Monday, January 29, 2007

lesson from 4-year old

Recently, I've been reading to S her new favorite story. This began as a traumatic experience.

S's new favorite story is one that I remember hearing when I was little. In fact, it was burned into my childhood memory because it scared the six-or-seven-year-old me. For years, I vaguely remembered the story but not the title. S cleared that up; it's called Tailypo. In short, it's the story of an old geezer-hermit who cuts off the tail of some strange animal, eats it, and the animal comes after him looking for the tail and makes him disappear. I recalled how frightened that book made me when I read it to S. And, I thought that she would get scared and not want to hear it anymore. But no. She loves it, and we now play "tailypo" games.

The difference: she identifies with the creature and I identified with the geezer-hermit. If only I had come up with this reorientation when I was 7 or 8. I would have saved myself so much anxiety.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

more effect

Go figure. It keeps coming.

In other news, I am closing in on a conclusion. I've written two conference papers in one. So, after I revise it, I get to chop it down.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

lake effect

After two months of empty promises, the weather finally delivered. We have a significant amount of snow (over an inch) that has stuck around (literally).

For months, weather reports have bantered about "lake effect" snow - the increase in snow caused by our proximity to Lake Erie. This was something I awaited with anticipation. Unfortunately, we are just beyond the lake-effect shadow. So, while everyone around us got 6-8 inches, we got wet streets. It was a let down.

But no more. The lake effect has arrived. I will spare you more pictures of snow (for now). Suffice it to say, it's pretty.

Monday, January 22, 2007


Mushy or hazy - that accurately describes my state of mind right now.

I am off and away with the writing of my paper but I certainly seem to be spinning my wheels and going no where - because of the mush. It takes so long to make sense of this material, and I've written pages and pages of introduction (in fact, at this point, about 90% of the essay is introduction).

I think this haze is the effect of isolation. If I had been working in my office where I could break for coffee or lunch and hash out these ideas with colleagues, I think I would be working much more efficiently. I don't offer this in the way of an excuse, rather as a warning - keep to your community as long as you can, it is comforting and helpful in so many ways.

Now, back to my Gordian knot.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

"unique and somewhat anomalous"

Here's the understatement of 1944 (the year when one federal judge wrote the following): "the relationship as between the United States and the inhabitants of the Philippine Islands has always been quite unique and somewhat anomalous." (read: we didn't know what the hell we were doing so we made it up as we went along.) What this means translated from legal-speak is roughly as follows : "it worked to our advantage to retain complete and unquestionable sovereignty over the Philippines - both the land and people. So, we carefully ensured that laws and court decisions leveraged our exploitative advantage while maintaining a pitifully thin veneer of democratic intent towards these recipients of our benevolent largess."

Have you noticed how some academics chose to cannibalize their evidence in the title of their books or essays? They use some snippet of a quote they found in the course of doing their research, like "Move Like Hell" or "Tell the Court I Love My Wife." I have decided that this is an annoying trend. I want titles to offer a straightforward and concise premise of the history (I have a limited amount of time and the quicker I can assess the main argument the better). This quote - "unique and somewhat anomalous" - is just the type of snippet that I could see heading the article of someone who is not me.

heat wave

Despite appearances, we enjoyed a heat wave in the past day.

Someone came over to check the temperature in our house (the new downstairs tenant complained that it was too cold) and we discovered that the house was about 4-5 degrees colder than what the thermostat said it was.

I turned the heat up four degrees and we were amazed at how warm 64 felt! In fact, it was too warm and I've adjusted the thermostat again.

This is what we get for renting an old house (1879!). The thermostat itself is at least 30 years old (as is its wiring), so its a little off. The doors and windows all have gaps - which created a huge heat exchange. I installed weatherstripping and covered almost all the windows with plastic (and I know its working - somewhat - because when the sun goes down the plastic balloons out around the windows). Now, I know why states like this are energy-consumption criminals - it all goes out the window.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

simple logic

Last week, S and I were driving home and she was sitting quietly in her seat, apparently deep in thought. Because, out of the blue, she asked me why we pay rent.

My attempt at 4-year-old logic didn't satisfy her ("because the woman who owns the house takes care of it and we pay her to keep our house in good shape"). "But why?" was her reply. So I took a new tack: "she does it to make money."
S: (annoyed) so that she can have more money than us!?!
Me: yes
S: (still annoyed and slightly yelling) But that's not fair!

Yes, folks, the 4-year old has capitalism all figured out. What surprises me is how easily we unlearning this logic over the subsequent years. (I guess it helps that all of society is oriented towards indoctrination and hammers it home again, and again, and again.)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Procrasti Nation

I live in a state of procrastination. Life is busy here.

I am accomplishing things I've put off for months (like grading that one last paper to replace the incomplete). I watched Pride and Prejudice again (my reward for passing my exams - it took a while to get to this). I quilted a baby blanked for an expected nephew; I watched 49 Up! and Little Miss Sunshine, and I've found lots of new music at the public library that I have to borrow, now.

My research is progressing too. I've read secondary sources I had been putting off for months. KFR led me to the mother load of primary sources,* so I've carefully combed through this and found lots of new evidence. I even run off to the college library to read "just one more article."

None of this is writing my paper. After four months of "self-direction," I actually have a deadline to meet. I've been amazed at how quickly and easily my time-honed skills of procrastination have come back to me.

And the pressure of that pending deadline is not yet high enough to crack me. And, so, here I sit commenting on life in Procrasti Nation.

*Props to KFR for this!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

snow day

We finally got some snow today. The weather has been so mild that S has had to wait a long time for this. (A few weeks ago, she got up in the morning and went running outside because the frost looked like snow to her.)

We have to enjoy it all today though; tomorrow, a high of 52 with more rain.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

ruby slippers

I got some new shoes! (I don't do this very often; the shoe budget is woefully small.)
And they're red!

I think they're so pretty. Unlike Dorothy's red shoes, they didn't come "oz-equiped," so I can't click my heels together and return to OR, but I can tramp throught the mild Ohio winter in style - and 1.5 inches taller. How nice to have comfortable, new shoes!

Saturday, January 6, 2007

academic roulette

It is that time of year again when tenure-track or tenured faculty put thousands of their fellow academics through the ringer. If this is how supposed "colleagues" treat you, then we must re-label academia so that it reflects the more base qualities that this season brings out in everyone. I haven't found the best one yet but I have come up with "academic mafia," "ivory-tower hazing," and "elite racketeers." These aren't all-encompassing; I'm still working on the best label. Feel free to add to this list. I am open to suggestions.

R is in Atlanta right now playing academic roulette. When he first threw the ball, our options for our new place of residence next fall included the following states: Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Minnesota, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Georgia, and Virginia. (Unfortunately, he was working with half the number of job options than were available last year.) I had some favorites on that list (as did he) that fell by the wayside almost immediately. Now, after bouncing around, the ball has settled closer to the center of the wheel. It is down to southern California, Georgia, and update New York. Or the ball may fly off the wheel entirely, in which case we'll get to play this crappy and degrading game again next year. Academic roulette can quickly and easily turn into Russian roulette.

Which brings me to the point about how awful this profession is prone to be. I didn't realize this until I was too invested in the more appealing aspects - the ones that graduate programs push on their unsuspecting victims. In fact, deceptive is the best way to describe most graduate programs. They have these lofty ambitions for instruction in facts and theory - which many can deliver. But there is no required course on maneuvering the job market* and the painfully obvious bias that colleges and universities have for elites. If the degree comes from the IV league (even though the dissertation is crap - and this happens; I've read too many of them before and after they were published as monographs), these candidates turn heads regardless. Where are the bonus points for people who attended public schools and survived in an environment where the bottom line is money not academics?

So, graduate programs refine deception. I asked my general manager (whom many of you know)** how well his program placed graduates (I already knew the answer - I had researched it, but I wanted to see what he would say). He went on and on about the one - the single - graduate from the program who went to Harvard as a post-doc for a couple of years. The only example he offered was the most shining one. He was completely out of touch with his program and what it offered its graduates.

Add this example to the one I heard just a few days ago when a colleague (a first-timer on the job market) asked R what was expected in the interview session - this colleague thought that it entailed a power-point presentation of his dissertation. This guy attended one of the most elite school in his field and this is how he was prepared for the job market!

When it comes to the real world - like getting a job - most academics have their damn heads in the clouds.

*PP is the reining exception to the rule.
**This is the same person who admitted that his colleagues once failed to recognize a prospective hire in the Classics when they went to the airport to pick him up. The prospective hire was African American. Here's another reason this profession is messed up. But that would take me in a different direction, so I'll leave it for the moment.

Friday, January 5, 2007

say it ain't so

This is what I get for indulging in those silly on-line "tests." This is the best movie that matches my personality?

Ok. Here's proof that these tests are lame and messed up:

There is obviously a fundamental flaw in the programming code. I am opinionated but I also understand tact and diplomacy and how to be subtle and have limits. This is ridiculous. (What answers to I have to give to get Michelle Bacelet instead?)

new congress

I was was so pleased by yesterday's swearing in of the first woman Speaker of the House (and I even like most of her politics). Yeah!

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

I must have just had a holiday...

I got to watch some movies recently - another advantage of holidays. Some of the films were good and others I am trying to forget about - quickly.

I highly recommend When We Were Kings, a documentary I've wanted to see for ages. I am not a fan of boxing but boxing became a sub-theme to the politics of imperialism and racism in the 1970s. Even though the film didn't include details on the US and CIA involvement in eliminating Zaire's Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba (in favor of Sese Seko), I can overlook this because the film was well done, and Muhammad Ali is just fascinating to watch.

I also saw the Cradle Will Rock again. Brilliant. I wish Tim Robbins would make more movies like this.

I enjoyed our annual screening of It's a Wonderful Life. Regardless of what some academics say, I think Capra was influenced by the Popular Front because it is just that kind of great movie.

(Here's a Mexican copy of the Rivera mural that Rockefeller had removed from Rockefeller Center. Wow!)