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January 31, 2006

Rate Your Students.com

Well, I received a serious question back about this three-month old blog and it's relation to/interaction with privacy laws that govern confidentiality between teachers and students. (How strong are these, anyway? When do they get used?)

I meant the post as a joke with/among my colleagues, yet there is an edge of challenge to my students as well. I haven't scoured the posts back in time, but it does seem some rather offensive things have been said. A recent post critiques the blatant sexism, objectification, and rudeness that's been exhibited by some. Meanwhile, a student has also sent thoughtful comments on how teachers receive good evaluations.

Perhaps the site will evolve from a competitive forum countering the equally problematic Rate my Professor.com into a useful public sphere for the discussion of pedagogy? Or it might just degrade again. Or flux between extremes...

Posted by Steph at 10:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

life following art?

I've been reading Orhan Pamuk's novel, Snow. Imagine the jolt of recognition when I saw the story about his arrest and subsequent trial, reported in todays NYTimes, A Way Forward for Turkey. His novel grapples with the precise forces and laws that have now impinged - most forcefully - upon his life.

The editorial in the Times uses this freedom of speech case to leap to larger context, as a means of framing the politics regarding Turkey's ascension to the European Union. Interestingly, one of the issues regards Cyprus - I saw a presentation on this last December by one of this year's European Field Studies participants. She was focused specifically on the border between Greek and Turkish Cypriot and the interactions and flow of people back and forth across it. I'm sure there must be some analogies to be made between the on-the-ground realities there and the abstracted political maneuverings of various groups for national power.

Posted by Steph at 9:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

calling out your students

Rate Your Students arrives to compete with Rate My Professor.

Tracked from Alex' amusing post on the subject. He got it from Dan's Revenge of the Profs.

Posted by Steph at 12:10 AM | Comments (0)

January 30, 2006

political blogs listed w/ AoIR

These are "broadly" research-oriented blogs in the area of blogs and politics.

i blog speaks in the royal "we" but a very quick glance at the last handful of posts shows they are all from wainer.

Hmmm. wainer is also the poster at reslog. This one is mostly articles, and here's some on the logic of groups that might be timely!

David Brake looks like he's tried to do something similar to what I wish for - a group blog among peers & colleagues in the media department at the London School of Economics. He seems to be the only one posting.... :-/

Aha! A sample of an "upper-level Communication course" integrating student assignments: iGenerations. :-)

And I see a professor, Alex Halavais, taunting his peers and students. That's the style I seem to approach asymptotically. :-/

Posted by Steph at 11:51 PM | Comments (0)

political wiki

This wiki of the American Political Science Association was listed in the AoIR wiki. It invites projects, apparently not only by members? The APSA website appears very academic, not activist, oriented.

There's also a wiki for electronic theses and dissertations. Might be a good resource for us grad students, eh?

and here's a wiki research blog.

This fall there will be a conference close by - in Boston: Wikimania 2006. Two other conferences and a count of current wiki researchers is provided here.

Posted by Steph at 11:07 PM | Comments (0)

43 things...

Found this site off museumfreak's de.lic.ious feeds. Joined up.

Carlos has been doing this for awhile! Some of his most popular "wants" - "Drink more water" (shared by 3726 people) and "Learn to cook" (shared by 1701 people). His blog, FastJoe.com, is fun. :-)

Posted by Steph at 7:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Truth or fiction? This fictionalized memoir, The Ruins of California is posed as fighting to protect the truth in opposition to presenting fiction as a memoir embellishing the truth.

Posted by Steph at 10:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

will it happen?

Paul Loeb wrote earlier this month to encourage a filibuster of Alito: Extraordinary Circumstances Indeed.

The Daily Kos posted Kerry's declaration of support. The Washington Monthly is less sure but thinks it is at least worth the effort. CNN (!) recounts the build-up to today's "showdown".

The magic number for the Democrats/those opposed to Alito is 41.

Posted by Steph at 2:27 AM | Comments (1)

January 29, 2006

problems or puzzles? (the purview of philosophy)

I finally read Wittgenstein's Poker, a book that's been on my shelf for far too long. What I most liked about it is how readable it is: one does not need any background in philosophy to enjoy the story, which does a nice job detailing the battle of ideas at the introductory level.

The poker incident is presented as a symbolic enactment of the clash in philosophy between two schools of thought: Karl Popper's embrace of problem-solving rationalism in the form of a principle of falsification - "I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer the truth" (240) vs Ludwig Wittgenstein's linguistically-generated puzzles, "what many in the [Vienna] Circle misunderstood was that Wittgenstein did not believe that the unsayable could be condemned as nonsense. On the contrary, the things we could not talk about were those that really mattered" (158).

These philosophers followed (and to varying extents) diverged from the analytic philosophy of Bertrand Russell.

Posted by Steph at 12:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 28, 2006

Best Paper: CMN 455 Fall 2005

The best undergraduate student paper in last fall's 4-credit course, Introduction to Mass Media, was written by Laurie Goodman on Intelligent Design.

Her paper, Analyzing the Communication Strategy of the Intelligent Design Movement, applies excellent strategies of critique and mass media theories, concepts, and analysis.

More on the ID debate can be found at Intelligent Design and Evolution.

Posted by Steph at 12:36 PM | Comments (2)

declining literacy?

Read Hanson & Maxcy's excerpt of Lazarsfeld & Merton (1948) this morning for CMN455, and noted this critique as relevant to COM375: "Large numbers of people have acquired what might be termed 'formal literacy,' that is to say, a capacity to read, to grasp crude and superficial meanings, and a correlative incapacity for full understanding of what they read. There has developed, in short, a marked gap between literacy and comprehension. People read more but understand less. More people read but proportionately fewer critically assimilate what they read."

I'm considering this in combination with the Preface to How to Think about Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age, (critiqued here by a member of the Parapsychological Association).

There is nothing harder than to critique your own thinking. My own thinking!

Posted by Steph at 12:00 PM | Comments (0)

Filibuster Alito

Maybe, just maybe? MoveOn.org is sponsoring a campaign to support the filibuster. This article explains why the real issue is consolidation of power in the presidency rather than abortion rights. CBS downplays support for the filibuster.

I just wrote to my Senators, Jim Jeffords and Patrick Leahy of Vermont:

Dear Senators,

Please reject the further consolidation of political power in the interests of only one of America's many constituencies by participating in and maintaining the filibuster against Samuel Alito's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Effective democracy is founded upon the vigorous interaction of different viewpoints. Judge Alito's record indicates a viewpoint that coincides with that of other Justices already on the court; in other words, his nomination contributes to a consolidation of one ideology rather than fostering the diversity upon which America's proudest values stand.

The United States Supreme Court is the most symbolic enactment of freedom, independence, and the rule of law. It can only maintain its integrity if - within its own membership - it cultivates the freedom of interpretive choice based upon a wide range of independent ideologies. These ideologies must represent the broad range of cultural, social, ethnic and economic strata of the US citizenry, else the Supreme Court becomes merely a tool of a minority in power, rather than a judicial body vested with the interests of the nation as a whole.

Your courage in fighting for all Americans encourages and inspires me to believe that you will continue this good fight on behalf of deeper, more enduring values than the will to power.


Stephanie Jo Kent

Posted by Steph at 10:16 AM | Comments (1)

January 27, 2006

Section Five

“My writing partner is a violent, chauvinistic, semi-literate adolescent.”

I'm preparing the syllabus for COM375 Writing as Communication. It's a required course that students love to hate. I can hardly wait! :-) Collaboration is well-underway in the Intro to Mass Media class I'm teaching at UNH: excellent initial round of online posts, and we've already solved a technology problem and have a student suggestion for curricular material. This is what I like to see!

Posted by Steph at 8:23 PM | Comments (0)

literary wisdom = " Try good manners."

There's a lot of good (sad/inspirational) stuff in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, especially as "performed" in the audiobook read by Judith Ivey.

Sprinkled with quotes of others' wisdom, such as St. Teresa: Saint Theresa said, "...words lead to deeds...They prepare the soul, make it ready, and move it to tenderness"; and Thomas Merton: ""We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves” (not the one quoted, but I like it anyway). The one referenced had something to do with civil war, and reflections of the character Siddalee on her own internal "civil war" between her "white mother" and the "black one" - something about the fear of being held in want of familiar love vs the fear of running through the fog searching for love...

Penned by Rebecca Wells, the author, herself (loosely transcribed):

"The love we most cherish will, of necessity, bring us pain [like] the setting of a body with broken bones."

"Can I soften to love with full knowledge of the suffering I welcome in?"

"No one knows how to love," says Siddalee's mother, Vivi, "Try good manners."

"It's life, you don't figure it out, you crawl up onto its back and ride it for all it's worth." (emphasis added)

Posted by Steph at 6:09 PM | Comments (0)

Strength of Internet Ties

Do you think that communication via email and other activities on the Internet are taking away from more direct interpersonal communication?
This new PEW Report on Family, Friends, & Community illustrates the ways Internet usage aids in major life decisions and maintains important relationships.

Some key points:

*email supplements, rather than replaces, the communication people have with others in their network.

*internet users are more likely than non-users to have been helped by those in their networks as they faced important events in their life.

* 45% of internet users - about 60 million Americans - say the internet has played an important or crucial role in helping them deal with at least one major life decision in the previous two years. That is a 33% increase from a similar survey in early 2002.

An article about the survey: Web skeptics, take note: The sky hasn't fallen.

Info posted to AoIR listserv by Barry Wellman (one of the PEW Report authors) and Alex Kuskis.

Posted by Steph at 10:49 AM | Comments (0)

Bernie Sanders for US Senate

I missed a fundraising dinner on Tuesday night :-( but understand it was compelling and that it's going to be "a hell of a fight to get Bernie elected."

Here's his website which currently features an article from The Huffington Post by David Sirota, "The Most Important U.S. Senate Race of 2006.

Sirota: "Make no mistake about it - the GOP and its Big Business backers are going to do everything they can to try to knock off Sanders. They have already recruited a multi-millionaire corporate executive who has pledged to spend $5 million of his own money to try to buy the election. And Sanders faces special challenges because he refuses to accept corporate PAC money." (italics added)

Posted by Steph at 9:51 AM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2006

democracy online

Steven Clift describes some lessons from attempts to generate openly collaborative citizen's media for "agenda-setting online spaces" of democratic action.

*hybrid open source software/websites
*real names for quality control
*limits on quantity per contributor

A peer group for online citizen activists might get going later this year.

Posted by Steph at 8:07 PM | Comments (0)

Jill Carroll

is a graduate of UMass' Journalism Department. Her story was noted by the Poynter group's weekly watch on media.

"Our Jill details her personality, commitment, and personal courage. I've been wondering about courage, recently. One definition says to face danger or pain without showing fear, another says to face the same with self-possession.

The Christian Science Monitor is running updates in a blog-type format). Presently, no one knows if she's still alive or not. Is she aware of the infrastructure of support around her? She must be - such things don't materialize from nothing. Coverage has been extensive: Boston, a Marc Cooper blog entry with numerous links, a BBC story about the videotape shown by Al-Jazeera.

Posted by Steph at 7:35 PM | Comments (0)

Now: Jennifer

Sam's niece arrived earlier this afternoon and has been ministering to Sam nonstop since - ruffling his hair, pumping Pepsi into him, regaling him with stories of her recent exploits in the home of five (male) college students. Ahem! ;-) They're reminiscing about "vodika's".

Bill sends an email claiming Sam has always had "breathing problems" and it's about time they've started to improve. "When we lived together on Dravus in Seattle back in the 50's you didn't sound long for this world most of the time."

Luciano Pavarotti is on now; not quite on a par with the Dave Brubeck albums of yore.

Big grins re the peacock joke forwarded by my best partner-in-crime:

I was at the mall the other day eating at the food court. I noticed an old man watching a teenager Sitting next to him. The teenager had spiked hair in all different colors: green, red, orange, and blue. The old man kept staring at him.

The teenager would look and find the old man staring every time.
When the teenager had enough, he sarcastically asked, "What's the matter old man, never done anything wild in your life?"

The old man did not bat an eye in his response, "Got drunk once and had sex with a peacock. I was just wondering if you were my son?"

He also enjoyed these statements from a project on "The Sea", in which kids from various classes were asked to draw pictures or write about their experiences. Teachers got together to compare the  results and put together some of the comments.

 1. This is a picture of an octopus. It has eight testicles. (Kelly age 6)

 2. Some fish are  dangerous. Jellyfish can sting. Electric eels can give you a shock. They have to live in caves under the sea where I think they have to plug themselves to  chargers. (Christopher age 7)

 3. Oysters' balls are called pearls. (James age 6)

 4. If you are surrounded by sea you are an Island. If you don't have sea all around you, you are incontinent. (Wayne age 7)

 5. I think sharks are ugly and mean, and have big teeth, just like Emily Richardson. She's not my friend no more. (Kylie age 6)

 6. A dolphin breathes through an  asshole on the top of it's head. (Billy age 8)

 7. My uncle goes out in  his boat with pots, and comes back with crabs. (Millie age 6)

 8. When  ships had sails, they used to use the trade winds to cross the ocean. Sometimes,  when the wind didn't blow, the sailors would whistle to make the wind come. My  brother said they would be better off eating beans. (William age 7)

 9. I  like mermaids. They are beautiful, and I like their shiny tails. How do mermaids  get pregnant? (Helen age 6)

 10. When you go swimming in the sea, it is  very cold, and it makes my willy small. (Kevin age 6)

Posted by Steph at 4:08 PM | Comments (1)

Mei Mei

Rescued from the pit of projective punishment! (It would be funnier to say "projectile" but the tense isn't accurate in this case. grin)

My roommate/landlord has agreed to a trial period of cohabitation as long as the cat remains generally confined to my room. Will my historic allergies explode? More to the point, will I implode - again :-( - under the pressures of circumstance? No. Done with that. Done with denial, too. At least, doing my best to be. :-/

Was encouraged to continue to embrace the sadness when I feel it AND stay open - that's the tricky part, isn't it? "Can I soften to love with full knowledge of the suffering I welcome in?" From Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood.

Posted by Steph at 8:34 AM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2006

Organizational Science

A new phd program in Org Science is opening at UNC-Charlotte.

posted by Anita to air-l Digest, Vol 18, Issue 11

Posted by Steph at 7:11 PM | Comments (0)

risks: blogs, facebook, etc

Yes, what is posted in a blog tells a lot about who you are and can invite a whole range of trouble. Teens and young adults may be less cognizant of these risks, an assumption that is unquestioned by this WAshington post article, which cites examples without qualifying (either rhetorically or statistically) how representative they are. Are young people as naive to the consequences as we were? When celebrities and folks we know reinvent their lives, why should we assume that the foibles of youth are irreversible?

When and how does one decide a risk is unreasonable? How compartmentalized must we be in order to protect ourselves from the ravages of a system without conscience and individuals lacking remorse? Under what circumstances can we begin to acknowledge the conditions of life/living that force us into deeper zones of protectionism and rarified self-interest and take collective action to try and change the trends?

Holly posted the link in air-l Digest, Vol 18, Issue 11 and mentioned comments by Steve Jones

Posted by Steph at 6:46 PM | Comments (0)

minority languages and the web

A special issue of the New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia on Minority Languages, Multimedia and the Web might be worth a peek.

posted by D.J. to air-l Digest, Vol 18, Issue 13

Posted by Steph at 5:48 PM | Comments (0)

Internet Convergences

The 7th annual Association of Internet Researchers Conference (AoIR 7.0) will be in Brisbane, Australia, September 27-30, 2006. Hmmmm.....

Posted by Steph at 5:43 PM | Comments (0)

Int'l Journal of Education and Development w/ ICTs

There are a couple of articles that might be of interest in this online journal, especially if I manage to do more work with organizations and/or institutions.

posted by Suely to air-l Digest, Vol 18, Issue 14

Posted by Steph at 5:02 PM | Comments (0)

January 22, 2006


Talked with Jesus Evil Kachina on my way to Boston yesterday evening and she asked what was new and "exciting" in my life. I had to laugh: I'm trying to stand up while life runs me over and she wants to know what's "exciting?" Well, let me tell you:

I picked up my pals "Just in Time" and "Very Private Person" who kept forgetting who was nagivating as the car moved through town on its own momentum. After a few scenic circles when we rediscovered where we were (!) we eventually found the new Korean restaurant where we had a yummy dinner. Then, my tourism continued. "Don't say we never took you anywhere!" announced VPP.

In the meantime we talked about the differences between postmodernism, poststructuralism, and critical realism. I'll post separately about that. There was a good bit of family history too. I made comparisons between the moral vacuum produced for a generation or three of Germans and Eastern Europeans during/after the Holocaust and the one produced in China by the Cultural Revolution. VPP talked briefly about her dad's family's internment experiences in California and her mom's family's (intended) short-term return to Japan for the children's education before the war began (near Kobe ; other family was in Hiroshima - the incineration of many family members was a known fact rarely acknowledged). The family was not able to return to the States when the war began; a fact that later isolated them from the Japanese-American community who had collectively experienced internment.

On a lighter note, JIT and I discussed sibling rivalries. He used to alternately gang up with his younger brother against the older, or the older brother against the younger. Case in point, the trans-ghost: a male wearing a woman's white dress who might "get" you for various infractions... my brother relished the rare moments he put one over on me and could glory in the last few seconds before his (perceived) impending death. :-)

Posted by Steph at 11:51 AM | Comments (0)

Lee's turn

Lee is up visiting Sam this weekend, she arrived Friday evening and will leave sometime later today. See her comment (in which - among other things - she corrects my confusing roses for carnations - Lou, now you have proof of my gardening "skill" grin). During my hour visit yesterday, she showed a bunch of slides from way way back in Sam's life. They were wonderful! We selected a few for me to upload here for you all to enjoy. I'll get to that this upcoming week.

Meanwhile, just before I arrived Jim Levinson was there and sang an Indian song for Sam. Jim was part of an Experiment trip to India many, many years ago - in fact Lou & Tom met Jim there, in India, not where they all live in Vermont! Small world 'tis. Jim gave Sam an "eternal good luck charm" that has a picture of Gandhi on one side and this inscription on the other:

"My life is my message."

Sam exemplifies this more than anyone else I know. :-)

Posted by Steph at 11:27 AM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2006


My horrorscope from 12 January (brother's birthday!), read during museumfreak's visit seemed to set the tone for this month: see Taurus. (And then this week's tells me to slow down. More waiting?

Mass MOCA is awesome! I'm really glad museumfreak wanted to go, cuz it got me off my duff and actually there. I want to go back when the Amusement Park opens - we got to see the installation in progress. An updated version will be completed in June including visitor's comments. Becoming Animal has some cool elements (some are weird), my favorite single piece was Pseudanuran Gigantica by Brian Conley. The entire QM, I think I call her QM multimedia collection by Ann-Sofi-Sidén requires a second visit.

Posted by Steph at 8:08 AM | Comments (0)

manifesto from a wannabe farmer

The Sears Man is acquiring some farmland in "southern country" and talking about removing himself from civilisation. He claims these questions about Northern intelligence will be part of his manifesto against the rest of us:

We are sick and tired of hearing about how dumb people are in the
South and we challenge any so-called smart Yankee to take this exam:

1. Calculate the smallest limb diameter on a persimmon tree that will support a 10 pound possum.

2. Which of these cars will rust out the quickest when placed on blocks in your front yard?
(A) '65 Ford Fairlane
(B) '69 Chevrolet Chevelle
(C) '64 Pontiac GTO.

3. If your uncle builds a still which operates at a capacity of 20 gallons of shine produced per hour, how many car radiators are required to condense the product?

4. A woodcutter has a chain saw which operates at 2700 RPM. The density of the pine trees in the plot to be harvested is 470 per acre. The plot is 2.3 acres in size. The average tree diameter is 14 inches. How many Budweisers will be drunk before the trees are cut down?

5. A front porch is constructed of 2x8 pine on 24-inch centers with a field rock foundation. The span is 8 feet and the porch length is 16 feet. The porch floor is 1-inch rough sawn pine. When the porch collapses, how many dogs will be killed?

6. A man owns a Georgia house and 3.7 acres of land in a hollow with an average slope of 15%. The man has five children. Can each of his grown children place a mobile home on the man's land and still have enough property for their electric appliances to sit out front?

7. A 2-ton truck is overloaded and proceeding 900 yards down a steep slope on a secondary road at 45 MPH. The brakes fail. Given average traffic conditions on secondary roads, what is the probability that it will strike a vehicle with a muffler?

8. With a gene pool reduction of of 7.5% per generation, how long will it take a town which has been bypassed by the Interstate to breed a
country-western singer?

There's a hole heap of things that big city book-learning don't prepare ya for in this life.

As an added bonus for taking the "REDNECK CHALLENGE", here's some southerly advice that may come in handy down the road a piece...

Next time you are too drunk to drive, walk to the nearest pizza shop and place an order. When they go to deliver it, catch a ride home with them.

Posted by Steph at 7:56 AM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2006

more experimentation (and success!)

Have had two more opportunities to practice moving instead of sitting as I interpret. Both of these were with Deaf persons who don't do lipreading (the other two so far tend to switch back and forth between lipreading and watching the interpretation). I was anxious how it would go....maybe this method is only good for those in that in-between position of being able to get by without interpreters one-on-one but not in groups?

But no (!), both of these Deaf consumers said they felt more attentive, that it was better to follow the interpreter with their gaze and be able to see who was speaking, and that they felt more engaged.

The movement did not, however, make it automatically easier to break into the non-deaf, spoken flow of conversation. These two particular groups are so used to interpretation that they basically ignore the whole process. (That's how they were trained, and how they've gotten used to it.) Even us doing something completely different like standing and walking around them the entire time (!) didn't ruffle their composure or cause more than a glance or two of mild curiousity. No one asked. That's a bit discouraging, but one of the non-deaf persons was involved in both groups and I was able to check and get their opinion - which was noncommittal, basically "no big deal" and "do whatever you want."

I explained how, at one point, the group had begun speaking of something internal to their operations that all of them knew but neither me nor my team did. Whatever their phrase was to refer to an entire complicated procedure involving several people and phrases was not transparent - after explanation we knew what it meant, but not without a reference point! Unfortunately, it took a good three minutes to break into the group's talking to get the clarification, by which point in time the Deaf person was pretty far behind on the concrete details of the discussion. Of course, we did our best to fill in the gaps, and he's quick-minded and familiar enough with the context that he could manage, but still.....how much was lost?

It felt like a risk to try this "new" method in this "old" group, and with culturally-grounded Deaf persons. I'm pleased it worked out as well as it did, even if it's not an instant cure for the problems of linguistic inequality.

Posted by Steph at 6:31 PM | Comments (6)

Voices of Men

Ben and I completed the Master's in Social Justice Education together, back in the mid '90s. It's good to see how far he's been able to take his work. :-) I'm wondering if it would be worth bringing his show to the Mass Communication class at UNH?

Posted by Steph at 5:46 PM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2006

perking up!

Sam's doing much better - out of pain, not on pain meds, responsive and interactive with me this evening. ;-) He loves the love coming from everyone - especially his Brazilian family, and good friends from SIT, not to mention those old college buddies. We talked a bit about his state of mind, and I'm pleased to report he's still set on living. :-)

Big grins at some of these: As I've Matured. Another of the biggest grins was when I explained to Paul the Proposer that it took me 20 minutes to figure out Sam wanted the oxygen mask off. We're all (I guess?) practicing transmuting frustration to patience and humor.

Sam seems to want to be listening to music much of the time. We listened to Josh Groban (I didn't cry until Vincent (Starry Starry Night, sigh - I'm such a sop!) and Johnny Adams. Sam also is really into touch, so if you can hold his hand he'll be happy. Giving squeezes for yes is also one of his main modes of communicating now. Sometimes he winks but these are occasionally hard to distinguish from regular blinking. Other times he actually nods or shakes his head. Some of the cues are so subtle as to be almost invisible, but if you confirm them you're good.

Want to know what made Sam laugh out loud? What to do when the neighbor's music is too loud.

His lovely yellow carnations from Christine are still going strong; and he enjoyed his visit with Pat immensely. With all of my inadequate psychic skills, I think Sam says, "Keep it coming!" :-)

Posted by Steph at 7:13 PM | Comments (1)

January 18, 2006

sitting vigil with the buddha

Spent several hours yesterday afternoon/evening sitting with Sam, the "Buddha" as he's known among the nursing staff. His energy was lower in the afternoon, and I admit, I was shy to push him too much. Then Lou and Tom arrived and that was the end of that! Wine (not for Sam, yet - he got ice cream), Andrew Lloyd Webber, jokes from Jennifer....more ugly jokes about Sam too. :-) But Lou says Sam's looking better, even though he has a bit of edema especially in his left arm.

I've heard references to Sam's picture with Einstein before....I guess Tom took the actual photo of Sam standing next to a bust in DC. Does someone have this picture? I'm sure there must have been some surrounding context that makes this story such a repeater. Lou said Sam's pulse was steady and a bit slower than the previous day, so his heart's not working quite as hard as it was when he still had a fever. No fever now. But he slept alot, Tom stayed through a chunk of the afternoon, and two Pauls came by in the evening: Sam's longterm pal & neighbor Paul, and the recently engaged Paul. A festive mood filled the room. :-)

Posted by Steph at 10:04 AM | Comments (1)

January 17, 2006

an ugly pill

Tom told Sam he needed to stop with the ugly pills already. :-) He's awake and alert this morning, even though communicating is difficult. He's grinned, nodded, shook his head, eyeblinked 'yes', and squeezed my hand.

Posted by Steph at 9:12 AM | Comments (7)

January 16, 2006

"I forget he's dying."

Elizabeth said this to me when we had dinner last week. And just now, museumfreak said, "He always sounds so lively in your blogposts."

Sam is lively. He always has been. Even at his most ill or frustrated, he invested his words, thoughts, and actions in LIFE and LIVING.

He was released from the hospital back to Eden Park this afternoon; feedings through the g-tube are working just fine. However, he has contracted an infection that is worrisome and the nurses have said, "he doesn't seem to be doing well."

I'll spend time with Sam tomorrow and - if he's awake and alert - read him any blogcomments and emails you send. I doubt I'll be as brave as Christine was and actually crawl in bed with him (!), but if I can sit across his feet like I did at Xmas it'll be a cozy way to convey the love.

Posted by Steph at 7:15 PM | Comments (4)


The lazy bum! She's still sleeping. Going on 12 hours. Ok, ok, her trip's been rough and it seems more things have gone wrong than right. I'm familiar with that dynamic - although not regarding my own recent journey beginning December 24 and ending on January 4.

Nothing like using her as an excuse to write about me! :-/ Symptomatic of self-absorbed suffering? Awhile back, Shemaya quoted this line to me: "Pain is unavoidable; suffering is optional." Tell that to my stomach!

[end of digression] When the direction to look to find my car finally registered (!), and this young chickie walked over and opened the door, my first reaction was "she's cute!" :-)

She is. Also talkative (did someone say, "talks a blue streak?!"), which turned out fine, as I wasn't so much. Besides, she's wicked smart and knows a whole ton of stuff about things I've either never heard of/thought about or only been exposed to peripherally. So I enjoyed listening and learning.

Later, over Thai, she challenged my quietness, asking if that was a butch thing. Maybe? It's true that most of my closest friends talk way more than I do. (And I love them for this!) ;-)

Well, now (for a minute) I'm in a blog-zone where she might write about me....she might also write about her experiences Arisia (I ended up not going). Or something else. Who knows? This, of course, is the secret to the good life - embracing the fact that one doesn't know, can never know, what will happen next, and then meeting that 'next-ness' with openness and (dare I say?) a kind of innocence.

This learning has been a long time coming. :-/

Posted by Steph at 8:55 AM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2006

"Every love is carved from loss."

This advice is given to one of the spouses in Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer.

The book is both hilarious and intense. It captures an eastern European sensibility shaped by globalization and the Holocaust. At one point, I felt I could grasp - albeit momentarily - what the Holocaust did to a generation (or three) of people in Europe in terms of a moral/ethical fallout.

"He was a good man, who lived in a bad time."

Posted by Steph at 9:01 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2006

action against Bush

The World Can't Wait aims to "drive out the Bush regime."

Actions are planned to protest the January 31 State of the Union Address and march on the white house February 4.

On January 20-22, the Bush Crimes Commission will convene again in New York City. They have "indicted the Bush administration on 5 counts:
1) Wars of Aggression,
2) Torture and Indefinite Detention,
3) Destruction of the Global Environment,
4) Attacks on Global Public Health and Reproductive Rights,
5) Knowing Failure to Protect Life During Hurricane Katrina."

Posted by Steph at 6:37 PM | Comments (0)

acts of love

The review I linked to regarding Everything is Illuminated describes one of the author's themes as "the saving power of love, and particularly of love as expressed in acts of remembering -- and writing."

It captures what I hope I am doing with a couple of personal writing projects as well as (surprise surprise!) this blog.

Posted by Steph at 12:07 PM | Comments (0)

spate of movies

Haven't blogged about all the movies I've seen lately but it's been a nice run. Following are brief comments and links to reviews of Glory Road, Casanova, The Producers, and Syriana.

Last night, Glory Road, which kept me tense throughout and left a very warm feeling. It does what it's supposed to - unadulturated inspiration. It received a significant round of applause from the audience - do stay through the credits, as there are excerpts of interviews with the real people.

Casanova is much more lighthearted, although I did lean over to LB at one point about a third of the way through and say something about it not being too comic at that point (I can't recall if it was the sexism or the commentary on bad/failed relationships). Then it shifted and generated quite a few laughs.

Funniest of the movies I've seen recently is The Producers. It combines slapstick and camp to ridicule the worst extremes of xenophobic superiorities.

Syriana, on the other hand, has practically no humor. The NY Times review argues that the five main characters "add up to a sort of composite hero, though their heroism, collective and individual, is highly ambiguous. Not one of them is in possession of a clear conscience or a singular motive, and not one of them fully claims the audience's sympathy. Greed and ambition sometimes coincide with idealism, and self-interest shades into scruple."

Sounds like most of the people I know :-/

Posted by Steph at 11:05 AM | Comments (0)

January 13, 2006

sad stories and family

"Humorous is the only true way to tell a sad story," explains the Ukrainian interpreter in Everything is Illuminated.

There are some memorable passages about interpreting which I'll need to find a print copy to retrieve verbatim. I recommend the audiotaped version though, because the sound of the English produced by Alex is wonderful. :-)

The first line to really capture my attention was about family. The sense of it is that for members of your family you do things that you hate. A hard truth.

Posted by Steph at 11:36 AM | Comments (0)


Or, the occult, meaning "hidden" or blocked from view. In terms of relationships, this is captured in the contemporary philosophical notion of intersubjectivity.

Mugwort (artemisia) can be used for strength, power, prophecy and healing (from The basis of magic in Harry Potter. Lest you distrust the source, Wikipedia agrees: "Mugwort was used from ancient times as a remedy against fatigue and to protect travellers against evil spirits and wild animals."

Mugwort is also known as common wormwood and has many wormwood relatives. Wormword has been used symbolically to denote bitter characters or realities, such as in The Light of Other Days, which I listened to on tape and continue to mull.

There is a physics discussion that is intended to lay the scientific foundation for the technology of the wormcam - a fictional device which allows remote viewing of any place, any time through miniature, stable wormholes. A wormhole "is essentially a 'shortcut' through space and time. A wormhole has at least two mouths which are connected to a single throat." Wormholes haven't yet been proven or disproven: they are hypothetical.

Curtilage, is a term used to describe the area encompassed by the limits of movement. The way I heard it was as the space of possibility within definite boundaries. A major challenge is pinpointing the parameters of the boundaries themselves.

Here's a legal use that's quite interesting because the case involves questions of privacy and surveillance:

"Respondent argues that because his yard was in the curtilage of his home, no governmental aerial observation is permissible under the Fourth Amendment without a warrant. 1 The history and genesis of the curtilage doctrine are instructive. "At common law, the curtilage is the area to which extends the intimate activity associated with the `sanctity of a man's home and the privacies of life.'" Oliver, supra, at 180 (quoting Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616, 630 (1886)). See 4 Blackstone, Commentaries *225. The [476 U.S. 207, 213] protection afforded the curtilage is essentially a protection of families and personal privacy in an area intimately linked to the home, both physically and psychologically, where privacy expectations are most heightened. The claimed area here was immediately adjacent to a suburban home, surrounded by high double fences. This close nexus to the home would appear to encompass this small area within the curtilage. Accepting, as the State does, that this yard and its crop fall within the curtilage, the question remains whether naked-eye observation of the curtilage by police from an aircraft lawfully operating at an altitude of 1,000 feet violates an expectation of privacy that is reasonable.

That the area is within the curtilage does not itself bar all police observation. The Fourth Amendment protection of the home has never been extended to require law enforcement officers to shield their eyes when passing by a home on public thoroughfares. Nor does the mere fact that an individual has taken measures to restrict some views of his activities preclude an officer's observations from a public vantage point where he has a right to be and which renders the activities clearly visible. E. g., United States v. Knotts, 460 U.S. 276, 282 (1983). "What a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection." Katz, supra, at 351."

Intersubjectivity remains.

Posted by Steph at 4:06 AM | Comments (0)

January 12, 2006

g-tube success!

Sam's currently in recovery from the anasthesia (they had to put him all the way under), but they were able to insert the g-tube and all seems well.


Posted by Steph at 3:33 PM | Comments (3)

sweet moment

Left a friend's after dinner this evening and encountered some kids running up and down the hallway. While the 2 year old wandered in (!) to the apartment (to be attacked by the killer cat), the three year old announced to me:

"Christmas is over."

"It'll be back next year," I said.

"OK," he responded, with the total assurance of a child not yet disillusioned by too much "reality".

Posted by Steph at 12:46 AM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2006

my perspective on bowling: a funky other

Woodrow Wilson once described golf thus: "Golf is an ineffectual attempt to put an elusive ball into an obscure hole with implements ill-adapted to the purpose."

How about a competition? Bowling is the futile attempt to throw an erratic ball into an unpredictable nest of pins with biomechanical precision impossible to duplicate. Real comedians have tried to be funny too.

For me, it's more about being social, in the crudest sense, not being alone but more than that for the stimulation of getting to laugh, build friendships, get to know each other, and divert energy from incessant intellectualizing. (Although I bet we could do a study of personality characteristics focusing on cultural and gendered performances of competitiveness and sportsmanship seeking cultural and/or gendered patterns....or not.) ;-)

Which isn't to say there isn't the opportunity for philosophizing! Take the concept of the English word "else." According to LB, this is a difficult word for those learning English as a second (or third, or seventh) language, coming developmentally after other semantically simpler words: other, instead, different, alternately...

If I wasn't bowling, I would be doing something else.

Else I wallow narcissistically in self-pity, I bowl.

It can be used as a threat, too: If you don't learn to spin, we'll think you're a wuss. [Note: "wuss" appears in technical jargon and "else" in computer programming.]

As to the bowling itself, well! Game 1, 9th frame is when things got hot. My lefthander sleepily nudged over three pins for a spare, then Anuj took out his widely separated two with a ricochet off the side board, Lava picked up a spare with the last pin wobbling like a weeble but it *did* fall down, and then LB went TURKEY! Tied his high (as witnessed by us) 181.

Meanwhile, the lowest score in Game One was 53 (it wasn't me, although I was next-to-last). Ahem.

Another hot streak in Game Two: Dan had the longest, slowest-motion last pin fall I've ever seen. Anuj and Alex both picked up strikes that only counted as spares (the injustice!), LB stomps and his last pin goes down. Lava meanwhile, spins left-handed and takes out that single 10-pin in the back right corner! An amazing feat of bowling prowess. (Although he's apparently bribed people - again! - to repeat the story of a 198 while I wasn't there to witness it. This rumor has gone around before...)

How could I bypass such human drama? Not to mention cases of mistaken identity and merged subjectivities! I thought Alex was Gizem, and she always calls Anuj, "Lava": "When I look at them together it's obvious, but conceptually they're one person."

I stayed to watch the end of the duel to the death between Luscious Larry and Little Brother last night. BOTH faded at crucial moments and Lava smoked 'em. So there you have it, bowling is my "funky other". What else could take its place? :-)

[Disclaimer: the use of "wuss" has no relationship to queer cowboys.]

Posted by Steph at 8:44 AM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2006

speaking and planning

I was delighted to arrive today and find Sam up and able to talk well enough that I could understand him without too many requests for him to repeat himself. I repeated everything back to him, to make sure I understood. When I was mistaken he would just stare at me in silence and then I'd guess, or not, and eventually he'd try again. He even snacked on the impractical treats I brought (brie, eggplant dip and tortilla chips): "I love it!" he said. :-)

We had a pretty intense conversation, going over his will, what he wants bequeathed to whom, where he wants his body donated, what kind of celebration he wants us to have in his honor and to generate closure on our relationships with him. More details forthcoming.

Looks like Sam will have a bit of surgery this Thursday to insert a g-tube; just to accommodate the challenges he has swallowing. He did have a fluid IV for a couple of days - had gotten dehydrated but "plumped up" real quick as soon as he got those fluids restored. This last round (of cold/infection and disease progression) took him for a ride, that's for sure.

Paul, the infamous fiancee, hung with us for a bit. He's a mechanic, and didn't think the mechanic's joke (following) was funny, but laughed at a bunch of the others.

We only got through some of the email; sorry if we didn't get to yours yet. :-/ I did read Sam one snail mail Xmas letter from Dick Bisbee - Sam seemed surprised about the defibrillator but is glad all seems well. As always, Sam loves the jokes and your news. The favorite of those we read so far? The Bannister of Life (esp. #s 3, 4 and 5) and Bird Flu.

The Bannister of Life

1. Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggert have written an impressive new book. It's called "Ministers Do More Than Lay People."

2. Transvestite: A guy who likes to eat, drink and be Mary.

3. The difference between the Pope and your boss...the Pope only expects you to kiss his ring.

4. My mind works like lightning. One brilliant flash and it is gone.

5. The only time the world beats a path to your door is if you're in the bathroom.

6. I hate sex in the movies. Tried it once. The seat folded up, the drink spilled and that ice, well, it really chilled the mood.

7. It used to be only death and taxes were inevitable. Now, of course, there's shipping and handling, too.

8. A husband is someone who, after taking the trash out, gives the impression that he just cleaned the whole house.

9. My next house will have no kitchen - just vending machines and a large trash can.

10. A blonde said, "I was worried that my mechanic might try to rip me off. I was relieved when he told me all I needed was turn signal fluid."

11. I'm so depressed. My doctor refused to write me a prescription for Viagra. He said it would be like putting a new flagpole on a condemned building.

12. My neighbor was bit by a stray rabid dog. I went to see how he was and found him writing frantically on a piece of paper. I told him rabies could be treated, and he didn't have to worry about a Will. He said, "Will? What Will? I'm making a list of the people I want to bite."

13. Definition of a teenager? God's punishment for enjoying sex.

14. As we slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point the wrong way.

Bird Flu

Symptoms of the BIRD FLU...The Center for Disease Control has released a list of symptoms of bird flu. If you experience any of the following, please seek medical treatment immediately:
1. High fever
2. Congestion
3. Nausea
4. Fatigue
5. Aching in the joints
6. An irresistible urge to shit on someone's windshield

Posted by Steph at 6:24 PM | Comments (1)

it's the ambiguity

that makes Brokeback Mountain effective in depicting so-very-human lives. So three of us concluded last night after a pal saw it and joined me and LB for a debrief. So many things are left unsaid, or are said with such a range of possible meanings, or are hinted at by body language and nonverbals...for awhile we discussed the possibility of actual dishonesty but decided that wasn't really it: the storyline develops out of the tensions of people doing the best they can in circumstances that have no precedent, for which they have no preparation or models, and for which there is not only no support but outright antagonism.

Posted by Steph at 8:16 AM | Comments (0)

change the narrative

Bumped into a couple of colleagues yesterday and was telling them about the audiobook I just finished, "The Light of Other Days." However it happened, I mentioned the part about the past being immutable and one of them immediately shook her head in disagreement. "Just change the narrative," she said. Of course, I said, leave it to comm majors to disagree! There wasn't time then (we were going separate ways), but I want to pursue this a bit, because I don't think one person changing the narrative changes much of anything ...

We could get technical about what constitutes change, and then more picky about what it is that gets "changed" ... the book's premise is basically that everything can be watched as it unfolded in real time - this unfolding is what cannot be changed, what is immutable. Changing the narrative about what happened is certainly possible. These are interpretations of what happened, what it meant, what was intended, how it came about as the result of something prior, or how it seemed to causally lead to something later can certainly be changed, but these stories - however rational or descriptive or moralistic - don't change the unfoldment as it was. These stories can, however, change the future, and perhaps they can change the present but only if there is some cooperation between the teller(s) and listener(s).

There was a legal scene (one of the first court cases involving evidence gathered by the time-travelling surveillance device) that really caught my attention because of the fact that even though scenes from a person's life could be replayed exactly, the dialogue wasn't necessarily any more clear in retrospect than it was at the time - and possibly (?) even less so, as contextual layers fade from memory.

It's a domestic scene. The prosecution brings a certain conversation as evidence that the defendent deluded herself about the import of some crucial moments in a former relationship. There is dialogue between the woman (defendent) and the boyfriend. While the fact of the impending break-up is already known to these future viewers looking back on this conversation as an event in time, the meanings of the words spoken are largely ambiguous: they could be interpreted with a range of alternative meanings by different persons, depending upon which element is prioritized. Indeed, even the woman and her boyfriend might view it years later and understand what happened in different terms than what they thought it meant at the time.

For me, the question of change enters as a thought experiment. IF both parties were present "now" and viewing this scene from their past together, would they constitute its meaning in the same way that they did then? If so, there has been no change. If they constitute the meaning differently, then there's a chance - but no guarantee - of change. As they discuss the differences in meaning that they perceive "now" as opposed to "then", they might reenact the same dynamic, the same pattern = no change. It would only be under the circumstance of both parties understanding the difference in meaning and relating anew on the basis of this difference that a new story could be told, a new narrative constructed, that produces actual change.

An individual engaged with this process by themselves as a meditative or reflective practice can grow internally but for this to constitute change there must also be a behavioral element, something that affects sociality, which necessarily requires the participation of others. Perhaps "the change" is found by replacing persons with other persons but this is symbolic not structural. In other words, if all my lovers leave me, each lover leaving becomes symbolic of all the others leaving, each lover loses her individual personness and becomes a part of the structure of a system in which I always get left (this is a hypothetical example, btw!). The system is the structure that keeps me getting involved with women who won't stay ... change - to be changed, to be different in essence - means the structure has to change. Structures are always relational. My changed narrative means nothing as an agent of change unless and until it is 'picked up' - until others engage with the new/changed story - thus making it possible for the uncertain possibilities of the future to overrule the fixed patterns set by the structure of the past.

Posted by Steph at 1:38 AM | Comments (0)

January 9, 2006

NAACP vs Merriam-Webster

NAACP wins on "nigger" in dictionary (email from La Wanza to the social justice listserv)

A Small Victory...A Giant Step (Thanks NAACP)

Kweisi Mfume made the announcement during a speech at Virgina Tech in the spring of 2001 "beginning with the next edition, the word nigger will no longer be synonymous with African-Americans. It shall be duly noted that it's a racial slur and not what African-Americans themselves are. Along with this, all racial and religious slurs will finally be indicated for what they really are - cruel and evil slurs too often used to degrade people."

history and etymology.

Posted by Steph at 10:46 AM | Comments (5)

January 8, 2006

"There ain't no reins on this one."

Brokeback Mountain lives up to the hype.

I did think there was a bit of a parallel between Ennis (who holds it together despite immense pain) and the FP, and me and Jack (who can't quite reconcile reality with desire).

Saw it in good company - three young (apparently heterosexual!?) men. Afterwards, we (sans one) discussed

potential historical impact (a classic in the field of queer studies),

vestiges of homophobia (discomfort with the necking),

the difference between sex (do-able "even with chickens") and the emotional warmth of relational bonding,

and how tightly it's made - not a single scene too long or extraneous.

I did find a negative review on Salon.com but couldn't get myself around to the critic's point-of-view. She felt the movie failed to depict the moments of emotional bonding between the two men that enabled their continuing connection. There is a leap of faith one must take, I suppose, to believe that physical desire in and of itself can carry a relationship. There's something more than that, though, in the dialogues between Ennis and Jack. Their conversation is as spare as the chances of a long and happy life together. Yet, they argue, disagree, and complain like any couple. Those moments of tension are well-balanced by long quiet moments just being together.


Posted by Steph at 1:02 AM | Comments (0)

January 7, 2006

two books

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

Note: 27 January 2006: he's a liar.


The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn by Janis Hallowell.

Posted by Steph at 1:54 PM | Comments (0)

parameter space

This notion comes up in Clarke and Baxter's book, The Light of Other Days, which expands upon a short story of the same title by Bob Shaw written in 1966.

Parameter space is a notion in statistics; Clarke & Baxter apply it to physics and space/time. This link provides a couple of examples.

It seems a Henon Map is how one gets a visual.

There are all kinds of other maps (scroll down Henon Map link above), but this one is more simple in comparison (at least, so it appears). One of the parameters it measures is "the rate of area contraction (dissipation), which must relate to "the connectedness locus" (in the visual link above). I may be grotesquely incorrect, but is this similar to when a quantum wave collapses?

Here's my thinking: An event-in-time unfolds through a series of oscillations between possibility and probability. "Reality" occurs at each instant the wave collapses from its dynamic energy/matter state into something fixed: phenomenologically known as arrival, or in Briankle's terms (?), a gift.

(In looking for an older blogpost on "arrival" - which doesn't exist, *sigh* - I came across this one regarding entelechy. It also has to do with the collapsing of a quantum wave. Yes?)

Here's a nice overview with a brief summary of phenomenology as a field of inquiry and useful explanations of phenomenological thinking.

I'm just thinking (as I get tired of blogging today), that parameter space is a notion that applies not only mathematically to the measurable objects of perception and experience but also, perhaps, to the intangible and ephemeral possibilities of human connecting.

Posted by Steph at 11:10 AM | Comments (0)

"mutually assured surveillance"

An Amazon editorial review critiques The Light of Other Days for repeating material in other books by each respective author, Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter. My biggest complaint is how they use the storyline to show off their imagination with Michener-esque detours through future and historical time. That said, however, there are some intriguing elements to this story of the ultimate end of privacy - when everyone is subject to 24/7 survellance at any/every moment by whomever has the mass-produced technology to look.

The title comes from a poem about memory by Thomas More, which becomes the refuge of the old while the young become consciously (cognitively, psychically, intersubjectively) "joined", generating collective intelligence, perhaps a new form of being, and look to the future.

"Ultimately, The Light of Other Days is thinly veiled social commentary. We may not like to admit it, but our illusions of privacy are almost as tenuous as those shattered by the WormCam. As governments and businesses record more and more of our actions, nobody lives an unexamined life. Each of us is pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, and numbered every day." (positive review)

The parts I enjoyed the most involve a mix of humanism and physics. "None of us has a choice about history," so therefore we have to somehow "learn to live without subterfuge and shame." While the past can be viewed, it cannot be altered. I don't have the exact quote or page references (audiobook) but this explanation caught me:

"The past has a blank, frozen fixedness. Immutable. The future is uncertainty. They meet in the present with the past slowly, inexorably encroaching on the future."

The youth, of course, take matters into their own hands. Gotta love 'em! There was a line early on about the difference between chess and poker, which reminded me of playing chess with Alec who just about whupped me in the first three moves! I had to get serious and fast! It seems there might be an important determination to be made as to when one chooses the steady logic of chess versus the random chance of poker, each with their own strategies. Each, also, with their own versions of patience. "Science," David Curzon, the brilliant physicist who is intellectually responsible for the original wormcam technology, "demands patience." He is explaining to his brother that sometimes it is much more useful to prove a specific thing doesn't work than it is to demonstrate that something might work. The former sets a much more decisive parameter.

Posted by Steph at 10:24 AM | Comments (0)

on waiting...

I've received a certain piece of advice regarding a certain situation consistently for the past several months (well, the last year plus, and if one wants to get really picky, the last eight years). "Wait."

In my faster-than-light personal growth process (don't I wish: *sigh*), I've been tuning in to the moments and events that spark a desire to hurry. I had a crucial half-hour with Jesus Evil Kachina (a quasi!?! code name, in case you haven't guessed, Spanish pronounciation) in which it was ALL I could do not to explode with impatience. There was no reason for me to be in such a rush; but I felt it so deeply it hurt. Sitting that out calmly was a biggie.

I can recall way too many instances where I wanted to already be somewhere, or already engaged in doing something....that, or I was trapped by something in the past I couldn't quite let go. Either way, I've often not been "in" the present as much as I thought at the time.

Posted by Steph at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)

a moment passes...

I did submit one proposal to the Communication in Crisis conference - it's an updated version of the one accepted by Crossroads. I did not submit the radical one. It seemed too likely it would be misinterpreted as an attempt to hijack the event. :-( And, maybe it really is too big of a risk, to actually "do" post-modernism at an academic conference? Too big a leap for the genre?

Someday, somewhere, with some folk...we'll manage to pull something like this off. I hope. :-)

Posted by Steph at 9:58 AM | Comments (0)

January 6, 2006

Muffy vs Mei Mei

LB says his cat told him all this already but MY cat told ME a LONG time ago! ;-)

The globe-trotting evolution of the cat family describes how researchers have reconstructed "a series of at least ten intercontinental migrations in which cats colonized the world." Sadly, "most of the large cats are in peril."

Posted by Steph at 10:44 PM | Comments (0)


I wonder if there'll be any similarites I'll recognize if I attend Arisia with the SF conventions I used to attend as a wee teenager?

Heather Dale sounds good!

It'll cost me $40 even though I'm a student cuz I'm over 25. C'est la vie!

Some of the movies look fun:

It Came From Outer Space in 3D 4 pm Friday or 9:30 pm Saturday
Aelita, Queen of Mars with live piano accompaniment 9 pm Friday

Spectres of The Spectrum 11:30 am Saturday

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 5 pm Saturday (this one's easily rentable, eh?)

Howl's Moving Castle anime 7 pm Saturday. Also rentable?

The Written Word looks intriguing but I'll have to be en route to work while it's being shown. :-( "This is a 1965 UNESCO documentary heralding a bright future for Nigeria led by its library system, a future that never happened. Written by poet and academician Andre Maurois, also author of some SF, this film is sad in that it shows a future that turned to dust only a few years later. In 16mm B&W, 21 min."

There's actually loads of anime.

Posted by Steph at 9:48 PM | Comments (0)

fatal deletion

I made a careless error the other night, a combo of fatigue and trying to hurry. This rushing thing is more and more in my face as an issue. :-/

I've tried to turn OFF the stupid trackback feature a number of times but it doesn't seem to stick, so I'm in a constant deletion battle with them. somehow, I'd flipped to the comment page and didn't realize it until I'd mechanically checked, deleted, and confirmed the delete of 20 comments spanning a three week period (17 December 2005 to 3 January 2006). I only had two backed up per someone's advice to another poor sucker.

I did have the backed-up page of the log in Movable Type where one does the deletions, so I copied that into a Word doc. At least it retains a vestige of the record. Summarized briefly here:

Two from Christi: 1) “I had tried to remember to talk to you about dad’s accident" She and the boys drove past the accident not knowing it was dad....got his cell phone call and returned... 2) something about the queasiness some of us feel in response to physical injuries. Alec had cut his thumb while I was there, and I recounted the story of fainting in the ER after getting someone with an eye injury there.

Two from Ila, 1) “Hey Steph, I found that pin thing" which she'd promptly lost as soon as we got them at the botanical gardens and 2) “I am here. We did not complete the conversation" that we'd started about independence, intersubjectivity, and responsibility.

Carole“C’mon, you and Rockwell Kent ain’t related" and some other outrageous stuff as is her wont. !

Two from museumfreak, 1) “dude, I do that with LJ people – what you said about people in NY" and 2) something about when we're gonna get together with her trademark affection "honey" :-)

Several from me responding to the above.

Burckhard's critique of the first draft of my findings (Originally posted 2006-01-03 11:30:18. This is one I had in backup, plus my response.)

And there was one kinda sad, newsy one from Jennifer about Sam. And a memory from Harold Van Valin. :-(

Elizabeth kindly reposted about the Winter Solstice. Lost forever probably is the one from a "Jeff" about the surveillance of libraries to which I responded. (The story I posted about that inspired Jeff's comment turned out to be a hoax, after all). Which reminds that Donna had commented as well. sigh - forever lost to emptied space.

Posted by Steph at 8:55 PM | Comments (0)

more experimentation

I tried that moving-around-the-group style again today in a different setting with a bunch of people who weren't part of the first experiment. I'd just barely had a chance to explain it to my team and the Deaf person when the event got underway, so we all took the plunge. At break I asked how it was going:

It feels more natural," said the Deaf person, going on to explain that it felt better to look at the speaker and know that no one was wondering about whether or not they were paying attention.

This is the first group I've done since I got "stuck" in the traditional model (of planting butt in one place and not moving). Overall, the whole event seemed to go very well. Early on, the facilitator made space for some discussion of the interpreting process by the whole group, which hardly ever happens but is such a blessing because it normalizes our presence and function. This made it easier for some inclusive discussions during break, and someone even made a parallel later in the day between the interpreting process and "translating" something from the individual/psychological level to the group/systemic level. The parallel opened up a natural opportunity for the Deaf person to explain the two levels on which interpretation occurs, via mode (from the auditory to the visual) and via language (from the grammar, syntax, semantics of English to the linguistic features of ASL). It was just simply way cool!

I did notice some issues, however (as I always do!). grin. The most glaring was my own error in not voicing a comment made by the Deaf person upon reentering the room, instead I answered the query. It was a bit tricky because this person has good speech skills and voiced for themself, so I responded to the "code" of signing as a private request. Of course, if this occurred between a working interpreter and a non-deaf person there would be serious upset! It was also complicated by the fact that there was a lull in the group's overall discussion because someone was sketching a diagram on the board and no one was speaking, so there was no conversation being interrupted. Which, duh!, "ought" to have made it even easier for me to voice the question and defer to someone in the group. I was conflicted between the "norm" of participating in privileged communication between interpreters and deaf persons and the "rule" of providing equal access to all.

The problem with the norm, as I see it, is especially apparent during breaks, when often interpreters and deaf interlocutors (the fancy word for those who are supposedly communicating directly with each other) chit chat about various and sundry things. For instance, during the first break today we had a conversation about who forgot to bring lunch. Nothing earth-shattering, but the non-deaf person watching was excluded. No big deal you say? Well, I think it could be, because while we (the interpreters) had a nice little bonding moment with the deaf person, we're not going to be back in that situation again, but the deaf and non-deaf persons ARE going to be interacting with each other for some indeterminate period of time into the future. Did we serve to promote their relationship or hinder it?

The other interesting thing I noticed, which is VERY common, is that the non-deaf members of the group simply didn't ask what was going on when there were signed conversations that weren't voiced. Why is that? My team says it may depend on context, even gender (men might ask what's going on more often than women?) and I'm wondering if age has something to do with it as well? Teens for instance, and very old people - both groups who may not feel as much need to conform to perceptions of social etiquette as those of us solidly in the "middle". But who knows? In my experience, it is quite rare for non-deaf persons to ask to be included in non-interpreted signed conversation. This could be taken as a demonstration of respect, and I'm not intending to be critical of it, but it begs questions of power and accountability. Who is "supposed" to decide when a non-deaf person should or should not be included? And what are the long-term (one could say systemic) consequences of these decisions?

Don't misread me; I'm not complaining about a single thing that happened today. It was one of the smoothest jobs I've had in a long time and I can't think of any specific thing that I think could have gone better - except for having captions (!). It's just that I've become more attuned over the years to certain group dynamics that repeat themselves over and over again in so many different variations of settings and with such diverse persons that I think it's worth opening up more discussion about whether or not these particular habits serve or inhibit bilingual communication and cross-cultural relationships.

Posted by Steph at 7:37 PM | Comments (2)

UMass has a Wiki!

Wouldn't you know it! neurophyre started it up last fall. And here I've been casting about, hoping!

I need to get back in touch with Radhika, too, about plans for the spring semester Intro to Mass Media courses we're trying to coordinate via freebie wiki's.

Raz sent the info on the UMass wiki by email to the comm-grad list.

Posted by Steph at 12:09 AM | Comments (1)

January 5, 2006

The brain-gut connection

I revisited the article I found after Shemaya mentioned the enteric brain to me. It’s densely biomedical, and I wouldn’t pretend to understand the actual chemistry involved, except that motility (the digestive action of the stomach and intestines) is linked to serotonin in some way. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that has a lot to do with mood. Again, I don’t understand the actual reactions that stimulate sensation, but what I’ve been thinking about is the frequency with which – in my darker moments of the past couple of years – I’ve had the impulse to want to cut out my stomach. Rich said something similar the other night, about sometimes wanting to take a knife to his gut.

“Provided that the vagus nerve is intact, a steady stream of messages flows back and forth between the brain and the gut. We all experience situations in which our brains cause our bowels to go into overdrive. But in fact, messages departing the gut outnumber the opposing traffic on the order of about nine to one.”

In other words, just by quantity, the enteric system associated with the digestive tract produces many more messages than the brain. This leads me to think that the function of mind is to reconcile all of these messages. A task complicated by innumerable factors of genetics, socialization, exposure to various kinds of knowledge, and personal experiences.

The article is focused on physical phenomena, the material system that can be traced through careful scientific experimentation. I’m drawn to it because of the (oft repeated) phenomenological experience of emotional distress (grief, mostly) being accompanied by the urge to remove a part of my body. The article only mentions one example of an emotional-enteric connection:

“Correlation or Causation? Whatever the exact connection, the relationship between the cerebral and enteric brains is so close that it is easy to become confused about which is doing the talking. Until peptic ulcer was found to be an infectious disease, for example, physicians regarded anxiety as the chief cause. Now that we recognize Helicobacter pylori as the cause, it seems clear that the physical sensation of burning epigastric pain is generally responsible for the emotional symptoms, rather than the other way around. But because most ulcer patients, if questioned, will admit to feeling anxious, the misunderstanding persisted for decades.”

Posted by Steph at 12:15 PM | Comments (0)

"The weather is wonderful"

I carried this fortune (from lunch with Hunju and LB the day before I left) with me the entire trip. In fact, the weather was incredibly mild. Between Buffalo and Albany yesterday afternoon there was rain, ranging from drizzle to downpour, with a brief period of actual hail but otherwise, no inclement weather whatsover. I thought it a nice symmetry that I drove through rain in NY both going and coming back.

I got out of Columbus a lot earlier than I'd expected, but I woke up unexpectedly eager to get on the road. Nothing for it, I guess, than to face the future that awaits. I finished listening to Other People's Children, which didn't plunge me into as much purging as I'd anticipated. The characters weren't so recognizable to me (or maybe I resist identification and accusation?), although I painfully recognized the theme of "separateness, and the heartbreak and diligence it takes to mold that into the togetherness of a family."

The phrase that had stuck with me from the previous day was about being "held down by the gossamer threads of the past." I also kept noticing that it was Rufus, the eight year old, who was most adept at accepting change and embracing affection. The moral is captured in this line:

"Sometimes hard things turn out better because you have to make an effort at them."

Before I dove into the next audiobook, I listened to the radio for awhile, enjoying Born to be Blue by The Judds, among others. (I'm sortof listening to Bonnie Raitt, Souls Alike, now.) I also spent an hour on the phone with Frances, missing the exit (!) that would take me around Cleveland instead of through it. I don't think it added too much time to my trip. By the time I figured it out it was easier to keep going than turn around. It might have been when were recalling me taking the kids camping without food. Who knows what I was thinking? (It seems I wasn't.) grin We all came out of it ok.

I'll post separately about The Light of the Universe, but one line captured much of the sense of this time in my life:

"We have to understand each failure before we can move on to success."

I took in much of the landscape and some architecture as I drove these two thousand plus miles roundtrip. Entering Indiana on I-71 at the Pennsylvania border is the ugliest state-to-state transition I've ever noticed. Billboards peppered both sides of the highway. Crass, to say the least. While I'm complaining, I-71 eastbound in Ohio is an awful stretch of bumpy highway.

Kansas City has built up some new funky stuff ... saw a cool photo of four towers they've built up somewhere downtown. I touched Ohio State University - their amenities in the Linguistics Department put ours to shame (an automatic coffee/latte/hot chocolate maker!) and drove past the sign to Kent State University. The upcoming Communication in Crisis conference is displaying a photo from that era.

The mild weather provided great views of the land. The best parts are in-between cities, rolling hills, some forested, some cultivated, and some open prairie. The bare trees were amazing - so colorful! Varying shades of gray, brown, and orange. Plenty of green conifers and in some places, even green grass. I was amused by the bison statues scattered at one junction coming into Buffalo but hey, I suppose it's better to remember they used to roam free than erase their memory altogether.

Now, Carrie Newcomer. I think she fits my mood better.

Posted by Steph at 9:34 AM | Comments (3)

January 4, 2006

Ila's recent reading list

Kafka romanticized failure, and sadness,

so did Albert Camus: who "viewed a failure to act as a choice to surrender".

as well as Herman Hesse (actually a bit more positive about things; perhaps a good place to begin?), and Nietsczhe and Milan Kundera, one of whose novels was made into a movie: The Unbearable Lightness of Being....

Ila's Heartthrob On Romance: "The day the thought of me doesn't bring a smile to your face we'll split."

Ila On Blogging: "What are you doing?"

Ila In The Morning: "I can't believe you said, 'Rise and shine!'"

Ila on Classes: "What the heck! I won't go!"

Ila as Ila: "Tell them that I boss you around!"

Posted by Steph at 8:03 AM | Comments (10)

January 3, 2006


We construct our own reality, right? So who's to say that reading these horrorscopes (a Lynchism, along with "brown-crusted outies" and other savory sayings) didn't set the tone for some deep thought and stimulating conversation?

Taurus: "This looks like a high-profile or soaring professional day for you. Get motivated and use this energy to promote your career or a business idea."

Gemini: "You will find communicating your thoughts and feelings to others is easy today. Let them know exactly what is on your mind."

Pisces: "You are at your intuitive best today. Tune into your subconscious for some enlightening information about a sibling or a peer."


Posted by Steph at 9:46 PM | Comments (2)

"the most heterogenous political entity"

So Dan described the European Parliament while asking me a bit about the research I'm trying to accomplish there. I felt a new level of clarity trying to explain what I'm looking at in the interpreting process, which I wanted to capture here....

First, all language use involves power - most obviously in political negotiations although also in interpersonal interactions. (We had a fun digression regarding couple's communication, grin.) There's a myth that people necessarily communicate better if they're using the same language, however people speaking the same language also miscommunicate and misunderstand each other. (Among some of us rather more frequently than others, frown.)

The job of the interpreter, more than anything else, is to mediate the power. It seems we're not supposed to admit this? Most of the discourse in interpreter talk about interpreting (in my overall experience) involves cultural equivalence, comparable effect, mutual understanding.... rarely (if ever?) does the term "power" come up. Interestingly, Deaf persons often challenge sign language interpreters around the use of power, but this discourse is quite tangled, with Deaf people wanting to use interpreters to weild their own cultural/linguistic/personal power, non-deaf people being generally oblivious to linguistic inequality, and interpreters dancing all over the place trying to find a comfortable position "to be" in the midst of all this.

We didn't get too much into the way I think the act of interpreting relates to democracy, but Dan deduced the general points that linguistic diversity preserves difference, and difference is essential to democracy.

Just as a point of coincidence, Burckhard commented within hours of that conversation (!) with a useful critique of my rhetoric. I know I'll have to find a way of presenting the case such that it doesn't just come across as polemical. At the same time, I do think there is something urgent in understanding the potentials of this historical moment, so perhaps I can be forgiven for letting some of that concern show? :-/

Posted by Steph at 9:17 PM | Comments (0)

The Sands of Time

Hermux is a wise mouse. This children's story is fast-paced and an easy read, with a few moments of genius.

Mirrin, a painter who has recovered miraculously from blindness, generates images that are assumed to be cats, except no one believes in cats. "'There's a misunderstanding here,' answered Mirrin. 'I've never said that these are paintings of cats. I don't know who said that. But what if they were cats? We're taught as children not to think about cats. Never to speak about them. Never even to say the word. But we do think about them. And we talk about them. At least we whisper about them behind closed doors. The fact is that the idea of cats is real. It lurks in every one of us. It slinks about in the shadows. It stalks us on sleepless nights. It pounces when we least expect it. It toys with us when we're anxious. It bats us about when we're feeling helpless. And maybe you think it's obscene even to mention the idea of cats. But I don't agree. Being blind taught me one thing at least. Whatever we can see in the light, no matter how bad, is less frightening than what we can imagine in the dark.'" (p. 32)

Hermux is attracted to Linka, the adventurous pilot who flies them into the desert to discover the lost library of cats. Hermux wonders about the danger involved in her work:

"'I don't usually tell anyone this,' she said... 'I do get scared. Often. But I can't let it stop me. Or I might as well give up. I try to only take reasonable risks. But sometimes to get my job done I don't have a choice. I just have to do it.'" (p. 139)

On the verge of discovery, Hermux ponders what proof of cats might mean:

"'It might change the course of history,' he thought. 'It might change everything - who we are and where we come from. What's possible. And not possible. We'd have to rethink everything.' He shivered a little at the idea. Hermux liked things just so - neat, organized, and orderly. Like clockwork. That's what he loved about being a watchmaker. It was predictable. Like history. To Hermux, history had always seemed like a giant clock. It got wound up, and then it ran very smoothly, one thing leading to the next. You knew when things started, and you knew when they ended. And they always happened in the same order. You could count on that. Now if it turned out that the order had been wrong all along, history would fall apart. Hermux, who did not like messes in any shape or form, found himself helping to make a mess of history." (p. 197)

Posted by Steph at 9:00 PM | Comments (0)

karaoke discourse

"Some people you clap because they're done. There are different kinds of appreciation" (Ruth).

It took us quite a while to end up at the Varsity (described by Pridesource as a "low-keyed, butch, neighborhood joints popular with rugged guys") where we were greeted with, "Aren't you hot things?" I decided it wasn't us, actually, but the black supercharged ultra Buick we pulled up in.

We were stuck, as it were, with karaoke because of false advertising by Apres Jacks (where we went first hoping to listen to Soul Bus) and Local's Only (the closer karaoke option, but its parking lot was empty). Most of the singing was scary, only "close" in tone and/or pitch and when I went to the bathroom Ruth wrote, "Don't leave me!!" She was initially aghast I was "taking notes" but jumped right into adding what she thought were relevant moments:

"present company excepted"

some extreme genre shifts, from Skin to Rub it in, Rub it in

"get in line"

There were a few lines I noted, "love...the kind you clean up with a mop and a bucket" (The Bad Touch) and "When its through its through, fate will twist the both of you" (Next To Be With You).

"Life's full of disrespect," Ruth announced to me at one point, "You've gotta learn to be flexible." We certainly adapted to the conditions of the evening as it evolved, all we knew was that the music had to be right. Cruising town listening to 101.9 classic rock got us started. Which Poco song contains: "the sun's coming up, I'm running with lady luck"? There were more good songs played than I could possibly record. :-)

After I bought a bunch of used books on tape (and resisted buying a gift), we went to find a Nuvo and plan the evening. (Fyi - this is a backwards chronology). The waitress told us she'd "run a tip" - one can guess where her mind was! We started with the Rob Brezny horrorscopes ("live from the dreamtime"):

Pisces: In his book, The Disappearance of the Universe, Gary Renard quotes the counsel of his teacher: "A jet airliner is always going off course, but through constant correction it arrives at its destination. So will you arrive at yours." Remember that advice throughout 2006, Pisces. My analysis of the astrological omens suggests that you will be frequently straying from the path of your highest destiny, and yet that's exactly what needs to happen in order for you to reach your highest destiny. Forced to keep making regular adjustments, you will tone and strengthen your willpower, which is essential to you achieving the goals that really matter.

Taurus: "We live in a world with too much music," writes Joe Nickell at Missoulian.com. He's bothered by the fact that everywhere he goes, there are tunes pouring from cell phones and mp3 players and TVs and radios and live bands. As far as you're concerned, though, Nickell is utterly off-base. In 2006, you should take advantage of the profusion; you should immerse yourself in music more than you ever have before. To do so will be instrumental in helping you accomplish your top assignment in the coming months, which is to feel deep, rich, interesting emotions as often as possible.

Well. One of the new yet familiar emotions I experienced yesterday included going out with the Sears Catalog Man. We walked on the moon together. "Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man's desire to understand." Neil Armstrong.

This was after the SCM did NOT want to know about a former fun adventure known in infamy as the B&E in the NT. Our actions prevented a fire. :-)

And no, there is no revision of history in the telling of that tale!

Posted by Steph at 11:32 AM | Comments (0)

January 2, 2006

Romanian folklore

According to Little Brother, whatever one is doing on New Year's Eve is what one will spend a lot of time doing for the next year. I was with friends, remembering the past, watching children play. Not bad!

On New Year's Day, I started the drive back east. I had a feeling the return trip would be harder than the outbound...the Korean acupuncturist kept emphasizing my tendency toward melancholy, because I'm "so sensitive." I'm feeling it. My friends saw it too, thinking I looked tired. Not physically, no, but emotionally and spiritually. "It shows." I know. But I think it's temporary, fallout from the return to family (after 13 years no less) and the stark evidence of socialization. There's no doubt where my "stuff" originates. :-/

At the same time, the warm embrace and unconditional acceptance is, I guess, the hallmark of true family ties. So Dad and Christi's reluctance to see me go means a lot. Frances also gave me a hard time for staying such a short time and not seeing more people. Maybe next time, with more planning. I certainly miss the teasing: "You drive like an old lady!" We've all grown up a bit, eh? :-)

One of the sweetest moments was when Madison "made" me. In code at the bottom of my portrait she wrote, "I love Stephanie."

Meanwhile, I listened to the end of Prodigal Summer: "Every choice is a world made new for the chosen." My nephews and Ruth questioned the noise made by the Apache burden basket hanging from my rear view mirror. Mom sent it for Xmas - for its symbolism, of course. S.E. noticed it, commenting on its small size, then saying the burdens could just slip right on through the mesh. The tinkling is a bit much at times, but it has served to pull my mind back into the task of driving a few different times when my consciousness went too far away. At the end of this journey I'll take it down. If I'm lucky, it will have served its purpose.

I keep thinking of a moment that occurred at the end of an interpreting job a few weeks ago. It was a reorganization of institutional structure that required someone giving up a position they'd held for many years and moving into a new role. The event was informational for staff, and also somewhat celebratory of the transition. It just so happened that I was among the very last to leave - Deaf folk tending to linger as they do. As we walked out the door, the person whose job was officially over offered us food, which we declined. She looked around the empty room and said, "That's the end of it."

Jay, responding to a "Hon-dah" from Grandmother S.E., writes about the New Year that it is "truth that keeps things rolling." Yes. I add: the deepest truths are those we create together.

Here's to new creations, not severed from the past but integrating its lessons and moving on toward whatever calls us - peace, love, beauty.

Posted by Steph at 11:47 AM | Comments (1)

January 1, 2006

blasted by the past

Frances and Kathy regaled me with memories last night, camping trips, this person and that, who's doing what now, who's with who now, who's had a baby. They're still in touch with all the "groups" of my former life - a circle from college, UPS and other people associated with work, and the social crowd. It seems fitting to end my trip with these reminescences. Those were the people who knew me when I was brash and completely unaware that emotions were a figural part of human existence.

We hailed in the New Year on New York time - 11 pm here in Kansas City, fooling the kids who went berserk in a neighbor's front yard with poppers and pot lids, then toilet papered Frances' son's truck. "Payback", I heard, for a few parties when Robbie and his pals woke them up with partying.

It's been a trip driving around, vaguely recalling places from high school, how familiar this place feels and yet so distant in actual memory. Of course, there are specific events and conversations that come to mind, as well as subtle drifts of visceral memory - how I felt during this time of my life, with various folk, about certain situations. Wild.

I came out to Kathy and Frances' place after seeing Rich, who's looking kindof like my Uncle Dick in the face and a football player in the trunk. It has been 13 years. Our best connection was a conversation about Nuremberg - he saw a special on C-Span a night or two ago, and I just wrote about it from my research last summer. :-) I knew there was a reason I brought a copy of that paper with me!

Said bye to the boys and Christi. They were curious about how my surprising Rich would go (I think it kinda weirded him out - such a shock - but he was obviously delighted).

Dad and I talked some more - heavy sedation if he's in a lot of pain and there's no chance of recovery. We'll be continuing this as he works through the paperwork. It's a grim subject but also intimate - you get to know things about a person (your parent!) talking about their wishes. At this time in our lives, it seems to be a good thing.

Posted by Steph at 10:01 AM | Comments (2)