Tuesday, December 30, 2008

falling off the horse

The drive north and the delay caused by snow abetted my fall from my horse: I stopped writing and have neglected my chapter for an entire week. The fall had been surprisingly easy and I've only half-heartedly tried to climb back up. I'm still a bit soar as a result of my fall - in the shoulders - but this is more a result of rediscovering my skills with a snow shovel. All in all, we've had a great time here with siblings, parents, and dogs. (S, in particular, loves the dogs as well as the snow.) We were all awakened at 6:20 on Christmas morn by the youngest family member. We've since been enjoying hot drinks, holiday treats, and new books by the fire. And I have to admit that snow is good for creating a reason to cuddle down by the fire. I hope you all have enjoyed - and continue to enjoy - a great holiday!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

into the cold of winter

We're all packed up and ready to head to the wintry North. Recent weather conditions have not been in our favor, but the I-15 has reopened and made our journey possible. We head from the flooded desert to the high and frigid desert to the snow-dusted foothills, around the icy lake and into the dense and snowy mountains. We've got snacks, blankets, and chains. Now all we need is your best wishes for a quick and uneventful trip!

Trip reporter: Orange County; elevation: 50 feet; daytime high: 60; miles traveled: 0.

UPDATE (12/20): Cedar City (land of the Utes); elevation: 5000 feet; daytime high: 35; miles traveled: 424.

UPDATE (12/21): Pocatello; elevation: 4500 feet; daytime high: 22; miles traveled: 836.

UPDATE (12/22): Butte, U.S.A.; elevation: 5549; daytime high: 9; miles traveled: 1090. Snowing steadily and with gusto. (This was supposed to be the day we finished driving.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

sources and technology

I made it through my paragraph crawl, but the road ahead doesn't look to be an easy one. The positive part of this struggle is that I have a lot to say; my problem has been figuring out how to put it in order. When I get stumped by this chapter, I daydream about how great it will be to move on to the next one (I had similar fantasies about how much easier the current chapter would be when I was writing the last one.) So, when I dream, I head on over the Congressional Record - on-line.

I think I've mentioned before how I love the hein database and I love it even more since I discovered that it contains an expanded version of the Congressional Record - the complete set! And I've been weighing the relative merits of the CR in its pdf, microfilm, and paper versions. The microfilm version is my least favorite. In fact, I hate it. A minimum of three reels per session. So, I have to scroll, scroll, scroll through one reel to find my pages; then, rewind, switch reels and scroll to each non sequential page where I try to decipher the poor copy on an ancient machine that no longer can zoom in and focus. Have I mentioned that microfilm makes me seasick? The on-line version wins for convenience, something that works well with my whimsy. But the paper version wins for ease of use. Flip to index, find term, select new volume and voilĂ  - page, page, and page. And it is always easy to read and it takes me away from my computer which is good (we've become too close over the past year or so). I am overjoyed with the technological advances that have brought me the CR on-line, yet this version can't top the paper version. But since the paper version is hard to come by, my desktop window-to-the-world will continue to hook me up on-line!

In other recent developments - our desert here is flooding.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

paragraph crawl

I've spent the last three days revising - and re-revising - the first section of my chapter. This section makes important and rather sweeping claims (about racialization and citizenship in work) that are essential to what develops in the last half of the chapter. These points all make sense in my head but are coming out kind of clunky. So, I re-read and cut and move and rework the narrative, again and again. This process feels like what I imagine a pub crawl feels like. I started out enthusiastic and I enjoyed myself. Then, I continued because I was only going to do one more. I've come under a haze. And now, just when I think I can't possibly rework that paragraph again, I dive back in for another go. It's my paragraph crawl.

And it's gotten to the point of being ridiculous. I'm giving myself to the end of the day to work it out. Then, I'm going to sleep it off and move on.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

what's more infamous - remembering or forgetting?

Did anyone else hear several references today to "the day that will live in infamy"? I guess if you want everyone to remember some event, uttering a phrase like this will make it stick. (It's a kind of self-fulfilling prophesy.) I wouldn't have remembered the historic significance of today if not for those reminders from my radio. But my concept of these events has changed considerably over the years, so I waited hoping that the commentators had made similar discoveries and would expand their reminiscences beyond Pearl Harbor. It never came. So, I've decided to take up that burden.

The impression I have from the media (who suggest that they're channeling FDR) is that Pearl Harbor should be remembered as an unprovoked attack on the United States. I will, for now, leave aside the antagonistic relationship that developed between the U.S. and Japan throughout the 1930s. The attack itself was specifically against the U.S. military in Hawai'i - a place that was not a state but a territory (with distinct colonial attributes). So, this was less a personal attack (against civilians residing in the United States) than a strategic one (against soldiers in a place that the U.S. claimed and backed up that claim with military might). But the aspect of this story that I find most interesting - and the one that prompted my post - is that this was not an isolated event. It was multi-pronged. It included attacks on Wake Island and Guam and, one day later, the Philippines. Indeed, by December 10th, Japanese troops were landing in the northern Philippine Islands. So, the land invasion that Pacific Coast residents were preparing for happened in America-the-colony. U.S. imperialism was a startlingly significant aspect of the "infamous" American entry into the Second World War.

FDR's catchy quote - and the subsequent rituals of remembrance - have helped to cover over the key role that U.S. imperial expansion played in bringing Americans into this war. Just as significant, such memories also neglect the role that imperialism played in the pursuit of that war. Here, I refer to the mobilization (and drafting) of colonial subjects - like Filipinos, Guamanians, and Samoans - in defense of the imperial power. Though Americans in the mainstream have apparently forgotten this aspect of their past, Filipino war veterans haven't. Their experiences being denied veterans' status demand the question: what is more infamous?

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

We've already been to the grocery store twice today and we're not even making the turkey. Our feast will be enjoyed with our "new" neighbors. And I have to admit that I've been snacking in anticipation of stuffing/dressing. Oh, I can't wait! I hope you enjoy your favorite dish and have a great holiday!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

turkeys; lots of turkeys

Today we enjoyed our premier grade-school Thanksgiving show. Four classes of first-graders sang and performed and recited their way through a robust T-day dinner. This part was fun. The best song was certainly "Burt the Turkey."
(Now that I've updated the picture, I should add that those are Turkey hats worn backwards. You can image what they're meant to resemble.)

Unfortunately, the performance did not end with visions of dinner. We had Pilgrims and (you knew it was coming) "Indians." These were the stereotypical variety. The cringe-factor escalated from the song "If I were an Indian boy" to a performance of the "evening song" (which you can replicate by singing a monotone and flapping your hand over your mouth). As if this wasn't bad enough, our creative teachers made up the material. And in this room of 130 adults, only R seemed similarly shocked and nauseated. Racial essentialism is alive and kicking in Orange County.* Be sure to duck.

So, my question is how do we get an antiquated Thanksgiving to fade into the past the way that Columbus Day did? My idea is to push for the use of "Wampanoags" over "Indian." After all, first-graders are aware enough to know that "Pilgrims" were a group of people who lived in the "past." The same could work for the Natives of the first Thanksgiving, right? The problem with this plan is that it leaves Wampanoags in the same ambiguously "historical" place from which "Indians" have long been trying to escape.

*along with enforcement of dominant gender roles. The permission slip which allowed students to participate in the school's Halloween "parade of costumes" included the rule: costumes "may not cross gender roles (i.e. boys wearing dresses, etc.)." But you know this rule didn't apply to girls costumed as cowboys or Jedi.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

all clear

We're still coping with smoke and ash, but the fire danger has passed. It came pretty close though - to the end of the block. Saturday afternoon, the winds whipped the fire around us and we spent the afternoon listening to LA County Fire helicopters. They zoomed just overhead every five minutes as they struggled (successfully) to save the high school. We watched most of our neighbors voluntarily evacuate, but we packed our bags and stayed here waiting for the knock on the door. (I preferred this, since it provided the most up-to-date information on how close the fire was.)

Here are my before and after pictures (about four hours apart):

By the time I took the latter photo, though, the most dangerous moment had passed. About 29,000 acres burned, including almost 200 residences; over 3700 people were involved in putting it out - along with 555 trucks and dozens of aircraft. Wow. I really wish the local - libertarian - newspaper would run stories about fire fighting heroics under the headline "YOUR TAX DOLLARS DO GOOD WORK!" The memory of this disaster will too quickly wear off among most of my not-my-tax-responsibility neighbors. Sigh.

Ash fallout on my plants:
Red sun in the afternoon:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

where there's smoke...

From our street.

Apparently what you do, when waiting to see if you'll be evacuated, is update your blog.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Are you as ebullient today as we are? So many things make the election outcome great news - including the fact that there was not, apparently, wide-spread efforts to prevent voting. We even got to hear the victory speech on election day, early enough, in fact, that young S got to hear it before going to bed!

Today I've been listening to lots of "unprecedented" and "historic moment" stories - most accented with "I never thought this would happen in my lifetime." I have to admit I'm really enjoying the shared national (and international) enthusiasm (my favorite so far is news of the spontaneous celebration in front of the White House last night.)

In their enthusiasm, I think these stories have missed another significant first. So far as I can tell (and I'm still on this case), Obama is also the first, first-generation American to be elected president. Given that we tend to favor wealthy dynasties in high office, it's probably not surprising that no previous president (so far as I have found) has been the child of an immigrant. So, one of the collateral benefits of our action yesterday is we get a boost in national standing among Kenyans - not to mention among residents of much of the rest of the world. (And here, I can't help but think of the newly added closing scenes in the re-released version of Return of the Jedi.)

Yeah for us!

Monday, November 3, 2008

gentle reminder

We're all very excited about tomorrow. Here's a cross-post from the S blog:

A much younger Young S hopes you'll keep her in mind when you vote tomorrow (on the 4th)!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween Tree

Even though Fall is almost unrecognizable here in summerland, it does have the best Halloween tree.

They grow big, and you only see the thorns upon close inspection. The entire tree is covered in them and they are intimidatingly sharp.
Happy Halloween!

(I just have to draw your attention to this website. Someone has invested a lot of time into disliking the VP candidate - much to my delight.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fall - the new summer

Here in the land-of-endless-summer we've entered the season of heat, dust, desert winds, and fires. What fun. There are some hidden advantages to a 12-month summer (ok, it only really lasts about 11 months and one week). We get flowers and vegetables at the same time. Funny, everywhere else we've lived the flowering was done by the end of the growing season. But the land-of-endless-summer defies the laws of nature (which goes a long way toward explaining a lot of things around here). So, about a week ago, S. and I headed to the Fullerton Arboretum; it was in full bloom and it was a delight.
The Arboretum is only a few acres but was planned as a vast parking lot.

It features many strange flowers. Sea anemone?
I have no idea what this is but I find it fascinating

(I'm not the only one).

Gourd tunnel
And, to bring us back from a summer daydream, there's a little corner of Fall on display.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Count back this many days. That was the day that R and I met! A big group of us new grads got together to meet one another under the pretense of celebrating R's birthday. (He later divulged that he had secretly contrived to make sure that I attended.) This was about 3654 days ago which works out to about ten years. Cheers to us!

Meetings, relationships, and birthdays - October is such a great month!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

artificial light

I'm almost done with my chapter draft and the weight is lifting. (Thank you for the encouragement.) I can now see light at the end of my tunnel - but only if I don't look past this chapter to the four others waiting for me (my light will surely dim).

Several other developments are providing me with artificial levity and have improved my general outlook. Last Monday was the first day of fall. Like someone else I know, I love fall. It is my favorite season. We don't get much in the form of "seasons" around these parts, but I remember well what fall looks like and I'm enjoying my seasonal reminisce. Assisting me in this endeavor is my neat, new gizmo. We cashed in all our chips (i.e. credit card rewards) and got a sweet new computer. I'm told it can make a good toy, but I haven't had time to explore this yet. I have, though, found the appropriate wallpaper (below). Finally, my artificial buoyancy is also partially attributable to my rediscovery of our store of adult beverages. This really helped take the edge off my anxiety. In fact, I decompressed enough to sing to my chapter as I worked (you know the song,... barenaked ladies, "...I love you more than I did the week before I discovered alcohol...). I can't believe I didn't hit upon this solution sooner.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to tomorrow evening. I plan to settle in, relax, and watch Gwen Ifill make the vp's squirm. I have long admired a Ifill, but I think I became a fan four years ago when she stuck it to Edwards/Cheney with a question about what their candidates would do to counter the recent rise in HIV infections. Their cram sessions didn't include this one; both of them were completely stumped. After the debate fun, I may even try out the civilization game that R keeps trying to tempt me with.

Friday, September 26, 2008

cere bellum

My brain is staging a revolt. When I sit to write, I feel overwhelmingly tired and I'm having trouble creating coherent ideas. This isn't caused just by sleeplessness; it is also mental fatigue. But I need my brain to put off the revolution for just a bit longer. I think I'm close to wrapping up my chapter. (which is very different from achieving the sense that the chapter is acceptable to send off without apologies. I've realized that I have to give up on such a luxury.) A break from this grind is a great idea, but it won't work until I have some closure. It is always on my mind (to the point that S has begun to disparage by abilities as a lizard-catching assistant). So, a true 'break' has to come with a release from the weight of this albatross. O.k. heading back to the task now (which includes corralling my wayward mind).

Monday, September 22, 2008


These past three weeks I've been in a hazy writing fog. I've taken these weeks to "finish" my chapter and the days I've slunk beyond my deadline continue to pile up. I have increased my work routine: I haven't done any new research and I've been staying up late writing (which I don't do on regular work days when I comb sources because after 9 o'clock my analytic skills are at their ebb). Now, I've achieved a sleep-deprived state of mind: easily distracted and agonizing over just finishing the chapter. My days tick off with anxious anticipation, frantic work, discouragement, then I repeat. While I have put together various parts and found great evidence for my points, it still is not done. This is a very discouraging situation.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

new/old danger rooted out

So, this post is a sign that I should stop reading the local rag and just write my dissertation, because I keep getting side-tracked (or, perhaps, blind-sided) by the things people around here do.

I recently learned that long hair on boys is distracting to eight-year olds and prevents them from learning third-grade things. No news yet on how long hair on eight-year old girls distracts fellow students and prevents them from learning, but I'm on the case and will file an update as soon as that news flash comes across my wire.

Fortunately, the OC Register uncovered this haircut or I never would have known what trouble follows the long-haired. (Perhaps you long-haired readers have tales to tell?!) If you go to the link and scroll through the pictures, you can see for yourself the physical transformation a haircut wrought in young Nipa. (My favorite is the pre-cut "halo" picture.) If you're wondering how Nipa's hair got so menacingly long, it was his parents (and their parents and theirs, going back generations). Curiously, Tonga is not like the United States (IMAGINE!); there long hair is admired and, apparently, not indicative of soon-to-come disorderliness. But Nipa's parents decided that Nipa - the only one of their boys to keep his hair long because, in his words, "I just like it" - should follow the school rules and get his hair cut.* Doing so, the Tuitahi family earned the uproarious applause of OCR readers (scroll down through the comments at your own peril). These readers must know too, that rule-breaking and long-hair are sure signs of criminality. Out of no concern for the rest of us, though, OC'ers are keeping mum about these secrets to an honest life. And I know they're tight-lipped because we students were not made aware of such deviance when I was in high school (in Montana). Several of my Sioux and Crow classmates (who were male) kept their hair long! They even defied rules dictating young athletes' short hair length, citing some flimsy rationale of "tradition." Fortunately OC'ers have vice-principal Dan Moyer who has found the solution to long-haired males and to the southwest's diversity more generally: "if we make an exception for one we'd have to make exceptions for others." So, breath a sigh of relief! The OC possesses the solution to rid the country of those long-haired deviants and it is equality! After all, being uniformly insensitive to all cultures** is the essence of modern equality (much like language conformity. Wait! I see a pattern emerging....)

*Bear in mind that this is a private, Lutheran grade school.
**Except that ONE culture; you know which one I mean.

Monday, September 8, 2008

the profession and pro bono

A few weeks ago, R received an interesting request from a New-York based ad agency/PR firm. The agency/firm asked him - in his capacity as a historian of the American West and of tourism - to contribute to their new project for Rosewood Resorts. Apparently, this highly-exclusive hotel chain had just renovated their Rancho San Ysidro Resort.* And the resort wanted to expand the (mythic) Californio experience for their guests. According to the agency/firm, R could contribute to this by compiling a list of recommended readings - fiction and non-fiction historical - for guests to imbibe while lounging at San Ysidro. R considered it (he figured this crowd would probably go for Ramona over Factories in the Field), and he replied to ad agency rep saying that he would be happy to compile a list. He told her he charged $100/hour and the project would take between 2 and 3 hours.

Imagine his surprise when ad agency rep replied that big NY ad agency (which advertises for, among other companies, Porsche) had not allocated a budget line for this particular aspect of the Rosewood account. In other words, she expected him to do this for free. I think R was annoyed; I certainly was. In what world do professional historians - who have spent years professionalizing and refining their skills (and this, just to get to the job market) - give away their specialized training? And to a for-profit ad agency developing promotional materials for an overpriced, for-profit luxury resort? Moreover, what does this say about the impression that ad agency rep has of historians? (She could have been a recent graduate who thinks that history professors just teach - and do all this "other stuff" without getting paid. She could be a seasoned rep who considers the work that historians do peripheral to her world of multi-million dollar advertising accounts.) Perhaps the most disturbing part of this story is that ad agency rep will probably happen upon some beleaguered person with a PhD in history who will do this work for free.**

So, I hope that if you're a scholar (or a scholar-in-the-making), you never do something so professionally demeaning. And if you happen to work in advertising, remember that my colleagues and I expect to paid for the work that we do!

*Nightly rates at San Ysidro begin at $650/night and go up to $6000. Did I mention that the resorts were highly-exclusive?
**Despite the title of my post, this work is NOT pro bono as it contributes nothing to the greater good. (I support historians who do actual pro bono work from time to time.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

first day

My dear girl started back to school today. I recalled all of my first days - the excitement and fear. Best wishes to everyone else on your first days (in and beyond the classroom)!

Saturday, August 30, 2008


O.k. I admit it. I watched the whole convention last week. And I caught the R's introductory press conference on Friday. And, of course, I have my own opinions about all of it, but just a couple that I feel compelled to offer as discussion points.
First, the Palin selection. Initially, I saw this move as just another Harriet Miers - selected for the double xx chromosomes rather than skill and ability. But she does have a few years of experience and a couple of attractive qualifications, such as, pushing for political reform and a spouse who was/is(?) a union member. Still, her limited experiences (like lowering property taxes) are not as impressive as Obama's. Also, she may be a woman, but biology doesn't make her an advocate for women. (And someone should tell her that she is running for vice-president; that was a little unclear in her speech last Friday. When referring to Clinton's "18 million cracks," she inferred that her nomination would finally break the glass ceiling which it won't - even if the ticket is elected and even if she becomes president. She would have to be elected president to break that one.)

Speaking of elections that break with the past brings me to my second point: the Obama nomination. I'm suffering from "history" fatigue, especially of the "never in my lifetime" variety. While I am pleased by the results, I don't find myself dazed and over-joyed at this (admittedly) historic moment. How surprising is it that he got the nomination? Consider the mythic proportions that King and CRM have acquired in our popular imaginations. And the affiliations that white Americans - and white Democrats, in particular - envision between themselves and that movement/person. Is it really all that surprising? The event that would really bowl me over is having him win. Electing him president would, to my mind, represent a significant break with the past and a real, monumental achievement. I am bit concerned that Dem's are settling for this (comparatively) lesser achievement rather than the big one out of an unexpressed fear that they'll lose another general election. And this is a frightening possibility. In fact, I'm so concerned that I am going to do something that I've never done before - encourage all my friends in blue states* to squeeze your budget and donate to his campaign.

*'Cause if you're in a purple state, you could go out and campaign in person!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

seeing-red county

With our one-year anniversary behind us, I'm beginning to feel like we can settle into living in Orange County. We've met some great people (indeed, recently, some more moved in practically next door). I should remember, though, not to get too comfortable here in Red County.* Moved by misunderstanding, fear, or bigotry, some locals do the craziest things.

To wit, a parent recently upbraided the San Juan Capistrano School District for allowing its principal and teachers to run Marco Forster Middle School like (in her words) a "Mexican public school." A majority of students have Latino backgrounds and many can speak Spanish. They do so at school (in-between classes) which letter-writer McCarthy says ostracizes monolingual students - like her children - and also breaks California law mandating "English only" in the state's flailing schools. Her concern even extends to "Hispanic children" themselves. She notes that allowing students to speak Spanish insulates them from mainstream American culture by preventing them from, in her words again, "assimilating." Here, of course, is the buzzword heralded by nativists for more than a century. "They" are not turning into "us". So, while McCarthy says "the English language has become second and not as important;" she thinks "I am threatened by the unfamiliar" therefore it must (at least outwardly) conform to my sense of me. There is no compromise or accommodation in this world view.

Significantly, Marco Forster students are quite familiar with mainstream American culture of the variety McCarthy references. The school mural that elicited her contempt for featuring a Mexican flag (along with the U.S. flag) is the product of student endeavor. In 1994, after nativists left offensive fliers in the lockers of 12-14 year old kids (!), students created this mural - featuring Benito Juarez - as a tribute to human rights but also as a positive symbol of Mexican-American blending. It is telling that McCarthy chose to attack precisely this image. When seeing red, she could see little else.

This incident prompts me to wonder if it is possible to communicate with such a seemingly-intractable mind-set? Can someone like this see examples of cultural (and social and linguistic) convergence as anything but a threat? Do I need to set my sights - and expectations - lower? If so, this might make settling in here more difficult.

*Orange County has the distinction of being home to the largest, per capita, population of registered Republicans. (This can make one pine for the days when being "red" meant something quite different.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

short list*

I'm on week number two with my new, short haircut and I love it. Some reasons why it is so great:
-no more blanket on my shoulders in the summer heat,
-I have achieved the 5-minute shower,
-use less shampoo (lots less),
-my hair no longer falls down in front of my face (I used to hate that),
-it better suits my mood**: when I'm struggling with a particular section, I can work my hair up straight on end.

-it can stick straight out when I don't want it to,
-more frequent cuts which means this haircut will hold out as long as my budget does.

*This is my take on KFR's list suggestion (from a while back).
**My dad approvingly commented that this cut is a little more "energetic" than the previous version. (That's the effect I had in mind.)

New view:

Sunday, August 10, 2008

'sleigh bells ring'

I finally have my conference (and paper) behind me and not a deadline until March. (The conference was brief but great for me; I got to hear SJ give a wonderful paper!)

I can see the months stretch out in front of me and I've mapped out the next deadlines. On our way to Montana, we stopped in TrackTown where we had the rare treat of seeing people that we get to see not often enough. I also met with Adviser - so I could check in on that last chapter I gave her (ahem, the first chapter). Anyway, I came away a bit crest-fallen. My plan of draft, revise, defend, and graduate by June is a brilliant scheme that she doesn't share. She advised me to shoot for next June to have the full draft in and then spend the next year revising. (Math calculator: That is a finish date of June 2010 - or 20010, for that matter.) I was also advised that the process will take three or four rounds of revisions - three or four rounds! Instead of crazy busy for the next ten months, I saw crazy busy for twenty-two. Ugh.

So, I've decided to see what I can do to speed things up. My goal: full draft by Christmas. That would be the best Christmas present I have ever given myself. Do you hear the Christmas music? Me neither, which is fine by me because I need all the time I can get.

Friday, August 1, 2008

cake, sweet

I happened upon this website - Cake Wrecks - last night and must recommend it. I laughed so hard, I had tears in my eyes. The cakes were funny (see 6/27 and 6/24) and then I started reading the commentary. This is entertaining too (both posts for 7/4, for example). (I'm so curious about the wedding that went with the cake from 6/24 - look at it close-up.) Maybe I should note that I am a huge cake fan - they all look good (except the one from 6/16, that was too much even for me). What a great use for a blog.

Guess who has a half-written conference paper in her lap and absolutely no motivation?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

news roll...

I can't decide if I'm glad we weren't at home for Tuesday's earthquake or not. It was the biggest quake since 1994, so I'm pleased to have avoided the experience. But now I wish I were home for the clean-up. I have visions of disaster awaiting us at the end of our long drive (perhaps made worse by its want for attention).

On a more light-hearted side, I received this link today. (These innovative young entrepreneurs are relatives of mine.) Who knew hell's angels were kool-aid junkies?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


We are almost at the end of our Montana sojourn. In a few short days, we'll reluctantly head back to the land-of-endless-summer. In my book, this month has been the best of our summer.

Young S has enjoyed countless days with her grandparents and her aunt - as well as their dog (who may have been the highlight of her stay). R and I retreated to our temporary office to work. And I learned how to write for a straight eight hours. (well, I did stop for lunch.)

Funny, I longed to get away from this place when I was a teen. But I've discovered that Hometown has some redeeming qualities (apart from the presence of family). Not the least of these is the "knowledge factor" - I seem to know someone wherever I go. This is particularly comforting when it comes to young S. Here, I was able to find great kid things for her to do on her summer vacation. She went to two camps, had swimming lessons and was in two parades in the past month, among other things. And I knew a "someone" (usually, more than one) in charge of each of those events. We'll all have to readjust to more limited activities, limited work time, a smaller social pool, no backyard, no pets, and no grandparents as the remainder of summer dwindles away. Regardless, our summer sojourn was well worth it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


We made it to Montana! It took four days of driving but was well worth it.

Here's the view from the front door (with kiddie pool and tipi):
(The OC has nothing on this.)

More to come....

Saturday, June 21, 2008

my bankrupt state

Summer has begun - not the season, the domestic arrangement. Young S finished her first year of school and is officially a first-grader (oh my!). While the end of the school year completely up-ends my work expectations, this is nothing compared to the hundreds of California teachers who now find themselves without a job. They're not jobless because thousands of schoolkids have disappeared but because my state is bankrupt.

A $16 billion shortfall means that all "social services" get cut. The misnomer "services" refers to the essentials of life: publicly-supported health care, infrastructure, and public education. Somewhere around 24,000 teachers and school staff will be/have been cut. In a couple of months I'll have to report back on what this means for my grade school where young S was in a class of 32 kindergartners. California will certainly retain its distinctive education rating: 51st out of 51 states and the Territory of Puerto Rico in student-to-teacher ratios.

Coincidentally, this very month marks the 30th anniversary of the passage of Proposition 13. That "popular revolt" against increasing residential property taxes deserves much of the credit for struggling, underfunded schools - and schoolkids - in California. And while I sympathize with the currents that brought this about - a state legislature that shifted its revenue source from corporations to individuals - Proposition 13 was a harbinger of the current fiasco (which includes the Governor's zany schemes to fund education with a Wall-Street backed lottery). Californians then and now don't want to pay for the comforts they enjoy (chief among these is the well-regulated interstate system) and they're sadly reluctant to make California industry contribute its part. Too many Californians are focused on the "minutiae of me" and see budget cuts to life's essentials as acceptable so long as it doesn't touch them.*

In this the state's current fiscal woes are indicative of a deeper, moral bankruptcy of toxic individualism. In this fantasy state-of-mind, everyone (also read as "every nuclear family") does her own thing separate from everyone else for her own personal enjoyment/fulfillment, etc. I could cite those lovely hours I have spent on the freeway dodging wild-eyed drivers as evidence of the mentality-of-one (and, of course, the highways are proof of this of themselves - why can't I take the train to get where I want to go? The train doesn't go there.)** Instead, I will offer proof through comparison. I am a fan of public libraries. The last two cities I lived in (in semi-urban Oregon and rural Ohio) both opened grand, new public libraries recently. These impressive edifices house their expanding collections and accommodate an increasing number of patrons. Here in my corner of OC, the public library is tiny - pinned between the Chamber of Commerce and school district offices. Its selection of books is slim, but can be termed solid if I overlook the baby-boomer era children's books which should be removed to an archive. What is more likely, however, is that one of the librarians will be removed; another casualty of budget cuts. This person can join California educators who have also lost their jobs. All these professionals - in whom the state invested so much by educating them - is watching them take their skills and experience to other states less plagued by bankruptcy.

*Note I didn't say all Californians; just too many.
**I can't give this one up that easily. Last week, LA Metro ridership hit an all-time high at 50,000 passengers a day (credited to high gas prices). News bites failed to note that the average daily ridership 70 years ago (before all the track was torn out and paved over) was 200,000.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

simple delights

My sweetie and I marked our fifth anniversary last weekend. We both took the afternoon off so we could celebrate with lunch for two at an imposing French restaurant down the road. (I had the unexpected and unusual experience of feeling relaxed and carefree for a whole afternoon, undoubtedly helped along by the deceptively rich food and wine.) It was so simple and such a perfect way to celebrate. Realizing this served as a gentle reminded not only of the many simple delights we've shared but of the simple joy of sharing them with my sweet heart!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

spring blue

June already?

Even though I'm not teaching (and I'm no where near my home department), I'm experiencing the late spring-term blues. That desire to close the books, get outside and spend, say, a few precious hours thinking about something less demanding and less draining. Maybe this is sympathy, or maybe it's cyclical - spring is always a low energy point. (Though I suspect, it's not just spring - feeling exhausted and behind and occasionally morose is a trade standard.) The trouble is that I have no break to look forward to. The process just goes on and on and on. (In a particularly wicked twist, I set my own deadlines.) This serves to deepen the blue. All is not lost though. My "spring" will come to a close in July when I get a much-needed change of scenery rather than a true end-of-the-term. We're planning on motoring up to see the fam in Montana. This doesn't constitute a true vacation since we're bartering grandchild-time for a regular work week. But it is as close as I'm going get this summer, so I'll take it.

In the meantime, I'll try to reinvigorate that late-term holding pattern that got me through so many a spring term. Amazingly, the weather in southern Cal seems to be on board with my spring blues. It has offered up a week of cloudy mornings. So unseasonable. And so distasteful to the locals. Ah. Nothing improves the blues like sharing them.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


We got some unexpected rain today. I loved it. It was cool and drippy all afternoon with no puddles. Then we got some thunder and lightning (even more of a rarity). And - in the next county just over the hills - tornadoes.

I think I figured out how to open my chapter. I believe I hit upon the way to bring all the movements together to get to the really cool and interesting stuff. (I was stuck on the interweaving of labor migration, an imperial political economy, and citizenship - and Glenn and Lowe weren't quite doing enough for me.) I did this on scant sleep (S had a bad dream last night). Small surprises are good.

Yesterday my former "home state" allocated their party votes to Obama. I fondly recalled when I used to vote-by-mail. What an easy, convenient system. Interestingly, the next big primary is in Puerto Rico - roughly the size of the two states that voted yesterday (63 delegates to Oregon's 65 and Kentucky's 60). Funny though, these will be the only votes Puerto Ricans get to cast for president (unless they all hop on over to the mainland and register in time - could they swing Florida?) I can't help but note the eerie similarities between Puerto Rican's current federal "citizenship" and their colonial subjecthood from one hundred years prior (ditto to Guamanians - 9 delegates - and Virgin Islanders - also 9). My point? Some things just aren't surprising.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

on sources and such

Still mucking my way through sources. In my assessment, I'm in them way beyond the elbows; up the the armpits definitely. In fact, I have had to turn my head to the side – to avoid drowning in my sources. As a result, I have developed a crimp in my neck. And my fingers are getting pruney.

Most recently, I've been reading stories covering anti-Filipino race riots (circa 1930). The U.S. Filipino papers describe the perpetrators as "flaming youths." My referent for this adjective is very contemporary and linked to discussions of sexuality. But the OED tells me that 1920's usage referred to the "unrestrained behavior" of the young. I wish the newspaper editors had intended another twenties' meaning - the profane epithet. Then again, language is slippery and surely I can slip this meaning in too.

I plan to scurry back to my mucking thanks to Perspectives (and RT) which informs me that the average time to a history PhD is ten years!! More surprising, over half of doctoral students never complete their degrees. I plan to join the ranks of the completed (where my degree and a dollar will get me a cuppa).

Before closing, I wanted to share this pic. Several weeks ago S and I went to USC to do some paid research. (Well, I did the research, S sat in high-back leather chair at a huge, polished research table and watched a movie). Anyway, I found some wonderful images that basked in the light of day and refused to go back into their folders.
This is M. Monks, defiant in the face of police inspectors who wanted to extradite her to San Diego (for allegedly writing bad checks; she moved on to greater notoriety).

Happy digging to my fellow dissertators - and congrats to one in particular!

Monday, May 5, 2008

occupational hazards

I am tapped. I had to wind down (my admittedly short) workday early today. I was all out of pluck. I tried shifting from reading, reading, reading to writing and I stared at the screen for half an hour. I've been reading newspapers - ten years worth of newspapers - and the last two years are killing me. I'm overwhelmed with information. My head is literally spinning - that is, as I sit here typing my head feels like a top wobbling on my neck right before it topples to the side.

I won't go into the psychosis I'm developing as a result of my isolated and focused occupation, but I should mention that I think I'm developing a vulture neck. I bow my head to read books, photocopies, and my laptop; I rarely look straight ahead. I can feel this in the base of my neck. Beware. I'll look different when next you see me.*

I'm also developing a condition I call "dissertator's elbow." Most of the day, my left elbow sits on the desk or is pinned under my forearm which supports my chin (as I amble on to something or other). It is becoming nicely red and inflamed.

While I think I was prepared for this phase of professionalization, I didn't anticipate the injuries that go along with it.

*yeah, that's the neck.

TOTALLY UNRELATED ADDENDUM: Have you been following the Democratic primary? Check out this great story by Betsy Reed (at The Nation).

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Whew! We just weathered our second 100-degree weekend in April. Those infamous Santa Ana winds that caused Malibu - and some other places - to burn last October are back. Actually, they never went away. I was totally unprepared for the persistence of the wind, the heat and the desert climate. It is uncomfortably hot and dry here. (Something that is not conductive to hours of mental work.)

In this weather, I prefer to sit in front of a fan eating soft service ice cream, but have had no such luck. Some advantages to such weather in this region is easy access to the beach and nighttime temperatures below 60. We all took to the beach on Saturday. I decided I prefer 100 degrees of dry California to 90 degrees of humid Ohio. I don't want to imply that I prefer 100 degrees of dry Californians, because they are simply wacky. I noticed that in this weather they do a lot of leaving family members (like spouses, youngish children) in their running cars. Not just for a minute, but for half an hour or more while they get groceries or shop. I just can't believe that this saves fuel (as in, don't have to cool off the car again); I think they do it because it makes Driver more comfortable to run from fully air-conditioned store to fully air-conditioned car. While I could wax on about wimpishness or self-conceit, I will chose another high road which is to point out that gas is averaging 3.86 per gallon.

Ok, I'm going to crawl back to my jigsaw puzzle and sweat it out.

Friday, April 18, 2008


I just finished drafting my "chapter one"! Ye-ha!

I can't do a crackerjack (others label it, uninterestingly, a 'heel click'), but I will have to learn how because now is a perfect time to execute one. (This is something I'm sure E can do; perhaps she will teach me how?) I made myself wrap it up today a few days beyond the deadline I imposed on myself weeks ago. And you know, the deadline worked for me; it is good to be done with stuff.

I can't say that this draft is the pristine, complete version I want to go into the final dissertation. (And I have to admit that I continue to struggle with the desire to fuss and modify it.) But it is in a condition that I would present to Advisor - a prospect that fills me with some anxiety even though she is a most generous critic. I would say that the chapter, as it currently stands, contributes the point that colonial citizenship did exist in the U.S. and that it has a long, distinguished career.

While I'm at it, I really must acknowledge Cabiria who confirmed my suspicion that two MajorPoints was too much for one chapter to contain. (Thanks!) I split them up which now allows me to claim that one is complete. I should also acknowledge Lindt chocolates for giving me that extra boost in the evenings (after little S had gone to bed) when I didn't think I could go on. :)

Overall, this last haul made my brain numb and made me tense enough to keep away sleep (nothing new there). I hope to rest up a bit over the next month and a half or so. My next deadline is the first of June.

The crakerjack king:

Saturday, April 12, 2008

thoughts from the grind

I recently received my “decline to fund” letter from BigHumanitiesFellowship; it was brief and to the point. It included the stock points: lots of applicants to chose from, tough decision, best of luck, etc. I am not disappointed by the outcome. It was a long shot and I got a lot out of the process of putting together a chapter and staking my future to the overall ‘contribution.’*

The only real disappointment was the letter itself. Considering how much time we all put into this I would have like more than unremarkable stock phrases. Left to my druthers, I wanted something like “your application made it to X round and we thought it needed to be stronger in [stating the contribution/identifying sources/explaining the methodology/relevance to our foundation’s mission].” Or even “we thought this was really promising and in a pinch we chose another project because we just liked it better.” I can sympathize with this position; sometimes these things just come down to personal preference.**

This line of thinking led me to consider the dark underbelly of these competitions. Where available, I’ve looked over the projects (and people) FellowshipFoundations have funded and I couldn’t help but notice that, well, they really love themselves an academic pedigree. A clear majority of FellowshipWinners get degrees from BigEasternSchools – IVs, even. There is generally a BigSouthern or BigWestern school in the mix. Overall, such prizes tend to stay in the already well-off “family.” I don’t imply that BigEasternSchools aren’t worthy of BigHumanitiesFellowships, but considering the interconnection between FellowshipFoundations, BigEasternSchools, and money, I can’t help but wonder if, in a pinch, the committees just turn to what they know – a familiar pedigree.*** Looking at the process from this angle (that of the dark underbelly), it has the grotesque scars of bias written all over it. This would be quite disappointing.

With these considerations in mind, I’ve decided to go with the first theory rather than the gloomy one. And to plug along at the quickest pace I can muster.

*This seems to have already paid off with a recommendation from someone I don’t know to participate in a conference I should go to.

**though how anyone could not prefer my project is inconceivable. :)

***this supposition was reinforce to me last week when one DissertatingBuddy said she was glad she was a historian (and working with BigNameAdvisor) because other disciplines – she has heard – generally evaluate prospective hires based on their university while historians look to who you worked with. (And, I would add, what you’ve done.)

Monday, April 7, 2008

another new discovery & liquid gold

I think I might be emerging from technological vacuum because I made yet another cool discovery recently. A few days ago, while I was planning my trip to the Huntington, I tried tracking my route on google maps. Have you all discovered the "street view" function? Well, I just caught up. It is fabulous for this car-culture region. I could see what my destination looked like. Ok. So go to google maps and type in "Orlando Rd and S. Allen Ave, San Marino, Ca." Click on street view. Then, make sure to turn your virtual self all the way around. Can you get into the Huntington?

Ok, so at the same time that I think this is awesome for driving (and for walking), I did find it a bit creepy. Do I really want just anyone who can access my address to know exactly where I live - and oh, maybe, what I look like as I sit in my front window? Not at all.

Also, I was interested to see that cities like Portland and Spokane have "street view" but Seattle doesn't? What's up with that?

And, as my totally random closing, I did make my way to the Huntington, but before I could get home I had to purchase some of the most precious liquid gold I've ever burned in my internal-combustion engine. It was $3.80 a gallon! (Ok, it was actually $3.799/gallon.) More important, can anyone beat that? This is an omen, isn't it? The end must surely be in sight.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

belated observance

"All labor has dignity.... You are reminding, not only Memphis, but you are reminding the nation that it is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages. And I need not remind you that this is our plight as a people all over America."

I offer this contribution to the iconography of his memory in order to alter the icon and revive the message.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

our break

My little Pixie had Spring Break last week. I didn't; she did. She also didn't want to go to daycare so we compromised - she went in the morning (which gave me two golden hours to work) and was home by lunch. Overall, "our break" was good.

The highlights included haircuts for both of us - her first in professional hands. Her hair looked wonderful and I realized that I should have given up hair-cutting responsibilities some time ago. We washed the car. We "had lunch" with Shamu whose likeness came to OC for a visit - along with some penguins, ibex, and a sea otter. We also visited the arboretum and shopped for tap shoes. I think it was these last things that broke me. Spring Break was going great until I heaped animals-at-lunch, sun, and shopping upon the child in a single afternoon. Never again.

Happily most of our outings (and non-outings) were accompanied by music. S has been watching the movie Annie over and over and the songs are sinking in. My favorite was catching little snippets of her rendition of "it's a hard-knock life."

And here she is with a friend.

Break over.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

my new discovery

Just a quick note on how fabulous YouTube is: some of the talks, sessions, and this keynote address (by President Nell Irvine Painter) at last week's OAH are on the Tube. (For my pocketbook, this is the next best thing to being there.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


In my museum days, I got to work with lots of cool, old stuff. Like Pacific Northwest baskets:
I developed an appreciation for this art - plant fibers, natural dyes, and an impressive amount of skill, memorization, and practice to pull one off. Some were paper thin. Others were woven so tight, they could hold water!

Over the past week (or more) as I've been tapping away at my computer, I've been thinking about weaving - stories rather than baskets. But the analogy is spot on. Actually, I've been agonizing about stories, their meanings, their narration, and how to weave them together. This dissertation-writing thing is a daunting process. (I have a better understanding of why so many people stop at this point.) Nevertheless, I'm still very happy with my topic; in fact, it gets better the more I work on it. Sometimes I marvel that I have stumbled upon such fascinating (and poignant) stories. This quickly leads me to feeling completely unequal to the task of writing them. I often wonder if these events, these people, and their stories are too important to be left in my inexperienced hands. Such thoughts dissipate with the arrival of my tuition bill, and I return to the complicated process of weaving. I would say that what I have created (up to now) has the shape and substance that this type of weaving project should. The shape is recognizable; the weave is BIG, as are some of the gaps. My weaving is coming together even if it can't yet hold water and even if it doesn't yet have any attractive patters like these*:

Unlike the Quinault (woman) who wove this basket from the bottom up, I can go back and rework any section I want. This is a consoling reminder as I struggle through the delights and disappointments of weaving.

*(I can't help but point out that, if you look at the top picture, you'll see that the pattern on the outside is invisible inside the basket!)

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I may be suffering from over-fatigue, but I'm inclined to think that my inability to wrap my mind around recent developments is not a problem on my part. I'm having trouble understanding:
  • why a NY governor, with aspirations to be US attn gen., would spend $80,000 to purchase sex and think that this would have no bearing on his political career. And, then, why he would come out and say "I'm really bummed I got caught" and "I really wish that I hadn't gotten caught; getting caught messes up all my grand plans." (At least, that's all I heard.)
  • why the Wife of the cowed and disgraced stands silently "by his side" during the I-wish-I-hadn't-gotten-caught speech. This must be performative, but I just can't understand the larger value. (We should organize a press conference just for her.)
  • why a presidential candidate (who presents herself as the "anti-Republican") goes along with the fantasy of "reverse racism" and allows her supporter to present an opponent as a token candidate. (Under this logic aren't she and her supporter also merely tokens?)
  • why the same candidate would label as "fair" a primary election where her opponent did not appear on the ballot. Such an assessment diminishes the credibility of said candidate as an international leader who will purportedly "protect" democratic rights (until, apparently, the abrogation of such rights works in her political favor. Huh?)
  • why this same presidential candidate has decided to squander all the good will I harbored for her through the two preceding developments (something that has tipped my scales from "slightly-more support" for the opponent to "full and unwavering").
  • why reporters insist on pecking at the same candidate's qualifications in foreign policy. My favorite are the questions about peace in Northern Ireland which go something like this: "Let me get this right: you were part of the peace process as a Wife?" "Wives of presidents don't really have any political viability - especially in the important work of international peace. [and then to make it a question:] Isn't that diplomats' [men's] work?" "You really didn't matter in the peace talks because you were a women-, I mean, a Wife, did you?" And if they really pushy, they ask "you're just a Wife, who the hell do you think you are?"
The fact that I'm mulling these things over is definitely a sign of fatigue and the mind-wandering that comes with it.

So here's something that I do understand. I've had enough of the music I listen to over and over while I work. I need some new tunes. I listen to music without words or with words that I cannot understand (this helps stave off the mind-wandering). For example, I've been listening to movie soundtracks, classical, 'new age,' Brazilian, and Cuban. They're wonderful but they're also getting tired out and I need to add something new to the mix. So, what have you got for me?*

*(I'm willing to take samples over e-mail.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

on academica & mendicancy

"Please, sir, my I have some funding?"

That 'bout sums it up.

Best of luck to my fellow mendicants.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

law of belligerent occupation

In general, I avoid gut-wrenching posts. But this document I ran across begged me to be released from its binding and set out into the world (again). I offer it to Mukasey for (further) consideration and to you as evidence of a dishearteningly long trend in U.S. history. (In fairness, I should note that descriptions like this soured Americans on war in Southeast Asia - a least for a few decades.)

What follows is a description of the "water cure" for Philippine independence (a "malady" that had produced a Philippine Constitution and a Republic that lived for two short years):

“the water cure is plain hell. The native is thrown upon the ground, and, while his legs and arms are pinioned, his head is raised partially so as to make pouring in the water an easier matter. An attempt to keep the mouth closed is of no avail; a bamboo stick or a pinching of the nose will produce the desired effect. And now the water is poured in, and swallow the poor wretch must or strangle. A gallon of water is much, but it is followed by a second and a third. By this time the victim is certain his body is about to burst. But he is mistaken, for a fourth or even a fifth gallon are poured in. By this time the body becomes an object frightful to contemplate: and the pain agony.[*] While in this condition, speech is impossible; and so the water must be squeezed out of him. This is sometimes allowed to occur naturally but is sometimes hastened by pressure, and ‘sometimes we jump on them to get it out quick,’ said a young solider to me with a smile…. Does it seem possible that cruelty could further go? And what must we think of the fortitude of the native when we learn that many times the ‘cure’ is twice given ere the native yields? I heard of one who took it three times, and died.”
*generally the stomachs of victims became grossly distended by these gallons of water.

From Recto, The Law of Belligerent Occupation (1946), 344-5.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I got to see a lot of my extended family over the last weekend. And the weekend overall turned out to be very nice. These people inspire in me loyalty, love, astonishment, and fear. By-passing all that, here are the top three comments directed at me over the weekend:
-"How do you like living in Orange County?" (Delivered along with tense smile which intoned "is is possible to live in Orange County?")
-"Are you going to have another baby?" (I get this one all the time and as of yet they don't find my reply satisfying - which is that my dissertation is the 'child' I'm currently nurturing.)
-"That bar was amazing!"

That's right. I grew up within striking distance of a bar that GQ magazine* rated as the best bar in the world!??
*(who cares what GQ thinks; I say it is remarkable.)

If you're ever on I-90 headed across Montana then you have to stop at the Sip n Dip.** It is a totally random 'tiki' bar in the middle of the mid-West (in a town that is mid-western in every sense of the word).
**(You will need to stop because there's not a lot on I-90 between Fargo and Seattle.)

Here's the pics. This place appears to be an inferno waiting to happen (lights strung through 40-year old raffia). Pat plays a vicious piano bar (we heard "Ring of Fire"). They serve fish bowl mixed drinks and employ a mermaid to swim around behind the bar. Simply - Amazing.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

last salute

Little S and I are heading out tomorrow for my parent's house and I can't wait. I've been there mentally since Saturday when they called to tell me that my grandmother was no more of this world. This wasn't a surprise, but still it is sad.

I wrote the obit over the weekend which was cathartic and annoying. Newspapers are so parsimonious; I struggled to reduce the breadth of ninety-four years into trite and dry lines of text. I can say, with a certain degree of glee, that I think I failed. I tried to turn a long life of experiences into "just the facts." Thus, she became "well-known" for gregariousness and ready laughter and even "renown" - among her grandchildren - for outsmarting their childish pranks. But I couldn't work in my favorite anecdote that I will regale you with (both of you). My great-uncle knew my grandma and all of her sisters well (there were nine altogether) and he said each of the Charvet girls was a general in her own right - smart, capable, and, most definitely, in charge. But, he added, out of all the girls, Henrietta, "she was the generalissimo."

So, if you're out over the weekend, I hope you'll tip a glass with me in memory of the generalissimo.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


I recently ventured out of my cave. Like any caged animal, I was cautious and timid and a bit unwilling to leave. I gradually re-called my frolicsome past and enjoyed my time in the sun - before becoming overwhelmed and exhausted by the outside world. Now, I have returned to the familiar security - and confines - of my cave.

Some observations derived from my time on the outside:
-Salt Lake City is quite lovely in the winter
-a one-hour time (zone) change is enough to induce sleep deprivation (likewise getting up for events at 8 AM). Sleep deprivation feels like a hangover.
-the big "P" always offers sound advice. P told me to get out of the cave and go to SLC. I went prepared for an experience similar to last year. But the people I met there were great. They talked about real problems (historic and current) and, for the most part, real solutions.
-I did not forget my social skills during my months in the cave, but I may over-compensate for my lack of interaction when on the outside. Be warned.
-Hailani-Kay Trask is a rock star. I heard her talk on colonialism, Hawai'ian liberation and political activism (while she noted that "post-modernity is just a [useless] magic show"). She was inspiring.
-Linda Tuhiwai Te Rena Smith - also a rock star.
-I am doing work that other people actually find interesting!
-the sick feeling I had during the week prior to my outing was not just the stomach flu (which I really did have thanks to 5-year old). It was - in part - anxiety. R tells me this doesn't go away until the defense. I can't live with it for that long. Take pity on this creature-in-the-cave and share with me your relaxation strategies. Please.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

too soon to count down?

I know it’s too early to celebrate - but how about to count down?

I’m not doing the snoopy dance. Not yet. I’m only envisioning myself doing the snoopy dance one year from today when the secret service escorts his lame ass* out of the white house forever. Can you see it? I can – and sometimes that image makes me smile.

*you know who I mean - the MADD magazine poster-boy.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Some of you may have noticed that the primary season has begun. It makes me go to extremes – either I am hooked to debates, repulsed by the bald-faced lies, or extremely disillusioned with the whole stinking process.

Among all the tidbits and tangential stories I’ve heard, the thing I'm most struck by – so far – is what a bunch of cowering mice so many Americans have become. Today, NPR ran this story on how residents of Lancaster County, South Carolina, are coping with the close of their largest employer. I was disheartened to hear how they responded to being fired with a couple of days notice (their former employer presently dismantled the machinery to ship off to Brazil). They sat back and took it. Many made references to a higher power and to faith. God, I guess, wants them to be unemployed? Admittedly, they have few options (although conflagration of the remaining distribution warehouse jumps to mind). But the option they chose lets the company off the hook and chalks this up to “no one’s fault.”

They're not alone. I’m also reading Ehrenreich on white-collar unemployment/underemployment (somewhere around 15% of the workforce) and she observes the same thing. People are so desperate to find a new job that they don’t care about the business (and economic and social) trends that got them there. What I want to know is what happened to their courage, their indignity? Why is there no roar of opposition? Did it dissipate along with post-war consumerism? Is the fact that we have no concerted counter to these trends due to three generations of (relatively) strong employment? Is this because of FDR? Did the New Deal – and aftermath – make us think that a strong executive wheeling the power of *GOVERNMENT* would protect us? What happened to these people? I don't (can't) believe they've always been like this.

(On a lighter note, view this ad for "new Bush coins.")

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I am in the middle of performing surgery. Operating on this patient is particularly agonizing because I created it from nothing. It began as an endlessly blank expanse on my computer screen. Over the past 24 months, I have given it shape and substance. Five months ago, it spoke for the first time.* I was reaching contentment with my creation. But surgeons with more skill than me pointed out ways to improve the circulation, the modus operandi, and, most important, the fecundity of my creature. So, with a cautious hand, I cut.

This surgery is a very delicate procedure involving the removal of a small (yet significant) part of the major contribution from the lower extremities and stitching it into the upper extremities - among the methodology and state-of-the-field - where there is, as of yet, no place for it. The challenges involved in this procedure is creating an opening big enough to fit in major contribution without disrupting the other major organs. Moreover, removing major contribution will leave a not insignificant gap - one that may impair necessary movement in the lower extremities. I'm planning to fill it with amended contribution. That will flow just as nicely into the concluding significance as major contribution did and allow my patient to engage in its former activities once again. And while no sign of the major surgery will be visible, I am, as of yet, uncertain if this altered creation will bear fruit. Keep your fingers crossed!

*Fortunately, it hasn't taken on a life of its own.

Monday, January 7, 2008

new is old

I realized last week that I don't really like the new year. Something about the supposed "end" of the year seems too final to me. I wasn't ready for it to end. I have a mental list of things I wanted to do and the end of the year gives me the impression that the chance to do them has passed.

I also realized that I'm not looking forward to this year. I have this one, always-present goal (to finish the D) and that won't happen this year. My big plan - to finish by June '09 - seems like a reasonable amount of time for working this out, but the prospect of a full year of writing with no big huzzah during that time is a little discouraging. I need to devise a system of small rewards. Hummm.

I have to admit that returning to the unrelenting grind is difficult. (It relented while S was out of school; she returned today.) What I really want to do is lounge around and watch my new movie -
Goonies! Fortunately, I pick up some new tea at TJ's and it packs a punch. So, Irish breakfast will lead me back to my computer and may even inspire the narrative turn that will win me a pat on the head from my department. Ugh. No wonder I lack motivation.

I'll leave you with this gem from Lewis Lapham introducing his editorial (in the Jan '08 issue of Harper's) - one I highly recommend reading:
"For politicians not only represent us.... They are, as a group, the hardest working professionals; they must continuously learn new masses of facts, make judgements, give help, and continue to please. It is this obligation, of course, that makes them look unprincipled. To please and do another's will is prostitution, but it remains the nub of the representative system." - Jaques Barzun

Enjoy the show!