Sunday, June 29, 2008

I once was lost...

This post really has two themes, both related to the title, but less related to each other.

1. I found a church! I like it, I really like it! St. Andrew's Episcopal Church is a little over a mile from our dorm, and I walked up there both this Sunday and last Sunday. Last Sunday, the bishop gave one of the most stirring sermons I've ever heard. He had a whole bunch of really powerful stuff in there, from the holocaust to modern missionary work in some of the poorest places in the world. After the service was over, we talked and I was all weepy (as I am prone to get), and he started asking me if I'd ever considered going to seminary. It shook me up, actually... I'd never seriously thought about it, and when thinking about it, I think it's something I could see happening in my life... but not now. It's the sort of thing that pops up on a few select branches of my enormous future tree, at least ten years from now, when a life plan or two haven't gone exactly the way I planned.
In any case, I went back today, and still love the church. I'd definitely become a member if I were going to be able to go more than twice more while here; as it is, I'll be gone for the next two weekends and only have two more real weekends after that. But I am looking forward to going back in a few weeks.

2. On the way to/from church this morning, I got pretty horribly lost. I tried to take a shortcut... and we all know how that goes. Bellarmine is putting up a huge fence across the one access road I use all the time (there are only three ways onto the entire campus as it is...). That damn fence is going to add almost a half mile to my walk up to the main business district (i.e., coffee shop, ice cream, grocery store, church, everything except the gym). Hence my interest in finding a shortcut!
But of course, as always, I turned the wrong way once I thought I'd managed the hard part, and went a pretty long way out of my way this morning. And coming back, trying to find the "shortcut" back onto campus, I added at least an extra mile. All told, I walked for about two hours, a large part of that unintentional... Anyway, the next time I take my "shortcut", I'm going to take note of the address of the house whose yard I have to cut through to get to the street I wanted to get to.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ponies, Pigs, Robots and Us

OK, I'm way too hyped up to go to bed, so why not, I guess I'll blog. This was our day:

1) Ponies, or more accurately, horses. Race horses. Today, we Bulldogs conquered Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby and mecca for horse-racing enthusiasts. Yale alum David Jones, Sr., facilitated our gambling addictions, stuffing each of our pockets with a few of his own dollars so that we wouldn't feel bad spending our own. Suffice it to say, whether we came out in the black or the red, we all had a good time and owe Mr. Jones a HUGE and heartfelt thanks.

2) Pigs, or better, pulled pork. Ten of us went to Mark's Feed Store for dinner. Between the onion straws, honey-coated chicken wings, sweet corn-on-the-cob, baked beans, potato salad, spicy fries, pulled pork sandwiches, and barbecued ribs, it was a feast and filled us right up.

3) Robots. (*warning: this is a shameless plug*) WALL-E!! See it. Seriously. Humans have trashed Earth, and the WALL-E robot series was left behind to clean up the mess. After 700 years, one still worked. This is his story of finding love and fighting to keep it. It was absolutely heart-wrenching and one of the most well-done films I've ever seen. The first 40 minutes have barely any dialogue, and it works damn well. Again, you must see it.

4) Us. After WALL-E, a few of us were bouncing off the wall. Literally, we were trying, so it was decided that we needed to get out of the dorm and burn off some fuel. And we ventured. We ventured far, and ventured wide, until we arrived in the magical downtown Louisville, at the mystical waterfront, on the shore of the somewhat biologically hazardous Ohio. We sat on the shore, and it was good. Then we played frisbee on the shore, and it was better. Finally, as we left our merry time to Memory, we came across a ground fountain. We ran through it. We played ninja in it. We got soaked, and it was the perfect end to our night.


Friday, June 27, 2008

Still On Our To-Eat At List: Eggroll Machine

My co-workers and I went out to lunch today at a place called Thai Smile 5, which I assume is the fifth in a chain of Thai restaurants. I just think it's really funny that our (male) waiter (most decidedly not from anywhere remotely Asian) had a long ponytail, wore a trucker's hat, and did not have any chopsticks on hand when I asked for them.

Adventures with Miniature Louisville Sluggers

As Steve wrote about earlier, on Tuesday we visited the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory where we were all graced with the gift of our very own miniature Louisville Slugger bats, which are pretty much the coolest things ever. We've found two very good uses for them thus far, but are looking for ways to expand our repertoire.

Use #1: Sword fighting. Perhaps a little obvious, but quite fun with the theme music from Pirates of the Caribbean playing in the background. Until, that is, Chris tries to wallop off my finger. Then we desist.

Use #2: Brainball! Perhaps the most awesome thing to ever have been created in Chris's room. Basically, it's baseball with Chris's brain-shaped stress ball that just happens to be the perfect weight, size, and bounciness to hit indoors with our foot and a half long bats. Right now we are just taking turns at batting practice, but I do foresee this becoming a full-blown game with rules and bases and scoring and all that jazz.

Who knew miniature bats could be so much fun?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bored in the Bluegrass

So, things have been a little slow for me the last few days. I've managed to keep myself moderately entertained though, and I thought I'd pass on a few of the things I've been reading to cope.
First off: Wondermark! A comic mentioned by Ben at some point, and I, having nothing better to do, read all 419 of them in a day or two. It's a fun little comic, no recurring characters or storyline to follow. Feel free to jump around. My favorites seem to be between 200 and 400. :-)
Second: Today, while there was no work to be done at the office, I read all 75 strips of Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life. It's a bit philosophical, and amusing. And though not the best webcomic out there, I enjoyed it.
Also, if you're a reader of books as well as blogs, you might like You can find books you've read and review then, and keep your running list of books you'd like to read. Of course, you can also find reviews from other people, find new books, chat with authors, and compare books with friends. If you join up, feel free to look for and friend me. I can make lots of good suggestions about books about Egypt or sci-fi/fantasy. :-)
And, if you have myspace, make me feel good about myself and friend the Center for Nonprofit Excellence?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

An Incredible Urinal Experience

The 21C Museum Hotel in downtown Louisville features the Modern Art's unusual and awesome, and clearly, if you host awesome art, you need awesome bathrooms. The men's restroom off the lobby was nominated as America's Best Restroom 2008. It features one trough-like urinal in which patrons release themselves into a waterfall flowing down a one-way mirror. While I peed, I watched hotel and museum patrons watch me. They smiled, they waved, they clawed at the's pretty extreme. Also, the mirror above the sinks has little video screens built into it, each showing a pair of eyes. And they just watch you. Forever.

And the 21C's mascot: a red emperor penguin. This made Steve a very happy man.

Red Sox Suck

Yesterday was "City View" day, an (mandatory) opportunity to take a tour of Louisville because it's easy to be in a city for a month (or to live here) and never really see the sights. It was also a day off work (woot!), but a very long and tiring day, nonetheless. We got up for a 7:30 breakfast and carpooled downtown to Actors Theatre of Louisville where we received a tour of the theatre, which has hosted a respectable list of future Hollywood stars (the only one that comes to mind right now, though, is Kevin Bacon). We walked through the stages, toured the backstage areas, the dressing rooms, the workshop, and the restaurant. What was most impressive was learning how involved the community volunteers were in the theatre, with over 900 active volunteers. Unlike larger cities like New York, where actors could audition and seek further employment during the daytime and perform their current gig at night, Louisville doesn't really have much opportunity for aspiring actors. Instead, the theatre attracts actors by offering second-to-none hospitality. The volunteers cook meals for the actors for every show, organize dinners and parties, and even take them around the city to run mundane errands if needed.

After a (sorta) quick (but necessary) stop for coffee, we walked to the Louisville Slugger Museum. There, we took a grand tour of the factory and watched as famous "Louisville Sluggers" were made. A process that used to take 30 minutes, carving a bat out of a cylinder of wood now took a mere 30 seconds (50 seconds for MLB bats). According to the tour guide, Louisville Slugger has had over 8,500 contracts with MLB players over the years (creating bats specific to their specifications on wood type, length, weight, etc. along with their signature engraved into the bat) and accounts for 60% of the current market (both minor and major league). As a baseball lover, this tour was especially awesome (minus the tour guide passing around a Manny Ramirez bat for show). I love baseball.

Next was a stop at the future site of Museum Plaza, an ambitious project to create a hotel, office space, retail space, and residential space all in one massive building that will tower the Louisville skyline. A two-bedroom condo on some lower-numbered floor is set to sell for $250,000 - and it only climbs from there to $2.5 million condos that take up the entire floor. And don't forget the $5 million two-story penthouses at the very top of the 61-floor building. Personally, I'm a little skeptical of the project. On one hand, I don't know if there is enough interest to fill x-hundred lofts in this building just because of the limiting factor of Louisville's location. With Lexington and Cincinnati as the only two cities nearby, it doesn't seem like the well-off will be flocking to Louisville in droves to live. On the other hand, even if they do, there isn't much of downtown in terms of residential living (which is probably part of why they want to build this building in the first place). Although downtown has many business areas, along with museums, government centers, etc. because there isn't an existing downtown residential district, there aren't in place the necessities that go with it - such as a grocery store, dry cleaners, retail stores, etc. So while people may move downtown...there doesn't seem to be much to do downtown (and you can only go to museums so many times). But who knows, maybe this project will help stimulate the downtown economy?

The afternoon was spent at the Muhammad Ali Center, an entire building dedicated to the great fighter not only for his actions inside the ring, but for his presence in society - a successful boxer during the civil rights movement, his conversion to the Nation of Islam, his refusal to fight in the Vietnam war, his humanitarian trips to spread peace, and his life with Parkinson's. It was a very impressive center, using his life as inspiration and motivation for others to have the same dedication, conviction, and spirituality in achieving peace and success in their own lives.
Lastly, we stopped by the courtroom of Judge (and Bulldog mentor) Mitch Perry, who spoke to us about the Kentucky legal system as well as answered questions about his personal life, how he became a lawyer, then judge, and what life was like for a circuit judge for the state. It was a good way to end the day, learning about the realities of the legal system and the people that go through it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

good karma

There is so much good karma in this city! I'm sitting at the coffee shop working/being on the internet, and a small group of people walk in carrying ice cream and an enormous cake. It seems that someone in the local bipolar support group is having a birthday, so the rest of the group brought enough sweets to feed the entire (not small) population of the coffee shop. It's homemade carrot cake and good ice cream, and some people definitely get major good-karma-points for sharing with strangers.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Steve and I are so domestic. Today, we cleaned our tub after it clogged up and regurgitated. We bonded much.

Also, after numerous reports from the female contingent that our room smelled like dirty boy, we bought ourselves Super Odor Killer. Then, our room had the faint scent of deodorant, so we invested in After the Rain and ended up with a smell reminiscent of fabric softener. Recently, decided to try some Citrus Sunburst, and now everyone is happy.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tall Man

Today at mass, I met a tall man. He was sitting in the pew behind me and Nick Krug. He was at least 7 1/2 ft tall, perhaps more in the 8 ft range. He may be the tallest person I've seen. Ever.


Saturday, June 21, 2008


Just in case you missed this brilliant bit of acting. I just got this today.

We are Champions 4 Her

This morning Katie, Chris, and I woke up far earlier than we would have liked to participate in the Champions 4 Her 5k walk and run. The event was held to raise money for ten area organizations that support women and women's issues, so it was pretty cool. Chris proved to the world today that he is, in fact, a BAMF coming in with a time just over 20 minutes. Katie and I like to the think that we won the walking part of the 5k, with our time of 50 minutes. Not bad considering we walked all the way to Indiana and back (my first time there!). Afterwards, we went to a Waffle House in Indiana (Katie's first time at that fine establishment), and then I went to sleep until 2pm. All in all, a pretty good morning.

Update! Chris is more badass than originally thought. He won first in his age group! Go Chris go!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Heine Brothers

So, I thought I'd write a little bit about the coffee shop near Bellarmine where I hang out. It's about 15-20 minutes walking from our dorm. Down a hill, up a hill, and then mostly flat through a pretty neighborhood. I like to come up here to a) get off campus a little bit, and b) get work done. Yep, work. I've been working a lot on fellowship applications, GRE math, and tonight, I finally started to teach myself Coptic!

On the walk over here, there are two sweet pieces of sculpture, which really make the walk a lot more enjoyable. It's part of the mood of Louisville that I really appreciate: open, kind of weird, and totally non-judgmental. While that's certainly not universal, who of my Northern readers expected me to meet all kinds of activists, work with a the queer captain of a roller derby team, go to an enormous gay club with the nation's #1 drag show, etc, etc? I certainly didn't expect it!
Heine Brothers itself is a local coffee chain. There are now seven branches of Heine Brothers Coffee throughout Louisville. They sell all organic, fair trade coffee and tea, and a lot of it is shade grown. They're extremely green: my favorite green feature is the coreless toilet paper in the bathroom. They're also pretty particular about coffee and tea. As a tea drinker before a coffee drinker, I appreciate the care they take in making tea. They use loose leaf tea, properly hot (not just HOT!) water, and they steep the tea for you, calling you when the tea is ready and taking out the leaves. This means you can't just get distracted and way over steep your tea (something I do basically every time). I'm a big fan.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Chris is writhing in pain

Chris got off early from work today. Being the smart boy he is, he decided to lay out in the sun to get a tan. However, he fell asleep out in the hot burning Louisville sun. Now his back looks like a lobster. Painful for him, but hilarious as hell for all the rest of us. I'd put up a picture, but I'm afraid it make break my camera. Ben, Chris's roommate, said his back reminded him of reptile skin, and it's kind of true. Poor Chris, have you learned your lesson about tanning without sunscreen now?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sometimes I Just Feel Confused

Today, my boss Rowan and I traveled to Frankfort, Kentucky's capital, to meet with some of the people at the Educational Professional Standards Board. He's trying to start a new initiative with Teach Kentucky that aims to attract highly qualified candidates to teach in Kentucky by providing them with $5000 scholarships towards their Master's degree in teaching if they score in the top 25th percentile nationally on the Praxis exam, the teacher certification exam. Pretty sweet idea, right? I think so, Rowan thinks so, and the people at EPSB said they though it was an excellent idea as well if he can find funding for it. So why then does Rowan come out of the meeting with the impression that these people are completely against him and are pushing back against what he's trying to do? It oftentimes seems that he thinks that people are attacking him, but I am either entirely missing these social cues or he's being a bit paranoid. Either way, it makes for a stressful environment for me where I'm afraid to criticize any of his ideas (many of which could use a little constructive criticism) for fear of being labeled as someone who is "against" him. Alas, a least it is just a summer job.

Where Kids Get Help...FAST

This summer, I'm working with National Safe Place. NSP is a national, non-profit organization aimed at creating a national network of 'safe places' where kids can readily go to in a crisis situation. These situations can be anything from being lost or separated from a parent, being a runaway, getting kicked out of the house, escaping an abusive (physical, sexual, emotional) household, etc. These sites, which range from fire departments to libraries to fast food places, are marked by the black and yellow Safe Place sign. There, the personnel contact the local agency (or 911 depending on the immediate severity of the situation), who sends a volunteer or staff to meet with the kid and, if they want, bring them back to the agency (usually an organization with youth-orientated services and programs - like a runaway shelter or YMCA - that was recruited to double as a Safe Place agency/shelter). Through Project Safe Place, kids can receive immediate shelter and protection, counseling if they just someone to talk to, and services to help mend situations in the home. Project Safe Place is currently in 41 states with 144 agencies with their share of 17,000 safe place sites.

Safe Place was originally a program started by the local YMCA of Louisville, but has become its own non-profit organization that still has ties to the YMCA of Greater Louisville. Within Louisville in particular, Safe Place (i.e. the YMCA shelter house) is an alternative to the detention center to bring kids for non-violent offenses. NSP, where I work, is located next to a YMCA shelter house that serves as the agency for Louisville. I've been around the facilities (I don't think any of its current residents - kids - are there for Safe Place specifically, but by other means - voluntarily/through the state system - for family counseling, etc.), but I mostly work in the NSP building where the program itself (on a national scale) is monitored rather than at an actual Safe Place agency. I did sit in on the weekly case meeting at the YMCA, where they go over the case files of all dozen kids that are living in the shelter. It was very interesting to listen to the problems a lot of these kids have in their homes, especially how the case managers (out of public ear) talk so frankly about the problems of these kids, their parents, and the system.

While social work in particular isn't what I see myself doing (or, at this point, dream of doing), being involved in this type of organization is good exposure to youths whose development are affected by a multitude of factors and what kind of work is being done to prevent and address these issues. Though my principle interests lie in the realm of developmental psychology and developmental disorders, society is hardly a sterile, controlled laboratory setting, but rather a dynamic entity whose components and problems cannot possibly be teased apart from one another.

And yes, Chris worked this job the last time he was down here. And yes, they've stopped talking all about him all the time. But he should come visit so they can stop asking me when he's gonna stop by and say hi to his former employers. Ok, Chris? Good.



"As we were leaving, Chris said to me, "God, Katie! Why do you have to be such a vice?" It summed up the message of the sermon pretty well.... "

My two cents: I disagree. I do not believe the principle message of the sermon was to reinforce traditional gender role or to promote an image of women as being temptresses, vices, or sluts. Nor was it to say that women should be in the kitchen or at home raising the kids. That is not to say that there weren't gender roles promoted in the sermon (after all, it is a conservative, evangelical movement - but no more so than other non-mega churches out there, in my opinion). The message was skewed by the fact that it was for Father's Day and thus, directed to fathers. And in that sermon, fidelity was preached for men: to stay loyal to your wife and true love and not to succumb to the temptations of lust. Hell, if anything, the sermon was blaming men for being weak-willed. Nothing was said about women being temptresses out there with the goal of seducing and corrupting good-hearted Christian men. What was said was to avoid temptation (which was a bit much when he said to avoid cable TV for fear of sex - but then again, I'm not a member of this church for a reason). The ministers did not say anything that could not be applied to women as well. To stay loyal and avoid temptation? Pretty universal - even if they emphasized different topics for men and women. So yes, the topic targeted men specifically and a Mother's Day sermon would've focused around nurturing and care giving. But is that so grossly unjust considering the unique position and role that women have in an infant/child's development - or that rates of extramarital affairs are significantly higher among married men than married women? If you want to talk about why such differences exist, then that's an entirely different conversation. Or, in another issue targeted toward men, that the vast majority of people that watch porn are men (like this actually has to get justified by a statistic)? Personally, I don't think so, but then again, I have a penis, which is already a strike against me.

Also, there was a ride at Six Flags called 'Chang.' It had a yellow track.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Better know a district

Today we met with John Yarmuth, representative from Kentucky's "Fightin' 3rd". He's Yale '70, and he spent over two hours taking questions from a room full of college students who can't even vote in his district. Awesome! And instead of talking about policy or something, I'll just share with you his segment from Better Know a District.

Kung Fu Fighting

Art class was just awesome. Two of my boys had been continually provoking each other all morning, and one finally snapped just before noon. I'd kept on them with verbal redirections, but it didn't really work. Yeah.

One boy started throwing the punches halfway through 4th period. I jumped between them and got a nice fist to my left temple. I pushed the two apart and restrained the boy who had let out the first punch in a standing upper torso restraint until more staff arrived and helped me remove him from the class.

I love my job.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Six Flags... over Jesus

So, I thought that pairing a weekend visit to Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom (which features six flags that have flown over Louisville... can you name them?) with a visit to Six Flags Over Jesus. Of course, the members of Southeast Christian Church don't identify it that way, but it is widely known in Louisville that way, as well as derisively called that on liberal blogs. (Like this one.)
According to Wikipedia, SCC is the 6th largest church in the country, and the only part of that I find hard to swallow is that there could be 5 churches larger. It has a very extensive campus, complete with Worship Center and fitness center. We entered through vast parking lots, and then into the church though the Atrium, which looked like an airport terminal, or a convention center, or a casino/hotel. From there, we proceeded up a few escalators up to our balcony seats in the Worship Center. The sanctuary was enormous; more like a basketball arena than any church I've ever been to. The program we were given (which contained no program notes for the service; there was nothing to follow along with. The words to songs were given on the jumbotrons...) gave attendace and donation statistics for last week.
Worship attendance, June 2-8: 15,355.
General Offering, June 2-8: $645,177.
I couldn't wait; I pulled out my cell phone calculator right there in the sanctuary to do a little bit of division... it comes out to more than $42 per person. And when you consider that counts children, families, and people who don't give, like visitors... that's absurd. And when you further consider that it doesn't count $11,000 for "Making Room for More" and $27,000 for the building fund... wow. Just wow.
The service felt very much like a Christian rock concert; it was not formal or ritualized in any way. It was a notable change from most churches; there's no procession, no prayer book, no liturgy, no symbols or pictures. In a way, the lack of ritual or tradition is kind of refreshing; it's nothing but someone offering a moral perspective and a fairly direct access to scripture and Jesus. So I can certainly understand the appeal of the church, as well as the huge community and the vast resources available to members. (And, in a side note, the more restraints placed on a religious community, the better it seems to do. See this article in the Economist on the science and economics of religion. Maybe that explains some of the success of SCC?)
The whole service was a bit over an hour. That included a few modern Christian songs that I hesitate to call hymns, a few informal and even improvised prayers (but nothing standard, even the Our Father). There was also a baptism; they have a full swimming pool in the sanctuary for immersions. I liked the way they did it-- not flashy at all, but just with the words advocated in Matthew 28:19. "I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."
The sermon was long, and took up most of the service time. They did a Sportscenter-themed sermon for Father's Day, so I suppose it wasn't exactly typical. A lot of the material was randomly plucked from Proverbs, with few enough references to the New Testament. Most of it was pretty generally agreeable family-type stuff, but I cannot let the opportunity pass without remarking on the advice that fathers should give encouraging words to their children. "Tell your sons that they can achieve anything. Tell your daughters that they are beautiful." And so on... the idea of gender roles, in very traditional patterns, was quite prevalent, oppressive to me at least. And from their newspaper, Chris found a session to help him "recover from homosexuality" run by the lovely people at Crossover Ministries.
As we were leaving, Chris said to me, "God, Katie! Why do you have to be such a vice?" It summed up the message of the sermon pretty well....

Six Flags over Louisville: Louisville, Lousville Metro/Jefferson County, Kentucky, Virginia, USA, UK.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Men Triumphant

Tonight, we decided to switch up traditional gender roles and reinforce our profound masculinity: we men cooked for our ladies. Steve, Nick Krug and I grilled bacon cheeseburgers and corn-on-the-cob for a few of the gals here in the Bluegrass. Dessert included seedless watermelon and lemon strawberry cake. It was yummy.

Go us.


Six Flags!

Wee! Today we went to Six Flags, and it was quite teh fun. We went on roller coasters, some of us splashed around in the water park, and ate overpriced amusement park food. Good times were had by all, and I must say that I am getting quite a bit browner from all this time in the sun. Best part of the day - when we were leaving the park and I saw Bugs Bunny! I ran up to him and gave him a big hug and told him he was my favorite. I know underneath the suit it's probably just some sketchy guy who hates his job, but my suspension of belief allowed me to live in the moment and derive great joy from the occasion. Tonight - bacon cheeseburgers! Tomorrow - Six Flags Over Jesus, the Louisville mega-church!

Friday, June 13, 2008


Tonight, we went to a gay bar, gay bar, gay bar! Connection is Louisville's Premier Gay Club, and saw the Nation's #1 drag show, LaBoy LeFemme. At some point, when I'm not about to fall over from exhaustion, I think I will write more about it. But suffice it to say that the bathrooms were as...flexible... as the rest of the club.

UPDATE: June 14, 2008 10:30 pm
A little more about Connection... It was a pretty huge club, but very sparsely populated. Basically, all the action in the whole place was in the theater, which held the drag show. There was really no one dancing, despite the amazing raised x-shaped platform in the middle of the floor. When we decided to dance, we got the whole Bulldogs crew, all 12 of us, up on the x getting the party started! I've been told it's much more entertaining on Saturday nights.
The drag show was pretty worth it, though. Between my $5 cover and $5 beer, it was a good deal for the dancing and singing drag queens. In what was far-and-away the most priceless moment of the evening Chris and another Bulldog went up to the front with singles for Mokha, and Chris sort of beckoned her* down and playfully put the dollar in her bra. Many of the performers left very very little, if anything, to the imagination. Rebecca was able to do some field research on nipple clips also. They are better women than I will ever be, but granted, they do work much much harder at it than I do.

*A note on pronouns: while I can only guess at the sex of the people on stage, since they chose to take women's names and dress, I think that they opted, at least for the evening, for the female gender.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Summer School

It's been a pretty rough week thus far at Brooklawn. The boys are restless. None of them want to be in summer school, and, really, who can blame 'em? Summer's warmth and sunshine stares them in the face. It taunts them and reminds them that their lives aren't normal. They can't take summer off, sleep in and play around all day, every day. They can't have that luxury, and ya know, it must really suck. Also, most of them are morally opposed to the concept of school. Yeah, generally, it's not really their thing.

One kid in my class has been particularly bitter, and let's the entire staff know it. His attention span isn't exactly in the realm of the positive, and any respect for his teachers and classmates went down the toilet last Thursday. On Monday, he took his frustrations out on another boy in the class, taunting him more incessantly as the periods came and went. Finally, in Art around noon, the boy snapped and picked up a chair, ready to toss it at his aggressor. I convinced him to put the chair down and leave the room to take a Time Out, but it was scary. These boys don't mess, and I have to learn not to mess either.

The next day, a fight nearly broke out in my unit just after lunch. I and a couple other staffers intervened, and prevented an outbreak, but the afternoon was not pleasant. The atmosphere in the unit was tense. Rumors were flying right and left about this and that. Allegations were made here and there by everyone about everyone. It was fun times.

And today...oh today... Today, I had to ground a kid for extreme defiance, meaning put him on restrictions for two days. More than ground him, though, I had to have him removed from class. Suffice it to say, it was not fun. I had to get three other staffers to help me convince him to leave peacefully, but eventually he did. So, I experienced my first crisis situation and gave out my first grounding. I'm still trying to process the whole situation. I did some things right, and I did a lot more wrong. Overall, though, I learned a lot, and I think my backbone got a little thicker.


This Is What I've Learned

From very wise men with very wise advice.

So please. Perform self-examinations monthly.

Rock on (with a healthy grundle).


On Life Lessons

Bulldogs in the Bluegrass is a pretty well developed program. Which isn't really surprising when you consider that it's been fine-tuned over ten years, and is still very actively led by the same visionary guy who founded the whole shebang. And the way the program is constructed, there is a big focus here on life lessons.
That might sound kind of patronizing, which isn't how I mean it. It does strike me as something I would have been more gung-ho about had I been a Bulldog the summer after freshman year, but it also seems to me that I'm more ready to listen to the lessons right now. For the last few months, I've been thinking a lot about the Future. Those thought processes have been active enough, thinking about who I am, who I want to be, etc, that the explicit advice given to the group by old guys wanting to pass on the things they've learned in their 60+ years in business make sense to me, in so far as they can.
I bring this up because the weekly Wednesday lunch for Bulldogs, employers, and mentors featured the founder of Humana. David Jones, Sr. is an absurdly wealthy man; he built Humana from scratch and essentially by accident, starting with no experience and making a long series of shrewd investments, eventually making his fortune as well as his Fortune 500 company. So, when today he diverged from the proscribed topic of pensions (actually, rather more interesting than it sounds), he decided to impart his wisdom to us. Considering his record, not only of building a successful business, but also a philanthropic track record to be admired and emulated and raising what is by all accounts an incredibly functional family (even leaving aside the issues of wealth, privilege, and inheritance). So his lessons of integrity first, followed by a focus on the family, really rang true. You can't lead without integrity, and you really can't do much of anything without some kind of grounding force. What better, says Mr. Jones, than family for that? After that, establish clarity in your goals, make sure everyone knows what side they're on and what position they play, and then thank people for helping you. Education means learning how to communicate, so use that well.
These life lessons are in essence, the same ones that have been given to us over and over again since we arrived in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Serve others, treat them with respect, know who you are and what you want. A man is only as good as his word, develop the relationships with people. It's all about the people. Don't get so caught up in what you do so as to lose who you are, or who the people who matter to you are.
We've gotten this speech, in one form or another, from Rowan, from David Jones, Sr, from mentors and employers, from alums who graduated before anyone thought to admit women to Yale. And as is always the case with advice, no one listens until they want to hear it. So I guess the message is, listen up. People want to give you advice, and it's probably good stuff. I respect David Jones, Sr, and so his giving us his attention, his time, and his advice, which seems like uncommonly good common sense, seems like a good deal. Now, throw in some serendipity and a good chance to practice those new skills, and bam! Instant life success.
Or maybe just better perspective.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

No Comment

Um, I did a bad, bad thing tonight. I put the child safety locks on in Chris' car so that when we got back home a certain two ladies happened to be in the back seat.

Then we ran.

And locked our doors.

And hid under the covers.


Seeing the sights, mommy and mommy

That is to say, your mommy (me) and my mommy.
My mom drove down from Chicago on Friday after work and spent the weekend hanging out with me here in Louisville. It was a very nice weekend, and gave me a really good chance/excuse to go out and see the sights.
Friday: Every first Friday of the month, there is a free "trolley hop". It took us a while to figure out what they meant, but it turned out to be the same trolleys that run like busses downtown are free, and run a special route that connects a lot of art galleries, shops, and restaurants.
Most of the galleries were having openings or other events, and Rowan had a table at a neat restaurant and kept ordering us all food. I met an artist from around here who packed up with her husband and moved to Pakistan. She paints (well, it's kind of mixed media... acrylics and collage and textiles) and her husband teaches at a university in Islamabad. I got to talk to him for a few minutes; he studies gender theory in the military, and as he pointed out, Pakistan seems to be an excellent place to study both of those things. Other galleries had more paintings, or sound art, or video installations. It was very contemporary and cool. Anyway, we saw a lot of art, and all of it was pretty good. I was very impressed.
Saturday: Absurdly early in the morning, we got up and went for a "backside tour" of Churchill Downs. (No, not like that... "backside" refers to the behind the scenes area, where the stables are, training areas, etc. It's the opposite of "frontside", which is where all the visitors go to watch, drink, and gamble.)

Over 1,000 horses are stabled there, and the ratio of staff to horse is about 1:1 on the backside. That doesn't count people on the frontside, in PR, marketing, serving customers, tellers, ushers, etc. So that means about 1,000 people, "mostly Hispanics" take care of 1,000 horses. The part that I thought was the most interesting (and offensive) was the human side of the operation. The workers make about $500 a month, and often live in barracks on the grounds which are small, though they looked new and clean. They often move from track to track with horses, and work only 11 months out of the year. Yep, that's an annual salary of less than $6,000, and often, both husband and wife work on the backside. Our tour guide was boasting about all the recent improvements for life on the backside: a brand new Christian center and church, an ESL/GED classroom, and new barracks. Mostly, the improvements he described just made it seem a whole lot worse, and made the whole thing kind of odious. (Well, more than horse racing already seemed to me...) People spend so much money on horses, including paying these workers so much to care for the horses and no one pays much attention to the people involved. When you consider the vast sums spent on trainers, jockeys, breeding, boarding, etc, the human costs are very much left behind.

After that, I met up with my mom for a late lunch and some shopping. We went to the Bluegrass Brewing Company for lunch, where mom had a hot brown. It's a local specialty, and a very unique meal. I'm glad I got to try it, but it's enough cholesterol for instadeath. We poked around downtown, went to Glassworks and 4th Street Live (not very exciting during the day) and came back to watch the very disappointing Belmont Stakes with the rest of the YPMB crew. After that, we went to another local institution, the Homemade Ice Cream & Pie Kitchen. Their homemade ice cream and pie is amazingly good... most of my most accurate comparisons are not rated G. Kentucky sure is filled with great food!

Sunday: Mom and I went to Highland Presbyterian Church this morning to hear my mentor, Rev. Dr. Fairfax Fair, preach, and then headed over to Lynn's Paradise Café for brunch. So delicious! And from there, I discovered a game store, and then Chris, Rebecca, mom and I went to Churchill Downs (again) to play the ponies! I won a whopping $1.30 but then again, I am pretty risk-averse... Mom just left a little while ago (though she had to backtrack about an hour to return my cell phone, which I thoughtlessly left in her car) and in a little while, we're all going over to Steve's mentor's house for dinner. Yum!

Praise Jesus

We went to St. Paul United Methodist Church today for 11 AM services. I'd never been a Methodist service and didn't know what to expect. When we got there, we entered the chapel, greeted by the sounds of the seven member University of Louisville Trumpet Ensemble doing one helluva jazzy opening to services. The only other tidbit of note is that when services ended, I was greeted by a woman asking me who I was, if I was new to the area, how I'd come to pick their church, etc. which was fine...except she was asking only me and not Chris or Becca who were standing behind me in the pew. Then, as we leave, I get stopped by another elderly woman asking the same questions. And when I do leave, the pastor shakes my hand as he does everyone else, but then stops me to ask me name and tell me that he hopes that I join them again, etc. Outside, we get lemonade and cookies and I'm greeted (accosted) by yet another woman! Chris and Becca found this hysterical.

Can you guess who was the only non-white in the 200-ish congregation today? You get a cookie if you can.

As Becca says: "The eleven o'clock hour on Sunday is the most segregated hour in the U.S."



Saturday, June 7, 2008

Summer Reading

So I just got my Louisville Free Public Library card today, and what I need from you, dear mystery reader, are book recommendations. What's your favorite book? What should I be reading this summer? Help is needed!

Friday, June 6, 2008

New Friends

WOOT bonding with non-YPMB Bulldogs! In the 25 or so minutes it took us to drive from downtown to the dorm, we discussed such topics as sex on pogo sticks and urinary tract infections. It was fun times.


Not a High School Musical

Summer school for the Brooklawn boys started Thursday (and I started going in at 7 am...blah). I'm assigned to High School 4, a group of 9 guys in the 9th grade. My job is to supervise their classes and try to keep the horseplay, yeah, the whole "having authority" thing is a work in progress, but it's getting there. They actually do listen to me for the most part, so life's not too bad. Their schedule includes Gym, Science, Social Science, and Art. Overall, it's a fun time.

I have a couple frustrations, though. Forgive the ranting.
1) The Social Science class is very poorly taught. The teacher is a sub for the summer, and I feel like he's really got these kids wrong. Yeah, fine, a lot of them do have lower-than-average IQs, but that doesn't mean they can't learn. He doesn't even seem to be trying to teach them anything. Classes have included useless crossword puzzles and piss-poor movies that put everyone to sleep. TEACH THEM! Don't give up on them. Enough people in their lives already have.
2) I have a boy who's regressing. He's in my unit and my class. Before school started, I thought he was a model kid. That's far from the case now. He's very disruptive in class, and what's worse, he's a leader and a person many other boys look up to as a role model. He's also on track to go to public school off-campus in the fall, but if he can't pull it together in summer school, if he can't focus and stay on task, it's not going to happen. I know he's really frustrated right now (the only reason he's still at Brooklawn and in state custody is because his father can't pull himself together), but he's needs to pull himself together or all the progress he's made will have been for naught. I'm going to talk to him Monday morning before school. I hope he'll listen.



So ends Week 2 of work here in Louisville. Main thing I've learned: I like establishment. I'm working for the founder of the Bulldogs Across America program and Teach Kentucky, a two-year teaching program that puts recent college grads into Kentucky schools, mostly in the Louisville area. They're both cool programs, although it has taken a while for me to warm up to Teach Kentucky.

The problem for me is how tenuous everything seems. Bulldogs and Teach Kentucky are basically run by two people (plus me) out of their homes. As much as I enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of working out of the dorm and coffee shops and being able to wear whatever I want to work in, sometimes I wish it were a little more professional and I had an office to go to and come home from every day. Bulldogs is definitely going in a good direction and is adding new cities next summer, but I have serious doubts as to the long-term viability of Teach Kentucky. Actually seeing how these ventures work from the backside is rather ugly and stresses me out. I guess I've been at Yale too long. There, everything is sleek, there's enough money to bribe God for good weather on Bulldog Days, and you never have to see the ugly side of the business of Yale. It has definitely given me unrealistic expectations of what it is actually like to run something.

Well, I guess there goes my entrepreneurial dream if I ever had one. Sorry for the rambling; I guess it's just been a long week.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Nom nom indeed

Y'all have too much time on your hands. But thus, Nom nom needs to be shared.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Whacking what?

Steve: You put your hand there just as I was whacking!
Rebecca: Yeah, because you were whacking it!

Chris Young-isms #1

On our road trip down from the 'Have, we stopped at a McDonald's for lunch. Ahem:

Chris: And can I get a cheeseburger from the dollar menu?
Cashier: Do you want a double cheeseburger instead? It's the same price.
Chris: Um, what's the difference?
Cashier: Well, a double cheeseburger has two patties instead of one.
Chris [thinking]: Uh, I'll just take the cheeseburger.

And then we go to get ice cream immediately afterwards:

[woman hands Chris an ice cream cone with two scoops of sherbet]
Chris: Excuse me, ma'am. I don't think this one is mine.
Waitress [looking at receipt]: I think so - you ordered a double scoop of sherbet, right?
Chris: Oh, I didn't know it came with two scoops.

And [though sadly unrelated] then on Sunday night in the dorm:

Chris [walking into the populated common room]: I need a teabag.
Brittany [looking at Chris quizzically and then with realization]: Oh! That kind of teabag. Yea, I have one in my room.

Keep on rockin' it [with a new penguin hat!].


Monday, June 2, 2008

Success! The certification exam has been conquered (HUZZAH!!), and I have my assignment: Wagner unit and its 14 teenage boys.

Wagner boys range in age from 12 or 13 up to 17. Most seem pretty chill. From what the staff tells me, their last restraint was about two weeks ago, and before then, they'd had a two-month stretch with no holds necessary. This past academic year, there were only 4 incidents where SCM had to be used on them in the school. Impressive. Most impressive.

That being said, the boys definitely have their issues and aggressive tendencies, and most come from really disturbing family situations. Like most it seems, one guy in my unit comes from a background of sexual abuse and drug-addicted parents. He is also a father. He's in his mid-teens. His goal is get out of Brooklawn soon and get a job to support his family. He's battled with behavioral and emotional issues, mostly anger management...and if I were him, I probably would, too. I honestly don't know how someone could deal with what he's been through in his life, and I don't really understand how anyone could do what they did to him. He's one story.

I didn't see much in terms of anger this afternoon...actually, the boys mostly just stayed in their rooms or played X-Box in the common room...but that doesn't mean it's not there. They're angry boys. They've had hard lifes, and they're learning to deal with a world that hasn't been very good to them.

I'm looking forward to Day 2.


Steve's Misconceptions

Today, we found out that Steve thinks that chickens make milk. That's right, Steve thought that chickens had nipples. Hopefully, there will be further updates of misconceptions from the Y chromosome contingent as the summer progresses.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

My Boys: Week 1

'sup Reader,

Tomorrow's a big day. Tomorrow at noon, I meet my boys.

Since last Tuesday, I've been counselor-in-training Chris at Brooklawn Child and Family Services, a residential counseling facility that hosts boys ages 6-171 with behavioral, emotional, and social difficulties, due mostly (but not entirely) to shitty parenting. After completing a short written exam in the morning, I'll receive my assignment to one of Brooklawn's 10 cottages. I'm not gonna lie to you, I'm kinda terrified, but it's a good kinda terrified...I think...

The majority of my training has involved learning verbal and non-verbal anti-aggression tactics. Ideally, I'll be able to calm down any youth without having to resort to restraint or seclusion, but that probably won't be the case...yeah... Hence, part of training included Safe Crisis Management (SCM), handy and safe restraint techniques I can use on the boys. I passed my SCM skill set on Friday, so in theory I'm totally set, but I'm me, so that's an automatic negative. Also, it they find out I'm ticklish, I'm just screwed.

I haven't had a chance to really meet the kids yet, but I've spent my 30-minute lunch breaks talking with some of them. The ones that stick out most in my mind are a teen with schizophrenia; a boy who wants to be a zoologist specializing in reptiles (he was really keen on the crocs); and a young tyke who doesn't say much (I actually don't think I've ever heard him say anything), but who without fail will take my tray at the end of lunch. He doesn't have to help me. The senior staff thinks he's doing it for extra points towards completing his STEPS2 requirement for the day. Regardless, I appreciate it.

By far, the highlight of the week was lunch Friday. I was getting up to leave, and I noticed a boy in a "Soulja Boy" t-shirt. I don't really contain excitement, so I exclaimed, "Ah! 'Soulja Boy'! YOUUU!!!!" He yelled back "YOUUU!!!" and broke out in a perfect rendition of the dance smack in the middle of the cafeteria. It was epic.

Alright, it's study time. Catch y'all later!


1 Rarely, a teen chooses to extend his time as a ward of the state until his 21st birthday, meaning Brooklawn can serve him for an additional 3 years.

2 STEPS stands for Strategies Toward Effective Problem Solving. It's a program designed to help our boys modify their behavior so as to be more socially appropriate (i.e. it teaches them to better control their emotions, predominantly anger).

Picnicing in Willow Park

Adding to the list of fun things that we've done so far, tonight we had a mentor picnic in Willow Park, which is really a tiny little off-shoot of a much bigger park. Cherokee Park (the big one) was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the same landscape architect who designed Central Park in New York City. It looks a little like Central Park, and one of my co-workers mentioned that it serves a lot of the same functions, though not quite as centrally.
Anyway, tonight a little band called Caribbean Conspiracy played at Willow Park. As far as any of us could tell, the band was composed solely of old white guys, and it wasn't very Caribbean sounding. But it was great background music for meeting mentors.
Each mentor is a somebody in the Louisville community, and it's pretty amazing the kind of talent that Rowan Claypool, DC '80 (the founder of all the Bulldogs internship programs) is able to muster. He knows absolutely everyone and gets them all excited for the program, as well as for Teach Kentucky, his other brainchild. He's got judges and politicians, lawyers, real estate geniuses, random Yale alums. My mentor is a Presbyterian minister named Fairfax Fair, and she seems really interesting. She tells me that one of her parishioners is very interested in Egyptology, and that she's going to take both of us to lunch sometime and just listen as we go to town talking about Egypt.
Anyway, Rowan has gotten everybody really excited about this program, so people know who we are. He's made it a real community building project, and the whole city (which is friendly enough to feel like a town, despite being the 16th largest city in the US, larger than Seattle or Boston proper) is invested it in. Though Louisville only sends 3-4 students to Yale a year, 30 or more come every summer, and in the 10 years since he started the program, over 30 have moved to Louisville and are now active Louisvillians. We've met a few, and it really is a great way to make a difference here. It's pretty exciting to be a part of it, and even though moving here after graduation seems unlikely for me personally, as Rowan told us tonight, "You're now Louisvillians for life."