The Illinois Community College Movement

I've long said that Illinois had a strong community college emphasis, and now it appears, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, that I was right. Turns out that in a poll of Illinois residents, they had more favorable opinions of the local community colleges than of the state universities.

The results stand to reason. Community colleges are incredibly affordable (under $100 a credit if you live in the local district) and they keep families together. The north and northwest suburbs of Chicago are among some of the most diverse places in the country, and many of my students were first-generation or even young immigrants from places in the world that have stronger collective family structures than our individualistic western ones. Community colleges are an economical way for students to earn a degree while staying close to home.

I knew it would be another story when I moved back to Rhode Island, which is culturally and educationally a much different place. But I do miss knowing that I had so many teaching opportunities at really good colleges. Even though I was only an adjunct, I had more work oppportunities than I had time to accept. It will be interesting to follow how this movement spreads, if at all, to other parts of the country in the coming years.


I Hate Wii

According to the little box of hate, my fitness age is 70. It's actually gone down from 64 the other day. WTF?!?!

Thank you, Wii. I'm so old, fitness-wise, I might as well be dead.

Of course I don't hate the Wii completely. I only hate it for telling me what I know is true: I'm in terrible shape. I'm only 30 years old, but my fitness age is DOUBLE that. Now, in fairness, I'm not much of a video gamer, and I'm still trying to figure out the damned controls, so I'm hoping that things will improve. Part of me is torn between wanting to play the damned thing until I pass out, while the other part wants to throw the damned remote through the TV screen.

Aaron tried to make me feel better by reminding me that I'm still learning the controls, and that I am five and a half months pregnant and it's likely only going to get worse. That didn't really help. Needless to say, I'm not taking my new limitations very well. But then again, I don't have much of a choice, and I need to start admitting it.

And I also know that I need to just keep it up. I will get better. That was the whole point of getting the Wii in the first place. So I'll stick with it. I need to get in better shape, especially because I'm pregnant, and not use the pregnancy as an excuse for my geriatric fitness level.


Writing Group

Beth has organized a small writers' group, just 4 members, who met for the first time tonight. Our group leader is a writer and teacher, and the session was a terrific creative shot in the arm. We aren't going to meet again until mid-July, as our leader is going to be out of town until then, but there's lots to do in the meantime. I loved being back in that type of workshop again, especially one with such great energy and expertise. I have high expectations for my creative output as a result.

Happiest Bride

wedding bliss, originally uploaded by girl seeking grace.

I was quite literally the happiest bride I could have imagined being. Many people commented on the glowing smile I had all day, and it was wonderful to feel so calm and so surrounded by love. But the best part of all was that I married a better man than I ever thought even existed. We created a ceremony that was fun, funny, and personal. Every bride should feel this good on her wedding day. I love Emily's ability to capture such perfect, pure, and truly candid moments. Great job, girl!!

My Mohawked Men

, originally uploaded by girl seeking grace.

Randy, our best man and husband of the photographer Emily who shot this, rocks the mohawk. Kevin, my godson and our ring bearer, had a mohawk until his mother, my cousin Brenda, made him grow it out for the wedding. When Kevin saw that Randy had a mohawk, he gave his mom a classic "wtf?" look. When she told me the story, I insisted that Brenda shave the mohawk back in. Randy and Kevin made a perfect pair, and Kevin was psyched to get his mohawk back.

Lovely Maid of Honor

, originally uploaded by girl seeking grace.

The colors, the light, and the serene expression: a beautiful portrait by Emily Looman

Happy Couple

, originally uploaded by girl seeking grace.

Emily took this photo at the end of our wedding ceremony


Bullshit on Parade

I'm really hoping that today is just a bullshit day, and that tomorrow it shall pass. I've learned my lesson about ranting on this blog about the home-buying process, so I'll leave that bullshit story aside for now. Don't worry though, buyers and sellers are officially on notice that once June 27 has come and gone, the gloves are off. Suffice it to say that I am so over things like smoke detector certificates and window hardware. I will not mention names, but your hijinks will be exposed.

I'm also over having entirely too much to do and not enough time to do it. Really, I know some of you out there will laugh heartily at the idea that this little leopard can change her multi-tasking spots. But, to paraphrase Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians, after 30 years, I will fight no more, forever. I'm tired. I have blown my proverbial wad this year, and I need a little peace. Thank God I married the best man ever, and he is the calm center of the universe when I want to curl up in a ball and cry about having now 8 days to move and no time off and no idea how it's going to happen.

But that's not the subject of this post tonight. No, tonight I am heartily frustrated by one Adorama Camera company and their totally reactionary and inflexible contract with UPS. The excerpt below is adapted from an email I sent to M tonight. She is my longest-term friend, and she and I have similar (low) thresholds for bullshit, as well as similar abilities to find humor in the bullshit:

"I left at 4 so I could try to intercept a UPS package that, due to the shipper's contract with UPS, cannot be left without a signature, nor diverted to another address, nor left at the depot in Warwick until there have been THREE unsuccessful delivery attempts. Fuckin' A. I will never order another thing from that camera company again. We have had countless wedding gifts left on our doorstep in the past several weeks, thank you Crate and Barrel, but Adorama can't leave $85 worth of obscure Polaroid film on my doorstep? Gaaaaahhh.

The best part is that according to their website's tracking info, UPS allegedly tried to deliver again at 5 pm. But I've been here since a little after 4 with no delivery guy, no second notice post-it note. I hate everything. Thank Madonna I put "Jessica Beagan Archer" on the package, because of course I need a government issued photo id to go pick the damned thing up and my license is still from Illinois with my maiden name on it. I'm probably going to have to drag Aaron along so I can show them an Archer that lives at this address to spring the package from UPS on Friday. If I can even get it that day. Watch there be an issue. Seriously, I need this."

So, I'm calling bullshit on Adorama, who have been a pain in the ass for years, and on UPS for having agreed to such a ludicrous delivery policy. Plus, I want to know where that driver was, because he most certainly was not here at 5 pm.


Boy Watching Soccer Game at Eddie's

I didn't tweak this at all in Photoshop. It was a tough shot, being that I was inside Eddie's and he was outside and it was midday and the light is already blindingly contrasty in the Dominican Republic most of the time. At least that's what I recalled from looking at my photos tonight. This was taken Easter Sunday, 2006.

I have long loved a much more formal shot of this boy that I took from the street. He was taking a break from selling eggs to watch a soccer match through the bars of the restaurant. He would never have dared go inside from what I could tell, but no one seemed to mind that he lingered for quite a while to watch the match. Rediscovering this portrait tonight, I find that I now prefer this image of him. It's much more human.

Amity taking Mafe's picture

Another find from 2005, here's Amity taking Mafe's picture after giving her a makeover. Mafe was really into her mother and her aunties getting made up. I loved the light in this room and took many photos there.

I've been all over the historical map this week, thinking a lot about Iowa this week with all the flooding. Now tonight, I tiptoed through 2005 thanks to my photo archive.

Save a Horse, Ride A Cowboy

I moved to Chicago in late 2003 and every year I lived there, I attended the Gay Pride Parade with my boys. Tonight, I was scouring my photo archives for the third and final image to submit to a call for entries for images related to horses. The first two I submitted are literal, while this was figurative. Worth a shot.

Aperture and South America

Aperture and South America, originally uploaded by jessica_beagan.

I have a small series of these types of pictures. I've loved corkboards since I was a kid, putting up ephemera according to what I was thinking about. In early 2005, I was thinking of photography (ergo the Aperture clips) and of Venezuela (ergo the American Airlines map). I consider these self-portraits.


Arts Building East Under Water

e_DSC0268, originally uploaded by UI News Services.

I've been scouring the internet for specific pictures of the Arts Campus buildings at the University of Iowa. I wanted to see the damage to get an idea of what's going on. The street-level ceramics building is inundated, as are definitely the basement-level classrooms, darkrooms, and grad photo studios I used.

What's worse, the slide library and the art library were both on the first floor of the AB East. Those must be damaged if the water is between 4 and 5 feet high on street level. I'm so sad to think of the countless, priceless resources lost to this flood.

I don't know how the Arts Campus has changed since the construction of the gorgeous Arts Building West on the other side of Riverside Drive last year. I can only hope that the new building has offered some protection for what would have been destroyed in the Arts Campus I remember.

Without ever having intended to stay connected to the UI Alumni network, those persistent buggers at the University Advancement building (also probably underwater, given its location) have managed to keep track of me. I've never been remotely tempted to donate to the University, but after this, I feel compelled to do so. Yes, I'm still paying $450 a month for the privilege of having earned two Masters degrees there, but this is a different story.

Arts Campus Watermark

e_DSC0327, originally uploaded by UI News Services.

To illustrate the height of the water, here's the stop sign at the corner of River St. and N. Riverside Drive. The Museum of Art is the gray wall in the background.


UI Museum of Art Under Water

2008-06-14 UI Museum of Art Under Water, photo credit Brian Ray, The Gazette, originally uploaded by jessica_beagan.

Iowa City has been on my mind this week. The city is bracing for the Iowa River to crest some time early next week. In 1993 there was "100 year flood", meaning it was the worst in 100 years. Well, just 15 years later, residents are facing a "500 year flood".

Don't believe in global warming yet? WAKE UP!

I wish I could be there to see it for myself. I'm pretty sure my little white house on Center Avenue, next to Ralston Creek, is underwater. At least that's what it looked like on the flood plain map I saw online. A sudden heavy summer rain could kick up that creek from a quiet trickle to a roaring rapid. Once when we lived there, the corner of Center and Rundell ended up under water up to and over the curbs. I know the basement is flooded at least, if not worse.

I also read online that the UI Facilities crew has abandoned the Arts Campus, having moved everything they could to higher ground. My old studio and the darkrooms in the old Arts Building East are certainly under water right now. My MFA show was held in this museum.

I've never seen flooding in a place where I've lived before. Even though I left five years ago, it's nothing short of devastating.


Stained Wallpaper

I scanned some of those color negatives from my February trip to Maine. Unfortunately everything took on a bluish tint. I need to tweak those settings. Still, the result is sort of interesting, if not other-worldly.


Thank you TransFan 2

Of the many lovely greetings we received on the TFW 2005 site, TransFan 2 made us a wedding card:

Transformers Club & TFW 2005

The community surrounding Transformers is truly a terrific group of people. I had the pleasure of meeting some of them at BotCon in Cincinnati in April. Aaron has been involved for many years, watching the boards and taking in the daily feedback from the Fans as Transformers evolves. I've long been impressed with his dedication to the Fans, I've seen many examples of their appreciation.

Accordingly, TFW 2005 posted a Congratulations message to Aaron and me for our wedding. Scroll down to see the Fan comments. Not to be outdone, the Transformers Club is hosting about a dozen pictures from the wedding ceremony and reception.

As we expected, the "bride and groom" on our cake, along with our little pink minicon for the baby, were a big hit. I was rather surprised though that no one commented that Arcee is missing the fuel tank (with the custom decals of my two tattoos) on her left arm ;) Don't worry, it will be replaced.

Thank you to the Fans and the Administrators of both TFW 2005 and Transformers Club for your many well-wishes and support.


A Big Month

So, Aaron and I got married on Saturday, and today is my 30th birthday. In 2.5 weeks, we are moving into our new house. June is turning out to be a big month.

The pictures are beginning to roll in, with Carlita posting some on her blog, and Andrea and Kristen emailing me some Snapfish albums. The internet was down at home all day yesterday (blame the tropical 100 degree temperatures --- perhaps the cable melted), but I'm hoping it's back up today so I can post some of the pix. I can't wait to see the formal shots.


The Needfulness of Organizing Photos

Aaron and I checked into the hotel this evening, kicking off our wedding festivities. It was a bit of a hectic day, but now that we're here, the fun can begin. The lion's share of the guest arrive tomorrow. The rehearsal is at 4, and the bowling party starts at 6.

Somehow we managed in the past couple days to gather 147 photos together for a digital photo frame slide show. We tried to include as many of the wedding guests as possible. It's been fun to put all of these pieces of his life and my life together. It also highlights the extreme necessity of getting my photo files organized. I seriously hunted for ages for certain shots of people I KNEW I had. No mas. Anything pre-2006 is lacking the standard naming convention I've adopted, which automatically sorts photos in chronological order. I also need to get down with TAGGING photos with keywords. So that way when I'm looking for a picture of "Burke", or "Grandpa Beagan", I can actually find them with a modicum of ease.

Yeah, I'll put it on my to do list.


The Achievers

Finally, a documentary about us. "The Acheivers" follows the lives of the nihilists, chinamen, bums, and modern dancers that make up Lebowski fandom. I'd love to rally the troops for a trip to Louisville next month for Lebowski Fest 7 before the little Lebowski on the way makes her appearance. We'll see. Perhaps the Lebowski-themed bowling party/rehearsal dinner Friday night will have to suffice.


It's a Girl!

We found out at the 18 week ultrasound that we are having a girl! Here's my little charmer, already mugging for a camera she can't see, sucking her thumb. There were many factions insisting it was a boy, and even I got sucked into the boy zeitgeist. But my first instinct was that it was a girl. Either way, we're thrilled. She's healthy, growing normally across the board, and getting bigger every day.

If you have trouble seeing the pictures, I recommend squinting or standing a bit away from the monitor. I know the details aren't spectacular, but you can see what's going on if you know where and how to look.

The Definitive Shot

This is the first, last, and ONLY time I want my daughter's junk to be shown on the internet. She's probably going to kill me for this some day. This is a picture from below, the three white spots in a row on the right are her sitz bones and her tailbone (I think), and her two legs pointing to the left. All of this indicates that the Bambino is actually a Bambina. Especially hilarious is the label "GIRL" and the arrow, which may or may not be pointing to the junk. Honestly, I'm not sure I can see much, but the ultrasound technician and my nurse midwife were quite certain. It's a girl.

Baby Spine

Ultrasounds show bones in bright white. As they are the most dense, bones appear the most clearly. I love the complexity of the spine, still just a few inches long but as detailed as yours or mine, and how visible it is in this image.

Ingenue Close-up

Here's my daughter, same picture as earlier, sucking her thumb and looking right at the camera. I swear the kid has known when we were looking at her since the first ultrasound when she was a three-centimeter long little jumping bean. I can't believe how much she's developed in just the last 8 weeks since I first saw her. And I can't wait to meet her.