great thing was that I didn't roam Chicago by myself. I met a friend in the the train and coincidentally she's also a photographer, her name is Audrey Michelle. We walked up and down Michigan Avenue taking pictures (she brought her camera pack and I brought my digital). There were a lot of tulips and windmill-esque outdoor art. We searched for a Chicago hotdog (we had a hard time locating it in the Northern end of Michigan Avenue but later on in the southern side near the Sears tower, we found several), I drank starbucks, we saw a lot of toy dogs (pets), I bought Rushdie's "Shalimar the Clown" at borders with my gift card to read in the train on the way home, we stopped by Millenium Park (took more pictures), we were planning to go inside the Chicago Art Institute, but we ran out of time... the art museum closed at 5, it was already 4 in the afternoon. An hour wasn't enough to look at art so we went straight ahead to Sears Tower (funny story- we were pressed for time so the first souvenir shop we saw, we did a spending splurge)...

It was an awesome day until our cab driver had the effrontery to ask for a tip even though he was rude, and when the train station told us that our new train will not be able to go all the way to Washington D.C.; we had to stop and transfer to a bus...

We were exhausted from walking so falling asleep on the train wasn't difficult.

When I woke up, outside, we were under a bypass of some sort. It looked vaguely familiar.

This city is the home of the baseball team, the Pirates, and this city is the biggest city near the famous university in Greensburg called, Seton Hill University (SHU).

You're a genius! How did you know that the answer is "Pittsburgh"?

The Amtrak people told us that we would be switching to bus in Pittsburgh. When I awoke, I doubted the familiar sight because the conductor didn't say anything. The train was just sitting there and I thought that they would have announced our arrival. I started thinking about SHU. I was hoping that the bus might pass by SHU but it stayed in the main highway. We were on our way to D.C. (in the bus, there was a baby crying) and when we reached the D.C. area, the driver gave a mini tour. He pointed out Camp David, the Washington Monument, White House, and others. He dropped us off in Union Station D.C. I waved good bye to Audrey Michelle, got my green luggage, and went straight to the waiting area for my train to Philadelphia (while waiting, I read "Shalimar" and drank a starbucks).

I left the snowing Logan, UT on May 1st, and I arrived in Sunny (70 degrees) Philadelphia, PA on May 5th (an extra day was added, and it was okay with me because I was on vacation). It took more than 52 hours to go across the nation (from UT to PA anyway). The landscape changed from the Mountains into farmlands into urban dwellings with tall skyscrapers. In the middle of the journey, when delays and other obstacles seemed to pop up, I just kept thinking about Rick Sebak's words about unexpected invitations as dancing lessons from God. There was a skeptic part of me which kept taunting me with "I told you so", "You should have taken the plane", and "Are you happy with your adventure." There was also the grateful part of me who could boast "YES I did it!". I travelled through Southern Utah, passed the Rockies of Colorado, saw the farm lands of Nebreska and Iowa; I roamed around Chicago (saw many art and climbed the Sears Tower), and revisited some favorite cities such as Pittsburgh and D.C. (even if very briefly). In the end I have a better appreciation for my own home and city, Philadelphia, and I met many types of people, interacted with them and heard their stories.

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 12:21 AM | Comments (3)

May 5, 2008

Flash Update: Spring 2008

Another semester is over (I'm getting closer to graduation, three more semesters)... I'm looking forward to taking writing more seriously and trying to establish a writing routine in the future but right now that future is far (but hopefully getting nearer), currently it's a bit difficult because my brain power is reserved for the graduate classes I'm taking and also for being a graduate INSTRUCTOR...

this semester I took Fieldwork (6720), and Folklore and Literature (6770) classes... and I taught two sections of English 1010...

I passed my Fieldwork class and I'm just waiting to here from the other class. I read a lot of jargon-filled journal articles in my fieldwork class, and I did a good amount of actual fieldwork (which I enjoyed a lot!):
1.- attended a service from a religion different from mine
2.- attended a court hearing
3.- observed and participated as a basketball fan (Aggie)
4.- conducted a 40 minute interview and transcribed the whole interview (which took FOREVER!)
5.- reviewed an actual published ethnography

overall this class was good, it made me think about the ethics involved in studying people (especially children)... I used some of the journalism skills (interviewing, etc.) I've acquired in the past and also some creative writing (showing, senses, observations etc.)... we tried to define ethnography and in the end we agreed to leave it open -ended, different writers will have different style to approach their subject... we looked at the processes of different writers and evaluated our own processes (what worked best for us)...

each of the fieldwork assignments was a mini adventure:
1. Being in Utah, I'm surrounded by Mormons (and this year I've learned so much about the Mormon culture [I'll blog about this when I graduate]) so when I heard that my first assignment for this class was to observe a religious service, which is different from my Catholic background- the first thing that came to mind was the mormons also known as the Latter-Day Saints- I did this assignment sometime in February so it was snowing. I didn't want to stand out and be asked questions so I asked my Mormon friends how I could blend in better... they told me about the structure (which helped a lot)... I still ended up standing out especially the way I dressed BUT the good thing is that nobody approached me and made the whole thing more awkward...

2. I went to downtown Logan at First District Court to observe a hearing... this was an interesting exercise... I recognized some of my bias and assumption I bring (especially about my "class" gender, identity, roles etc.)... the security guard decided to place me in the drug court hearing (which was more dramatic compared to traffic court)...

3. I observed fans and participated as an Aggie fan (see separate blog: "fieldwork?: basketball game"

4. I interviewed a member of the First Presbyterian Church for their oral history project... I did the interview in a coffee shop downtown... while I aksed open-ended, closed, and leading questions, I sipped on a chai tea latte... it took me forever typing out the trasncription... the first time- it took me two hours to transcribe 5 minutes of interview... I started getting better in the end, to keep my sanity, I transcribe for only an hour a day and I ended up transcribing 10 minutes worth of interview per hour... I finished in 4 days but these 4 days felt like FOREVER! I had to type out everything- the repetitions and the 'ums'- what I found fascinating while I transcribed was that I found myself editing out the ums and repetition- this always threw me off because when I would replay it to check, I'd discover that I erased the ums and repetition, it took me a while to overcome this habit...

5. The fifth assignment sort of deviated from the other fieldwork assignment-- I had to review a published ethnography and analyze most of the issues- we've been discussing in the semester, such as power, relationship, methods, and more... Because I tried to unite all my work under the umbrella of children's folklore- I reviewed Margaret Brady's ethnography called "Some Kind of Power: Skinwalker Narratives of Navajo Children"- This was recommended to me by my prof, and it was the closest thing to "children and stories" (narrowing my focus)...

being a fieldworker is fun but a lot of WORK... in the field one has to be alert and ready for anything- decision making, compromising, interacting etc. and when the fieldwork is done then one has to focus on turning data into something comprehensible for others...

For my Folklore and Literature class (I think I passed, I hope I pass)... we read several novels and applied the folkloric lense to analyze the works. We read: Twain's Huckleberry Finn, Morrison's Beloved, The Robber-BrideGroom, The Chosen, The Way to Rainy Mountain, Achebe's Things fall apart, several short-short works such as The lady or tiger...

the first thing we did was "identify" the folklore using evidence from folkloric work and author's bio etc., and then we "interpret" and tried to answer the "so what?" (how the literature is enhanced with the knowledge of the folklore)- we discussed different folklore genres such as Myth, Legend, Fairytale (Marchen), food ways, folk beliefs, esoteric and exoteric folklore, etc.- the most difficult text to read was "Beloved" but still enjoyable...

for our final paper, we had to pick an outside novel and analyze it using the folkloric lense and write a 12 page paper (12 pages is okay but what added to my distress is the weight of this paper- 70%)-

I decided to reread Salman Rushdie's "Haroun and the Sea of Stories" (I first read this when I was a junior at SHU in World Literature class)... I didn't mind rereading this fun novel. I started researching during the spring break. At first my thesis was about oral storytelling conventions being adapted in written literature... then it changed to "folk belief/ritual" that involved RASA- an Indian concept that is connected to enlightenment... several of my research pointed out the marchen/fairy tale form of the novel however my prof pointed out that we should build on the research instead of simply regurgitating... it would have been easy to apply Vladimir Prop's schema but I didn't... what I did notice during my research was how the main inspiration for "Haroun and the Sea of Stories" have been overlooked... Rushdie's son is the main inspiration, and he has been mentioned in "passing" and as I did my research this became more obvious (also another funny thing- this is also a sign that I needed to stop researching and start writing the draft- I noticed that my resources started cross-referencing each other- it was funny because my research would say that so and so wrote this and I'll be like "oh I read that article")...

I also had to drag this paper out, the great thing was that I had an outline so everyday, I'd look at my outline and write a paragraph or two and call it a day... so in the end, I focused on the father and son relationship in Haroun and instead of using a folklore genre, I applied a folklore definition instead: "folklore as artistic communication in small groups"... the novel is the "art" used by Rushdie to "communicate" with his son (small group) during the time of his exile (impelled by death, want to pass on beliefs before dying).

I learned a lot about Rushdie... I'm still able to apply some of my research to his other novels especially the one I'm currently reading, "Shalimar the Clown"

by the end of my master's program, I'm NOT going to have a THESIS, nonetheless I do have a topic/main focus- children and stories. So far, every project in my classes, I've tried to connect to this focus
1. Practicum in Teaching Writing (my final paper is about "rites of passage"- everybody goes through this however children go through this more at such a short time in comparison to adults)
2. Cultural History of Weird (my final paper is about Mother Goose Rhymes and DEATH)
3. Folklore History and Methods (my faux-proposal [which didn't do so well] is about rhymes of children today and mother goose relevance for today's children)
4. Fieldwork (analysis of ethnography about children's narratives, ethics of studying children, who are not considered "independent agents")
5. Folklore and Literature (research paper- father and [young] SON relationship...)

This summer I'm taking two classes: Fife Folkore Seminar and Creative Non-Fiction. The Fife Seminar is about Personal Stories (so I can totally apply this to children). The Creative Non-Fiction is focusing on memoir writing (during the semester in fieldwork class, we discussed the similarities and differences between ethnography and memoir- this class will be a bit difficult to connect with the theme but it goes well with "application" especially in writing ethnography).

and in the fall 2008, I'm planning to take Folklore Colloqium special topics: CHILDREN's FOLKLORE, and Storytelling (this is a theater course and it's going to involve performance and telling stories in various ways)...

so these are my classes...

this summer I'll also be teaching one section of english 1010 which starts in June (that means I only have three weeks of vacation- which is better than nothing)

compared to my first semester as graduate instructor, I definitely improved this semester (but I'm still going to be changing)... I received my evaluation- this semester, one class "abhored" my teaching style and another class was totally "infatuated" with my teaching... next fall I'll be teaching Eng 2010 which emphasizes argument, persuasion, and research... it'll be a new thing but I'll still be able to apply some of the eng 1010 materials and share my own "researching experience"...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 10:01 PM | Comments (5)

May 1, 2008

Parts of Part 2: Finding beauty in a "void"

It's been two weeks since I last blogged about my springbreak at AZ. I only have a month left of school, which means that I have a month left to finish a 12-15 page research paper (I have some sense of direction, but what's bothering me is the fact that I keep finding sources and I keep collecting them [a stack of books is piling up, and the sight of it intimidates me]), I also have to finish grading my students' "analyzing sources" and their last project "Annotated Bibliography and Complications Presentation" and calculate their final grades. And lastly, I have to read and analyze an ethnographic work for my fieldwork class. So once again, my mind is cluttered. I hope to free my mind from the ennui of routines by blogging part 2 of my "long awaited" sequel (I've been holding off/delaying writing part 2 for the past two weeks so that I could focus on all the other school work); and I hope to be reminded of "the beauty in empty-open spaces [and] in "barren" lands... [And the] endless sky" of northeastern AZ.

Lake Havasu, AZ
How can you see the original London Bridge without leaving the U.S.? Go to Lake Havasu, AZ. I couldn't believe it either, and then I saw it and read about it. A rich patron bought the bridge and transported it all (piece by piece) to AZ. This bridge was replaced by the now famous draw-bridge, which stretched across the Thames river in London today with its Roman arches (very sturdy looking). WE took a lot of pictures of it and with it. Beside the bridge, Lake Havasu is also a good place for swimming and fishing. it was still somewhat cold to swim in it at the time of my visit, but the fishermen were already out there catching different trouts and basses. My aunt recounted stories about fishing and getting free fish from other people, who didn't really care about eating the fish but instead cared only for the sport of fishing (the act of fishing). We ate lunched, which was prepared by my aunt. There was a warm breeze not too warm, and it complimented the sun and cloudless sky. The cerulean lake, fanned by the breeze, foamed white and reflected the brightness of the sun.

Laughlin, NV
After Lake Havasu, we went straight to Laughlin NV. Laughlin is only 45 minutes away from Kingman, but since we were in Lake Havasu City, it took a little bit longer to get there. Rather than turning around and going back to Kingman, my uncle took a route which passed CA briefly. I found it amusing how we started out in AZ, traveled through CA so we could reach NV (three states in one day). Laughlin has casinos (so if people do not want to go all the way to Las Vegas, they can go to Laughlin) and outlets (I bought my first D.C. zip-up hoodie). I didn't gamble much (only once in a machine where my aunt deposited $5-- I ignored the diagrams and directions, I just kept pushing the button, sometimes I won (without understanding how I won) and eventually I lost). I joined 4 casinos and received my "player's" card (in my opinion, the best looking card came from the Colorado Belle). I also got lots of freebies for being a new member. I got an oversized Tropicana shirt, a Golden Nugget traveling coffee mug, an Aquarius key chain, a bag of caramel popcorn and a screwdriver. One of the nice things about being a member is the discount. During the night, we ate at a Buffet in the Colorado Belle where card members saved $5. I didn't feel like eating beef so I had a seafood platter: rice, mussels, clams, popcorn shrimps, battered/breaded halibuts, vegetables. I had orange juice and water and for desserts, a Lemon Meringue cake and a Peach Pie a la mode (vanilla ice cream). I was very full. We drove back home, the original version of "Someday We'll Know" by Daryl Hall and John Oates played on the radio, and I looked out the window. Once again there were clear skies, and when we got far enough from the lights of Laughlin, the Little Dipper appeared upside down in the night sky.

Grand Canyon, AZ
Oatman and Chloride, AZ
Downtown Kingman, AZ
Hulapai Mt. Park, AZ
Hoover Dam and Las Vegas International Airport (AZ and NV)


I wrote this entry a month ago, and I'm just publishing it... Obviously, it's still unfinished but the awesome things are: I finished my research paper (I made the minimum- 12 page, usually after finishing a research paper, I don't ever want to see it again and I just want to give it the the professor...surprisingly, I'm proud of this paper-- the paper I'm talking about is a paper for my folklore and literature class [originally I dreaded this paper because it was worth 70%- but I finished it and hopefully I get the full 30% participation in class so that even I bombed this 70% paper, I can still pass with a B- [passable grade for graduate courses)... writing this paper felt like a drag... sadly I can no longer stay focus for more than 4 hours; I find it difficult to spend a whole day writing a research paper so during this last week, I broke up the writing process, I wrote tidbits here and there and I eventually finished it.); I also finished reviewing an ethnographic work, and I just turned in my students' grades today (I quadruple check them so that I wouldn't make a mistake) [more details to follow in my "flash update" coming soon].

Tomorrow May 1st, I'll be heading back to Philly for a short vacation before the summer semester begins (stay tuned for the mini "Vacation within a vacation" article)...

and maybe if I find the inspiration, I'll finish "beautiful void"...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 12:40 AM | Comments (0)