It's All Greek To Me

[I apologize for the title. I couldn't help myself.]

Today marked the first day of J-Term and my first day of ancient Greek class since junior year of high school. I'm back to the beginning, since one semester of high school Greek in no way equates to a full semester of Middlebury Greek. The first day of class is always an interesting experience. It takes a while to figure out the dynamic among the class members and with the professor. I can already see that the position of know-it-all is filled. I don't mean that to be terribly disparaging - it has already led us off on a few fun tangents, like the three different possible meanings of Oedipus (know-foot, swollen-foot, know-where; bonus points if you can figure out why they are ironic in terms of the story), but it can also be irritating when the tangents are pointless. One position the know-it-alls haven't filled is that of correcting the professor when he makes mistakes (and unfortunately he made several today - it is unfortunate when the professor consistently misplaces the accents on words when he is trying to teach the rules of accent). I haven't decided if I want to be the obnoxious person who speaks up when the professor is wrong. It's a useful function, especially when the mistakes are of a basic nature in an introductory course - such mistakes can lead to a lot of confusion. In high school I had no problem doing this because my classes were so small (3 to 10 people, usually) and I knew the teachers very well. Also, they didn't make mistakes that often, so it was more of a challenge. Or if they did make mistakes often, I didn't particularly like the teacher and so felt a rather guilty pleasure in catching them. (Yes, I am a somewhat spiteful person.) So the question is, do I take on the role of error police, or do I simply sit back and ignore the teacher's mistakes insofar as they don't impede my own learning? I will see what transpires as the course progresses.


Global Warming is Scary

Sorry, I couldn't think of anything witty for the title of this article. (I'm sure you're grateful.) I just watched An Inconvenient Truth, and I am scared, but also energized. If you haven't seen the movie, I recommend it. Personally, I'm not in any doubt about the truth of global warming, but if you want to quibble about details, just consider this: isn't it better to overreact and overcorrect now, rather than look back later and regret the things we didn't do? The consequences of not acting could be catastrophic, but the consequences of overacting are simply to make our planet a much cleaner, healthier place.

That said, I think I've found my New Year's resolution. I want to get involved in helping stop global warming, as well as educating people about it. Not that I really know how to go about it. I don't drive (luckily there isn't much need to at Midd), but I can't help flying. I use compact fluorescent bulbs. I recycle. I wash my clothes in cold water. I could stand to take shorter showers, though. The point is, I can think of some individual things to do, but I'm having a hard time envisioning actions with a greater impact. So obviously I googled it. Here are some of the things I found.

Midd's Sunday Night Group: "The Sunday Night Group (SNG) is a regular gathering of environmentally-minded students whose purpose is to launch creative programming that brings the CRI [Carbon Reduction Initiative] to the student body. We are an organization built by students to serve the students."

Stop Global Warming Virtual March: Largely symbolic, but an easy way to spread the word, and it has a good list of things you can do to reduce your personal carbon footprint.

Cool Cities Across America: Is your city a Cool City? Has your mayor signed the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement?

Carbon Offsets: If nothing else, you can write a check (or rather enter a credit card number). The sites listed on this page seem to be well checked out, but you can always do your own research. How it works: "When you buy offsets, you essentially pay someone to reduce or remove global warming pollution in your name."

"Stop Global Warming" Bracelets: A fashion statement and a donation all in one. Plus, they're made from recycled leather. Too bad I didn't find this before Christmas!

For starters, I'll be checking out the SNG and forcing everyone I can to watch An Inconvenient Truth. Hopefully I will have more to blog about soon!


Soul Food

What is it about cooking that makes it such a bonding experience? I have noticed this many times in my life, but particularly strongly over the weekend as I was helping my mom, aunt, and grandmommy prepare a large family meal. It seems to me that the bonding aspect is largely feminine - while my dad loves to cook, he prefers to do it alone, rather than explaining exactly what he needs done to someone else. (To be fair, my uncle did teach me how to cook asparagus this weekend.) Whenever I cook with my female relatives, on the other hand, it's a leisurely process, with lots of conversation and nibbling. Boring, repetitive tasks like washing vegetables, which I would ordinarily complain about, become social activities. I suppose this could all be biological - prehistoric origins as hunter-gatherers, tight-knit female subculture, etc. But while I've seen it the most with other females, it happens in mixed company too (obviously I can't speak for all-male groups...maybe if it involves grills and gratuitious amounts of lighter fluid?). My senior class's school auction project was to create a college-student-worthy cookbook, and we all got together to cook our recipes. Some of them were quite tasty, and it was great fun to cram everyone into a moderately-sized kitchen and cook up a storm. Usually if you had put all of us in such a small space for an extended period of time there would have been more than a few unkind words exchanged, given the clashing personalities of some of our class members, but there was remarkable equanimity, even camaraderie, since we were all working on a common project. Does the fact that that common project was cooking have anything to do with it? Who knows...But also consider that cooking together is considered to be a very romantic date. Why? My guess is that cooking is usually something one does in an intimate setting (i.e. at home), so when you cook with other people you are sharing that intimacy with them. Other explanations? Please share!