Thursday, January 20, 2005

Dulce Days

One of my main tasks on this road trip was to visit the Jicarilla Apache reservation in Dulce, NM to find out some personal information as to a possible link for me to this area through my grandfather, as well as to assess possibilities for work related to my Master's thesis. On the personal level, I had some limited success; one of the tribal elders, Wilma Phone, referred me to a man in the area who might be a relative. This man, whom I contacted, said he would ask his older relatives if they knew my grandfather, Abundo Martinez, whom my uncle Jimmy has indicated to our family was Apache. Waiting to hear more on this. As to the academic portion of my visit, I felt that went extremely well. Wilma gave me a lot of info as to the current state of affairs of the Jicarilla Apache nation, and she also introduced me to the director of their culture center, Lorene Willis, who provided a lot of good ideas and possibilities for future networking on specific ongoing projects. I relayed the results of these meetings to my advisor at school, who seemed impressed by what I had come up with, but also advised that I should inquire further as to land issues involving the Jicarilla, and to see if they have a land committee of sorts that I could contact, so this will be an upcoming project for me to work on.

Because of the start of school now, I will probably be reducing postings to about one or so a week. I know, I know, this will cause considerable distress for the throngs of my current readership. To this I can only say that I will try to replace the quantity of my writings with an increased quality during this reduction in output. What? How can it get any better, you say? To this I say that "Quality Is Job One" here at the Fiat Lux headquarters, overlooking beautiful Sloan's Lake in North Denver.

Monday, January 17, 2005

On The Road

Well I got back on Sat. 15th around 6:45pm, and was pretty tired from the trip, so no postings until tonight, Mon. 17th. As to the trip itself, it turned out to be quite an adventure, and fun overall. On Wednesday I left in spotty winter weather, and did ok until right before Walsenburg, where I slid sideways off the road and into a snow drift. The front wheels of the car sank into snow and soft dirt, and the front wheel drive would not gain any traction in the loose dirt and snow. I messed with this for a short while, and a snow plow eventually made a second run next to my vehicle, and the operator saved my hide by pulling me out of the predicament with the snow plow. I was stuck probably only a little over 30 minutes, fortunately. I continued on after an hour delay in Walsenburg due to weather and accidents, toward Alamosa, through La Veta Pass, another very treacherous stretch, where I saw an overturned big rig on the side of the road. After crawling blindly through fog and snow in the pass, I came out at Ft. Gardener, and then Alamosa shortly thereafter, an 8 hour drive that should have taken 5 hours at the most in good weather.
The next day I left around 9:30 am for Santa Fe, heading through Antonito, Las Mesitas, another mountain pass, and coming out at Chama, NM at 11:30am, where I ate some great chorizo and eggs at Viva Vera's. Then it was on to Dulce, NM, the center of the Jicarilla Apache Nation and reservation (which I'll say much more on tomorrow). This was a major part of the trip, so more in depth commentary will follow on this. After Dulce, it seemed logical to me to head south, which I did. Not having a good map, and stopping on the side of the road in the great expanse of the Jicarilla reservation to asked a parked Indian women for directions, I found that although I could still proceed on to Santa Fe, another route out of Dulce would probably have been more ideal. Oh well, I got to see the entire length of the reservation, a great undeveloped expanse, where I also saw a dead coyote on the road shoulder (with an intact head but only a rib cage in the middle of the body, with the animal on its back facing upward - spooky!), as well as a bald eagle rising into the air from the side of the road, dropping perhaps a dead raven from its long talons. I arrived in Santa Fe around 6 pm, another day of long driving. Ate at Lotaburger (got the cup still to prove it), and left the next day about 10:30am for San Luis, CO, first stopping at the Santuario de Chimayo in New Mexico, a traditional family stop at a Spanish Catholic shrine of sorts, then on through Taos, Questa, Costilla, then San Luis. In San Luis I went to the Stations of the Cross, famous bronze statuary of the Stations that go up a hill (which I climbed/hiked), culminating in the Cross and a church (closed)at the top. This was a wonderful, snowcapped, experience, which I captured in photos. That evening I ate at Mrs. Rios Mexican-American Restaurant in San Luis, great food served by whom I presumed to be Mr. Rios, the only person I saw there, besides myself. From there, a dusk to darkness drive back to Alamosa, through Manassa (home of Jack Dempsey, the Manassa Mauler).
The last day of the trip, Saurday, I left Alamosa around 10:30am again for the Great Sand Dunes, which were completely covered with snow, as expected. I spent several hours here, climbed the top of a dune (a personal goal denied to me in childhood), and snapped some decent pictures. This was also a wonderful experience, with very few people around (who looked like little spots climbing other dunes), leaving a sense of personal communion with the natural, silent beauty of the area. From here, it was on to Walsenburg through La Veta Pass again (ate quickly at Carl Jr.'s in Walsenburg), and then on to Denver, all in great weather, where I arrived around 6:45 pm, just in time to see the Tsunami Aid concert, with my favorites Norah Jones and Sara McLachlan. All in all, a great, interesting, informative trip, with more as to my Dulce experiences in the next posting.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Fiat Lux Is Going On Vacation!

I'll be leaving in about 9 hours (8am) for Alamosa, CO as part of my road vacation for the next few days. I should be back to post some of my experiences from the trip sometime late on Saturday the 15th. Hopefully, all goes well, in'shallah. Don't worry, dear readers; the saga continues...

"The visionary lies to himself, the liar only to others."

Monday, January 10, 2005

Days of Rage

The last few days have been somewhat stressful, and I find myself a little more on edge than ususal, a little more willing to defend myself stridently in what I perceive to be unjust situations, than I perhaps usually would be. If I'm able to make this upcoming trip to New Mexico, I'm hoping that this will relieve some of the tension, but the weather may possibly cancel my plans; we'll have to see on this. If I have to stay home, I'll use the time to do some scholarship research, relax a little, do some final pleasure reading (if you call Daniel Dennett pleasure reading) before school starts up again, and plan some academic strategy for the coming semester. I really doubt if I'll visit my academic dept. or advisor before the beginning of classes, don't see the point in this right now. My success will come from my work; no one else has an investment in it, or really cares about it except me, and I am sufficient to the task without the need to sniff around seeking favor from anyone. Let others impress by cutting and pasting thoughts and ideas that they have no underlying understanding of, original thought and action will always beat out stale platitude and buzz word usage in the long run. This semester, I'm unleashing my full capacity, and if ya havent' read up on what I have, it is indeed going to noted and brought to public attention. I am prepared for battle, and I don't intend to lose.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Natural Selection

In plodding through Daniel Dennett's "Freedom Evolves", the power of the process of natural selection really comes through. Given enough time, enough space, and enough "stuff", it seems that what we would call life would eventually (and always) come into being out of non-living material. Life seems to be intimately involved with replication, that which is alive is that which can replicate or reproduce itself on some level. This process eventually resulted in us,human beings, beings who can look back upon the process from which they resulted. In a strand of DNA, the vast, vast portion of a given strand is material whose protein combinations yield absolutely no material resulting in replicable life. Only small portions of this material combine in the ways needed to produce what we would recognize as replicable life. These combinations occur essentially by chance, at least initially, out of the vast available material of "stuff". This is all natural selection in action, and nothing unusual in terms of the theoretical explanation. I think what is truly interesting though, is number one, the seeming inevitably of life given the proper circumstances, and two, natural selection as a chaotic process thst can ultimately result in such order in the world. This is a puzzle; is this process in some way miraculous? Or is it as ordinary as anything else in the world, and only we easily impressed humans who are so awed by it? Dennett's combination of determinism and chaos reminds me so much of Buddhism, which to my mind provided much of this explanation 2,500 years ago, with philosophers and natural scientists now coming to much the same conclusions. And of course, what set all of this in motion? Now that is probably the most interesting question. If life is inevitable, why? (Or perhaps the question should be, "why not?).

Saturday, January 08, 2005

A Short Story

Again while taking a shower, I was perusing over some things, and I remembered an event from my childhood, which I thought might make a good short story. And so, dear readers, here it is! When I was about maybe 14 years old, and my brother was 11, we were visiting our relatives in Raton, NM. One evening, all of us boys, me, my brother, and our younger cousin John, who was about 8 at the time, were all preparing for bed in the living room, each in our own sleeping bags (we were semi-"camping-out"). We layed there discussing some of our favorite movies, with cousin John performing word by word some of the scenes from several of these movies, until it was time for lights out. As we lay there in the dark, the discussion began to slowly drift away. However, out of the silence, John began to blurt out some of his favorite scenes from "Rocky". We'd be drifting off into unconsciousness, and then, suddenly, "You'll never make it Rock! He'll knock you into next week!" would come out of the mouth of my 8 year old cousin, done in the voice of the curmudgeonly old coach from "Rocky". We'd all giggle uncontrollably over the ridiculousness of this, and then fall back toward drifiting off. John, in his perfect timing, would wait until he thought that we had fallen asleep, and then from out of nowhere would come up with, "Yo, Adrian, I love you Adrian!, Adrian!, whereupon me, my brother, and John would burst into laughter in the dark of the night. I'm sure we were told to shut up and go to sleep by the parents, which of course only heightened the tension between the next time, when John's disembodied voice would whisper out, "Rock, don't do it! He'll moidah yuh! Yuh can't win Rock, yuh can't win!" Now, we were dying from laughter, and trying to bottle it up all at once. Somehow, we all finally drifted off into sleep, tired from all of the laughter of young boys laughing at all of the preposterousness of an 8 year old, seemingly "little old man", quoting ceaslessly from a favorite movie in the dead of the night. To this very day, I laugh again when I think about that happy, absurd, evening.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Narrowing The Plans

In analyzing options for my Jan. 12-17 time off, it's beginning to look more like I'll probably be driving down to New Mexico in my car, which I hope will be up to the task. I don't think I want to drive all day anywhere, so I think on day one (Wed.) I'll do about 4 hours, stopping in Alamosa maybe for the night. I want to see the Stations of the Cross in San Luis on this first day. On day 2 (Thurs.),I'll continue on to Santa Fe, which should take somewhere around 5 hours, and spend the day and night there. On day 3 (Fri.), I'll begin to head back, through Espanola and up to the Jicarilla reservation, where I'll stop at the visitor center and take in some info. On the evening of day 3, I'd like to end up somewhere near Great Sand Dunes Nat'l. Monument, near Alamosa, because on the morning of day 4 (Sat.), I want to go to the dunes, and climb them. I hope the Dunes park is open in January, I'll have to check on this. If not, I'll find something else to do in the area, maybe learn more about San Luis. Then, later in day 4 I'll begin the return trip back to Denver. That's 3 nights lodging, gas and food, so it shouldn't be that expensive. I might spend the night at the Jicarilla reservation if possible, in order to have a little more time there. If I want to see the dunes at sunrise though, I'll probably have to spend the last night in Alamosa again.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Update on Nepal

With the situation in SE Asia concerning the terrible aftermath of the Dec. 26th tsunami dominating the headlines, there are also other events in Asia that are now occurring, but are not as prominent in the news. I just sent an email to my friend Narendra, and afterward read up on some of the more recent events taking place within his homeland of Nepal. There is an active Maoist rebel group in that nation, that has as of recently, greatly manifested its power throughout the country. From 1996 on up through the present, this group has slowly increased its presence and power, so that as of today, it seems almost on the verge of taking control within Nepal. The Maoists have control of most of the countryside, and conducted a roadblock of the major arteries connecting Kathmandu to the rest of the nation in August of last year. Until reading these latest reports on the situation in Nepal, I was unaware that the progress of the rebel movement had been as drastic and successful as now seems to be the case. My friend Narendra had planned to visit Nepal in December 2004, and I'm not sure if he went or not, but hope everything is ok with him. It seems that the Maoists have modeled themselves largely on the "Shining Path" movement in Peru, another Maoist oriented rebel group, known for its ruthlesness. The Nepalese Maoists seem to have shown themselves to be quite ruthless also, in engaging both civilians as well as government forces known for their own brutality. I'm not sure why the news of the situation in Nepal has not received more coverage in this country, but events are indicating that it is one of the current hotspots upon the world scene today.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Some Thoughts For Today

As I was taking a shower today I was thinking about various things, and a thought came to me from something I'd heard on the radio a few days ago. I wanted to preserve this thought when it came back to me, so here it is. I don't really remember what I was listening to the other day (probably NPR), but a man was quoting from Primo Levi, the famous author and concentration camp survivor, who had said something with regard to himself and the other camp survivors, that went something like this; "We were not the best, we survivors. The best perished in the camps. Those who survived were the collaborators, the liars, the betrayers, the cheats. We are the ones who survived, while the best amongst us died there". This is not a direct quote, it's an approximation from my memory. I'm going to look into this, though, to find the exact, word for word quote. It's very relevant of human nature in total, not just of those who survived the camps, and I'm sure that is how Levi meant it. It sruck me as a very profound insight into the human condition, something I did not want to forget.

I've also been having the thought lately that it is 1933 in this country. It is the beginning. We are being told that up is down, black is white, the enemy is everywhere and nowhere all at once, and that we must prepare the homeland for endless war. Where have we heard such things before? Since when did this country become the "homeland"? Prior to 2001, this word was never used to refer to our nation. This word rings of other, more sinister words, words like "fatherland". In 1933 in another country, people were in a similar environment; nothing really bad had happpened, yet. They were like the proverbial frog in the pot of lukewarm water, feeling nothing as the temperature was slowly, but surely, being increased from under them, until they were being boiled away before they knew what was happening. Are we that same frog in the water in 2004? Now is the time to stand up, to expose, to uncover, to be courageous; so that 1933 does not turn into 1943 or 1944. By then, it will have been too late. Let us defeat fascism again, as my uncles did, and your uncles did, and aunts, and fathers amd mothers and sons and daughters, did. When you see fascism in action, expose it and challenge it, wherever you are. Don't be afraid to call it what it is, fascism. Others would not do so once, and they eventually perished. Don't let it go so far this time.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

School Daze

My classes start up again in 2 weeks, and I have to say, I'm not so enthused about it. The atmosphere in graduate school is a lot more political, provincial, narrow, and limiting than I had expected, although I did expect some of this. One thing I've learned from personal experience (and have had validated by reading about others who have experienced similar circumstances), never express out loud what you believe in, if it in anyway conflicts with those who have power over you. This can lead to all sorts of silent repercussions, including affecting grades. I'm starting to wonder a little bit what the molding of the graduate school experience turns out, as it seems the more sycophantic, banal, mindless flatterers due fairly well (surprise, surprise), whereas if you have anything more original of thought and expression to say, you can pay a price for it. Perhaps there are those who are threatened by original thought and expression, particularly if they lack much of it. I am consoled, though, by history, and the many figures of the past who had to endure unearned sleights from those whom history (surprise, surprise) has completely forgotten about in our day. My constitution is such that I am prevented from enagaging in sycophantism and false bonhomie, so my usual strategy is to do what I have to do, and limit my time with those for whom the concept of honor is no more that just another expediency in our "it's all about me" world. I fear, though,I am indeed going to have to learn how to "play the game", if this experience is going to have any useful results in the future. I really need to find some models of those who have been able to be successful in their chosen areas, without losing their dignity in dignity stripping processes. I better do this soon. That reminds me, I need to check on scholarship opportunities, as now is the season for this, and the deadlines will be coming up soon.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Free Will or Determinism?

I'm reading a book right now entitled, "Freedom Evolves", by Daniel C. Dennett, one of the leading philosophers of today. I'm almost halfway through it, and Dennett makes the argument that we live in a deterministic world, yet we retain much of what we perceive of as "free will" in our daily lives. Events at a basic level occur in a deterministic fashion, but at a higher level, such as the level of our daily lives, we still have degrees of choice available to us as we go about our business. At least this is what I'm gathering so far, if I've interpreted what I've read correctly. Dennett is trying reassure those who fear that a deterministic world leads to the ultimate denial of a "free will" that this is indeed not the case; that in fact what we perceive of as "free will" can stay largely intact despite the material, deterministic grounding of our reality. So far, I generally agree with his basic outline of the issue, but with some qualifications. Firstly, the definition of what exactly "free will" is, is somewhat loose in general, this is a concept that can mean different things to different people. I believe that Wittgenstein would have looked at this term as one of those phrases of which one can not really say anything about, one way or another, i.e., a metaphysicality. The "notion" of "free will", however, has been very important in the evolution of man (I believe that Dennett will argue for this as I read further along, as he has hinted in this direction), as people like Dennett have claimed, in allowing for the human species to survive over time. I'm generally supporting his view, in that a well framed argument can lead to clear conclusions, yet my Wittgenstinian spin on this issue also causes me to wonder if anything can really be said on this, or if indeed we are dwelling on a non-issue regarding the issue of free will. I'm working on sorting this out between the views of Dennett and Wittgenstein, and I have a fuzzy feeling that it may all be a matter of perspective (as Nietzsche would say); it would depend upon where you stand initially in terms of what you will then see or come up with.

Here's a big shoutout to Les A., who visited my blog recently! (and is in fact most likely the first, and so far also probably the only, visitor to the newly created Fiat Lux).

Maddona, Guy Ritchie Renew Wedding Vows

LONDON (AFP) - Pop diva Madonna (news - web sites) has renewed her wedding vows with film-maker husband Guy Ritchie at a secret ceremony four years after they tied the knot, the Sun newspaper reported.
You heard it here first!

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Tsunami news and some upcoming plans

I read in recent days that Western tourists in Thailand, and also to some extent in Sri Lanka and coastal Inda, were receiving preferential treatment by regional authorities. In Thailand they were being set up in facilities with internet connections and air conditioning, as local affected and homeless Thais made do as best as possible, often in makeshift structures. Local Thais were being passed over in favor of Westerners for medical attention, unless seriously injured. In India locals affected by the disaster were being handed old clothes and measly food aid, some of which they rejected as offensive to their dignity. This all has apparently caused resentment amongst locals of the region, but the situation has been justified by both tourists as well as by some of the presumably local tourist operators, in that tourist spending is essential to the economies of places like Thailand and Sri Lanka. It seems that the self-help of other locals has been the greatest source of immediate aid to date, as aid from regional governments and aid agencies has been limited and slow in coming to the affected areas. If we are interested in winning the hearts and minds of these people and others in the world, there has got to be a better way of going about it, a way that guarantees that people are treated with dignity and respect in a difficult time, regardless of place of origin or income. Now is the time to be sensitive to issues such as these in assistance provisioning.

In other, and less important news, I'm planning on taking a few days off in mid-January, somewhere from the 12th through the 17th. If I can find a cheap, 24-48 hour notice flight, I might go somewhere like New Orleans or San Francisco for a few days. Or, I might get a flight to Albuquerque, and then drive a rental car back through Santa Fe, then up through the Jicarilla Apache Reservation in northern New Mexico, and finally on up into San Luis, CO and the Great Sand Dunes National Park,before heading back to Denver. If I do this, I plan to stop at the reservation and see if I can establish any familial contacts based upon my grandfather's possible connection to this area. I also would like to see if any problems or issues affecting the Jicarilla might allow me to do some work in assisting them as related to a possible Master's thesis project. I should have a clearer focus on what I'll be doing in a few more days, though.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

January 1, 2005

Today I decided to create my own blog, in order to get on out there with everyone else these days who are speaking their minds, and expresssing their own points of view. I guess that Jan. 1 is probably as good day as any to start something like this. At center stage right now are the terrible events resulting from the earthquake and tsunami that occurred in Southeast Asia on Dec. 26. Once again, our government embarasses its people, by offering a paltry sum toward monetary aid for the region. Our initial 14, then 35 million dollar offer, overshadowed by nations like Great Britain's 98 million dollar offer, now becomes shamed into growing into 350 million dollars, which is still far from sufficient, but getting there. I guess there's nothing like being called "stingy" by a UN aid official, as well as about 6 billion other people in this world, in order to get these guys to do the right thing. The greatest natural disaster of our lifetimes, and it takes Bush 3 days to say anything at all about it, down there at the ole ranch in Crawford (yes, I'm a disgruntled Kerry supporter, suffering from PTBD - Post Traumatic Bush Disorder). Looks like it's going to be a long four years.