October 1, 2007

researching the edges

I have always felt that the action most worth watching is not at the center of things but where edges meet.

Anne Fadiman. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.
1997. (Preface, p. viii.)

The Review linked above does criticize Fadiman for overromanticizing some aspects of Hmong culture, history, and customs; what reviewer Mai Na M. Lee calls "the bigger issues." In particular, she criticizes Fadiman's conclusion that Hmong are "differently ethical." The phrasing itself is curious, requiring some serious parsing. The way I read the phrase, Fadiman is asserting that ethics are as foundational and valued among the Hmong as within any people. The use of "differently" (instead of the starker label of "different") - refers to the ethics being performed or based "in a different manner." It seems to me this opens up comparision on the basis of more, rather then less, similarity. Dr. Lee did not read the phrase this way, interpreting its meaning as more distancing (differencing?) than joining.

Dr. Lee has the benefit of context; I have not yet read that far. There is a Bakhtinian movement discernable here: the counterplay of centripetal and centrifugal forces in the utterances of Fadiman's book and Dr. Lee's review.

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September 30, 2007


Sinead, Jose and I made it to the top of Bare Mountain yesterday.


The ambience of late summer persists with dry warmth and undulating green. Up close, however, there is evidence of the inexorable approach of fall.


Did the season enable our choice of topics? Our talk was by turns thoughtful, mixed with various griefs and life challenges, and amusing, rippled by laughter. The last time I was up here we also spoke of what one might call the spiritual.

Posted by Steph at 8:37 AM | Comments (0)

September 24, 2007

maybe I'm a Finn? :-)

Saila gets more kudos: her dissertation research is Research News of the Week in Helsinki!

One aspect of her research into mobile phone use discovered a "paradox between reachability and disturbance" in which,

“Being in peace seems to be connected to the Finnish concept of humanity and social relationships. Text messages are particularly handy for Finns, as you don’t have to reply right away even though you are reachable,” she says.

Do you want to see what Finnish looks like?

Posted by Steph at 7:17 PM | Comments (2)

September 23, 2007

In Remembrance of Alec


Christi imagined a piece of Alec's spirit in each balloon, including the parts of him held by and given to each person present. I thought of the pace of their departure, the wind picked them up so fast! I imagined their speed parallel with the way Alec lived, not that he was always in a rush, but once that boy had decided there was no hesitation. :-)

The weekend passed quickly, wedged between hectic work weeks for all of us. Yet the picnic at Alec's gravesite flowed leisurely. The steady stream of arrivals began at one pm and continued until the release an hour-and-a-half later.

The mood was at turns festive, contemplative, sad, and peaceful. The day itself was beautiful. Uncle Dick, all the way from Port Angeles, WA, offered some remarks. Many in the crowd were probably unaware that his daughter, our cousin Saundra, died of leukemia when she was twenty. (Her memory is celebrated annually by the Peninsula Tennis Club.)

Uncle Dick shared some thoughts with us from an article by Mark A. Lorenson, You Can Not Lose the Ones You Love, which challenges the "conventional wisdom" that "we miss the ones we love" (47). Applying the philosophy that "we, through our current beliefs, are actually creating our experience of 'missing'" (48), Lorenson proposes a reframing which Uncle Dick exhorted us all to try:

I love you and feel your presence.

In all ways, from everyone gathered and those whose thoughts were with us, a fitting tribute.


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September 22, 2007

Bonding in Belton


We ate breakfast at Deb and Bill's Cafe in Belton, Missouri. Under surveillance. One neighbor got a map to show us where Carrollton is - Austin is performing there with marching band today. Another neighbor congratulated Rich for finding a way to interrupt her life story. Christi (not one to mess up her schoolwork with doodles) recounted her stress-releasing strategy of making tic marks for each time the chatty nitwit (bless her heart) annoys her in class. Dad selected from "The Lighter Side" portion of the menu - until he learned he could have both corned beef hash and hashbrowns.

We're wearing bracelets in honor of Alec's life, celebrating being together on his account.


I have a feeling Alec would have enjoyed the two-seater.

Posted by Steph at 12:40 PM | Comments (2)

September 20, 2007

When and Who to tell...

We had in time in College Writing (first year writing) on Thursday to do a round of check-ins, "What's best about this class, What's worst about this class, and something random." I had not thought about participating (duh) and felt as on-the-spot as some of the students may have when it came to the end and - as a few students insisted - my turn. Alec and this trip to Kansas City was high on my mind, but I was thinking to myself, "No, that's too personal; telling them might compromise the teacher/student boundary." The students are interacting well, there was teasing and a fair number of comments and teasing about some of the things people shared. A minute or two before my turn, two of the boys had an exchange and one of them said, "Oh Snap."

That was my sign to let them know.

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September 17, 2007

the overthrow begins


Ok, so there were many red marks on my proposal, but *I*never got suspended - for two days! - because I wanted to play with/against the rules of organized sports! (In first form, no less - a freshman in high school!) Nor did the girls not speak to me for three months at college because I Contra-created meanings against the grain! (Well, actually, they excommunicated me for ever but that's a whole 'nother story.)


Posted by Steph at 12:33 AM | Comments (1)

September 6, 2007

"to the missionary in each of us"

My roommates and I celebrated the first day of classes in stereotypical graduate student fashion. I knew there was a reason I try to avoid "the usual!" With these two, however, the entertainment was extraordinary: superimpose the antics of county fair humor and you get the picture.


Meanwhile, I don't yet know my students reaction to having me as a teacher. I always assume that inside themselves, at least some of them are having an autonomic, gut-level surge of electrical zing, which - if visualized - might make them look something like this chicken.


This semester began with a bang: teaching two classes in one afternoon. Within hours they've begun to blur in my mind: both are writing, although at different levels (freshfolk, juniors) with particular curriculums (general academic writing, writing for the discipline of Communication), but the foundational goals of each involve building critical thinking skills and developing rhetorical voice.

I wish I had the text of the lyrics that accompanied Humphrey Dumpty during the excellent marionette show, as he recited the lessons he learned from his Uncle's terrible mishap with a wall.

Somehow, the carnivalesque nature of the County Fair was a perfect prelude to the start of this semester.


Posted by Steph at 7:33 AM | Comments (1)

September 2, 2007

"...a hint of menace"

Reunions with old friends and meeting new ones abound.

Last night, I had tears streaming down my cheeks during a good portion of Talk To Me, particularly through the civil rights movement portion of this film depicting Petey Greene's life as an entertainer. Not only does Don Cheadle bring Greene's uncompromising assertiveness to life, Director Kasi Lemmons does a great job with the tension of differential ambitions between Greene and his Manager, Dewey Hughes (outstandingly acted by Chiwetel Ejiofor).

After a quick debrief, Natalia split the scene. Jose, Sinead and I were joined by John at Amherst Coffee. What a talk we had! Movie culture, memories of the sixties in the US, life in Malawi and Mozambique, and interpreting. Sinead had seen me working at the Graduate Commencement last spring - which included a protest against Andrew Card.

Prior to the movie, Jose and I ate while Jin (the Muscle-Bound-Tough-Guy) exercised his qi.


Our conversation covered Tae Kwon Do, Ta'i Chi, and the cultural politics of marriage.

I was reminded of my role as "community redneck," because the previous evening a crew of Ever-Smiling Evil Indians regaled me with various responses to the typical American questions about arranged marriages. "He had two camels" is one answer to the decision-making process of the women/parents involved. We were eating at The Crazy Noodle, perhaps that inspired the round of sheer silliness? Next thing I knew there was a reprise of "we ride our elephants to school, they have their own parking lot," compete at "camel polo," and enjoy torturing valets with parking their mounts. You know they were getting to me because I became the "community ratkiller" in my notes (they give contracts to cats to kill the rats infesting every apartment) - perhaps a Freudian slip of my tendency to shine light into dark places? ;-) Is there really a sacred bull called Shambo? Maybe it was the Shiraz. Then Ambarish slipped, mentioning tunneling.

Quantum particles can penetrate into regions that are forbidden classically, leading to the phenomenon of tunneling.

We lost Ameya at this point - or did he lose us, kindof like the ball in soccer?! - and Supriya took off to find carryout containers. :-) by now, it's been ages since the Ever-Smiling Evil Indian admired my tennis shoes: "they're cool, with a hint of menace."


Life follows language!

Ambarish added a cultural element while explaining arranged vs love marriages to a new friend a week or so ago, using me as his example: "We know there will be compromises. If I want to be friends with Steph, for instance, I know I'm going to have to make some compromises."

Laughter all around. :-)

Posted by Steph at 8:25 AM | Comments (2)

August 31, 2007


The Rock Star told me that he feels like he's "standing in the middle of a storm" as he's helped people moving out and moving in for the past ten days.

Does he look like he's bothered by much to you? ;-)


Posted by Steph at 5:58 PM | Comments (0)

Honorific: Crew

As The Captain steered and navigated us along the Atlantic seacoast and up the Connecticut River, I marveled at our isolation.


No, we were not the only people on the water (although many times, especially in the early morning, it felt this way). We were the only people sailing. Cigarette boats, smaller fishing boats and larger cruisers pounded by, sometimes slowing considerately so as not to pummel us with their wake, but not always. How is it, I wondered, that people seek to escape the frenzy of daily life by transferring the same frenetic energy to their recreation? Everyone we met commented on the "speed" (as in lack thereof) or our humble craft. There we were, two women (egads!) on a tiny boat (one kayaker who stopped to chat boasted his boat was longer than ours by two whole feet!), rejecting modernity's rapidity and its characteristic exertion of control over the environment.

Sailing is a wonder. I was blessed with spectacular weather during my stint as crew for Shemaya's Serenity Sail - a bit of rain the first night (for which we were totally prepared), otherwise sun and the vagaries of wind and current. The second night boasted a spectacular sunset, a full moon and an eclipse! We had nice long downwind sails on Day Two and Three. By Day Three I was doing pretty well with steering - having worked out how to work the rudder to keep the bow pointed where we wanted to go. In the little bit of down time just before bed, we read Over the Edge of the World. "By sailing west until they reached the East, and then sailing on in the same direction..." (p. 2), Magellan and his crew changed humanity's conception of the world. While discussing this as we tacked back and forth up the mouth of the Connecticut River (the first time!), I had a flatearther moment. I don't know how else to explain it; I was sitting in Serenity, with water stretching quite a distance in all directions around me, land rising up on two sides and the Long Island Sound behind...I tried to imagine the magnitude of the shift in consciousness required to reject the obvious evidence provided through the perception of my own eyes: the world seemed flat. I comprehended the world as flat (for all of a second or two, just long enough to register).

Our vessel is a catboat, which means it has one main sail and no jib. I thought it amusing that a Catboat could be manufactured in a Hen series: the smallest version (fourteen by six, with a twelve inch draw) being a Peep Hen.

I'm not in danger of learning any forbidden knowledge anytime soon (in the Portugal of Magellan's day, navigational charts and maps were considered state secrets (p. 14), the Captain told me most nautical knowledge was forbidden to crew on pain of death. Thus was knowledge controlled and linked with power). We got into this conversation because of my intrigue with the rivalry between cosmologists and pilots described by the author of Edge, Laurence Bergreen:

Explorers setting out on ocean voyages to distant lands needed...their inspiration from cosmologists, but they relied on pilots for execution. (p. 11)

The pilots considered the cosmologists "impractical dreamers" while the cosmologists looked at pilots as "coarse men" with "little understanding." (p. 11) I learn some crucial terminology - how long it will stick is another question entirely! The gaffe jaws gave me grief with the throat halyard, and it took me awhile to actually look at the progress of the peak halyard and adjust the gaffe to the desired position without direction. Cleats and blocks still invoke other images in my mind than the parts of the boat they refer to but I was still able to work with them according to their nautical functions. The boom gallows strikes an ominous cord, and the centerboard had a way of drifting into (and out of) consciousness. I did enjoy scrambling around. :-)

On our most mellow day, we ventured into a narrow creek.

That's the view looking back after we entered.


and this shot shows where we were heading.


Yep, there's a curve and what follows is unknown, unpredictable, a mystery, surprise. :-)

We settled into a lovely shady spot with our sail in the trees, tied to a fallen log, and whiled away the heat of the day.

The labor of sailing, however, became clear to me when I got my turn to practice sailing upwind. Once we left the protected shelter of the inland waterway and returned to the Connecticut, the current was with us but the wind agin'. I learned how to tack. This is so different than steering downwind! Instead of aiming the bow to a specific point on the horizon, when sailing into the wind one has to use the rudder to align the sail with the wind. Direction (hence, destination) are secondary to momentum. Muscle is involved with both activities, but anxiety accompanies the upwind "beating to weather" in stark contrast to the downwind state-of-mind.

I did have a deja vu moment as we approached the far (west) shore and prepared for my first tack. That shoreline was "seen" by me sometime in the preceding 24-48 hours. I was pleased by this confirmation (according to personal ontology) of my being-in-the-right-place-right-time-right-path. :-) We sought the best place to position ourselves for the next day's debarkation. Did I or did I not see a turtle poking its head up in the vicinity of the ultimately dropped anchor?!

After the Deep River Jet Ski social club finished their two-hour evening romp around the river, we had a mild evening, buffeted only by the occasional motorboat ignoring the No Wake zone. The moon was gorgeous again - third night in a row! The morning was stunning (as were they all, but this was our last, imbued with a special aura):


You'll have to tell me what you think about our other sighting that misty morn. The zoom on my inadequate digital camera could not penetrate the mist or the distance. Is it possible we encountered . . .


the loch ness heron?

Besides actual wildlife, we were privy (unfortunately) to some harbor drama (lives of the rich and infamous?), which somehow complemented the soap opera of Magellan's travails. One escapes the less appealing aspects of the human condition under no circumstances. Sailing, however, did bring many strengths and pleasures to the fore. Many people stopped to chat when we were at dock or temporary anchorage. The friendliness and curiosity of these men (and - for whatever reason - it was only men who would chat, although women would often wave or grant a smile from a distance) fed my optimism. No doubt they were on good behavior, intrigued by these "girls" and somewhat amazed at the boat itself, a type many of them had never seen.

Posted by Steph at 12:58 AM | Comments (0)

August 30, 2007

Carlos quotes Fanon

An email from a colleague came with this quotation by Frantz Fanon:

I ascribe a basic importance to the phenomenon of language. To speak means to be in a position to use a certain syntax, to grasp the morphology of this or that language, but it means above all to assume a culture, to support the weight of a civilization.

Posted by Steph at 9:01 PM | Comments (1)

August 26, 2007

sneakin' out of Amherst

He did it.


He really left.


The dawg.

Posted by Steph at 5:50 AM | Comments (0)

August 25, 2007

boka chombu

shit. I'm sure that is not right. I had it in mind until I sat down to write this. Will someone correct me?

This is like when I thought you all were talking about female genital mutilation in India: how hard are you laughing now? ;-) Yes, I am just a phat redneck. (sigh)

Ethel the Philosopher is writing on non-propositional knowledge, which is almost phenomenological but not quite. Cassiopia the Easily Wounded is working on something else (I'm not sure what).

Then we saw my classmate from years ago, who I've now seen three times in the last two weeks: "In Panama we say, 'Now I see you in my soup!'" she exclaimed while passing me on the street. :-)

Wittgenstein was a misogynist who believed genius has a price. Did Nietzsche believe this too? I don't know, but we had an impassioned discussion tonight about the possibility that systemic change begins with us. (Maybe it was just me who was passionate?!)

I think there were a hundred other things I was supposed to remember for the blog, but come on! I can't do it all by myself! ;-)

Posted by Steph at 1:01 AM | Comments (1)

August 23, 2007

"Comfortable Mystery": Creating Ritual

"How was your year?"

Deborah's first question was too big for me to answer right away. It was, in fact, almost exactly a year ago that I returned from Istanbul and spent a day with Lee, meeting her friends Deb and June on Long Beach. As usual, Lee outdid herself with hospitality on both ends of this year's quick trip to Albuquerque, not only taking care of me but spontaneously entertaining three of my friends.

On the return flight, I'd done as much work as I could, continuing to read and write on my proposal. Underneath the intellectual activity however, a crevass yawed open so sharply I could hardly find means of articulation:

I would like to believe that the pain will fade. I know its pang will mellow, becoming more manageable if still poignant. Smaller triggers will elicit edges, twinges persist in their acuteness. The overwhelming character will ease, etching itself into identity such that intangible nuances of care and compassion will be enhanced. Unless one turns bitter, or chooses to ignore pain’s presence, these simple if tragic events will not be repeated. Indeed, exactly the same “mistake” will not occur again, rather conditions will call out disguised in a new form, sneakily enticing enactment of another version of the sad same ol’ same old thing. A quick wit and sharp intelligence will recognize the pattern – at least momentarily – before defenses once again seek to avert disaster (bringing it on? We must learn new ways.)
Arriving late to life, my mind opens so slowly to intersubjectivity. Communal relationality at the core of all myths that inspire me, even those of heroic deeds (which must be done on someone’s behalf). Sleep seeks me, the computer’s battery fades, this flight home extended, a delay. I am such a product of my time, yearning yet hemmed in, alive against the crushing numbness of institutional regimes demanding my labor, my subsistence ecked out against rules and policies and expectations not to rock the fragile boat. There are no life rafts here.

Lee's generosity is always a surprise - not that she offers, but that she so means it. Sam's progeny. :-) The connection between Deb and I continues. Her new work is fascinating, pursuing the theme of gestation shaping her (and my) work and life. I am compelled even more by Deb's words about her art. Perhaps next time I will bring an audio recorder? She could be podcast. :-) The new watercolors continue exploring bodily and root systems but invert the positive and negative ground. Her guiding principle, "everything contains its opposite," allows her to generate abstract images which haunt with familiarity. A chord of recognition is struck, then followed by a question: this speaks to me, eliciting a sense of ease, but I do not know exactly what or why: in her words, what is evoked is "a comfortable mystery." Lured by mystery yet safe enough in the zone of the familiar, perhaps we can look more closely?

Our reunion has that feel - none of us realized the timing until hours of interaction had passed. Yet the bonds that tied us last year are as strong and sudden now as they were then. An anniversary marked with all the important things: fellowship, food, fun. I must follow up on June's suggestion to read Christopher Moore (Practical Demon Keeping seems exactly right, and The Stupidest Angel definitely appeals).

Meanwhile, as we compared notes of the last year, Deb dropped some gems about acquiring "a knowledge of how you do things," and that what matters are not your circumstances "because everybody has circumstances" but "how you accommodate the circumstances."


So, whether you can't convince a dog to accept a hardboiled egg from your hand, or your jeans get wet in the surf, the point is (as an email from Ruth asserts) to learn to dance in the rain.

Posted by Steph at 7:27 PM | Comments (1)

August 19, 2007

to build a house

I told mom that Tommy is a keeper. (Not that my opinion really matters, but it is nice to meet him and discover that I like his sense of humor and appreciate his integrity.)

He's got an amazing mental focus, evident in his stories and daily interactions. He credits his mom (who "never thought no harm of no one") and Jesus Christ. Tommy is blessed with great health and has had incredible good luck (as well as plenty of horrible experiences that might have more deeply wounded a lesser person). He loves his work - forty-five years as a teacher and still going strong! Tommy is walking testimony to the positive effects of following one's passions.

He built a house, by himself, when he first started teaching in New York during the 1960s. Seven thousand square feet, mind you, with no prior experience. As I listened to him recount various anecdotes about buying the land (a killer deal), refusing shoddy or haphazard assistance (nothing beats one's own craftsmanship), resisting the collective jealousy of many who wanted him to fail, and connecting with children despite adult animosity...I thought to myself, we are rather alike, he and I. Not because of these particular experiences; mine have been different, less extreme and/or targeted in alternative ways. Rather, I think Tommy and I both have some kind of internal drive that anchors a conviction in our own perception of the world. I am not claiming that my views are more right or better than others, but that believing and adhering to them has been an effective strategy for me to arrive in (at least some of the) places I want to be.

I woke up this morning thinking about conflict: why it happens between individuals and what "it" is that occurs, the phenomena itself that we label "conflict." I know a bunch of analytical theories about why conflict happens, and plenty of communicative strategies for avoiding or resolving interactions that involve conflict. I believe conflict is an irreducible element of life. The challenge of conflict is balancing the tasks of managing oneself and respecting others. The mechanism of conflict is the meeting of two (or more) different interpretations of "reality" - the struggle is which version will take primacy. Collaborative relations have no assumption that one or the other viewpoint is more/less important or real than one's own.

I am such a slow learner. :-/

Anyway, I related to Tommy's story of building a house, both because I miss having a home to fiddle with, but moreso because the metaphor is suitable for my ambition. I want to build a house of ideas, a mental/social construction of possibility, a framework for interaction that enables collaboration as an equal alternative to hierarchy: a home of power with, rather than power over.

Posted by Steph at 5:43 PM

August 17, 2007

Dr Dada

He fed us a feast. Not that you'd know He-of-No-Worries defended his phd the other day and is imminently en route to a post-doc in Munich. Rasta the Jamaican Impasta was here, and Andi (headed off to his own post-doc at Yale), the not - so - innocent friend from Columbia, and the Ever-Smiling Evil Indian kept us well entertained. Thoughts of ABD Singh drifted in the background (He of No Revisions).

An intriguing critique of the Indian media cast some doubt on the claim that India boasts the most mature democracy in the world.

Most important, however, are the certificates Dada wishes to distribute to his friends.

Posted by Steph at 2:55 AM | Comments (4)

August 15, 2007

Rescued by Seagulls

After spending hours shredding the evidence of broad swaths of my existence, it was kind of a few friends to allow me to join them for dinner despite the Orwellian eye of the blog. They promptly and thoroughly diminished the residual shards of self-importance to mere egotistical flotsam. With friends like these . . . !

I finished Morton’s novel this afternoon. “Love me, love my goblin,” Nora wishes of Isaac, but doesn’t know if he will (284). “She knew that this was going to be her life: wherever she turned, the suffering world would be upon her.

She didn’t know if she had stumbled onto a fact about existence or merely a fact about herself. Life isn’t just suffering; she knew this. Life is also joy and creation and procreation. Yes, we’re a community of suffering, but we’re a community of ecstasy as well. (278)

I identify with Isaac too. “It was amazing, the way thirty years can be irrevocably altered by one bonehead move” (262).

Tonight’s discussion themes over dinner verged on the morbid (aging, death by water, alcoholism), yet were tempered by laughter, teasing, and hopefulness. “You have too many friends.” Cassiopia was by turns sympathetic and a liability, the Ever-Smiling Evil Indian relished her pseudonymity, while the innocent friend ridiculed swimming only in water where one’s feet can touch bottom. I know I can tread water for some hours, but I will be sure to get well-trained in the use of emergency communications gear so that I can call for help when the seagulls, flies, and gusts of breeze appear!

“No matter how many wrong turns you make, you can always go in a new direction. As long as you’re alive” (257). Renee is an iconic representation of the future to Isaac; she reads Frederic Jameson on Hegel [The Cultural Turn]. Isaac wonders if

“what he really missed was the belief that there was an overarching meaning in his life . . . a thread that tied one day to the next, a bright thread of meaning that took the loose purposelessness of everyday life and gave it form and value and direction” (287).

We also spoke, tonight, of pedagogy and the ending of a course, which always seems to happen right when the norms get settled and the group is ready to evolve. Finally, a majority of individual students have become willing to be affected by the material and each other. Perhaps the institutional structuring of higher education was not deliberately designed to curtail critical re-education, but the course-by-course (teacher-by-teacher) system is starkly effective at cutting off community-building that might lead to social change. “Death moves in on you from a distance, taking things away. The circle of places you even dream of visiting becomes smaller and smaller” (195). Nora’s Aunt Billie has been like a parent to her, within the limits of her capacities.

Nora insists on treasuring the moments with her Aunt, loving her without reason: “Billie was kind, but it wasn’t because of her kindness; she was generous, but it wasn’t because of her generosity. The love wasn’t there because of anything Billie had done. It was just there. Certain people are given into our care, and we have no choice but to care for them” (188).

Nora admires Isaac’s photographs: “He had a distinctive style…a distinctive way of seeing people….his subjects, his people, seemed strong…

People, she was thinking, have handles, and different artists grasp people by different handles. Dostoevsky grasped people by their feverishness, their intensity. Yeats grasped people by their nobility of character. Whitman grasped people by their sexuality, or by whatever it is in us – something that includes but is larger than sexuality – that makes us want to merge with others. (168)

Time slowed for me today. For several stretches of road, coasting well under the speed limit, I felt oddly vacant. Nora muses “that maybe the point of life was to send one dream into the mind of the universe. Everything else in your life is incidental to the dreaming of that dream, but you can’t know which one it is” (263).

I believe we can choose which dream we want to shape the meaningfulness of our lives, but we may not be able to assess its success. After all my many (oh so many!) years on earth, my patience improves. Some times are for pleasure – being asked questions (162) by my friends tonight pepped me up a fair bit. Having a still mind is the most recent manifestation of patience – who knew such quietude is possible? Other times are for holding tight with “a love that [is] unbendable and complete” (140).

If I built an ontology on the triad of dreaming into mind, taking turns as necessary, and seeking the strengths of everyone I encounter, might this balance the force of devils and angels (Rilke), or Nora’s goblins and graces, warring for my soul? And who will remain my friend, as we try to make out each other’s words through the static of our own thoughts? (60)

Posted by Steph at 11:35 PM | Comments (2)

August 9, 2007


from Shi-choo (Grandmother) the Evil Kachina

"These are our times and our responsibilities. Every human being has a sacred duty to protect the welfare of our Mother Earth, from whom all life comes. In order to do this, we must recognize the enemy - the one within us. We must begin with ourselves..."
Daypeace: Address of the Onondaga Nation to the General Assembly of the United Nations, October 24th, 1985.

(Shi-Choo elaborates): The outside is merely a reflection of our insides. My mind is designed to tell me that I'm not crazy for thinking what I am thinking. Even if I have angry thought, my mind is giving me excuses and reasons why it is OK to think what I'm thinking. I need to be knowledgeable about the laws of harmony and balance. I cannot twist the laws to serve me but I can adjust my life to serve the laws. This is the law - I am here to serve the earth. The earth is not here for me to misuse and abuse. Allow me the insight and knowledge of how to live in

Harmony, Balance and Peace with my surroundings.
Allow me to change from within.

Use these gifts as you will and pass them on if you can.

Allow Peace to surround you and walk with Balance and Beauty,

Shi-choo (Grandmother)

Related: a practical way of managing our environmental use and protecting the welfare of the planet may become available within the next year or so: maximizing energy use/minimizing costs.

Posted by Steph at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

August 8, 2007

the danger with dentists

See, if you hang out with those types long enough they learn all kind of things about you (such as how often you floss). Eeeck! New recommendations for old farts like me is to floss Twice a Day!

Posted by Steph at 6:39 PM | Comments (0)

August 6, 2007

Boulton Sighting

Downtown Amherst, Sunday night. GQ haircut, spiffy duds, trademark banter (Beyonce’s backup band members, Hermit Island, show production, and party locations. Did he tease about the blog? Hmmmmm....

Smart guy: defended his thesis a year ago (Trophy Children Don't Smile) and keeps up a very sharp website. Worth knowing.

Posted by Steph at 9:45 AM

August 1, 2007

camping in the dawn land

Also posted in my other blog, A Place in Space, since this one was unavailable due to maxxed out storage capacity.

camping in the dawn land

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

July 28, 2007

Fact (?) and Humor from the Nephew and youTube

Have you ever heard of golf-juggling? Clearly, I've been missing out!

Letterman's Bushisms are also enjoyed by my dad; an almost nightly routine.

Did you hear about the "classic" American inventor John Kanzius, who invented something he wasn't even looking for? This newsreel appears as fake as one can imagine and yet...could Saltwater into fire be possible? Meanwhile, he has applied for a patent for a cancer treatment.

I suppose stranger things are possible....

Posted by Steph at 7:28 AM | Comments (0)

July 27, 2007

"a hui hou"

Keanu was online this morning; we have not had contact since an email query about how to characterize a lunch conversation we had during the first Dialogue under Occupation conference in Chicago last fall. Then, I was clarifying for the paper I'll present at the second DUO conference this fall, in Jerusalem. Today, I scoped out his plans. Those Hawaiians are up to exciting things!!!!

I missed the deadline to submit my own paper at the International Studies Association (political science). Darn. How close is my dissertation topic to the field of international relations? Wikipedia says it is "both an academic and public policy field, and can be either positive or normative." Given the choice of positivistic science or normative science, I definitely lean to the latter in the sense that I think whatever gets put into policy becomes normative (so we better be clear on what we want the norms to be!)

The ISA conference "Call for Papers" is broader, opening up the paradigmatic range to include "empirical and normative, conservative and liberal, systemic and individual, activist and academic, material and ideational, positivist and post-positivist." Sounds good, actually! I wonder which way the biases tend to lean, in terms of representation among these quite disparate views?) The goal of the 2008 conference is to "Bridge Multiple Divides...by creating dialogue and integrative research between scholars from different communities and viewpoints." Gee, if they really do it, that would be cool. To the extent they "fail" or "succeed," I may have another opportunity for interaction and reflection such as DUO provided?

I'll have to scope them out some more, perhaps after they begin to post papers. Did I also miss the poster deadline? They maintain an online archive (requires membership).

Preregistration ENDS November 30.

Something to think about!

"In Hawaiian," Keanu told me, "we say "a hui hou" which is 'until next time.'"

Posted by Steph at 11:56 AM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2007

From a Son to a Father

"These Are My Hands"
I look at my hands and see these rough, caliced hands covered with the dirt and scars of time. They're foreign to me, not the hands I thought I knew...
I help him to the car, he's very sick. I'm the only one around, he becomes my responsibility. In my hands I carry him out and drive him in.
I hear them say he's not in good shape. He's going to be admitted so I help him to his room. At home I tell my mother, I tell my sister. Still I feel alone, and when I look they turn. All I have are my hands.
When I go to visit, they say he may not make it so I turn for a friend, but no one's there. They've changed, moved on. I struggle through again. He fights through, and I'm by his side, hand in hand. I worry so he doesn't; he has much on his plate. My confidence gives him the strength. They say he can go home now.
...With time to myself, I again look at my hands, but now they are no longer strange. When I look I see the hands I have grown to know.

Clark Harley Husted 2006

Posted by Steph at 7:18 AM | Comments (0)

July 24, 2007


Community Emergency and Disaster Preparedness video from the Department of Homeland Security with general info, applicable to everybody. Features at least one person I know! :-)

(I used to be "prepared"; uh oh, gotta get my act together, even better than before!)

Posted by Steph at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2007

"a song to build with..."

My introduction to Rainer Maria Rilke was through a quote from a calendar years (decades!) ago.

I picked up In Praise of Mortality at the campus bookstore a week or two ago. Over the past two days, since attending a funeral service, I've read the introduction by the two translators. They quote from some of his letters, which I find as interesting and inspiring as his poetry.

Rilke writes (to his ex-wife), during the First World War (when he was unable to write poetry for over a decade), of the "inner will for the great changes that would be needed to save the world" (2005:2-3), and of the need to "submit to [his "indescribable"] suffering [rather] than make any concession in the essential" (3).

The translators, Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy, discuss their labor of translating his Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus as "work [that] soon took us where we needed to go, offering ways to dignify our pain for the world and deepen our capacity for gratitude" (5-6). Is it a social metonymy that Rilke's work spoke to them? "Like Rilke during the First World War, we at the beginning of the twenty-first century have felt refuted and weighted with dread as our nation mounts preemptive war and arms itself for domination of the world" (3).

Be forever dead in Eurydice, and climb back singing.
Climb praising as you return to connection.
Here among the disappearing, in the realm of the transient,
Be a ringing glass that shatters as it rings.”
(Part Two, Sonnet XIII, p. 22)

“Rilke invites us to experience what mortality makes possible” (22) by “liv[ing] death at the heart of each moment” (21).

Be. And, at the same time, know what it is not to be.
That emptiness inside you allows you to vibrate
in resonance with our world. Use it for once.”
(Part Two, Sonnet XIII, p. 22)

Not a criticism (as if we never vibrate at the pulse of life), rather – Rilke refers to embracing “the onceness of our lives [which] calls us to be more fully present” (19). Practicing such intensive presence can heighten “intuitive awareness of our oneness with nature and the ecological roots of consciousness” (14), preparing us for “a reciprocal transformation. To a real extent, we become each other. It is a sort of resurrection, in which our intrinsic belonging to each other is conscious and complete” (14).

“In the First Elegy, Rilke suggests that our very capacity to let go of attachments has an effect upon the world, allowing more spaciousness for other creatures to enjoy (13-14):

Fling the nothing you are grasping
out into the spaces we breathe. Maybe the birds
will feel in their flight
how the air has expanded.

Three parts of the services for a colleague’s husband affected me the most: the sixties protest music before and after the actual ceremony, the spontaneous testimonials, and the missing poem. The description of the poem intrigued me, both for its theme of family resemblance and the imagery invoked about the hand as tool. This sensibility came back to me as I read these lines (II, 25) from Rilke’s first famous work, The Book of Hours:

No yearning for an afterlife, no looking beyond,
no belittling of death.
but only longing for what belongs to us
and serving Earth. Lest we remain unused.

It seemed to me that the missing poem is evidence of the “courage born of the … acceptance of mortality” (23), which does not shy away from “naming what is doomed to disappear” (23).

Listening to the testimonials, I was reminded of Sam. Combining that with the work of one’s own hands – literally and figuratively: the evidence of one’s use to others, to the Earth, to life. I was also reminded of Alec. And the music. Of all choices! How like “Orpheus, the singing god, who confronted and redeemed the realm of death” (20) through “his refusal to allow it to destroy the basic intention of his life” (8):

falling prey to the pack of Maenads,
you wove their shrieking into wider harmonies
and brought from that destruction a song to build with . . .
Hounded by hatred, you were torn to pieces
while your music still rang amidst rocks and lions,
trees and birds. There you are singing still.
(Part One, Sonnet XXVI)

Posted by Steph at 10:51 AM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2007

a qualitative queer

is much more intriguing than a quantitative girl. At least that's what we decided on the way to The Shy Glassy-Eyed Indian's b'day party the other day. The highlight of the evening was the song competition, which was an outgrowth of the Bengali, Maharashtra, and Tamil intraIndian debate and cucumber war (mine was stolen). I (by the way), scored big points with "Y". Lest it be forgotten (gasp!), there was also an Oriya guy, who actually did quite well at this game.

The piece de resistance was the H(square) vanilla cake (frosted by She-Who-Will-Remain-Nameless) and quite tasty, actually. The dosa was yummy yummy yummy with and without the potato stuffing, and despite the experiment played on a certain naive american. There was no coconut curry (much to someone's chagrin?) however there was coconut rice, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The Rock Star had nothing left to share with me, "Steph! Sorry! You arrived late!" Yeah, right. (Like that would have made a difference. Ha!) One of the girls broke the corkscrew and one of the boys came to the rescue. Some people had recently been partying way too much, and more than half the group paid attention to one part or another of my lesson in string theory. Time to feed your mind!

Most of the conversations I've had with physicists involve cosmology: "Was there a String Bang before the Big Bang, or did the Universe simply unwind?" We started out with gravity this night, because that's the Rock Star's area of study (supergravity?) I was trying to get a grip on what is the part of gravity that hasn't been figured out yet. Newton's version works for anything we know how to observe, but gets tricky at the quantum level: is it because of that whole indeterminacy thang? (I forget.) I should mention, btw, that at about this time Ambu temporarily abandoned his chef duties in order to post a large yellow traffic sign (symbolizing warning), saying:

area slippery.jpg

Now, my memory is sketchy, but I know gravity is actually a two-way force....yes, it pulls us down to the center of gravity but there is also another draw that orients to and/or positions us from the opposite direction. For whatever (crucial) reason that I cannot now reconstruct, the answer to my question about what is still unknown about gravity led to a minor tutorial on string theory, which is wicked elegant because it combines three other theories: Newton's (law of gravity? laws of motion?), Planck's h (a certain constant), and the speed of light into one dimension. Wow! Beautiful! Congruence! (One possible definition includes "agreement between trees." Go figure.)

Hmm. Does that elusive comprehension return? Is the unanswered question concerning gravity about the strong and weak nuclear forces? Yes....? (Maybe not, see four fundamental forces). Obviously, I am in need of follow-up instruction. I do recall (hopefully accurately), that string theory has a stronger restriction (allowing 11 dimensions in our universe) whereas supersymmetry has a weaker restriction (enabling an entire 26 dimensions). Something clicked a few neurons in my brain to imagine a parallel between symmetry (of any kind) and synchronicity. At this point, I was directed to geodesics.

{I cannot explain the next jotting in my notes: "coloring of cows." Must have been contextual.}


Posted by Steph at 9:06 PM | Comments (0)

July 16, 2007

Evil Kachina's Gifts for July


by email. Posting delayed.

Posted by Steph at 7:59 PM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2007

"This doesn't suck."

I almost fell out of my seat when Ruth called and said her hubby, the Sears Catalog Man (a.k.a. "Frederick") wondered if I was close enough to come join them for a few days of their vacation in Maine. Well, yeah!

They were staying in the "Harry Potter House" in Bayside, replete with plants in the gutters and quite a view:

the View.JPG.jpg

(although not quite as stunning as Frederick's plunge into the fifty-degree drink).

The cottages (to which I made my own interior decorating contribution) are just outside of Belfast (where there is no oating, wimming, or ishing). I arrived just as Jamie was preparing to trounce his dad in chess (third game out of four, 75% is a pretty durn good average). There were many memorable events, as there always are, including being toasted as an "old friend." Seventeen years we figger. I was shown one major prize of beach-combing: the (supposed?) half-inch hold-down to the center hatch of the Edmund Fitzgerald which was unlatched and ~ thus ~ the cause of its terrible demise. (in Lake Michigan? Not the Atlantic? Really? Minor detail.)

Another prize involves seaglass. I regret to report that I did not lay eyes on the (apparently whole) bottle in question, although I did witness negotiations for a trade involving a (full) bottle of port.

The closed bid negotiations occurred on the same evening as the announcement of the Lynch Theory of Boats, in which all boats on anchor face the same direction. (duh?)

boats aligned.JPG.jpgEarlier that day, Frederick the Sears Man had overcome all gender stereotypes and convinced his wife to buy him some finger armor. (He does get points for being a seamstress.)


Dinner the first night was a bit charred (although still edible). The next night, we went out on the Good Return all the way to Castine, where we devoured a seafood medley of haddock, shrimp, and scallops in lobster cream sauce. We had a bit of anxiety prior to the return (!), as a thunderstorm swept by, just skirting us but leaving "a confused sea" with a lot of chop. It was just cold enough, with a fair amount of seaspray, that Captain Melissa invited us into the pilot's cabin (we were the only passengers). That was pretty awesome cool. :-) Sometime after we passed by Turtle Head (in Penobscot Bay) the waters started to calm; by the time we made dock the water was as smooth as glass. Mellow as heaven.

We drove down Route 1 this morning, taking in various shops and sights. There was one place that was simply too good to pass by. We also almost had a debate about the quantum indeterminacy of engineering (as compared with the potential fixity of communication) but the timing wasn't right. I did hear an NPR science story by David Kestenbaum as I finally headed home on the "Atomic Tune-Up: How the Body Rejuvenates Itself. Here we go, what new knowledge do I want to help create? How people can use the fact of "the atomic makeover" to recreate their being-in-the-world (through communication, of course). :-)

Meanwhile . . . there is something about being on the seashore. Perhaps it is the only place where the sun can be hot on your skin and the breeze cool enough to raise goosebumps. Besides, we had fun!

Posted by Steph at 8:56 PM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2007

An MS in psychology

No, not me. I'm skeptical of all those therapists whose main function is to build self-esteem and guarantee affirmation for whatever whacked out rationales people have for the crazy things they do in their lives.


Meanwhile, I had a great time at the d-vite. Dhara knows cool people. There was the guy with the unique hairstyle who seemed insistent on separating a countertop from the wall (and tried to warn me off being too critical of therapists. "You know everyone here is going to be a therapist?" Don't they know everything is social co-construction?!! Aw shucks, I still like 'em. :-) Jake (not a psychologist) even told me it was ok to get myself in trouble. I definitely like that (since skirting the edge of "being-in-trouble" - tends to be my usual mode of operation). ;-)

Besides the usual grad school kvetching, I learned that Romanian is closer to Latin than Italian (due to declension), that packs of dogs used to roam the streets of Bucharest (taking folk out, periodically), people in Communication "do literary analysis on people,' some people in the social sciences really can get internships, and not everyone thinks blogging is intuitive. Really? I get the criticism - what is it about the mundane details of my small life that is really all that interesting to anyone else? (Good question.) ;-)

The most entertaining part of the evening were the confessions about how we all knew each other. "Parties." And not just any parties, by the way. "Lava's Parties." Where is that sexy hunk of a guy, anyway? Ah, traveling. Out of town. Not available. Isn't that the way it goes?

Amanda made awesome food. Chocolate, chocolate-covered strawberries, chocolate, chocolate-covered pretzels, chocolate, raspberry "pie", chocolate, blueberry "pie," chocolate. There were several cheeses and crackers too. (The coolest people were invited early, btw, and the rest of us - ahem - later, for the leftovers?!??!!!) Surveillance cameras tracked who chose chocolate-covered strawberries over chocolate-and-peanut-butter-covered pretzels. (Data collection for a future dissertation?) Watch for those follow-up surveys . . .

Posted by Steph at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

June 23, 2007

the longest wait (for dessert)

Going to the Sunwheel turned out well. The sky was fussy all day: raining some, staying cloudy, clearing temporarily, then turning back to grey. When the sun broke through, right in the middle of an astronomy graduate student's lecture, the rays literally beamed down upon us, setting off fantastic contrast in the fluttering green leaves and freshly mown grasses. Who could possibly complain about that double rainbow, either?

Ok ok, sure, I know it wasn't just for me,


:-) but come on, you've gotta admit the whole event was rather spectacular!

I learned a few new things, particularly about the Lunar Cycle (which has been - and continues - at it's own "lunar standstill" for over a year) and that the Astronomy Department has been able to place two more stones that mark the stars Aldebaran and Sirius (what do you know about the sothic rising?) The last one was approximately 400 years ago, and the next one will be around 3050. I think the implication is that stars do move, but not at a rate which we measly, short-lived human beings can observe.)

Did Will (the presenter) say Aldebaran is the "eye" of the Constellation Taurus? Meanwhile, George just had to tease me about being "into this solstice thing." Yeah! And what of it?! I think patterns matter. The trick question is, which ones? :-) I found this interesting blogpost (by an Iranian? Chinese? Who knows?!) when I was looking for a playful astrology link: not because I give astrologers the same reliability as astronomers (heaven forbid!), but I think the fact of other knowledges based on different frames of reference is something we (humanity, I'm thinking big) have got to do a better job of understanding.

Anyway, I am looking forward to Koushik


keeping his end of the deal and providing more impromptu physics lessons. I have a clearer understanding of "frame of reference" now than I ever had before. (Things are different from the inside of an accelerating system than from the outside of it.) Tail asks (and I am still muddling through the explanations of the twin paradox): "WHY does movement make one's time flow slower?

Is the biology answer different than the physics answer? Because everyone except the rock star waited a long time for Maya-Mediterranean Chocolate Rice Pudding from The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao. I picked up the book at the , which Ila took me to in December of 2005.

Ruth's hummus and spinach dips got us started along with a special (surprise!) quiche (all to rave reviews) and then it was all Better Homes and Gardens, thus invoking Katelyn and her family in memory. :-) Her sister Giovanna inscribed my first cookbook, "use in good health." We most certainly did! The spinach and garbanzo bean salad was the most popularly requested item for takehome, the chutney-fruit rice salad was described as "a hit." The sesame asparagus was pretty quickly gobbled up, and the creamed peas and new potatoes were also devoured. There was (by the way) enough food and we did not start before everyone was here!

The evening was perfect except for a few moments of amateur cook/host stress (how much help can one person handle at the exact same time?!) but (fortunately, since I really needed it) folks figured out how to manage me. :-/ (And they didn't even know that my mom used to put my college friends "in charge of the kitchen" instead of me!)

Posted by Steph at 7:51 PM | Comments (2)

June 3, 2007

Time Capsule

That's right, on a couple of counts. Rich said this listening to Chaka Khan last night at the 2007 Gay Pride Festival at the Liberty Memorial Park in Kansas City last night.

[fyi, you cannot reach the official website from KCI airport: "http://www.kansascitygaypride.org/ has been categorized as Pornography. It has been blocked per your organization's Internet Usage Policy for group Public."]

We were utterly surrounded by twenty thousand or more totally normal (!) queers directly under the Big Dipper on an absolutely perfect night. Rich commented that it is “rare to see the stars from downtown.”

The playbill was perfect too, with one top hit following after another. Rich and Kelly competed to "name that tune" and hit the timing of the chorus just right. :-) There were MANY people who knew these tunes, when the mic was turned out to the audience you could easily hear us bellowing along.

Since we knew we were gonna be out late, we lazed through the entire day. Yeah, a rough life, tell me about it! En route to the big show, we stopped off at a particular nephew's sixteenth birthday party, where I told Zoe she is a purty cat and Lynn accepted graciously.

Eight of the thirteen teenagers present played XBox (and lost) to a team of six from The Netherlands. When we returned after the concert they were playing a version of hide-and-seek involving base camp (safety) at the trampoline. We were thankful no one called the cops on the rowdies.

Posted by Steph at 1:45 PM | Comments (0)

June 2, 2007

Museum Day

Museum Day

Rich and I took in the abstract art at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.

emergency exit.jpg

We were severely underdressed, as it was Opening Night for Phantasmania and the Members showed up in full fashion force. We only got in trouble twice although we garnered several disapproving (or at least puzzled) looks. We only had iced tea and diet coke in the Café (our waiter was psyched for massive tips, although he did recover after the initial obvious disappointment). The above photo I took in the Special Exhibit Hall (no pictures allowed of the art, I complied! Still, I was chastised. Oy.) Our favorite was Dan Attoe: Accretion 38 (This has been coming…) (one selected comment apparently by an owl, “a bunch of shit nobody cares about”), and Accretion 34 (Be at peace with what you’ve done), with a line that sparked a chuckle from Rich: “Hank Williams died on New Year’s Eve.” Attoe's work is described as “oil on canvas on paper” but those are just the physical materials and does no justice to the juxtaposition of visual images and (tiny) text.

Robyn O’Neil’s graphite on paper sketches were also interesting, Being Together, Standing Below This Eternal Covenant, (both pictured at Matthews The Younger's blog and Their Fear Blurred and They Were Still. It was fun to move from her monochromatic perspective to “Blind Faith and Tunnel Vision” by Jules de Balincourt (pictured at Your Daily Awesome). His “Insiders and Outsiders” (scroll down) is probably the most transparent of the art we saw but powerful nonetheless: one cannot miss the potential implications of current historical trajectories.

Pictures are allowed in the permanent collections, so I snapped several. I very much liked the painted wood by Louise Nevelson; it was cool to then see a portrait of her by Dan Budnik (couldn’t eliminate reflections, bummer). The colors and chaos of Rising Sun (Hans Hoffman) caught me,

rising Sun.jpg

and the birds in this oil on canvas work by Joseph Stella drew me past the soft pastel first impression: Dance of Spring (Song of Birds).

It looks as if *I* captured Roy Lichenstein at work,

is it real.jpg

but really this is another portrait by Budnik. I almost always like color, such as James Pollen’s 13 Bands (fused silk with painted other stuff - the camera failed :-/).

13 Bands.jpg

All of the selections from the permanent collection were chosen by museum patrons “Putting the U back in Curator.” Lei Ilima is not my taste at first glance but the circle drew me closer. I’m not sure this piece by John Buck “suits my temperament” but I can imagine its appeal could grow over time. All three selections from Seven Poses by Hung Liu are pleasing.

The Kemper was the second museum of the day. First?

Jazz is . . . life.

Jazz Museum entrance.jpg

The introductory film is fantastic, featuring just about everybody who was anybody, with several clips of original performances and classic interviews. The first phrase that caught me was from (I think) a member of Shirley Horn’s band, talking about performing jazz meaning you are on stage “nerve naked.” Rich had me listen to several of his favorites, including John Coltrane (Alabama), a tribute to the four African-American children killed in a church bombing in 1963. Its tempo is based on a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. (I wish they told us which speech...an article in The Southern Review by Sasha Feinstein reports that it was the "eulogy for the girls)." The biographical text described Trane's ambition “to use his music as ‘a force for good.’” Rich described Coltrane as the “#1 innovater for the saxophone,” and Miles Davis (we listened to So What) as number one innovator “for the trumpet.” (Listen - and watch! - Davis perform this with John Coltrane courtesy of youtube.) We also heard Water for Debby by Bill Evans, who wrote some scores for the Charlie Brown specials (but not as many as Vince "Doctor Funk" Guaraldi). :-) A particularly neat moment was listening to Jimmy Smith (The Champ), and Rich being reminded of Don Lewis. Gosh, I still miss that guy! Many fond memories. :-)

Jazz is . . . art.

Frank Marshall Davis described the accomplishments of Louis Armstrong as “distilling the meaning of black in sharps and flats.”

Did I mention that bro can play? :-)

bro can play.jpg

Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim) says, about jazz: “. . . I prefer to regard (rhythm) as that force that keeps the whole universe together.”

Here's bro jamming to Pat Metheny, The Road To You.

Jazz is . . . love.

Rich explained some of the history of the 18th and Vine District. All WWI soldiers came through Kansas City to get their uniforms. (I had no idea the garment industry was huge here, through WWII about half the soldiers still came through KC for their uniforms.) Live music poured out of this District, and the alignment of 18th Street is such that the midsummer sun (July-August) sets dead center at 9 or 10 pm, just as the place would really start hopping. A few years ago, Kansas City hosted a cow-painting event. 18th and Bovine is a beaut!

painted cow.jpg

Posted by Steph at 3:00 PM | Comments (2)

May 31, 2007

Blue Moon (Day of the Nephew)

Ok, so maybe I was a bit over-the-top. First there was breakfast at Waid’s. For someone who had only been awake fifteen minutes, he put away an impressive amount of food (his mouth is full). Then, there was dinner at Guadalajara’s next door, where we all put away an impressive – and delicious – amount of food. (Nothing wrong with staying in the neighborhood!) Dad arrived “strategerally” in time for dessert.

four of us.jpg

In between I was treated to my first heart-stopping, breathtaking experience of teenage driving: oh, is that a red light? “What’s hydroplaning?” “How do you turn on the wipers?”

We cruised out to Game Stop for birthday gift selection. Score! :-) Then decided to take in Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At the World’s End. Our opinion doesn’t vary from the mass of reviewers: great special effects and a mashup of fifteen or so storylines with no coherent narrative. (Hmmm, just like real life?!) My favorite scene is the return from Davey Jones’ Locker: where up is down and down is up.

Most of our time was spent in conversation, and the evening ended with a few bouts of gut-splitting laughter. The jokes won’t translate into text, but there were my multiple trips to bathroom, flying pig intestines, and dad’s three layers at the office where all his co-workers are in short sleeves.

fake flowers.jpg

Posted by Steph at 6:21 PM | Comments (2)

May 29, 2007

A Day in The Midwest

We began the day’s adventures at the Weston Bend State Park, looking down over the very muddy Missouri River.


Lewis and Clark traveled this route, although they probably did not hike up to our vantage point.

Half the stores in town were closed, but the half that were open were plenty. We met Don Browning of The Weston Art House, where a reproduction of a 1937 painting by Georges Rochegroose promoting Don Quixote tickled us with its synchronicity (I had just told the story of being Kidnapped by Kiwis over breakfast that morning). I was also seriously attracted to the reproduction of Johannes Vermeer's The Astronomer. On the drive I had been contemplating the kind of art I’d like to have in my own home (somefineday). I’ve always been drawn to geometric shapes, certain types of machinery and scientific equipment, especially measuring tools, as well as ancient time-telling devices and images. Some images from The Scientists (which I’ve gotten back to reading) were in mind, and I was imagining some merger of those interests. The globe in this painting is extraordinary. :-)

The Astronomer.jpg

We ate monster sandwiches and snarfed root beer floats (with homemade root beer!) in the Main Street Galleria, where I noticed this metal box:

Fairy Queen.jpg

If I had that home already…! Meanwhile Shirley (of “wild and wooley” TR3 and 66 Mustang fame, pictured with dad and Rich in front of someone else’s TR4) stole dad’s pickle, “I still have my gallbladder!” In retrospect, that comment set us up for Fort Leavenworth. Yep. No trip near Kansas could possibly be complete without a visit to the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks and United States Penitentiary. The army required us to turn over our driver's licenses, which were recorded, and searched the car (all doors open, trunk open, hood lifted) before allowing us to enter. No pictures were allowed at the entrance gate although I was told we could take pictures of anything once we were inside.

We cruised in past the sign announcing Force Base Condition: Alpha. Rich asks, “Does that mean that they know we’re here?” (Answer? No, not yet.) I was curious about the Buffalo Soldier Monument but we were on a mission to find an old military cemetery. We only drifted down a few officer’s driveways before finding the correct backroad.


Markers for the executed German POWS are along the back fence. Some stones lack birth others display only the name. The cemetery was lined with majestic Dutch Pine, and Shirley collected some pinecones that “look like dog business.”

Dutch Pine.jpg

We looped past the Federal Penitentiary on our way out of town. The fame of decades of movies involving the prison itself, or references about “being sent to Leavenworth,” give the imposing structure an ominous aura.

Federal PenLD.jpg

I snapped pictures on our approach, and Rich commented that they used to let you drive up to the front but not anymore. As we approached the arched driveway in the bright late afternoon sun however, we saw cars parked along the gorgeous (weedless!) lawn. Dad pulled in and Rich and I got out to walk to the front for a closer shot of the entrance.


We’d covered 100 yards or so, chatting about a good angle for the picture when a screaming alarm went off. A few seconds later a white pickup truck hove into view around a monument, popped the curb, and started driving directly at us!

I was wondering what the heck was going on that the driver had to save the three additional seconds it would have taken to follow the road around the corner. I mean, the birds were chirping, no one else was around, it truly appeared as if nothing was happening, Then he lurched to a halt about ten feet in front of us, leapt out and started yelling that we were on government property and he was supposed to confiscate my camera. Holy Moly.

Rich (good boy that he is) immediately apologized but I (can you imagine?) started to argue, “The guy at the gate said I could take pictures of anything . . . ” ”What guy at the gate?!” The guard was near apoplectic. I let it go. Rich explained (to me) that we were no longer on the military base (when did we leave? I am still confused about this.) The guard chilled. I cannot imagine that we appeared actually threatening in any possible way. Shorts, casual pace, camera in full view, smiling. Yeah. Siblings On A Jailbreak. That would be me and my little brother.

Too bad I wasn’t quick enough to snap a pic or two as he charged us on the green. :-)

Posted by Steph at 10:30 AM | Comments (0)

May 28, 2007

procrastinating pays off



If I had rushed off yesterday not only would I have missed a great meal (including jalepeno bombers), but I would never have learned that Kay wants to pet a koala, Joyce is a "fast talker, slow driver," Kelly is still tortured by a question about Yo Yo Ma, and I taught Jeremy to drive a stick when he was seven. (He sat in the passenger seat manipulating the gear shift while I drove and managed the pedals.)

I could not have arrived early anyhow, and who would have wanted to? My silouetted appearance on dad's porch was taken as a) a hobo, b) a Sioux warrior, c) a dream. :-)

Final thought for the day:

"Life's a bitch and then you are one."

Posted by Steph at 12:38 PM | Comments (0)

May 27, 2007


My stance vis-a-vis the UMass Amherst administration's decision to grant an honorary degree to President Bush's ex-chief-of-staff, Andrew Card, was pre-established before the event was known. I was hired to interpret the graduate commencement ceremony at least a month before the decision about Card was announced.

I witnessed the swell of protest activity from a distance, observing. I did sign the petition, but my active participation was constrained by my paid role, by my work. Of course, I could have done many things, and probably could have "gotten away" with many things - but to do so would have compromised the deep commitment of professional interpreters to provide linguistic accessibility in the most impartial way possible.

Still - the challenge of how consumed some quality planning time between my teammate and me. We were fortunate to be aware of the scope of the planned protest and thus were able to strategize effectively. It so transpired, therefore, that my partner interpreted what she could make out of speech concerning Card, and I interpreted the protesters chanting. A satisfactory, ethical, and impartial arrangement. In fact, the protest was so loud and persistent that audience members watching the American Sign Language interpretation were probably the only ones to glean even a tiny bit of the content of the speech! An overcompensation, therefore, on behalf of professional duty.

Meanwhile, I must say that the moment of outburst was extraordinary. The "automatic" mode of interpreting everything I hear was well upon me, so the sound catapulted me into motion. I had to pause to assess what my teammate was doing (no need to duplicate)...when she shifted from the protest to the actual speech (physically walking over to the podium to be able to hear and - presumedly - read along with the speaker), I rose again to interpret the chants.

The discipline and coordination of the protestors was impressive. The administration reversed the order (as listed in the program book) of honorary degrees and everyone simply held their ground, waiting patiently and giving due respect to Tisato Kajiyama, a UMass alum and President of Kyusho University, Japan. As Provost Charlena Seymore began the announcement of the next degree, the silence in the Mullins Center was palpable. When she uttered Andrew Card's name the place erupted. Noise exploded throughout and people burst out of their chairs waving banners and signs.

The video by Traprock on YouTube captures the somber mood of the event and the displeasure of graduate students and faculty. News coverage includes a photo of the audience dotted with yellow protest signs. An online petition garnered 1721 signatures (as of today), in addition to hundreds of physical signatures from on campus. Much of the organizing for the protest was done by the Northampton Committee To Stop the War in Iraq, which reports that at least 125 newspapers carried the story, a local television story aired a news segment (search for "Andrew Card") which captures the visual moment of disruption and includes an interview clip from UMass Communication Department alumni Dr. Garnet Butchart, and also plugs the Traprock video.

UMass has other troubles, including a vote of no confidence from the faculty and a seriously disrespectful attitude toward negotiating a contract with graduate teaching assistants.

Daily News Summary for UMass Amherst, May 25, 2007

Daily News Summary for May 25, 2007

The UMass Amherst faculty declared no confidence in the Board of Trustees and President Jack Wilson on Thursday in a 214-1 vote triggered by a proposed administrative reorganization and the announced departure of Chancellor John Lombardi next year. The resolution also called upon Gov. Deval Patrick to appoint an independent commission to review the actions and make recommendations to improve the UMass system and raise the stature of the flagship Amherst campus. Wilson spoke at the meeting and apologized for the way in which the proposed changes have been communicated. Following the vote, spokesperson Libby DeVecchi said Wilson “takes the Amherst faculty’s message very seriously and will do everything that he can to rebuild their trust.” Trustees Chairman Stephen Tocco did not attend the meeting, but in a statement he expressed confidence in Wilson’s leadership. He said, “It is our goal to make the University of Massachusetts one of the very best public universities in the United States. I understand this involves change and sometimes change can seem difficult.” Related coverage includes a letter to Wilson from upset faculty, and a columnist who observes the local legislative delegation is angry because they learned of the news through press reports. (Globe, AP, Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, Republican, Gazette, Gazette, Recorder, 5/24-25/07)

A story on Andrew H. Card Jr., who is to receive an honorary degree today at the Graduate School Commencement, lays out what critics and supporters have been saying about his role in the administration of President George W. Bush. University officials say they intend to award the degree. An editorial says Card doesn’t deserve the honor and says it degrades the value of honorary degrees conferred by UMass. (Gazette, Republican, Metrowestdailynews.com, 5/25/07)

A column by Martin Miller, general manager at WFCR, says the station works hard to reflect the tastes of the community and listens to what people want for programming, even though some listeners are angry about recent changes in what the station broadcasts. (Gazette, 5/25/07)

A panel, including Madeleine Blais, journalism, discussed how the Internet is changing journalism last night in a meeting sponsored by the News Forum. The ongoing series is run by the journalism department at UMass Amherst. (Republican, 5/25/07; News Office release)

Posted by Steph at 2:52 PM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2007


There was no (new) blood on the carpet as a result of the Milan-Liverpool Champions Final yesterday. If anyone supported Liverpool wisely kept it quiet.

There really isn't any old blood on the carpet either, although Muffin remains disgruntled at MeiMei's presence and continues to expand the casualty list. :-/

Linus and I talked about the course I'm teaching online this summer, particularly the challenge of meeting people only through their minds - or, more precisely, only through how words show the mind-at-work. Jinglan showed off some bridges she has designed as greenways for Walden Pond (see the Executive Summary to understand the need and scope of this project). We mused on the metaphor of communication for these connectors that allow ecosystems to stay connected, and the metaphor of literal connectors (bridges, greenways) for the process of communication.

Using text is so tricky. I knew, for instance, that on two occasions recently I tried to present deadpan, not using my characteristic parenthetically enclosed exclamation point (!) or a smiley face :-) or even the quotations marks that would have denoted I was using my interlocutor's label: "stunningly handsome," "insensitive psychologist." How does this effect how I am read? Do those who know me catch the jest or wonder if I'm psychotic? Do those who do not know me consider this rhetorical slippage or an indicator of a personality on the edge? ;-)

Alas, just like words uttered into the vacuum of space, text sent hurling through cyberspace cannot be retrieved! Evidence can be erased, but the trace remains...

How hard can we play? :-/ And how shall I carry this lesson into this next round of teaching - online?

Posted by Steph at 4:47 PM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2007

Inti Raymi

Ok, so the Summer Solstice is still twenty-nine days away. But I know where Isabel and Luis are going to be: at the Festival of the Sun!

inti raymi.jpg

I know I won’t make it to visit them in Ecuador this year, but you can bet Cuenca and this Incan temple is on my list of necessary world travels. :-)

Lava hosted a great party, as usual (although that grill was definitely functioning on Latin/African time…hmmm, maybe that was a function of the chefs?!). Lava had an extra special glow because of his near touch with Bono. I don’t know, perhaps he should not wash that finger anymore anyway? A mere inch of space is hardly enough to impede the energy vibes of such celebrity. Speaking of celebrities, Alex ensconced herself queen-like next to the remains of the kegger from Saturday’s bash (see more photos), and Zeynep appeared at the end of the evening to a round of warm hugs. There were many hugs, actually, except from that insensitive psychologist who makes sure not to talk with me long enough to provide blog material. ;-) People are leaving, alas. Some of them will not be back: thus we are cast among the winds of fortune and narrative!

Franz suggests people “fall into place” and we invent narratives that imbue this “falling” with meaning. Yep. Guilty! I choose my narrative. For instance, taking a nap pre-party and arriving just in time to snarf sausages without having to muscle through the masses allowed me to confirm my own intuitive sense of flow. “But everything flows,” Franz would argue. “Things could have worked out many different ways and each way would have had it’s own flow.” Yes. And. I make my story about how events do flow, how they have flowed, to bridge the gaps that might otherwise turn sour. I also love those who can take the potentially sour and make it funny: that spontaneous conversational revisionism about ecosexuality was hilarious!

We are not an average group, y’know? Not just because of the varied mix of nationalities and disciplines, but because of a common desire to connect, mingling our ways together so we can laugh at what we produce.

What kind of bridges can we forge? Which gaps can we fill?

A toast I say, to laughter!

Posted by Steph at 12:21 PM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2007

Australian legacy

"Are all Australians this gregarious?" Apoorva and I wondered at the amazing collection of people who gathered to send Alex and Dan toward the next phase of their life adventure. There were many more people at this party whom I had not met than those I had even seen once or twice. More than 200 well-wishers, "in only four years!"

The joys of these parties include seeing people I don't otherwise encounter, as well as meeting new folk. Inevitably I have intriguing conversations with people whose goodwill emanates like sunlight. Linus, for instance, who only has three ideas (!) for his dissertation in resource economics - seeking ways to entice governments and industries to reduce the environmental effects of capitalism. Franz (of FOOL ARE US co-ed soccer fame) has a penchant for the subtle (not!), which protects him from revealing too much about his own ambitions. :-) (He does seem interested in the modern/postmodern juncture but that might be a general, rather than specific knowledge.) Cecilia, from northeastern Brazil, whose work in comparative literature seems language-based (Portuguese and Spanish) yet opens fascinating questions about parallels and distinctions among former colonizing nations.

I found myself shy with Alenka because she asked if my students know that I sometimes blog them. (They do.) It wasn't the question itself, it was the knowledge of exposure, a bit of vulnerability. Later, the stunningly-handsome Bob and I had a stimulating discussion about the way I (try to) blog and whether and/or to what extent I need to protect individual's privacy from a civil liberties perspective. I do know this is a concern (some learned via the school of hard knocks), which is why I seek permission. The thing is, I'm not doing journalism, not reporting "on" or "about" others; instead what I'm doing is "reporting" (revealing) me. By implication, those who I interact with are "revealed" too, sortof - in the sense of learning what I think or feel about some aspects of our interaction.

The point (in my own warped mind, smile) is to get beyond the safe and comfortable to the deeper stuff that we as humans are challenged to resolve: hierarchy and its forms of power, oppression, violence, injustice. So, you get to see (if you wish) that blogging is a way of writing myself into being and inviting/seeking others of similar vision. Corny as it sounds, I hope my view on events and persons is received as a gift, a memento, a hook for continuing relationship.

Then, the question arises, who reads? I usually do not know. :-) What if I had regular readers? I don't know! What if I had regular commenters? Geez - there's a question! I had to let go of that desire and accept that this mode requires making myself vulnerable and allowing the exposure, in and of itself, to be what matters. In truth, I would love to know who reads and what they think, but the knowing generates new possibilities for relating, which both excites me and tweaks a bit of anxiety. What happens when we choose more intimacy, more connection?

I love Alex and Dan because not only are they totally wild and hilariously fun, they are also real, human, tuned-in, and conscious. These are the kind of people they attract, and I am just plumb-tickled to be included (even if Alex doesn't remember how she knows me!) (I was smuggled in by a Romanian, shhhh!)

Where else do conversations span such diversity of nationalities (including Cameroon, India, and Nepal among those already identified), academic disciplines, career interests, travel plans (go Nicole go!), relational successes and dating traumas (at least someone got an ironing board), and religious diversity with such good humor?

The boundaries of my knowledge were stretched on two particular counts. First, I intuitively grasped an extension of whiteness (inherited privilege via colonial genealogical heritage) as a tangible (possible) feature of what I've been taught as an American to view as "Latin", i.e., as other. The second is the embarrassing linguistic fact of struggling to hear terms and labels, names, in languages other than English. I received a generous behind-the-scenes email to get Dawoodi Bohra spelled correctly. I'm such a naive and un-educated american! I wondered if they were related to Sufiism? Not really - only distantly via the common root of Islam. (I attended a sema last summer in Istanbul.)



Dan and Alex will move, transplanting roots of a legacy that will grow and strengthen their new community. It remains to us to nurture the vibrant seeds they sown here.

Posted by Steph at 9:34 AM | Comments (0)

April 12, 2007

Kidnapped by Kiwis


I was talking with Rachel just before the final panel on primary participant’s views on quality in interpreting. I asked if she was going in and she said, “No, we’re going to the ballet. Want to come?”

At the Sydney Opera House? What was I supposed to say?

“We’re leaving now,” she added.

Done. :-)

And what a show it was! Don Quixote: a romantic comedy as perfect prelude to my presentation on Saturday in which I dream of planting seeds to change the world. (shhhhhhhhhhh!)

Henry is as hilarious in person as he was during his spiel on opening professional membership to those least skilled and least qualified individuals whose job performance as interpreters brings down the public perception of the lot of us. (This is the only way to entice them into line, on the principle that “they have to be into you before they’re going to change,” with the caveat that “even then it might not work.”) Hannah is a firebrand: she told me about the Russian grandmothers who buy the least expensive tickets for classical shows, enter early, and watch like hawks for open seats, dashing for the front row just as the curtain rises.

Rachel, lo-and-behold, was a participant in the online conference where Anne Potter and I presented on American Deaf consumers’ perceptions of interpreters’ interrupting or even, unculturally-incorrect, “TAKING OVER.”

En route to the grand venue (which appears alive from up close under the stars), we stopped for a meat pie; a “very Down Under experience.” A bit greasy but rather tasty, similar to fast-food everywhere.

I grinned through most of the entire show by The Australian Ballet. The dancers were talented, the choreography fun, and the music delightful. The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra is conducted by Nicolette Fraillon – the first female conductor I’ve witnessed in action! Post-show, we avoided what looked like a gathering sting operation by Australian paramilitary at the train station by exercising the “get out on time (or early)” principle, which is somewhat in contrast to my mode of living “in tomorrow, here.”


Posted by Steph at 3:10 PM | Comments (0)

April 8, 2007

A day of firsts

First flight (all the way) across the Pacific. First trip to the southern hemisphere. First time to take a twenty-two hour trip and arrive two days later, because I crossed the international date line. According to Betty, the time shift works out to “only three hours of Easter.” :-) Australian currency is pretty: bright and colorful. As far as I know, my car arrived in Amherst on time and in one piece. (I cannot say the same for the drivers.) There is no mail drop anywhere in the LA airport. Hello?! I refuse to take this personally.

Betty’s on her way to China. We talked about languages and translation. She mentioned Steven Pinker (who I suppose I really must read someday. I have even already bought The Language Instinct.) Later, in preparing for my presentation, I re-read this datum from my interviews with interpreters at the European Parliament:

“[Mentalese is] a level of communication that doesn’t necessarily have to be expressed in words. It’s the kind of gray area, the 'you know what I mean' area. He [Steven Pinker] talks literally about mental ease and almost refers to it as a language in its own right that we all possess, and some use it more effectively than others. I don’t think he expressly refers to interpreting per se, but with the background it automatically occurred to me that it’s something that is very relevant to any kind of interpreting, inference, that can be expressed through gesture, facial expression, obviously words as well, but not necessarily any of those. Even just the tone of voice. It’s a mode of translation, if you like, that is probably one of the most powerful tools that an interpreter possesses.”

Hmm. :-) Not exactly what I will present on this time around, but it might work it's way into future analysis!

On the second, longer leg of the journey I had a brief, also pleasant conversation with a woman on her way to surprise her family with a visit for the first time in eight years. Reminded my of my trip west a year and a half ago. She grew up in Mombasa, married a military man, now lives in Florida; her family is in New Zealand. I asked her about colonialism and race relations; she responded about the beauty of nature and that the natives were always all around. I thought we might not see as eye-to-eye as Betty and I had, but the connection was still warm.

I took my time departing the airport and finding my hotel in the western suburbs of Sydney. It was nice wandering the city pre-rush: quiet, mildly humid, only barely chill. I hope to make my way to Newtown tonight.

By the way, it is 9:45 on Monday morning here, some fourteen hours ahead of my friends in New England, who are still enjoying Sunday evening.

Posted by Steph at 7:45 PM | Comments (0)

April 7, 2007

“the world is just a dream”

Shakespeare might have known it all.

Dada recently told the story of a friend of his who compared the duration of a dream to the duration of the universe. Our lives are short, whether considered on the timescale of the universe, or in the human terms of birth, development, aging, and death. What can one possibly accomplish when the hours of the day must be split among discharging and unlearning emotional residue, taking care of business, and trying to contribute to something larger than oneself?

I’ve just read the Introduction to John Gribbin’s “general interest history of science”: The Scientists. He is appropriate, limiting his scope to Western Science while acknowledging “the achievements of the Ancient Greeks, the Chinese, and the Islamic scientists and philosophers who did so much to keep the search for knowledge about our world alive during the period Europeans [and North Americans] refer to as the Dark and Middle Ages” (xix).

The logic of scientific thinking and technology are closely intertwined. Gribbin opens with the stark statement that “the most important thing that science has taught us about our place in the Universe is that we are not special” (xvii). Even humanity’s genius is conditional on technology, because “it is possible to make machines by trial and error without fully understanding the principles on which they operate” (xx). Here, Gribbin approaches a key tenet of the communication discipline. I am eager to read his subjective account of “stories that represent the development of science in its historical context” (xx), particularly because he believes science has been achieved “in the most part, by ordinarily clever people building step by step from the work of their predecessors” (xxii).

He proposes “to give a feel for the full sweep of science, which has taken us from the realization that the Earth is not at the center of the Universe and that human beings are ‘only’ animals, to the theory of the Big Bang and a complete map of the human genome in 450 years” (xxi).

A mere blink of the eye.

Posted by Steph at 7:09 PM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2007


(via text message):

Steph: "Normal subgroups lend themselves readily to homomorphisms."

Smita: "Duh."

Kelly: "Right!"

Ila: "Hmmm..."

Dad: "Same bs here."

Christi: "Yikes, ruff wk?"

Posted by Steph at 11:16 AM | Comments (0)

March 28, 2007

party conversations

Siny thinks I didn’t reference her last time, but I did. The birthday girl had it right: no permission, no name - but one might still appear-by-implication in an account of some interaction! This time I only intended to stay an hour but then blogtalk happened. I became excited . . .

Sangria Grrl gave me the hardest time. “The blog feels private, like I’m reading your diary!” Nah – I am just sharing my mind (such as it is!) Nicole nailed the point: once I have written and “published” online then the information (the thinking) “is public.” Some of us had fun recalling the new tradition (we tried to invent) at Winter Solstice: various cuisines throughout the night, except “American came first and was so big there was no room for anyone else!” Gulp, we’ll definitely have to recalibrate for next time. :-)
(All the parties, by the way, are categorized (with some other things) as “group dynamics.”)

I got totally jazzed talking with Adam and attempted to blog right then and there. (Never did that before!) Sangria Grrl busted me, even to the point of confiscating my notes (she did return them, so now she is complicit, right?)! Later in the evening, I was double-teamed sandwiched between Halona and The-Guy-Who-Doesn’t-Trust-Me: “Do you think everybody has an accent?” Of course! But it is not the sound that matters (imho). The cool ness factor of people learning and speaking new languages is the process of making meaning - in fact, this is a very-darn-neat process even among monolinguals: how does anyone agree on what something means?

Adam told me about Tanzania, which is the only country in Africa that is united by a common tongue. “What you have to understand is that we have one national language which one can speak east to west and north to south.” Swahili is one of the most widespread African languages, but unlike other countries with large Swahili-speaking populations (Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Congo), all 120 tribes of Tanzania speak Swahili and therefore do not have to resort to a colonial language (i.e., English in Kenya & Uganda, French in Burundi and Congo) to communicate with each other. The “local-local tribes” also speak native Bantu languages. This singular fact makes Tanzania “peculiar,” according to Adam, because the common tongue “makes us more united – we are the only [African] country where everyone speaks one language.” Indeed, Adam attributed the presence of a unifying national language to the fact that Tanzania has never had a civil war.

Neat, huh? :-) The phenomena, and Adam’s pride in it, seems to support (or extend?) Benedict Anderson’s argument about the functional role of languages in Europe as a tool in the construction of nationalistic imagined communities. My more specific interest is in how (if, whether) current language policies and practices in the European Union will promote a shift away from nationalism (egoistic, xenophobic) to broader self-identifications and also if, when, and how language policies can be extended beyond the political borders of citizenship to the practical day-to-day livelihoods of transnational workers, displaced persons, and their families.

Posted by Steph at 2:43 PM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2007

Nicole's Birthday

We are (almost) all here.

Posted by Steph at 8:36 PM | Comments (2)

March 9, 2007

after tenure

"I'm one of those who believes there is life in the universe." I met Hector (the Guero who tells his kids "You're half Mexican, half Russian, and 100% American), (who might enter politics - "after tenure"), celebrating Jose's prospectus defense last night. Jose cites Noam Chomsky (The Responsibility of Intellectuals) as a possible template for his own academic career, "After tenure, no one knew him!" This translates as pragmatism now, radical structuralism later.

Conversation ranged from education, neurolinguistic programming, and Rod Stewart (The Killing of Georgie) to the cosmos. "Our moon is leaving us. That's very bad news!" At "an inch-and-a-half a year", my own sense is this is not exactly the scale on which to make decisions in my own lifetime, but I understand the disappointment. Instead of going out with a supernova, Patrick Stewart tells us life on earth will wobble and totter out via untempered precession.

I argued that the fact that "nature is going to take care of extinction sooner or later" does not justify waiting until after tenure to start changing the maps. Who needs to wait while humanity flirts with ending it sooner?

"Let me bring it down to your level" (!), Hector said to me. From entropy (countered with James Blish' The Triumph of Time), we moved to neurolinguistic programming. "We have to be creative," says Hector, "in building a reality that doesn't exist" - yet, I add. :-) All three of us are educators (or wannabes, grin): no surprise, then, that teaching and training is our preferred tool. If making connections on the basis of perceived similarities is hard-wired into our genes, then the trick is to teach to find "the likes [adjective] that matter."

"Like (adj):
1. Possessing the same or almost the same characteristics; similar: on this and like occasions.
2. Alike: They are as like as two siblings.
3. Having equivalent value or quality. Usually used in negative sentences: There's nothing like a good night's sleep."

Rather than "likes" of appearance (e.g., ethnicity, gender) or homophonic "likes" (such as speaking the same language, having no accent), we could be attracted to similarities of intelligence or passion. This doesn't mean, we clarified, that everyone has to be "the same." Variation, even versions of hierarchy, is desirable. The point is, everyone has "a right to the earth." (Don't you agree that Hector has great soundbytes?!) Just because some have more and others have less does not mean those with less must suffer sucky lives.

We agreed that most of our students have about zero agency: "the state of being in action or exerting power; 'the agency of providence'; 'she has free agency.'" How, I ask, are they going to learn this map if we are not acting as models? Here's the bind: students are being trained "to be employees, not entrepreneurs" (Hector, again, referencing Rich Dad, Poor Dad), they - and we? - are being taught "how to be good slaves." Well (I'm still asking), what about us? Is that the only map we have? Shy of financial independence and multiple streams of income, no agency? Can we live within our means and act on new maps?

"The map is not the territory."

I am tired. My tone fails to capture the laughter with which we engaged each other. :-) There were a couple of fallacies of understanding mentioned in reference to the problem of knowing. If everything we say is, at best, a map of a certain territory of sensory experience, then none of us can actually KNOW what another person means - "the best we can get is, 'I think I know'" (you guessed it, that Guero again). (I like him! You can't tell, can you?)

Type 1 fallacy: Fooling ourselves into thinking our map is reality.
Type 2 fallacy: Just because a map is not reality does not mean the map is crap.

There was this whole metaphor about therapy and jukeboxes which I'm not even gonna get into, except to say I've got some pretty damn good tunes going on mine these days. :-)

"No one owns knowledge."
"There isn't anything that a human can do that you cannot try to learn."
"Our future is now."

Thanks for a great evening. I'm ready for my all-expenses paid trip to Macau, just tell me when!

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

March 6, 2007

why belief evolved

Robin Marantz Henig, in an article, Darwin's God, written for the NYTimesMagazine, states: "The debate over why belief evolved is between byproduct theorists and adaptationists." (links added)

The larger conversation involves collective action: why do some groups organize while others do not? The specific situation is the problem of enticing an individual to contribute to a collective action when there is not an obvious self-interest:

"I might contribute to my group's effort because the group ties my contribution to provision of some private good that I want, such as participation in the Sierra Club's outdoor activities or, in the early days of unions, low-cost group-insurance benefits not available in the market. Such private goods can commonly be provided in the market, so that their usefulness may eventually be undercut. Indeed, firms that provide insurance benefits to their employees thereby undercut one of the appeals of union membership. The general decline of American unions in recent decades is partially the result of their success in resolving problems for workers in ways that do not require continuing union effort." (From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry on The Problem of Free-Riders.)

What interests me is that science is presented bereft of belief. "Belief" is posed as an action directed only toward "God", or as capable of being satisfied or filled only with a system deemed "religious."

"The bottom line, according to byproduct theorists, is that children are born with a tendency to believe in omniscience, invisible minds, immaterial souls — and then they grow up in cultures that fill their minds, hard-wired for belief, with specifics. It is a little like language acquisition, Paul Bloom says, with the essential difference that language is a biological adaptation and religion, in his view, is not. We are born with an innate facility for language but the specific language we learn depends on the environment in which we are raised. In much the same way, he says, we are born with an innate tendency for belief, but the specifics of what we grow up believing — whether there is one God or many, whether the soul goes to heaven or occupies another animal after death — are culturally shaped."

Bloom's maneuver is illustrated by relegating language to the realm of "biological adaptation" completely dismissing the role of language in belief of any kind.

"Belief," Henig writes a few paragraphs later, "...gains power in two ways: from the intensity with which people wish it to be true and from the confirmation it seems to get from the real world." These characteristics of "intensity" and "confirmation" are measurable only through language. Too bad she does not recognize that science also requires belief.

Her hero on the adaptationist side is Sloan Wilson: "a graduate student at Michigan State University in the 1970s, Darwinians were critical of group selection, the idea that human groups can function as single organisms the way beehives or anthills do. So he decided to become the man who rescued this discredited idea. “I thought, Wow, defending group selection — now, that would be big,” he recalled. It wasn’t until the 1990s, he said, that he realized that “religion offered an opportunity to show that group selection was right after all.”

Why can't group selection and belief in science go together? Isn't this the crux of the debate between science (with its divided disciplines of knowledge) and religion (with its disparate denominations)? The question that matters is not whether we believe in religion or science, but in the outcomes and effects that any belief system generates in human relations over time. This is a moral question: its purview is not restricted to the realm of religion.

Posted by Steph at 7:48 PM | Comments (0)

March 5, 2007


Any technology seems unfathomable at first. This youtube clip revisits the advent of the book. The clip has garnered such fame it made the television news.

Sortof reminds me of the inspirational quote and illustrative chart emailed today by my good friend, Toad:

"No matter how different we all are from each other, we more or less ride on the same curve (at different speeds though). :)"


(If you want to see the rest of the cartoon, click the datetime stamp below: 8:42 PM)

Meanwhile, our Max Planck post-doc pal sends this reminder that some curves might be disjoint.

Posted by Steph at 8:42 PM | Comments (0)

February 27, 2007


"A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." – Albert Einstein

shared by Ruth, via email, thanks. :-)

Posted by Steph at 7:29 PM | Comments (5)

February 25, 2007

Jacob's Join

Linus throws a good party! While my own contribution of cheese, salami, and crackers was standard, most folk brought homemade dishes of delectable variety: Camaroonian, Romanian, and South Asian were my favorites. (One cannot go wrong with spinach, mushrooms, or garam masala, IMO.)

There was a nice blend of folks I know and new people to meet. The introductions would go like this: Robert and Andre (computer science), me (social science), Deniz (no science). Joseph (engineering) is working on a solar energy solution to save the planet. Rajiv "dances to live." Nicole keeps department secrets. Sarah looks to California, while Lava looks west (check out these American Deaf Fastest Hands).

I had fun recounting my four-pronged attempts to communicate with a Deaf Turk who hosted me in Istanbul last summer (a gestural combination of American Sign Language and Turkish Sign Language, handwritten English and drawings, an English-Turkish translation program, and a different Turkish-English translation program). Hey ho Recep! You've been on my mind!

Posted by Steph at 4:52 PM | Comments (0)

February 17, 2007


Whose idea was this?!!


Five days later:


Almost healed (12 days later):


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

February 6, 2007

Comm-Grad Legacy

You may or may not be aware that Comm-Grads have an established reputation (Nov 14, 2005 Rally for our Pay!) for activism (April 22, 2005 A21 Walkout and Boycott) concerning campus labor issues.

One of our very own is President of GEO this year, Srinivas Lankala.

Many of us attended a bargaining session on March 13, 2005 that was downright rude. This is where we're headed again if we delay our show of strength.

Perry Irwin (our lighthearted GEO steward) and I are organizing two sign-making parties for one hour each on Wednesday morning (that's tomorrow) from 11:10-12:10 in the Graduate Lounge and again Thursday morning just prior to the rally (check with Perry for details on that one).

suggestions to date:

Hey, maybe the COPS can teach!
Aww, that's OK; I LIKE waiting for raises.
My debt's bigger than your debt, UMass!
I'll give you five bricks for that TA!

SUPPLIES: We need posterboard, cardboard, etc to write on (bring markers too if you have favorites but we have a bunch).

SCOPE: If we make good/sturdy signs now, we can post them in the halls of Machmer and re-use as necessary.

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

February 3, 2007


You know you're in trouble when they remember you. "Oh, she's back!" I was greeted with such an anticipatory grin. "As if getting poked is one of my favorite things," I replied. "Not." Hahaha.

Anemia is not fun. The first week, every time I tried to think of what it was I had, amnesia is what kept coming to mind. yeah, whatever.

I've noticed the painting on the wall previous times in the "lounge chair" where they tourniquet your arm, pump up your fist, and swipe however many tubes they need for whatever battery of tests they're gonna run on the precious lifeblood they draw from your veins. It's a van Gogh reproduction of Starry Night.

Maybe it's the angle, or the colors, or maybe it is just the context that always make me think it's Edvard Munch's The Scream. I guess they don't really look that much alike, but the rock outcropping somehow lends itself to the appearance of that poor screaming man.

I figure it's just their sense of humor, but maybe it just shows how deeply I feel about giving up parts of my flesh.

Posted by Steph at 8:52 AM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2007


Although January isn’t quite over, the winter break is. The spring semester of interpreting, teaching, and writing begins tomorrow. How have my bones handled the gift of reflection? Evil Kachina suggested the following theme:

“January 1, 2007 REFLECTION: REMEMBERING & TELLING ONES PERSONAL STORY These are my gifts for January, take them and do as you will with them. If you have ANY questions please feel free to contact me. With much love, honor and respect as we walk toward this Sacred thing (our lives).”

I remember my story not as my own, but as a member of a family. Three families, actually, the biological one in which my brother and I basically raised ourselves, a chosen one which I lost, and the encompassing ‘family’ of humanity. The weaving of these three seemingly separate tales shifts from loose to tight, compacted to disbursed, distinct to conflated.

When I was working on my Master’s degree (Social Justice Education) in the mid-90s, a professor challenged me once about how far accessibility and inclusion could go. Would the scope of my own action be reduced each time I met someone with a kind of disability that I had not encountered before? I struggled with the vast expanse of non-disabled privileges that I took so much for granted: should I give them up in solidarity? Must I plan events with strict restrictions on the non-disabled, thus enabling conditions of welcome for people with disabilities?

Focusing on the physical is crucial (we are talking basic needs), but an exclusive focus on the material is limited. As siblings growing up in a ‘wannabe’ upper-middle class household, my brother and I were well tended; as consciously-living (thinking and feeling) beings we both needed more nurture than we received. That absence, those gaps, have re-appeared in strange forms over the four decades of our existence, manifesting most profoundly in our intimate relations and core sense of self. The contemporary philosophy of mutual constitution, of the pervasive and constant interplay of “self” and “environment” (relational and material), of the social/linguistic (see online) co-construction of reality, teaches that there is no linear cause-effect relationship between “who I am” and the context of what, where, when, with whom, under which conditions…there is no ‘story of me’ that makes any sense outside of the places and people populating the experience.

How does one become when the conditions for becoming are not ideal?

My current strategy, developed over years of trial-and-error (and some days it definitely feels like mostly error!), is to keep stretching my perception of the context. I think of it as a matter of adjusting the degree of focus – at what level of awareness, which range of conditions, can I find an environment that supports me being the kind of person I seek to be? Sometimes the lens must be narrow, small, even pinpoint: ”In this stressful moment, what can I say/not say that allows the conversation to continue?” Other times, the lens must be broad and encompassing: ”How much credibility do I allow mass media accounts of politics and everyday life in the Middle East before I travel there?”

The continuum of adjusting focus applies to family life, too. The immediate intimacy of present relationships (actual and felt) constitutes the closest focus: who can I be when interacting with lovers, ex-lovers, children, the extended members of their families and all of our closest friends? A few degrees removed, the biological family is that ‘container’ where I spent the early (some say formative) years of being human. When I can make connections between present behaviors/emotions/reactions/interpretations and patterns from my vaguely dim past, then I believe I gain more capacity to free myself from habits and instincts that no longer serve. I expand the range of choice concerning what it means to be a person, to be a self, to have ‘a story’ that is uniquely my own.

Extending the lens of my awareness to humanity, to the species of homo sapiens, the phrase that leaps to mind today, is 'the human race'. This label strikes me as more meaningful than 'the human species' because all of our large-scale social (corporate, political, educational, religious) institutions are premised upon notions of competition, scarcity, and hierarchy. We have inherited a social world built by our forebears as a race. The global system of interconnected technologies and money flows is running as fast as it can: we (as a species) are in such a hurry to get … somewhere. I recognize this as a social metonymy for my own life. My parents were moving up, seeking to advance their socioeconomic status. The effort and thrill of (apparent) success distracted them from some of the tasks of childrearing. I inherited the need to rush. “Here” was never sufficient; “there” was going to be better. My chosen family suffered my impatience.

It has taken years to interrupt the pell-mell, hellbent race to elsewhere and elsewhen, to find the people and places that call me to an other self, to build the structures, conditions, and skill at shifting focus to the most conducive level for becoming other than who I was originally constrained to be. Now, instead of telling the story of an existence, I can begin to tell a story of life.

Posted by Steph at 1:09 PM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2007


Li (the dawg*) gave us a whole ten hours to scramble for his farewell party. A curious lot we were, Comps Man, Mystery Man, the President, the Party Pooper (ok ok, maybe it was still international jet lag), and Strange Minor Bridge - CommGrads spanning four cohorts - and a professor (mentor, landlord, friend). A group of multipurpose all around good people; (or, as SMB insisted, people who have no other friends and therefore had no conflict with such last minute planning.)

We exceeded the carefully-specified boundaries (4:20-6:20). Then the moment of goodbye. I felt sad. :-(

Qiao and I went back to the house to bid farewell to the Big Stomach (a.k.a. Chow Hound) and Qun.

We did not beat the six-hour record set one verbose evening back-in-the-day, but I did stay until midnight. Was it me, entertaining the baby? Them, taking care of me? :-) For every and any reason, it was good to linger.

Next stop: Chong Qing.

*Dawg = another meaning for a friend, an acquaintance..."What up Dawg!"

1. n. a title for your friends, see "homie." 2. a guy who goes with all the girls, even if he has a girlfriend. A tramp. "Jimmy's such a dawg! Look at him over there with those hoochies."

With certain inflections (according to Demers): "How dare you!"

Posted by Steph at 1:24 PM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2007

Spare Man returns

Four spares in the first five frames…makes one wonder! But the real return was Luscious, now married with a shaved head and bit of weight gain: “Blissful!” Lava bowled with the grrls, which seemed to enhance his performance - until Jinglan’s transformation by gender and nationality into Mr. “Bring-it-on!” Linus. I won that game. :-) A firsttime bowler, Jinglan got directions about aiming with the arrows from Marcus…she rolled the lightest, softest, straightest balls. Later in the evening there was some hilarity concerning Marcus’ management of heavy balls . . . I was confused about the joke of pulling fingers (from Children of Men, highly recommended), and Lava had me pulling on his threads . . .

Anuj bowled, according to a pal, “in his customary fashion.” Nicole and I complemented each other, bowling in adjacent lanes, “you got what I missed.” She wondered how I know this group, I explained that after two years I had apparently passed some kind of test. “Or he thought the group was appropriate and worthy of your time.” ahem

Luscious was full of advice for me: “If you’re going to err, err on the left. Bowling right-handed, if you hit the gutter at least you went through the middle!” Not only is marriage blissful, he’s loving fulltime school and proved it by recommending we all ought to read Words That Work. He was intrigued by the NPR interview he heard en route. Other sales pitches were made in search of a daily morning massage.

All-in-all, quite a satisfactory reunion. :-)

Posted by Steph at 2:11 PM | Comments (0)

January 8, 2007


As I’m going about formulating a frame for my dissertation research, it becomes clearer that it matters where I draw the line between what will be “in” the project and what must remain “outside” of it. I always knew this, but the difference now, perhaps, is a better sense (?) of what is do-able, particularly in terms of promising an outcome. I don’t mean predicting a particular or specific result, because I do not know, now, the answers to my research problem. I do mean guaranteeing with some assurance that the problem is significant and the results of rigorous examination will be worthwhile and beneficial to the narrow field of language and interpretation studies as well as to (I hope) a broader social science. But I cannot say how the leap from the subfield of interpretation to larger fields will occur. Probably there are several possibilities. I don’t want to foreclose some by too close an interest in others. I cannot see any of them; I only intuit that the connections will become evident.

That penultimate goal must wait. I have been learning a different kind of trust the past few years and I must continue to exercise it. My mind is quick on a few things (sometimes too much so), medium with most, and just plain slow with others. Within my consciousness, a vague sense of understanding floats around definitive knowledge for a long time before it suddenly congeals into sharp coherency. Formulating the kernel of research into the institutionalization of interpretation and language processes has been like this: I've written nearly a dozen papers seeking clarity, all of them “promising” but insufficient. Then, last week, while taking notes of a lecture by my (!) cultural codes instructor, a foundational structure leapt into view. I apprehended what my intuition has been telling me lo-these-past three years.

My interest in epistemology (how we come to know what we know), cognition (more precisely, neuroscience), and perception (haphazardly categorized as “phenomenology”) suggests to me that understanding the productive effects of discourses might influence particular, relational communication choices. I’m going to have to wean myself away from the popular science literature elucidating what specializations have come to accept as knowledge. I resist, for just awhile longer. For now I relish the odd sensation of perceiving new synapses making new connections. There have been several specific time periods throughout doctoral coursework when I’ve experienced understanding snapping into view – ”Aha! – in a cascading sequence of minor revelations. ”No wonder,” I sometimes think, “some of my colleagues think I’m such a dweeb!” :-)

I’ve begun to read second nature: brain science and human knowledge by Gerald M. Edelman (critical review). He offers the assumption, right off the bat, that we do understand how consciousness is based in brain action. With this premise as foundation, Edelman argues “we can address the nature of consciousness itself” (ix) through “a line of thought leading to … brain-based epistemology” (2), a branch of neural darwinism. Edelman places the origin of this line of thinking with a philosopher, Willard van Orman Quine (never heard of him before), and situates himself as following the footsteps of William James (of whom I have heard), “who pointed out that consciousness is a process whose function is knowing” [Footnote 4] (p. 3).

I’m curious where Edelman juxtaposes thinking in this equation. The model I’m working with situates thinking somewhere in-between consciousness and knowing. The two reasons I can articulate right now are the arguments Gladwell makes about rapid cognition going wrong: he calls it temporary mind-blindness, citing the NY police killing of Amadou Diallo as his prime example. People still know things in situations when their judgment is impaired, faulty, or otherwise questionable, but the resources of consciousness that they are able to bring to the operation of knowing in such moments are severely reduced. Gladwell’s recommendation is to control the environment in order to control rapid cognition. He also cites the value of experience.

“…the gift of training and expertise – the ability to extract an enormous amount of meaningful information from the very thinnest slice of experience . . . . Every moment – every blink – is composed of a series of discrete moving parts, and every one of those parts offers an opportunity for intervention, for reform, and for correction” (241). The point Gladwell seeks to drive home is that “our unconscious thinking is, in one critical respect, no different from our conscious thinking: in both, we are able to develop our rapid decision making with training and experience” (237).

Interpreters must thin-slice all the time. That’s our job: to determine meaning in the blink of an eye and then to fix it for others.

The problem is that the more pressure and less time one has for rapid cognition, the more likely one is to make errors. Quoting psychologist Keith Payne: “When we make a split-second decision, we are really vulnerable to being guided by our stereotypes and prejudices, even ones we may not necessarily endorse or believe” (emphasis added, 233). In these moments, our thinking mind is overruled or impaired by something else. What?

I’m taking a leap here – but I’m wondering about the enteric brain. Someone in the Communication Department – either Perry or David – gave me a copy of a Harper’s article some time ago. Yesterday I read it. “Debbie Does Salad: The Food Network at the frontiers of pornography” by Frederick Kaufman (interviewed by Peter Morris). It parallels (convincingly) the pleasure of viewers of cooking shows and pornography: both produce a visceral “wow” in another, second brain, “a brain in the gut” (October 2005:59). Sphincters, baby, that’s what it comes down to, “enteric attraction,” a bunch of autonomic openings and closings that either feel good or feel bad. Kaufman quotes a 1907 classic: “The abdominal brain can live without the cranial brain…[but] the cranial brain can not live without the abdominal brain” (The Abdominal and Pelvic Brain).

Here’s how I’m putting all this together. Once we become conscious of the enteric brain, meaning once we know “sphincter power” drives the wow factor, our tastes, and our biases, then we can start to think about whether or not (when, how, why) we want our decisions to be dictated by the gut. I would even go so far as to speculate that this is the tangible horizon of humanity’s evolution as a species. Language (and all those other symbols we wield) might be an entry point for illuminating this choice, even for detailing when and how interactions rife with gut-level reactions can be mediated. Not by rationality per se, but to the combination of intuition/rapid cognition and thoughtful consideration Gladwell articulates, so that we can begin to deliberately move our societies away from the perpetuation of destructive decision-making cycles (I’m thinking in particular of violence to persons and our planet) and toward new modes of creativity and alternative forms of aggressive expression that preserve life and its continuing possibility.

[random fyi: Mind, Language, and Epistemology: Toward a Language Socialization Paradigm for SLA]

Posted by Steph at 11:50 AM | Comments (0)

January 7, 2007


I wrote a while back about thin-slicing. I have nearly finished Gladwell’s book on rapid cognition. He spends a chapter discussing the face, linking the ability to discern emotional expression as akin to mind-reading: in his words, “the physiological basis of how we thin-slice other people” (213). Face recognition and object recognition are usually handled by two different parts of the brain, respectively the fusiform gyrus and inferior temporal gyrus (219), but more interesting to me are two things: the interplay between voluntary and involuntary facial muscle responses, and the evidence that simply making certain facial expressions generates corresponding physiological states.

All of us can control our expressions to varying degrees, but people exert this control only after our faces have involuntarily displayed our emotional reaction. He describes several examples, including a slow-motion microexpressions of Kato Kaelin looking like “a snarling dog” during the O.J. Simpson trial (211), the smirking double-agent, Harold “Kim” Philby (211-212), “I’m a bad guy” Bill Clinton (205-206), and a psychiatric patient, Mary (208-209), citing research from Paul Ekman, Silvan Tomkins, Wallace Friesen, and Robert Levenson (singly and in various combinations). “We can use our voluntary muscular system to try to suppress those involuntary responses. But, often, some little part of that suppressed emotion – such as the sense that I’m really unhappy even if I deny it – leaks out…Our voluntary expressive system is the way we intentionally signal our emotions. Bur our involuntary expressive system is in many ways even more important: it is the way we have been equipped by evolution to signal our authentic feelings” (210).

The above is based on a summary of research findings that there is a finite number of meaningful expressions and most, if not all, of these are intelligible – as in understood to express similar emotions – across cultures. These findings are gathered in a tool created by Ekman and Frisen called the Facial Action Coding System, now used by computer animators and applied in various kinds of psychological and social research (204-205).

The second point, more fascinating than the first (categorizing is cool, but inducing change is cooler), involves a claim by Ekman “that the information on our face is not just a signal of what is going on inside our mind. In a certain sense, it is what is going on inside our mind” (206, emphasis in original). They tested this claim rather ingeniously. Through some casual experimentation they discovered they could induce the physiological indicators of distress and anger: “As I do it [move specific facial muscles into particular facial expressions],” said Ekman, “I can’t disconnect from the [autonomic nervous] system. It’s very unpleasant, very unpleasant” (207). Two different teams of researchers documented that the pathway of internal emotion stimulus and facial emotional expression works both ways. “These findings may be hard to believe, because we take it as given that first we experience an emotion, and then we may – or may not – express that emotion on our face. We think of the face as the residue of emotion. What this research showed, though, is that the process works in the opposite direction as well. Emotion can also start on the face. The face is not a secondary billboard for our internal feelings. It is an equal partner in the emotional process” (208, emphasis in original).

Claims made by Gladwell are contested by Posner.

Posted by Steph at 6:39 PM | Comments (0)

January 4, 2007

ritual view of blogging

I'm observing a colleague teaching Cultural Codes of Communication. Homework for the first night included reading James Carey (foundational) and a series of questions, including what might be of interest for students to explore in this course. I've already snatched a quote from the Carey article for teaching this spring (!), and my brain is in high gear concerning my prospectus. Wow. Did I intuit that observing this class would provide some structure and motivation?! :-)

I've also got the blog on my mind. As a mechanism for transmission - it (I) seek to disseminate information, but not really. I've always hoped it would be more dialogic than monologic. It is true that through the blog, I organize certain symbols in a more-or-less personal attempt to impose order on my experiences. Blogging has become - for me - a ritual that positions me to/with the world in a certain way. I've noted several times over the past year or so that a function of writing publicly as I do is to write myself into being. By projecting a certain performance of self, of identity, into the public sphere (invoking accountability among other things), the effect doubles back, enabling me to better live up to the ideals I espouse.

It isn't as simple as that, though. The words I write, the symbols I use, become me - rather, I become the sign of the words (see p. 12, referencing Burke). Carey says, "We first produce the world by symbolic work and then take up residence in the world we have produced" (p. 16).

Finally, I better understand some of the unease about my blogging "real life" (as perceived, experienced, and interpreted by me), because my writing establishes a context which also positions those whom I mention in particular roles or even identities. It may be a matter of establishing a "history of order" on a minute, microsocial scale. For years, colleagues and I have debated the way my blogging "endow[s] significance, order, and meaning in the world by the agency of [my] own intellectual processes" (Carey, 13). We (or at least I) was confused with the positioning of friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. into roles relative to "the blog": of being readers, nonreaders, commenters, noncommenters, advocates, and/or adversaries. That was a limited view.

I keep recalling a friend who said, "If I don't read it, it's not there."

I am thinking, at this moment, that much of this kind of framing is with the transmission model of communication uppermost in mind. Surely I am taken with the ability to transmit my words across spacetime. Maybe the tension could be better explained through an overlay of the ritual lens? The transmission model is premised upon control as the goal of communication: control over distance and control over people. I resist the accusation of power-mongering, but ritually....what sharedness is at risk?

Posted by Steph at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)

December 29, 2006

stretch, move, shake

Getting teenage boys out of bed is some kinda maternal patience maker.

It finally did happen, and we headed out for breakfast in Kenmore Square, which "in the old days" (we were informed by a policeofficer) "was known for its nightlife." (Someone highly recommended this area to us - now we know what era she belongs to!) After some exercise walking to the Busy Bee Diner, we snarfed breakfast (at lunchtime) before jumping on the sight-seeing trolley. While Austin napped (!), Christi and I learned that it was not Paul Revere who made the successful ride to warn of the British (nor was it William Dawes, another of the three who set out), rather Dr. Samuel Prescott was the only one of the three to reach Concord, enabling a successful defense.

The trolley ride combined contemporary culture and commercialism with a smattering of history. It kept us warm and we definitely saw more of Boston than we would have with the Freedom Trail Walk, which truly deserves a fresh summer day.

The Museum of Science was cool, even though we did miss the supposedly amazing Bodyworks 2. Who knew reservations were needed days in advance? Not us. :-( (NOTE for better planning, next time.)

The infamous Just-in-Time joined us after all the exhibits and touristdom to play chauffer for a yummy dinner and Baskin-Robbins ice cream excursion to the far reaches of Newton. We were disappointed by the absence of mint chocolate chip but eggnog redeemed the evening. Jet Li successfully capped off the night: Fearless, based on the Chinese national hero, Hua Yuanjia.

Posted by Steph at 10:35 AM | Comments (2)

The Biscuit Tin of Life

We (ha! - first-timers) survived the "T" - Boston's subway system.

“Just as the RICH TEA BISCUIT lives in HARMONY with the LUXURY CHOCOLATE FINGER, so should we all live in HARMONY together in the great assorted biscuit tin that we call LIFE.” ~ Edward Monkton

We visited the Institute of Contemporary Art and thoroughly enjoyed the SuperVision special exhibition. I particularly enjoyed a work by Sigmar Polke, There is nothing more real than Pictures You Can’t Get Out of your Mind, depicting a honeycombed carbon atom; a neat infinity mirror of Czech glass, and the narration for a videoinstallation showing nighttime surveillance images of people trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border by Chantal Akerman. She describes “the politics of seeing – and being seen” (From the Other Side). Many of the works required more artistic sophistication than we possess to be properly appreciated, but most of them elicited a reaction of one kind or another.

Our bar and grille dinner on the waterfront was reminiscent of many a visit to Seattle and the other side of the family: fish and chips, burgers, chicken fingers. I tried to stretch Midwest tastes to mussels boiled with garlic and herbs. Not. (Oh well. Can’t blame a (bad) Aunt for trying!)

We finished the evening with dessert and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Fun, but longer than the Kracken’s tentacles!

Posted by Steph at 9:44 AM | Comments (0)

December 28, 2006

Austin appears in Northampton

In big ball bowling (as opposed to little ball bowling), Dastardly Dan scored his highest ever. Strong Minor Bridge bowled a double, a miss, and a turkey for 5 strikes in 6 turns. Christ-with-an-I became intimately familiar with Grace-Margaret (that unfortunately-yet-accurately-named remaining single pin). ">Shinobi shined, but those three young un's only beat us oldies by six pins (446-440) when we bowled on the wii.

Prior to "our Japanese dinner" (at Teapot), a discussion about the differences between whiffling and snoring was held. I'm still wondering about an intermediary. Not so regarding the difference between waffling and fibbing. The fibblers left us way too soon! :-/

Posted by Steph at 1:34 AM | Comments (1)

December 23, 2006

more like baccanalia than sun-worship

We were the only ones at the sunwheel but we confessed the crime like good Bacchanalites: from Kathamandu (Nepal), Arad (Romania), Siberia (Russia), Massachusetts and Vermont (USA). Eight of us, two who stayed wide awake all night (!), two who barely dozed, and the other four who did crap out for a few of the wee hours. The last crew left just after 4 am - the Bhutanese, Turks, and some Americans. The first to abandon us (circa 2 am) were the Columbians....somewhere in the middle we lost the other Nepalese, Chinese, French (?), Germans, and Australians (watch out for those dance moves! (If it isn't obvious, they just keep me around cuz I'm good domestic help.)

Thanks, all, for another night to remember. :-)

Posted by Steph at 11:06 PM | Comments (0)

December 18, 2006

High Fidelity

"Unlike many other habitants of the earth
we chose not to be born, live and die in the same town
and hang out with the same people
from birth to death,

so sooner or later we will move on and
who knows where we will be next.
We will be spread around in several continents,
hanging out with totally new people."
Dr. Zeynep Delen

"Fidelity is a notion, that at its most abstract level implies a truthful connection to a source. Its original meaning dealt with loyalty and attentiveness to one's duty to a lord or a king, in a broader sense than the related concept of fealty."

The movie, High Fidelity, details one man's existential process of developing "the quality of being faithful" in his life and relationships, playing on the metaphor of musical "accuracy with which an electronic system reproduces the sound or image of its input signal."

While the birthday boy of honor declaimed, "This movie is not autobiographical!", there were occasional resonances felt by at least some of the invited guests. ahem The movie capped an elegant evening of surprise, spirits, fancy dress, festive chatter, and a live woodwind duet.

As proclaimed by the primary event organizer, Dr. Zeynep Delen:

Hopefully tonight,
and all other days and nights like these will
forever stay with us. This plan came to life as
Anuj's birthday party but it could be
for any of us for any other occasion. I don't know about you, but
I have been thrilled to be a part of this Amherst crowd.
I am simply amazed how anything is really possible.
(Hey, this is really America! :)"

Posted by Steph at 9:22 PM | Comments (1)

December 9, 2006


“ Some weird performance shit. Candles. Take a shot = solidarity for glass. Yes, a real worm. Symbolic. Monte Alban 100% Agave MexicanTequila. Honey-roasted peanuts. Two types of cheese (pepperjack, cheddar?) candy worms, cracker, lime, salt, apples.” (Class notes, “Derrida & Butler”, 7 December 2006).

We graduated from wine to tequila. Attempts to generate shame (who did the reading?) have risen to new lows. The double bite of ideology iterates us in the ass, interpellating proper academic subjectivities.

I perceive an intersection of horizontal timespace trajectories coalescing in repetitive (synchronic) vertical time. Early debate about electoral strategy is one discursive template: boundaries were drawn between those advocating the old form and those promoting a new one. Do ‘we’ promote and support a straight white man for the next president or do we risk the challenges of ‘selling’ a new (different) body? Does the body matter so much more than the words? Are any/all words ineffective if uttered from an other? Since the midterm elections, silence. The urgency has passed. Advocates for the old form were wrong, the most narrowly conservative candidates did not win anywhere. Promoters of the new form have not pressed the advantage.

Then, a storm: do we understand power? Who has it; who doesn’t? Why? More significantly, how are our respective powers used, to what ends and effects? The old form reasserts itself. Now bodies do not matter, only words. Threats and intimations of accusation ricochet from mouths alternatively iterated by gender(ed) performances, an undercurrent of national cultures is left unspoken, the hierarchy of US-based race and ethnic dis/privilege invoked. But it is all (so we are told) a tangent: bodies do not matter this much, only our facility with rhetoric.

We revisit our norms. It seems we must choose: either we continue the debate or we return to the standard academic form. It seemed the old form won? Compelling personal testimony (via email, "Re: Start reading!" 19 November 2006, emphasis added) delineated the parameters:

”This idea of "the job market" makes me want to pee myself… thinking about how I wasted valuable time in this PPC class telling stories about myself--attempting to convince others I'm witty, or sensitive, or intelligent--not to mention trying to evade my advisor's Flying Love Pumas and other unspeakable Bakhtinian acts of defilement, instead of directly engaging the readings. My feelings after class are too often akin to the end of "The Graduate": that was vibrant and exciting, but now what do I do? Or more specifically, will this help me get through my comps? Will this help me publish a paper, or get a job?”

With fear so firmly established, what else could be done except “engage the readings directly?” No counteroffensive was raised, although the challenge of actually doing the reading was issued. It seems to me the issue at question is the amount and degree of participation we are each willing to commit. New forms confront us with unfamiliar, less and/or unpredictable outcomes; old forms maintain parameters within which we navigate in order to control the extent of personal engagement. The shift from professorial riff to peer-guided interaction was stark, evidenced by my impressions upon entering the room after break (quote at top of entry).

Was it my imagination, or was resistance to this new form less than before? Perhaps we are not mutually fluent in its language, but are we beginning to collectively recognize it?

“Stop talking Romanian.”
“We can’t speak Russian.”

Posted by Steph at 6:52 PM | Comments (0)

December 7, 2006

officially defensive

Dr. Delen & Anujji.jpg

Dr. Zeynep Delen was not offended by her dissertation committee during yesterday's defense, which enabled the display of these strategies during the evening's festivities. Nearly twenty undefensible folk showed up to bask in jealousy over her completion.

Dr. Delen!

Posted by Steph at 7:49 AM | Comments (0)

December 3, 2006

Who are these people?

Charlie the Quilter complained about female chauvinism (“No, honey, you can’t help set the table”) trapping him in a stereotypical gender role. Sydney was not interested in being introduced to me until I was willing to be tied up “forever and ever.” (Karen suggested some folks might pay for the privilege of such bondage.) Sydney's cousins are da bomb, although one was banned from the grown-up table and the other doesn’t know about real computers. George’s gardens have attracted fat squirrels and plump birds, including the sweetest wren I ever saw, while Jackie holds the longest tenure in kindergarten of anyone I know. Patsy’s flirtation with shaving her head was one of her milder contributions to the evening.

This group of friends and family blended personalities, energies, and interests in an extraordinary way. Everyone got busted – e.g., I was informed about my major in Sanskrit, who knew? – yet no one’s feelings were hurt. Rumor wants to suggest it was all a bluff, but discourse indicates otherwise.

{photos pending}

Posted by Steph at 9:46 PM | Comments (0)

December 1, 2006

Romanian "July 4th"

Today is Union Day.

In an effort to divert attention from the failing "war" in Iraq, the US reports on Romanian hackers.

Posted by Steph at 4:29 PM | Comments (0)

November 29, 2006

Julie Andrews goes to India

They did not eat my cat for dinner. Garam masala was mistakenly substituted for garlic and ginger and the Sound of Music reverberated through the apartment (unfortunately not loud enough to drown out the offkey chorus). I recall a crush on the Mother Superior of my high school's cast. As the only white grrl present I am clearly fortunate not to have suffered the fate of Sue in Rang de Basanti.

Don't forget to Climb every mountain!

Posted by Steph at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2006

Vincent Zheng

One of my buddies from the Istanbul Crossroads conference on Cultural Studies sends his weblog link. Cool beans. :-)

He says, "I write where I am not".

Posted by Steph at 9:10 PM | Comments (0)

November 24, 2006

stray turkeys

You're cooking Thanksgiving?!! Friends and family scoffed.


Do they know what they're in for?


How will you fool them?

They're foreigners.

Ah, they don't the difference!

And so it was. I was "the man", none of us were "unique snowflakes," gender ambiguity ruled (although someone did refuse to toast balls), food and drink were consumed in grand proportion. There was a syllable contest, eastern European rivalries were pursued with vigor (e.g., Romanian jazz vs Hungarian show tunes), assistance offered optionally and authoritarian directives disseminated. (I had nothing to do with the basking of the turkey.) Dysfunctional violence was kept to a minimum (mere verbal harassment, a few hurled pickled veggies) but enacted so as to capture the full flavor of typical US holiday dynamics.

It turned out well that we couldn't locate the football game. Instead, we watched Kontroll. It seems just as well that I have missed out on Budapest's subway system both times I've been there. This debut film by Nimrod Antal is dubbed "the most popular movie in Hungary" by one who should know. David periodically commented, "Jumping in front of the subway is a popular form of committing suicide," or "That happens everyday." The still unanswered question: why are there no turnstiles?

By the way, gravy fixes everything.

Posted by Steph at 9:44 AM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2006


The One We’ve Got by His Balls accused us of a) not knowing what power is, b) not knowing that we don’t know, and c) certainly not being able to trace its definitions.

“Are you going to blog this class?” I said no. I lied. Sortof. I meant "no" at the time. Things change, although I am still not going to blog “the class.” I’m gonna blog me in the class. Hot damn it feels good to be able to measure my own progress in de-piousification! (Yeah yeah, it’s been a long time coming. FYI – it’s not about you!) I’m still as self-righteously intent on reproduction as I’ve ever been, however I am much clearer that I’m interested in the cultivation of skills rather than duplication of choices.

Durkheim on power: the result of multiple actors behaving consensually. Social justice language, which typically frames (all) interaction in the dichomotous terms of oppression based upon social identities, understands this power in terms of collusion. My own frame of group relations broadens the basis of collusion from stereotypes of identity to include the huge range of roles (socialized, resistive, psychological, interactional) that persons take up in groups. I'm in mind of those who argue that WAR (conflict) is the most sophisticated form of social cooperation.

The tricky art of critical discourse analysis offers a means by which to trace the patterns of cooperation/collusion in conflictual social interaction. Durkheim's distinctions among force, authority, rule, and control add a framework for making sense of particular junctures in a group's discourse when the moves of cooperation/collusion can be brought into view.

Force: going along with the general will rather than one's personal/selfish will. "Durkheim, following distinctions made earlier by John Stuart Mill, used the idea of forced versus natural division of labour to illustrate an aspect of social power. The hierarchy of society is natural if individuals tend towards occupying the positions that they are best suited to. It is forced if there are barriers to people entering positions other than their abilities." (Hierarchical power)

Authority: "the right to enforce obediance." Authority is legitimized by law.

Rule: the functional harmonization of law and morality in society. Robert Merton says, "Functions are those observed consequences which make for the adaptation or adjustment of a given system, and dysfunctions, those observed consequences which lessen the adaptation or adjustment of the system. There is also the empirical possibility of nonfunctional consequences, which are simply irrelevant to the system under consideration."

Control (gleaned from the wikipedia site on Durkheim): how social order is maintained (based upon Durkheim's 1893 work The Division of Labor in Society). Control theory has grown from Durkheim's study, Suicide, published in 1897. Control theory brings to mind Tuckman's stages of group development.

Posted by Steph at 11:22 AM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2006

language (DUO)

Tove wasted no time sending me a link to a newsletter with several articles about linguistic rights and a pdf with info about submersion - a subtractive educational methodology that has been studied extensively in regard to indigenous and minority students. Without doing more than a quick skim right now, the first thing that strikes me are questions about the definition and categorization of "indigenous" and "minority".

Meanwhile, after reading about linguistic imperialism, Amanda sent a link to a blogpost on Sinhala Sign Language, used by the Deaf community in Sri Lanka. "Sinhala Sign Language (SSL) does not differentiate among “who?” “what?” and “how?” The sign for all three is simply shaking your fist."* A lively discussion ensues after this concerning the ethics of introducing foreign signs to accomplish the functions these lexical items serve in English and American Sign Language (among others).

I suppose this is a smaller scale example of the Karnataka decision on English instruction in Kashmiri schools? Or perhaps it is an example of a different order - pidgenizing a language is a different change strategy than blatant replacement. The Karnataka decision is also opposed; obviously the question of mother tongue or English instruction is volatile. The debate has been going on for a while. A "map" of the language policy terrain was provided in 2002.

I'll need to do more reading and thinking before I can wade further into this, but it is striking to me how politicized language is in this Indian state. I know that language is complicated throughout India (largest number of official languages of any country, right?) Why is the language contest so overt in this instance? What other factors have conspired to bring mother tongue, Kannada, and English into the academic and political limelight?

(FYI: A "fist" of one kind or another has shown up in three contexts within the last four days.)

Posted by Steph at 11:28 PM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2006

thin-slicing (DUO)

I made many quick decisions based on brief encounters during this conference - about people's character, ambitions, and intentions. Reciprocally, many of the people I met made similar judgments about me, particularly in regard to "being blogged." This was "thin-slicing" in action.

One of the examples used by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Blink, on the ways our unconscious makes rapid decisions based upon accumulated experience is the fist produced by Morse Code telegraph operators. '''Fist'' refers to the individual style in which a ham operator transmits Morse code.' Gladwell relies on mathematical modeling from John M Gottman ("The Mathematics of Marriage: Dynamic Nonlinear Models"), who describes two
possible states
in a relationship: positive emotion override or negative emotion override.

I haven't come across anything yet that addresses cultural constructions of emotion, and marital relationships are obviously not the same as those between friends, colleagues, or acquaintances. I do wonder, however, at the extendability of the basic dichotomy (and hierarchy) Gottman poses of five "positive" to one "negative" emotions for a successful relationship.

There was a great deal of affection evident among various groupings of people at the Dialogue under Occupation conference, and a few serious splits. Some people's "fists" became evident as the conference unfolded into the second, third, and fourth day. I'm extending the metaphor of the Morse Code fist to refer to ways I witnessed certain emotional reactions when ideas were questioned, disagreed with, or challenged. In other words, how did scholar/activists manage conflictual discourse among ourselves? What kind of dialogue was enacted under the terms of our own 'occupations'?

I am wondering if the splits I observed can be mediated by choosing discursive strategies indicative of positive emotion override. I don't mean bullshit hypocrisy (which I did not witness), but rather a 'positive' valuing of discursive engagement with those who hold counter-view, perspectives, and experiences than our own. The 'emotion' triggered by these differences might be 'negative' on its surface (or even its depth), e.g., anger, pain, perhaps even threat or fear (which I did not sense personally directed but seemed omnipresent in a vague way). Can a 'positive' overlay transform initial gut 'negative' reactions? Is there value in examining those 'blink' moments of unconscious thin-slicing?

Can we develop a discourse of critical engagement premised upon interrogating our own accumulated experiences? I propose that by doing so we can collaboratively tease out some of those instant thin-sliced convictions based on environmental conditioning and move more productively into a joint ethics that can be more effective in promoting the large-scale institutional changes many of us hope to effect.

(That is a mouthful!)

[Tangent: Pavements as Embodiments of Meaning for a Fractal Mind]

Posted by Steph at 6:48 PM | Comments (0)

November 10, 2006

Independent Nation of Hawai'i (DUO)

“How do you foresee the transition?”

A U.S. military commander asked this question after watching Keanu Sai’s presentation on the occupation of Hawai’i: “American Occupation of the Hawaiian State: A Century Unchecked.” I was moved to laughter throughout these three presentations today and the talk and video last night.

“Hawai’i today still exists as an independent and sovereign state.”

The evidence is irrefutable and the argument elegant. The process, however, is going to take some time, as Hawaiian Nationals negotiate “the paradox of being tied to [their] own identity.” Kalawai’a Moore (“The Discursive Struggle over Hawaiian Identity and Subjectivity “) detailed the discursive collision of subjectivities shaped under terms of “colonization” with the emerging knowledge that colonization was a deception to cover up illegal occupation. Kalawai’a revels in the postmodern irony of using state theory and the status of Hawaiian Nationals to break out of an Oppressive-Resistance relationship. :-) He invoked Lyotard’s concept of the differend as “a case of conflict between at least two parties, that cannot be equitably resolved for lack of a rule of judgement applicable to both arguments" (Lyotard, 1988:xi).” In the Hawaiian case the referents have been broken: “the referent evoked is now the system by which states measure their own legitimate existence and validate personality under International Law.”

While Kuhio Vogeler compared the prolonged occupation of Hawai’i with that of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (“Prolonged Occupations: Hawai’i and the Baltic States”), I was reminded of Farida Vis’ presentation yesterday (“Resisting Occupation: The Palestinian Suicide Bomber and the Western Print Media”). Kuhio was speaking of path dependency (the tendency for initial policy choices to persist: policy/practices can change with much political pressure), and Farida emphasized how the Israeli media machine is always first out with stories concerning events in the Middle East, necessarily framing any response that comes next as a reaction “to” or “against” the version already disseminated. Kuhio’s discussion of path dependency and critical junctures (after the fact, one can argue there must have been sufficient force to produce movement away from equilibrium/inertia because a change did occur) also had me thinking about this conference as a discourse event. I’ve been doing that already – although somehow I do find myself realizing these things after the trajectory is set in motion.

I told Tove at the start of today’s lunchbreak that I’m a troublemaker, she assured me that meant she would like me. :-) But, I qualified, “I make trouble in all directions.” Tove’s urgency to make change effective now is vitalizing: I am inspired by her clarity of vision. Children and their parents should be informed about the long-term effects of mother tongue medium instruction, which is more effective at ensuring fluent acquisition of English than early educational exposure to English. This is a slightly different issue than Rakesh Bhatt’s insistence that learning English early will not have an adverse effect on mother tongue fluency and linguistic persistence (“Colonial Dis-course, Alter-native Ideologies, and the Politics of Linguistic Nostalgia”). I was pained, listening to Tove and Rakesh’s debate, because I sensed more areas of agreement than disagreement. It seemed to me that Rakesh “heard” Tove saying Kashmiri children should be denied English, which is far from her point. She and Robert were both arguing for the best possible conditions for teaching English to them (and anyone).

Socioeconomic class definitely is at play within the (microsocial) debate and the (macrosocial) realities. Those without material and tangible resources want and need hope and skills now: a little is immeasurably better than nothing. Rakesh wants to respond to that need now, and – really! – so do Tove and Robert. There is a definite difference between the careful construction of language policy and local solutions to immediate needs. Perhaps, however, the two approaches do not need to be mutually exclusive?

Posted by Steph at 1:31 PM | Comments (0)

November 9, 2006

Turning disagreement to dialogue (DUO)

I watched with dismay as the “peaceniks” broke off into a huddle after Fred Odisho’s presentation on “Discourse During Insurgency/Counterinsurgency: The Importance of Achieving Communication Superiority in Gaining the Support of the People.” In the front of the room was another huddle – all men, most of them big – talking with this Iraqi military officer. I joined the huddle up front. “You’ve got guts,” I said to Fred, “an army man coming to talk in a nest of peaceniks.” He gave me a wink, “Someone’s got to do it,” he said, “otherwise people only get what CNN gives them.”

I’m not convinced that the academics gathered here only get their news from CNN, but it was obvious to me that here was a split in the conference body. Ruth opened the questioning of Fred, his father Edward (“The Iraqi War: A Typical Example of Cultural and Linguistic Dis-course”), and Russell Zanca (audio report May 17) (“Losing Hearts and Minds in Iraq? Cultural Competence and War”) wondering how it is that people who are otherwise so smart could have made the mistakes detailed in this panel. Tove continued: ” are we as researchers, in some way supporting the occupiers to become “nice occupiers” through training in intercultural communication?”

I took her question seriously. I share her frustration. Every time I hear someone mention Iraqis killed because they didn’t understand English and thus couldn’t follow directions, I am reminded of similar tragic incidents with police and people who are deaf. One can’t “stop” or “raise your hands slowly” if you don’t hear the words. Tove invited me to join the gang for lunch...I hesitated over whom to join because I had already been engaged in banter with the Hawaiians. These were the guys I’d observed in “hypermasculine homoeroticism” with the Iraqis. NO! Not really, but it is a good line, isn’t it? :-) (Not my line, alas, hence the quotation marks.) I told Ruth I was going "to infiltrate the enemy."

The blatant gender division (five-on-five) was disrupted only by (husband) Robert in the peacenik huddle and the comment by a woman in the audience who had noted that the military might explicitly want not to promote intercultural understanding because such capability humanizes the enemy, making them harder to kill. In this regard, she suggested that intercultural training conducted by/for the military is actually quite subversive. Is this as simple as men vs women? I don’t think so, but gender is difficult to dismiss completely. Tove’s morning keynote addressed “Kurds in Turkey and in (Iraqi) Kurdistan – Comparison of Educational Linguistic Human Rights in Two Situations of Occupation.”

Perhaps it is not surprising that a champion of the Kurds might be drawn into conflict with champions of the Iraqis? The Hawai’ians, meanwhile, made identifications with the Iraqis on terms of literal occupation while recognizing the “legal brief” being constructed by Tove to present a case for the violation of Kurdish linguistic human rights. These political scientists, Kuhio, Keanu, Kalawai’a, and Stephen (I think he’s honorary, and an actual lawyer, of some kind, not above bribery), kept my pen flying as they discussed international law’s definitions of insurgency, occupation, sovereignty, genocide, and human rights.

I had to ask for clarification of Kalawai’s postmodernspeak (“and you’re in Communication?” he scoffed): “It’s a struggle between the real and who gets to decide the referent.” Context: the historical example of American Indians, who were strong enough for some time to physically battle European invaders for control of the state apparatus (the real) being established in order to govern. As long as they could fight, American Indians could contest the referents (ethics, principles, etc) guiding the government. These referents are still ‘up for grabs’ but the terms of the contest are changed and the possibility of influence seems diminished through the inability to engage in war. (I know my new friends are going to rip holes in anything I’ve gotten wrong. Please. Tear freely.)

Did you know that Hawai’i is actually a european-style nation-state? I’m eager to learn more during their presentation tomorrow (and video later this afternoon). Let me return, however, to this dynamic that developed between my friends (whom I’m calling) the peaceniks, and the presenters on the panel concerning Iraq, with whom I also hope to become friends.

Is it a question of scale? The statistics Tove shared of death and dislocation, terror and torture of Kurds in both Turkey (yes, seriously) and in Iraq are shocking. The edge of her despair is evident: “No one knows how many Kurds there are; no one is counting.” She tracked the atrocities from the absurd - banning Pippi Longstocking as a danger to Kurdish children - to the horrific: evidence of a strong and clandestine US role in training Turkish police and paramilitary forces in use of equipment and tactics for oppressing the Kurdish minority.

If the scale of violence is somehow ‘comparable’ (as if these things can be measured and equated) to the devastation in Iraq, is it a question of visibility? Surely ‘the world knows’ about Iraq and few know – or are willing to move out of kneejerk denial – about the extent of (what I know from personal experience) Turks call “the Kurdish problem.”

Is it a moral judgment on efficacy? Do those in the military look upon those in peace movements with a preestablished framework of presumed futility? Do those in peace movements look upon those in the military with a preestablished framework of assumed aggression?

Even here anger and fear hook our emotions, shunting us away from paths of dialogue under occupation.

Posted by Steph at 4:26 PM | Comments (0)

Polycentricity (DUO)

I'm not satisfied with the presentation; it was too shallow. The one question I received basically asked, What’s the point? Specifically (paraphrased), “what is the connection between the media artifacts analyzed by your multinational, multilingual team and the reflexive summary of group process?” I had thought (albeit vaguely) that I was enacting “polycentricity” by folding two presentations (two "centers") into one, tacking back and forth between both. The question confirmed my ‘read’ of the energy in the room. The 'depth' of meaningfulness I perceived while brainstorming with my colleagues and constructing the powerpoint slides was not translated into full potential by my delivery.


This situation is an example of me doing my best to ‘fly by the seat of my pants’, with less than optimal results. However the experience itself is doublesided (at least). On the one hand, I’m embarrassed to have let down my colleagues by not appearing at my best on our behalf. :-( On the other hand, I’ve stretched myself into an extended zone of being, reaching for something I cannot quite yet grasp. In this act of seeking, I understood better what it was I attempted to do. I actively resisted the monocentric desire of theoretical academic discourse by refusing to provide only a definitive description of an abstract ‘external’ object (the interaction that we constructed among four accounts of the Israeli military’s forcible removal of settlers from Neve Dekalim, a town in the Gaza Strip surrendered in August 2005 to Palestine). To the extent that I did provide selected details of our media analysis, I enacted polycentricity by ‘bouncing’ among the layered and diverse “centers” evident in the intersection of
a) a sociopolitical event,
b) media texts (four) about this event,
c) subjectivities (four) engaging in mutual knowledge construction about the event and its associated media,
d) within a particular epistemology (critical discourse analysis),
e) comparing and contrasting written text in four languages,
f) combining online textual interaction (online versions of the four newspaper articles, a socialtext webspace, email, skype)
g) with face-to-face verbal interaction using a lingua franca (English).

In other words, (and this came clear to me while listening/watching Simon Faulkner present “Re-viewing Occupation: Art, Photojournalism and Israel”), I attempted to perform a work of discursive art within (under) the occupation of the form of academic discourse - “conference paper presentation” - whose “proper” focus is theory, not practice; abstract analysis not application.

Ironically, I had intuited the (potential) performance quality of this presentation last week. I had not, however, clarified its purpose. Or, even more precisely, even as I articulated certain purposes – negotiating parameters with my colleagues, confirming understandings, and coordinating intentions – I still did not comprehend the meaning of what we set out to do.

Taking the best possible interpretation of outcome, I wonder if a learning might be that the enactment of polycentricity is a state-of-being of just this kind of uncertainty? What I found myself doing throughout this presentation (and the entire process with my colleagues) is continually turning Bakhtin’s notions of centrifugality against centripetality and centripetality against centrifugality in counter-movements to those expected from sheer momentum (tradition, expectation, dialectics). If I can become more conscious and deliberate regarding when to flag this for audiences and interlocutors, and when to let such turnings be what they are, perhaps I can enhance the performance of this art in everyday dialogue. Ultimately (!), such practices may lead to more theoretical clarity, bringing “the point” of Decentering Conflictual Discourse into focus.

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

November 6, 2006

a temporary honor

I was an "honorary Eastern European" only for the 1 hour and 24 minutes it took Borat to run. Then I resumed my accustomed role :-) as the earnest, pious, and self-righteous American who is mercilously mocked by Sacha Baron Cohen. This movie is funny, but only if you can step outside of the truly narrow frame in which most Americans live. Here we see ourselves - racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-semitic (Jewish and Muslim) - in all our high-faluting hypocrisy. This Review covers many of the highlights.

The humor is overly-crass in a few places, and falls flat in others, but when Cohen's 'straight man' draws out the extent of white supremacist and classist hubris one cringes behind the laughter. Or ought to. The situation that personally disturbed me the most was with the three college students and their degradation of women. Yes, the desire for slavery was/is sick but in the scene it came across (to me) as a mechanism to operationalize pathological violence against women. I enjoy the young men I teach and can only hope they aren't living such double lives.

I saw the film with two Romanians and a Hungarian, seated in front of a Russian and an Australian. I know at least two Brazilians were in the soldout audience as well. How many of the rest of the crowd were internationals, celebrating the publicization of discriminations they might themselves often experience? I don't know. There were many young people there, and frequent, loud laughter.

One of the sweetest scenes occurs with a group of young African-American men, who are among the very few able to accept a foreigner with apparently weak English language skills as a fellow human being. Underneath and behind Cohen's humor are some sharp lessons about how we could all get along. (See how earnest I am?!!)

Posted by Steph at 1:19 PM | Comments (1)

November 5, 2006

finding its way into the blog

The counter-terrorism agent, a.k.a. 1/2 of Drunk-with-Power, owns this book, Trouble in Transylvania. A certain weasel I know might quote it in her dissertation. "I don't understand all this ethnic squabbling in Europe," Strong Minor Bridge read outloud with indignation (p. 62). Isgro wondered "what the hell" we were up to in the hallway (two Romanians and me). This following Art's passage "back and forth, and forth and back" for beer. Did I mention the birthday grrl was wearing an ugly doll t-shirt?

There was the moment when Cautiously Concerned about Confidentiality thought I was expressing my undying love to her. Not to mention the colleague who's desperate to take me clothes shopping. The other half of Drunk-with-Power keeps threatening to show up in priest's gear but it is obviously a bluff, "blackout" or not.

My plants are in (more-or-less) good hands except that one is apparently morphing into an alien from outer space. Dunno what's up with that. Although it might go along with the late-deafened character on someone's "story" who's gonna get a cochlear implant and perpetuate linguistic genocide. I definitely spoiled a pro-Deval discussion in the kitchen...(although I admit to disappointment that websites do not identify authors, hence lacking credibility), and then continued with talk of election fraud via electronic vote fixing. (Go Steph Go!) :-/

Parental zombification was a topic of conversation in some quarters, designated driving in others. An age competition was handily won by yours truly. The deviled eggs were awesome.

fyi, there was not enough focaccia to go around.

Posted by Steph at 12:18 AM | Comments (0)

November 1, 2006

child's eyes

"How can you do that, meet a stranger and be friends right now?" A five-year-old voice piped up behind the woman asking me for directions. "It's the way people are supposed to be with each other," his grandmother responded, "Doesn't it feel good to see?" I smiled at him, "It's a pretty cool thing, huh man?" He grinned back.

She was looking for her daughter in the Worcester Dining Commons and was worried about leaving her car parked next to the Campus Center. I told her there was a parking lot over there. "Is it free?" "No," I said, "but what's the difference between breaking the rules here and breaking them over there?" We shared a great laugh and that was that.

I wonder at that little boy's wonder. Was it our ethnic difference that made the connection so implausible or the immediate recognition between kindred spirits? Or, maybe he is just shy. :-)

Posted by Steph at 4:26 PM | Comments (1)

October 31, 2006

one smart weasel

"Commence the defense."

With these words, the game was on. Quite entertaining it was, too, as we munched on chips and witnessed the thrust and parry of analytical debate regarding the extent to which national/ethnic markers are essential (or not) to identity. There was the personal test (it matters to girlfriends) and the literature test (programmatic and ideologic). "You'll agree," our friend would say, catching his Chair chuckle out of the corner of his eye, "or maybe you won't," he continued, eliciting laughter in the face of adversity.

How communicational is this thesis? Do the frames drive the data or does the data drive the frames? What is the data? Are the frames internal or external? Is there a mind or a discourse at work within the frames? Is there a cat under the bed? How about some soup on the table? Why not more rhetorical criticism? Couldn't you have started with power? Descriptive or critical? Social science or humanities? Which came first, the "ism" or the "ness"? Tack back-and-forth, does it matter, what's the heuristic, no I mean the other one, there's an overlap no it's a tension, separate the wheel geez what a bum deal aren't you done yet what about resistance the counterpoint counterframe subversive deliberate debunk, we're talking slam dunk! You're excused from Bourdieu, hurry up "thank you", what about stereotypes why do we need them can't this be flattened "I quote not enough I know I quote" this is not specificity it's a discourse of specificity. Large arguments loom worried about someone's doom a metaphor no a metonymy what about methodology in the beginning was ideology. 200 pages "the longest confession" all to watch the paradox of a strong minor bridge use his smarts to wiggle out of anything orientalist although perhaps slightly balkanist western interlopers stymied by Mitica intercultural communication four years later what constitutes the elite?

Master Frodo. The limb hangs from a nation-like-a-family, under a father (damn good soup), identity as difference.

"It is done."

Posted by Steph at 8:08 AM | Comments (3)

October 29, 2006

a storm swept through us

Adam and Eve "We're just an old couple" showed up with their son, Rastaman. They were late, however, beaten to the game by Boy Scout and Den Mother, who brought City Kitty and Rascal (no surprise the dawg won the donut-eating contest). A (recently married) couple of aging hippies appeared, tailed by a Counter-Terrorism Agent (who flashed a pizza cutter at my throat to extort two votes in the pumpkin contest). Spare Man arrived without Hot Stuff :-( - his teeth still glowed.

A slew of strangers arrived. Walter? Andrew? (Who snuck out before performing; a return is now required.) They swore they knew Dracula, who was apparently delayed by blood feasting. A Russian Vulcan who didn't know Spock clearly needed reconstructive surgery for those reverse ears, but the closest we had to a doctor in the house was a plant cell biologist. The Goddess-of-the-Empty-Cornucopia wielded no more magic than the Witch-of-the-House, whose Dark Ally mirrors reflected a lack of glue.

One of my students arrived (wtf?) as a member of Cleopatra's (underage) entourage. [FERPA censors - no illegal consumption of beverages was allowed.] Cleopatra, by the way, won the random door prize and the Dark Ally won best costume (suckin' up to the host, you gotta watch these people!) Boy Scout, a.k.a. Pyro, repeated his pumpkin-carving victory from two years ago. (Actually, Pyro took credit for a second victory but the record shows someone else actually won...???) ;-)

The Cheshire Cat approved the Woman-of-Flowers (especially after coaching on how to hack a pumpkin). All wine was drunk, most food eaten, nothing broke, and the mess will be cleaned up before the landlords return.

What a party!

Posted by Steph at 8:36 AM | Comments (2)

October 27, 2006

cultivating the carnivalesque

"Laughter showed the world anew in its gayest and most sober aspects. Its external privileges are intimately linked with interior forces; they are a recognition of the rights of those forces. This is why laughter could never become an instrument to oppress and blind the people. It always remained a free weapon in their hands." - Mikhail Bakhtin (see Three Dialogues).

After detailing the grotesque body via the illustration of "the finger" as an erect penis, but before "c_cks, c_nts, sh_t, p_ss, c_m, s_liva et cetera in [Performance and Public Culture]", I commented, "I've been waiting to blog about this class." "You haven't done it yet?" a colleague teased. No. I hadn't. "I'm finally learning something!" said Spare Man amid the general clamor. I must have been waiting for the professor to perform Jung's breakthrough (see Footnote #1): balancing on her chair, posing as God on the toilet, dropping a huge turd on her ass-wiping mentee (the world). We laughed hard and often last night.

"I keep trying to figure out what my hesitation is with the blog," Spare Man confided during break. "It's not that I don't trust you to know what is ok to say or not....it's taking something live out of context and giving it back in alien form." [Quoted from memory.] We discussed again how whatever I write comes back to those I mention in mediated form - not only via the record of written text in public cyberspace, but also as skewed through my particular lens. I have extracted the live from its performance, selected elements of influence or desire, and packaged them from my peculiar point-of-view.

Here, playing the boundary between the embodied performance and the inscribed record, I laugh: at you, at me, at us. :-)

The carnivelesque was (circa the Middle Ages & Renaissance) a socially sanctioned and structured "safe" space in which humans could not only indulge the pleasures of the body but do so with full knowledge of being seen in so doing. The carnivalesque is public space for the performance of private self. You wanna find ways to transgress? You wanna make a difference? Then stretch the edges of institutionally-constructed roles, rules, procedures, forms, and etiquettes. Hot Stuff raised the question about whether there is any authority left that we respect enough (or revile enough, added another classmate) to want or need to mock so much as to upend social norms and create new paradigms. Those scenes which appear to approximate the carnivalesque (raves, for instance) are colonized by legal structures for the purposes of commodification and profit. (Illegal raves can't be carnivalesque because they are, by definition, already outside the accepted social structure.)

Part of what used to enable carnivalization to occur, I think, is that it was bounded. The annual season of carnival was preceded and followed by the rigid structures of everyday and official social practices. What carnival allowed was the expression of energy repressed throughout the other months of living within societies' constraints. It is this energy that, dialogically, opened the potential for new spaces and thus the capacity for lasting social changes. The openness of Bakhtin's dialogism is the fulcrum of change, not the atmosphere of the carnivalesque. The climate establishes certain necessary conditions (which are not usually available during the everyday - or so we tend to assume). It is the quality of intentionality to act-with-abandon that establishes the collective social relations of trust and respect which then generate momentum toward transformed practices and ways of being with and for each other because of our differences, not in spite of them. This is where a lever to the democratic can be forged.

This I believe: the only transgressive zone in our de-authorized world is personal risk.

Footnote #1:

"When Jung was eleven he suffered another powerful experience which built on these earlier ones and confirmed and extended them. He was in the Cathedral square and was struck by its beauty: "The world is beautiful and the Church is beautiful, and God made all this and sits above it far away in the blue sky on a golden throne and..."(5) And then he felt that some terrible thought was on the verge of breaking through, and that he could not give into it under the pain of committing an unforgivable sin. Finally, after days of torment, he knew he had to think this terrible thought, and he came to the conclusion that God, Himself, had placed him in this predicament and wished to test him in a personal way. Finally, Jung let the thought come: "God sits on His golden throne, high above the world - and from under the throne an enormous turd falls upon the sparkling new roof, shatters it, and breaks the walls of the Cathedral asunder."(6)

from Individuation.

(5) and (6) from Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Chapter 2

Posted by Steph at 9:25 AM | Comments (0)

October 26, 2006


In case you were wondering, communication technology and quantum physics beat out poetry.

Every time.

Just ask Nadia.

Watch Ari squirm.

(Maybe you had to be there?) :-)

Posted by Steph at 2:28 AM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2006

bye bye Dr. Pu

Puru Aug 06.jpg

(Imagine sappy music in the background; the lyrics rhyme, keeping time with sniffles.)

Posted by Steph at 11:06 AM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2006


There were tears and gnashing of teeth at Dr. Pu's farewell party this past Tuesday. People were shocked to find he was not yet gone. Alas, the celebration continued regardless. :-0 Puruman was mildly surprised. "Dada must be in the shower," he mused while unlocking the apartment door. "What's this?" he asked, noticing the spread of food on the table after turning on the lights. Then he noticed the shoes and began naming their respective owners. Eventually, giggling was heard from the bedroom. (No one knows what went on in there!)

Most people came for the meal.

puru chows.jpg

Smita and Fugu prepared "fast food", Aloo Tikki with Chole (that's potato cakes with chickpea curry), accompanied by tamarind chutney and yogurt (see my third helping). Dada contributed bread (and random noises from his laptop). The meal was devoured. Apparently the biggest surprise of the evening was how eager Ambu was to get to the mall. Dr. Pu applied his legendary caution and painstaking criteria to the selection of a perfect pair of shoes for his father. There was much traffic in and out. No Satya, Puru is not going to buy you a pack of cigarettes: not now, not ever. That white shirt did look spiffy, though. "Puru is generous," Dada explained, "only when he's leaving." Sourya scored a kurta (he's still waiting for his second drink). Smita "got twenty bloody hangars." Hey, don't complain! The rest of us just got dessert.

The woman nicknamed for a poisonous delicacy assured Satya there were no eggs in the bananabread. Several folks still turned it down, even though "Smita made it from the ground up!" It was a nice combo, I thought, warmed and served with vanilla ice cream.

Rajesh spent time perusing The Checkbook and the Cruise Missile, which this literate crowd mused was named as a play on The Lexus and the Olive Tree. Depayan won the "who has the worst TA" contest, but Ambarish was deemed the "Banana Bread Queen." A hard title to beat, though Satya flirted with being the Off-Color King. (He was also told, "Don't die in my car.) Shiva manned the camera. Krishna ate. So did Chris.

Talking to the hand" did not lead to any change in Dr. Pu's plans.

talk to the hand Fugu.jpg

On Wednesday night, the final feast at Bueno y Sano was attended by some of the same crowd, Hema (who's down with "Dr. Pu"), Giri, Rmaya, Ravi, and Sarbjeet. All kinda folk been droppin' by the apartment too.

The good news is I finally got my laptop back from the IndiaBorg Collective.

Posted by Steph at 10:51 PM | Comments (0)

October 7, 2006

Dr. Pu

Dr. Purushottam Kulkarni celebrated the successful defense of his dissertation in characteristic fashion: 12 ounces of hot sauce with a bit of Salvadoran burrito from Bueno y Sano, casual worship with friends at a Durga Puja, and a cup of calming tea from Rao's.

The fact of the full moon and the encouragement of dear friends was insufficient to entice him to take even the smallest sip of any new beverage.

Posted by Steph at 10:46 AM | Comments (0)

October 5, 2006


"We'll pass Steph eventually," they joked about my comps defense, after grilling me for two hours and deciding I needed to clarify a few things. "I want to pound this point in," says one of my esteemed professors. "Not to pile things on," says another. Yeah, right! My chair tried to make me feel better: "People take comps at all levels in this department. The questions you've taken on are humongous." There was a sidebar at one point, about how I tend to experiment in real life...

I still make too many assumptions about shared understanding that makes the reader have to work too hard. This is part of what invites so much interrogation. The interrogation itself isn't bad, although it is hard! Being questioned so intensively feels hard but it is "the ideas that fight," as my favorite antagonist clarified when I said, "You know I like fighting with you." (This, after kicking me a few times.)

Some would argue that it is not politic to experiment with comps. The stakes are rather high, eh? Yet, while we were there, I was aware that I'll never have such an opportunity again: three brilliant minds focused exclusively on whether or not I know what the hell I'm talking about and guiding me through weaknesses, confusions, and potential pitfalls. They push hard because I reach far.

Posted by Steph at 8:10 AM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2006


"Let's just say the Lord gave."

~ Rev. Bruce Jacobs, 25 September 2006

funeral program.jpg

Posted by Steph at 7:26 AM | Comments (0)

September 20, 2006

"Two more! Just two more!"

I opened with a strike. It counted for Lava though, contributing to his high score of 160. I bowled as if I was him because Elodie, one of the first-time bowlers, needed a lesson and Lava was off getting a beverage. By the time Spare Man (formerly Little Brother, but who needs endearments when they have a cat?) and Hot Stuff finally arrived we were well along in the first game. Maria led her lane through the fifth frame, proclaiming, “I should play with them – they are my team!” She scored went on to score a personal best. :-)

I had not intended to blog about bowling because I taught earlier and thought that would be my post-of-the-day. I’m still going to write class up (because the students are awesome), but after ten minutes I knew it was going to be a good night on the lanes. So I handed out my new business cards (much simpler than the cumbersome informed consent form…although I may still have to get to that eventually…or not…)…

Despite Spare Man’s disparagement (“That’s not how you relate to people!”), I added five more people to Reflexivity’s zone-of-something: Ivan, Shaun, Insa, Elodie, and Silja. We always have quite the diverse mix, but this was like international night: Romania (2), Germany (2), US (2), France (1), Columbia (1), Nepal (1), Guatemala (1). In no particular order. :-) (If I remembered inaccurately or am otherwise misinformed, please correct me.)

Conversation flowed as freely as the bowling balls – in and out of the gutter. :-) I fielded a couple of questions about the blog and my work…it only took 45 seconds for Silja to tell me, “It’s getting complicated.” Yes yes yes! Awful how my character just keeps on doing that! Insa tolerated me for awhile longer but I have a suspicion she was just humoring me. :-) Juan kept trying to jinx my ball into the gutter but it backfired on him every single time: “Who’s going to tease who?” he queried. Speaking of which, the mysterious email I received in Spanish this summer was attributed to a jug of sangria: “I was a little happy when I sent it.” Meanwhile, Lava worked to get his spin back, Shaun showed no mercy, Spare Man and Spare Woman battled it out to the last frame of the last game, I received two (count them, 1, 2!) “gay fives”, and was challenged by a (diminutive) public interest group about the integrity of this blog in the public sphere: would someone’s high score of 175 appear or not?

“Two more,” I hollered at Spare Man as he tried to close a 30-pin gap in Game 2. Gutter Girl thought I was talking to her, as if two more pins would make a difference. :-o Who knows? Sometime they might!

Posted by Steph at 6:51 PM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2006

"Hug or Blow?

Blow or hug?" Zeynep wondered out loud while the birthday candles melted onto her rich chocolate cake. It was past 1 a.m. in Amherst. Not exactly the time one would expect a party, especially having just completed a cross-country flight. "Welcome back!" she said to me and Little Brother. (We spent our summers in Turkey and Romania, respectively.)

Anuj (creative visionary and primary organizer) wasn't there for the pre-party, playing chauffer while we discussed (among other things) the differences between "simply connected surfaces" (no holes) and non-simply connected surfaces (has holes). (Did you know that mathematicians begin by ignoring 3D space, collapsing everything into 2 dimensions?)

[What comes next is an exercise in mathematical metaphorics. I am probably stretching them completely out-of-shape.] [[Oh well.]] ;-) Anuj will be pleased (?) to learn that he has no holes. [Steph has a few about the size of cannonballs but that's another story!] He is not a torus (Steph, btw, is a Taurus but oh-so-close to Gemini).

Once Zeynep arrived the party rollicked on! Rajiv took pictures but I bet he didn't get one of Alenka's gift of a beaker filled with flowers. I am so jealous! I want one!!! Jake is back to being sleep-deprived. John and I compared political notes on Turkey. Tate jumped in (and was just getting ready to tell me how wonderful commutable matrices are when Zeynep arrived - next time?)

Lava looks totally manly. Ricardo spoiled Anuj's golf swing by taking video. Sue (sp?) and Clara (?) kept to themselves in the kitchen but I did walk in on some kind of bizarro knife play - I ducked into the bathroom fast. Did I miss anyone?

My evening didn't end when I left. Just to add some more excitement, someone (who is learning how to drive) decided to weave over the center yellow line. What are those flashing lights behind us? Sigh. Fortunately, the cop bought my explanation that he weaved, "Probably just because we were talking." It didn't hurt that my registration and driver's license were current. And that LB didn't say "We just left a party!" Instead he said we were going to "Amherst" and coming from "Amherst." I added, when the cop pressed, that we were at an apartment on Pleasant St. Unbelievably, the cop accepted the most ragged learner's permit you've ever seen and issued only a verbal warning. Whew!

Posted by Steph at 9:09 AM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2006


Or don't, but know you're often making decisions before you're conscious of the factors influencing them.

I bought the book Friday night because I took it as a sign. This review by the enlightened librarian finds a problem with its "lack of forthcomingness" but I'm not sure harder evidence will do more to convince people than the stories he tells? I guess this book didn't become as popular as his previous one, The Tipping Point.

I was out with half of Drunk-with-Power and Cautiously-Concerned-with-Confidentiality. We had a wondrous meal in honor of Robin, who is still getting settled at the University of Chicago (and planning her birthday party).

It was a sign because I wavered between titling a poem I wrote last week "Wink" or "Blink". The content/effect of the poem (both in its conception, writing, and hopefully reception) is along the precise lines of Gladwell's book: "Blink is concerned with the very smallest components of our everyday lives - the content and origin of those instantaneous impressions and conclusions that spontaneously arise whenever we meet a new person or confront a complex situation or have to make a decision under conditions of stress" (2005:16).

I don't recall that I'd heard of this book before seeing it on the table in Raven.


Gladwell goes on to ask, "What would happen if we took our instincts seriously?" (17). I've been asking this of myself for awhile now. He argues a kind of unconsciousness (not Freudian), called the adaptive unconscious.

It's fallible, of course, subject to betrayal, being "thwarted" (14), "thrown off, distracted, and disabled" (15). Hence, one must practice reading and applying it. Been there and still doing that!

ps. I really need to figure out how to add audio because reading this is not complete without hearing Marvin Gaye kicking it as I type.

Posted by Steph at 4:53 PM | Comments (0)

September 3, 2006

world's most pressing questions

The Road goes ever on and on

Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

-- J R R Tolkien

The bachelors have been reduced from five to three (and one of them is actually taken but his partner is back home in India.) I will move out soon (when I stop procrastinating). I don't WANT to leave, because I keep getting introduced to new yummy food (recipe for
sabudana khichadi below).

While we ate, we engaged in a lengthy political discussion. [sidebar] (Well, they did, mostly I listened. The guys drift into and out of Hindi and English. I've deduced that they've made a decision to include me - or at least make the topic accessible - when they use English. Otherwise they're just doing their thing while I'm doing mine - usually on the computer. :-) Very comfortable.) [end of sidebar]

During the reprise at dinner time, Ambarish complained (!) "why do we always talk about right and wrong?" Perhaps as preparation for the extraordinary upcoming conversation hosted by Dropping Knowledge?

They have a one minute video describing a global Table of Free Voices. If you register you can rate the questions for discussion on September 9th - the questions have gone through a generation and prioritization process on the web over the past several months, being cut from 20,000 submitted to 500 condensed. Now they're working on the top 100. (Barry Wellman posted info on this to the aoir-listserv. Thanks.)

This is what Koushik, Puru, and Ambarish were debating, inspired by a question posed by The Bohemian the night before. Their examples were based in India, especially the urban/rural split and the efforts of the Maoists there. Dada kept arguing that basic citizenship will resolve most problems: "Whatever you are doing, do it with absolute honesty. Basic thing - do primary school teaching with absolute honesty; whatever else you do is bonus." He had several personal examples illustrating his own process of learning good citizenship. Puru argued against the idealism of this solution, describing four individual options:

1. I don't care, just get along the best I can: the system will do what it does with/without me.
2. I embrace the system, i.e., try to make money.
3. Work inside the system toward change.
4. Work against/outside the system.

As I listened I thought, these orientations are evident in these units of languages I've been calling discourses. Perhaps the challenge I perceive, and the juxtapostion I seek to both co-create and proactively engage, is at the "places" where these orientations meet? Because there is an incommensurability between the person who can choose Options 1-3, and the person who is forced into Option 4. Anyone with a choice has relative privilege compared with those revolutionary movements who do not experience this luxury. (It seems possible to me that one point of contention is whether or not choice does exist, and to what extent. Another point is the transition process from an orientation/mode of Option 4 to one of the others: both systemically - institutionally and culturally - and individually.)

Ambarish argued that everyone simply keeps on moving: one chooses a point-of-view and tries to implement it. The key that he emphasized, is that there are consequences regardless of which choice one makes. The "consequence" I'm trying to resist is a predetermined channeling of viewpoints/discourses into more-or-less "traditional" lines. By "traditional" I mean customary to that political perspective or point-of-view, and I include my own!

Puruman claimed there is "no answer in any of the four options." I agree. Any "answer", if there is to be one, must be a confluence of the options, it must include/accommodate them all.

Dada offered a phenomenological example of time and living. He revisiting a movie they had watched the previous night (Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi) (situated in the 1970s) and argued that we make parallel choices now - living "in this time" with the choices made, for instance, by people living in the time of the 1920s in India (during the revolt against the British).

There were many other nuances, examples, and illustrations. I could imagine this conversation in various forms (different languages, different contexts) and the same overall pattern (individual range-of-choice vs systematic impositions & constraints, circumstantial differences setting distinct and variable limits, the struggle of finding adequate points of leverage, the resistance of the elites to change).

I missed the moment to actually submit a question to the Table of Free Voices event, and - in truth - I'm still formulating it, but I know it is along these lines. It was fitting that the evening ended with a game of Carrom, which illustrates the precise challenge of dialogue: how do we shift patterns of talk that produces sharp (even if minute) concussions to talk that allows some kind of merger or blending? Simultaneously, can we develop skills to absorb the subtle shocks of real difference and work past them together?

MeiMei & Carrom.JPG.jpg

Sabudana (name of "grain") Khichadi (a generic dish, sortof like "stir fry")


Ingredients: sabudana, ground peanut, green chili's, cumin seeds, finely chopped potato, salt, tiny bit of sugar (optional)

soak sabudana in a small amount of water overnight (ideally all water is absorbed)

add ground peanut

finely chop potatos & chili's and fry in oil & cumin seeds

combine and add salt (a fair amount) and sugar (tiny tiny) to taste

As kids it was received as a feast during fasting :-)

Posted by Steph at 10:18 AM | Comments (0)

August 28, 2006

"talk to strangers"

I tried to skip town fast but Lee cut me and June off at the pass and plied me with provisions. (I ate everything. I want to know the brand of those lemon wafers.)

I needed it after June conned me into yoga torture at the hands of a Russian contortionist at 8 am on Sunday morning. (What was I thinking?!)

Lee sent me off with two tips: "talk to strangers" (but of course!) and "watch the gap" (between train and platform). I think she meant them both literally, but I pondered the second as a metaphor. I'm always watching for "the gap" in communication, meaning, relationship... how, when, why, to what ends (functions, effects) do these gaps get mediated? Are they closed, bridged, widened? Do they cause problems (too much distance) or prevent them (provide a buffer)? What are the options in approach and intent that align more tightly with desired outcomes? Is there "an outcome" that is desired or is the gap nonconsequential?

Creation was still much on mind, loose images from Deb's paintings floating across my brainscape. I kept thinking of Immanuel Velikovsky and his argument about planetary evolution and its impact on the species. I extrapolate that creation and evolution are violent, catastrophic events (not the nice warm and cozy mitosis where a cell painlessly and smoothly subdivides...)

I successfully navigated the NYC subway before spending the second half of the day on Greyhound (fun commentary from the driver - spicing up an essential feature of class culture).

Penn Station NYC.jpg

I almost finished reading an excellent biography of Ataturk on the bus (no motion sickness!)

Puru rescued me from the rain; the Razmobile started without hesitation; Smita cooked a great meal; Mei Mei pretended she didn't know me. Welcome home!

Posted by Steph at 8:11 PM | Comments (1)

August 27, 2006

Gestation ( return and continuation )

"It's the longest Sunday," June observed, after Deb commented on my whipping out the camera to record the spread at Lee and Ralph's last night: "You're still on vacation!"

Yes. :-)

Once again I had no idea how the day would unfold. Lee had offered that I could stay in Long Beach for a few days upon my return and I looked forward to a day or so of rest and adjustment from jetlag. Ambiguity was immediately introduced, however, as other company had arrived. I was chauffered to June's instead.

3 sunflowers.JPG.jpg

I hardly hesitated to make myself at home - how could I, when she'd already drawn a bath in the jacuzzi for me?!!! I slept deep and well, waking up early yesterday to begin in earnest the task of being back. I commandeered the dining room table for a few hours of work, then meandered through the day. Before leaving the house, I met June's turtles (among the rest of the menagerie, which includes a cat named Bob). Lee collected me and I resumed mediterranean mode, tagging along wherever, whenever: a tagsale (or was it a yardsale?), a jaunt on the boardwalk (15 minute massage for $10!), a visit to Deborah and Steven's which turned into lunch with Raki.

Next up? Shopping. Oooo, my favorite! (not) I was aimless for awhile. After a few hours though (!), what could one do but join in the spirit? "That was a frivolous day," said Lee, when we finally pulled out of the TJ Maxx parking lot, dispelling my perception that she lives this way all the time. ;-)

I have already learned many things this day: about hosting, giving gifts, taking care to be sure no one feels the least bit extraneous. I adjusted to shifts in conversation - from intensive, animated political discussion with Deb to general care and concern for issues and persons in each other's lives. In the past these would have caused me some angst but today was merely the way of the flow. All this was, it seems in retrospect, prelude to the deep and sweet stuff to come.

When I entered Deb's living room I felt almost assaulted by the large canvas leaned up against one wall. My reaction was gut, visceral; I had no words. As we drove away at the end of the evening, June told me about teasing Deborah about "a lot of red" and asking, "Where's the crime scene?"

Yes, my first reaction was to the implicit violence. I wondered about the insides of this woman: what sources inspire such production?

I almost cried in her studio, standing on the toilet (!), taking in the full visual presence of #40 after her description of its material, theoretical, and spiritual elements. I showed her my tattoo. "That's a lot like my work!" she exclaimed. :-) Yes, our canvasses differ, but the stuff of our work - genetics (dialectics) and dialogue (creation) run parallel.

From there we went to dinner, eventually dubbed my welcome home party. (I only grinned from ear-to-ear for most - not all - of the evening.) ;-) Lee brought out Sam's last bottle of wine. June finally found us and we toasted the spirit of Sam, the day, new and old friends, good food, and memories.

Ralph manipulated the musical environment masterfully as we chomped and chatted our way through several courses, including a dessert to die for - the best canoli and chocolate-covered blueberries!

dessert by Lee.JPG.jpg

Can you believe all that was followed by tiramisu? Stop already! (No, don't!) ;-) Not long thereafter I hit the wall. Deb and June noticed immediately - poof, within ten minutes we were on the road.

Chance moves on.

Goodbye for now.

Posted by Steph at 6:19 AM | Comments (1)

August 24, 2006

Tesekkür Ederim

A wave of grief swelled up in me when Leylim asked me not to leave last night, “First night and last night!” Only an hour before Arzu had asked me how I feel about going back to the States. “Mixed.”

“Keep your heart with you,” encouraged Umit. :-) How can I not when life rewards me with such sweet meetings? Early yesterday morning, I’d told Fatih I wanted to spend my last night with old friends instead of new ones. I meant it when I said it, but life doesn’t always conform to expectation. Instead I had a perfect day and perfect night with five new people and seven old friends. Quality time with a dozen people in one day! Who would ever have imagined my capacity could expand so much?

Liminal Turkey (as I’ve subtitled my holiday here) has done its work in me. Warning: My sentimental streak is in high gear. Double warning: I won’t apologize for the excess I can’t contain! :-)

I got started late even though I woke up early. Instead of throwing a blanket on Erdem’s face to wake him this morning I tried shaking his feet. Three times. Finally the woman in the bunk above was also disturbed by his alarm (she thought it was mine), so I roused myself, getting out of bed to go to the head of his bunk and shake the dude. I was pleased to be awake and alert after our (unphotographed!) late night and immediately dove into work.

There were conversations to have with Gunseli, Nina, and Fatih. The morning stretched luxuriously into early afternoon. Yikes! I was supposed to be “doing things!” I bumped into Jillian as I readied myself to leave and it turned out her afternoon was free. “Have you been to Moda?” she asked me? Nope. And we were off. :-)

Kadikoy seawall at Moda.JPG.jpg

After much meandering – in conversation as well as path – we arrived at a cay bahcesi.

Moda cay bahcesi.JPG.jpg

Since it was my last day, Jill offered me “the better view.” I accepted but then realized I didn’t want to see the city, I wanted more of the water as my visual horizon. “Perfect! I get the mosque,” she said. “Perfect!” I responded, “I get the open sea.”

Something in me chafed a few times….wasn’t I in a hurry to get somewhere? I noted this temporal residue: being in a constant rush, as if whatever I was engaged in was en route to somewhere else where there was (supposedly?) something “more.” I reminded myself that the only destination is now. Besides, I really did not have anything else that needed doing! A few phone calls to touch base and coordinate schedules offer some proof of the “Mediterranean attitude” I’ve absorbed. (Of course we’ll have to see how long it lasts once back in the gristmill of the academic calendar.)

The afternoon floated along like sailboats. Eventually, it was time to rendezvous with Arzu and Ahmet for dinner: delicious crab salad. The evening’s pre-planned schedule faded: more “things to do next time.” Instead, I viewed Ahmet’s first short film, The Trashcan, listened to some of his mixes, and burned Kabakoz photos for Arzu. We were starting to wind down when the phone rang. Ten minutes later Umit and Leylim arrived. I sucked down some coffee fast. :-) We enjoyed some dessert and stretched our wings in stimulating conversation. Meanwhile we perused Arzu’s artwork. We laughed often and deep.

parrots by Arzu.jpg

I flew until my body stopped (hi, Claire). :-)

Returning to the hostel conjured the sense of coming home, a place of respite, affection and teasing after respective days full of who knows what. Old (!) friends – including Recep, Özcan, Erdem, and Olga – opened, closed, and touched the middle of the day. New friends filled it with light.


Posted by Steph at 12:42 AM | Comments (2)

August 23, 2006

Bye Bye Sabanci!

Life caught up with me quickly when I moved away from my friend’s place at Sabanci University some weeks (?) [!!!!] ago. It was a terrific refuge while I tried to find my bearings after my plan to travel to Iran was dashed. The effort of generating an alternative on the spot overwhelmed me, leaving me content to plant my butt and let weeds grow. It is a fantastic campus with a gorgeous library (whose friendly staff

SU student reserve.jpg

facilitated my communication with an IT staffer (Osman should get a raise) who arranged wireless access for me as a temporary guest), outdoor sculptures, a water fountain (good for reading by), fantastic gym facilities, and good food. See me eat!

In addition to the tasty cafeteria meals there is a fast food joint that serves a delicious tavuk (and whose staff wanted to be famous).

SU fastfood staff.JPG.jpg

Out of fairness then, I asked my daily coffee suppliers if they would like their picture taken as well. They did.

SU dd staff.JPG.jpg

Meanwhile, all is not so open (shhhhhhh, tease forthcoming!) I was allowed access to secure (coded) housing but not to the mysterious, concealed biophysics lab. I was able to capture photos only from behind cover.

SU biophysics bldg.JPG.jpg

The arrival of new technological equipment escaped my camera. Careful, painstaking, and prolonged observation determined that the office of a certain accomplished biophysicist is behind these one-way windows.

SU office window.JPG.jpg

I had spied the campus rocket upon arrival and saved it on purpose for the last day. I had determined that the steps to the top were open.

SU rocket stairs.JPG.jpg

Imagine my emotions after climbing some 57 (or was it 84?) stairs! My emotions were also stirred by the spectacular student art exhibit, Nu Portreler 2.

I began my collection of hand images most deliberately here - I hope none of the artists are offended (and if they are, that they will let me know). I thought I included one recently but now can't find it; at any rate watch for more in future posts! (Unfortunately, glare is a problem with some: either from my flash or the natural light.)

Only one thing at Sabanci was left undone. ;-)

Posted by Steph at 4:40 AM | Comments (2)

August 17, 2006

West-Eastern Divan Concert Istanbul

The applause after the first number, Leonore Overture, No. 3, Op. 72, was overwhelming. Beethoven is usually rousing, but there was a quality to the upsurge of gratitude and appreciation that seemed to exceed recognition of the quality of the performance. My own guess is that a significant component of the emotion was sheer relief - for now, at least, the Israeli/Hezbollah ceasefire plan in Lebanon appears to be working.

This orchestra is the 1999 brainchild of intellectual and public critic Edward Said (a Palestinian); and conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim (an Israeli). Its performances raise money to support young people from the Middle East and Israel to play classical music together. The Foundation, now based in Seville, Spain, issued a declaration in 2004, and

the hall.JPG.jpg

An ancient hall of Topkapi Palace, the Hagia Eirene Museum was sold out but we obtained standing room only tickets and wound up sitting (comfortably enough) in the rear stairwell (our view from below, first half; for the second half we made it to the uppermost stairs). Acoustically, I was amazed at the sound. It was stunning. I wondered about performances in this space over the millennia (!) and the constitution of audiences. What kinds of court intrigues and politics occurred during and regarding public performances? How public was “public”, then? (I was unaware at the time of the cancellation and reinstatement of the concert for political purposes.)

I haven’t attended a live orchestra performance for at least 20 years. Various impressions flitted through my mind mixed with vague memories of growing up. Have I heard these pieces before? It was an educated audience, no one applauded falsely between the many movements of Schubert’s Trout Quintet. After the third or forth movement the audience and musicians had cohered. The warmth of the summer evening and lack of ventilation heated up the air to the edge of discomfort: the discipline of sitting still and listening was released in a full group rustle of throat-clearing, rapid brochure-fanning, and general bodily rearrangement. Such was reenacted in each pause thereafter.

What a contrast with Depeche Mode and its audience’s constant, unrestrained movement and attention leapfrogging between the music, mobiles, location, beer…

I also thought about voice and modern-day, mass-mediated politics. I imagined mideast politics as a symphony. There’s the constant thrum of the violins, the basics of everyday life, ebbing and cresting in twitters, chirps, and plucks of melancholy, pleasure, contentment, discord. Occasionally deep swells converge in coordinated harmonies, complimenting or contesting other tides. The deeper strings, brass and woodwinds vacillate among drawing out the dark power of living and accentuating the surface manifestations of conflict and dissension. Percussion marks the points of decision. Commit or retreat but know that whichever is chosen is consequential, even if only circumstantially so.

I know my characterization is crude: I am not a musician. But I felt the music and this is what I thought: a strong voice was needed to pound the drums long and hard enough to force political forces to stop the surface burst of unbelievable human violence. Let’s say the voices of my friends raised in outrage were the cellos and horns, and I came in as a woodwind. Or perhaps I was a lone French Horn against the trumpets. My notes were heard (?) as a threat to the cohesion of the necessary cumulation of voice (sound, power). I would prefer to be positioned as a complementary voice playing an alternative melody, or striking my notes along a different yet compatible scale (but this may be out of my control). What matters to me is the overall “sound” – the co-generated orchestral production. What a good conductor does is balance the volume of each section (sometimes even each individual instrument) so that each thematic strand is auditorily consonant with every other; but the conductor cannot make this happen, the musicians must be responsive, they must trust the conductor’s ear, which hears that which they cannot.

I suppose I came up with this analogy because of a section in Brahms Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68. I am not sure which instrument it was, perhaps (?) the contrabassoon. Its sound was almost too deep, too soft to be discerned yet Barenboim coaxed it up, quieting the violins just enough for the lone voice to emerge with the distinctiveness of its own rhythm.

Of course, the difference in social relations and musical collaboration are that there are no conductors (or too many, smile) for social relations. There is also little precedent for such wholistic orchestration in societies or groups where, for instance, we are mostly strangers to each other. Hence, our attunements are more likely random and historical rather than deliberate and visionary.

At the end of the concert I wanted more. So did the vast majority of the audience, and I believe the musicians did too. No go. :-( Maybe Barenboim wasn’t feeling well; maybe he was affected by the absence of the double-bassist who had been called back to Berlin for some reason (leading to an alteration in the program). Who knows. The love was there. :-)

The audience’s appreciation did not dim after that first round of applause, making me wonder if it was “only” the music after all. Or perhaps the even more simple effect of the fundraiser wine we had to gulp before entering? :-) The music was extraordinary, of that there can be no doubt. The setting was magical, the timing historic, the company superb. (Erdem did make sure there was no confusion about our relationship.) ;-)


The title of the orchestra is from Goethe's poem of this name, West-Eastern Divan, "in which he brings the poetic culture culture of the Islamic and Western worlds together" (liner notes). Goethe is noted for beginning to learn Arabic after the age of 60 as well as for truthfully representing "the Eastern spirit of poetry." Imagine! Old dogs can learn new tricks!

Posted by Steph at 4:34 AM | Comments (0)

August 9, 2006


I posted a few days ago about a new trove of data for internet researchers, with accompanying debates regarding the ethics of using it.

It seems AOL released the data in error.

Meanwhile, it is suggested that the release violates the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. (A law everyone affecting everyone who uses email.)

Posted by Wojciech to the air-l listserv, air-l Digest, Vol 25, Issue 8, August 8, 2006.

Posted by Steph at 10:21 AM | Comments (0)

am I missing

the best parties in Amherst?

It would seem so: Mr. Motown fronts Anuj serving bira.

I recognize my own singing peers in the background: flat tenors. I would have fit right in!

I'm not really jealous. Istanbul is pretty cool. :-)

Posted by Steph at 10:01 AM | Comments (0)

August 8, 2006

Your private search history on the web?

Yesterday's air-l Digest, Vol 25, Issue 7, includes discussion of private information made publicly available by AOL for a short window of time. A summary is here. The discussion has begun with questions of ethical use. I also wonder about the squeeze of surveillance technologies on the academy: certainly industry and government will feel no such compunction against mining this data for their own purposes.

Posted by Steph at 5:16 AM | Comments (0)

July 31, 2006

Depeche Mode

Gizem worked hard to get us tickets. I helped.

It was great. :-) They played 20-30 songs, almost all of which I recognized (!), all of which were imminently danceable, except one of the encore numbers, "Leave in Silence." I haven't been to such a mass ritual in more years than I can recall. Seriously, I was trying to remember the last large popular music concert I attended - U2, I think. Before that was Michael Jackson (a last minute sub for tickets my dad had). The first one ever? Bob Seger. There was also KISS (that was a great show), and some others, but we're talking 15-20 years ago. but hey, who's counting?!

No pix - cameras were banned. :-( The stadium, Kurecesme Arena is cool - set right on the shore of the Bosphorus, nestled up against a hill, cool breezes blew in off the water at irregular intervals but often enough. The bright wealthy folk just cruised on up in their fancy boats; some folks were brought in by ferry.

A special treat was the bonus show on the ride home with Mr. Jet-Set Comedian himself, Baris (I think it's properly spelled with a whoolamajig at the bottom of the "s" but my symbol panel doesn't include that option - sounds like "sh"). He was busy recounting his world travels and assessing the likelihood of becoming an oil baron. ;-) I'll put money on him!

Posted by Steph at 6:23 AM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2006

Random Encounters

Not only did I bump into Derek after blogging about him (he was engaged in the business of stealing pistachios) but I also met Elaine and we had a great talk about the blurring of boundaries between fiction and non-fiction, various uses of performance, and the ambiguities we experience (if I’m not overattributing?) regarding displays of emotion and affectivity. Ien Ang and Greg Noble were both at (3.38) Multilingual Cosmopoliticians this evening, which gave me a chance to greet them. I also introduced myself to Tom Cheesman, who gave me such a boost of cyber-encouragement when I first started thinking about interpretation in Europe.

Erkan found me tonight, as did Ezgi, Alisa, and others. (Nothing like a bit of notoriety, eh?!) Meanwhile, Gin and Tonic Man keeps yelling "Butch Power!"

I faded a bit at The Deep (my introvert side?); hopefully the extrovert will reappear for dancing in a bit. Or did I use up all that energy last night?

Posted by Steph at 11:24 PM | Comments (0)

July 21, 2006


I approached a couple of likely young men. Likely for what? Who knew?!!! “Are you friendly?” I inquired, wondering if they would bite. Burak replied that he was exhausted. “I can’t speak in English or Turkish.”

It’s a good thing I wrote my reflections of Day 1 during the last panel, before the conference “get together.” Veysel (of the gin and tonics) told me about Foucault and disciplinary discourses: “Discipline starts in deficits not real imitation.” (We were speaking about the debate initiated by Göle with Chatterjee.) Kutlughan (the mainstream guy) condemned postmodernists in general. Altug told us of eating Turkish crayfish in Sweden (they’re not eaten in Turkey, only caught here and shipped there as a "delicacy" ~ talk about "postmodern!") Yonca promised to email. Yasemin identified tursu as pickled plum. That was a treat, although not as delicious as the deniz berulcesi devoured at the after-party. (As well as for breakfast this morning!)

Serkan didn’t stick around but I did get the briefest synopsis of his presentation (1.43) which sounded awesome. Baris (“peace”) also vanished even though he had complained of being left out when it took a moment for introductions to be made. I’m not sure where Veysal ended up. He’d had his eye on someone and was in hot pursuit when we left. He gave me one of the best compliments on my hair that I’ve ever received: “It’s just noise!” :-)

The reception ended: “Tomorrow this will be a school,” the security guard informed us as he chased us away. But we weren’t done. Camiye me geldik! We ended up somewhere deep in the Nevizade.

Burak dubbed me “mommy” – which turned out not to be so special as he had at least two others of various genders and a “father” as well. Who are the rest of these people? Dilek, Kaan, Mark, Omer, and Ayse, among unnamed others. :-) There was even a Koray lookalike - giving a hint of things to come. Turns out I like the lion’s milk, and all the spreads that came with it (eggplant, yogurt, a bean paste, olives). I want to know what fish arrived later? It was fantastic.

The question that lingers is, did any of us become prettier? Igelim guzelleselim!

Posted by Steph at 5:40 AM | Comments (0)

July 16, 2006

being sentimental sigh :-)

I confess, I had a very particular child in mind last night while colleagues spoke of giving kids the stink eye, detailing various and myriad reasons why none should ever be allowed out in public, and declaiming against pregnancy in the first place. I admit, it was too close to home for me to join in the banter, but I appreciated it nonetheless. (Although apparently not as much as our waiter, who overheard one of the birthday girls suggesting that it was just such talk that prevented me from hanging out with them more often: “You should hear what it sounds like from here.”)

I laughed hard throughout the evening. :-) It was good to see and be with the assorted “criminals” and “suspects” from the Communication Department, even if my energy was too low to contribute much beyond (my usual?!) rather staid facts and observations.

“Why would you travel to such a hostile region?” Art asked, and others joined in with some comments about my common sense. I did, in fact, actually draw up and sign a will (how’s that for placing someone’s age?) and the Legal Secretary (whom I’ve known for several years) did tease about wondering whether or not I was “really in my right mind” or not. :-)

“It’s not hostile inside Iran,” I replied, to which there was a general murmur of acknowledgment. “Just the surrounding region,” Art clarified.

When I got in last night, Neil said, “It’s not looking good.” Huh? He’s been watching Fox. The Bush administration is blaming Iran for the violence among Israel-Gaza-Lebanon-Hezbollah. Damn. When I woke up this morning I realized that the Foreign Ministry in Iran probably considers my “late” application so suspicious because it’s probably precisely a time when the US might try to slip agitators and spies into the country. I remember talking with Arturo, who said if he was the paranoid type, my general openness about things would make him more suspicious of me, rather than less. Sigh.

I will be disappointed if I can’t go. I became quite excited about the adventure (experience, opportunity) as a reward for completing comps and myriad other similarly important life tasks in the past two months. I’ll be more disappointed, however, if the US continues down the path of war. What about the road less traveled? As I listened to the teasing among the partygoers last night I marveled at the practiced ease of ironic distance. Perhaps it is simply my own bias and projection, but I don’t believe people enter the field of communication without some desire to make things better. It’s the balance between being so keenly aware of life’s absurdity: seemingly trapped (?) within the (dialectical) power of history and yet soaking up every possible pleasure, creating our own bubbles of joy founded in/upon ‘another way.’

This morning I woke up from indeterminate dreams yet a solid idea about the power of the moment challenging the crisis of history. It occurs to me that my colleagues figured this out a long time ago. I am still playing catch-up.

Posted by Steph at 3:29 AM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2006


"You do look relaxed and peaceful," Lorna told me while cutting my hair today. She refrained from mentioning what a change this is from usual! :-)

Kathy asked me if I was "relieved" when I gave her the last question yesterday. No, not yet - I was already on to all the other things needing to be done prior to departure... too wound up? I'd also lost steam in the final half-hour and really struggled to come up with some semblance of a conclusion.

It helped the most that Tejal feasted me, Smita beat me at bombardment, and we all shared lots of laughs and silliness. Puru snapped some photos. Fugu honored me - on only our second meeting! - with her nickname. (I'm sure she realized there was minimal chance I would learn to say her proper name correctly. Neil and Satya arrived in time for food. Estelle carried herself with aplomb. I could not have had a better evening to celebrate being done. :-)

The rest of today was also sweet! The universe smiles on me. Yippee!

Posted by Steph at 3:00 PM | Comments (1)

July 12, 2006

the police came

so by Boston standards it was a good party. !!

I did manage to squeeze in a bit more socializing last night (pure comps-escapism). Cris and Marcelo's new place is sweeeeet and the gathered friends way cool. The neighbors leave something to be desired though, calling in a complaint to the fire marshall on the very modest campfire the guys labored over for an hour (with all the wet wood) to get going.

The officer said something about "a cooking fire" being ok so I asked, "If we roasted marshmallows then it would be ok?" I'm not sure, but I think he thought I was being a smart-aleck, so I hastened to add, "I just want to understand the parameters!"

He was friendly enough then, even apologized for having to bust up this element of the house-warming party. Amherst town has an ordinance against any kind of fires except the cooking kind - which means grill and the whole nine yards of an entire meal. "I'd have to consider marshmallows just an excuse," he explained. Oh well.

I did have a few great conversations with a couple of really cool folk from the Translation Department, English Department, and Marcelo's work. Had a bit of trouble with some of the Spanish names pronounced with a mouth full of food (Ramon is not exactly the most difficult, but I couldn't "hear" it the first two times around!) . . . I hope this wasn't too much of a precursor to the social embarrassment I'm no doubt going to be feeling soon enough in Turkey and (fingers still crossed!) Iran.

Posted by Steph at 11:53 AM | Comments (1)

July 9, 2006

World Cup final

There was some passion at Delano's today, but not much. I had some sympathy for Zidane but it went out the window when he headbutted the Italian player. I don't care what the provocation. I was happy Italy won. Mostly, though, I was glad to see Sai (great burrito, man), Satya (in full regalia), Neil (more-or-less) . . . and Chris and Jung Yup and Srini and Alex and Dhaka . . . and others less familiar but still friendly.

It was probably my last social respite until comps are done.

A few quickies though: Friday, July 7th, Writer's Almanac included the poem, Female Comic Book Superheroes. Fun to listen to.

and tonight, less fun...a broadcast about Iran. I heard it on WMUA but can't track the details. Darn. Is it possible it was Seymour Hersh? Here's an old article he wrote about Iran, just after Bush's apparent reelection. (There was evidence of voting fraud - particularly in Ohio - but it was severely underreported.) Here's a more recent Hersh story: Would President Bush go to war to stop Tehran from getting the bomb? (It might be one I blogged before, seems familiar.)

Whoever I heard today felt that whatever messianic ambitions Bush has, he'll wait until after the November elections.

Posted by Steph at 7:19 PM | Comments (0)

July 8, 2006

(comps) Law #16

Evil Kachina sends this along with the suggestion: "Some of these probably apply."

These are the unavoidable laws of the natural universe...

1. Law of Mechanical Repair: After your hands become coated with grease your nose will begin to itch or you'll have to pee.

2. Law of the Workshop: Any tool, when dropped, will roll to the least
accessible corner.

3. Law of probability: The probability of being watched is directly
proportional to the stupidity of your act.

4. Law of the Telephone: When you dial a wrong number, you never get a
busy signal.

5. Law of the Alibi: If you tell the boss you were late for work because you had a flat tire, the very next morning you will have a flat tire.

6. Variation Law: If you change lines (or traffic lanes), the one you
were in will start to move faster than the one you are in now. (works every time).

7. Bath Theorem: When the body is fully immersed in water, the telephone rings.

8. Law of Close Encounters: The probability of meeting someone you know increases when you are with someone you don't want to be seen with.

9. Law of the Result: When you try to prove to someone that a machine
won't work, it will.

10. Law of Biomechanics: The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the reach.

11. Theater Rule: At any event, the people whose seats are furthest from the aisle arrive last.

12. Law of Coffee: As soon as you sit down to a cup of hot coffee, your boss will ask you to do something which will last until the coffee is cold.

13. Murphy's Law of Lockers: If there are only two people in a locker room, they will have adjacent lockers.

14. Law of Dirty Rugs/Carpets: The chances of an open-faced jelly sandwich landing face down on a floor covering are directly correlated to the newness, color and cost of the carpet/rug.

15. Law of Location: No matter where you go, there you are.

16. Law of Logical Argument: Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about.

17. Brown's Law: If the shoe fits, it's ugly.

18. Oliver's Law: A closed mouth gathers no feet.

19. Wilson's Law: As soon as you find a product that you really like,
they will stop making it.

Posted by Steph at 11:55 AM | Comments (0)

July 5, 2006

Comps (advice)

Be humble.

Take control of the question:

Establish clear parameters for what you will include/exclude, acknowledge possible parts of the answer then rephrase to establish boundaries for the answer.

Pay homage:

Acknowledge big names, theories, etc so you can’t be accused of having overlooked something, someone important. Explain why/how these theorist’s work is – while still important – less relevant to the direction you wish to take.

Outline the course of the paper (in advance is recommended).

Rest well the day before.

Posted by Steph at 8:53 PM | Comments (0)

July 3, 2006

"tie a knot and move it forward..."

I said farewell to the Townhouse bachelor-pad today. These guys were great to and for me. They included me almost as if I'd always been there, allowed me my own room, tolerated my bike in the middle of the living room, fed me, introduced me to their friends...and gave me lots of space/time to study.

I gotta say something about Neil with the Mind of Steel. I think I know why Mei Mei huddled under the comforter every time he was in the house. You can't get nothing past this guy!

A week or so ago, he noticed I had not included his name in a certain description of a conversation he and I had, and wanted me to know it was ok for me to name him. He thought perhaps I hadn’t included his name because I was worried he might be upset. Not to worry, he assured me.

My immediate response was …uh… a little squirmy. I said I wanted to make the conversation appear broader than it really was? But I knew that wasn’t quite right – there was a deeper source. Ah, I was worried. I didn’t know how to identify him without including more details, and I didn’t want to appear to be bragging about having convinced him of something. I guess perhaps there was a worry (?) that he might feel bad about having been convinced? Worse, convinced by Me.

I made a bunch of tactical errors regarding confidentiality and respect etc. in the early days of the blog (which constitutes the first couple of years' worth). I think my criteria and representations have improved considerably but I know it’s not perfect. Occasionally I get hints and whiffs of someone’s displeasure or annoyance, and I am still usually puzzled as to why but continue to expand my own perception of the range of reasons. At any rate, it is a distinct pleasure to engage with someone so sensitive to nuance and so proactive in following up on it. Might even miss that guy. :-/

At any rate, I told Neil that giving me such blanket permission was rather daring, "You're in trouble now!" He laughed, "There are things about myself that I don't know." Yes, me too, I thought. What better way to find out?

The quote up top was shared by Basha, who hosted the most fantastic meal and night of live music I've ever attended. (Not ever having been much of a music-head.) I was invited along spontaneously, knowing no one but my roommates. That night was a taste of living I haven't felt in a long time. Been having lots of those experiences lately.

It's good. :-)

Posted by Steph at 5:49 PM | Comments (0)

June 30, 2006

the doctoral candidate!



Posted by Steph at 6:52 PM | Comments (0)

June 28, 2006

off the map

Last night, I arrived (unusually!) early to work, giving me time to walk the labyrinth (built in the classical style).

It was cool. It took longer than I anticipated (oops), but was a strikingly parallel experience to the process of receiving feedback on a paper earlier in the afternoon. My pace was slow, measured; my mood contemplative. I wove through its curves, following the path. I wasn’t conscious of time passing – or I thought I wasn’t – until the moment I thought I’d arrived at the center and realized there was another circuit to complete. A visceral feeling of shock rippled through me. Ah, I’ve already felt this today! In retrospect, the event and interaction around it were unfortunate, but possibly (?) not avoidable? Different sets of expectations and priorities. Two strong personalities. Crash.

But the morning was incredible. I had a massage (first one in three years or so) and the masseuse said it was a pleasure to work on me because my body was so responsive. She could see the muscles sussurate while she worked some of the pressure points. I was struck by the fact that even though I was tired and nearly fell asleep, my jaw remained clenched throughout. I couldn’t keep it relaxed. What? Me worry? It has to go somewhere, so they say.

At the end of the appointment I asked if she happened to know a tattoist. She hesitated, thinking. Yeah, she said, this guy Gabe. He just opened a shop in Easthampton. As she was digging out his phone number she added, “His body is covered with birds. He has a pair of lovebirds on the back of his neck.” He’s the one, I thought (actually felt) to myself (recognition?) The masseuse hadn’t remembered the name of his shop and didn’t have his work number so when I reached him on his cell phone he suggested I get directions by checking out his website. It doesn’t get more perfect than this!

Posted by Steph at 11:23 AM | Comments (0)

June 26, 2006

Tejal's birthday!

Mango lassi and chanasamosa started me off. Well, actually this was after the almost gender-divided hugs. Puru wouldn't let me get away with just hugging the women. :-) It was pretty cool, actually, as I got about a half-dozen hugs (handshakes with the folks I was just meeting for the first time). Did I mention I sortof kindof invited myself? shhhhhh! It was a great party to crash for some social interaction - just as Neil's has been the perfect idiomatic crash pad. (Countdown to departure has commenced, wah.) Although I doubt I'll miss Satya's militaristic party garb.

Food segregation continued. At least this time it was on the basis of vegetarians and carnivores, instead of men and women. Although then we noticed that the men were clustered at both ends of the table, essentially surrounding us. The most trapped, by the way, was the birthday girl herself. Neil had to pick a fight with the waitress (can’t take him out in public!), who threatened to withhold his food. (His behavior subsequently improved tremendously.)

The most interesting thing I learned was how to smuggle mangos. This is an Indian cottage industry. The first thing you do to throw the customs officials off the scent is to scrupulously recite the several dozens of different spices you’ve brought back. They really don’t want to know. Second, the amount of spices will confuse the dogs, who won’t be able to distinguish the smell of mangos in the midst of sneezing. Third (most important), sing English songs in Punjabi. Folks will be offended by the dissonance and they’ll usher you through as fast as possible.

I might have been offensive (?) as I heard (with my untrained american ears) “Sulu” as Sudarshan’s nickname. And Shiva had to fight with the clothing rod in my backseat all the way home (not to mention his virtual exclusion from Sitma's and my dive into Althusser). Hema! You’ve gotten email from me before! Did I forget meeting you? Oh my. ;-/

Posted by Steph at 10:13 AM | Comments (0)

June 25, 2006


"What the heck is that about?" I wondered as a colleague drove past me with arm fully extended, middle finger high in the air, yelling a resounding "F*ck You!"

Per shall remain nameless.

Posted by Steph at 2:15 PM | Comments (0)


I'm gonna need some help on a few details, please? What's the Turkish word for the type of dream in which a dark lump settles down on your chest, preventing movement?

And what was the name of that most fantabulous mini-Australian dessert? Can a non-chef make them?

The luminaria ushered me in, as part of the second wave of guests to a combo-birthday, defense, summer solstice celebration.

Highlights abound (noteless, we'll see what I recall).

The defense queen greeted me, aglow herself with success. I think she raked in a bundle too (although there was a slight question regarding whether two donations in particular actually arrived to the envelope).

Luscious was on the hunt for nationalistic fandom. I know someone wishing for a Brazil-Argentina final. Arturo (from Mexico) and Maria (from Argentina) preserved their relationship on the agreement that whoever could beat Germany should win.

Fascinating thing - talking about my (anticipated!) trip to Iran - was Arturo and Maria's concern not about my going, rather about my ability to return. Will US Customs allow me back in? Do I need to fill out paperwork with them, traveling against the State Department's advice? Lord help us all if such is the case.

Greg and I had an extended discussion about French pessimism and US optimism; with the caveat that there are stupid people everywhere. :-)

The dream analysis was cool, although there's no doubt someone had a secret agenda in offering an interpretation. Mine, I'm sure was no better, being, as Florencia noted, so incredibly qualifed to offer definitive opinions!

I missed Raz. Folks ask me about him at each event.

JC told me the blog looks "very professional." I wonder if he'll change his mind when he reads that I got to fondle a young hunk's six-pack?!

There were other conversations, esp with folks I just met and/or only briefly said hello to before either I or they were spirited into another discursive direction. All-in-all, it was a blast, and was still going strong when I left just before 1 a.m. Did you beat last year's record and make it to the dawn?

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

June 24, 2006

Opening Day: Round of 16

Germany took Sweden apart in short order today; it wasn't much of a game except for the performance of Sweden's goalie, Isaksson (11 shots on goal were credited to the German side; he saved most of them with no help from his defenders). I recall a few games like that, when my defenders just couldn't anticipate and left me alone to field more shots than anyone should ever have to face in one match. He played one hell of a game, even though it's the Germans who gain all the attention. I admired Teddy Lucic's calm reaction to receiving a red card after two undeserved yellows.

There's been some magic about the first ten minutes: Germany scores in the 4th and then the 12th minute, and later Mexico and Argentina both scored in the early minutes of their tense match. I wound up passionately on Mexico's side even though I entered Delano's with no preference whatsover. They were the identified underdog, for one thing. And the mostly international crowd was cheering for Argentina - or seemed to be. As the match wound on it became evident that the crowd was evenly split, which made for a great atmosphere: both in terms of fellow-fanship and also that everyone seemed to appreciate great plays by either team. (I heard there was a rabidly anti-Mexico contingent in "the back room" - watching Univision in order (apparently?) to pique their fervor to a maximum pitch.)

Jed filled me in on South Korea's loss yesterday. "It was sad." I conveyed my condolences to Gladys, who observed that all the Asian nations were out. (She included Saudi Arabia in her list, which surprised me: a different perspective on the dividing boundary, obviously.)

I said, "You can't be everywhere all the time!"

Gladys responded, "But we want to be everywhere all the time!"

Meanwhile, Puru tried to make up for the gender battle by offering me a chair up front. When I declined, teasing him about being gentlemanly, Neil wasted no time at all occupying the empty seat. (Later, he bought me a beer: as compensation?) I got excited about the sports production angle near the end of regulation time when Argentina "scored" a goal with barely a minute left and the next visual was of the offsides flag. Scott - you're still with me, man!

This engaged us in a brief conversation about the power/influence of making the decisions about which camera angle to broadcast - something which inevitably alters perception yet can also heighten engagement if done well. I was thinking the same earlier about the announcers trying desperately to create the illusion of a possibility for Sweden to rebound against Germany. Then we got into the artificiality of professional organization, a format which can "kill the human spirit." Certainly it can, although (working upon Nietzsche) it could be that professional, organized sports really is a suitable substitute and outlet for aggression that historically would have to end in death. (Neitzsche seems to prefer that we had stayed that way, but I think that's more a reaction to his awareness of living in a transitional time when the re-channeling of such vitality was still so deeply in process and the potential life-affirming outcomes only vaguely intuited.)

It is cool that Ghana made it; and somehow I'm going to have to resist watching every single match from here on out. Maybe I can allow myself an internet peek every now and then?

Posted by Steph at 5:13 PM | Comments (0)

June 23, 2006

Does your spirit squint?

Some months ago I was nearly skewered at the pinpoint of a rapier. I deflected the blow and mine enemy did retreat. I was accused of Nietzschean ressentiment, of being an unwitting participant in “the revolt of the slaves in morals” because of my “depriv[ation]…of the proper outlet of action” and thus particular behaviors were perceivable as reactive attempts “to find [my] compensation in an imaginary revenge” (“Good and Evil,” “Good and Bad” p. 19).

I hadn’t yet read Nietzsche then, so wasn’t aware of the extent of the insult. Reading The Genealogy of Morals now, I can readily perceive two constitutive/constituting elements that brought forth the judgment:

1) the rationale for characterizing me as having succumbed to the so-called slave morality at the sublime ideological level, and
2) that the epistemology which justifies this judgment of my character was motivated dialectically – as an essential response to certain unfortunate dynamics that played themselves out in the beginning of “Communication in Crisis” conference planning. (Which, let it be duly noted, was a resounding success.)

I’m working on point one: the accusation of slave morality. Being of a more heteroglossic rather than essentialist bent I’m less inclined to accept Nietzsche’s polemical terror at what he calls the victory of the priestly-aristocratic caste (using the Jews as his exemplar) as a death knell for humanity. My own self-assessment now is thus a combined yes-and-no affair. (In fact, it seems evident to me that Nietzsche drops hints that he himself is not quite so disdainful as he deliberately seeks to appear.) Indeed, there is an important distinction to be made between stereotypical labeling of aristocratic or slave morality and recognition of the typical characteristics in diverse individuals. I did react - on the basis of emotions Nietzsche valorizes as aristocratic - and I did react - on the basis of another, uncontrollable situation in regards to which my emotions were unresolved.

As to the 2nd point, regarding a dialectical essentialism, my opinion is also dual-toned. Yes, in the "first" instance (during initial conference planning, counted as "first" in others' external perception of my behavior; rather than from that point with which I would initiate the chain of events) I was deprived of action in the proper zone – that zone (alluded to above) had nothing to do with school or the department in any way. Events (dynamics of group relations) within that initial configuration of the conference group triggered certain visceral memories from the other zone and my lack of power there was transferred and projected by me into the conference group – definitely improper. So the dual overlay was between two entirely different situations and contexts – some would (and did, as I recall) suggest that I violated certain boundaries. Of course, reducing the analysis of the "first" incident to this conflation on my part neglects recognition of the actions that called forth such a response of resistance.

In the second instance (regarding a procedural proposal for departmental student governance), which incurred the accusation of resentment, something else was going on. I am less confident in hypothesizing what that “something else” might be, as doing so requires making generalized attributions: please read them as tentative and provisional. I am not claiming to know, only speculating. It seems possible that my earlier “bad” behavior (“bad” because it was sanctioned) planted certain seeds of doubt and/or suspicion among some peers, which possibly lay dormant until triggered by a new situation with a somewhat similar context – many of the same individuals, at least.

This will seem like a tangent, but my dentist’s office made me a present today. I’m in the midst of having two teeth crowned. They offer certain discounts depending upon how one makes payment. I wanted to minimize my cost and had proposed paying for each crown separately using two different modes of payment. This would take maximum advantage of what I could afford. I was told separating the bill wasn’t possible; the discounts only applied to a certain overall minimum. This occurred last week. Today, I was back for a routine cleaning and the office manager told me that they had revisited their decision and now wanted to make me a gift of the discount, in keeping with their policy of providing exceptional customer service. Of course, I was delighted! She explained what happened as me giving them “a proposal that was a little bit foreign to us.” No one had apparently ever wanted to pay in the configuration I proposed, so they needed some time to think about it (and – to their credit and my benefit – they took that time.)

With that framing in mind, if we return to the second instance (in which I was proposing a particular addition to the operating rules of the department’s student government which - as the discussions unfolded over a few all-department meetings and several intermediary conversations - invoked questions of overall organizational mission), it seems possible that what transpired was something along similar lines? I proposed something “a bit foreign” and explained it in possibly even more foreign/obscure terms (a theoretical language not shared by everyone as well as in an atypical discourse for this kind of setting) and there was a reaction from the group that stunned me with its force. I would be surprised if anyone intentionally meant to blow me out of the water; rather, I speculate (emphasis on speculate!) that there were enough similarities between this situation (with the CGSA) and the previous one (with the conference planning group) that it opened up or called forth a reaction from some who had possibly (I’m just guessing, hypothesizing!) felt deprived of suitable methods of action (punishment?) to sanction my improper behavior in the first go-round. (I simply withdrew – a solution that seemed satisfactory enough at the time but perhaps not sufficient?)

I think this logic makes sense only dialectically, because it relies on certain essentialist assumptions. Such as, if I acted up/acted out once then I’ve always got that capability, i.e., it must be my nature. Where the logic breaks down, (I’m more confident about this), is dialogically. If language is alive and meaning is always heteroglossically co-produced then what necessitates essentialism? At this point, the accusation of resentiment can be as easily turned the other way? In this regard, dialecticalism has the characteristics of a sublime ideology. I think what I felt in the second instance, overwhelmed as I was, was the juxtaposition of both dialectical and dialogical possibilities. A dialectical reading requires (relies upon and reinforces) stereotyping; a dialogical reading enables the possibility of a shift in established (dialectical) dynamics. Happily (at least for me!), such a small-scale shift appears to have occurred among some of my peers. I am grateful. (Does this make me a sublime slave?!)

Rise up mine foe! (Dr. Metropolis advises, however, that I should not be too eager. Chapter Twelve, in How to be a SuperHero.) Ok, so, like, whenever.

But note the call of aristocratic morality: “it acts and grows spontaneously, it merely seeks its antithesis in order to pronounce a more grateful and exultant ‘yes’ to its own self” (p. 19).

Posted by Steph at 5:13 PM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2006

"look better next time!"

Thus was I greeted upon arriving at Shakespeare under the Stars for opening night. Who, me? Not paying attention? Didn't notice something? For shame! I chattered with the assembled peasantry (!), laughed hard at the Porter (MacBeth's servant), and admired the passion of our friend Dan, exposing the depths of his capacity for depravity. Yes, Daniel Kennedy is Macbeth! He is accompanied by a stellar cast. The witches and Lady Macbeth are well-worth seeing, but forsooth - none played poorly!

Posted by Steph at 1:30 PM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2006

the neil effect

Besides terrorizing my cat, and scattering football players with his amazing defensive skills, the dude came after me last night! I thought it was great. :-) He reminded me that US ignorance of the rest of the world population's actual experiences living day-to-day is racism. Period. It could have been the end of conversation.

It wasn't, however, because I concede the point. There are situations when the nuance of naivete/deliberation matters a great deal, but if we're going to establish a baseline definition the material fact of privilege is that it shields one from needing to know. So we moved on to some other topics with more room for intellectual exploration, including Nietzche.

The point I was trying to make with Satya - that I circled around for awhile, getting lost in my own preamble (!)- is Nietzsche's assertion that we (human beings) NEED fear in order to truly live. I am not opposed to this thesis, but I'm not sure I agree with the terms with which it seems Nietzsche limits fear's range. I'll have to look closer at his actual language (as translated, since I don't know German), to see if there's a way to tease out the implication I perceived of a limited domain of what he might consider "legitimate" fear.

Posted by Steph at 5:29 PM | Comments (2)

June 19, 2006

"The Game is ON!"

Jung Yup hosted a World Cup event for the Asian-Pacific forces yesterday. It was too bad Australia lost, but the Korea-France match was tense! France had the first ten minutes, then 70 minutes ensued of close calls and tension and growing concern until Korea took the last ten minutes for a 1-1 draw. Very exciting. :-) They didn't quite live up to the banner, "We Go Beyond!" but who knows...they're already gone beyond where some folks expected them to be. FYI - Univision's in-between game coverage (in Spanish) was much more entertaining than ABC's.

I've been resisting watching because I MUST keep FOCUSED on comps. So far so good. Bumped into Gita and Pei at Rao's; one of them was crushed to learn she'd been associated with the losers who celebrated my birthday with me this year. Oh dear. (At least she's not one of Nietzche's frogs.) Then Puru and Tejal came by; he practically dared me to give him a hard time on the blog! He insists his moves away from the women (which began the gender division were motivated only by a desire for food but I'm not sure I'm convinced....

Meanwhile...Nietzsche (online text provided by Ian Johnston of Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, BC.) I'm reading the Dover Edition, 2003, "an unabridged translation of a standard edition of the 1913 translation by Horace B. Samuel."

"...I am told it is simply a case of old frigid and tedious frogs rawling and hopping around men and inside men, as if they were as thoroughly at home there, as they would be in a swamp" (originally published 1913, p. 10).

I don't think I would particularly enjoy having Nietzsche pissed off at me. He is referring to "English psychologists" and speculating as to their motives for "pushing to the front the [shameful part] of our inner world, and looking for the efficient, governing, and decisive principle in that precise quarter where the intellectual self-respect of the race would be the most reluctant to find it..." (p. 9). He continues that he doesn't wish to believe in their frogdom, rather that they are, "at bottom, brave, proud and magnanimous animals who know how to bridle both their hearts and their smarts, and have specifically trained themselves to sacrifice what is desirable to what is true, any truth in fact, even the simple, bitter, ugly, repulsive, unchristian, and immortal truths - for there are truths of that description" (p. 10).

Don may (?) be encountering one of those truths this evening... :-0

Posted by Steph at 6:55 PM | Comments (2)

June 17, 2006

a rogue? :-)

I had more fun yesterday evening than I have had in a long time. :-) I'm not convinced of my own skill as a conversationalist, but I'm pleased that I know so many people who are talented in this regard. It also felt good (!) to be wished well on my anticipated travels by so many. Of course, such is returned to all! (Hmm, kinda mushy, huh?!)

I'm reading Bakhtin, experiencing a string of those phenomenological moments that lend themselves to a more mystical form of epistemology. Check this out:

"The chronotope of the encounter; in such a chronotope the temporal element predominates, and it is marked by a higher degree of intensity in emotions and values. The chronotope of the road associated with encounter is characterized by a broader scope, but by a somewhat lesser degree of emotional and evaluative intensity. [thank heaven!] ... The road is a particularly good place for random encounters. On the road ('the high road'), the spatial and temporal paths of the most varied people - representatives of all social classes, estates, religions, nationalities, ages - intersect at one spatial and temporal point. People who are normally kept separate by social and spatial distance can accidentally meet; any contrast may crop up, the most various fates may collide and interweave with one another. On the road the spatial and temporal series defining human fates and lives combine with one another in distinctive ways, even as they become more complex and more concrete by the collapse of social distance. The chronotope of the road is both a point of new departures and a place for events to find their denouement. Time, as it were, fuses together with space and flow in it (forming the road)..." (Forms of Time and Chronotope in the Novel, in The Dialogic Imagination, 1981, p. 243-244).

In addition to this coincidence, I was given the best belated (by two years!) birthday present imaginable. I investigated some of the tips on choosing a name ...my first choice is already taken. Here's Bakhtin again:

"“Essential to these three figures [rogue, clown, fool] is a distinctive feature that is as well a privilege – the right to be ‘other’ in this world, the right not to make common cause with any single one of the existing categories that life makes available; none of these categories quite suits them, they see the underside and the falseness of every situation…” (p. 159).

There's a bit of "full circle" magic to reading all this now as it was the first place I went outside of the assigned curriculum of courses. And you know what? It got blogged! Leda Leda Leda, it seems you knew where I was headed . . .

Oo Oo Oo - "News from the Profession discusses tutoring with ESL students!

And an application to Henry James The Golden Bowl.

Posted by Steph at 8:27 PM | Comments (0)

June 15, 2006


My dentist told me (as he ripped out some seven ancient fillings to make way for two new crowns) that my bite is eccentric. (He'll have to tell me if bruxism is at fault.) He used the term, properly spelled eccentric but pronounced e-centric, to simply mean off-center. We couldn't help but notice, however, the common use of eccentric to be a potentially apt descriptor of yours truly. {gasp!}

He gave me quite the hard time for my "thrilling" reading material. (We'll see if I go back to him again, hmmph!)

My new roomie and his pals are into it, though. Not that it was a subject of discussion last night, instead, as we ate our scrumptious dinner last night Smita and I both noticed the gender division: men at the table, women in the living room. We teasingly applauded ourselves for having a higher order conversation. Within minutes, while we were discussing the 1970’s Emergency in India, the men become quite animated regarding hairstyles.

That sums up the meterosexual portion of the evening. (Perhaps I can inspire more political discussion?) Prior to this, however, Sourya tried to set me right regarding quantum mechanics...a "pillar" of physics that I think can be a metaphor (and vice-versa?) for human relations.

He introduced me to the concept of commutability. The article linked mentions Bose-Einstein . I'm not sure how those figure in to our conversation. I was trying to explain my understanding of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, in which (supposedly) energy and matter are both dually present, and what you get is what you look for: the fact of observation in-and-of-itself changes the manifestation or "reality" of the object. Sourya explained that really matter and energy are "the same thing", but that some things don't commute. His example had to do with location and velocity. One cannot both pinpoint location and accurately measure speed at the quantum level. If you get an accurate measure of velocity it is impossible to fix a specific location at any given time; if you fix a particular location then the speed becomes indeterminate.

Aren't people like this too? :-) Here are a few quotes I culled from recent reading to provide a minimal sketch of what I study:

“…the fragility and ineluctably historical nature of language, the coming and dying of meaning that it, as a phenomenon, shares with that other phenomenon it ventriloquates, man” (p.xviii).

[dialectics, I argue] goes for “a general voice” which Bahktin says doesn’t exist in isolation from “a specific saying…..Language, when it means, is somebody talking to somebody else, even when that someone else is one’s own inner addressee” (emphasis in original, p. xxi).

These are from Michael Holquist's introduction to four of Bakhtin's essays. Another one to follow up on some day - in relation to me and the act of blogging - is this:

“...the way intimacy with our own voice conduces to the illusion of presence” (p. xxi) – Holquist links Bakhtin with Husserl and Derrida on this point. I have become more real to my own self through writing; is this an illusion or a delusion?

Kinda puts me in mind of "the working-class solution to sideburns."

Posted by Steph at 4:13 PM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2006


I was introduced to the granth at a gurudwara last night, ate langar (delicious!), and made eye contact with the granthi. The latter happened twice, once while I was veiled (during the service, happy), once when I wasn't (departing, not so?) The veil hides my hairstyle, y'know? :-o

The most fundamental principle of the Sikh religion is seva.

Need advice? I'm feeling a bit out-of-place this morning, so I decided to "take hukamnama: I received Page 721.

The granth is written in Gurmukhi.

Posted by Steph at 9:47 AM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2006

"home" for June

I received quite the welcome to my primary lodging for the rest of this month. First of all, my bedroom has glow-in-the-dark stars. How cool is that?!! I've always wanted them. :-)

Then, a spectacular meal by Neil and spirited discussion from Sai and Satya. What got us going is a book by Tariq Ali about the 1960s, Street Fighting Years. It is a sad commentary on my own education as a representation of general U.S. myopia, but I really didn't know that the civil, social, and political turbulence of the 1960s was a global phenomena.

A few features of our interaction impressed me: the vigor of disagreements and that these lacked animosity, episodes of silence punctuating the exchange, and the sheer pace and density of thoughtfulness these young men possess. My own contributions felt fumbling and awkward by comparison. I recognize the vitality as a characteristic of youth (!) but also as indicative of intellectual and emotional presence: these young men have been actively aware of and engaged with their own lives and the world around them. Each of them is younger than I was when it first pierced my consciousness that such perception was even possible!

I'm looking forward to more debate. :-) In particular I'm eager to test an observation about a tendency toward extremes. One theme involved the experience of oppression and whether or not a member of a targeted group, such as African-Americans in the US, might prefer the overt racism of the South to the covert racism of the North. This was taken to the furthest ends of the continuum of violence: "I would prefer any day to live where I could sit down at a table with a white man instead of where I could be killed."

Of course! It's in the middle range of these extremes that the question becomes intriguing. Where is the boundary between tolerance and acceptance, to what extent is one valued over the other, under which conditions and circumstances, to what ends? I often reflect on the amount of tolerance I encountered during my most passionate, public activism. While I dwelt in the possibility of acceptance (presenting it as a challenge more than an invitation [aha!]), it was the tension itself that was instructive and compelling. That none of my exertions brought me into contact with direct violence seems coincidental - a coincidence of white-skin and apparent middle-class privilege and the good fortune not to encounter someone prone to violence at a vulnerable moment.

Posted by Steph at 8:38 AM | Comments (2)

June 5, 2006

In the nick of time

It's not a done deal yet, but "Just-in-Time" might have located me a place to hang for the rest of June. And none too soon as Elizabeth's hospitality is not to be taken casually! I'd gain 100 pounds if I stayed here for very long!

JIT also relayed a joke about (me?) becoming a spinster. Actually, the joke was about how spinsters are related to strong young men. Through their cats. Do you think this means he might yet agree to keep Mei-Mei for the summer while I'm gone? I am gonna be gone . . . I think. Timing is tight, but various bits keep falling into place...

The movie JIT selected for our viewing pleasure was intended to inspire my pending visit to Iran. The Suitors, however, does not live up to its billing as half-Hitchcock (sortof) and half-Lucille Ball (hardly). We tolerated it after realizing it was made in 1988. A few of the opening scenes with the sheep were mildly humorous. And JIT giggled quite a bit at the end when my early sympathy for the woman under siege turned out to have been premature. Oh well.

We did not dicuss critical realism this time (because we were living it). Nothing like your upstairs neighbors blasting rock-n-roll while doing aerobics at 4 am!

Posted by Steph at 6:49 PM | Comments (3)

May 25, 2006

karaoke blur

Someone got engaged last night. No, someone got married? No, someone was already engaged and is going to get married! I ate octopus. I ordered squid. How did that happen? I didn't notice until I was 3/4's done with the dish. It was delicious.

Ten people RSVPed for Hunju's "bridal shower". One didn't show (until karaoke), one didn't RSVP (such nerve!), and two additional people appeared for a total of ... an even dozen celebrants. We followed no customs except our own, so Hunju did not receive any advice on her upcoming life as a married woman. Perhaps we should take up a collection to send her to school?

Posted by Steph at 9:52 AM | Comments (1)

May 23, 2006


I've been asked if I have common sense. I've been asked if I'm nuts. I was roasted for considering serious study while visiting Iran: do your comps first and then ENJOY yourself!

Some of the analysis is pretty freaky, for instance, this article from the April 17 edition of The New Yorker.

Here's a blogpost by an American woman in Iran. She made a Request to news agencies covering the Iran nuclear issue back in February.

NOTE: Looks like I'll have to figure out how to wear a hajib.

Posted by Steph at 10:48 PM | Comments (2)

May 21, 2006

in the company of losers...

Well, that was just the last stage in my extended birthday celebration. :-) Little Brother, his ex (?), and his best friend/roommate, treated me at the infamous ABC from midnight to about 2 am. Besides the minus-a-decade mythology (making me 33, ha!), there was the gender-bending conversation in which the Ex-of-Indeterminate Relationship tried to make common cause with me on the basis of us both being women, and Little Brother reeled out a ream of reasons that lumped me in with him and the BF/RM. The Ex-of-IR surrendered quickly in the face of overwhelming evidence. (I'm not sure this was a good thing?!) The list was basically a litany of what people (young men?) with no real life do to pass the time... (ouch!)

Then there was the redemption of Napolean Brandy. Wow.

Previous to this was the Keith Wann show (check out this interpreted clip) at a fundraiser in honor of Yolande "YoYo" Henry. Six pals with no previous exposure to American Deaf Culture accompanied me and enjoyed the show. We barely arrived in time to acquire FM systems so they could follow the fantastic spoken English interpretation. At intermission, we had "birthday bread" made by my good friend, VPP (undisclosed, secret recipe), and I visited with a few folk (receiving one of the best hugs ever from Marion, who SCORED a hundred bucks with the second prize in the raffle! Dang that girl is lucky!)

We snagged quick appetizers at Thai Garden, then dealt with a minor vehicular vibration problem. Or, I should say, Afry dealt with it using a unique karate kick tire-changing technique that won praise from the crowd of onlookers.

A wonderfully successful evening, all the way around: good friends, superb food, laughter, drama, a few special gifts (despite the request for none, harumph!), who could ask for more? Well, the day OF my actual birthday plenty of folks remembered and I received a slew of hugs, handshakes, and well wishes. Awesome. :-) I also met some new folk and learned about bathymetry. There are more speciality kinds of science than I ever imagined!

Posted by Steph at 9:35 PM | Comments (2)

May 18, 2006

iced coffee

People who don't do caffeine too often should watch out for McDonald's summer brew. Actually, my favorite teller-promoted-upstairs at my wicked cool small-town bank was just as wired when I was in the bank last week. I don't think Roxy had the coffee excuse then? At any rate, her repartee made my day, and I was happy to get a repeat. :-)

In addition to the kvetching about having teenage children (wasn't it easier when your worst worries were changing diapers and diagnosing tears instead of role shifting and lord-knows-what kinds of experimentation?), we shared some seriousness about how some people connect and know things on different levels or planes. People are in denial about reality, she argued. I was intrigued at the time, but who knew our talk was prelude to things I would read a few hours later? Not a surprise, though, if one accepts the possibility of communication on planes other than language. The irony is that we need language to make sense of these other forms of communication, or, perhaps I should say, we use language to try and make sense of - or dismiss - these other forms of communication.

At any rate, it was a fun and healing connection. Her humor is the packaging for the parts of life that matter most: "Your children are the product of your heart."

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

May 17, 2006


Little Brother says he bowled a 167 after I left last night, beating Lava for the second time in a row by only one (1) pin. When Luscious arrived, he looked at the five of us and exclaimed, "This is it?" Was it Anuj who reflected on the implication of how exciting we must be?! I know it was he who described the evening as a requiem. Cata was wearing his "Let's Get Nerdy" t-shirt. I don't know if that's why he copied my score for five frames straight but it's true, frames 3-8 we matched perfectly (even though we didn't always have the same combinations). Then he broke free.

I wrote some note about asking for permission. Lord only knows for what. Oh yeah, I had a 153 again. That's my third time. At least it's an odd number.

Posted by Steph at 9:19 PM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2006

Bella Peppers

Bella Peppers.jpg

A better camera would do this dish invented by Jamie much more justice. It's yummy! :-)

Posted by Steph at 9:10 AM | Comments (0)

May 8, 2006


Broughton is visiting and has given me a raft of grief about "overshooting" while driving. If I recall correctly there was the road this morning (two choices, I was trying to time breaks in the flow of oncoming traffic); a driveway into a shop (just drifted a little far ahead); and another turn (somewhere?) as the navigator couldn't decide if I should or should not turn "here".

We speculated on this as a possible personality flaw.

An English irregular verb (!), to overshoot means simply to go too far.

Guilty as charged. :-/

This puts me in dubious company with ecological overshoot (E.O. Wilson has calculated that humanity is currently operating at 120% of earth's sustainable capacity), telecommunications overshoot (transitions that (somehow?) exceed a final value and convective overshoot (dealing with instability, which goes without saying).

Posted by Steph at 10:05 PM | Comments (0)

May 7, 2006


know how to enjoy themselves. :-) Whether it's wondering if Justin was drinking Ginger Ale, Hosannah can tolerate some western philosophy, Scotty is bootlegging Coors Lite, Chris is telling someone to "take a chill pill," Michele is showing her tendons, Mario is proclaiming (through a ventriloquist), "I'm not a geologist, I'm a jelly donut," Ryan is describing the complexity of his wife's work, or everyone is wondering how many giggles Evan acquired, these folk have spent some time together and come to enjoy each other's company quite a bit.

I learned about normal faults, reverse faults, thrust faults, and my fault.

Anyway, there's nothing like working on a nuggetized project with uber-qualified folks having a good time!

Posted by Steph at 9:56 PM | Comments (2)

May 3, 2006

Ellen's wisdom :-)

F - false
E - expectations
A - appear
R - real

From Nowhere to Now Here.

I needed this today! :-)

Posted by Steph at 4:25 PM | Comments (2)

the regulars

Yeah. It was just us. Me, Little Brother, and the Nepalese.

We bowled.
We knocked the pins down.
We left.

You lose!

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

April 30, 2006

progress for progressives!

On Apr 29, 2006, at 11:56 PM, Chris Boulton wrote:

AMHERST, MA, April 29 - In a stunning turn of events, Brett Ingram cast the deciding vote in the GSS elections yesterday. Mr. Ingram's ballot, marked with his signature uppercase 'X,' pushed the GEO-endorsed slate of candidates over the top of a hotly contested election. Turn-out was high. But in spite of 600 voters (up 250 from the previous year) coming to the polls, in the end, it all came down to Brett. Elections observer George Liu was there. Marveling at Mr. Ingram's insouciance in the face of such a historic moment, Liu concluded "Never before have I witnessed such exquisite suffering on behalf of suffrage. But one thing is certain: that old curmudgeon carried the day with his vigorous exercise of the franchise." One minor annoyance for Brett; one giant leap for the Graduate Student Senate.

Oh alright. Then there's the official announcement (much less entertaining, but what can one do in the face of bureaucracy?):

On Apr 30, 2006, at 12:24 AM, Liu, Zixu wrote:

As your representative in the graduate student senate, I want to inform you of the results of the elections of GSS officers for thenext academic year.

After two and half hours of counting on Friday after the closing of ballot table, the GEO endorsed stale (Jeff-labor studies, Flavia-anthropology, Hasan-economics, and Sai-African American studies) won the election with a margin of 100 or more votes in every one of the four contested position. Also, the intense campaign on both sides brought 604 (including four provisional votes) graduate students to the balloting table, which set a record in GSS history.

I also want to thank all those who went down to campus center and cast your precious votes. Please keep the spirit of participation, which will be more than necessary for the newly elected leadership to fulfill their campaign promises.

That being said, enjoy the gorgeous day and have a very nice weekend.


Congrats to all the candidates!

Posted by Steph at 12:37 AM | Comments (1)

April 29, 2006

"when the going gets tough

read second paragraph email conversation with non-god dated Apr. 29 2006."

you have to trust that no matter what happens you will get through it, that it's just what's meant to be - not because it's fate but because that's the way it is/was. so you invent your story about it in a way that cultivates the kind of human be-ing to which you aspire. it ain't easy and it ain't fun when things don't go as we desire but, somehowsomeway, if you can hold fast to any kind of belief that sustains you then you can get through.

Posted by Steph at 11:56 AM | Comments (0)

April 27, 2006

"declared elected"

Copied from the April 26, 2006 6:31:55 PM EDT email newsletter of the Graduate Employee Organization (emphasis added).

2. GEO Election Results:
Following the elections on April 18th and 19th, the following candidates were declared elected:
President - Srinivas Lankala (Communication)
Vice-President - Jeremy Wolf (Political Science)
Secretary-Treasurer - Mandy Cheung (School of Education)
Members of the Steering Committee - Jason Rodriguez (Sociology) and Anna Curtis (Sociology)

The new officers will be inaugurated at the last membership meeting of this semester on May 10th at 6 pm.

Posted by Steph at 9:24 AM | Comments (0)

Fame: Take More!

Communication in Crisis conference organizers might be frantically trying to recoup the semester (could be a projection on my part) but the event is still on the radar.

Posted by Steph at 9:18 AM | Comments (0)

rubbing shoulders

A long time ago (!), Donal got me into the Department of Communication here at UMass.

Posted by Steph at 9:15 AM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2006

"we were right to come"

and the rest of you are LOSERS! Who says the Black Eyed Peas are better than bowling? The Blog Victim won three of four games, but if I won the last game by 64 pins....setting a new personal best (!) of 158...who's the better bowler? BV approached his personal best. Alas. He fell short by one. 1. That's o-n-e pin. Even then, his margin of victory was only 71 pins. Oh. So much for Blog Gossip. :-/

After he won that game, he speculated about his character, pondering (out loud!) whether he was the kind of person to celebrate a victory by continuing to crush his opponents or . . . (he left the rest unsaid. Hmmmm.) Let me just note the margin of loss progressed from six pins, to eleven ("I just have to knock 'em out, at least a spare") to the aforementioned seventy-one. And this, after saying "the house of the straight-shooters" held no enmity, blaming all of that on those who aspire to spin. Having been so soundly pulverized in the third game, you must imagine that I was pleased by the spread after my turkey (another first!) in the last game when the score showed me with 122 (7th frame) and BV with 37 (5th, b'cuz he had a strike in the 6th and hadn't yet bowled his 7th). NO DOUBT that was the largest spread of the match and yes, thank you, I'll just take my bows. :-0

Posted by Steph at 12:34 AM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2006


"a heart-shaped leaf" - this must be the image of the 19 folks who converged on the bowling lanes tonight in honor of Luscious' 72nd birthday and JC's successful dissertation defense. Or, perhaps it was merely a reference to the (gendered) fashion observation that "all the women are wearing green, almost," "except," adds a graffiti-ghost, "those who are wearing red. and blue. if not yellow."

Bowling was merely filler for the real show tonight. CAKE! There was a profusion of cards and well-wishing, such that a portrait of (the back of) JC's head) as he sets off on his new life wound up in Luscious b'day card, and a birthday memory for Luscious wound up in the blog notes. The negotiations for a trade-off to mask the first error resulted in an "economic metaphor showing the capitalist ideology of the contemporary global village": "What are you gonna do in return?"

Competition spun down the lanes and among onlookers. Strikes by the following were witnessed: Siri, JC, Greg, Rajiv, Linus, Darpan, Zeynep, and Alenka. LB too but barely - according to the "if its not blogged; it didn't happen" rule, a group cheer indicating a possible strike doesn't verify the strike; however an actual eyewitness strike did (eventually) occur. Four doubles were thrown tonight, by Luscious (as usual), Cata (in the 10th frame!), dadofzeynep (officially, Nejat), and yours truly. :-) Zeynep, having waited 15 years to beat her dad at bowling, soundly pounded him 132 to 100 in the second game. No one set any records tonight, although I came close, falling short by four measly pins. I had a 93 in the fifth frame bowling right-handed; compare that with the 95 total I had in the game I bowled as a lefty. (Then it started to go downhill. Not as severely as Linus though, who cooked our breakfast in the first game and fizzled like a fire in the rain during the second.)

Meanwhile, JC continued the streak of his good day, pummelling his opponents by 30 pins. Alenka, Maja, and Jake all tied at 106, doing some threesome kind of thing? Then there was a flask going 'round one of the other lanes, and a backpack sounding suspiciously full of empty bottles....a rowdy encounter between Anuj and Rajiv which paled in comparison to the lunge and knock-down between Lava and Linus later. What was up with the testosterone tonight?

Don's creativity of JC (a bald head morphing into a bandanna-covered hairy head) inspired additional artwork, including this pregnant duck. ("Duckness" is obvious; you might have to stretch to glean the pregnant part.) It's unclear if this sketch is an actual portrait or an amalgam of the clutch of us nondescript types. Did I mention Darpan got confused about the sport of the evening? It may all have been some kind of discharge for the real, poignant details of JC's defense, in which some of the beneficiaries of his community work on fair housing expressed their gratitude for his work above and beyond the call of academic scholarship.

Kinda gives ya a nice warm, heart-shaped leafy-feeling, doesn't it?

Posted by Steph at 12:28 AM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2006


Once upon a time there were bowlers.

Actually, bowling has persisted and I've even been there; just behind the times with the blogreports. And this after folks started inquiring and/or commenting about these posts in particular! (I guess I'm still not very audience-friendly.) :-/

Why what? Why bowl, when the most one can say about an evening's effort is, "that was an odd ball"?

Two weeks ago (!), Luscious bowled with a calf injury. No, not a baby cow, he twisted something in his lower leg playing basketball. His injury did not lead to the worst bowling of the evening, however. That honor fell to Dan, who was bolluxed, boogered, and otherwise convinced he should have stayed home to watch DVDs. "It is nice," he conceded, "to see Luscious suck." As it turned out, "only Steph" had a decent night, although Lava pulled off a right- and left-handed combo score of 161. (He does pay me to write nice things about him.)

Maja was prepping for her defense the next day (which she passed with roaring colors), Mafu and Angie dropped by for a quick hello, and the Hungarian (as he was introduced!?!) on the team rolled a couple of muffie games. There is one enigmatic scribble I can no longer decode:

What is my "x"?

I await the answer with suspence.

Posted by Steph at 8:18 PM | Comments (0)

April 15, 2006


I have a hang over. It's the fault of those dang Nepalese! I didn't have that much wine; I think it was the apple tobacco. Or perhaps it was the time warp to 2063 B.S.? (No, that's not what you think, it's Bikram Sambat.) (Which may or may not be the same as the Vikram calendar, which describes the four eras of Hindi temporality.)

Supposedly the flavored tobacco smoked through a hookah is a traditional fixture among folks gathering just to chat. I smoked more than the last time (and I'm not a smoker). The truth is, I'm no longer in my twenties, or even early thirties! Can't party so hearty anymore. sigh I had to leave before the promised 4 am meatballs and music.

I reacquainted myself with now Dr. Alenka, Jake, and a few other occasional bowlers as well as folks I tend to see only at these soirees. I had a great conversation with Suvas (whose field of study so shocked me I've completely blanked it from memory) and Dinesh (who mostly eavesdropped) about limits to consciousness. We reflected on the universal (!) human fact that we are all raised in environments with norms for talking and conceptualizing the world that become a kind of mental boundary. And then, somehow, some people choose to leave that environment (most stay) and encounter new ways of talking and conceptualizing the world. And then various accommodations occur along a continuum of refusal/denial of difference (a kind of entrenchment, eh?), resistance to changing one's cognitive boundaries, to versions of acceptance and change up to and (for some) including conversion.

There's a challenge for those of us who "leave" in dealing with those who "stay", because we have to figure out how to interact with them on the basis of the boundaries they've got without pity or judgment. It reminds me of the conversation I had earlier in the day with one of the Tent State organizers. We briefly touched on the question of "too much" vs "not enough" structure. I'm hoping to explore the question somewhat (during TSU) from the angle of group relations theory.

I digress. :-)

Only Luscious had a clue regarding the originary event for the Nepali calendar. There are no references to a virgin bleeding to death in any of the sites I searched. (I think he made it up.) And there's our other recently anointed Dr. who had strange visions at a pollen tube dissertation defense. And a couple of (strange) Russians attending from Mars.

I did not neglect a poll regarding affairs of state in Nepal. The King as a symbolic figurehead was supported by two of the three victims of my un-party-like curiosity. His present actions are deplored by all. An interview by Amy Goodman yesterday emphasized the necessity of recognizing the country's Maoists. I was assured that Nepal's Maoists are "very different" from Chairman Mao's Maoists.

All intellectualizing aside, I'm most grateful to Afry for his suggestion of miso soup as a medical treatment.

Posted by Steph at 1:58 PM | Comments (2)

April 7, 2006

A History of Violence

My peers are more critical than me. I thought it was pretty good, but they lamented it's predictability and (hello?) the amount of violence.

I was intrigued by the relationship between a man who has reinvented himself and a woman who has to reconcile her attraction to this man with a past she abhors.

Otherwise, it was predictable. There were also several loose ends not pursued and/or left untied. "Half-assed," was the assessment of the clerk at Captain Video. Then they (my friends?!!) tried to blame me :-0 only because Munich was out, there would have been too much thinking involved with Good Night, And Good Luck, and Jarhead didn't grab their interest. Maybe they regret passing up the opportunity to watch Jesus Christ Superstar?

Posted by Steph at 11:47 PM | Comments (2)

April 6, 2006

random moments

There was the colleague I saw this morning who didn't moderate the emphasis: "You look like you could use a cup of coffee."

The professor who took pains to express in several different ways what I "need to understand."

The lecture that included details about the despicable events at Duke over the weekend.

The cartoon drawn for me by a student mocking my emphasis on parsimony in writing. I forgot to write down the sentence reconstructed to correct a dangling modifier. :-( It referred to "festering trolls in the basement" and was a genuine collaborative effort, with the adjective, subject, and location (I think) all supplied by different individuals. More of this!

The idea for a SNL skit on a PR firm specializing in dissertation titles for graduate students.

Finally, there were blini. (Delicious!)

Posted by Steph at 9:22 PM | Comments (0)

April 4, 2006


Last week at bowling I set my personal best: 153, setting up a tie with Zeynep.

However, I couldn't bask in the glory too long because of this


and then its revision . . .

I'm not sure of which to be most afraid?


Posted by Steph at 4:52 PM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2006

"hidden" in plain view?

Anuj parachuted in just in time to wave at Don before the movie began. (I received the clandestine codes: spongecell and backpack. shhh)

"There's something hidden in the long, static closing shot of Cache—a clue, an answer, a red herring, an epiphany. It's embedded deep, somewhere back in the shadows—or, perhaps, it's right up front, hiding in plain sight. It vastly alters everything that preceded it, demanding a total reevaluation of the film—or it just further complicates this already profoundly inscrutable mystery. It is a conclusion both languidly drawn out and violently abrupt, stunning in its simplicity, infuriating in its opacity."

It kept me tense, that's for sure. Was the entire movie made for one scene? And who made the videos? Why does it matter who made the videos? Majid is dead. Is he dead because of the videos or for another reason? Why now? Re-traumatization after he obviously had managed to make a life for himself? or is the point what hell wreaks itself upon a guilty conscience? Is it better to whet one's soul on the sharp edge of guilt or pass let it pass disinterested into the maw of forgotten memory?

What was hidden, besides a guilty conscience? A possibly illicit attraction? A nation's neglect of an immigrant population?

I wondered about the boy whose house Pierrot winds up at overnight, unannounced. I thought it was him (Francois?) engaged in animated conversation with Pierrot on the school steps in the final scene but apparently it was Majid's son: "The last shot in the film is of his son and the son of Moroccan man who once lived with the protagonist as a child." Did they plot together? A younger generation in cross-ethnic alliance against the deeply-buried sins of their parents?

To cap the undecidable weirdness of the evening, as we walked to the car afterwards, a young man with wild hair and clothing strikingly akin to Pierrot's strolled by in the cool spring-ish night air. We had just been talking about ghosts . . .

Posted by Steph at 11:50 PM | Comments (0)

March 26, 2006

powers of ten

Here's another item I'm sure I've posted before but obviously didn't catalog or code correctly for later retrieval. At any rate, I saw this short video on the powers of ten when I interpreted a science class some years back for upper elementary school students (possibly fifth-graders). I find it a useful metaphor for this notion of social metonymy that I keep trying to articulate as a means of linking the microsocial with the macrosocial and vice-versa.

Posted by Steph at 10:52 AM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2006

"the lane thing"

It's just a minor driving issue. Turning left from the right-hand lane. My current protege is quite casual about it. I'm calmer too, after surviving Korean driving lessons last year, the Romanian version seems like old hat.

We did pass through the infamous Hun Ju intersection. A full vehicle stop occurred in its proper place.

Posted by Steph at 2:38 PM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2006

buck up!

Ruth sends this:

Courage, it would seem, is nothing less than the power to overcome danger, misfortune, fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good; that everything is meaningful even if in a sense beyond our understanding; and that there is always tomorrow. - DOROTHY THOMPSON

Missing from among the other quotes on courage is this one from Amelia Earhart:

"Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace."

Posted by Steph at 5:34 PM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2006

problematic moments (theory)

As James and I have discussed and theorized the role of time in group interaction, I think a PM might come down to the incursion of a diachronic element into the synchronic. As long as the ritual elements of an essentially linear unfoldment of moment-after-moment occurs as expected (familiar) then synchronicity secures enough stability and predictability that one can exercise various forms of control (over self, over an interaction, over a process, perhaps even over an outcome). When the synchronic is disrupted by the diachronic, however, unpredictability and instability emerge, threatening the established order. [I'm not sure "order" here must necessarily invoke power; it could just be regularity, routine.]

Hmmmmm, it could be that diachronic emergences at the individual level are able to be subsumed into 'the routine' - even if they are disruptive to the group - and thus don't constitute a problematic moment at the level of the group's operational constitution. But if there is a synchronicity of diachrony among several members then it becomes a group-level event, which necessarily evokes the power structure and calls it into question?

There might be some equation between the scale of perceived threat and the intensity of backlash....

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

March 20, 2006

"A New Hope"

It's hard to imagine there's a person with any access to media who hasn't seen the original Star Wars movie, Episode IV, A New Hope, released (ohmygosh) in 1977 (six technical Oscars). I saw it in the theatre six times. The only other movie I've seen so many times is Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Its reviews are awful, but the album by The Beatles "is often cited as the most influential rock album of all time," according to Wikipedia.

Those two movies pretty much sum up my 9th grade year in Florida, except for playing soccer (goalie - "you can't be stupid...but perhaps you must be a little crazy"), and personal encounters with pervasive racism. I wish I could say I found respite in someone besides the Bee Gees but...that's not the way it happened. :-/

(Wow, that was a tangent!)

Just-in-Time, in fact, never had seen ANH but somehow managed to enjoy it despite the occasional admonition to visualize the size of the Imperial Cruiser on the big screen and "imagine the sound coming from all around you." Not to mention enduring gasps of glee, outbursts of recognition, and various and sundry triggered tales associated with our first viewings.

We spent the rest of the weekend eating (I think I gained three pounds), and checking out Mei Mei the travel cat, who appears no worse for the wear.

For the record, I was only accused of being inspired by The Force once.

Posted by Steph at 9:32 PM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2006

"with a little help from my friends"

List of things to work on:

1) Get new phone/ repair old phone...SOON
2) Do not read paper sent about a month ago
3) Request current version of paper
4) Plan trip to Columbus
5) Train cat
6) Stay well and happy
7) Learn to cook. Cook for friend
8) Continue being a pain in friend's butt
9) Call friend

Posted by Steph at 4:33 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2006

"blog fodder"

Dan's on to me. "You don't come to bowl, you just come to collect stories for your blog!" Then he went on to set a personal best. He continued by speculating that blogs are the trainspotting of the decade, with someone checking in on how Anuj does every week. (He's been doing better and better! Not only at bowling: check out his latest minute of fame! He's way high on the cool factor too.) Turkish did not repeat her record performance from last week. Alas. LB couldn't hit a spare to save his life but did still win a game or two, much to the dismay of the brothers who felt the need to record one of his lowest scores ever.
Not that there's any rivalry beyond outright sabotage.

This week's variation included speed bowling on two lanes, culminating in Lava's two-handed double bowl. ("Not worth it," he muttered to me and Zeynep, wringing out his left wrist. I was impressed both his balls actually stayed in their respective lanes!) There was some confusion in the rush to manage turns on two lanes, and Anuj killed one of Luscious' strikes getting only "1" before anyone realized it was not his turn! (Then he went on to roll his own strike. hmmmmm.)

Luscious decided it is NOT the second game but the third game that is the best. (For Luscious this week, it was almost "no game" until Come Back Time in the 4th game when he went from a 30 in the 7th frame to nearly 100.)

My blognotes came through unscathed this week, although there were spies and an issue with boogers. There's something quite charming about the individual strike swaggers, as well as the expressions of disdain when all the pins don't fall. Alex put it into words: "It's rare for me to actually hit the spot I'm aiming for but when I do...? I really don't understand this game." The other memorable quote of the evening?

"What if my girlfriend comes and smells beer in my shoe?"

Posted by Steph at 9:08 PM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2006

Zeynep! Zeynep!

Will we have a repeat? Last week's record 153* (frantically tied by LB as he desperately sought to stave off this dark horse competitor) was roundly cheered by all. The regulars were all there (not the full extended crowd), mixing it up on Goth night - shifted from the dance club across the way because of a competing event. I truly thought I'd jumped dimensions when I walked in to the black lights, strobes, and fashion nightmares (and you think I dress poorly?!?): "It is still Tuesday, right?" I confirmed with the staff. A couple of times. :-)

It was a busy night, what with the main event being supplemented with collaborative art night, and the live dj rolling tunes about cats that seriously distracted the boys. There was a dark corner that kept trapping LB (the 7 pin) and Lava (the 10). Anuj got (what I thought was his first) double, and also "got shot", spilling wine on his previously bright white t-shirt. After the art work on it was complete, he was adorned with a lacey bra, a peace symbol, a wine bottle and glass, and a naked woman. (Doesn't he just wish?!)

Luscious says "the second game is the best" - LB hit a 161, if the notes are not mistaken. (There was no attempt at graffiti this week, although "Dinky" a.k.a. Bowler K.A. Master did sign an informed consent form...)

btw - if you missed the birthday boy's night, check out the balloon-sporting gang at Anuj's blog.

*The scores are Luscious 104; Lava 130; Anuj 111; Raz 153; and Zeynep 153!!!!!

Posted by Steph at 8:54 AM | Comments (1)

too good to pass up!


Posted by Steph at 8:52 AM | Comments (2)

March 13, 2006


"People can't distinguish, it seems, between describing dissent and being dissent." Celia Farber, journalist for Harper's, in an article about the link between HIV and AIDS, which she reports is questioned by some.

I've no clue about that debate, but I do know that publicly voicing concerns about possible disagreements is punishable. How to pursue a line of critique without succumbing to personally-directed aggression is the challenge. I've actually managed some humor this time around, trying to enact Burke's comic frame instead of the tragic one. We did it in Stephen's class some time back, when Shannon presented on defamiliarization. In particular I'll repeat the quote on perception; it uses vision as a metaphor:

"Humans, too, are victims of selective blindness. We often fail to see things around us because they are too familiar and seem to convey no new information, or because we are focusing our attention elsewhere. We don't know nearly enough about attention though it's a vital survival function. Visual attention seems to be a pair of processes. The first, the process of focusing on a stimulus or idea, has received a lot of research. The other equally important process involves concurrent decisions about which stimuli to ignore. Let me emphasize that. Visual attention is always partly, and often largely, selective blindness to other stimuli considered to be irrelevant at the moment" (from How a Poet Sees).

I'm being told (in no uncertain terms, mind you) what has fallen outside the range of my vision, beyond the blinders of my focused attention. My actions have been psychologized and my intentions impugned. My own ear has been sculpted over time to certain tunes and pitches, to frequencies that rub (push, pull) in conditioned ways.

It has been suggested that my style of presentation appears "teacherly", as if I am trying to convey something that I know which others don't. Oy. If this is how I've been read (heard, received) no wonder the rejection is so intense. I imagine myself more as an explorer. I suppose this is problematic as well? But one must understand my orientation - I do not think I'm leading, rather I'm one of many on a journey together. I guess I'm not convinced any of us is actually qualified "to lead" this journey, so I'm not willing to submit passively to authority or procedures that strike me as arbitrary or simply conditioned by precedent.

So, I dissent. Not only that, I dissent incorrectly. She can't follow the rules for anything, can she?!! Because my conformity quotient is so low, I have to describe my dissent as dissent, instead of as .... whatever attributions it garners. In my case, does this mean that describing dissent and being dissent are indistinguishable? I name the interpellation. Someday, I might have to work out the distinctions between interpellation (as a function of ideologies) and valence (as a function of group relations). I've equated them before.

Posted by Steph at 9:42 AM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2006

About face! (inversion?)

I mentioned reading Derrida (slowly); his subject is Nietzsche (slower still). "...do we hear, do we understand each other already with another ear?" (1985:35).

Derrida is discussing the inversion of Nietzsche into Naziism, in which "what passes elsewhere for the 'same' utterance says exactly the opposite and corresponds instead to the inverse, to the reactive inversion of the very thing it mimes" (30). He goes on to discuss how language is always "the double of the other", that "the one can always be the other" (32).

So, I wonder, with what "ear" have I been heard by colleagues in the CGSA? If it was the opposite, the double, the other of what I meant, then I'd have to flip the Bahktinian schematic around the other way. In other words, from my peers vantage point, *I* operate as "the centrifugal force" pushing us apart while they reflect back to me the centripetal forces they perceive pulling us together. This might be one reason why translation has been so arduous - coming from different 'centers', as it were?

Also, I think the emphasis on discourse has led me a bit astray. To the extent that discourse (in groups) is my "pet project" (how nice to be known!), it is only a tool. What's coming into clarity for me now (yes, not prior, not before, not on the timeline that would (?) perhaps have been more easily received, sigh) is that "the problem" I've been sensing and trying to address (go ahead, say it, in my regretably fumbling manner) has to do with the relationship between discourse and structure.

The discourse of CGSA, as reflected in its public documents, the supposed "norms" of conduct in meetings, even including interventions with me in private, presuppose that dissent is undesirable. I object! (It is ironic, given my consensus background, that this is where I find myself, now.) Yet, this is my understanding of what democracy entails. "Aha," you say! (Me, too, smile.) There WAS an "agenda"!

If you don't really know me yet, let me explain my "way". I am less deliberate than impulsive (a personality trait or character flaw, depending how one wishes to read it); I have definitely been operating on a democratic assumption which I now recognize may or may not be shared. I want to be part of a democratic process in as close to an ideal sense as possible, which means a process (system, structure) that proactively resists its own entrenchment, its own tendency toward paternalism (e.g., aren't we taking care of everything?) and even fascism (for example, what "mandate"? and when did we all agree that meetings of the CGSA representatives would be confidential?)

(Oh my god did I really write that?!)

Yeah, I did. Shoot me now and get it over with. I want accountability (all ways - from representatives to the rest of us, from the rest of us to the representatives, from all of us to/with each other: this is what I understand as a commitment to collective action). I want democratic mechanisms that a) guarantee unpopular and minority views get a full airing before the whole graduate student body and that b) bind us - explicitly and overtly - to joint action, or at least to conscious and intentional community support of actions taken 'in our name'.

I'm not proposing that these mechanisms be applied rigidly or without exception (necessarily), but I am proposing that they be in place should anyone ever feel the need to use them. I think the four-step procedure outlined by the brainstorming process last December adequately (even simply) covers the basics.

In point of practice, as Joanna stated, the procedure is (almost) what has occurred. Steps 1 and 2 have occurred. What hasn't yet been done is to carry out step 3 (discussion and analysis) and step 4 (majority vote) in regard to a specific instance. A tension (perhaps not the only one, but a biggie) is that I'm asking the CGSA to institutionalize the procedure first, and (at least some people) want to experience it in action/application. It is unclear to me whether or not "going through the motions" will lead to adoption of the procedure, or just reinforce the status quo of dealing with each item independently and informally. I could re-bring the example of the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights if folks want a trial run (I do still think it'd be cool for us to become a signatory), but I'm hesitant as to its efficacy as a more-or-less neutral example (especially since it would set me up to talk more - the horror)!

Perhaps someone else could propose an issue or cause to serve as a test case?

Posted by Steph at 9:32 AM | Comments (5)

March 10, 2006


Note to self: when most confident, be most wary of unrecognized assumptions.

I did think, going into the Communication Graduate Student Association meeting yesterday, that the handouts were practically self-explanatory. I had distributed the first handout the day before in order to jog people's memories of the brainstorming session in December. I covered it very fast (time limit) and moved into the second handout, which I also covered quickly.

I was then pulled under by the discursive currents with the very first comment. I do not remember who spoke, or what was said, except that I was instantly fighting for my life. I felt desperate and appeared as such, speaking with increased volume, intense diction, and sweeping generalizations. My attempt to pull (to bind centripetal forces in a formal procedure) and others' (centrifugal) countering pushes thickened the borderzone where “a group” is constituted. I was sucked deep into the maelstrom.

It took a while for me to re-establish the kind of balance necessary to float, to be relaxed enough to trust that my head was going to stay above water.

I appreciate the advocacy of our Australian buddy (especially when she very diplomatically told me to shut up! - something to the effect of a particular line of inquiry not being very productive). She stayed after the meeting with some others to try and hash out the confusion and did a great job of translating me. After several rounds of back-and-forth, with folks arguing that the procedure I'm advocating is already in place and me insisting that current procedures are not the same as what I'm proposing, Li articulated two assumptions and their temporal juxtaposition. The difference, he said, is at the starting point. I'm beginning from an assumption of cohesiveness (that we all do belong and are always already "members" of an extant group), and others are beginning from an assumption of essential individuality (the independence of the self, the freedom to choose whether or not to belong at any given moment or regarding any particular issue).

These differing assumptions may be (probably are) part of heteroglossic equations of discourse about student governance that require translation into mutually intelligible language.

[I could not have said this yesterday. This is 'new knowledge' cohering in my mind as I reflect on the critical feedback and supportive interpretations presented in conversations with various colleagues during and since the meeting. Some part of these thoughts are also influenced by reading some pages in Derrida's Otobiographies yesterday afternoon and this morning, to wit: "A prejudice: life. Or perhaps not so much life in general, but my life, this 'that I live,' the 'I-live' in the present" (1985:9).]

Phenomenologically, I swim against the current. Somehow, I need to remember that its countervailing force is not necessarily deliberately directed against "me" (or anyone else), but is rather an effect of momentum and historical flow. The confusion voiced by some members of the group was (and may still be) genuine: I was "too abstract". Some resistance was, also, specific and particular: "It's too dangerous to be political in academia right now." "I don't want [the potential of] a majority view imposed upon my minority view."

How do I become more concrete for those who are struggling with the abstractions? I could give another "for instance" that is more tied to where we (graduate students) are right now in terms of negotiations with management about space. We've lost the graduate lounge and the present computer lab. We've been given a different space that has no natural light, no air-conditioning, and no wiring. We've been told the work and materials needed to remedy these deficiences is too expensive. Negotiations with management about these issues continue in "the spirit of cooperation and collaboration."

Why did we give up the present computer lab? I suggest at least one reason we gave it up is because we don't have the collective willpower to be confrontational enough to demand respect in the form of adequate resources. We haven't sought alliances with each other that would protect individuals enough from the risks of "being political" in order to say (hypothetically - let me rush to qualify!!), this department literally could not function without us. Chances are good we wouldn't be on our own (as graduate students only) if faculty knew how unhappy we are. They need us, and I imagine they'd rather have us satisfied than disgruntled!

Posted by Steph at 1:43 PM | Comments (9)

March 4, 2006

#1 Treasure

We celebrated a friend's new job last night. It will be very interesting to watch the future unfold!

Posted by Steph at 11:13 AM | Comments (0)

March 3, 2006

Oh Johnny...

We were again a more subdued group of rapscallions last night at La Guarida, taking in Johnny Cash and June Carter's story via the Oscar-nominated Walk the Line. Did we like it? I'd say the general mood was, 'it was ok', but perhaps that's just my take? Not being familiar with Cash's music, I was introduced to him and his music at the same time. Talk about moody! His affinity with the criminals in Folsom Prison was a bit disconcerting - not because of his recognition of their humanity, but because he seemed to enjoy a vicarious violence through association. Not that he came across as a particularly gentle guy...

La Guarida's head honcho took a significant risk leaving seven of us untended in his lair. No doubt he was relieved to find his easel still standing. Celebration was in the air as someone passed her comps!!!! I wouldn't say anyone was eager to leave afterwards, although when it became common knowledge that the witching hour had been passed there was a concerted effort at departure.

Next week...a comedy?

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March 1, 2006

floating sunshine out his butt

That was the birthday boy, trailing his balloon parrot down the bowling lane. It was an eventful night, with two personal all-time highs: Anuj, spinning 147, and Zeynep with a 122. Lava had a turkey and he and Luscious both had four baggers. Lava actually rolled five strikes in a row (there was a game break) and had an 8 frame streak with 7 strikes and 1 spare. (Ok. I admit it. I was impressed.)

Someone(s) contributed quite actively to this week's notes, editing, drawing, revising, and altering the codes to obscure their originally intended meaning. The uncertainty this inspired occurred simultaneously with the recounting of an earthquake dream resulting in sleepwalking. "We have earthquakes all the time in my country - 'Get out of the house!'" Don's need to publish a paper continues to trump blog-updating. They don't make cup sizes large enough for 9 pounders. (Welcome to my world.)

Bowling continued, per usual. "It's my hair," when things didn't go quite as one planned. "Be humble," when you get a strike (as if!) When trouble begins to loom (not that it would, not with us), "I don't speak the language." There were a few fingerpuppet associations. I was the monkey, in desperate need of advice from the parrot. The elephant whipped our butts in game one but moaned that I'd scored higher than him in later games (not new!) There was the frog that roared, the goose/swan that wanted to be a duck, the panda (or was it polar?) bear, gopher, and lion (chosen for being of the feline persuasion).

The lion was selected by the birthday boy, affectionately known as poonte, who may have been a tad bit overoiled for the evening's serious competition. I mean, come on! Luscious actually catapulted Lava right through the air onto his back! This was after Lava had tossed a 10-lb bowling ball at me and before he nearly knocked the b'day boy over and the two practically wound up in a wrestling match. [Note: bowling is a non-contact sport.]

Any gender confusion at the bowling alley was left there when we moved to the Iron Horse for salsa. I received a number of good lessons and a showing-up by the birthday boy himself in terms of knee-dexterity. I had a serious problem bowling straight tonight, but I was a good foil for dancing. I mean, how much trouble could a guy get into if he was dancing with me?

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February 24, 2006

North Country

This "most important movie for women to see in 2005" was too intense for light banter throughout. Although a few flip comments did float out into the darkened living room at La Guarida, for the most part we were a quiet and attentive audience. Banter was intense before and after . . .

Prior to the screening, Consuela Bananahammock was asked, "Do you want a piece of my bottom?" - apparently because she didn't appreciate the coconut on top of the homemade carrot cake. A late arrival, after getting a synopsis of what had happened so far, thought he'd "seen the end of this before" and was promptly informed how such could not be possible. One of our hosts spent most of the time out of the room on the phone. He did inquire as to the media effect of this particular film at this particular time - is it attempting "to do" something? I almost wondered if there was a subtext: sexual harassment is so DOA? Don't we wish. :-( I speculated about the number of social justice-themed movies up for one kind of Oscar or another. Now, I wonder, this may or may not be a direct effect of the type of movies selected - many of which (so I'm told) are smaller production affairs than the typical Hollywood glitz.

# of rapscallions in attendance? Nine.

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February 22, 2006

no vanity here!

It was some kind of bowling night. Not only did we have to wait forever to get a lane, but only two (2) people broke into triple digits! Well, unless you count Anuj, a.k.a. Robin Hood, who bowled a perfect 100 in his last game.

For some reason, tonight was the night I finally remembered to take the informed consent forms. Since we weren't bowling (!), everyone had plenty of time to dispute my intentions. LB did his level best to dissuade folks from giving permission of any kind...I don't know if the fact that most everyone did sign a form means I have a higher trust factor than he does? ;-)

We did a tandom note-taking process. I like it. I leave my notes out where folks can see and add to them. There was only one addition - in addition to whomever folded the notes into a paper airplane, - an arrow from "Lava" (who loves his King and described his game as "a dog day for bowling") to "asexual reproduction", which was the conversation I had with Alenka (a plant biologist) about parallels concerning the way pollen tubes grow through elongation of one cell rather than cell division. I likened it to the process of a person without a partner seeking to extend their morality into the world.

Meanwhile, Jake the Anarchist refused to sign a form, taking his chances with my interpretation without constraints. Welcome to the real world! It's an on-going puzzle: who's reachable and who isn't, by whom, when, where, and how. [Reprise: Speaking of the real world, I'm teasing my friend about his non-political stance in the world but actually things appear a bit grim in his home country. Me, the naive American, didn't have a clue. :-(]

David of the exotic name (from Spain) is working on environmental engineering concerning water but can't do a dang thing about droughts. He did pick up a strike in his second attempt at bowling ever and I think we need to watch out for him. Then there's "Paul" - who had Big Concerns about his bowling performance but not so many about his pool game. After he whipped me and JIT he decided I could use his real name. Ha! As if! ;-)

We did have a conversation about amperes being just a part of the equation that produces watts. I thought I understood it at the time but I'm not sure it stuck. He also told me Newton and Einstein are actually not in conflict.

Zeynep entered the competition for most frames in the single digits but needs to do better to beat the all-time high of seven. Right after she accused me of beating her "by 100" she threw a strike, although maybe that was becuase she'd just had her arm shortened? "Sara" got the girls going on this - I thought it was a het thing at first, but my arm shortened too with vigorous elbow-rubbing. Then she got the guys involved, but it didn't seem to have quite the same effect.

There was a bit of a concern that I might "go crazy now" that I had official consent from folks. (Shhh, I'm gonna string 'em on a while longer!)

Luscious Larry was not on tonight. It's bound to hit everyone at some point. Juan couldn't integrate the info about the informed consent form but he did arrive long after the melee in which my character was dissected and my aim questioned. "Amy is dangerous?" Juan missed the consultation with advisors and requested a special meeting. In the meantime, LB scored a 144 and then a 162, decimating "the professionals" who he said "can take it." I missed some high fives after a lone strike and caught some flack for waiting on the green, 11 lb. ball. Fine then! That 10 lb orange got me another strike!

I didn't stick with it, but maybe that's something to consider for next week...

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February 19, 2006

for Dad

Feel free to share this link to the "Presidential Warp".

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"Let's Have a Party with The Blues"

This was the encore number at "Remembering Ray," a mixed combo, big band, and solo vocalist who performed at the Academy of Music this afternoon. Cynthia Scott was fun (if a wee bit heterosexist - I sang with the women and the men).

I liked Come Rain or Come Shine, then she followed it with Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying. Romance don't last long, does it?

Fathead was hot. Kinda bold too, announcing that Ms. Scott was not one of the Raelettes who "let Ray." Can you imagine that price of fame? No no no, I never slept with the lecher.

I especially enjoyed the third song played by the Jeff Holmes Big Band. Was it Walkin 'and Talkin'? Then there was the best small group moment: Yoron Isreal refusing to come out the groove after his first drum solo. Radam and Scott checked him out and laughed.

Music : Remembering Ray
Now in its 14th season, The Northampton Arts Council presents the Four Sundays in February Series has become a winter tradition at the Academy of Music Theatre in Northampton. On Sunday, February 19th we will present Remembering Ray, a tribute performance to the late Ray Charles with Ray's sidekick saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman, former Raelette, Cynthia Scott along with the Jeff Holmes Big Band, Radam Schwartz, Yoron Israel and Scott Sasinecki. All seats $10 in advance, $12 at the door, day of show. Sponsored by Smith College. For more information visit www.northamptonartscouncil.org.
Sunday, February 19

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February 17, 2006

goat test

Six Rapscallions gathered again at La Guarida last night to dissect The Constant Gardener. A seventh left before the movie, not wanting to "ruin it" for the rest of us by talking through it. As if! Some of us struggled with the British brogue and the low/muffled sound of much of the dialogue. After the first rewind and debriefing (in which it was determined only 30% of us "caught it" the first time around) we turned on the captioning. Oh my.

There were too many examples (talk about an object for analysis!), but "She adored Tessa" becoming "the goat test" is near the top of the list. Not to mention him being "large of house" instead of "large of heart". I was reminded of the old Deaf School communal activity of watching movies before there was any captioning at all. I'd have loved to have seen some of the reenactments! The kids in the dorm would watch an entire film and then invent the storyline, plot, and dialogue. Apparently, the stories they came up with were always better than the "actual" movie. :-)

Anyway, I personally thought "Gardener" was well done on all the other counts. I'm surprised at the range of like/dislike in the reviews. I was thoroughly corraled (!) when I wanted to explore the blatant racism that is the structural feature which enables taking the movie as "just a movie" - distracted as audiences often are by classic depictions of romance and heroism. "Let's watch a happy movie next time!" I don't mean it as a barb - clearly we all knew and reacted to the grim parts of pharmaceutical company/government collusion. The power of the movie is, I think, how insidiously it both depicts a continuing political economy of profiting through racism and insulates us from it with familiar tropes.

I don't know how "happy" North Country is, we determined that it will be released in time for the next gathering. Meanwhile, can you guess which of our hosts shaved his head? Which one wants to have short curly hair? Which guest displayed handstand talents and almost created a new breakfast nook? Who thinks soap is inadequate to wash dirt off spoons? Who's been banned from eating cake? PS - the alpha male's room was inadvertently on display. And wouldn't you know, there was the exact same Picasso print of Don Quixote that Sam had forever and ever and ever. :-)

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February 15, 2006

two ball bowling

It was an eventful evening, perhaps capped off by the new ricocheting-ball technique invented by the newbie who "got the link [last week] but didn't even check". Alex helped the cause tremendously when she confirmed, "It was kindof rude." [Gasp! The nerve!]

Responses to the blog continue to range from none (with its vast range of possible meanings) through varying degrees of puzzlement to statements of ... well, appreciation is an overstatement, mild enjoyment perhaps. As I've heard, sometimes anyone can read and understand, sometimes the entries are sensible only to those who were at the event, and, as Anuj says: "Sometimes no one knows what's going on!" Rumor has it (btw) that his spin "turned the corner" this week. Such was noted - independently - both by LB and Lava, who said "watch his spoons." I don't really know what that meant, but I watched anyway. He was tied with Lava at 43 in the 4th frame of their first game....

Broughton equated coming out to bowling on the night before her thesis defense with eating raw sea urchin. "That's adventurous enough for me!" She's a "Monkey" according to the Chinese calendar: "clever and skillful to the point of genius, practical and given to detail..." Perfect for the defense!

Just in Time showed up NOT on time, but promises he'll be back and actually bowl next time. uh hmmm. ;-) Max showed up in his cowboy boots drinking beer. Meanwhile Sabina was here for two days worth of work for some study abroad program (for some reason she was shy to give me a link to it...?)

I scored my highest ever - 161! I decided to bowl right-handed from the get-go tonight. LB discounted it, even though he arrived while the score was still up - he "didn't see each frame with [his] own eyes." It's true, actually, that I accidentally bowled in Broughton's 10th frame, and so she bowled for me - getting a strike which I followed with a spare. Wouldn't you know, some minutes later, LB nudged me to look at his score from his first game. He scored 161 too!

Meanwhile, Alenka got directly out of the single digits and even averaged (nearly) ten pins/frame. Not bad! Not bad! John Raymond had the high score last night, with 178. Alex was pleased we didn't have to compete for the correct bowling ball since we were in the same lane, and she was thrilled to have the chance to nudge me about it being my turn. "My turn? Again?" Anuj: "You never finished the second frame!" oops

He also had the nerve to ask me if I'm feeling ok. He was being solicitous - or so I thought. When I confirmed that I actually was "feeling ok", he said, "Then why aren't you bowling better?!?" Uncle Sam would have loved that. :-) He'd also have liked talking with Jake about "the real world."

Finally, two odd bits: "history in the making" (coined among our very own hovering over my notes, and claimed as a competitor for original coinage) and, "It's all about the style, Steph." I'm not sure, but there was a bit of nuance in the tone...rather like, "haven't you gotten it yet?" I still think Cata wins the style contest but notice how I hedged the statement since someone threatened to "sue the blog" if the content wasn't suitably flattering...

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February 14, 2006

Vote for Swati!

There will be a run-off election for secretary-treasurer of the Graduate Employee Organization (roughly, the student union) this week. Read Swati's statement.
(Yes, read her competitor's as well.)

Then vote!

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February 8, 2006

night of the left-handed spin

Somehow, my balls started curving . . . not that it did me much good, a 107 and a stunning 73! I did come back to 137 once I switched to the right...but LB still blew me away by 30 pins. None of the spinmeisters was on, :-(, leaving the hottest competition of the night to Alenka and Renee, who struggled to stay in the single digits for the longest number of frames. Renee's 1 in the first frame held until the 5th, but she didn't break into double digits until the 7th! Amazing. Alenka's streak was a bit shorter - she hit the doubles in her 5th frame.

Qiao scored 70 in her very first game ever, and picked up both a strike and a spare before the night was over. Eli, I mean Steve, started with a high 120 and did the sine curve to 73. Alex kept trying to steal my ball - picking up some strikes of her own when she was successful. Dan was busy showing off the scarf he knitted. I was wondering about making an offer but thought that might be a bit presumptuous...?

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February 4, 2006

La Guarida

I will not reveal the identities of the eight rapscallions who recently gathered at the department's new pseudo-gay couple's lair to view Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Quips and clarifications occurred during the viewing, but the most pungent statement was made after it was over, to the effect of Lay and Skilling being appropriate candidates for capital punishment: "if we've got it, why not use it?"

Let me mention, briefly, that there were two sets of (coded) directions to the lair, which is part open, "come and see my room", and part closed, "guided tours only." A meal for one was, however, generously shared with drooling onlookers. Rumor has it we'll watch Junebug (?) next week.

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February 1, 2006


This is the most appropriate Romanian way to say "Good job!" (It is left to the imagination what a literal translation might mean...) It was some kind of bowling night. Anuj opened with a strike - although this might surprise you if you came in on the 8th frame of game two when he was crowing about his score: "22! Twenty-two!" Luscious Larry got another turkey and even rolled a strike with his left-hand! I think he does deserve honorifics for it, since he's a serious righty. Let me note, however, that I pulled off four (cont 'em, 1, 2, 3, 4!) left-handed strikes tonight. Unfortunately, they didn't help my overall scores too much: at one point I was told, "You're a disgrace to The Final Countdown." This was before LB managed NOT to beat me in the last frame of the last game, even though I'd told him it was his game to lose. We ended up tied, 109-109.

Zeynep started collecting high fives before her turn, leading to apparent improvement, Cesar and Cata played with characteristic understated style, and Claudia pulled off a couple of strikes in her very first games! Luscious Larry thinks, superstitiously, that he bowls best when there's a new woman joining us who has never bowled before. He also said, "Green is out; blue is in." This does not account for the pink ball he was using near the end of the evening.

Burcu also managed a very strong showing, considering she's still recovering from the sledding mishap that is apparently all Don's fault. Or the fault of Don's shoes. Or some other agentless whimsy of the universe.

Luckily Elena was there to make sure I knew when it was my turn. I'm not usually (?) so distractable. Or perhaps I am and last night it registered? :-) Somehow I found conversation more engaging than actually bowling...the topic? Organic chemistry.

Ok, maybe you're not so thrilled about it, but I was fascinated. Did you know they're working on making plastic magnets? Seriously! If they can just get enough molecules stripped down to one electron - a free radical - and get them all spinning in the same direction and somehow combined, these can produce enough force to function as a magnet, attracting substances with it's solo electron spinning in the opposite direction. Such would lead to innovations in all kinds of fields where iron is now used, because plastics are lighter and take up less volume than iron.

Now, you know me and my penchant for social metonymy. I was just imagining all of a person's free radicals spinning harmoniously in the same direction (the state of being at peace with oneself?) and attracting someone else who's free radicals are also spinning harmoniously in the opposite direction. At least more, rather then less, of time spent together. Wouldn't this provide a different basis of attraction than pheromones? (Some are used in pest control.) Perhaps there is a correlation between electron spin and the production of pheromones?

Now, who in their right mind would think a turn at bowling is more important than such romantic speculation?!!

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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. :-)

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January 21, 2006

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.

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January 16, 2006


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. :-/

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January 12, 2006

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.]

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January 7, 2006

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)

January 5, 2006

"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 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)

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)

December 31, 2005


Well. I spent the evening (last night) with my father, who introduced me to his girlfriend and treated us to dinner at Mi Ranchito (it was yummy).

There were a number of reflective moments (!), a fair amount of joking, and basic information sharing. I learned more about the details of the automobile accident last year, that they thought dad's spleen had ruptured and almost took it out, they almost didn't let Shirley in to see him, etc.

It gave us the opportunity to talk about a health care proxy and end-of-life wishes. He wants to be cremated, but I pressed on details prior to that: what about heroic measures to extend your life? "I don't want to be in a vegetative state hooked up to a bunch of tubes." I asked him about that time in critical condition after the wreck...did he ever want it to end or feel it was over? "Oh no." He explained he was vaguely aware of things happening around him, and Shirley confirmed there was evidence he was 'still there'. Dad said at no time did he feel that it was time to go. I asked, so if there's any consciousness then you want to hang in? "Of course."

Dad doesn't seem to be at any imminent risk, he's 74, still gets out into the world just about every day. One has to grab these moments when one can, though, because who knows what might happen and then how do you decide? The legal paperwork is called Advance Directives, and the regulations vary by state.

While we were at dad's place I noticed an audiotape from my childhood, Nilsson's "The Point", which dad let me borrow for the ride back east. I remember listening to it on roadtrips when I was growing up, but don't think I ever understood it. "That is one of the highlights of my life," dad said. "It's a wonderful allegory set to music."

Then he dug up a CD of the Ophelia Ragtime Orchestra. "They're all Norwegian!" It's the first time I'm aware of dad celebrating his roots. He says it's of the same type as "The Point." The song, Sheik of Araby, "says it all."

Can I learn how to add sound?

Posted by Steph at 10:30 AM | Comments (1)

December 30, 2005


Both of them are a trip. Separately and together. Austin took us on the scenic route to Waid's for breakfast that just happened to take us by GameStop where the new release of DOA 4 awaited. :-) I really enjoyed watching him play last night, shifting between female and male characters and winning every single game. He explained a lot to me. Very interesting discourse involved with gaming. I asked Alec last night about whether he felt himself thinking in the ways of the games during his real life. "It doesn't make me violent, if that's what you mean." No, that wasn't where I was going. (Obviously he's aware of that interpretation.) He's articulate and concise: you don't solve problems in real-life like you do in the game. I know. What I meant was, there are parts of the games - especially the commercial elements - that are quite optimistic. They point toward possibilities. Austin acknowledged this: some things are just cool, but part of what makes them cool is that they demonstrate potential.

Alec was playing Conker's Bad Fur Day this morning. There are squirrels and teddies. "The teddies are evil but they're better." What does that mean? "The teddies don't take fall damage. Squirrels do. Squirrels can run fast but I don't care about that cuz I'm a good sniper."

I haven't learned much about Runescape yet. "It's a mythical game. You know what runes are? They're not just used in that game."

I'm having a great time. :-)

Posted by Steph at 2:17 PM | Comments (0)


Jesus Evil Kachina tells me one ought to communicate only that which rises to the top.

I arrived in KC to surprise my nephews and sister-in-law. Dad had a few hours warning. :-) The youngest's eyes just about popped out of his head when I told him who I was. Yes, it's been that long. I'm getting lessons in PSP, Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2 (Alec scored a perfect 100 tonight on Captain Jack), Halo (Gamertag SS4 Shinobi), and Dead or Alive Ultimate (Austin is in the top 100 worldwide).

I'm planning on downloading Full Metal Alchemy once I've finished this trip; got a bit of an explanation from the Jamester as I peered over his shoulder yesterday and was intrigued.

Posted by Steph at 12:02 AM | Comments (0)

December 29, 2005

Consent: A densely-textured life

Little Brother calls during bowling (affection flows back). Blood brother suffers. Parental pathology is passed on. I dream randomly.

SEMP subjected me to the most intensive grilling I’ve yet received over the Informed Consent form for Reflexivity. :-) The beginning point was this “favorite sentence”:

The guidelines used for selecting material have to do with intrasubjectively-perceived salience in the moment,…

The individual words make sense, but what do I mean by stringing them together in this way? Most simply, what I mean is, “I decide”. Yet the consent form puts limits on this power. The different choices people make concerning their own consent establish certain conditions that I commit to operate within – each individual’s decision contributes to a structure of accountability for me. Why do I need to be accountable to others in this way? Why not just rely on my own personal integrity? Because any kind of integrity requires a supporting structure and I’ve had no other. The academic language adds (hypothetically) a precision that seeks to specify the rationale justifying the choices I make.

I’m quizzed about “public” and “private”. “There’s no such thing as privacy,” says Jesus Evil Kachina. Intersubjectivity theorists (whoever these might be, smile) agree: we all mutually co-construct each other through acts of calling (instead of/in addition to "mission", also identity: interpellation). In commonsense terms, one could say we do this through culture (norms, values, etc).

“I don’t know if I want to be a blog! “ A log? A bog? “It sounds like a glob.!” A lob?

Why do I need a “weird computer” representation? Because I’m lonely and ambitious. Who does the representation invite? “Maybe the comments are just computer programs!” Understanding the blog as a representation means part of the selection criteria is the production of my own story – which moments lend themselves to the kind of person I want to be? Which anecdotes establish accountability? “The problem with writing stories is that the rough edges get rounded.” Maybe (just maybe), what I’m doing with this blog that is a wee bit different than other blogs is how hard I try not to round too much. I also deliberately intend to reflect the multiple aspects of my life experiences. I’m most invested in the long-term patterns – which I dearly hope (!) show development (growth, change). Ambition competes with pride. While the selfish ego wishes I could be (or appear) flawless; the trained social scientist grasps for objective description: how I understand life as I/we live it…

There was some tease about how communication majors communicate – or not (!) . . . something about thinking too much. Who? Me?! :-)

Posted by Steph at 12:31 PM | Comments (0)

Spiritual Guidance

You can pick your nose.

You can pick your friends.

But you can’t pick your friend’s nose.

Put that in your blog and smoke it!


Jesus Evil Kachina tested me. Do you want world peace? I do. Are you at peace with yourself? Getting there. The last eight days, yes. Thank you.

While driving, I talked with Shemaya about gut feelings and the trick of learning to distinguish between the “gut” that’s reactive defensiveness and the “gut” that’s intuitive guidance. She explained “the enteric brain” to me (note especially the section on The Third Neurotransmitter: serotonin), which I hadn’t heard about before. We agreed it’s probably connected (somehow) to the biochemical pathways in the mind that channel consciousness.

I actually arrived a bit earlier than announced yesterday evening, so drove past the road to S.E.’s and on toward Wellington. Turned around when I made eye contact with a young Great Horned Owl perched on a road sign. She made eye contact with me again when I returned and slowed down to pull onto the shoulder, then launched herself lazily in front of me, flapping ponderously over to a less exposed branch in a nearby tree. Her gaze pierced me as I continued to watch. After a bit, she moved another ten feet and decidedly looked the other way.

I was reminded of the older owl I watched in the Reserve in Montana the last time I was there . . . the consensus was that poor girl hadn’t caught anything for awhile otherwise why would she be out in the middle of the day? I sat by myself and watched her for a good half-hour that long and lovely midday hike.

Last night, the sighting was just at dusk after a rosy sunset.

Almost finished listening to Prodigal Summer. Deanna offers up this childhood prayer in a moment of astonished gratitude:

Thank you for this day
For all the birds safe in their nests
For whatever this is
For life.

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

December 28, 2005

"It's a grand and glorious morning,

make the most of each and every moment!"

I was awaken by the Dan-ism via walkie-talkie this morning. Jamie was delighted with himself. :-)

Had a mellow evening after my quick drive to see Ruth - realized I was kinda in a hurry. :-) In fact, realized I'm often in a bit of a rush.

No comma. That's what caught my attention. I anticipate where it is I want to be in emotional/relational terms and express it verbally a wee bit prior to its actually being true. I suspect this tendency makes me appear inconsistent (?), and/or even flaky. :-( The worst aspect is that it means I miss the soft pleasures of the moment; the best (I guess?) is that it pulls me toward my own growth.

Posted by Steph at 10:19 AM | Comments (0)

December 27, 2005


Yesterday was wonderful. My being sang. :-) Shall I be chronological?

The conservatory filled me with memories: "Those who dwell...among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life." ~ Rachel Carson. Among the biomes were a pair of blue and gold macaws and some lories. We tasted some fine old Chocolate, and learned quite a bit about the cultivation of cacao (40% produced in South Africa) and production of chocolate. Hershey's Kisses have been around since 1906! Tootsie Rolls were the first chocolate-type candy, 1896 (if I remember correctly). We watched electric trains circle the outside courtyard, admired a bizillion plants (I'm bad with names but one that stuck is the African Mask), and took in some art. Joyce Tenneson has some amazing photographs of flowers, doctored to appear suspended in black, velvety space. She's an author as well.

After the Conservatory we made a quick stop in the North Market then came back to hang out and chill. I'm reading The Sands of Time. When the BM gave it to me last year she said it was about the mystery of cats. I'm enjoying it. :-)

We intended to see Harry Potter but it was sold out, instead we watched Memoirs of a Geisha. I enjoyed it alright, but it's overcrafted. It's effective in drawing one into the bleak competition of a life that seems enviable and carries heavy emotional costs. But then, I wonder, what life doesn't? :-/

Afterwards, we checked out Blazer's Pub for a taste of a classic lesbian bar. Had a nice chat with Blazer herself, met Earl (who fished the cue ball out for us once), and suffered (!) two games of pool. Ila said she knew the rules. sigh Not that I've got any kind of consistency to make the rules matter so much. ;-) We then ducked into the Ugly Tuna Saloona for late night french fries because how could I know about such a funky-named place and not check it out?! I kept a couple of the logo-printed plastic cups as souvenirs.

Soon - Indianapolis. Just a short drive today.

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

December 24, 2005


Shemaya sends genealogical information on a potential ancestor, Rockwell Kent (he's not). She marked a few passages in "The Voyaging life...", an article in the Jan/Feb issue of Ocean Navigator.

He engaged in vociferous political discourse in bars everywhere, often getting into fights; he was even tossed out of Newfoundland in 1915 - forcibly escorted to a ship by a government agent.

"Within an hour of the thought that I must go I had secured a clerk's berth on a freighter sailing for the farthest spot on the wild, far southern end of South America, of all lands that one hears or reads of, the most afflicted and desolate."

...Kent considered every adventure a success if it combined enough elements of disaster, companionship and physical exertions.

You don't think she was making any inferences about me, do you?

I leave in mere hours...

Posted by Steph at 10:32 AM | Comments (0)

December 23, 2005

making momo's

We made momo's at Lava's for hours last night, sipping beverages and chatting up a storm. P.D. and I talked blogging, who does one write about, how? He knew of some scene in NY where people would attend parties and then check each other's blogs the next day to see what had been written. I would enjoy something like that ... but why? I've been thinking about a comment someone recently made to the effect that being written about feels dehumanizing. I can imagine that. :-(

Sometimes when I'm writing I think of myself as a collector. Collecting experience, memories, connections. I like the idea of being a node through whom others can also maintain connection. It's not clear that many people consider reflexivity as a blog in this way, but it has always been my dream that what gets generated here becomes a kind of a 'community resource'. In the past couple of weeks, another reason for the way I blog has clarified itself for me: as social infrastructure.

Writing on the blog makes me visible and accountable to others, and, to the extent folks let me know they read, it anchors me in a way I need. Most people (should I say, most normal people?!) get their anchoring (social/emotional support) from family and friends. I do too, and - segregation by context or purview somehow isn't enough. I desire more continuity. Hence, this construction project. :-)

Meanwhile, I had Too Much Fun last night and had to bolt out so I could crash in bed. I accidentally 'crashed' a couple trash cans en route. oops No comments! I woke up the wee-est bit woozy and have moved slowly all day. Nonetheless, everything that needed to get done got done and I'm thrilled to have been able to end the semester on such a high note with wonderful, warm, funny, and musical people. Imagine!

Posted by Steph at 5:36 PM | Comments (0)

December 21, 2005

Little Brother Roars

Bring a camcorder ("The blog isn't enough?!) and Little Brother is unleashed! 181. Not quite a record; shy 6 pins from his all time high. "If not for those first two frames..."

I set just about an all time low, although I got a 'perfect' 100 in Game 2. Niru, by the way, had the magic touch on the slowest strikes I've ever seen. Zeynep beat me by 7.... then there were the usual erratic shenanigans from the spin dudes. No turkeys last night. :-(

Posted by Steph at 6:24 AM | Comments (0)

December 18, 2005


Well, I have had fun the last couple of nights. Only got a wee bit confused when I called Broughton last night but dialed Cris instead... I did NOT have a hangover from those CAIPIRINHAS with the real CACHAÇA from Friday night's bash to celebrate Cris' acceptance into the Translation program. Nonetheless, it DID take about two minutes before I realized who I was talking with and why the conversation wasn't going the way I expected! Prior to going there I had dinner with some interpreters and Deaf friends I haven't seen in ages. That was cool. And last night I danced and chatted for hours with many of the bowling crew in an extended celebration of Anuj's birthday (I think he's going for a record...?)

The highlight, of course, was when I was dancing between two hot young Nepalese men. I won't tell you which one of them thinks I'm in my 60s. :-)

Posted by Steph at 11:25 AM | Comments (0)

December 15, 2005


Dissertation ingredients assembled, are they to taste? Frosting comes last, and some day, a cake!

Posted by Steph at 4:47 PM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2005

birthdays and bowling

Anuj's 29th (!!) birthday dinner was fine until someone mentioned my birth in the 1940s. Actually, it remained delightful, espeically since we got to taste Romanian hospitality! And it was just as well someone's mom didn't speak English, as the spermatozoa comment just was not understood. (It would have been way too complicated to explain the semantic merger of "sinus" and its Nepalese counterpart.)

I received several directions regarding blogposts about bowling. They're a challenge to prioritize...there was DemonDon's sprint from the bar to a seated position at the foul line (resulting in a strike!), Lava's attempt to take out the competition by breaking Zeynep's hand after she scored a spare (and this after he let a backward throw nearly take out several people's toes), Chris' body english, and Little Brother's one point loss to yours truly again.

Cata (the Aafriday) graced us with his presence, impressing Luscious with his style. Maja returned and was def in the running all along. In the second game (Lane 9) everyone had at least one strike! The Lane 10 folk seemed to struggle a bit more, although Jed has a firey fastball and Zeynep got a strike in the 10th frame, Dan ruled with 56 pins and Niall (?) wowed folks with her precision shots.

Anuj was proud to claim, "My highest score is higher than Lava's lowest!" Not bad for the birthday boy (he shared well, too). Meanwhile, with complete ease Lava spun out an impressive 189, putting to shame my doubt that he'd once gotten close to a 200 game. (We won't say anything about the 96 (shhhh!) he got in the next game....) Luscious finally got warmed up and roared through the third game with 182. Not his high, but beat the 165 he'd set as a target! (Btw, he finished his MBA yesterday, just in case you didn't know.) The other competing 'holiday' was Cosette's birthday - just a day or two ago?

Sideline conversations included road trips and religious expressions.

I did not do left-handed bowling and it's hard to know whether that was a boon or a bane, since I've been bowling leftie for Game 1 for weeks and weeks. I did reach 134 in my second game, but there's pressure for me to start to spin. I dunno....impressive as it is to watch these guys, you know when I win with a mere 113 that they're really really off their game!

Posted by Steph at 1:13 AM | Comments (2)

December 10, 2005

the extrovert appears!

and disappears after a few short hours of active socializing - but hey! This part of me has been scarce in recent years, so who's complaining?

but the introvert has definitely 'won out' because I just accidentally lost a lengthy blogpost about language, humor, crossing lines (ref. George Carlin), and interpreting/translating. I'd summarized much of the wisdom Arturo shared with me tonight, including the statement that to decouple the economic system and its coded language from 'the rest' (cultural systems?) one must be crude: as crude, he said, as people will take and still accept it/you.

I continue to experience acting on the basis of intuition (rather than calculation), and worry (not always, but when I do its after the fact) that my judgment still needs honing. A friend admonished me last week not to make things so hard on/for myself and within days, what do I do? Cross a line. Make things hard(er). Yet, accompanying the spurt of uncontainment is a rush of energy and engagement, not to mention a good laugh at its sheer incongruity. :-) The critique still weighs on me however: do I seek to instigate something that's "not there" or is there an intuitive basis/justification (?) that condones acting out in order to bring into view something "there" but denied?

At any rate, Elizabeth's party was great fun and I enjoyed the company tremendously. Maria especially - she kept reminding me how unspecial I am. :-) Arturo, being humbly brilliant. Duncan, another modest guy. (I could take lessons, eh?!) Baris (sp?) and Deniz - more contacts for a possible life trajectory that sometimes appears and hovers in the mists of potentiality before my consciousness, and Ashley, a great conversationalist. :-) And that fondue! Yum!

Posted by Steph at 11:28 PM | Comments (0)

December 7, 2005


Zeynep gets rowdy! She collected signatures to verify her score last night. Just think, if we double it, she almost beats Luscious! He only had one turkey last night. :-( But Anuj - the lucky guy - also broke the 110 point barrier, and Para-don? Well, the paradigmatic gringo is maintaining low standards in order to receive the adulation of stunned co-bowlers when he gets a strike. Lava's hard work and massive amounts of activity are getting to him... it's been awhile since his record-setting game of ... months ago? I'm still not sure it really happened... little brother got warmed up by the second game - 158, not too bad!

There were more newcomers, Joe, Magda... and the alley was absolutely packed. Busier than any other time I've been there.

Posted by Steph at 10:37 AM | Comments (2)

December 5, 2005

"Can we strike?"

It was intended as a joke, but ... we wouldn't be the only ones. NYU grad students have been on strike since November 9. That's some serious collective action.

Posted by Steph at 12:13 AM | Comments (0)

December 2, 2005

Communication in Crisis

The conference that will be hosted by graduate students of the UMass Communication Department is going to be awesome. :-) The info and CFP are extraordinarily well-prepared and the confidence and conviction of the planners compelling. Everyone should come. Submit, if you've got something relevant and plan to come no matter what, because this is gonna be one of those you'll wish you were at once it's over...

Posted by Steph at 6:48 PM | Comments (0)

November 30, 2005

a turkey!

Luscious went out with a turkey in the 10th frame last night (but I still won).


They were on their 4th game, and I on my second. I think it's a good strategy as my measly 125 isn't anywhere in the range of our budding pros. Linus, meanwhile, took down a few strikes in only his second attempt. Impressive!

Posted by Steph at 10:30 AM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2005

it figures!

the night I miss bowling Luscious sets a record! (Someone else did really well one day when I was gone and I don't think it's been repeated since. Are we talking bad omen or what?!)

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

November 20, 2005

what a spread!

If you missed the UMass Communication Department soiree at NCA, you missed some good chow! Dr. Westoutdid herself. (I know I'll be coming back for more next year, and the one after, and the next...!)

There were loads of job applicants, some potential grad applicants, and a decent number of current and former students. It was nice to meet Nessem in person, after seeing his name pop up on the department listserv once in awhile. There were students there from every current cohort, I think, and several of the cohorts ahead of 'mine' (2001).

Personally, I got to at least say hi, if not more, to Saila, Melissa, Michelle, Carmen, Viera, Jon, George (Zixu), Han, Haijing, Joanna, Lori, Razvan, Denise, Jung Yup, Niall, David, Elena, and Liliya.

Nessem, Ekra, and other previous grads where there too...along with a fair number of faculty: Michael, Carolyn, Leda, Lisa, Emily, Jarice, and Donal.

If I forgot ya, lemme know. :-O For the juicy stuff ...

come on! You had to BE there!!! ;-)

Posted by Steph at 7:10 PM | Comments (2)

November 14, 2005

Sargam: a good time for a good cause

VSEI (Volunteers for Service to Education in India), Amherst Chapter, has organized “Sargam”, an evening of Indian Classical Music and Dance on 20th November 2005 at the UMass Amherst Campus Center Auditorium. Artists from the Western Massachusetts area, including students and faculty from the 5 Colleges, will showcase various Indian Classical performances.

The event is a fundraiser to help support education related projects in India. A part of the proceeds from this event will also be forwarded to support earthquake relief efforts in India and Pakistan. More info: the artists and logistics.

Posted by Steph at 1:27 AM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2005


There might have been more than usual at the lesbian potluck last night ... I know potlucks have been around forever and used by all kinds of groups, but I learned of them only through lesbian community, so you'll forgive me if I characterize the event according to 'my culture', eh? :-) Let's see, there was the unfortunate, nonattendee who still does not know that they were once gypped out of a chocolate drop dessert ... some critique of faculty (gasp!) and department politics (horrors!) ... and a few compliments (reserved mostly for esteemed colleagues).

I'm making pretty good progress with "the weblog hustle" - everyone keeps signing those consent forms (with varying degrees of permission), except for the dude from English and someone's significant other. What do I make of it when people just opt out by refusing even to sign the dang thing? I think it's an indeterminate zone (such as I've been operating in all along) and leaves me completely at my own discretion (since one of the options is never authorizing me to post under any conditions). No ban sets me loose, don'tcha think? ;-)

Much of the time we talked about our students.

Almost all of us are TA's, either now or historically. "TV face" continues to curse most of us. Is there a mind operating behind that blank expression? Will it come out to play or remain carefully shielded behind silence and non-active engagement?

Then there was some sharing of worst student writing. Was it lesbians as the leopards of the feminist movement (fondly recalled by Consuela Bananahammock)? And sheer pornography (turning Andrea's stomach) - even I (the sometimes too open one) know the limits of TMI regarding sexual details! We did debate some grammatical rules as well: when is it "its" and when "it's", and do you or do you not include an apostrophe when referring to a decade? There was only a wee little bit of academic competitiveness: "I looked up in the APA!" It was also decreed that writing our own reference letters, while weird, might not be such a bad thing. (shhh!)

Consuela promises a performance of Shoop Shoop if we arrange a karaoke night ... maybe we can do dinner one night and then go out? The potluck feast was awesome: spicy chicken (my personal favorite), lasagna, pasta salad, spinach & tofu (also a favorite), russian salad (yum!), and those chocolate drops and fudge... we had an offer for an Egyptian meal (!), although rumor has it Indian might be up for December (Koushik - the pressures on for you to deliver!) ... and there's progress being made on Russian for January (one of last year's more rowdy evenings - names were omitted that time to protect the guilty).

Yasser came under a bit of fire. We learned his blog only got one hit in 30 days, and that he just completed one of his ... six, was it? (!) incompletes. Maybe we could start a betting pool on when (whether?) he'll get them all done? Yep, Sirisha noted that some of Yasser's plans haven't quite gone the way he would have liked . . .

Jed and Erin had a lengthy academic discussion about the first instance and last instance.

"I am more inclined to accept what Stuart Hall called "Economy in the first instance" (in contradistiction with Althusser's "economy in the last instance"). Economy has the most concrete, immediate presence for our experience of social totality and our political praxis, but in the end we need to grasp the political, cultural, sexual and other spheres of experience that continuously constitute the realm of economy. Ostenle himself recognizes that sense of totality in his emphasis on a large range of political and cultural phenomena." Manjur Karim, interrogating Charles A. Ostenle's article "Manifesto for Praxis Societies and for a Global Democratic and Socialist Political Economy.

Now, I'm not in the Sut Jhally seminar on cultural studies, and only overheard a bit of the debate, but I think I heard that "the first instance is the same as last instance" - is that right? I imagine a hermeneutic circle, Hall beginning in a temporally forward looking fashion (the "first" leading to everything else) and Althusser facing temporally 'backward' from what comes out in the end. As always when I spout out my immediate attempt at sense-making I hope someone will correct, contradict, modify or otherwise provide some feedback. Meanwhile, a primer on The Need for Cultural Studies: Resisting Intellectuals and Oppositional Public Spheres

And, some random things I came across searching for definitions of first and last instance that I didn't want to lose:

Television Studies
The Narrative Construction of Reality, an interview with Stuart Hall.
Subcultures: The Queer Dance Mix

btw - no one seems clear on what the heck "resource economics" is, although we batted that one about for awhile too. It seems to come down to a more specialized focus on the environment, but even this was disputed...

David & Nora came to share the burden (not!) of holding the little one. Pyro arrived ten minutes after everyone else had left (!) and we shared some leftovers and a solid half-hour of good talk. Elsa and I got caught up on summer news - great that all's well on her family and phd front. Not to mention the miraculousness of how my european travels went and are coming together academically these days. Jaspur was the star attention seeker, setting off a lengthy discussion of the merits of dogs vs cats. I heard only one strong preference for dogs; cats were the winners, overall. Peter and I definitely bonded around this! (For a young pup, though, everyone agreed Jasper is awfully good.)

Finally - although this hardly captures the entirety of talk and laughter - there were some movie reviews. Christopher Strong is highly recommended, along with Bride of Frankenstein. Orson Welles has been judged "an insufferable bastard," but the movie, RKO 281 is apparently still well worth viewing.

Quiz: Who was accused of "still living in the 1930s" because of not liking capitalism?

Posted by Steph at 12:24 PM | Comments (1)

November 9, 2005


Disproving rumors that I might disappear after having dinner (compliments to the chef!) in the inner sanctum of Chi Omega, please note that I escaped intact! Really, there was no threat, only me facing a wee bit of my own historical (as in, when I was in college, back in the day) "outsidership". Actually, some of my stereotypes were dispelled...I was impressed by the young women I met tonight, who were ambitious and friendly. :-) Elaine and several other students were honored for thier academic accomplishments. We spoke of many things, including class (!), foreign travel, television (I think the chef's tv reviews are publishable, and you almost convinced me to watch Nip/Tuck, which they argued actually works to convince viewers NOT to go in for plastic surgery), and work.

I'm really glad I was able to be there. :-)

Posted by Steph at 10:51 PM | Comments (0)

November 6, 2005

the twilight zone

Oh yes, I spent time in another dimension today. First, there was the "arrival" which extended 45 minutes from bus station to doorstep. Then there was chat, coffee, a lost wallet. Calls to the library. The police. Aha! The wallet, there all along! ;-) A car-cleaning. A meandering drive to the Asian Market for lunch. Pre-determined safety zone for clearance through airport security checks - 1:30. After consultation with the map (yikes!), discussion of at least three alternative routes, the addition of a navigator, and an anecdote about getting lost in Boston (I'm calm!): at 1:52, we pull out of the parking spot into a stall zone behind a driver camped out waiting for ... something. My blood pressure to burst a geyser? Nah, I wasn't really stressed, but was it good for conversation or what?!!! Which way are we going? Where are we? Did we miss the airport sign?

I lost a sweet pair of needlenose pliers through security. Plumb forgot I had 'em in the backpack. Had my eye on a "hard hat area" construction sign but couldn't bring myself to the actual act of theft. Could have mailed them to myself for $8 - probably less than it will cost to replace them? - but would have had to exit and re-enter through security all over again . . . such are the trials of travel. According to my good buddy, airline travel ought always be accompanied by the stress they'll taxi down the runway without ya. Memory flash: Took on the tarmac!

Posted by Steph at 2:59 PM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2005

107 left; 144 right

This ambidextrous thing is working to my favor. Marcello did beat me the first game, and I haven't topped my highest score ever yet, but I suspect there really is some neurophysical rewiring taking place. Revan and Christiano did the random thing, and LB tied his first game (instead of losing by a pin). Luscious rolled three strikes in a row! I wasn't a witness though, so I'm not sure it counts. Kinda like Lava's (purported) 198 game the week I missed...

Of course there's no serious competition that takes place here, unless it's between my fetishization of The President and the performance of the game itself.

Posted by Steph at 10:15 PM | Comments (0)

doing friends

Went to a presentation by homeboy, then had dinner with "homegirl" last night. Both were awesome (and duly labeled by the Little Bro).

Posted by Steph at 5:54 AM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2005

emergency preparedness

These attached documents for emergency planning were sent out by Eric to the social justice listserv. The authors, Nell Myhand and Daphne Muse specifically address disenfranchised communities. Nell discusses her involvement in y2k prevention planning, which was also my entre into the entire combined civic/governmental field of emergency planning. There are extensive and impressive plans in place that will inevitably be woefully inadequate should disaster strike. Some of the lapses will be institutional for various reasons, and others will be personal as individuals fail to cope with intersubjective, relational, and interactional challenges. Regardless of how lucky or privileged you've been, preparedness is something that behooves us all.

Posted by Steph at 8:24 PM | Comments (0)

alfred schutz

Is this philosopher the same guy I've read about in group relations theory? If so, seems like it was quite an offshoot, although some of his work indicates a lean in that direction. For instance, "The Well-Informed Citizen", which is about knowledge as a function of practical experience, and other papers on issues of social justice, such as "Equality and the Meaning Structure of the Social World".

I'll have to do some hunting... I may be confusing him with William C. or some other Schutz. Here's a lead on group development theorizing from 2001.

Posted by Steph at 5:40 PM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2005

"the cool people"

The Moan and Dove provided a suitable backdrop for a gathering of CommGrads to kvetch and celebrate. Whether or not curriculum needs more structure, and musings about the spring conference ... who will submit proposals? Who might agree to invest labor?

There was also random gossip about someone sleeping with a band, orienting to who's in which cohort, anecdotes about teaching, comparison of living situations, and various tastings: wheat wine, stone arrogant bastard, pabst (how anyone could drink in pabst in a beer hall with a couple dozen other choices is beyond me!), water (yes, we have diversity!), among others. Mostly, there was a lot of laughter. Who else but grad students could juxtapose baby pig races with the carnivalesque?

Posted by Steph at 7:03 AM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2005

bowling (yes), salsa (no)

Simply could not hang in there for salsa after we closed the bowling alley Tuesday. Improved my left-handed game despite hitting the gutter five times in a row (there was speculation I was distracted by Geena).

My right-handed game improved too, as I tied my highest score ever, beating Little Brother by one whole pin! :-) He smoked me in the last game though (did someone say, "motivation"?)

Posted by Steph at 6:25 AM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2005

Audio Activism blog plus

Todd can't get his own info (!) posted to the new Comm Grad website (which is fantabulous), but he did send info on this excellent source for Metadata about Media Activism.

Posted by Steph at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2005

guilt by association

David, Nora, and Anna arrived first. It was perfect timing for me as I got to hold the wee one for a looooong time. I can hardly wait until she's old enough to explain the Egyptian hieroglyphs on my housewarming present. :-) There was some concern about the chewable toy I found for her, but she did no damage. Hunju (!) took care of that later, "confessing" her "crime" after the last five guests rose in unison to leave. That was quite a visual moment - such orchestration! Perhaps Sreela cued them from behind me?

There were two newcomers, a new commgrad and a woman who came with Apoorva (my salsa teacher). Hunju wanted to attach her to me, which got us talking about how hard it is to be single in graduate school when all the intellectualism heightens the stakes so much. :-/ Some of my best conversations were over the grill, although Anuj left in disgust a few times when he realized "you're talking about business!" During one exchange, Little Brother was outdone by Anuj's display of "superior humility" - quite an accomplishment if you ask me. :-)

B.E. spent her time indoors, "being public" while I was "being private," according to the girlfriend. Is that a role reversal or what?!

I was complimented both for my "in with the weather gods", as several days of nonstop rain cleared up just hours before the party. My special American Grill burgers were a hit, although I didn't have enough of them (note for next year).

There was the added burden of the new Informed Consent form relating to my postings here in Reflexivity. I'll write more about that whole process separately. For now, Elizabeth summed it up when we were talking about life in general and she mentioned reading the blog even though sometimes she doesn't know what the heck I'm writing about (a critique, btw, which is not uncommon). I said, "That's one for the blog!" And she said, "NOW I understand the Informed Consent!"

I really like my friends, in case you didn't notice. :-) Even those who came up with outlandish excuses not to come (such as the Governor closing major roads due to flooding), or simply finding out too late to avoid conflicts. Speaking of other events, Comm Grad Olga Gershenson, now a professor of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies here at UMass, will have a booksigning on November 20, at Food for Thought Books in Amherst for her new book on Gesher, a Russian-Israeli form of public theatre.

Posted by Steph at 9:30 AM | Comments (0)

October 12, 2005

A pumpkin at 5 months

Carmen 5 mo.jpg

Posted by Steph at 8:43 AM | Comments (0)

October 11, 2005

left-handed bowling

Luscious said I won if I got more than 50, then he decided I got second place. I didn't do too badly with the ambidextrous attempt! Someone, however, did not live up to the rumors of a near 200 pin game last week, but it's possible my presence is a jinx. At least he beat my best score ever! Don worked on physics in between turns, while most everyone else just cheered each other on. There was an exciting moment when 4 strikes went down with 4 successive folk, the next roll was a 9 that toppled but wouldn't go down. *sigh*

I learned the rationale for the odd lanes. It's psychological. I should have guessed! Btw, that lucky guy from a few weeks ago? He's getting better. :-)

and then there was salsa at the Iron Horse. Not a bad night, eh?

Posted by Steph at 11:49 PM | Comments (0)

October 10, 2005

Communication in Crisis

A very fitting title and theme for the upcoming conference hosted by graduate students in the Communication Department here at UMass.

Posted by Steph at 8:36 AM | Comments (2)

October 9, 2005

The Collaboration Cafe

I read two different accounts of "Intersubjectivity in an organic pub", In Johnnie's (the first one), there was a link to the second one, David's, which led me to The Collaboratino Cafe.

Posted by Steph at 8:56 PM | Comments (0)

October 2, 2005

new addition

Yesterday, Todd added #2, Annabelle Claire, to go along with #1, Sam.

annabelle claire.jpg

Posted by Steph at 3:46 PM | Comments (0)

September 28, 2005

"The Five" (Lane 17)

Wobble Man is probably out for the count - and just when he discovered the 15 pounder! Ah well, some things are more important. :-) I'll miss his interpretations of the control panel (as he poised over the "foul" button for anyone with particularly smelly shoes).

"The spin is strong in this one" had a few lucky strikes and - via persistence - is no doubt gonna be competing with the Spin Doctor soon enough. The Doctor had three doubles last night!! Impressive.

Someone was mooning all evening, distracted. WHAT a surprise he got at the end of the day. His first game was hot then he faded throughout the rest. Dang emotions - my turn last week, his this week. Who will be next?

Supposedly there's a lot of bowling in The Big Lebowsky - which was previously recommended to me.

Posted by Steph at 6:41 AM | Comments (2)

September 24, 2005

the M & M trail

is on the horizon.... after reaching the peak of Mt. Bare from Taylor Notch at a much slower pace than last fall (!) and taking in the sights, we decided to forge on to the overlook at Mt. Hitchcock - pressing into new territory and expanding all of our horizons. It was a perfect day for hiking; we spent as much time lounging in the sun as actually moving.

I also had some memories of being there being there from over a year ago, on the Summer Solstice.

I learned several things today, but mostly I just enjoyed relaxing, being quiet, taking in the views and smells, and talking about whatever came up.
We saw a Downy Woodpecker on the way down; a real treat for me since I haven't seen one since Dummerston. It also provided the impetus to learn a lyric that women farmworkers used to sing in a certain Asian country.

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Friday night

Billed by B.E. as a movie that will "rip your guts out but in a good way," I have to say that Crash left me disturbed and unsettled. It certainly didn't qualify as the previously requested light, non-gutwrenching drama, but then, B.E. wasn't privy to all the nuances of the movie negotiation.

The flick filosopher says:

"How the world can possibly be such a mess, such a complicated human disaster, and yet one film can clearly and simply cut through all the bullshit to lay bare the foundations of the mess is startling and mysterious to me, but that is the cinematic sorcery at the heart of Crash: it holds up a mirror to reality that is so incisive and so harshly honest that, at moments, it sears right through you..."

The South African port and Bart's chocolate ice cream were necessary accompaniments.

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September 20, 2005

a wee bit o impatience

but I'm still optimistic the students in intro to mass comm are gonna be jazzed as we continue. It's hard work devising a strategy for learning when "the lesson" isn't laid out on a platter; but we're gonna pull it off. Flashes of brilliance abound, from all quarters. :-)

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September 19, 2005

Driving lessons

I'm teaching a friend how to drive. He keeps teasing me about the friend I tried to teach last year (who stopped taking lessons after I attempted to teach her to look at the blind spots through physical manipulation). Another friends shares her inspiring "learning to drive" story:

"I hit a house on my last driving school lesson. I don't know if I ever mentioned that. Drove across the yellow line, jumped the curb, shot across the sidewalk, swerved around an oak tree, smashed through some hedges, drove over a kiddie pool (thank God no kids were in it) and crashed into the corner of a house before coming to a complete stop. That was pretty exciting, especially when the cops and the fire department and the tow truck and the president of the driving school showed up."

My buddy only tried to take out a gas station yesterday. No biggie.

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September 10, 2005

moved by energy

The woman writing this storm blog explains: "The way I post, is also the way I show up in the world - I just go where my energy moves me."


Got myself going as busy as I've ever been, but been thinking lots about blogging in and about the community I interact with just about every day. We're all being watched, all the time. Seems I say more about that than many, or at least, do it more publicly than most. To what end? This was the challenge I was presented with during the first get-together of the year this past Tuesday night.

I don't know. Certainly I have some ideals regarding how we could interact, but I'm not sure how to operationalize them nor what it would be like if we did.

I also have some criticisms, mostly of the silences - how we don't talk about latent racism or warped ways competition plays out. These are kept unspoken on the basis of socially-constructed agreements which (I argue) develop first as coping mechanisms and then become habitualized such that bringing them up is construed as violation.

The challenge, though, was (I think) about the risks of upsetting the fragile balance of agreements that keep the department feeling more collegial, friendly, and supportive for most members of it. That there might be value in this as an achievement which I have underestimated. I concede the point. :-/

And - the costs for those who feel the sting of the silences are still awfully high.

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August 28, 2005

one of my artsy friends

has taken up the viol da gamba. I'm trying not to be jealous. Not that I could play (!), but that I could engage in such pure entertainment! I do squeeze some in, occasionally, really! Honest I do! ;-)

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August 23, 2005


Shemaya reminded me today of an incident from way back - a decade or more ago (probably more). It was a gathering at Mary Frances' place on the lake in Pelham. I was distressed about some situation or other. A woman who hadn't met me before observed my trying to deal with the emotions: "You look like Spock."

Upon relaying this story to Raz and another bud (who totally cracked up), Raz quipped that "ten years later you became Worf." From Vulcanism to Klingonism, now that's something! Raz has seen me rage a few times. His observation of me today was that I'm "quieter." Is this indicative of a real change or merely jetlag? We'll find out. Can anyone who's known me imagine me as "soft-spoken"? :-)

I kinda like the notion myself.

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August 14, 2005

harry potter and disableism

museumfreak posted the link to this awesome discussion of potential isms in Rowling's series. I haven't read the recent one yet, and a few hints are given that one may not wish to know in advance, but the discussion is instructive, to say the least.

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August 9, 2005


Homer's 32 Ways to Say "doh". Turn on the audio!

"Der", however, is not in the online Homer lexicon. Does he really say it?

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August 7, 2005

baby wars!

Rocio writes:

"You can use my name in your blog, if you want to, no problem. As for the entries about Carmen, two things: First, she is the CUTEST baby ever, no exception. Not because it is my daughter, it is completely objective :-) The second thing is you got the spelling of "chupete" wrong: "chupeta" is the portuguese word, and your link is to a web page in Portuguese describing all the bad effects of using a "chupeta" too long. I didn't know that "chupeta" was "chupete" in Portuguese, I learned something."

Links added by moi. Notice the dangers of posting links in languages I don't know! %-/

There are other babies I have at least marginal contact with:

Anna, whose not-so-shy papa has posted just a few photos online.

Sam, the Gangsta (soon to be joined by a baby sister, rumor has it?!!), and Leona.

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July 19, 2005

Baby Development

Carmen is ten weeks old. She's cute of course (not quite as cute as my very own buggle but that's nothing against her, smile), and its amazing to witness the developmental stage. She's responsive to sound and touch and smiles (although if I laugh hard she wonders if she should be afraid!), isn't quite sure her hands are actually attached to her own body, and spends most of her time sleeping, eating, or just looking around and wiggling. It's nice to be around her and hanging out in Quedlinburg with her mom being mellow while her dad (in-laws, or outlaws as the case may be!) is away at a conference.

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July 14, 2005

inside the RID business meeting

If you didn't attend the business meeting yesterday you missed:

covert communication typed into the meeting from the computer operator;
Mount Rushmore (four past RID Presidents);
regional and state rivalries;
a challenge to beat the Europeans in donations to WASLI, through RID's "A Day's Pay" program;
and customized (albiet unscripted) martini and fan service.

Perhaps other organizations have as much fun and intercollegiality as we do; but I'm not sure!

There was some drama concerning the now-delayed position paper (Standard Practice Paper) on Video Relay Interpreting and Video Relay Service.

Some of the concerns put forth by those opposed to putting out a position paper now seemed legitimate to me, however the Video Interpreting Committee had thought they responded to these concerns adequately by providing for an on-going updating process (the first in Standard Practice Paper (SPP) history). The committee was outmaneuvered in the Robert's Rules debate and the costs of thier defeat will now become something we observe play out. Will it ultimately be to the detriment of the profession or not?

The institutional processes of governmental legislation and business profit-motivation have already completely swallowed the delivery system (VRS) into the rules of the FCC. According to the opposed group, one thing missing in the proposed document is a clear distinction between the VRS and the VRI. If I understand this correcly (and I'm just now learning) - the VRS is the technological end - the telecommunications aspect. VRI is the actual interpreting service, the part that we professional interpreters actually perform via the technology. The committee's concern is that the on-going grind of institutional processes will now churn on without RID having any kind of legitimated entry at all to that process. We have no institutional point of entry.

The other point those opposed made that seemed compelling to me is to use the SPP not just to describe the current best practices, but to envision and map out the ideal of where we'd like to see field evolve and use the SPP as a point of leverage for that future. It strikes me now, in retrospect, that both groups have the same ultimate goal, but brought different understandings (fears, concerns?) to the process of deciding to take action now. There was a fear that whatever got put out now would become the definitive statement for an indefinite period of time (as has occurred previously) or that it would set precedent in ways that are actually undesirable (which has also occurred before). I think both groups shared concern for the future ramifications...those opposed may have been coming from a stance that was more critical based upon a view of RIDs internal history of mistakes, whereas those in support might have been coming from a stance in which they were looking more at factors external, where RID is simply one voice in a much larger process. I write "simply" only to indicate that that larger process continues with or without us; and at this point, it will continue without us.

This means the next step will need to include specific strategizing about the clarity of vision and prescriptions for the implementation of this vision, but also a specific marketing and lobbying strategy to create space for a now absent voice. Otherwise, it won't matter much that we have a vision upon which we now agree because the institutional processes will have already sedimented to make us a minority and disempowered lone voice.

The way this gets taken up and acted upon now is going to matter quite a lot. You can read up on the process (including linking to the current draft) here.

An aside - Sharon Neumann-Solow won the President's Award. She's the one who told me after the workshop on Breaking Role in Chicago that I'd got folks "knickers in a twist." I was assured that was actually a compliment. ;-/

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July 12, 2005

"Help me vibrate"

I'm having a roommate adventure fit for a sitcom. Not only is one of my roomies an expert in critiquing presenter quirks, hee hee hee, another has become Queen of the Cell Phone Vibration function after her own cell phone technological nightmare (which does not rival the plague of tech disasters haunting my prep for today's "Why Bother?" presentation with Eileen (who rocks the house!) Our third roomie, who ventured to join us on a whim, had at least a few moments of serious self-questionning, wondering to herself, why did I bother? She did come 'round and decide our interaction was "lively, challenging, and uninhibited." I'm glad our foursome has worked out the way it has. :-)

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May 16, 2005


Yes, it’s true, we had some difficulty opening the prized Hungarian wine (which I can't remember how to spell!) to celebrate our last night together in Budapest. After a bit of improvisational fieldwork, we managed to pull it off (i.e., pried out the cork). We worked on the collective report this morning (humoring me as the anthropology department outsider as – apparently – only a temporary accommodation, while I commandeered the laptop I was threatened with later revisions). Oh well. I always think a bit of mystery and intrigue makes the story more interesting!

Broughton and I headed across the Danube to the old part of Buda for sightseeing, while Ioana, Zhixiong, Julie and family went on their own separate missions. We reconvened for dinner at a Persian restaurant, with Nitsan and Alyssa, and enjoyed long conversations with lots of food sharing. Cleo kept us entertained. Did I mention what a good nanny Frank is? :-) After we returned to Keripesi and gathered in our Eastern European colleague’s room (host of the region par excellence), we all let down a bit. It’s been an intensive four days. Even though we worked at a relaxed pace, there was deep thinking and serious consideration of methodological issues in general and our own particular projects in specific. Overall, a success; Julie deserves the credit for leading us through, and we each get a bit of a pat on the back for hanging in with each other for so long. :-)

The farewell celebration lasted past Julie’s bedtime (!), including a few drops of absinthe, several handfuls of peanuts, and some shop talk (anthropology department dynamics – interesting! Over the course of this whole trip I’ve learned about some pros and cons in terms of the anthro dept’s governance structure (compared with the Communication department), and their TA system. Anyway, they noted my upcoming birthday and we shared a few warm moments with each other. It’s been a pleasure getting to know each other so well.

Today we disperse – Julie on holiday to Germany with Frank and Cleo, Ioana to Prague with J., and Broughton back to the US via the UK. On Wednesday, Zhixiong flies to Beijing via NY (don’t ask) and takes the train to the Chinese-Russian border, and next Sunday I’ll leave for Brussels. Next time we see each other it’ll be back at UMass, probably in that oh-so-familiar anthropology department lecture room…

[Written on 16 May, posted 17 May, and backdated.]

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May 1, 2005

An island with superpower ambitions...

"Steph, your party was an unbelievable success. How do you feel about it?"


Of course, it really had extremely little to do with me. I provided the location and the invitations. A wee bit of coordination. Yasser and Elsa cooked a scrumptuous meal (full menu below), which Denise rounded out with her Jamiacan rice, and Andrea & Kirsten topped off with ice cream sundaes. Ya'all came and enjoyed yourselves, and that's what made it work. :-)

The cheers from the garage were great fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed the few rounds of pong and flip the cup in which I participated. Nothing like team competition for bonding purposes! There were a few holdouts on account of germs and petroleum contamination, but hey, what's life without a few risks? :-)

The dancing was nice too, although I didn't do that as much as I would have preferred. Hard to do everything though! My favorite parts of the evening included some really hard laughing, and a series of incredibly warm hugs.

Who shall I pick on first? :-) There was the grumpface, some no shows, a handful of very late shows, and some surprise shows. Some budding couples. Some despairing singles. The usual mix. :-/

Andrea and I discovered that we both get perverse pleasure out of scaring people. Cata and I danced a bit of disco together. Jesse and I commiserated about the challenges of putting together committees of people who a) care about our topics and b) can work well together. Our Australian friend arrived despite going too far. Fernando showed up without his family. "Last to arrive, last to leave", he announced upon departure a little while later. Srinivas loomed up out of the darkness in the driveway with a whole passle of friends, some of whom had rsvp'd and others who filled in for some of the cancellations and no-shows. I consulted with Peter about calling Paritesh, "Pari", cuz I had that outsider vibe of being set up to say something that would make me look ridiculous. I think it was Krishna who tried to put me up to it. Sarubh clearly enjoys being the center of attention! Ramu grinned a lot. So did Sirisha and Swati. I think they might have been in on the longest dancing spree (that I missed, sigh).

I heard that Art told the best stories in the garage, but I missed them. Raz and I talked about a few of my old books that were laying out - blast from the past! Return of the Bird Tribes, Emmanuel's Book, which I'd forgotten was given to me by Mary Frances oh so many years ago, the book that Spotted Eagle had us all read, Beyond the Eagle, and the book that introduced me to phenomenology just before I applied to the Comm Dept, The Spell of the Sensuous.

George and Min were late arrivals (and they both got rowdy!)!! George doesn't seem too upset about losing the election for GSS executive officer, I guess these means he'll run for the GSS representative/treasurer spot for comm-grad? That's a more immediate gain for us. :-) I did learn that one reason the count might have been skewed is because some people only voted for the contested positions, not for those in which there was only one candidate.

Elizabeth brought another batch of books to distribute; I'm not sure if anyone took her up on the offer? Sreela had already read them all! When and how folks find time to read non-academic things is mystery to me. I think there must be some kinda manipulation of time that they pull off, generating extra hours in the day! Nigham and I had a bit of a heart-to-heart. In fact, several of our friends are facing questions about visa or other status and are unsure where they might be next year. Lily, Maria and Arturo (who missed this one, wah!)...Elsa. I hope things work out for each of them the way that they want things to work out.

Mike's a juggler! That was fun. And Chris and I got some tutoring from Denise on turning in the ol' dissertation (as if it's going to happen anytime soon). They get submitted in a box. Literally! A cardboard box or wood crate piled high with all the hundreds of pages. I can hardly wait - NOT!

I knew I wouldn't be able to remember all the friends of Yasser's and Elsa's who came. Jesse's from sociology; Amanda is a fictionwriter - of things that couldn't happen but do (maybe she's done some scripting for my life? no? Darn. I've been looking for someone to blame!)

I have an "Amy & Todd" on my list of rsvp's but I don't think they made it? Amber and Greg were here...and Jed and Megan. I didn't talk with them as much. Mostly just to rave about the food. Oh yes, The Food!

Mauritian dishes, prepared by Elsa:

Chicken curry
Tofu Rougaille (creole stew)
Slavic sauteed peppers

There were also two condiments, a very spicy green paste (delicious!) and another sort of ... salad?

Dishes from Syria (a CIA link comes up second doing a Google search!), prepared by Yasser:

Loubieh Bizeit (sauteed green beans with lemon and garlic)
Mtabal (eggplant with tahine)
Bamieh bi Zeit (sauteed okra with garlic and cilantro)
Karass be Humus (sauteed leeks, onions, and humus)
Hummus bi Lahmeh (with meat)

No one left on an empty stomach, that's for sure! Erin called in the wee hours of the morning to announce her safe arrival home, and to report a left behind umbrella (followed the next day by Mike realizing he'd left his hat). I was still up cleaning, but it wasn't bad at all. Not only did we rival the neighbors' hootin' & hollerin' (the party house two doors up that Eric used to occupy in an example of the small world syndrome) with those reverberating celebrations from the garage, everyone was so conscientious with picking up after themselves that the clean-up took less than an hour. I had a restful sleep and saw Bill at the gym early this afternoon. We be working out!

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April 27, 2005

on the discursive turn

Find this! Stuart Hall on Ethnicity and the Discursive Turn.

Here's another one: Taking the discursive turn: Critical studies in language, discrimination and schooling.

This social movement study,
, adopts an approach in which movement discourse is viewed as a networked field of concepts from which arguments are fashioned. This approach requires an examination of the socio-cognitive structure of a discourse, an analysis of its rhetoric, as well as its ideological foundations."

Here's a piece that attacks criticisms that discourse analysis has little to contribute to policy analysis: Geographical knowledge and policy: the positive contribution of discourse studies.

The Virtual Faculty is geared to psychology, but is as communication oriented as one could imagine.

Criticism of the postmodern in the guise of Rom Harre.

This sounds like me! At least from the title, Reflexivity and Narratives in Action Research: A Discursive Approach. :-)

Wouldn't it be wonderful if this piece on feminist theory actually helps me write my final paper for 691?

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April 25, 2005

last HURRAH!


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April 23, 2005

a Guggenheim!

Carolyn's very own Kimi Takesue has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Congratulations, Kimi!

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April 22, 2005

A21 walkout and boycott

The labor walkout yesterday was amazingly successful! The Collegian's coverage focuses on the rally, which they say "Within an hour...reached a peak of nearly 1,000 people." Of course, this is only a fraction of the thousands who refused to attend classes in solidarity.

Many comm-grads and faculty were present, spoke, walked out of classes, picketed, and otherwise supported the effort.

The GEO walkout puts UMass labor activists and concerned workers in solidarity with similar efforts across the country.

The walkout was the second in a series of increasingly public protests. The first was a march on April 1 in which at least 600 graduate students and our supporters participated.

We're not acting alone, either! Why do we need such a high level of organized protest?

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April 21, 2005

double uh oh

Looks like I might get to experience the standing in line for hours hope they get to me before they close experience at the U.S. Embassy in Boston...

The site I looked at before (with a 2-day turn-around via phone) was for British citizens. ARGH!

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April 19, 2005

the poop machine

Anna is a cutie-pie!!!!!! Her ma and pa are looking pretty durn good too. That new parent glow. It is a glow - she's not a crier and they've even been getting some sleep! I got to hold that squirmy little being for awhile - she definitely knew I wasn't one of the biological parental units, such muscles in her neck already! Eight days old, a good strong grip, focus, sound-sight coordination....let's see, she's going to grow up trilingual and whatcha wanna bet all the love from those proud parents is gonna seep so deep into her bones she'll hardly ever have a sad day. :-)

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April 13, 2005

Raz sports an EU hat

Now, if they had just waited a month I could have been there for this historic vote!

"Bulgaria, Romania gain EU entry
Both countries still need to reforms to ensure membership

STRASBOURG, France (AP) -- The European Parliament on Wednesday approved the entry of Bulgaria and Romania into the European Union in 2007, but said both countries still need to make reforms."

"Legislators voted 522-70 in favor of Bulgaria, with 69 abstentions, and 497-93 in favor of Romania, with 71 abstentions, in two separate ballots after a heated debate in which some members asked for a postponement of the vote, demanding the two Balkan countries be given more time to implement necessary reforms.

"No one can say Romania is ready to join the community," said Green party leader Daniel Marc Cohn-Bendit. "Press freedoms, corruption and other issues need to be resolved."

posted at http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe/04/13/eu.new.members.ap/index.html until May 13, 2005.

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April 11, 2005

Anna Boromisza-Habashi

Anna entered the world "this morning (Monday) at 9.30 am. Anna's birthweight is 7.3 pounds (3.3 kgs)."

Email from a proud papa.


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April 5, 2005

stolen from museumfreak

Information does not exist

I'm a bit worried some of my own writing reads like this after the frenzy of immersion wears off. Be sure to click through to the shopping cart.

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April 3, 2005


"It's awesome, isn't it?"

Yep. An exquisite chocolate mousse and flan-like pudding for dessert. So rich I had to take an hour break in-between!

Several people said this was "the best" so far. I'm inclined to agree. I have no idea what happened in the kitchen tonight. At a certain point, some momentum just took over and I was just not in that stream. Which means I actually got to mingle!

Lynn and I discussed pedagogy from within/without the structure for awhile; unexpectedly Raz showed up, grinning like crazy. :-) Then came the announcement, "food's ready!" "Pork, marinated for an hour in wine, salt & pepper, & bay leaves. Then frit for an hour with salt and olive oil. Just as wine disappears one adds the potatoes (already frit) and cumin. That's it." And "it" it was. YUM!

Elizabeth discovered a guitar pick somebody left behind from the Midwest Feast. We commiserated. Lucas stole the show whenever possible, which was pretty often, since his mom comes from the so-called "barbarian north"! That's where all my mutt ancestors come from too. Which isn't to denigrate them, but to acknowledge the extent of intraracial mixing. And the fact that I really have few of those kind of roots.

Pyro inquired about my "political week" on campus. We debriefed.

Saila found us despite the road not being as memorable as she thought it might be. Nigham has it down now, even though rumor has it I always say take a right at an intersection where I really mean left! Lily was here again, I hope the quasi-conversation we had wasn't too exclusive....?

Marta and I had an engaging convo too...what was it about? Senses. Tuning in. How normally most of us pick one sense to privilege, one locus of attention. And when we're doing that we aren't even aware (usually) that there are other sensory channels that could also be "open" at that time...other avenues of perception. We imagined, for an instant, what it would be like to have that array of choices available at any given point in time, how much more broadly we could conceive of the world.

Bill told the story of the GEO march against the administration this week, as it passed through Whitmore and the sign that grabbed the attention of the staff in his office was, "Go Red Sox!" Of course it was one of our own communication department students promoting the regional sentiment. :-) Honestly, this was not as far off message as the original sign was, which related to the discriminatory fee against international students that the administration tried - and failed! - to institute earlier this year.

I say, NO sign could beat Srinivas in his parade marshall's hat.

Fernando and I completed phase two in the bonding cycle over corkscrews and dryers. Lucas did tapes! with me. :-) (I wish I had one of those upside down exclamation marks so I could convey the Spanish accurately - not to say I have the spelling right either, sigh!)

Claudia and I got deep on . . .Lucas. :-) Being a mom. She insisted I verify all the boggle pieces were returned. Lucas will grow up to be quite the mischief maker under all that suspicion (his dad is not encouraging him at all. Really. As he whirled a fireplace implement around.) We talked about something else too...earlier....darn. It's gone out of my mind. :-(

Diogo is looking for backing, so any of you all who think he's got what it takes to run a restaurant...the seafood rice was his tonight, and the vegetarian rice with peas. Dominguez just wants an excuse to come back to the U.S. Look for his return next fall....(I hope!) Sinead was amazed to find out that Jose cooks. (He doesn't, but he organizes, follows directions, and cleans very well.) ;-)

I am looking for chefs for the last event of the semester...Saturday April 30. There's been some talk about an ice cream social...but we'll need a main course too...Sinead's not up for providing Canadian cuisine just yet but did promise a Route 9 Special if no one else is game. (Anyone???)

Arturo and Maria told me the secret of their happy marriage (yeah, go ahead, rub it in!!): "The couple that cleans together, stays together!" They were basking in the luxury of a double sink. Goofies. :-)

Ata's healthy again, after a rough couple of weeks. But someone stole Sarbjeet's apple juice; he's convinced we're all on a not-so-secret campaign vs vegetarians and non-drinkers.

Dominguez wants the credit for the evening's success, he never tastes his food he said, because the secret is to "cook with love." I'm gonna say it. There was a lot of love in this house, with this group, tonight. It was the food, it was us, it was the time and the timing. Thanks for coming, and to those of you couldn't, maybe next time.

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April 2, 2005


Two of the three chefs just left. The third hasn't arrived. No, I'm not stressing! Guests will begin to arrive in...thirty minutes or so. We have 1/2 a meal, the half operating on Porto time. The Lisbon half may be ready by midnight, but hey, we'll be really ready for it by then!

So far I've learned the original way to make caramel. Did you know sugar will liquify if you heat it? I wish I'd had my camcorder on Dominguez as he made sure the pot was evenly coated for the pudding. This meal is gonna be delish. :-)

Jose and Dominguez just went out for vino verde and three onions. In Amherst?!!! - Good luck! Diogo, well, maybe he was reluctantly recruited? I'll be taking lessons from him on going with the flow. ;-)

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April 1, 2005

delirium descends

mushbrain and jellyhead.

"It's that time of the semester!"

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March 22, 2005


David just added a destination to my European travels this summer, Molvania. I'll go there after Budapest, and before I head to Brussels. I'm sure I'll be able to find some interpreters there to be part of my research, even though they seem more invested in pop culture than citizenship and transnational identities. :-)

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never again!

I beat Raz at ping pong tonight. I'm sure it was an aberration. He took revenge swiftly, beating me three straight and I never got out of the single digits (well, maybe once). :-) That young woman he hangs out with kept saying something about his "masculinity"....??? (gasp!)

I was surprised when I won but I think our favorite young man was downright shocked! He'll deny it of course, humble guy that he is. :-) I won't go into the details of the other young man at ABC who thought he had a chance at stealing his girl away from Raz. That was the most amusing part of the evening!!

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March 19, 2005


one of these days I have to follow up and deal with my sheer clumsiness - www.replacements.com.

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March 13, 2005


Donal held up his own very well last Thursday, when a handful of us met to continue discussing the merits of the debate between these two titans. Click and scroll down for a summary of our last (the first) discussion.

The way I see it, the basic conflict comes to whether one assumes race, gender, other social identities, are always relevant to communication or not. Donal recognizes that they could be, but reserves the ideal that they may not be and proceeds on the assumption of either possibility. Fiske assumes they always are, and its just a matter of how we bring our epistemological frames to bear that determines whether or not we can identify their inflection(s) on the communicative practice.

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A dozen COM department graduate students descended upon the bargaining session between our union (GEO) and the university administration's team this past Friday morning. First, we were bluffed into the wrong room, thus arriving late (not our plan) but perhaps the late en masse entrance was a precursor to the tension that erupted periodically throughout the session?

We had two secret weapons, the baby-to-be-born in April, whose mother is emphatically not a GEO member (don't you forget it, either! Being married to one doesn't count!), and our favorite toddler, Lucas, who cried on cue when the admin's team rhetorically situated themselves as the victims of the negotiating process. It was truly an amazingly infuriating discourse. As if graduate students are somehow "holding out" on the admin's earnest desire to simply save money for the University! I mused, at break, that Susan (head of the admin's team) must really enjoy the competitive aspect of this situation. Someone else said she must really believe in neoliberal capitalism. Li, during the session, in his mild and steady manner, asked directly why the admin team kept framing the issue as one of students' "unwillingness" to pay instead of acknowledging that the real issue is one of "capacity" or ability to pay. (There was no response.) Students from other departments also spoke passionately on this topic, which I think gave our negotiating team quite a boost. It definitely mattered that we were there!

I could be wrong, but it seemed to me there were two openings - one when Susan asked if she explained the University's reasons for "not being able to move" would that provide a sufficient basis for the GEO team to be able to move? This didn't get picked up on; perhaps because the team knew it was meaningless, a tangent, or otherwise would prove ineffective. To me, it seemed like the more we know about their "reasons" the more effectively we can poke holes in them. Like the guy from English did at the end when he got Susan to admit that in fact the only beneficiary of the current proposal would be "the university". As in, not graduate students (neither individuals nor those with families).

I'll admit to some confusion on the second opening, which was an offer to make the 10% health care fee for families (a reduction) permanent along with the 10% health care fee for individuals (an increase). However, in fact even with this plan BOTH individuals AND families will pay more, because currently the "individual" member of a family who is a grad student is exempted from paying anything. So its an increase all the way around. Period.

What a game of posturing, misdirection, and casting blame! I've never seen anything like it.

The one point of leverage that seemed to make a difference was the comparison of UMass to other universities of ostensibly the same caliber. I haven't seen any of the rankings, but gleaned that they're partially based on benefits paid to or received by graduate students. Of those closest to us, we're apparently 6th and will drop to 7th if the contract as proposed by the admin goes through. From my vantage point, the one thing UMass has going for it is its faculty and they are also under seige. The facilities are deteriorating visibly. Buildings are not clean. I think the janitorial staff does a great job as spread out as they are and as much as they are asked to do, but it means so many things never or very rarely get done. Windows haven't been washed in three years, at least. Does anyone have working shades? I won't belabor the list, but things don't look too good! These kinds of cuts matter. They accumulate.

Its beyond belief that the administration's priority is ekeing more dollars out of barely-surviving students - whose best hope now is that they might be able to get out of grad school not too far in debt, and with UMass' reputation enough intact that they can show their resume and present themselves as alumni without shame.

ps - note 100% attendance from the commgrads at 137 Montague Road!

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March 6, 2005


Erin, a.k.a. Betty Crocker, put on an amazing spread. For the first time, there were hardly any leftovers! ! ! We chowed! Lynn was especially in heaven over the tuna casserole. (The secret is mayo.) Elizabeth's green bean casserole was delish, and Flora's vegetarian chili and cornbread well enjoyed.

Bill (or was it Bob?) called me Sally. I'm not sure if that's a reference to any particular 1950's housewife or gourmet....? probably not, since the German Chocolate Brownie bars were a bit "chewy", as folks said. (But the Hoosier bars were perfect, despite the accusation from my Indiana buddy (tsk tsk, calling to throw me off in the middle of the soiree! tsk tsk - not!) that we were "making stuff up." Ruth was right though, that we weren't drinking Bud and watching basketball, but the Nebraska folk would be watching football....so - no universals in midwestern land!

Srinivas was so disturbed by the prospect of seeing me in a dress that he bailed. First time in about 20 years! I did quick math and thought it had been 23 years, total, but that would be when the Nazarene college revised their mandatory dress code. However, the very last time was my brother's wedding... which would have been.... somewhat under 20 years. Ah well. Those of you who were here for it....! The funniest aspect is those folk who met me for the first time, and/or haven't known me all that long - was I really out of character? %-)

Elizabeth got the FULL domestic effect as when she arrived I was vacuuming up some spilled sugar in the kitchen. :-) Some others laughed, and a few were, I think, too stunned to even comment. Hilarious!

First-timers Dominguez, Apoorva, Elsa, and Mary Jane (? ohmygosh I'm not sure! gulp) seemed to enjoy themselves. Sarbjeet got several folk into a game of...it must have been Boggle? (Can you believe Lynn tried to study? Please!!) Arturo came without Maria (wah!), and the Mariachi man - and family - was also missed. Yasser tried to claim the doorprize (we're checking his ID from now on), but Mike was the real winner of the Route 66 book (don't forget to register it at www.bookcrossing.com.

Bill broke out his guitar for the first time and had a bit of a singalong with Ata and Eric. Did I mention Kirsten's parents were around at the very beginning and a chunk at the end? Oh yeah. Jack followed through with the promised punchbowl and an awesome coke-handled ladle from Gail's store. :-) The koolaid wound up being served in a pitcher though, so we'll have to break that bowl in next time. Sangria, perhaps? :-)

Sreela should get honorary sous chef kudos, or maybe backseat driver? I dunno. First she came in splattered with strawberry jello, then she witnessed (contributed to?) several errors in the mixing of those Hoosier bars. Including the moment when Gail relayed a story about needing the yolks (after she'd taught me how to separate eggs, and I'd set them in the sink to dispose of later) and I realized we needed the yolks! What, me tipsy? No Way!

Next time we'll be checking out Jose's cooking talents with (or will it just be through?) Dominguez' expertise. :-) Meanwhile, I'm still trying to imagine the sound of 1000 cellos! ! ! Can you?!!! Holy cow. Flora might be one of them.....if not this year, I hope sooner rather than later.

Thanks, all! It was a hoot! :-)

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March 5, 2005

the weak died on the way

midwestern food.jpg

Fab flyer designed by MichaelJDeLuca.com. WeeHaaaaa! ;-)

This is undoubtedly the best advertising we've had for an event so far! We're drifting in the zone of 17-20 something in terms of guests for this "continuum of history through the region" as we dine on "Midwestern 1950s-60s era church social/housefrau kitchy-ness" and select (from three choices) a Western movie to watch. The event will thus "slip between Midwestern and Western... Western is signified by "cowboys and indians", covered wagons and chuck wagons, pioneers and the gold rush...People in covered wagons certainly weren't making jello salads!" I'm pretty sure the Indian menu of not too long was a regional pastiche as well. Alas for purity!

The main chef, by the way, is showing up in costume. If the stars are right, perhaps I will too....

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March 4, 2005

taxing my mind!

John sent this paper critiquing functionalism, and it coincides nicely with the discussion I (mostly missed) today among some of the departments' social interactionists. "Holism on a grand scale is difficult, if not impossible, to verify, but the way systems work is not." Donal argues, I think, that systems can be understood from the inside out...maybe this is what Bakhtin refers to as centrifugal? A centrifugal forces pushes things away from the center. Donal often uses the term "cohere", so he's arguing that the discourse around a certain practice is centripetal (a pulling inward). But what if the pulling in is in reaction to, or predicted upon the condition of possibility that other discourses are pushing out?

I am working a paradox here. For instance, the notion that the term "cultural difference" means certain things to a particular group, and certain other things to a different group. Members of both groups can use the term and think they have a common referent. If the uses and meanings, premises, etc. are defined only in terms of what is sensible within the group - this may be an accurate representation of that particular cultural system, but it neglects the position of this particular cultural system within a larger system who's primary function seems to be "to eat cultures."

Fiske would be liking that argument, however, one cannot assume a direct relational interaction in any type of conflict, so the ways this term plays into the larger system and plays out within its local cultural system are by no means transparent. This seems to me to be the crux of the Fiske-Carbaugh debate. Donal critiques the automatic assumption of conflict because it can work as a filter or lens to presuppose and superimpose the "usual ways" that conflict plays out between majorities/minorities, the oppressors and the oppressed. Fiske critiques Donal's willingness to stop at explication of a cultural system without delving further into its interactive participation within an even larger structural system.

To at least a certain extent, part of the challenge of finding power in discourse, is asking questions that assume persons have some way of making sense of how their particular cultural meanings are used in and by the larger system. Power may not always show up, but that could be because we're participating in dialogic repression. When power does show up, it may be in radically different forms than we expect.

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March 3, 2005

the Fiske-Carbaugh debate

David's motivation to get us social interaction folks talking with each other is very welcome. :-) I still have to finish reading Donal's response, but the gist of this dialogue in the Quarterly Journal of Speech (1990-1991) is framed two ways. By Philipsen, as an example of two different ways of doing ethnography, and by Fiske, as consensus vs conflictual applications of social theory. Fiske is cogent on several of the questions I have about Donal's approach, but there is also something quite compelling about Donal's insistence on approaching ethnography with one's assumptions bracketed. While I lean toward the conflictual versions (surprise? - not!) I also think they carry a huge risk of reifying the very thing they seek to change.

Claiming the ability to effectively bracket out assumption and be neutral and objective is an epistemology in its own right, one which has been severely misused historically and no doubt still. But the language of social conflict theories are just as liable to miss evidence of social change as the language of consensus is to mask power relations. If the assumptions of perpetual hierarchy and conflict govern social thinking and theory development, then the language used to describe and interpret how this occurs serves only to reinforce the dominant discourse and social structures through reenactment - thus preventing the very changes it seeks to invoke!

How do social conflict theories account for instances of equality, equity, and justice? Are these posed as anomalies? Too statistically rare to matter? How are developmental processes and interactions among and between individuals of diverse backgrounds and experiences who do learn how to engage each other on terms of mutual respect acknowledged? How can these forms gain acceptance and support if they are only understood against the historical, structural backdrop of oppression? For these new, socially just forms to come clearly into view, I think Donal's approach is absolutely necessary, otherwise the significance and power (!) of these shifts in patterns of social relations are muted and diffused.

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February 25, 2005

a practice of public reasoning

"I was really impressed with your latest blog posting. Lots of self
discovery going on there."

"How do admissions of psychological/emotional vulnerability contribute to getting people to move to action? It's very easy for people to say, "Ah ha! I knew it wasn't about the department; she's having personal problems and using the department as a scapegoat."

Probably this is what Stephen's been on my case about - does acknowledging the personal (what he has been defining as "private" and labeling "psychological") move people to action? ? Perhaps not, but maybe it depends on what kind of action is desired

We recently clarified a conflation in the discussion we've been having (in the DRP category for the past couple of months). Stephen had not remembered a classical distinction between the "private" and the "intimate." My mulling of this since our talk about Habermas Monday evening has been complemented by some reading material on "Functional Roles of Group Members" in the small group communication course. First, I've been pushing for acknowledgement that whatever one person considers "private" or "intimate" is a social construction. We can approach the construction from perceptual, sociological, ideological, rhetorical, or epistemological lenses, each of which brings different elements into view, but we have to admit at base that each of these frameworks presuppose no "real" (objective, positivist, materialist) existence of a concept of privacy or intimacy outside of human imagination.

If we accept this premise, then it becomes clearer (to me at least!) that what I've been arguing against is Stephen's insistence on selecting out only those elements of my arguments which "fit" his stereotype (?) (!) of where the boundary between the public and private "ought" to be drawn. This is where I have suggested that our debate has the quality of a power struggle: between the imposition of his (historically based) model of categorization, and my attempts to bring a critique of this model's contemporary applicability into focus. The model influencing my analysis today has to do with a heuristic division of roles in a group (which is equally rooted in white male rationalist epistemology).

Where I agree with Stephen about the need to delineate a boundary regarding what is appropriate or not in the practice of public reason (especially with the intention of generating a public sphere) is whether an individual's contribution leans most heavily toward self-serving (individual) goals or whether an individual's contribution leans more in the direction of accomplishing the group's stated task and/or maintaining the communicative and relational practices necessary to hold a group together through difficult stages or periods of time.

From this angle, I would suggest that if there is suspicion about a self-serving motivation for any particular action (which could, for instance, be manifested through criticism of that action) then the "issue" is already public, it has simply not been acknowledged as such. My argument is that only via self-disclosure of so-called "personal, private, or (possibly even) intimate" details, can such suspicion be confirmed or denied. Further, I argue that such disclosure is a necessary precondition for any kind of intellectual separation of personal (as in selfish) motivation from potential value to the (public) collective effort.

In other words, public reasoning needs to be flexible enough to include elements of human be-ing that have hitherto been proscribed.

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February 24, 2005

"we are still monkeys"

I am so jealous of anyone who's already done with Paula's paper! And, I'm kinda....having fun (!) re-reading Mumford (1963) after Chris made more of it legible to me with his presentation yesterday. :-)

I'm just over half done with the paper. I'm enjoying what I now see as a merger in Mumford of the material and the ideological, to wit:

"...instantaneous personal communication over long distances...is the mechanical symbol of those world-wide cooperations of thought and feeling which must emerge, finally, if our whole civilization is not to sink into ruin" (241).

The recordability of such instantaneous personal communication is one example of "the new permanent record" which "suggest[s] a new relationship between deed and record, between the movement of life and its collective enregistration: above all, they demand a nicer sensitiveness and a higher intelligence. If these inventions have so far made monkeys of us, it is because we are still monkeys" (245).

;-) Gimme a banana!

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February 23, 2005


So did our favorite son tonight! It was sweet. :-)

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February 17, 2005

late night in the computer lab

You never know what might happen if you stay late in the computer lab!

If you've missed out on how Jeff Gannon burned Bush, a woman formerly known as an esteemed colleague of the COM dept discovered several porn sites of this wanna be reporter who apparently was paid off by the White House to ask Bush questions that would make him (Bush) look good. Turns out Gannon is not a reporter at all, but an online porn figure. PLENTY can be found by a google search, but none of you will beat the stiff competition of our colleague's wit: "My husband's is bigger than his." A hard job indeed. As John Aravosis said, quoted in the Washington Post story linked above: "The larger issue is how did someone like this get access to the White House."

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February 13, 2005

my decison-making

I think this is what group relations people call parallel process. As grad student reps, we have to make a "group decision" that "represents" a larger body than just us three.

My students are starting to look at how they make decisions in small groups.

I examine how I make decisions in groups.

Starting at the mid-level (structurally in the organization), the parallelization occurs "downward", but does it also occur "upward"? I.e., are "we" reflecting a decision-making structure that pre-dates us and perhaps is hierarchically/structurally "imposed" upon us?

The next part is about me - intrasubjectively, but with bearing on intersubjectivity (although I don't go into role).

The group decsion about what to share/not share from the grad student meeting highlights for me the decisions I make about the blog too, and some of the residual effects of my posting about this organizational issue on the blog, both "originally" (about the overenrollment policy) and now. I think more transparency is better than less, and I think a public record is better than a private one. Even with blemishes. My self-appointment to do this has elicited a range of responses, most of which don't feel good either personally (to me) or interpersonally (among, between us), but I feel "stuck" about an alternative. It is "my project" to explore and try to understand group communication (not limited to organizational communication, but that's probably the closest academic label), and by definition this implicates "members of the organization" whether one desires such or not. But I am not studying our department per se. It's a learning laboratory for me as I try to navigate agency from an essentially powerless position. I may glean ideas about how to conduct future studies from this, and I am learning a lot, and part of my intellectual commitment to myself is to share what I learn - to be as transparent as I know how to be.

My decisions about what to post/not post are subjective in the sense that they are motivated by what I'm thinking about - by what my consciousness is "doing" with the combination of reading, class discussions, and the events of "real life". Ontologically, I guess this is where I think "answers" can be found. Not permanent solutions that establish some kind of utopia, but practical modes of being (interacting and communicating) that enable us to participate, actively, in the co-construction of a world where war is less and less a conceivable option.

Possible references:

Organizational Reflections: Parallel Processes at Work in a Dual Consultation

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Russian night

was a hit, as far as I can tell. :-) The dozen folks who came drank a lot of vodka, sniffed a lot of bread, and ate a lot of pickles. Not to mention the pelmeni, potatos, spiced carrots and cabbage. What else could one expect?! Oh yes, there was the candy and dessert, and Olga drew herself to win the doorprize (I dunno, maybe she rigged it somehow?)! Talk was loud and animated, and I even got to have some lengthy discussions with several different individuals. It helped that the trip to the Russian grocer in Westfield yielded easily and quickly prepared traditional foods. Folks stayed late to watch "The Russians are coming, The Russians are coming," which was a pretty silly flick but still got quite a few good laughs out of us.

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February 11, 2005


"Until we know what others think they know, we cannot truly understand their acts." Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion, 13.

I recognize Lippmann's context is mass media, but the example he provides is what I would characterize as group dynamics/group relations: a 1919 argument in the U.S Senate in which partisan Republicans and Democrats engage in a discourse that develops from the recognition of a rumor to an assumption of truth. Lippmann argues this incident "reveals how difficult it is...to suspend response until the returns are in. The response is instantaneous. The fiction is taken for truth because the fiction is badly needed" (emphasis added, 19).

The intriguing question (to my mind) then becomes, what motivates the need? Lippmann goes elsewhere - although it may be a step on the way to mine :-) - saying we can't generalize "about comparative behavior until there is a measurable similarity between the environments to which behavior is a response" (25). Does Lippmann refer here to a synchrony of pseudo-environments (mediated) or to some external, objectified "real" environment? And how does one assess such?

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February 10, 2005


I did attend a party last weekend. For someone who just turned in his Master's Prospectus! All 60-some pages of it! I was one of the first to arrive and almost the very last to leave, sans the one who stayed to sleep on the sofa. Again.

Good music, good food, good people. Dancing. Me and Blondie "know the routine." :-) Wish I had the moolah to hire that soup man. {sigh}

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February 5, 2005


I still have some. :-) They suggest that all I need to do is get pregnant and change my "funny" hair style and everything will be good.

I thoroughly enjoyed the yummiest meal I've had in weeks, great company, and lots of laughs.

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February 3, 2005

Dear Stephen,

Na na na na boo boo! You're just as tragic as me and you want to be remembered just as much! (No one performs like you do intending to be forgotten.) Obviously you haven't taken a peek at the pic under "Seriously" (on Reflexivity's Main Page) for a while. Please do, and imagine me blowing you a raspberry.

That was actually the second response to your "What if somebody threw a blog and no one came" reposte to my "Why Blog" responses to Todd's questions, which I attempted to use persuasively with the DRP class.

I found your response disingenous in a few ways. Primarily in that you criticize unmercifully any iota of "psychologizing" however what you're really saying is that I wasn't psychological enough! In fact, this has been your critique of the Democrats all along. That they don't USE the PSYCHOLOGY that the Republicans have no qualms about deploying at will!

More deeply, however, I have three hypotheses for "what's going on" with this debate.

1. a moral disagreement
2. a power struggle
3. a "push"

1. What would be the moral nexus of dispute? David suggests our debate is as simple as you saying, "Why?" and me saying, "Why not?" Doesn't this capture the tenor of any democratic discussion? I think its a bit more than that though. Because you are exercising the Burkean negative with every ounce you've got. What this means is, IF anyone is EVER going to post in the blog again (comments, let alone as an author), they're going to have to REALLY WANT TO. This isn't a bad thing, I don't think, although I do think it was rude of you to completely diss Shannon's post.

So, what do you want? A democracy without desire? I don't think so, just without MY desire? I felt the urgency because I felt the urgency! Let's imagine for a moment. If the DRP class had continued to post and pursue our various discussions here, there would have been a different feel/context to my posting about the "overenrollment policy." Of course I didn't plan it - who knew such an issue was about to arise? But a site that's already operating communally would serve a protective function for those willing to stick their necks out. Which could very easily be not just me. All I'm saying is I had an intuition, and it drove me to action. In retrospect, I wonder if the urgency was about things that might unfold. Is this what invokes a moral realm? I'm not sure. There's all the convoluted stuff about self-interest and other-interest and the debate we skirted in class about "the higher ground" vs "at any cost".

But maybe the moral dilemma is about having a democracy without accountability? At any rate, I characterized my last persuasive attempt as a "throw down" after the fact, reflecting upon how people may have received it. Because my persistence is a reminder that folks said they valued the blog, and even wanted a blog, and a few (for various reasons) even preferred the blog. Just not this blog. Patience, you say? Don't get me started! There it is, no one (this is just descriptive!) has taken initiative to move us toward another blog. You mentioned guilt. That's not me, dude. That's you. I'm only explaining this to argue that I haven't been or felt accusatory. Let down, perhaps. What can I say? I get hopeful, then I feel the disappointment. Life goes on. (I get hopeful, try again....) Glutton for punishment? Whatever. It's my mode of "negation", I guess. ;-/

2. Ah, group dynamics! It is interesting that the blog became such an issue right at the time that it: a) was poised to move beyond the confines of your class, b) when outsiders started joining the conversation, and c)....what else was going on then? Let's say neither of us was angry when we were "yelling" at each other across the table (second-to-last-class?), but we were both pretty durn passionate. Why did reading about my Uncle Sam suddenly become an issue? It never bothered you before! And why read it if you're not interested? I don't get that at all. Who imposed any kind of obligation upon you to do anything whatsover with parts of the blog that don't interest you? I think what I'm reacting to here is some distinction it seems you're making that the stuff posted to date hasn't been "public" and that under different conditions (?) somehow it will be "more so"?

However, the fireworks (between us) have upped the stakes tremendously for anyone who was feeling even barely, just so slightly inclined to participate, because now their action can only occur as an act of defiance to your expression of resistance. Is this your vision of enactment? That "democracy" occurs only in acts of negation? Which kind of brings me back to another question David asked, which was, "What's the point [of continuing to blog]?" Do we need an "endpoint", a "common goal", a "vision" to guide us? I think the doing is its own purpose. But some things have changed, and I guess maybe they are more relevant than I'd thought. The class did end. We now have no common academic purpose uniting us (although the reading groups may change this). Yet we still share things via email. Otherwise....the things that apparently bother(ed) folks about the blog were "there" all along and didn't stop folks from commenting....now they're a huge obstacle? BUT, it IS a big deal to ask you all to become authors so that I'm not driving the whole shebang by myself. I can't. It's that simple. And that selfish? While not every issue and angle brought up interests me, most do, and what a treat it is when a conversation actually does take off! I want to tease folks about learning a new click pattern, because that's what we're talking about. Four new clicks and a tab or two to routinize into a new habit, instead of the familiar clicks it takes to send email. Hey, I'm not knocking what a big deal it is! I have PLENTY of too-embarassing things in my own life that only need a five minute initial lesson and a few repetitions that I can't seem to accomplish to save my life. BUT, if that's what this is about, let's not make it more grandious (Donna saying she was too busy didn't strike me as an attempt at a comic frame, simply a statement of subjective fact).

Speaking of the comic, what I notice is that when it happens successfully it is as an emergent feature between people, whereas the tragic is more individualistic, perhaps verging on the solipsistic? I'd say my good friend Sarbjeet was being comic when he told everyone about watching me use a chainsaw at my house a year or so ago, and thinking to himself, "she's someone you've got to be Really Sure you want to get to know!"

You mentioned rules for the blog. there haven't been many but I have put thought to this and think it would be awesome if folks would weigh in about what "rules" they think are necessary, which are guidelines with some flexibility, and what kinds of things should be left unregulated?

3. What is "push"? So asks David (making quite the guest appearance in this post!) after I used that term to describe certain discursive situations in the media literacy class I taught to some 6th graders last fall. David astutely categorized it as a "term for talk," and indeed it is! I experience it when I have some set parameters in mind for what's "supposed" to be discussed and (in that instance) the kids wanted to go somewhere else. Often, I can go "somewhere else" with them for awhile and steer them back, but sometimes (due to my own limitations, lack of imagination, stubbornness, or sense of commitment to the contract I had with the school about what I was "supposed" to be covering) I just didn't want to go there. Those are moments of "push." My speculation, is that the blog has become symbolic of a discursive pushing....in other words, I don't think the blog is the real issue. It may be the material manifestation of it, but the question, I think, really is about what kind of engagement the class members really want (or at least wanted then, which may be different now) with each other.

"Push" could be about ideology. It's certainly about action. It definitely has a temporal element. You insist the site must be COMIC - hey, I'm all with that but I don't think we just decide to make it so, we have to enact it. And that means we have to engage. It is not just for me to drive this thing, never was, never will be. In fact the best conversations that have occurred here include me only as a bit player!

Maybe ultimately all three of these factors are at play (and more I'm not creative enough to perceive) - feeding off each other, a kind of group dynamic/group discourse tag team.

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January 22, 2005

a sweet time


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January 18, 2005


i googled myself today to find "documentation" that I'm really a sign language interpreter who wants to do research in Europe this summer. I came across this article in Utne Reader, which quotes me!

Community Leaders Says Public's Y2K Interest Is Waning. Yep, I was one of those. :-) I wasn't convinced there would be a crisis, but it didn't seem out of the realm of possibility. Maybe I've read too much science fiction. And, it was an issue I could care enough about to get involved with other folk who also cared in a concrete way about local community. I got to meet a lot of really neat people. :-)

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January 17, 2005

famous friends II

word from Jen ~

"The Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe/Harvard has requested Mary Frances' papers! What a nice thing."

How wonderful. She deserves the honor. :-)

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why blog?

Todd sent me these (among other) questions awhile ago. I think the timing is good to answer them now because I basically threw down the gauntlet to my blogmates from DRP.

1. Do you remember the first time you thought, "hey I want to create a blog!" That is my "!" You might not have had a "!" when you thought of it.

When I learned about blogs, my "!" was the ability to combine two things: group dynamics (including discourse) and publicity (like Peter Wiggins of Ender's Game). Not that I identify with him in terms of personality or scale of ambition!

3. Do you think your "voice" or "identity" as changed since you started your blog?

My "voice", perhaps, but not my "identity." I think of voice more like representation, and I've tried to spice things up a bit. Early reviews found my writing dry, dull, and deadly. :-) I always wonder if people experience my writing as pedantic. (Do you?) As for my identity - in terms of my presentation or performance of self, I think I'm pretty consistent, but again, I don't know if others agree...?

1. (extended answer) The moment of "!" was in Leda's Information and Technology class. I was getting ready to drop. Couldn't find anything that turned me on enough to write about for a paper. We read about blogs and I immediately started one for the class. It received sporadic attention from my peers (mostly cohortmates) but generated enough "data" (!) that my attention was hooked.

2. How long have you been blogging? Two full years! I used to miss days pretty often in the beginning, now hardly ever.

3. (extended answer) I think teaching online before I started to blog helped me develop my online style. I do envision a "group audience". Depending upon what I'm blogging, the group-in-my-imagination is composed of various individuals. Some categories in my blog are specific to particular groups, so I write to that configuration. I am usually cognizant that others' might also read - but I don't write to them; I try to add enough information so there's a chance what I'm writing is clear to those not immediately involved or addressed (so that it - hopefully! - makes some sense if they do choose to read it).

With some posts my orientation to audience is very general - vaguely including some specific individuals up to and including non-specific or anonymous persons. All the posts I've amde in the "Oh, just me" category for the last several months are from "duty" or a sense of "mission" to keeping the intellectual commitment to see how the blog functions as a means of recording subjectivity and subjective development over time. I don't think subjectivity can be compartmentalized by cordoning off the "private" and "public", or picking and choosing which parts of my life count for the record and which don't. I certainly don't "tell all", but the integrity of the task requires me to tell something when I'm aware that its relevant.

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January 15, 2005

food and fire

I really enjoyed this Indian film, Fire, with friends last night. (The running commentary was entertaining too, grin.) Afterwards we discussed the slower pacing at the beginning (which made it seem like a "bad movie" to one critic) as a means of introducing the loaded topic of lesbianism to a mainstream Indian audience. It got much better (!), but I also felt like the first kiss was not realistic at all.

Thinking about it on the way home (sorry for the wrong turn, Beth!), after I dropped off Kouchik, it occurred to me that there was no way ANY kiss was going to seem "natural" to a homophobic, unexposed audience, so the shock of it, and then the still slow 'uptake' of Rada (sp?) as she went through her own emotional adjustment might have been just the pacing and introduction necessay to bring an audience along through the whole story.

I think it was quite textured. Not only with questions of desire, but the conflict between traditional and more emancipated gender roles, and the integration of the Hindu epic of Ram and Sita with its symbolism of purification, testing, and loyalty to self and others seemed well done.

And did I mention how wonderful the "basic meal" was? We north americans are so easily impressed, eh? :-) I want to know where to get those cardamom balls. YUM!

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January 13, 2005

mung bean jelly

We went for culinary risk at the new Tibetan restaurant in Noho. Ate it, it was ok but I liked my chicken soup better. :-) The dumplings were yummy too, especially with the spicy sauce. Best, though, was the company and the nice, mellow chat. Grad student life, my woes, then back to the apartment for wine, German chocolate (!), and more schmoozing. Lesbian politics, discourse analysis (here's where I want to go someday), Kinsey, and the fundamentalist Concerned Women for America. Oh, how could I forget Annie Sprinkle?

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January 12, 2005

then there's Todd

who went off and started his own blog (instead of becoming a TEAM on MINE hmmmph!) and what does he do but go off and find some philosophical reminiscing on blogger's dying?

What interested is me how far the links go back to the source (I went through three blogs and chose not to read the 'hidden message' that apparently was revealed after someone recently died.

I have thought, at various times, about leaving something behind for those I love. A video is usually what comes to mind. The blog seems to me like it stands on its own. I post - which I do understand (or choose to believe) is a part of what it is I'm "here to do", and when I go, well, I'll be gone. Anything I wrote in advance would be a reflection of where I was then, and may or may not still reflect where I am in the "now" of death.

I'm sure I'll feel differently if terminal illness or some other long dying process is part of my journey this time. Selfishly, I hope it won't be, but one never knows, and we all cope, some better, some worse, with what life throws at us. But if I go suddenly, then I think I want the blog to reflect that. I was doing my thing, best I know how, and then it was done.

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uh oh

Worker sacked over blog comments

"Mr Gordon claimed his dismissal breached his right to free speech."

~ from Rowin Young via the air-l listserv

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dissertation review

Well, rumor has it Denise will actually finish her inspiring dissertation on suicide in 2005. Hope this doeesn't jinx her! Carolyn provided quite the anticipatory dinner (yum), and we finished off the dregs of four (4) bottle of liquor. Grand Marnier is pretty good stuff! Denise and I then took a midnight hike up Rattlesnake Gutter. It was beautiful in the snow and half-moonlight.

Was I supposed to finish writing that EFS grant proposal tonight? oh. %-/

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January 6, 2005

my famous friend

Shemaya is going to be published in French!

She wrote a nice bit about Mary Frances too, GetOut: Mary Frances (you have to scroll down past the spam, sigh). it seems there are new comments there since I last read it. (Link back to my entry, In Memoriam.)

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January 5, 2005

"the interview"

The Toddster must be bored. Here's what he sent me via email today; do you think I should actually respond?! %-)

Interview for Steph

Do you remember the first time you thought, "hey I want to create a blog!" That is my "!" You might not have had a "!" when you thought of it.

How long have you been blogging?

Do you think your "voice" or "identity" as changed since you started your blog? You know what I mean. I just started my blog and I keep thinking I need to be writing for certain people (family, advisors, friends, students). Can I write for all these people? I won't bring up Goffman here, but. . .

Describe your blogging habits. Do you blog regularly? Have you ever gone a long time without posting on your blog? How did you feel when you got back to it? Or how did you feel when you hadn't posted for awhile?

I read the other day that blog was the most looked up thing on the Internet. Do you know what #2 was? Incumbent.

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December 25, 2004


"You can never have enough biryani." Yes! Just finished my dinner. Leftovers rule! :-)

Lynn was right about that pan; I soaked it for three days! This one might need the same treatment, but I'm not complaining. Luckily, I'm the only one in the house. Clean-up from the big party has been going s-l-o-w-l-y.


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December 22, 2004


I'm gonna need every minute of the 5 hours remaining until the deadline for Paula's paper. I just went to snag the last of the holiday treats that have sustained me over the past several days (thanks Erin!!) and wondered how my compatriots are doing. Anyone placing bets on who's gonna be the last one under the wire? :-) We could have claimed internet trouble, but then Paula sent that sly email out today - not about the deadline! Oh no, she's too slick for that! Just a little "something" so we'd all know she's "there." ;-)

My emergency remedy is to set my clock back an hour or two, then I can send it late but the time will still show before the deadline. Whaddaya think? %-0

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the Mariachi business plan

I wonder if it was the same point in time when Lynn and I both looked around the room and realized we were the only two "americans"? North Americans, that is, and dang it all if I didn't just wake up thinking about Garnet :-( The self-identified "probably only monolingual" - Elizabeth of thanksgiving dinner fame - had already left. Arturo (the "strategy guy") and Fernando (of the "strong personality") may be on to something, although with this crowd, we might need more intrigue. :-) There was speculation that mariachi would be a great venue to confront heteronormativity, but only (probably?) in a society where the custom is already common, some places are probably ruled out, as tagged by their own, Viera and Yasser. Maria (and Company) argued persuasively, however, that the custom of serenading actually provides some balance of power for women in heterosexual gender politics. ! And then, once you take timing, personality, and other variables into account....no doubt we are talking art. :-)

We also had the saga of the palak paneer (a.k.a, "paneer crumble"), which was outsourced in more directions and implicated more chefs than possible in a unidimensional universe. For your first time, Sreela, even the Indians said you did a good job! (I think it was the only dish of which there were no leftovers.) The "most authentic" recipe for lamb biryani, also took the longest (!), but the hungry mob didn't turn unruly and the adage held true. In addition to the lamb, I have to say that Srinivas' talent with apricots was worth squeezing into my already overfull tummy. Yum!

Koushik's chili chicken was superb, and this from the guy who declared himself on first introduction to his roommates: "I like chicken. I don't cook." According to Sarbjeet, though, it's really Swati who saved the day. While Sarbjeet and Lynn were having a "people or spinach" crisis, Swati prepared most of the rest of the dishes (are you ready?): payasam, raita, chana masala, dal, and peas & mushroom pulao. Nigham rounded us off with aloo bhujiya. Now, were those aloos fried or was that the papad? :-) (Aside: who all was that tangential social plan supposed to be with? Nigham, Swati, Raz...Koushik? Oh dear! I'm gonna need some help!)

Flora graced us with her presence until Viera and I went off on transnational citizenship, and Sirisha sacrificed a night of dissertation writing (I hope it was worth the trade off!). :-)
Raz snuck out before the group dynamics got going (shhhhh!) but not until after he'd successfully shepherded not only his two "usual dependents" but also led Hunju here. Hunju? Did someone say Hunju actually made it?!! Talk about being blessed!

Jose dragged his poor roommate Jin along kicking and screaming. I'm sure we'll never see that guy again. ;-) And Afry, I'm So Glad I finally learned the trick to getting you here! Remind me never to send you a direct invitation again. :-)

Swati won the door prize (a "fortune-teller ball" from Gallaudet), and Sarbjeet was honored as....well. He was supposed to have had a lot to do with the celebration, so I got him a special something (I also got one for my buggle, I hope she likes it as much as Sarbjeet liked his).

We only had three folks bail and miss out (besides a handful of folk who'd said, tentatively, that they might try to drop by): Eve - I only had to field the question of where you and Kathleen were a half-dozen times or so. Denise! Like, what up?!

It was the Winter Solstice. Our candle burned throughout, and our antic celebration was, I must say, extraordinarily enjoyable. Even I actually had several pleasurable and relaxing conversations with many different people! (I'm not gonna tell you about the others! So THERE!) ;-)

Maria and Arturo shared some tips on food organization and management for large events with many cooks. (Not on a reflection on this evening's able efforts!) Top of the list: identify each parties strength and play to it, taking care to identify those whom you can't even ask to bring something. uh oh!

May I just say, thank you, my friends, for ushering in the new season with me and bringing your own humble selves. Meanwhile, rumor has it we now have a "guy on the inside", so watch for mariachi promotions to start showing up via GEO.

This one's for the girls...

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December 20, 2004


One of my favorite memories of this place is the day after the election, when - in despair - a pal and I snuck off in the middle of the day to down a beer and commiserate. Last night, we returned with the better half (!), catching up on the rest of the semester and family politics and shamanism.

How about Ariel? ;-)

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December 19, 2004

any topic with a good meal

Twas a mellow evening: four of us engaged in three hours of talk, a scrumptious meal, a wee bit of kvetching, some spirited discussion regarding the merits of leech and maggot therapy, the importance of learning about "the other side", and various, historical shifts in residence, including someone's exciting upcoming move. All of this over (and against?) a bit of strategizing for getting done.

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December 18, 2004

dinner planning

~ excerpted from recent email:

SL - SB needs you for chopping, peeling, etc. Please coordinate.

if no one has any better ideas for dessert, I can try my hand at khubani ka meetha (apricots and malai).

I think Sarbjeet forgot daal.

If someone can help me get paneer and a blender that I do not possess, I'll appreciate it:) Never done both but there is a first time for everything!

if u've got it all covered, i won't make anything, and i'll EAT!

i am ready to help with aloo anything.

We can't have a meal without potatoes no? we can always have more biryani... since there's no such thing as too much biryani :-)

Spoken like a true Andhraite! we should have a movie too like the new released Flavors

i can also do just a paneer curry with aloo (also seems easier!) if spinach is needed elsewhere!

Steph said you were going to bring something

why is someone talking about frying allooos?

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December 16, 2004

nice things and hard ones

Yesterday was a mixed day. The highlight was a breakthrough for a mental health patient who's treatment sessions I've been interpreting for over five years. WOW! The department party was enjoyable, but severely tainted by my memories of last year, when I was accompanied by my family. Alas.

Maybe it was the juxtaposition that was so intense? A spillover effect from the incredible joy of witnessing improvement in someone with chronic mental illness (which doesn't happen too often, that's why the disease is described as chronic), and the long road of patience required just to even hope for "improvement" in the family's transition process? Indeed, there was a major shift in that I actually was able to see my daughter for the first time in....two months or so. It was awkward, but went well overall and (I hope) bodes well for a shift in energies that will make it increasingly easier for us to spend time together.

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December 15, 2004


~ from David. :-) Sound required.



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December 13, 2004

Fall 2005?

interpublic discursive interaction. Craig Calhoun (1995, 242) has suggested that we therefore think in terms of spheres of publics, conceptualizing these as multiple intersections among heterogeneous publics, not only as the privileging of a single overarching public (37). Except the blog is currently only one sitesuppose, a blog per class plus A Place in Space as the central heterogenous point? Experiment! Conflict independent study with Leda, Joanna, +? Raz? He could run an international blog while I run a domestic one? We could hide the URLs, keep the names private, not have the two groups read each others stuff.until later, a point in time to be determined = public life in late-capitalist democracies involve a plurality of discourses competing for position in national space (37).

~ Philip Schlesinger: Media and Belonging: The changing shape of political communication in the European Union in The Postnational Self, Hedetoft & Hjort (Eds) 2002.

Critique of PNS by Stephen Mueke. "The problem with the idea of the postnational self is that no sufficient or useful theory of subjectivit exists for selfhood thus conceived."

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December 11, 2004

Was I at a party last night?

I feel a bit woozy. Let me see.....someone, like, came up with um, like a potential prospectus topic and also ripped a plant out of its pot, someone was harassed for disgusting personal habits while ruminating a form of coming out, social etiquette was a topic with somebody, a fantasy junkie mulled the lure of science fiction, debates ensued about prospective committee members and what makes a good match...someone's favorite movie is The Cutting Edge, Xena trumped for someone else, and somebody's Britney Spears fandom was irrevocably revealed.

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November 27, 2004

Ghetto talk

I had to start taking notes when we got to Karl Marx. Did you know he was a middle-class guy in debt like everyone else? Lived beyond his means, couldnt get it together. It was image. Pretense. Reminds me of Donnas questions about not Benjamin (hes the good guy). Heidegger. The philosopher who was a Nazi. Lets not look too much into stuff like that.

Department politics: We're full of strong hard cutting edge folk shifted to the right. Sleeping Beauty and the AntiChrist. Who do you want to work with? Will they work with you?

Can we manage the coordination of meaning?

Its stupid to dismiss someone just because you dont like them. Is it possible my reaction is different than everybody elses? Is it possible?

I want the coolish folk - those with some courage and a tad bit of the foolish.

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November 26, 2004

turkey day

Srinivas looks like a tv commercial. This was said by one of the two women who saved my butt yesterday, Elizabeth or Lynn. I think. I didnt actually see who said it but we were the main three in the kitchen, and it was a womans voice

I told Mom Id be cooking and she laughed. They dont know what theyre getting themselves into, I said. She laughed again. There were not too many catastrophe's. I turned on the wrong burner to heat tea and cooked some of the rising dough. Prepped Way Too Many turnips. In some strange communicative event, Sarbjeet told Elizabeth (some weeks ago) about the dinner we were having at my house, but then thought it wasnt happening (?) and accepted someone elses invitation! (Sorry, Su family.)

He came through in the end. It was originally his idea! Hmmph!. The help on Wednesday night was durn near miraculous, indeed it did make me the happiest girl in the world. :-) For awhile, anyway. Of course Elizabeths contributions were amazing: green beans n bacon, sweet potatoes, grandmas apple salad, cranberries, gravy, biscuits, rolls (I kneaded for the first time ever!) did I forget something.green beans with mushrooms. The turkey, turnips, and mashed potatoes I prepared (with loads of prep help!) were palatable. Katherine's pecan pie was tops.

Everyone helped in one way or another. Even Koushik! I think almost everyone got to chop or cut something. David had us iron the tablecloth ("it's a holiday!") and Boggle was a big hit. Kirsten, Ata, and Umai (sp?) are the game mavens! :-)

I was a bit too busy to catch up with everyone I hadnt seen in awhile Swati, Nora, Katherine, even Lynn to some extent. The conversation at the table was cool (I should have taken notes! It must have been the eggnog.) I do recall an interesting conversation about being Hindu/claiming the heritage...otherwise the comparative religion/national holiday talk didn't really catch on. Thanksgiving was originally a harvest festival, and many countries have some variant on these.

After Spirited Away, the gang left with obligatory leftovers. Hardly any of the four (4!) pies remain! I played a couple games of rummikuband then saw another movie, Waking Life, with the younger (!) crowd.

All those who couldnt make it were missed. We did watch for Raz and Nigham on the telecast of the Macy's Day Parade. No sightings. And called Hunju about 1000 times. Hope she's feeling better.

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November 22, 2004

Saila rocks the dating scene

Donal sent out this link to Saila's News of the Week from the University of Helsinki.

"Finnish women dont date" proclaims the headline. Now, why is it that this is framed from an American point-of-view? Eye-catching, certainly. But doesn't it set up the Finnish norm as an "exception" to the "American way"? I say, poop on that! I kinda like the idea of serendipidity...

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November 21, 2004

juicing up .... !

Balibar again. :-) He's both totally depressing and marvelously inspirational:

"But when, by a structural necessity, the criteria of distinction and triage become violently discriminatory[devastating description of injustice]..We must set the idea of a community of citizens back into motion, in such a way that it should be the result of the contribution of all those who are present and active in the social space (emphasis mine, 2004:50).

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open source and "faith"

this one's for Ben. Innovation in Open Source communities through processes of variation and selection.

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November 18, 2004


"I dunno what your mother did to you..." !!


So said one of my classmates after I gave some feedback on her proposal. It was a compliment - I was able to say something about two of my peers' work today that got the class into discussions that clarified something important in their projects. They said nice things to me. :-) It was a good day for me to get some recognition. :-)

Although, I was also told, "if this was group therapy, you'd have broken me," which apparently meant she would have started crying, and the other agreed. Still none too gentle, am I. :-( I didn't mean to be harsh; just to share with I perceived! waahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

But, it couldn't have been better timing to be with a group of people, all of whom I like, who accept me as I am and even appreciate what I have to offer.

(Now we'll just have to see how I - and all of us, smile - perform under pressure between now and the 29th, eh?)

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November 14, 2004

How Far will it go?

One person (thanks Nadine!) approached me after the panel on Saturday saying she'd like to know how things turn out. I don't know, yet, but I'm mapping a possible path....

The overall audience response was ... remarkable, now that I stop to think about it.

There were definitely some contemplative (?) moments, but we spent most of the time laughing. At what?

I know that I presented the information in a humorous way, and even as humor. "This is the funniest part but we can't spend too much time on it..." or something to that effect. Tina emphasized the risktaking - of all of us - repeatedly in her response....Bonnie was the only panelist I really spoke with....Katie and I smiled at each other before we started and when the panel ended we were off on our separate orbits. Leda was probably off to her third appearance of the day...Tina did come over to suggest that I consider the angle of power in the study. Yep, I've been noting some of these junctures (like this one!) all along.

Coming back to the laughter, I'd already told some individuals about some of the things my students had said. About me being capable of podiatry, but not brain surgery or law. About the visceral impact of the haircut. I've consistently presented this as humor, being amused and pleased that the students/co-researchers felt comfortable to tease me so much. I also want to honor and recognize their honesty and willingness to make themselves vulnerable to me and each other.

It probably doesn't matter, except for vanity's sake, that I never knew about mullets until 3-4 years ago, when my FP talked about her students' reactions. Some teenybopper mag she gets had a spread on them. I thought I'd come up with it practically on my own! I saw a woman with a somewhat similar haircut at a women's music festival (down south, years ago, near Atlanta?), and then there was the impetus of the mohawk at the '96 Olympics...anyway, my pop cultural knowledge is widely known to be practically non-existent.

If the sharing of strongly negative feelings is framed and embraced as humor - what does that laughter point toward? Vernon is right, I think, when he says not enough emphasis is placed on the forward-in-time aspects of communication. Am I inviting you to laugh at me, or at some widely shared recognition of...something, or at.....what?

Sharing the limelight (!) was interesting. Most of the comments were directed toward Bonnie, if my memory serves. Pregnancy anecdotes, suggestions for further research....just discussing pregnancy in a group of (by visibility, anyway) non-pregnant women (24) and four men (and one person whose gender was indeterminate to me) over a period of 12 minutes as part of a larger conversation seemed to invite some of the same kinds of messages as those Bonnie was reporting from her semester-long classes.

I hope Leda actually felt teased (as she should have!) by my comment about her acting on an intuition about my horizon and inviting me to do this panel probably before I would have sought out such an opportunity on my own. While my "experiment in progress" currently runs on unarticulated theory, after listening to her talk about her paper I wanted to just say, 'ditto on that'. :-)

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return to the grindstone

Well, I suppose it was worth the trip. The highlight might have been Hunju trying to leave our hotel room through the bathroom door - twice! And other social gaffes and moments of humor. I'm 300 emails behind, not to mention papers and reading and...you know the drill!

Was bummed to miss Danny's presentation yesterday, not to mention both of Kirstin's. Saw Emily briefly yesterday morning - did you know she's scored the very last presentation slot 3/5 times? She's probably getting ready to go right about now. Hope someone shows up!

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November 13, 2004

almost over...

Raz and I head out in about an hour; we'll squeeze in Iris' presentation and then catch the shuttle. After the debacle on the subway last night (!) we decided to play it safe and let a Chicagoan navigate for us. :-)

Despite being mislead by our erstwhile guide (ahem), we arrived at an Ethiopian restaurant way way way up on the north side and had an absolutely delicious meal. I was able to waylay a new "victim" to listen to me carry on about problematic moments - grin - and much laughter was shared by all. Not to mention a bit of department gossip - gasp!

My presentation came off okay, I think. It was a great panel overall. I hope to get everyone's papers; they were extraordinary. I have no paper, as mine is still an experiment in process. Not much theoretical substance yet, but lots of laughter. ;-) Kirsten, Max, and Raz came and made faces at me. That was good.

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November 12, 2004


I had to wedge myself in between bodies at the door to hear Hunju's presentation!

Now I'm at a workshop on displacement and "bringing the lived experience into globalization".....will bail early to go see Kennaria.

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a conference head

Raz had himself another European morning. I enjoyed it yesterday but am really glad I drug myself up today to go to this panel on all the problems with North American communication theory. Im gonna have to join the intercultural and international division of NCA.

Saw Lynn; she was jazzed up, jotting down fieldnotes (!) from a conversation shed just had with someone who (if I remember right) was at her panel yesterday. Joanna, Olga and I had a great talk about theory and practice, not to mention merging the macro and the micro. Joanna shared with me Vernons sense that such a merger is the task of our generation. :-) Well (!) lets get it on!

Am gonna follow-up with Alexa Dare. Intriguing presentation on post-development discourse in which shes using a Butler-Freire merger between performativity and dialogue to posit the possibility of social change in moments of repeatabilitynow, Im off to join Max who is lingering in the hall trying to listen to two panels at the same time. Im gonna hear the great HUNJU (who now knows, by the way, that I drank her contacts this morning).

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don't tell Hunju

that I almost drank her contact lenses this morning! Actually, I did. :-( Luckily, I felt one of them hit my lip and was able to retrieve the other one from the sink where I had dumped the remnants of (what I thought was) the water I had last night before Hunju returned from her presentation prep.

THEN, Raz, ever the gentleman, offered to set his phone alarm instead of me using a wake up call. Fine. Except the turd got me up at 5:30 instead of 6:30! Of course I didn't realize this until I'd already been up for an hour. Retribution for the "aberration" is forthcoming!

Yeah, I called Raz an aberration last night cuz he's a non-smoker from a smoking nation. That was while we were at dinner in our private cul-de-sac at a yummy and reasonably priced Italian restaurant. Our wide-ranging conversation included the tidbit that UMass's COM dept is typically underdressed for this event. Kirsten had shared this with me earlier, and Max was our case-in-point, presenting in a short-sleeve polo shirt emblazoned with a company logo. :-)

I will win the prize today in my peace-out long-sleeved t...but I'm not "on" today in any capacity besides myself!

Did I mention how calm, cool, and collected Bryan and Matt were during their presentation yesterday? Their time was whacked in half without warning and they were interrupted at least three times. It was painful from my vantage point. :-( The guys held up well though and seemed successful overall since during the Q&A as they garnered plenty of attention.

Raz sailed through his presentation and his panel overall was smooth as silk by comparison. Leda bopped by our promotional table for a brief moment in between her multiple presentations; I was running off to the guys' presentations so didn't chat - but I did notice the happy glow; she's in her element. :-)

I learned a lot from Kirsten during our promo-stint. For instance, I personally haven't experienced a load of encouragement for taking out of dept courses (beyond those that are required) although no one has stopped me from doing so. But comparatively, Kirsten says most COM depts don't even have a requirement for out-of-dept courses (we require 6 credits) so actually we're awesome. Who knew?!! Lot of grads from other schools are here with all expenses paid, so that's a rub, but otherwise, we do genuinely feel good about the department and hopefully they came off. Of course, before Kirsten got there it was me and Raz - probably NOT the most stellar first-impression-type folk to represent us, do ya think? He looks like a terrorist and my research has just revealed the extent of the adverse impression my hairstyle generates....oh my.

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November 11, 2004


Weeeeeeell, here we are at NCA. After an uneventful flight and a loooong van ride to the hotel out in the boondocks where the wisest of the wise found a "reasonable" rate, I was disappointed that threats of "accidental petting" or even "drooling" didn't occur while sharing a bed last night with the questionable character who shadowed me in to the hotel.

The windy city it is. While our peers present away...Lori yesterday (long before we arrived), Matt & Bryan today (competing with Raz, who I'm already committed to go see, darn), and rumor has it Olga and Lynn are also presenting at that time. Double darn! I think the department ought to produce and share a list of not only current students but also alumni who are presenting. Maybe it's my penchant for "groupness". (Don't GROAN!) :-) What about a little COM Dept spirit? It won't be long before we might only see each other at conferences like this....

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November 7, 2004

half a cohort

50% of us showed up today, although there have always only been 7 in our face-to-face social gatherings. Two miscreants said they'd come and didn't (for shame!) and one has apparently abandoned us forever. (Hell no I ain't gonna let it go!) ;-)

All I can say is, Todd for President!! Not only did he perform an inspirational counter-Bush rhetoric and proclaim moderate Republicans as his new heroes, he used his old money to treat us all to breakfast! Buy my influence anytime dude, anytime! :-)

Mostly we just caught up on news, although there was ONE bit of gossip about someone who has a new boyfriend. shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Hey! No one told ME it was a deep dark secret! The only other secret is that Todd has forgotten how to be a grad student. Fatherhood has gone to his head. He spent some time in the library impersonating other students, trying to get into the swing of things.

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November 6, 2004

an aquarium of cultural capital

Heavens to Betsy but did we have a genuine Problematic Moment tonight! It was great. :-) Nothing like junk poetry, wine, and a bunch of grad students carrying on about the meaning of it all. :-)

For half the night I thought I was watching a remake of Six Degees of Separation but I was corrected that the movie I had in mind, starring Sydney Poitier, was Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.

There was impassioned talk between this flick and the next one, but let me tell ya, it was just a warm-up to the end of the evening all out squirt spree!

Then there was Born Rich which was disturbing in its own way about the rarifed subjectivities of rich kids and their various strategies for coping with unearned wealth.

This squirt thing really got going though. It's all biochemical. Red, blue, ironic, sexist, WHATEVER! Let the squirts begin! Indeed, we had a genuine Problematic Moment with three people bursting out simultaneously. The goddess only knows what any of them said, but it was one of the clearest examples of a din I've come across yet. I couldn't, even in the moment, recall the statement that elicited the outburst (I think it had actually been building for awhile, smile), but the overall content had to do with evaluations of taste and hierarchy and whether or not The Daily Show's irony might (occasionally) perpetuate sexism. It may have been a collision of competing gender discourses, or it might have been the emergence of a counter class discourse (challening that notion that aesthetic distance is a necessarily more engaged and therefore better achievement of human capability than a mere embodied aesthetic. At least, this is what the argument boiled down to from my point-of-view! :-)

Anyway, the Frontier pizza was yummy, the company tremendous, and the debate stimulating. All the best components of a fun evening. I even enjoyed the comparison of anal orderliness between partners and particularly the confidence with which folks asserted their perspectives while still validating the Other....there was definitely a tension of identification at play - we're all intellectuals, no doubt, but of what type? And can we accomplish our work despite - or because of - our differences? And here we morph (as we did throughout the evening) into the political.

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November 4, 2004

"Revenge of the Homeschoolers"

In addition to grousing about the election results, there was a fair amount of humor in class last night. (And I like it that now I'm being directed what to record for the blog!) :-)

Donna was on a roll with witty characterizations and good humor. The joke that won the day had to do with her desire to see "an Orthodox Jewish player in Hasidic clothing who wins the game and then says to the media, 'Oy, I am so glad I dahvened (prayed) before the game! And now that we won, thank G-d, I am gonna go out and buy everybody bagels and lox!'"

She also shared with us some of the inspiration she tried to convey to her students who were crushed by an electoral defeat in their first election: "in the Jewish tradition, we are supposed to do a mitzvah every day-- it's usually translated as a "good deed" but it refers to doing some positive thing to make the world better in some way. However, doing a mitzvah is not contingent on getting a particular result. You don't just do it for the result, in other words-- you do it because it's the right thing to do. So, for those who voted and their candidate lost, that doesn't mean voting was wrong-- sometimes, even when we do the right thing, we don't get the result we would have liked. But it's a mitzvah to make the effort. As it says in the Talmud (the commentaries on the Hebrew Bible), you are not expected to complete the task, but neither are you expected to walk away from it. So maybe we can't make the world more tolerant or more peaceful, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try."

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risks of being an intellectual

We read a piece on Franz Fanon by Robert Stam for class tonight. It grabbed my attention more than the other articles in this reader, Multiculturalism, Postcoloniality, and Transnational Media, because it describes applications of psychoanalysis deployed by Fanon. It also brings to mind the way we are being taught to pick apart and critique academics - Fanon is accused of a gender bias and homophobia. One day (we hope!), we will be the subjects of such scrutiny. It continues to challenge and puzzle me about how we can prepare each other against future exposures by addressing and dealing with the evidence of such oversights (which I conceive of as typically unintended)

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November 3, 2004

coping strategies

It was a grim day in the COM dept, lots of long faces and low energy. A few folks raged. Some shared diversions and jokes. Some went for beer at noon.

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October 31, 2004

messing with Briankle

So, I gotta catch up with this dude to have him sign my POS (graduate plan of study; the one I was "supposed" to fill out about 2 years ago, grin).

Meanwhile, I've been hearing the "usual stories" about his teaching style. I got a bit passionate about it last night, cuz Briankle has been a bit of a puzzle to me all along (of course, he cultivates that, actively!) My current hypothesis is that he's living his theory. Maybe it's just my projection, but here's how it might work:

Briankle is a deconstructionist, and he believes that no one ever really understands the other fully. Actually, Vernon has said things along these lines too, such that some couples' misunderstandings of each other are actually functional for their relationship! :-) WHAT IF Briankle is showing up in 611, ready to go where the energy is, and no one is meeting him? Why should he do all the labor of getting folks to engage with the material? How does he know where anyone is with their thinking and conceptualizations of communication theories and practice?

When he does get jazzed - what's it about? Who joins him? Of course its entertaining to watch him scribble on the chalkboard and tabletops, and to witness his glee when he's on a roll with some stream-of-consciousness "tangent". Maybe it isn't as much of a "tangent" as folks think it is? There is this whole "level" business. I've just had a few revelations of my own about some of the analytical, conceptual, meta-levels of academic discourse I've been missing the past two years. :-) Geez, obviously I'm nowhere NEAR my limits on lessons in humility!

Anyway, I'm banking that if I'm prepared and assertive, Briankle isn't going to hang me out to dry during comps and leave me lying on the floor at my defense. Hmmm....maybe I'm trying to "test" my hypothesis via the new cohort? I wouldn't dream of doing something like that! (Although I might figure it out in retrospect....)

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Dia de Todos de los Santos

Bonded w Fernando over chicken. He yanked me around a few times - I think I figured 'em all out by the end� Of course, he HAD to say something about me being serious all the time (!?) and PESSIMISTIC! Can you believe he called me pessimistic? The scoundrel. I said, Everytime "Everytime you try to do something new, you make a mistake." (Maybe that's just me?) :-) But I do Keep Trying. Doesn't that make me ultimately optimistic?

Lucas is great.

Our chefs! Mama mia! It could be that the best part of the whole event was the long afternoon of cooking and talking. Taste-testing was especially enjoyable, but really, it was the company, the atmosphere, the event. :-) Arturo wins the prize for saying the nicest thing to me all evening: We were getting the margarita's ready and I was smashing the ice apart in the sink. "Remind me not to make you upset," he teased. "Didn�t you know that about me already?" I retorted. "I know you are a gentle person." Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh! :-)

Actually, Lori told me she loved me and had me twirl her around the kitchen. She left soon afterwards though...hmmm! I've been trying to decide how to describe her costume. A vixen, I think. Erin might have been a fairy � uh oh, I didn't check my perceptions :-/ so lord only knows what havoc I'll wreak�! Brett came as himself, although definitely styling. Sreela, the elegant witch, arrived Quite Late after a bout of being lost in the woods with Pyro (with his flashing devil's horns and boy scout duds) and Lilly. There was this moment at the end of the party when Chris demonstrated what a gentleman he really is: I had mentioned that my pumpkin had not received a single vote. He tried; but with a 50/50 chance he thought Jose's pirate was pretty darn cool. (It is!)

Sarbjeet won the pumpkin contest with the vast majority of the cast ballots (12). Four were cast for Jose's, one "'cuz everyone knows pirates are kewl." Fernando received two votes in absentia; I think the competition may have turned out much more tightly if we hadn't lost Fernando's and Mike's. They were both pretty awesome. Then there was a lone vote for Nader�

Sarbjeet also won one of the doorprizes, along with Andrea and Kathleen (both of whom managed to leave their prizes here, hmmph!). That Tupperware was thoroughly sterilized from their respective biology experiments last summer; I swear!

David and Nora were among the first to leave - the newly married life. What can one say? :-) Kennaria boogied right on out of here without even warning me that she wasn't gonna hang around. The Nerve! Raz, an Indian God, and Cleopatra arrived fashionably late and promptly wedged their car in the culvert. What's a party without a tow truck? All those macho-men couldn't push that car out. Tsk tsk. Art, however, was in full glory with his cigar and painted mustache - he enjoyed himself <>this time, I'm sure! Never saw him out of role, not even when he was doing his best to save the day. :-) Andrea was sparkly in her devil's gear, although she missed Ingrid's earlier blue deva outfit. I have to say, for sheer detail and extravagance, Ingrid and Mary Jo went out of their way to do costume!

But wait! Eve the Vampire and Kathleen the Victim were understated but clearly some thought went into their planning! Kirsten W, alas, had no costume, but she made up for it with several cheers from another life (footage from the hidden webcam will be available soon). Ata, also without costume, ate the entire night. Poor guy planted himself on the sofa in-between trips to the kitchen and observed the goings-on. :-) Have I neglected so far to mention how good the food was? OHMYGOSH. Arturo and Maria outdid themselves. (BTW, those of you that were worried Fernando wouldn't actually help? SURPRISE! But oh - maybe I'm not supposed to let the secret out? hehehe)

The miracle of the evening was that Kirsten I. and Tom actually showed up! WOWOWOW! How nice to see them, get hugs, and even chat for a few minutes! :-) I'm looking forward to another NCA evening out to rival our trip to the Funky Butt in New Orleans two years ago.

Camille and Iris were the only no-shows tonight (hope you're both ok); Cata had already warned me how unlikely it was that he'd be able to make it. We'll hope, at the very least, he aced his online test; otherwise his choice to work instead of play ought to plague his dreams.

Let's see. Matt was the boy from New Jersey, if I got his costume right. He perked up after coffee and introduced me to Oasis while we were cleaning up. Now THAT's a rock band! :-) Most of the rest of the music was spun by Ata and Kirsten. They kept the party abuzz! Claudia kept trying to convince me she's shy but then there she was out there dancing with me and Lucas. Now that is one cute kid! I only knocked him over once when he snuck up behind me while I was taking out the trash. {gasp!} He had a few crying bouts, but he's teething, and lord knows if you've got owies in your mouth all the time it would only take a little bump here-n-there to get started! I think he likes to run on his own momentum. Once he starts something, why stop? Unless/until something else catches his attention. Like mommy playing hide and seek, or Matt doing the tango. :-)

There were requests for recipes, and we'll just have to see. The chefs improvised along the way. Here's what we had:

Green pipian with chicken, mole poblano chicken, poblano rice, mole poblano tofu, jicama salad, pico de gallo. If you arrived in time for the appetizers: homemade guacamole, shrimp tostadas, and flautitas. Dessert: vegan Mexican wedding cookies and cookies with walnuts & orange.

Next party is tentatively slated for the Winter Solstice. I'll take recommendations on the best date - the actual solstice is (according to my non-pagan calendar) Monday, Dec 20. Sarbjeet and Co will prepare Indian food. No, I will not be wearing my Vulcan ears at that one!

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It occurs to me that I have never, ever, really paid attention to gender dynamics very much. Seems like such a het thing. I know I've been paid less than men for some work (asst. mgr. Taco Bell), but the same for other work (cable tv, interpreting, teaching)....and the discrimination that has affected me directly has always been a variant of homophobia. Anyway, I think I'm starting to see more of it around me, and wondering about what my historically subjective disengagement "means" in terms of contributions to its continuation...

Anyway, this article on the masculinization of the presidency came across the social justice listserv from Leah Wing. It reminds me of the time James and I went to see Starship Troopers, which portrays women soldiers and a range of other forms of "equality", but what it really shows, is women who've become like men, with men unaltered.

So, along with this, I heard a story about some of the new cohorters who showed up in class one day wearing tiaras and proclaiming (according to the stereotypes) that all grrls can do is look pretty (or something to that effect). The sarcasm is a bit deep, eh? I wondered if it was a comment on some perceived imbalance in the department.

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October 30, 2004

Group Relations Theory

I'll present on this for Max's class Monday. It pushes me to get some more serious prep in mind for this spring's small group communication class. James and Vangie have their site up now, for Chaos Management. It might be one of the best resources for group relations type info on the web. I'll check out the AKRice Institute too...undoubtedly, these are the two most significant influences upon me in this area.

I don't know how many of the lessons I learned at group relations conferences were problematic moments, but this (they) are the site of study/research I am most interested in. They do not happen often, and when they do, my track record for working into them isn't stellar, but I do get "bettter" - or, at least learn a different lesson! - each time. :-)

Here's a few key concepts from the FAQ page of the AKRI page (linked above):

"What is authority?

"We classically think of authority as the 'right to do work.' More recently some directors have added the importance of responsibility to this definition. Other writers speak of authority as conferred power to perform a service (Heifetz, 1994). In other words, authority is an exchange, something that is given to a leader and can also be taken away. In our conferences we study the challenges involved in the exercise of authority.

"It is also important to know that authority can be thought of as formal and related to role. Authority may also be linked by some of us to visible characteristics of individuals, such as age, gender and race. Authority may also be informal, having much more to do with how people see themselves and are seen in their roles.

"There is a debate on whether there is any such thing as personal authority. Classically authority requires some other party on whose behalf you are acting. More recently some have argued that one must call on ones own authority to make choices about behavior once one has awareness of such choices. The quote on our homepage seems to support this latter point.

"What is a group?

In our thinking, you have a group whenever an aggregate of people are working on a task. Without the task, you simply have a gathering of people. In other definitions, it is important that the people who make up a group think of themselves as such. Further, it is also important that others looking at this gathering of people think of them as a group as well. Key to the study of social systems is what we call the interdependence of group members. This concept simply means that the group members rely on each other in some meaningful way, usually related to carrying out whatever tasks the group has before itself.

"One thing about groups is that individual members represents that group in some important way, not just themselves. When the individual member speaks or takes some action, this behavior is done on behalf of the entire group. This final point, that an individual can do work on behalf of a group, sometimes without even realizing it, is central to what we call group relations.

"What do you mean by group-as-a-whole?

"Group-as-a-whole refers to what happens at the group-level in any kind of social or organizational setting (Wells, 1985). The basic point is this: every member of a group is connected. When a person speaks they are not only speaking for themselves or to another person, they are speaking for the group-as-a-whole. In group relations conferences, we are studying primarily what happens at the group level.

"The group-as-a-whole is in the context of five levels of analysis: Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, Group-as-a-Whole, Intergroup, and Interorganizational. An easy way to think of this construct is to consider an athlete going to the Olympics. There is the athlete (intrapersonal), her relationship to other team members (interpersonal), the team she's a part of for her particular event (group-as-a-whole), her competition with people who represent different teams and countries in that event (intergroup), and her representation of her country alongside others who represent different countries (interorganizational). All these levels can be present concurrently, expressed in or through one person. Our understanding of this process gives us a greater appreciation of the power of the group in our lives."

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Balkan Jam

Flora was in high spirits performing on her cello while Pine played the accordion and Prem bounced from one stringed instrument to another, with occasional drumming and dance lessons. My favorite was Pine's Beltana piece ~ even if it was out of season. :-)

Speaking of dancing, that "waltz" that Sarbjeet and I did was undoubtedly the highlight of the evening. Probably I "led" and Sarbjeet concentrated very hard to avoid stepping on my toes - we had our closest call when we reversed the direction of our tightly-contained spiral and Sarbjeet had to figure out to go backwards......believe it or not, he - we! - pulled it off! :-)

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Sreela accused ME of not returning the Star Wars dvd....how did she know that is one of my favorite flicks? The one I saw more times than any other, ever, in the theatre (six times). However, it WASN'T me that didn't return the dvd and I hope the real culprit will confess and clear my name....

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October 25, 2004


Benjamin sucked me right into that trick question at his presentation today! Of course I assumed that if he was showing us a certain example it had to mean something. :-)

A couple of the new cohorters got right in there - but what was up with all y'all marching in late and disrupting the whole show, eh?! And did anyone besides me notice the faculty member dozing off and on throughout?

Overall, though, it was cool. I like having monolingual thinking pointed out to me - that we have these base assumptions that people "ought" to speak "one" language and not codeswitch. That its often the observer who "makes" meaning out of it when bilinguals are just using a tool at their disposal to do the same kinds of things monolinguals do with the tools at their disposal. Nifty!

That bit about identities being "dimensions of ongoing processes of differentiation" really caught my attention. Sounds like interpellation to me! And I didn't quite catch the whole statement, but Benjamin also said something about the meaning of language use (such as codeswitching) between individuals being "a phenomenological question that is ideologically mediated." While "meanings are tethered to structures", histories, specific social scenes and situations....the person who says something (the author) may arguable be the author of the text but quite possibly - and most likely! - not the author of the meaning. Benjamin shared that last idea with us from an obituary for Derrida.

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October 24, 2004

What the &^^&%$$##?

This was a bad movie about really fascinating stuff! Too evangelistic for my taste, but a useful compendium of cutting edge theory in quantum mechanics, human biology and chemistry, and consciousness studies. I was fascinated by the whole neural net/nerve connection scenario in the brain - where repeated emotional experiences sortof install routine pathways that lead to a kind of "addiction" in which experiences that will stimulate those same pathways are sought....over time the biochemical pathways for other emotional experiences are impaired and eventually cut off. Its reparable - one can shift one's neural nets - but requires concentration, deliberation, time, and repetition.

I had a couple of revelations while watching this movie - particularly around the notion of possibilities and that focusing the gaze "collapses the wave". There is a scene in the movie when the protagonist (Marlee Matlin, not at her best) looks "away" while a bunch of basketballs and the wise kid (Rudy?) pepper and bounce about in numerous "places" - existing in all these spaces simultaneously. It's the "wave" part of quantum mechanics - the energy of possibility. When she turns around - "looks" or focuses her gaze - the wave collapses into one "possibility".

The ephiphany for me was that in this group dynamic that I sortof unleashed (dunno how else to describe it briefly), I "collapsed the wave" on a "possibility" that was an overlay of previous experience (the "past") on this experience (the "present"). Here's how I think it worked:

I sense the energy of the quantum wave. This "energy" is meaningful to me, potent, and "calls" me to engage with it. (There's a tangent here about concentration of wave energy - the interactive part - that I think intensifies at given moments in a group: it was this intensification in particular that I sensed.) The energy is amorphous at this point - rife and ripe with possibilities. What does it mean? Where could it go? Anywhere! Literally - the possibilities are (were, sigh) infinite.

I respond to the call. I engage with the energy of the wave. I focus my gaze. And goddamn it but I "focus" based on previous experience and essentially "import" an interpretation into the group that has nothing to do with this particular, uniquely-configured, historically-situated and socially-specific group! The wave collapses. Possibilities vanish, evaporate. A chain of events is set in motion stemming from the things that my importation "calls" to in others. Who respond as they are "called".

One keen observer who has pushed me hard on this noted that they found a problem with a "certain displacement in the lineage of your argument for change that appears problematic." That "displacement" is, I think, exactly this "importation" or "overlay" of my neural net on the wave - which I can see all too clearly (now, painfully, in hindsight), and absolutely was damaging and hurtful to many, if not most of the members in the group.

It gets worse. Because I have now invoked a certain frame (race) it invites, more accurately "hails" others to interpellate me through the lens of race. And then, forthwith, all my entitlement and privilege as a white person becomes the most visible "cause" of "the problem." Which leaves me, perhaps others, with little room to maneuver "out" of enacting an awful and painful pattern.

And - more humble pie - perhaps my entitlement and privilege as a white person IS embedded deeply in this scene because I felt "able" to bring my concerns to the group; I felt it was "allowable" to advocate for certain things that would benefit me and (I thought) others; and I felt it was somehow "ok" to do this generally, publicly, instead of privately.

I am working hard to reconfigure my neural net into an acceptance/belief in the possibility of a different ("new") outcome (than me being "killed as the messenger" - which is the - my - historic pattern). [I do want the current race-based "hailing" to stop - to be "killed"; but I'm referring to the original "message" which was, most basically, about the presence of a concentration of energy...and THAT is another revelation!] The thing about the wave (the energy) is that it is fresh, new, untainted in each moment: it could be "collapsed" in a different direction at any point in time, however, this can only be co-produced through the interaction process itself, and if the train's got enough momentum, it's pretty dang tough to stop it in its tracks.

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October 22, 2004

"Expectorate on the road and..."

Despite a few crude metaphors (!) and a gruesome story or two, I had a wonderfully relaxing evening with friends and great comfort food. The setting and company was so mellow and comfy I turned into a bit of a sleep-deprived chatterbox, just on the verge of being downright goofy. I needed that! Conversation was varied, unpressured, spontaneous....lots of laughter. I even got a warm fuzzy hearing about and watching the enactment of a happy relationship. It is possible! I've had a few sturdy pals throughout the ordeal of the last half-year but there was a quality of .... warmth?... that nurtured my soul.

Ummm hmmm! We did end up on the topic of pain....physical, mostly. I think it must have been triggered by the cramp I got in my hamstring. First one ever - am I getting older or what?! Note to self: do not neglect to do post-lifting stretches!

Besdies two entrees, there were three (count 'em, 1, 2 3!) desserts! Of course, I'm not going to divulge any details about the whipped cream...

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is recuperation possible?

I have not been having fun. I feel the need to say this right off the bat because I am distressed that others have felt pain due to my actions. I am also worried that my blogging will add insult to injury, and I'm not sure there is anything I can do to prevent or soften that...I hope that you will all respect that I am just trying to hold myself accountable to my own intellectual project. It is not easy.

I am going to write as vaguely as possible so as to protect anonymity, while trying to preserve the details that are salient to me. "Salience" is a judgment I'm making based on the subjective fact that I keep thinking about them.

Fortunately, I have at least one friend who is able to see some humor in the overall situation, which I desperately need to keep myself operating with some semblance of "balance". %-/

And, I just checked email and in fact there have been two responses to my apology. This is a relief; I was feeling some strain that it would not be acknowledged at all. That's my own history....

I guess there are two main things "up" for me right now that I want to articulate here so as not to lose them as the dialogue continues to unfold. One is the process of interpellation and the other is my personal socially-specific, historic trajectory.

I hope someone will correct or challenge me if this in any way feels like a misrepresentation of Althusser, but interpellation seems to me to be akin to the way groups "call" individuals to take up certain roles. In this situation, I don't think I could have thought/perceived what I did or felt like I "ought" to say something if there wasn't something in the group "hailing" me to take up that role. I don't know how to locate what that "something" is, but I am convinced that my actions didn't occur in a vacuum solely out of my own pathology. (Of course, they also say that those who are "convinced of their own sanity" are the ones you need to be most careful of, so BEWARE!) :-)

That's the interactive, dialectical part, the social construction of meaning or the conjoint production of meaning, however one wants to describe it. And, there is no doubt a "pathological" component, which is why I was so ready to confess my own ambivalence about sending the original email. On the one hand, the historical specificity of my own life "set me up" (in a way) to be receptive or vulnerable to that kind of "hail". In group dynamics - really, group relations theory - they call this a valence. I know that I have a valence for "complexity", and a valence for "belongingness" (I don't know what else to call it). No doubt (sigh) I also have a valence for "resistance", and also one for the "unspoken" or "absent".

I've also (tried to) develope a bit of a thick skin around "accepting" the roles I'm "called into" by groups and trying to engage actively with them as an exercise of agency. However, I have to say that my experiences with this kind of thing have usually not turned out so well. :-( Part of my sadness about how this has developed (or at least one trajectory that it has taken) is that it seems to have irrevocably changed my relationships with people that I was only just starting to get know. That fills me with grief.

I am encouraged, though, by the turn in the email conversation and hope it is a productive and mutually beneficial one that actually produces healing for all concerned. (Fingers crossed!) Also, Becky, thanks so much for commenting and letting me know I'm not alone out here, dangling off a precipice. :-)

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October 21, 2004

uh oh....

I'm thinking about the chaos of democracy....and how Stephen continually critiques the Left for "giving credit" to "the other side", of being willing to look at their own faults as perhaps part & parcel of any dynamic, even of keeping things complicated.

I noticed a pattern in one of my classes that I thought I recognized from my first AKRICE conference when I completely unwittingly and innocently played into an institutional pattern of racism. It SUCKED! Partly because it just sucks to find yourself someplace where a) you don't want to be and b) goes against your ethics. It also sucked because I had been so convinced I was "doing what I was supposed to do." It was an embarrassing and humbling experience.

The day I decided to send an email to the group about my worry...to share my lack of ease with what looked like could be happening, I remembered another AKRice conference, when I had "saved" a seat for the African-American woman who's authority was being blatantly challenged by the group. I KNOW academia is not a group relations conference! And, what is the point of only being an activist or taking stands in places designed to practice such behavior? What about the real world?

So, I plunged. I did have that seed of doubt/questioning in my mind about my own perception, but in terms of timing, it seemed if I sent the email early people would be able to respond and "beat the deadline" in order to prove me wrong forthwith, whereas if I waited, it would look/feel even more judgmental - OR, maybe become impossible to say. I opted "to say."

The response was initially a bit curious but also hurt. Now it has seems to have turned aggressive. I am the "bad guy". (For instance, as I write this, it occurs to me someone might believe I "did it on purpose" as an instigator. I only wish I had such foresight and control!) As it is, it has unfolded this way, for better or worse. (Right now its feeling like "worse".)

There are two axes at play here that I feel I can put my finger on, and others that I suspect but can't articulate. One that I've encountered before (and still obviously don't manage too well), is the shift from "there and then" academic theorizing to "here and now" interaction. Just because we're intellectuals doesn't make us immune from the effects of socialization, discourse, media, etc ad nauseum! But our department seems to work pretty hard at keeping such analysis and recognition at bay - perhaps it is true of academia in general (seems likely).

The other one that seems pretty clear to me is the conceptualization of a group-as-a-whole. The responses seem consistently to reduce my argument to the individual level. I don't seem able to articulate or explicate or otherwise convey that this is simply NOT where I am coming from. It puzzles me that there is such resistance to this lens, especially coming from communication folks who (and here I may be guilty of an assumption) have generally accepted the notion that there is no fixity of meaning, that meaning is always dialectical and co-constructed. To me, this removes ANY possibility of individual "responsibility" for a group's collective behavior, because it is what the group decides such behavior means.....

Aha! It could be that this is a contestation over such construction? But, the way it is playing out (so far) is an isolation of "me" on the individual level...and I contributed to that by admitting to my own ambivalence (the "sin" of the left, is what I'm thinking) - which provided "ammunition" so to speak for the accusation that it is "just" my personal bullshit and has nothing/no relevance whatsoever to the overall group. (Hence, I can understand some of the anger as resentment over being "dragged into something" that doesn't feel like it has anything to do with oneself.)

The other axes that I suspect are operational but I don't have a grip on are cultural and what's considered "normative" for the classroom.

Anyway, the last challenge to me was why didn't I just frame it as "I want such-and-such to happen." Its a good question. I have an immediate reaction, and a more thoughtful response. On the reaction level, because the person with authority had already said what she wanted and it hadn't happened, why would MY saying so make any difference? On the more thoughtful level, it does suggest a way of "acting into the future" (Vernon strikes again!) that I think I didn't consider carefully enough (the timing question). Again, it comes back to the question of deliberation and planning.....my preference is to be able to communicate without having to dance through a bunch of hoops just to make my message "hearable" by my interlocutors (whoever they may be). But, I need to exercise better judgment about when I can be more relaxed and when I need to be more deliberate - either because of the content of the message or the personalities/subjectivities of the interlocutors. (Of course, how can one KNOW until one puts oneself out there?)

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October 11, 2004

speaking of parties...

"I'm so tired of American parties where everyone comes for dinner, has a few polite drinks, and goes home by 11." I know the author of this statement was one of the two remaining guests when I left Raz and Catalin's party at 3 am this past Saturday night. Too bad Leda wasn't there, then maybe I wouldn't have been the last American...!

Most of the dancing had concluded by the time I arrived after my interpreting gig, and within a half-hour the guests started to leave. (Hmmmm.......!)

I did get several dances in, though, including lessons in....what were those dances again? The Punjabi music was pretty much fun, as was the interethnic (?) squabbling. ;-) I was also severely challenged for not knowing who Dave Chapelle is: "What's wrong with you white people?"

"I don't know, bitch!" (A word Chapelle has - apparently - made famous (?) by imitation. Who actually says it? Does it matter? I don't know who he is either!)

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being "surveilled"

Uh oh. Now there are expectations (fears? hopes? HA! Don't I wish!) that I might blog about folk at any moment. :-) Sut's jam for MoveOn.org at the Media Education Foundation was cool. The Vote for Change finale concert was a blast, although the crowd was too mellow for my tastes. I thought there was potential for rowdiness when folks applauded the first few songs, but that was as much energy as we could collectively muster - no dancing. Wah!

Some good lines:

James Taylor was asked what he tells undecided voters. "Look at the two candidates very carefully, check 'em out. Then vote for the smart one."

He also had one about that saying, "don't switch horses in midstream". "But if your horse doesn't know how to swim and you're in over your head....and you didn't want to cross the stream in the first place....!"

The Dixie Chicks had a good one too - I dunno the lead singer's name, but she said we needed to "get rid of mad cowboy disease."

Some COM folk wandered in, around, and out. Some got pelted with grapes, others were not so fortunate. The flicks were both good, so I heard. I opted for music and inspiration tonight.

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October 10, 2004

Derrida passes on...

"Briankle will be sad." So said one of my colleagues at a party last night. Donna got the news out via email...

Here is a brief announcement.

Hmm, here's another one. They characterize deconstruction quite differently!

This slightly longer piece from The Guardian is better.

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October 9, 2004

the fun stuff

We actually had a very focused and serious discussion in DRP last week, reminiscent of a class with Briankle. ;-) However, Joanna was plagued by a fly for most of the session, Donna brough donuts - we agreed to save the only plain one for Bryan - who Stephen surmised did not have a crisis at work but either a) simply didn't want to miss Game 2 (Congrats, by the way, for winning the playoffs!) of b) was afraid of radical feminism. Stephen complained about having to work with "any moron who walks through the door" and Scott played spin-the-bottle to identify the moron in the class. Later, Scott was pegged as "a fertile void." Leda (in all seriousness) confided the question of [her] life how one can reconcile the interaction aspect of communication (in making meaning, enacting democracy) with attempts at creativity ~ because when one is creative people often react as if you're a freak. Or, I'd modify, have the plague. Makes me wonder about forms of xenophobia...

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October 6, 2004


Class (as in our group of students and professor, smile) seemed more energetic last night than prevously. We've had good discussions all along, but last nght we got into some moments of...debate...(?)...I'm not sure how to characterize it. Lisa pushed me pretty hard, I guess she thinks I can take it. ;-) Lynn too cautioned about conflation - generalizing statements about one (socioeconomic) class to others. It's definitely an area I need to work on - articulating (verbally) my intuitions about how things "go together" (articulate, smile) in a more precise manner. Lisa thought I was getting too abstract at one point; in my mind, I was trying to pinpoint how an embodied subject (me, or you, grin) might notice - capture? - themselves in a moment of acting out a particular class subjectivity, perpetuating the on-going formation of class in terms of the status quo.

I think it has to do with bracketing. The topic or foci of the class seems to shift between the macrosocial ("classes in formation") and the microsocial (effects on classed subjects)...but the microsocial only in terms of the assigned text? Again, I'm just trying to work this out for myself ("out loud", as is my wont, sigh - for good or ill!). (Perhaps it is my speech production that fails to adequately "bracket out" my own subjectivity?)

Our texts have been historical, yet the power of the writing (in my view), has been the way in which the authors have represented the "outcome" of the dynamical processes which they're analyzing. So, Steedman writes in a way that enacts the subjectivity of her formative (!) years, and Bledstein taps the roots of present-day cynicism. Interesting, isn't it, that the class (us, a group-as-a-whole) seemed to be affectively "hooked" by Bledstein and not by Kelley? No roots of the shiftless class among us? And the reactions to Newman played out, to a small degree, a parallel (if milder) form of distancing from the objects (who used to be subjects) of stigma.

Wild thought - is there a hidden transcript even in our academic discussion - as problematizing as it is? Maybe it's not a transcript, per se. (I'm still working my mind around this concept.) A form of dialogic repression a la Billig?

I've also got the reading from Stephen's class in mind (Ziarek, An Ethics of Dissensus), and its push to reconceptualize the subject from a unitary self (shall I say, a "professionally-oriented vertical subjectivity"? grin) to a multiply-identitied (!) being whose own locus or center of embodied action shifts among locations.

So, while our macrosocial focus in this course is to keep our eyes on a definition of class that includes the production of surplus value and note the mechanisms (? structures? features?) of class formation, and the notion that, as Linebaugh says "the working class occupies many different locations" (home, work, jail, etc.); the readings have powerfully connected everyday struggles (the microsocial) to these macrosocial formations. I suppose I'm getting into, or coming from (?) a notion of agency (maybe this is where I keep getting in trouble?)....because it seems to me the implications of our discussion about subversion and resistance were very much at the microsocial level.

Hmm. I'm also (lightbulb!) attending to our discoursiv production, which is, I think, the mid-level between the macro and micro. This is the cultural aspect of the formation(s) and enactment(s) of class, and it doesn't seem out-of-bounds (to me!) to consider if, how, when we're 'guilty' of doing this in the course's discourse (co-constructed and mutually-performed by all of us). So, rather than "a projection of the dishonorable" onto others; I think I was...possibly?....or intending to be?... a bit closer to "home".

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October 2, 2004

overheard on the Metro

"Teaching people how to create is the antidote to oppression."

After I eavesdropped on a long conversation about knitting (!) I gave my card to these folk because I knew I was going to blog about them. :-)

Mr. Wallace Boyd was sitting there knitting away when a family across the aisle engaged him. He shared, in addition to the quote above, all kinds of experience and wisdom about knitting: how meditative it is, calming, that doing it well is a state-of-mind, one simply needs to be patient enough to make mistakes and learn from them, persevere. One stitch at a time is a metaphor for life, for community-building. Wallace is part of a network of knitting support groups across the DC area, "Knit and Crochet in the City." They reached out to crocheters for the diversity; folks who can do both Wallace calls "bifibrous." :-) They have a yarn swap every year, and many people have "UFO's" - UnFinished Objects.

The family had a bunch of knitters in it, it seemed - but the daughter (?) seemed most into it....she knits items for her family which they actually wear - even-edged or not. :-) Wallace told a story about a sweater he was making once in which something early on didn't seem quite right, but he thought it would probably turn out alright so he didn't recheck the gauge (something to do with measuring how long the eventual product would be). Turns out, after hours of labor, that he realized he was going to end up 3 inches short. Moral of the story?

"If its wrong now, it'll be wrong later. It'll always be wrong. Go ahead and take the time to fix it now."

I'm not a knitter (can you imagine?!), but I know folks who are. It wasn't the content that initially drew me to pay attention to the conversation, it was the people themselves. Do you have a mental picture in your head of who these folks are? What they look like?

Coming from dang near lilywhite Vermont, I always get a visual and psychic rush interacting with people of a wide variety of shades, ethnicities, and backgrounds. And, being concerned with social justice, I always notice the visible characteristics of folks, and think (depending upon what transpires) about whether or not those characteristics are having any kind of impact on the interaction itself. Do they matter?

Today, they didn't matter at all, and it was so refreshing. :-)

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demand-control theory

I attended part of Robyn's workshop on observation supervision, and can see immediately why so many people have told me to check out her work. There are definitely many overlaps. :-)

Demands are, simply, those tasks required of the job itself. Controls are the decisions one takes/makes to manage the delivery of these tasks.

Controls sound a lot like regulation in the Vygotskian sense (see previous post). Robyn described them as "decisions, actions, and attitudes - even recognizing a demand is a control" (not necessarily an exact quote, smile). There seems to be an implication that these controls are conscious? Since I don't know the whole theory, I may be speculating way "out of turn" (surprise!), but it seems like putting the two approaches into dialogue with each other might be really productive. For instance, does demand-control theory itself recognize that some controls are unconscious (meaning habitual or reactive)?

I definitely appreciate the breakdown of job components to EIPI: the Environmental, Interpersonal, Paralinguistic, and Intrapersonal. (The intrapersonal part would be where the conscious/unconscious dynamic comes into play.) This breakdown is somewhat reminiscent of Hymes (by the way, I loved the way Jeff mentioned Hymes in the "Still Working Together" workshop without using the dreaded (audist) acronym!)

The "environment" corresponds to the setting, scene, participants, ends; the "interpersonal" corresponds (or encompasses) the participants, acts, instruments, norms, and key (or tone); the paralinguistic could include the acts, key, instrument (mode), norms, and genre; and the intrapersonal would be the ends, acts, and key. (Roughly, anyway, with overlaps!)

What demand-control theory accomplishes is to shift focus onto the job itself and the accomplishment of the job. I think this is a cognitive model or framework that an interpreter can use to understand the necessity of separating one's self-identity from the performance of the work, and then process mediation and peer mentoring practices provide the concrete skill development to actually enact this distinction in our practical education and discourses about the work. I guess what I'm saying is that I didn't hear any reference in the part of the demand-control theory presentation that I witnessed as to what it is we're supposed to shifting our focus from. There's an implication that we're not doing something "right," i.e., that we're doing something "wrong". Basically, I agree. :-) But it's a weakness, I think, if we're not able to articulate the factors and features of what isn't working, is debilitating, or even counterproductive. This is where I see a natural complement between the discourses of process mediation, peer mentoring, and demand-control theory. In other words, demand-control theory articulates why and process mediation and peer mentoring articulate how.

Any comments? :-)

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September 27, 2004

weenie roast

It was a nice evening although it did cool off pretty quick, so we spent most of the time indoors (my red slippers on the deck as I grilled were a big hit).

Li came by with Leona for awhile, she hung in there in this strange environment with all these stranger English-speaking people for about an hour before becoming overwhelmed. Hunju wanted to blame me but I think Leona was just as upset by looking at Hunju. ;-)

Ingrid was the first arrival, Sarbjeet the last. Raz, Andrea, and Cata hung out with me outside during the roasting, and Cata and Hunju had their very first roasted marshmallows in full s'more form ( I supbstituted Nestle Crunch mini-bars for the standard Hershey's). Matt joined us for awhile.

All-in-all, a quiet, relaxed evening - so mellow I can't even generate many jokes about it! The intense pace of the semester's start takes its toll...? I did score a bunch of extra food and beverages; hosting isn't such a bad deal! :-)

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September 25, 2004


Shame on me for not including one of the best exchanges of the afternoon! We learned about the 1974 revolution in Portugal, when the people rose up and deposed a dictator of 50 years in a bloodless coup - not one death.

Jose was seven years old on the day the army entered Lisbon. By noon, it was over and Jose's father took him and his siblings out to experience the moment. The code to distinguish which soldiers were with the rebellion from those not were carnations. Ever since, they commemorate the coup by wearing carnations.

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"Heaven on earth"

"They're all bastards."

Yassir provided both extreme statements, which framed our lunch on the "beach" near Sarbjeet's today. While I did shots of Portuguese green wine, we discussed the alarming rise of religious identification in Syria and India as a "response" to US foreign policy (a.k.a. GWBush).

Did you know that there is a small Jewish population in Syria? And 10-12% Christians? And it used to be that people could be friends for years without knowing each other's religious affiliation? Not anymore.

Apparently it is similar in India too, where claims of religious identity might precede the possibility of pursuing a friendship. What ethical conflicts for good people (who I'm simplistically contrasting to fundamentalists, not that they're necessarily bad), such as Swati, who's deeply devoted to Hinduism but doesn't want to play into public symbols of her belief because of the way it would feed into the drawing of lines between who can know whom. ;-(

As Jose (?) pointed out, the Islamic world was NEVER unified, until now. US monomania is producing the enemy - constructing "Muslims" in our image (I can't really dismiss myself from accountability, can I?) In addition to this grim topic, we took in this beautiful day, sitting on sheets with good food (including Beth's lemony hummus), beer, wine, and fascinating company. (Who could turn down Sarbjeet's invitation to have "snacks and beers" on the shore of the Connecticutt?)

There was quite an internal debate about the caste system in India and the extent to which it's similar to racial mixing in the US. ("Internal" because us non-Indians stayed out of the crossfire, including Tapas, who certainly has enough proximity to have an opinion. wink) And a lesson in differences between Sunni's and Shi'a, which are also complicated by nationality. For instance, the start of Ramadan is not universal but contingent upon one's nationality so that it purposely doesn't begin /end at the same time....I guess I'm not clear if this is purely political or an outcome of following the lunar cycle?

Harvinder told me about his arranged marriage process...I said he was "the good son" (he said, "Shhhh, don't tell...." as if older brother doesn't KNOW! ;-) I have to say, an arranged marriage sounds pretty dang good to me these days! At least, the structural support that goes into it because of its implications for both families. (sigh)

A most pleasant way to spend the afternoon, there is no doubt. Now we'll have to see who really sneaks back to catch up on reading in the meditative zone of calm water and tall trees.

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September 19, 2004

blog watch

For those of you curious about what I'll write about our wonderful evening last night....let me say that the food was DELICIOUS and the company a great deal of FUN. My deepest appreciation to our hosts.

I'll refrain from spreading gossip about pets, relationships, and rumored external affiliations, but the laughter was (is still) appreciated. :-0

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September 15, 2004

friendly behavior?

Yesterday afternoon I blew by Hunju and Raz while leaving Boyden (the gym). Busted! Brushing my hair while driving. :-) A nicer person would have stopped to give 'em a ride but hey. It was a beautifl day and I couldn't be late to Lisa's class (that would have been a stellar start). I still had to stop by the campus center store to buy a notebook. Think they'll forgive me? ;-)

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September 6, 2004

activist campus

Li sent this article to the comm-grad listserv. National recognition for everyone who participated in protests about the discriminatory international student fee! We rock! :-)

Some of our COM colleagues went all the way, I know of at least two who "refused to pay and risked possible deportation this fall."

The followingnews articleis copied from Daily Hampshire Gazette, Monday, 30 August, 2004. Sorry for double posting as it may be the case.


Umass ranked 7th on list of activist colleges

By Cheryl B. Wilson

Staff Writer

Amherst- Mother Jones magazine has named the University of Massachusetts Amherst among the top 10 activist campuses in the country because of the spring protest against the international student fee.

Umass is rated seventh, just after Suffolk University in Boston-where 200 students turned their back on Gov. Mitt Romney commencement address because of his stand against gay marriage.

The magazine reports that 30 Umass students staged a two-day hunger strike and 400 students rallied against the $65-a semester international student fee. Student said the fee was imposed to pay for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) although campus officials said only $5 of the new fee was for the federally-mandated program. The rest, according to officials, was intended to make up for a $240,000 cut in the budget for the international programs office.

Earlier this month, a labor arbitrator ordered Umass to rescind the fee, which he said was discriminatory based on national origin. Umass officials last week obeyed the order and promised to refund the $65 to each student who had paid it. Many international graduate students had refused to pay and risked possible deportation this fall.

Richard Reynolds of Mother Jones said he was unaware of the arbitration ruling or the universitys recent action.

The university of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez was ranked first in the country for a protest against a $150,000 Air Force ROTC building to academic use and refuse ROTC additional space on campus.

Other campuses on the top 10 list are UCLA, Spelman College in Georgia, California Community Colleges, Rutgers University in New Jersey, Mount St. Marys University in Maryland, Arizona State University and University of California Berkeley.

This is the third time Umass has appeared on the list. In 1997, Umass was third for a sit-in by a coalition of students from Umass and surrounding colleges with a range of demands from scholarship money to daycare concerns and minority enrollment, Reynolds said.

In 2002, Umass was ranked seventh for the successful attempt by student resident assistants to unionize. That same year Hampshire College was 10th for a student-faculty resolution against the war in Afghanistan.

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September 5, 2004

Baby Sam

Todd sent out a bunch of pictures mostly of his newborn son, Sam, but there are a few shots of Leona with various characters too, including her dad Li, and me and Carolyn.

There are a lot of sweet shots here; I like all the smiley ones (surprise!) but am also drawn to Sam with the octopus hat. :-)

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At least, so it seemed to me, as 17 guests converged upon the house formerly known as Carolyn's. :-) Much mingling and chatter, with several jokes about damaging furniture and doing graffiti (in order to leave a "mark"), tours of the "grounds" (!), good music, and I'm pretty sure no one left hungry. :-)

Of those who could attend, most were COM-folk,

Of those who could attend, most were COM-folk, with the notable addition of Arturo (SOM) and his wife Maria (Food Science) ~ who both got rave reviews for the yummy potato salad and just generally being "sweet" for helping out, and Cata (Hospitality) and his sweetie Camelia (who drank half of my Honey Raspberry "No Whining" beer ~ the nerve!.

The burgers and dogs seemed a bit overdone to me, but I had to get them on the still-slightly-too-hot fire because hungry folks started to loom around me. Fortunately, the growling stomachs did not transform into an unruly horde, and Maria's advice to just serve until the food ran out effectively countered my desire to cross-check the list of who had actually RSVP'd with their preferred choice of main dish. ! Did I mention that my flatties seem to think I have a few control issues? :-)

Everyone seemed to be engaged, talking with or listening to someone most of the time. Art might have suffered a bit, but it sure was nice that Andrea was able to drop by for awhile (thanks for playing along, Art!) John, Olga's husband, didn't seem to miss a beat, and gosh - Olga's an inspiration. She's two years DONE with her phd and back at UMass as faculty in the Judeaic/Eastern-something Studies program.

I did notice a few of the new cohorters being perhaps a bit more quiet, but actually I was impressed by how easily everyone seemed to fit right in. Chris (fellow pyro) kept me company by the grill for awhile, Erin didn't miss a beat telling me that my chef's outfit was "me", Sreela is busy trying to redeem herself for communicating with Joanna as her "buddy" instead of me (did I say she thought my first couple of emails to her ~ seeking to make contact ~ were porn? Joanna, however, the buddy-thief, has no such excuse....) ;-)

Qiao also fit right in, even though we were boycotted (nationality-cotted?) by all the rest of the Chinese. :-( What's UP with THAT?! Qiao even went for cheese on her burger (or was it a portobello?) in the true spirit of cross-cultural adventure. :-)

David, missing-in-action last semester, returned as a newlywed with Nora, and only made one height joke about Hunju driving (CAN she see over the steering wheel? ~ yes yes of course she can, AND she survived MY brutal instruction so you KNOW she has to be a good driver now!)

After all the students left, Sue stayed to play Scrabble with me and my flatties. She beat Matt (perhaps because she kept trying to steal his turn?!), but we were all smoked by Kirsten, who teased me about being up past my bedtime. Those flatties definitely had a bonding experience over this party-thing. Not only did the alternation between deep-breathing exercises and humoring (pacifying?) me establish a basis for connection, they're already in cahoots to persuade me to reduce the rent. But I have to say, cleaning and re-arranging the kitchen was a great way to get to know each other...the secrets that were told!

If all goes as planned, the next party will be around or about the beginning of October. :-)

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September 3, 2004


My buddy Kim is stressing about Hurricane Frances. She is hoping it doesn't touch down in her area....as she's "trapped" in the hospital and can't help with any of the safety precautions. At least they don't live in the evacuation zone. She's been battling a blood clotting problem since May and her bod has NOT been receptive to medication. Scary scary. Four kids.

I'm worrying about Leda's family too.

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September 1, 2004


Well, the vernacular "roomies" works for me but one of them prefers the more classy-sounding "flatmates." I might have to compromise with "flatties." ;-)

We're planning our first of (hopefully monthly) parties...with alternating trepidation and excitement. Communication (among comm majors!) has had its tentative moments but I have no doubt we're going to pull it all together and have a smashing year. :-)

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August 30, 2004

what good are cell phones

if folks don't answer?! I'm one to talk, since phone is NOT my thing. Mine is always on vibrate, not ring, and most of the time I don't even notice that it's ringing. Not to mention I'm out of range half the time. But those two boys with their new toys! You'd think ONE of them could have answered!

We'll see how long I'm lugging that microwave and toaster around for 'em now...

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the matron (?)

Well. I was entertained by the couple and the anti-couple last night. ;-) After Raz rounded up the cavalry to welcome his best friend to Amherst, we went out to dinner and had some spirited discussion and teasing about the history of their friendship, gender/sexual orientation, and the merits of religion vs. spirituality. Although there were differences of opinion regarding the usefulness of organized religion, all my buds owned up to being spiritual beings. :-)

I think they probably didn't watch Star Trek tapes after I bid them goodnight, however, it's nice to know another trekker's orbit will overlap with mine for the next few years.

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August 27, 2004

will ferrell commercial?

A cryptic email from Todd:

"watch the will ferrell commercial on whitehousewest.com"


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Driver's License!

I think everyone should keep a sharp eye out for Korean drivers and especially HUNJU! Oh my gosh, she is LEGAL. :-) Definitely time for a celebration, don't you think? (Maybe a sleepover at Carolyn's, so no one has to worry about driving home afterwards?)

Oops ~ I'm not supposed to tease her in public. :-( Do you think she will try to run me over? :-) Respect, where IS it?!!! (In steph-speak teasing = affection, grin.)

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August 25, 2004

getting the ball rolling

Stephen is already out of the starting gate! Not only did he send the proposed syllabus today for Democracy, Rhetoric, and Performance, he also got in the first joke, enticing Scott the Snakemeister to return for an encore performance. :-)

Of course, there is reading DUE for the first class....welcome to grad school!

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August 20, 2004

Stone Wall II

John is a rock. He's just steady and keeps on going and doesn't get stressed (or at least doesn't show it) when I fiddle with this or that way of putting the dang thing together. We cranked on the wall today, not withstanding Sarbjeet's "lostness" and Denise's general disparagement. :-) She didn't miss a moment to tell me what a pathological, delusional mess I am, and Sarbjeet was (apparently) less motivated cuz Lynn wasn't here to impress - last year you should have seen how hard he worked! :-) I, of course, have no such excuse. I'm simply leaving my mark.

On top (!) of it all there was Frankie and Bardsley. Oh my. A horny boy and a timid girl. Yikes! Both these pups need to get fixed!

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August 11, 2004

int'l student fee

An arbitrator ruled in support of GEO's grievance against the international student fee! Looks like UMass administration might try to get the ruling reversed legally, but at this point they ought to "cease and desist from charging the ISF to graduate student employees" and refund the fee to anyone who paid it.

Way to go GEO!

~ from an email from Yasser Munif

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August 4, 2004

First Date!

Leona and Sam held hands this evening, after spending the day taking turns sleeping and engaging in tandem crying. ;-) Leona was quite frightened by her potential future mother-in-law (they were starting to connect by the time we left). Sam spent most of his awake time just checking everybody out, generally unperturbable. :-) At 10 weeks, he's got that alert gaze now, really seeing and noticing things.

Told told us (for the 47th time) that Salem recently made the top 20 list of best places to live. We did make it in to the Peabody-Essex Museum (oldest museum in the US), and saw Yin Yu Tang - the reconstructed 19th century house from China. Another museum-goer attached herself to Li once she heard him translating and explaining things for us - we had a hard time shaking her, even though she had clarified that he wasn't working for the museum. Li was his usual kind and generous self, answering her questions and interacting politely. Todd vanished at the first whiff of intrusion, Carolyn and I hung in for quite a while. Finally, though, being unable to rescue Li without being rude, we, too, left him to extricate himself from her greedy clutches. (Not that WE had an selfish reasons for wanting to keep him to ourselves!) :-) We learned a lot of neat stuff that I'm sure wasn't in the official "audio tour". Including tidbits about what seemed somehow "out of place" - such as placement of furniture and other items in certain rooms. Li seemed to have a bit of cognitive dissonance - felt like he'd been "home" and couldn't quite place himself in Salem MA when we departed. (His navigation skills once we were in the car were alright though, better than someone else we know...!)

I got separated from the group for about an hour - went to the restroom and was seduced by retail therapy. Found something for my mother's upcoming birthday, and a little something for a little someone I know and was missing. :-( While I was lost, Li, Todd, and Carolyn checked out Havana, architectural photography by Robert Polidori.

Cheri and Qun finally showed up with the babies and I got to babysit for a whole half-hour! Leona and I checked out the plants and gift shop. She really wanted to eat one of the ferns.

After the museum, we walked out toward the lighthouse, then past the House of Seven Gables before heading out to the Boardwalk in Willows Park for dinner. The only casualty of the day was me stubbing my toe on the concrete picnic table.

Posted by Steph at 10:50 PM | Comments (1)

polarization and intelligence

Tom Atlee's recent work on polarization is applicable to interpersonal relationships too. The following are excerpts from POLARIZATION AND INTELLIGENCE by Tom Atlee - August 2004.

Intelligence involves understanding what is real -- matching our mental models with what is really out there. That is what learning from experience is all about: Something happens that we didn't expect, so we change our expectations to include it, becoming more aligned with reality in the process. This is what science is all about: Making hypotheses (mental models) about reality and then testing them to find their validity, including their limitations.

The more fully we apply intelligence to any circumstance, the more we become able to align our efforts with the actual realities of the situation and thereby succeed.

In their efforts to understand reality, intelligent people seek to understand similarities and differences. Of course, those similarities and differences should be real and relevant. Getting hung up on imaginary, irrelevant differences and similarities -- thinking a handsome candidate is better than a conscientious one, for example, or that everyone who looks like an Arab is a potential enemy -- can lead to make stupid mistakes.

Sometimes someone -- perhaps an advertiser raving about an expensive product -- will insist that we pay attention to fine distinctions, when similarities may be far more obvious and important. Other times people will insist that certain things -- such as "all politicians" -- are similar despite glaring differences. At such times, we need to dig deeper into what's going on. Intelligence involves questioning anything that interferes with our ability to seriously consider actual, relevant similarities and differences.

In most cases, polarization undermines intelligence by misleading us in exactly this way. It reduces vast human diversity into categories like Left and Right that are often ambiguous, distracting and even downright irrelevant (see ). Polarized partisans reject any notion that there may be important similarities between people on the Left and Right, or important differences within the ranks of their enemies or allies. Polarization is usually antithetical to intelligence. It is especially antithetical to co-intelligence, the intelligence of the Whole, because it impedes our ability to connect with diverse other people to discover a bigger picture that integrates all our views.


All [criticisms] said, we must acknowledge the powerfully positive role that polarization -- and its close cousins, violence and nonviolent confrontation -- often play in breaking through denial and life-degrading social arrangements. Although polarization cannot resolve issues well, it contains energy that can force those issues onto the table when most people refuse to attend to them or when people or institutions with undue social power prevent vital issues from being considered.
People whose views and interests are suppressed or oppressed often experience, though that oppression, a sense that they are different from and opposed to the people or systems that are holding them down or threatening what they value. Asserting this difference and opposition is often a necessary part of breaking out of victimhood.

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August 3, 2004


Looks like Bardsley will be looking for new owners. Denise says he's turned her home into a cat vs dog war zone and it's "not peaceful!" So it goes. I walked him yesterday and found him a lot of fun and quite smart but definitely loaded with unrestrained puppy energy. I think I learned a few things from our relative disaster with Frankie (the spoiled queen). Was kinda looking forward to another chance in occasional surrogate dog-dom, but that's obviously no reason for the dog-mom to endure the stress of continual combat. Ah well!

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why groups?

I wrote this yesterday afternoon while I was waiting at Mt. Tom for SOMEBODY to show up. :-) We walked the wheelchair accessible path, then hiked about a half-hour up one lovely trail. Definitely a place to return too!

Ive been proactive in (trying to!) organize groups of folks to do things together. All the events that have occurred have been successful (near as I can tell, anyway) for those who participated. I think Ive probably always preferred group things to 1:1 socializing (unless its a date, smile) but not really thought about it much perhaps assuming everyone does, its just that its hard to organize around everyones busy schedules, personalities and whatever other barriers are perceived to get in the way. Being part of groups this summer has inoculated me some from the loss of my family, but I think in general I prefer groups because despite being an external processor I am more of an introvert than an extrovert. If more people are present than the energy expenditure is dispersed. Selfishly, I can enjoy people without having to be constantly on. (Not that Im ever off grin.)

It strikes me there are some contradictions lurking around/in/through these thoughtssomething about the balance between performance/self-representation and reflection/enactment of subjectivity.

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Bunk Chairs

Julie comes up with an innovative new interior-decorating idea for those living in small spaces.

Trackback to "fat lip" comments....

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August 2, 2004

as predicted...!

The U.S. Women's national soccer team outplayed China 3:1 yesterday. I, the foreigner lurking within a group of 17 Chinese, tried to be generous to the young team that shows signs of promise, but the soccer aficionado's were (according to interpretations) having NONE of it. They cheered mightily though, and sang their national anthem vigorously (unlike the U.S. fans, of whom not a whisper of the anthem could be heard). More neutral observers also credited the Chinese with maintaining a "fast physical pace... to the end in a game played from side to side and end to end of the pitch by two equally matched teams almost at the top of their game...and having the courage and ability to take on the United States in open field attacking play" (Women's Soccer World.)

An obnoxious group of Americans right behind us tried to drown out the Chinese chants everytime they got started, and the folks running the replay cameras managed NOT to repeat the good plays made by the Chinese team (yes, they actually made several, especially on defense). No nationalistic bias there.

When we first met up with the whole group to get our tickets, a woman asked me, "Are you with us?" Later, after the 2nd or 3rd time I criticized a U.S. player for bad sportsmanship, another woman asked, "Where are you from?" :-) I enjoyed good plays on both sides, and deplored the bad equally. I suppose it was easy to relax, though, because there was a clearcut advantage in speed, skill and teamwork. And, as Qianqing pointed out in the face of a bit of male chauvinism (sexism, she called it), the Chinese women's team has competed better overall than the men's team, even if the men demonstrate more individual prowess.

Gu Li saw the exciting match on Thursday when the Chinese national team came from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the New England regional team 4-3. Too bad the coverage of this game doesn't expand more on the comeback. (Wanna bet there are some sites in Mandarin that extol upon the team's success?) Must have been thrilling!

AFTER the game, we went to "the largest Asian food market" in the area, then to what folks have described as the most authentic Szechuan-style restaurant near here (both in Hartford). Lu Li flunked as a navigator! We decided we'd still go places with him, but trust him for directions? UNlikely. ;-) The market was interesting - John Kerry's salute at the Democractic National Convention graced the cover of a Mandarin newspaper still on sale, and there were more whole dead fish than I've seen in one location before. Many people looked oddly at me - was I out of place because I'm not Asian-appearing or was it my mullet? :-)

U.S. WNT Topple China 3-1 in Final Match Before Athens Olympics; WNT Leave For Greece Monday

Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm celebrate after a goal during the U.S. WNT 3-1 victory over China on Aug. 1 in Hartford.

EAST HARTFORD, Connecticut(August 1, 2004) - Led by Mia Hamm, who notched two assist and a goal, the U.S. Women's National Teamdefeated China 3-1 in their final match before leaving for the Athens Olympics at Rentschler Field in Hartford, Conn. The U.S. got on the board twice in the first half, asAly Wagner finished off a nice build-upwith a strike off the underside of the crossbar and then Abby Wambach fed Hamm for a wide-open finish. In the second half, Hamm returned the favor, sending in acorner kick to the far post where Wambach headed home into the side netting, to give the U.S. some breathing room after China had scored early in the half to cut the USA's lead inhalf. [Read ussoccer's MatchTracker for more]The U.S. WNT's next match will be over in Athens when they face Greece in their opening match of the Olympics on Wednesday, Aug. 11.The match will be broadcast live on MSNBC at 11 a.m. ET and on a delay on Telemundo at approximately 6 p.m. ET. The WNT's path through Greece in search of an Athens 2004 Gold Medal in the Olympic Women's Football Tournament will be televised live throughout the month of August on NBC, MSNBC, CNBC and Telemundo. Each of the USA's six possible games will be televised live, as will other select men's and women's matches in the Olympics. Click here to see the rest of the schedule.

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fat lip

Ingrid owns the heaviest TV I have ever encountered! Not to mention the 20 steps down (old apt) and 30 steps up (new apt). But we pulled it off on the muggiest day of summer in about 3 hours. Cole and I bonded around the experience, even though he slammed the sofa into my lip when we got jammed in a door (it's not that swollen but I can tell - and it still hurts!)

We rocked with five cars and lots of helpers - Ingrid's got a great clutch of friends. Lucky gal! I think we should start a betting pool on how she's gonna get all her stuff arranged in this much smaller apartment (it will be cozy, to say the least). ;-)

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July 31, 2004

blame Becky!

I just became an official Kerry volunteer.

And read the campaign's blog, blog.johnkerry.com for the first time. According to them he's drawn crowds of 17,000 and 20,000 in major events since the convention ended.

The volunteer page is a trip. By volunteering, I "earned" 25 points (towards what?!) and am ranked 646,496th overall. I guess he's on his way to a million official volunteers, eh?

~ rss this one too?

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July 30, 2004

study about fear

Study: Fear shapes voters' views
Responses to candidates differ after thinking about tragedy

7/30/2004 www.reuters.com

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- President George W. Bush may be tapping into solid human psychology when he invokes the September 11 attacks while campaigning for the next election, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.

Talking about death can raise people's need for psychological security, the researchers report in studies to be published in the December issue of the journal Psychological Science and the September issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

"There are people all over who are claiming every time Bush is in trouble he generates fear by declaring an imminent threat," said Sheldon Solomon of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, who worked on the study.

"We are saying this is psychologically useful," said Solomon.

Jeff Greenberg, a professor of psychology at the University of Arizona in Tucson, said generating fear was a common tactic.

"A lot of leaders gain their appeal by helping people feel they are heroic, particularly in a fight against evil," Greenberg said in a telephone interview from Hawaii, where he presented the findings to a meeting of the American Psychological Association.

"Sometimes that may be the right thing to do. But it is a psychological approach, particularly when death is close to peoples' consciousness."

For their first study, Solomon, Greenberg and colleagues asked students to think about either their own death or a neutral topic.

They then read the campaign statements of three hypothetical candidates for governor, each with a different leadership style. One was charismatic, said Solomon.

"That was a person who declared our country to be great and the people in it to be special," Solomon, who worked on the study, said in a telephone interview.

The others were task-oriented -- focusing on the job to be done -- or relationship-oriented -- with a "let's get it done together" style, Solomon said.
Fearing doom, choosing charisma

The students who thought about death were much more likely to choose the charismatic leader, they found. Only four out of about 100 chose that imaginary leader when thinking about exams, but 30 did after thinking about death.

Greenberg, Solomon and colleagues then decided to test the idea further and set up four separate studies at different universities.

"In one we asked half the people to think about the September 11 attacks, or to think about watching TV," Solomon said. "What we found was staggering."

When asked to think about television, the 100 or so volunteers did not approve of Bush or his policies in Iraq. But when asked to think about Sept. 11 first and then asked about their attitudes to Bush, another 100 volunteers had very different reactions.

"They had a very strong approval of President Bush and his policy in Iraq," Solomon said.

Solomon, a social psychologist who specializes in terrorism, said it was very rare for a person's opinions to differ so strongly depending on the situation.

Another study focused directly on Bush and his Democratic challenger, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

The volunteers were aged from 18 into their 50s and described themselves as ranging from liberal to deeply conservative. No matter what a person's political conviction, thinking about death made them tend to favor Bush, Solomon said. Otherwise, they preferred Kerry.

"I think this should concern anybody," Solomon said. "If I was speaking lightly, I would say that people in their, quote, right minds, unquote, don't care much for President Bush and his policies in Iraq."

He wants voters to be aware of psychological pressures and how they are used.

"If people are aware that thinking about death makes them act differently, then they don't act differently," Solomon said. Solomon says he personally opposes Bush but describes himself as a political independent who could vote Republican.

~ from Donna, who got it from CNN.

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July 29, 2004

the dog-mom

I really think I should say more about Denise. She's gone waaaaay overboard on this dog thing. I met the seven-month-old puppy today and mommy was already doting on this dog. I think Bardsley has her figured out too - cooperate for treats but not for nothing else! We'll see how trainable he really is - peeing twice in the pet store wasn't exactly an auspicious start! I didn't tell her how badly Frankie and Mei-Mei get along (she has a cat too).

Of course, I'm pretty sure she just roped me in to act as a character reference (she's a character alright), and I think her job as a journalist might be bogus. Her paper, the Springfield Union-News, doesn't even have a website - how real can they possibly be? Too bad; I wanted to see how she actually wrote that Girl Scout Reunion story...

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July 28, 2004

grad lounge

Well, Joanna started this whole campaign and she ended it tonight with a flourish. ;-) Thank goodness Li came to help or it would have been just her and I and between the two of us we might have faded or decomposed at some point. (Someone was a no show. Hmmph!) I scored several tupperware containers full of biology experiments from the refrigerator. Snatched a few books for my buddies Raz and Donna. (I already snatched one for Danny last week from Christian's stash.) All I can say is that room was one grimy slime pit and now it's sparkling! I'm not sure listening to the Democratic National Convention was our most inspired source of entertainment, although we did enjoy Al Sharpton's speech. Otherwise I have to say it was background noise. Carolyn said John Edwards "hit a home run" with his speech, the crowd "loved him". Hopefully that translates into actual VOTES come November!

So far, I enjoyed Teresa Heinz-Kerry the most, even though - or perhaps especially? - because the media is bashing her so hard.

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July 23, 2004


The hike last night was fun, despite the initial heat and small size of our ultimate group. We lost Li's family to the heat - although the top of the mountain was at least 15 degrees cooler (very pleasant), and by the time we got back down the temp had gone down considerably (although it was still a bit muggy). Swati had a work obligation come up at the last moment but still met us to contribute the brownies she'd baked (they were yummy!).

So, Bill, Denise, Ingrid and I made the trek. It was half the distance of last week's Bare Mountain hike. Denise and Ingrid jogged part of it (!) to show up me 'n Bill. hmmph! Otherwise we took it at a leisurely pace, nothing like last week's sprint. (See, even I can go slow sometimes!)

The view from the top was hazy so we couldn't make out the Seven Sisters (the range that includes Bare Mountain) We were treated to an expose of Springfield's corrupt animal shelter and Denise's dog-training ambitions.

The stroll down was over in a heartbeat (so it seemed) and we went to Bill's for eats. He surprised us with scratch margaritas (!) and we had a yummy grill and more talk - mostly about Springfield politics. Nothing like two natives (more-or-less), a journalist's inside view, and communication analysis to illuminate the institutional aspects of government!

There was other odd talk, here and there, about a wide range of topics, including tribunals and CIA files, for which one could only have been present to appreciate. :-)

Next up - tubing in Deerfield?

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July 18, 2004

comparative religion

Five of us made the hike up Bare Mountain on Saturday. I set a quick pace (wanting exercise), which didn't jive too well with those who were along "for the journey not the destination." Fortunately, I don't think we had any lasting casualties! Once at the top, after a lengthy photo shoot and an impressive scouting mission by George for shade, we settled down to lunch and a "seminar" (as described by the two - shall I say, less enthusiastic? - members of the group). George presented the case for Zen Buddhism mixed with Christianity while Sarbjeet shared his Sikh perspective. We got launched on this after I summarized the critique that Carolyn gave me of the Life of Pi, but the fertile soil must have been laid by the contrast of my frenetic dash up the trail with George's "it's all about the way" meandering pace.

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July 6, 2004

beware blog spam!

The other night I was (foolishly?) inspired to post some messages on two Dean blogs (Dean Nation; Change for America) about Kerry's vice-presidential choice (as if my last minute personal opinion might actually sway anything!) I included a link to my webblog (which I haven't really tried to publicize very much) and within six hours I'd gotten nine porn comments inserted in various places. Just deleted them all, but wondering, if I did decide to enter more public cyber-conversations....I could spend hours/day just getting rid of the crap! How do other bloggers prevent this?

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June 25, 2004

Trouble in Cyberspace!

It seems there is a 3/4 scale rebellion occuring within Leda, Iris', and my online class. One team's survey on the class as a temporary, virtual organization discovered that "we're not having any fun!" :-(

Meanwhile, my laptop has crashed (a power problem) and I'm using the facilitites at the Esther Bone Memorial Library.

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June 24, 2004

Org Com Team 1 Survey Analysis

Download file

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Org Com Team 1 Graph

Email Graph

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OrgCom Paper1

Communication 297F Class as a Virtual Organization

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June 22, 2004

internecine desk warfare

I almost had to take Danny out. Challenge him to a duel or something. He presumptively posted his name on Scott's soon-to-be-vacated desk BUT I got to Deb first (!) and got assigned to the desk officially. hehehe

I also discovered that Jolane won't be back....so then I was faced with a dilemma. Be kind to Danny (who's kind to Danny?!) and take the southern desk, or persist in my original aim and intention to claim the northern desk? Luckily for me (and Danny!), Shalini was wandering the halls looking for Benjamin. We did each other reciprocal favors. I let her use the phone, she consulted with me regarding the energy of each desk's space.

I'll take the southern desk, letting Danny keep the northern one. We'll have to share the bookcase. :-)

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June 20, 2004

online learning

Just found a link to a blogpost on computer supported collaborative learning while doing prep for the online social impact of information technology class. The chapter on networked organizations is coming up!

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We've got a new author, at least temporarily! George is a rebel. I bet he fits right in! :-)

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May 5, 2004


Well, I think my students rock. :-) Maybe it's only because they liked my presentation about my teaching philosophy? No, its not just that. Some of them still disagree. And they are standing up publicly and saying so - directly to me and in front of all their peers. Wicked cool.

Check 'em out if you're curious: http://com250s04.blogspot.com.

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April 6, 2004

revisiting com118

Just posted an update for my students from the winter session continuing ed class.

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April 3, 2004

Spring Teaching

Most of my blogging energy has been going toward the interpersonal communication class I'm teaching this spring. In addition to the main weblog, we subdivided a while ago into three random groups, the students named themselves: The Smooth-Talking Hermits, The Super Death Machine, and The Tangents.

We're starting to emerge (I think!) from the storming stage of group development and students are starting to realize specific learnings around their own interpersonal communication skills. It's an exciting time!

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February 4, 2004


I just articulated something about looking at privilege in COM118's blog that feels like the "end of the conversation" to me. Maybe getting to the point of being able to formulate this was a big part of what's kept me holding on to that group. Now, it feels "done." I've reached closure.

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February 3, 2004


I saw Eric yesterday (from COM118) and had a moment of cognitive dissonance - "old" student or "new" student? Then Katie emailed me today for her grade (I hope SPIRE is working). I'm feeling the loss of ending...aware that the new group (COM250) hasn't gotten their momentum up yet, and also that the developmental dynamics are quite different because we meet in 50 minute blocks instead of 2.5 hour sessions. Even we did meet for the same period of time the dynamics would be different, but its the pace of development that I'm needing to adjust to, as well as trying to not let the ending process from 118 influence the beginning of 250. Only one day in between was not enough!

Meanwhile, a few folk are still reading 118's blog!

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3pr - on schooling

Homework for 794M, Race, Pedagogy, Performance and Pragmatism.

Responding to the question about what brought me here, I first wonder which here to focus upon: to this class? To an interest in R and the 3 Ps? To education in general?

While Vernons story privileged the passion for learning and its potentials, my story privileges identity. I doubt I would be here if I hadnt spent the first 30 years of my life dealing with US societys treatment of lesbians, and the last 15 wondering about my own contributions to oppressive conditions as a white, able-bodied, hearing, raised middle-class person. (Theres about a fiveyear overlap, Im 40 now.)

I experienced my public education indifferently. I was smart enough to do ok and not be a problem so no one paid any particular attention to me. I got excited about school for my AA (in Sign Language Studies) and BS (Interpreting) because a passion was triggered. I took advantage of grants targeted at filling an employment and access gap. So, in my younger years I was produced in a disembodied way, and in college I was produced as a worker.

Critical thinking wasnt introduced to me as a way of constructing knowledge until my Masters degree (here at UMass in Social Justice Education), and I didnt really get it thenonly now, in my second year of study in COM, do I feel that I am starting to grasp the big picture of schooling as an institutional force on the construction of identity, particularly in terms of subjectivity. What seems challenging to me is how to use the language of race be able to draw attention to differences and validate them without reifying new structures of prejudice (as Joanna cautioned last night in class). Talking about subjectivities seems to me to be one way, however there still comes the matter of patterns and generalities (not stereotypes). Donal emphasizes the presence of BOTH commonalities and particularities and this seems especially relevant in our context.

With what terminology or vocabulary can we address whiteness? And, whenever we name whiteness arent we also referencing blackness and latinidad andit seems important to me to keep in mind what were not saying as well as what we are saying.

Returning to me as a product of my schooling, there is no doubt in my mind that the primary reason I am here now is because I am white. There was enough privilege going for me that I could drift through the first 25 years of my life completely disassociated from any connection between my own phenomenological experience and everyone elses. Even after I woke up, I still screwed up more times than I care to recall and yet look, here I am! In some ways I am still drifting although I recognize the depth and breadth of competition among intellectuals, the strategy of waiting until something moves me to the next thing is still my predominant mode. I do some planning, certainly I look towards what Id like to do in the future and this influences choices I make now, but there is still a reservoir of belief that things will just work out, one way or another.

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January 30, 2004

final thoughts?

I've still been processing the last session of Interpersonal (COM118) and decided to go ahead and post in the class blog. Will be interesting to see if anyone actually keeps up with it....posts did at least 48 hours after the class officially ended. :-)

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January 27, 2004

ending...COM118 W04

Well, I was a bit aimless after the last session of COM118 yesterday. What a terrific bunch of people and what great work we did. :-) Really good timing for me too, balancing out some of the other drama in my life. We held an "award ceremony" yesterday and I received the Best Mullet, Teacher, Organizer, Energizer and Laugh Awards. We did have fun! Here's the CODA for the Class Poem - based on Muriel Rukeyser's "Effort at Speech between Two People".

Note: someone translated this into Romanian!

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January 19, 2004


"The calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. For we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us....

"We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves in the long and bitter, but beautiful struggle for a new world..."

---Martin Luther King, Jr.
April 4, 1967, in Riverside Church, New York city

Courtesy of Tom Atlee.

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January 17, 2004

not to smile

Hannah came in to wake me up Thursday morning and plopped herself on the bed, telling me about the day before. I started tickling her toes and she stopped talking and sat stone-faced...I kept tickling and she didn't blink! Finally, I said, "Don't smile!" and she cracked up. I told her that yesterday I'd had to "not smile" for an entire hour. Why? For my class, because it helps people learn how to be confident in themselves when someone isn't always trying to be friendly and make things nice. She said, "You're good at that."

Of course, I had to jump out of bed and chase her. :-)

My students might agree. We had our last communication lab yesterday and some of my "consultations" were along the lines of how they seemed to be in flight from emotions. When they didn't pick up on this, but instead starting to do more and more out-loud thinking, I said, "Run faster!" One of the guys said, "You're relentless" and I laughed. OOPS!

Anyway, they have done a tremendous job and I am very proud of them. They've been posting homework assignments twice a week on their own class blog. Impressive!

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December 22, 2003


Todd intends to make us all infamous.

We missed Phee that night; I wonder if anyone can count how many times we have "cohorted" over the last year and a half? Not that the number is that important, but I think a qualitative shift happened for us this year. The night we went to Panda East (in October?) we stayed for hours, it seemed none of us wanted to leave. The proprieters chased us out of this restaurant after we'd been there nearly three. :-)

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December 12, 2003

discrimination vs international students

Some domestic students were at the press conference against the new surveillance fee for international students but the University is corresponding separately with international students (via email)...another divide and conquor technique? Here are two stories on yesterday's press conference, in which George elicited wild, spontaneous applause (causing those of us who know him to wonder at the rebel within...)

The UMass-Amherst campus newspaper ran Groups speak out to uphold civil liberties.

The local tv channel 22 also posted a story on their website:

Proposed Fees Controversial to International Students
(WWLP, December 11, 2003) - International students at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst are angry over a proposed fee being imposed upon them. The University is proposing a $65 fee each semester to fund a federal program to track international student and these students say that it is discrimination at its purest. The proposed $65 fee is not required by any governmental agency but it comes out of the controversial US Patriot Act, which was passed shortly after September 11th. Many critics say the law infringes upon the civil liberties of citizens by giving the government too much power. Students feel they are being asked to pay for their own surveillance; a surveillance they say is racist and discriminatory. "A lot of us are angry at this monitoring system as a whole and we've sort of felt the backlash since Sept. 11th against a lot of international students on this campus." Graduate student Ibrahim Dahlstrom-Hakki told 22News. If the proposed fee goes through, students fear it will affect the cultural diversity of the university. It will not go into effect beginning next semester.

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November 25, 2003

Life at the Beach III

I heard:

"Snoring is not a sin."

I misheard:

"They belong to Danny." (Actually referred to a pair of flip-flops.)

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Homophobic metonymy?

As I posted the previous link it occurred to me that our discussion in class last night might have been the microsocial acting out of the larger public debate now underway about gay marriage its really about the difference between tolerance and acceptance, isnt it? Ive tried to remember HOW we even got into itQianqing presented my paperthere were questions about the time dimension of a problematic moment, and how PMs are postmodern. Then Stephen asked me if the PMs were really completely unpredictable, if they truly never give any indication or warning.

I shared a story about the PM workshop James, Vangie and I did in Boston last summer. We showed the workshop participants a video of a real PM that had to do with homophobia. Then we had the participants re-enact the moment and debrief it as if it had happened with/to them. I had been assigned the role of monitoring or watching for homophobia in the groups discussion. Because of my previous experience with group relations (understanding how groups use individuals to fulfill certain functions), I felt the only way I could accomplish the task was to set aside my usual defenses and means for coping with homophobia, basically opening myself up to the currents, subtleties, and nuances of homophobia that I typically disregard.

In so doing, I in fact was emotionally drawn in and reacted to the latent homophobia, which in turn did produce or elicit a PM. I was not acting in any false way; I applied a certain set of skills that contributed to the conditions of possibility for a PM to occur.

At this point I cant recall anything else in-between? Donna said when she first met me she never considered that I might be a lesbian. I said that was offensive to me and the battle was engaged. Scott really nailed the point of the debate when he said that I was offering a critique of tolerance and Donna continued to respond on the basis of being raised to be tolerant. George also suggested that tradition in general (which Donna invoked as the basis for her behavior) almost universally included homophobic tendencies.

I was aware, as this all unfolded, of how triggered I was somehow, my guard was down. Maybe it was down because of recalling the situation last summer in which I had intentionally dropped it (by recalling it in memory did I return to that state?)but I didnt do it purposively last night I was caught off guard by my own intensity. Why was the valence so high? Why did my personal being/identity as a lesbian even come up? I referred to it in an example because it was the only way I could answer Stephens question, but somehow it turned into a lightening rod (in effect?) for a tense debate. And, Id suggest (today, having made the connection with the larger context, what Id call the macrosocial level legal decision, media coverage/debate, political maneuvering) that many in the group had a high valence for engaging the issue also. Im not sure of thismost folks didnt participate in the actual debatebut I will say that my experience of the discussion that ensued was incredibly positive. I felt I had allies who responded concretely and tangibly that gives me great hope.

This is the kind of hope that I think Stephen sought when he asked his questions about comparability - what happens when two claims are essentially opposed yet equally valid, and solidarity - how can we maintain cohesion in the face of such intense disagreements? I respect Donna for hanging in with me and us during the debate and laying out her reasoning as plainly as she could. The incompatability of our views doesnt preclude, in my mind, a solution that satisfies us both, nor does it REQUIRE such a solution in order to be resolved. Shes doing her work, Im doing mine. Our respective work (on intra- and interpersonal levels) abuts, contradicts, and complements each others. This is good.

What is more exciting to me as an outcome is making the hypothetical link of metonymy. To what extent did our microsocial interaction play out the dynamics of the larger public debate so salient right now? The event suggests to me that Ive been more sensitive to the ramifications of the gay marriage decision (and this battle in the culture wars) than I was aware of (which opened me to the valence of what shall we saychampioning (?) gay rights.and perhaps it was/has been reverberating within others peoples unconscious as well? How else could it have emerged in our group with such force? Finally, is it only coincidental that the illustration I gave of the difference between tolerance and acceptance had to do with the topic of family - a (possible) metonym of marriage? :-)

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November 24, 2003

Life at the Beach II

I acquired a pair of sexy black panties. Not mine!

An omission - being "disciplined" as a member of the collective ("Resistance is Futile") was a challenge because of the introvert factor. How do introverts survive in more group-based societies? The social rules must accommodate various forms or degrees of "less" participation in order to prevent too much grumpiness, let alone outright anti-social behavior.

And - those of us who didn't attend 4-5 workshops a day were only making up for Leda, who presented somwhere in the range of 7-9 times, sometimes simultaneously! Someone slow that woman down....

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November 23, 2003

Life at the Beach

Who logged the most sun time at Miami Beach? I can only claim 6-8 hours - believe it or not. I lost many hours of daylight recovering from the cultural event at the Twist in South Beach. SOME people can really dance! ;-) btw Newsweek dissed SB in favor of the Design District (November 24, 2003 Tip Sheet). Our local informants on la vida loca either misinformed our intrepid pair of scouts or our scouts were hoodwinked, plain and simple.

Messages sent from the beach back to good friends in lovely Amherst elicited a love/hate discourse and threats of physical violence. Friends in Indianapolis were elated at the transgressive behavior of not attending the larger part of the conference. (But hey we were Very Responsible. All of us presented on cue and attended at least one additional academic event (and most of us more than that).

I was inducted into the benefits and hazards of collective decision-making (and disciplined accordingly when I attempted to make independent, individual decisions luckily Im a quick study). Except for a few minor glitches in the hotel (we never got any messages, for instance), some tandem snoring, and a bit of stress returning the rental car things could not have been better. We had SUCH a good time together that instead of driving home from the airport at 11 pm last night we drove SOUTH to Hartford for real Chinese food." Ive now had tripe (and survived to tell the tale), and was serenaded with Chinese popular and folk tunes (interspersed with a few American movie classics) all the way back to Northampton. Provide folks with good food and you dont know WHAT might happen!

I think all of us agreed that the Cuban food from Little Havana was the best meal of the trip (besides that Chinese food in Hartford, which was technically after we returned). Unfortunately, age caught up with this party animal, who simply could not hang for a second night of letting it all out at the Twist. Alas!

Finally, let me take this opportunity to correct a rumor I started a few weeks ago. Someone has not finished the paper for somebody. Someone only completed the article critique.

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November 13, 2003

the meaning of absence

Briankle wowed us with another surrealist chalkboard work of art last night. Will post a photo once I get 'em developed, scanned, and uploaded. (At the outer reaches of my technology learning curve.)

Taste-tested pumpkin beer later (practically tasteless) while Raz sucked down a Dark and Stormy and Sarbjeet nursed cinnamon tea. I'll be sticking with Massatucky Brown.

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November 11, 2003

the planet where people are snakes

Scott goes down in history for this example, but he's in competition with Raz for the best joke in rhetoric last night. Iris "shot" Dan with her hands as guns and Raz blew away the smoke.

Maybe you had to be there? :-)

Class went a half-hour over again (I think everyone who stayed WANTED to, some folks trickled out after official time was up, including me eventually) but wouldn't you know we started talking about Romania right at the buzzer? Iris was rockin'.

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October 12, 2003

Why is there a tree?

I'm in two of the most dynamic COM classes this semester. About a dozen students in each, and the most interactive, highest percentage of participation I've experienced to date. In Briankle's class (roughly, philosophy of translation), we'd spent a huge chunk of time talking about a piece by Walter Benjamin in which the garden of eden figured prominently. George asked the deconstructivist question about the presence of the forbidden tree...ahhhhh, we had no answer.

In Stephen's class, not only are we highly interactive in class, but for the first time an email discussion has gotten underway and kept up steam for the past 2 1/2 weeks. Most recently, about Stephen's father's passing and what/how to commemorate it with him. My original plan was to blindfold him, lead him to a local swimming hole, and toss him in to mark the rite of passage. We've settled on just bringing food to the next session...probably more "proper" , and even that has some folk nervous....who are we to publicly acknowledge Stephen's loss?

Posted by Steph at 12:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 4, 2003

First day of classes yesterday

First day of classes yesterday for moi. Cohorters will gather tonight...should be fun. Most of us still seem to be sorting out which courses to take; I'm thinking I'll probably not take Benjamin's as it seems I can't use it in the way I'd hoped (with the backlog of FLOW data). I'll withhold my decision though until checking out the courses; Donal's this afternoon, Stephen and Briankle's next week.

Li and I were almost goofy yesterday - had a series of our own mis-readings of each other, confessed the internal stories we generated about them, and laughed at ourselves. Bodes well for the overall project. :-) We both went to the International Student Reception last night. I taped a great interaction with Carolyn explaining about audits (mentorship in action!) and had my first chance to really talk with and start to get to know most of the new cohort. I'd only really talked with Jung Yup previously. David's interests seem to align with mine pretty closely, which is quite exciting as I've felt a bit isolated in my area. Danny's work with identity and memory may overlap/stimulate the piece James and I have been working on...Zeng Ya is very interested in the mentorship project; perhaps we'll be able to "follow" her through some of her ups and downs over this first semester? She seemed open to the idea. Li and I must talk more though - ideas from Benjamin's class, and some decisions about WHAT to focus on & pursue and what to simply let go. Kyung Rae seems shy. Srinivas was a bit too tired to enjoy himself, I think.

The TA looks good, with Donal and my esteemed peers Naho & Kirsten. Scheduling our team meetings was a bear, but we figured it out.

Posted by Steph at 8:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack