September 02, 2008

Stirring the Pot

One week in and already stirring up trouble. Ah, it gives me an odd sense of pride, misplaced perhaps, but pride nonetheless. As folk singer Utah Phillips puts it “You’ve got to mess with people!”

(Though, it's not exactly pride, but more of a resignation. I generally always intend to be helpful. To help move things towards something better. I never intend to cause trouble or stir the pot, yet it seems inevitably to occur. Over the years it has become apparent that it will happen and that I tend to be rather good at it. Therefore, I have resolved to take pride in what I am good at. By this point it has an odd kind of familiarity. As if, something is vaguely wrong if I am notstirring the pot, as though I'm not trying hard enough, not helping enough. So at this point I've followed the course of Pavlov's dog who associated a bell with food and have begun to associate causing trouble with doing good. Ironic, that. A cautionary tale, perhaps?)

What I took for a deadline for a proposal, September 15th, was actually a deadline for a response about a proposal whose deadline is September 3rd. This left me scrambling not only to write the proposal to include UNL in Rocky Mountain Institute’s Accelerating Campus Climate Change Initiative, but more importantly, there was very little time to gain support from the administration. In most cases, this support engenders an astonishing number of hoops, even for a relatively simple project. However, the higher-ups find these hoops to very important, comforting even, and so I dutifully played the poodle and tried to find out a) where the hoops were and b) which route would get me through them in a minimum of time. After a bit of back and forth, the Chancellor’s office agreed to review my draft proposal at their meeting this morning.

I fear I was not at my best this weekend, being doped up on cold medicine, and the proposal is not as polished as I would like, nor as conclusive. I strained my political correctness to find a polite way of saying that the largest barrier to climate change mitigation projects at UNL is the fact that they just don’t care. I stressed support for energy efficiency and conservation, highlighted sustainable agriculture projects, and discussed fiscal imperatives. In the end it all comes down to hard-rooted conservatism and a not misplaced priority on the bottom line.

So here I am, now happily ensconced in thesis territory, the Attic of Architecture Hall. I hear rain tapping on the roof above me. The massive beams, slopping ceilings, and few windows make it dark and brooding at this hour. Only a few crazy morning people (or sane people who don’t bother with all-nighters and actually sleep regularly) are at their desks. The somewhat shabby and neglected atmosphere within the heavy timber truss work of an otherwise glorious building somehow suits us. And if someone should occasionally concuss themselves on one of the angled braces, well, they’re only grad students after all.

By the week’s end I will know, for better or worse, the fate of the proposal and I am already wondering which pot I can stir up next.

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