Tag Archives: Geography

A [minor] Tragedy

Hi everyone,

I’m sure you’ve all been anxiously awaiting another posting since my first (and only) post over here in Oslo. Well – a few things about that. First, the team I am a part of has been extremely effective/busy, working roughly 40 hour work weeks, and the project is going quite well for now. So, on the one hand, research is great, and it has kept me away from writing down my thoughts for you to peruse.

Second, I may not get around to editing and uploading photos until after I get back to the states next week. (Yes, oddly enough, time is flying and I’ll be back in Tennessee late next Thursday. Crazy!) However, I think that photos are the best way for me to tell the story of the fun parts of the trip, so that may never end up in a blog format, but only as a photo essay on Facebook. I guess I’ve come to terms with Zuckerberg stealing the rights to my photos…because I stopped paying for a Flickr pro account after lack of use.

Second point five (2.5) – here comes the minor tragedy that befell me. Right before heading off on Friday to explore other parts of Norway (mainly some of the western fjords and Bergen), I had one of those situations that could have gone terribly wrong, but narrowly did not. (Anyone ever have those?) Just before leaving on Friday morning, I packed my entire camera backpack for the trip – removing the non-essentials, packing some food and clothing for the weekend, etc. I sat down at the desk in my room for a couple of minutes, and then *wham.* My backpack fell to the floor from a two-foot high bed. At first, I didn’t really think anything bad about this: my laptop wasn’t inside, and it has fallen from a bed before without any incident. Then I started to think to myself, “What if this was the one time things went wrong?”

It turns out, they did (sort of). I looked at how the bag fell, and sure enough, it was right on the camera compartment. I opened that section of the bag to find the lens cap to my 18-105mm zoom lens (my “everyday” lens, if you will) smashed in… And this was the point I thought was going to be really, really bad. I was able to pry the lens cap off, and through the mess of broken glass I found to my relief that the only glass that broke was the protective UV filter that every good SLR photographer knows to put on his/her lenses. *Whew.* Listening to my dad/Scott Kelby/every other photographer and photography book out there paid off big time: I only have to replace a ~$20 filter instead of a ~$400-500 lens. However, I wasn’t able to clean out all of the broken glass from underneath a plastic ring on the front of the lens, so I decided to just shoot the rest of the trip using my other lenses and have this lens professionally cleaned when I get back to the states. So, long story short – I shot almost all of the three-day weekend trip across Norway with the 35mm fixed lens I got for Christmas last year. (Thanks, Anita and Karen!) It turned out to be both fun and challenging to work that much with a lens that does not zoom, so in the end everything worked well.

Third, the trip this weekend to see other parts of Norway was an amazing adventure, and I wouldn’t have done it any other way. In brief, we took a train from Oslo to Myrdal, then hiked 21 km (basically a half marathon) down from Myrdal to Flåm all in one day. We spent the night at a youth hostel/camp ground in Flåm before waking up very sore and then taking a two-hour boat cruise through the Aurlandsfjord and the Nærøyfjord to the tiny town of Gudvangen. At Gudvangen we had lunch from a camp stove (better than it sounds, believe me), and that afternoon we took a bus to Voss and then another to Bergen. Up until the bus ride, the weather was quite nice with lukewarm temperatures and overcast skies. At some point on the bus ride to Voss, the rains poured forth and basically didn’t let up until we left Bergen. So we got to experience Bergen as it truly is: a city aptly nicknamed “The City of Rain.”

That’s all I really have time for at the moment, so you will have to wait until I find more spare time to write. I have one blog post of “Observations about Norway” waiting in my Moleskine, so that should be a quick update I can hammer out soon. Stay tuned!

NYC Day 1: Best AAG Ever?!

Hello from New York City!

It’s hard to believe it, but I think I’m in love with New York. Maybe because it’s such an awesome urban space, or because it’s such an iconic image of America, but regardless of the reason, I think New York is hard to beat. (And I’ve been wondering to myself all day: “Why did I wait almost 25 years to come here?”)

Another interesting observation right off the bat – these are my opinions of New York, and it has even been a cold, rainy day. But, hey, it beats Seattle…

Anyway, I thought I would report on how amazing the AAG conference has been so far. On a trip like this in the past, I would probably not be posting every day so if that trend continues, this may also be my ONLY post about AAG. We’ll see how it goes.

First thing about the AAG conference today – if all conferences were this fun and intellectually stimulating, I would go to them as often as possible. However, I think today is probably a statistical outlier, because I’m not sure that this many cool things usually happen at once. Perhaps a little more elaboration?

  • Registration at 10 am was painless. Whew.
  • After registering, Karen and I meandered over to Rockefeller Plaza to kill some time. We saw the LEGO store (Mecca?), the ice skating rink, the outsides of Radio City Music Hall and NBC Studios, and we strolled through parts of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s bookstore and Saks 5th Avenue.
  • When I went to sessions, Karen successfully had fun on her own looking at several places and shopping. She wasn’t kidnapped and didn’t get lost. Double Whew!
  • The first two conference sessions I attended, two discussions on the role of race in critical geography, were incredible. It was a near-perfect integration of a variety viewpoints from around the Geographic discipline and from outside fields like Ethnic Studies and American Studies. It had a good balance of young scholars’ perspectives and older, “big name,” professors. It had a nice balance of male, female, white, black, Asian, and Latino voices represented. Sure, that does mean that some voices were not included, but there were only 5-6 participants per session.
  • After these sessions came my presentation. The session was one of the last sessions of the day, which generally are not that well-attended, but I didn’t mind. There were about 25 people in the room, including my wife and the four other presenters, so that’s roughly an audience of 20. I’ve had bigger audiences at my first two professional conferences, but whatever. I decided to give this talk extemporaneously (Mrs. Freed and Dr. Collard at UTM would be proud) instead of read from my paper, and it went better than I expected. I finished in 12 minutes (out of 15 allotted).
  • After my session ended, the day really took a turn for the best. I set up a meeting with Dr. Ken Foote, professor at Univ. of Colorado and all around amazing scholar, by email before the conference. My advisor, Micheline, was one of his former students at Colorado, and she told him over the winter break about my thesis work. (My thesis is closely related to his research, as his book Shadowed Ground was the first thing I read to start my research.) He, Karen, and I got to talk for almost an hour. At the swanky VIP lounge of the New York Sheraton hotel. On the 44th floor. (!) The best part was that he was very friendly and down-to-earth. (And, oh, by the way, he also happens to be Past-President of the AAG. No big deal.)
  • After our meeting, the rain had basically dried up, so Karen and I strolled down Broadway to Times Square. I know that a Leftist scholar (generally opposed to capitalism) like me should probably have a different reaction to Times Square, but the place is completely mesmerizing, on a personal level, and fascinating, on a research-scholarly level. Too cool.

Even though I had to drop off my camera for repairs (more about that here), today may be hard to top for a long time…

Until next time my friends and loyal readers,

Shalom

Quick Post: NYC

[Note: For some reason, writing this on my iPad results in no apostrophes showing up online. My apologies in advance. First time Ive really tried this for a lengthy post.]

I keep having the idea to ask for suggestions on what to do on my first trip (ever!) to New York City next week. Karen and I will be flying there for the national AAG conference, and we will be there for about a week.

Weve already thought of several things to do while we are there, but Id love to hear more advice and suggestions from those of you New Yorkers (or at least NYC aficionados) out there. Although I will not have every hour of all seven days to do touristy things because Ill be at sessions, I do plan to get in as much as I can while there! Plus, Karen will have even more time, and shes looking for interesting things to do that arent too far from our hotel. (Were staying in the Upper West Side, a little more than half way up Central Park.)

Heres a list of the things we are planning to do together, time permitting:

Seeing Wicked at the Gershwin. Expensive, yet oh-so-schweet.
Touring midtown (conference hotels are a few blocks from Times Square/Rockefeller Plaza area)
Downtown/financial district area, also going to the Brooklyn Bridge
Harbor tour of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty
Running in Central Park
Coney Island??

Karen is also thinking of going to the Museum of Modern Art by herself, and maybe the zoo. Shes also going to hit up some vegetarian restaurants, perhaps without me… 😉

——
Conversation from earlier tonight, which reveals how Karen and I think differently:
Me: I think Ill check the [UT] library to see if they have any New York travel guides.
Karen: Umm… Theres this thing…called the Internet.
Me: Well, yeah, theres that. But I like to have a book where I can be surprised by whats listed.

So, people of the Internets, what else do you suggest? I may not have time to do it all, but I can always start a list for next time.

Less than week before we fly away!

Dissertation thoughts

Today was the day that I faced the demon known as comps. That’s comprehensive exams, for those who may be wondering. To be entirely honest, they were not as brutal as I thought they may be. I don’t think my committee members took it easy on me (I did write almost 4,500 words today), so maybe I was just well prepared. For that I have to thank my advisor Micheline van Riemsdijk for doing her job of, well, giving me good, sound advice.

So what do I want to do with the rest of my Friday? Well keep writing of course! I did tease everyone a week or two ago that I would divulge some details about my potential dissertation topic, so I was thinking of writing about that. Then I started thinking that academia is rather hyper-competitive these days, so I decided not to share. But then I figured that happiness lies in the middle, so I’ll divulge a little but not enough details that in the event that someone other than my closest friends and family actually reads this, and that individual happens to need a dissertation topic, and furthermore that individuals happens to be a geographer… Well, then they won’t be able to replicate my ideas and take all the academic glory (is there such a thing?) for themselves. In the interests of time, I will copy/paste some sections from what I’m currently working for class papers and Ph.D. applications for your perusal. Feel free to ask me questions in the comments section below.

Continue reading Dissertation thoughts

Nearing the end of the semester

And all is well! Well… sort of.

The last two weeks have REALLY ramped up the busyness, and I am constantly reminded of how far behind I am on everything.

Joseph is not amused.
Joseph is not amused.

Despite all of that, I gave a well-received paper at the MTSU Holocaust Conference last week discussing Germans’ responses to the Stolpersteine. The conference has helped rekindle my interest in the project, which has been needed to help get this thing “put to bed” as we say in the newspaper business (not that I’m in the newspaper business anymore, but you get the idea.)

Also creeping up on my to-do list is the very, very, very scary decision of where to go for my Ph.D. program. I narrowed it down to four schools, but today I added one more for a nice, round five. Applying to five worked well for Master’s programs, so I will stick with the trend. The programs (in no particular order) are:

  • UTK (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it right?)
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of Georgia
  • UNC Chapel Hill
  • The Maxwell School of Syracuse University

Not a bad collection, if I must say so. All of the schools have upper-mid-range Geography programs if you go by the most recent NRC rankings. History has taught me not to put much stock into getting accepted at top schools (cf. my experiences with Wisconsin and Minnesota), but none of these schools should be (too far) out of reach. Going by the rankings actually reveals some surprises:

  • Kentucky ranks as high as 9
  • Georgia ranks as high as 14
  • Syracuse at 16
  • UNC Chapel Hill at 20
  • UTK at 27

You really have to read the link about about the NRC’s research and ranking methods to understand the whole “as high as ##” statement, but suffice to say that the NRC does not give an outright ranking of programs anymore but rather a range based on multiple surveys and calculations.

Regardless of the rankings, I am excited at the possibility to work with the faculty I’ve picked out at any of these universities. To name drop, for the geographers in the audience, these include: Jamie Winders and Don Mitchell (Syracuse), Andy Herod (UGA), Altha Cravey and Nina Martin (UNC), Richard Schein, Patricia Ehrkamp, and Michael Samers (UK), and last but not least the most excellent Micheline van Riemsdijk, Josh Inwood, and Ron Kalafsky (the UT with the CORRECT shade of orange). Now I just have to start emailing all of these brilliant people to get the conversation rolling… Not a small task!

I know this post is just whetting your appetite for more, so hopefully I’ll have a chance to post some of my initial dissertation topic thoughts in the near future. They are still a work in progress, so we’ll see!

Actual New Year’s Resolutions

Spoiler: This has very little to do with Geography. (Also, this is my 60th post! Woohoo?)

Regarding New Year’s Resolutions, I’m not usually very good at keeping them because I never have any concrete goals in mind at the beginning of any given year. Since I don’t usually take these seriously, I figure that if I’m going to have some this year, I may as well have several so at least I can accomplish some!

So here you go. Silly, impossible or otherwise, my 2011 New Year’s Resolutions:

• Lose 30 pounds. Sure, why not? This time… I think I won’t rely on Crohn’s Disease to, ahem, assist me, so perhaps they will stay off a little longer this time? I haven’t gained it all back, but if this trend continues I should be able to be a contestant on the Biggest Loser by 2013.

• Train for and run a race of some variety. 5k, etc. Preferably more than one, but that will all depend on how more time I can devote to training. The good news is that Karen has agreed to do it with me this time. The bad news? We’re both really good at wimping out after a few weeks.

• Travel the world. (As a geographer, this is pretty much always a goal, not really a resolution. And since I’m planning on going to Berlin and other parts of Germany for thesis research this summer, this one should’t be too hard!)

• Read something other than the literature for my Master’s research and/or class. This one might actually be sort of hard! I’m thinking of reading the Lord of the Rings, but I seriously doubt I’ll find time for it this year, so I may stick to a few Star Wars novels I’ve been saving. Wouldn’t hurt to read some of the photography books I’ve amassed over the last 2-3 years either!

• Play my trumpet. Regularly. I’ve decided to break it back out from hiding/storage. Cleaned it up nicely last year but never played it much. The first step, however, is to get Story used to it so she doesn’t freak out and bark every time she even sees it.

• Become more fluent in German. The two German courses I’m auditing this semester should help with that, but I’m still slightly terrified that I won’t be able to interview people in German this summer!

• Somehow, find a way to not “overdo it” this year. I came close to overdoing it this semester, but I was able to stay on top of all my various projects, papers, performances, etc. by the skin of my teeth. I’d like to take a step further back from the edge, but I know in all likelihood that I may actually be inching my way closer to a plunge, given my course load and responsibilities this semester alone. I know Summer and Fall won’t be as bad, but there’s still field work and comps and thesis writing death to think about then. Speaking of field work, I’d like to request that everyone consider gifting money for field research travel costs in lieu of gifts this year, at least for my birthday. This perhaps may not be the ideal for unwrapping on March 9, but at the moment it looks like I will not know how much scholarship and grant money I will have until very close to the actual trip. I’ll keep you all posted…

As my small collection of devoted readers, you should probably know that despite my best intentions, I will truthfully not have as much time to spend online with you in the usual places (here, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) this year and into spring 2012, but I will try as time permits!