WWII Memorial

WWII Memorial at night
Originally uploaded by omphale23.
Why did they build a memorial that looks so much better at night?

Memorial Day exploring

Memorial Day exploring
Originally uploaded by omphale23.
I have not, in fact, fallen off the edge of the world. Close, but not quite. We had family in town, and took in the sights--including the Botanic Gardens, my new favorite place to sit and not get any work done. Strange how even now my heart skips when I walk up the steps of the Capitol. Doesn't seem to matter that it's full of republicans.

Gas spreading rugby hordes

Continuing on with the sports theme:

From the Beeb (with additional comments and explanations from me)

A TV advert for telecommunications player Telecom is causing a bit of a stink here in NZ. It depicts New Zealand in a throwback to the 1940s being invaded by the Lions-supporting hordes who will stop at nothing to gain inside knowledge on the All Blacks.

Explanation: Lions: Rugby Union team made up of players from the British Isles. A bit of an oddity since usually these teams play as Wales, Ireland, England, Scotland (not Ireland and Northern Ireland as in football though) but travel as the British Lions sometimes. This is a tour to New Zealand where the NZ team, the All Blacks used to be very good at rugby but started to become less good just about the time I got to Australia. I think I saw the match when Australia beat the All Blacks for the first time in years and years. This tour has been billed as a North vs South thing since the All Blacks are now starting to become better again (though not as consistently scarily good as they were in the early 1990s). Even if yous are not rugby supporters (I am not), watching the All Blacks do the Haka (Maori chant) at the beginning of matches is pretty fun.

"Careless talk costs tries" is one of the buzz phrases. The campaign is proving a winner in marshalling local support against the Lions especially when the ad has a Lions fan breaking wind in a pub with the warning: "They are not averse to using gas".

I just found this hilarious. Why don't we (in the USA) have adverts like this? Note the securitisation of sports here with careless talk costing tries (ways by which team can score in rugby. From what I understand, it is sort of like touchdowns in American footy but since I am clueless about American footy, I am not sure about that analogy).

Why Liverpool?

'I'm enjoying this triumph like a child,' said Xabi Alonso, scorer of Liverpool's equaliser.

I always thought of Alonso, one of the players signed this year by Liverpool’s new coach, as a bit of a snob. He looks good, dresses well the few times I have seen him on the television and speaks various languages. Not exactly the sort of bloke whom I could imagine hanging out with. During the match, he missed the penalty which would have tied the match and then, instead of putting his head in his hands or some such perfectly normal reaction, he waited and scored with the rebound. That, for me, pretty much defined the match. Depths of despair and then absolute magic. Perfect. Really, there is nothing more to add than what Alonso said: like a child is how I am enjoying Liverpool’s triumph too.

I think IntLaw would agree that the reason why people have supported Liverpool, who play shite most of the time, is that the players and the fans seem to have similar ways of looking at life. As the players commented, during half-time, when the score was Milan 3 Liverpool 0, all the Liverpool players, including their captain Steven Gerrard, thought they had lost. The dressing-room was filled with dejected Liverpool players. On the other hand, the Milan dressing room was apparently convinced they had already won and were celebrating. I guess the difference is right there. That is why I could never support Milan (or teams like that). A team of players who already believe they have won, despite the match only being half over (okay and with a 3-0 lead which had never been overturned before) is one I can’t identify with. A team with players who were convinced, even after they had equalised, that they would lose, yes, that is my team. One who expects the worst and yet can’t help hoping that perhaps the worst won’t happen and things will turn right after all and keeps on playing for that.

Coldplay > the Beatles?

I just read this saying that Coldplay's new single was outselling the Beatles in the USA. Since it is only available as a digital download, the UK charts do not accept it (they need a "physical version", as the article notes) but the US charts do.

I think the moral of this story is that whingeing pays. And pays well.


Questioning my vocation

I think I am about ready to give up PhD-ing and go off to try find a proper job (which makes money, which can then be used to do other things). Things that contributed to this:

1. I am not sure I am cut out to defend my project every time. I reckon if I am to do this PhD thing, I should do it well, which means doing it right. Doing it using a certain methodological orientation and working within it (while being aware that explanations are necessary). People giving me instructions on how my PhD will be "sellable", though v helpful are not exactly inspiring me with confidence about my PhD.

2. I got rejected from this workshop thing I applied for. What is one rejection, you ask? Well, I sort of wanted to go to this one. If I can't make it for a not v well known workshop in a small-town VA University, how am I ever going to be
famous, eh? Or, more seriously, how to be in the security field and yet be accepted despite not talking "conventional" security stuff? Maybe it is easier to give up and go find work.

3. Various other stuff which I won't get into but which led to massive questionings of PhD-ing. Or at least the next year or two part of it when I will be without a fellowship and with no job.

I thought I had a vocation for academia. After all, I "worked" in the proper world for nearly two years and hated it. I like research. I like talking about what I do and how to do it (though I don't agree with many of the other views :-)). But, is that enough? If academia would somehow make it possible for me to survive, I would be doing it my whole life, I think. However, other considerations prevail: the necessity for food and lodgings, the need to clothe oneself, help out family, etc. And, if I have to get a job to do my PhD-ing anyway, how is it different from working without a PhD? So, I am questioning my vocation. After all, is it a vocation if what you really really want to do is not enough to make your and your family's life comfortable? Probably not. If the goal is to have a better life, however one defines it (not much need to worry about food, clothing, and medicines, being it for me), then academia is probably not a (quick) way to do it. Though searching for quick ways to do something might also lead to unintended consequences (see ROTS). But, right now, as I finish off an abstract for a conference that I do want to go to next year, I wonder whether academia is even a way to have a future (Personally, I can bludge off friends for ages. I have no shame but for how long is this possible?). In less than a month, I will be back in Washington with no job, no fellowship and no home. Do I still have a vocation for academia? Or is now the time to become Foucauldian and move on to other things? I don't know.

On a less bleak note, Liverpool won the Champions' League on Wednesday. Like many thousands (millions) of supporters, I have waited my entire life for this. Or what seems like my entire life. The manner of victory was astounding: 3-0 down at half-time, winners at the end. I watched the match in the middle of a pub full of Italian supporters in Copenhagen and my delirious jumps (to those who know me, I am not used to jumping. Or any form of strenuous physical activity) were appparently highly annoying. But, oh, the moment was pretty much fantastic. It was brilliant. Unbelievable, really. Later, I joined a group of Liverpool supporters, including those from Ghana, Spain, South Africa, New Zealand, India and England at my hostel in having an all-night party in the back lawn singing really terrible songs about Liverpool. The transformation from utter despair at half-time ("please, don't let it get worse") to delirium at the end of penalties was something that my English is inadequate to describe. And, in the midst of questioning my vocation and wondering about the future, moments like that make it seem that perhaps things will somehow work themselves out after all.

And, even if not, I won't bore yous with it from now on and will post on other, less angsty stuff. Or try to do so anyway :-)


Sithian politics

I am taking time off from travelling around Denmark and starting a revolution (a rather successful one involving Danish schoolkids...inadvertent on my part) to watch ROTS. Good fun, actually. Fantastic scenes and all. Surprised me since I am not a Star Wars obsessive. But, (without spoiling the film for yous) there is a bit which is probably Lucas hitting us on the head with his politics. Why do filmmakers feel the urge to do this?

Anakin: If you are not my friend, you are against it (or something of that sort)
Obi-Wan (yay for EM...best acting he has done so far in the series): Only the Sith deal in absolutes (though it is never made clear what the non-Sith deal with)

Actually (and I thought this when I watched the originals too) the dark side explains things and does stuff so much better. And doesn't have Yoda (who reminds me of Gollum but Gollum was never as annoying :-)).


DC Photoblogging

Originally uploaded by omphale23.
It wouldn't be DC without cherry blossoms, right? And sure, this is late--but thought Priya might want to see what she's missed (don't want her thinking that she should stay in OOD indefinitely!)


Tuesday Poetry blogging

That's right, more poetry. Because other people do it, and that must
make it normal.

Stan Rice (1976)

Because I will die
I open the window
at 3 a.m. I am up writing
and drinking
and dying.
In the Yellow Sea
the South Koreans report
death never retreats,
nor from the Wailing Wall
do new deaths
step back blessed.
The night air
is cool and watery.
Lows in the 50's.
Highs in the 70's.  Occasional drizzle.
Those are the facts, says the radio.  But
we forget.
The North Koreans
the Yellow Sea
is sorry.
But we are drowning
and wailing.
In Lima
after The Earthquake
clean water
was gold.
It is death’s
drizzle we write
checks on.
When we die
we bounce.


Learning Normal

S and I gave normal a try today. Dinner at a sidewalk café, a walk in
the park, people watching, and then coffee. It was weird. I don’t
think I’m cut out for normal.

The whole time I felt like I ought to be somewhere else, getting
something done. I didn’t know what, exactly. Just something.
Anything, really, as long as it didn’t involve sitting in the sun and

By the end of the afternoon, I was so tired of waiting for the other
shoe to drop that I fell asleep on the train. I woke up to one of S’s
friends introducing himself to me. Even though we’ve met several
times, and I’ve been to his house, he didn’t recognize me with the new
hair color and the sunglasses. Let’s face it, I usually stand out in a
crowd, so I find it hard to believe that he didn’t really see me the
previous three times we’ve been introduced.

I’d like to know who else he expected to be asleep on my husband’s

There must be people out there who are comfortable being relaxed. How
do they do it? Are there rules for normal?

You knew this was going somewhere.

(One problem with being easily distracted is that every time you sit
down to write, you wander off to read instead. In this case, the
trigger was the phrase “rules for normal.” These are from a story by

“1. 'Normal' is an illusory concept. The illusion is assembled from
many pieces. To blend in you must take pleasure from the pieces, even
if the whole makes no sense to you at all. Leave that for someone else
to worry about.

2. Normal is achieved by degrees. Don't try too hard, or people will
get suspicious. Start with the basics, fill in the rest as you go
along. The basics are simple, look for the pattern and imitate it.

3. There is an old adage that goes something like: 'Normal is getting
dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a
car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you
need so you can pay for the clothes, car and the house that you leave
empty all day in order to afford to live in it.' Normal people have a
vocation of some kind. This rarely involves shooting bad guys. Work out
what you want to be when you grow-up.

4. Normal requires a certain amount of spontaneity. Don't be afraid to
go with your emotions or instinct. Sometimes you just have to throw
caution to the wind.

5. Life's unpredictable, sometimes good, sometimes bad. There are no
certainties, no matter how much preparation you do. Just act normal,
things usually turn out for the best.”

So now I have instructions. Wonder if they’ll help?

Morrissey and Plato

Lest you think I have left the blog permanently, I bring this little gem to demonstrate that there are, in fact, many people out there who think the same way I do. Bonus points for anyone who can guess the six excuses / lyrics I've used before, and double points if you know which one I used as a soundtrack suggestion for my favorite TV show, and which show it was.

I'm a little worried that I knew all of these without looking at the answer. Plus the title of the song, the album, and the chorus for each of the songs. And I can sing the harmony for number five. I blame the SSD.

Ramblin' Educat: I Believe it was Plato or Morrissey Who Said...

Better dead than Red and other stories of communism, terrorism and football

How's that for a title, eh? I have always fancied writing a book. No matter that my discussant here told me last week that I write "with very little style" (apparently that is a compliment), I have always wanted to write a book. Well, hopefully, in the next two years or so, I will have a book (the blasted PhD, you know) but I want to write a proper book. A children's book. Or at least a book of horror stories for children.

I have been thinking of this in the past week after my seminar. One of the criticisms was that I was taking an amoral stance, one that saw terrorism and (potential) communism as benign and non powerful and that was wrong. My insistence that I am trying to describe how these issues came to receive priority in world affairs (well, terrorism, in my case. Though communism is, of course, linked to it) is usually taken to mean that I am uninterested in "solving" these issues. Surprisingly, in my opinion anyway, it is people our age (I am assuming that since both Elizabeth and I are around the same age, you lot must be too…okay, I am being ageist. If you are older/younger, then I am talking about people in their mid to late twenties) who are the most critical in this way. I have heard this since coming here especially since I have been hanging out with a fair number of people from the former Eastern Europe and (former) Soviet Union. Their view is that, by not making people aware of the dangers of communism (i.e. Maoism in the Nepali version) and instead talking of Maoists as represented as terrorists and about the deployment of terrorism in discourses and by leaving questions of whether these people ARE Maoists or ARE terrorists aside, I am supporting them instead of making people aware of the dangers of communism or terrorism. That these two goals, to me, appear to be separate (one assumes communism/terrorism is bad universally while the other asks how is it that terrorism/communism is understood and made meaningful) is not taken into account. Instead, my new mates tell me, since I didn't grow up in the communist period and didn't live in a communist country, I don't know how difficult and terrifying it will be if the Maoists succeed in Nepal.

Now, my understanding of communism is limited, I acknowledge. It is true I never grew up under communism (though I guess my neighbouring country was communist in both Thailand and Nepal) and by the time I was old enough to take any interest in what was going on in the world outside of my crayons and three-wheeled bicycle, communism had ended and there were few Reds to worry about. In high school, I was a science student, which meant I studied mathematics, physics and chemistry (and one year of biology of which all I remember is having to operate on earthworms and frogs. Btw, the frogs which are used for dissection in Nepali high schools, or at least in the one I went to, are imported from India so have been immersed in formaldehyde for weeks, instead of for a few days. I never figured out why we were dissecting imported frogs when Nepal had plenty of frogs of its own and a bit of culling couldn't have hurt. But that is another story, I suppose). I guess formal study of communism came during my undergrad in Australia where we all had to take two semesters of Australian and South-east Asian history. As the name says, it was mostly about Australians/South-east Asians who had fought in Vietnam. Communism was tough but it was pretty much over by the time I was in undergrad. Or at least my history lessons told me. Yes, there you have it: communism, for me and for my mates in undergrad, was history.

For my colleagues here right now, communism is not history. Or, if it is, then it is history that they remember and have been affected by to great extents. Most of them are my age or even a few years younger so communism (or at least the period defined as such) must have ended before they were out of primary schools. Things change slowly, I am sure, but most of these countries have been in the European Union for a year or longer (or are in the process of formalising their joining) and my mates own clothes from H and M and GAP, talk about going shopping in Paris in the springtime and holidaying in Turkey (so open territorial borders) and yet have clear-cut memories of life under communism as “oppressive” and "closed" and warn me constantly of the hardships that Nepal will suffer if it "becomes communist". So, yes, it is from the younger generation that I get the most objections to how I am doing my work. And, usually, they do not care how I represent the British-Northern Irish situation. In my previous presentation here at OOD Uni, I described how the British constructed insecurity during the partition of Ireland by describing the rebels (and, later, the early IRA) as Bolsheviks but this did not get much attention (or dire warnings about the future). I asked about this and was told "But, that is history. What you are talking about in Nepal is not history".

I guess it goes back to how we produce knowledge. By not ever having lived under communism, I do not have the position (or the legitimacy) to comment about it (and, especially, to joke about it). Looking at discourses, at how people say, act and document in and of social settings, is not enough. One colleague succinctly told me, "Not everything is up for interpretation. Do you want to claim that the Holocaust never happened?". No, I don't. But, that is because I can't base my research on social relations and make such a claim and I am also amused (well, better amused than pissed off) that the usual response to my methodological orientation appears to be that I am claming the Holocaust never happened or “if social life is about construction, then construct peace in the world”. How is it that the usual response to somebody saying that social relations are constructed is to claim that the person saying so denies the Holocaust never happened? I don’t know actually. But, I would say it is more interesting to note how the delegitimisation of positioning occurs. I am not claiming I can, right now, invent peace out of thin air. I hardly think that would accord with social practices I want to describe. But, that point is usually not taken and we get into debates about how reality matters and how taking a stance that looks at terrorism as a trope deployed in the processes of making insecurity is to “miss the point” that terrorists (or communists) are deadly threats to the security and lifestyles of us all.

So, how do I use history? I use history selectively. I use it like Blackadder used it or the Pythons (all my posts for the month of May are going to include MP. Get used to it) did. I use it to make a point. To illustrate what I want to talk about. To compare how processes of constructing insecurity that I am interested in now can be noted in the past (not similar processes as such but the language and practices upon which they draw on and then inform). I use history to poke fun at questions of "dominant/local interpretations" and to generally show the absurdity of talking about something (or some question/problem) as natural. I use it to tell stories.

The football section in the title of this post was to note that, similar to communism, football also seems to have certain associations that I, being in a position of not ever having lived in a city that has a local football team or in a country where football "matters", cannot KNOW about. Again, my mates here tell me that football is a "working-class sport" and that "intellectuals" (ie. PhD students) would never follow it or ever acknowledge following it if they did. Similar to communism, football, in these other contexts, implies racism, anti-immigration (English and Spanish) or working-class drunkenness and violence (Polish and other Eastern European). For me, football is going to matches with my dad; watching Premiership football on big screens in Bangkok, while sitting outside having drinks; gathering together with siblings to watch/play footy; going to pubs in obscure parts of the world at odd times of the day or night and finding a common language to talk in; watching DC Utd win the League last year (and going to almost every home match and marvelling at the American footy experience where one can buy beer at the grounds. Can't imagine that in what is now relatively benign England let alone elsewhere in Europe). Football, to be idealistic and naïve about it, for me is about making connections in different settings. But, similar to communism, since I am not from a part of the world which play football, it is assumed that I am not in a position to talk about football. I don't KNOW what it is like to live in a city (apparently DC Utd don't count :-))during a football match. I don't KNOW what "type of people" watch/play football or else I would never acknowledge following it. And, since I don't know, I can't talk about it.

And, as I said earlier, to me it is surprising that most of the older people are willing to listen to why I follow football or why I am remaining "amoral" (I like agnostic better since that brings up questions of religion, which I like) about the "root causes" of terrorism (and communism) in my research but that people my age are not. Is it that we are threatened about what we know now that we can't or don't want to listen to others? Or, do we generalise about our experiences to the extent that we reckon there is one understanding of communism or football or terrorism and we have that so there is no need to listen to others? Or even to have a good argument with each other about why I see my research problem the way I do (and others don't). Or is it that the context of these events are so ingrained in their production as knowledge (communism seems to refer mainly to Europe here, not to China or to Vietnam, Laos, etc.)? I don't know. I know that I do the same: I assume communism is history; I assume that football is a way to link people and have conversations (even if it is about it being a working-class, yob sport) but maybe (hopefully) I don’t assume everybody else sees the world this way. But, if there are so many issues to deal with in everyday conversations, it is no surprise most of us have problems communicating (or even getting listened to) in academia. And, that right there is a horror story waiting to be written.


Hunting and Colonisation on Wednesday

Despite being on either side of an ocean, here are three things that Elizabeth and I managed to do on Wednesday:

1. Decide (unilaterally or, rather, bilaterally) that TUWSNBN should have a Scavenger Hunt (thanks to Preposterous Universe for the idea, see the 6 May post) where incoming and current students (and, perhaps, faculty) participate. All in the interests of forming/strengthening the PhD community.
Chances of this happening: depends on who is around at that time.
Chance of me joining (eeek social event): Will have to restrain the urge to run away from people in groups.

2. Decide we would colonise/take over the annual meeting of APSA. For those of you who don't know about APSA, it is the American Political Science Association. After much discussion, we decided that APSA can only benefit from our colonisation. We shall bring progress and prosperity to APSA. Much-needed, really. And, it will fit right in with their theme this year of "Mobilising Democracy".
Chances of this happening: quite high, especially since APSA types are not very likely to note potential colonisation going on in their midst. Hopefully.

3. Create roles for ourselves: I am the angsty existentialist and Elizabeth is the angry feminist po-co.

Not bad for a Wednesday, eh? Okay, off to read Kierkegaard (which, since it means graveyard or a cemetery, seems to fit in well with the angst)
and Super N to get in part.


Angst, Part II (or, how the seminar did not suck but did rock)

Well, the seminar is over. Actually it was over yesterday but I didn't want to write about it till now. For once in my life (but hopefully not the only time), it went rather well. I guess, borrowing the term from GenealogySpice, it even rocked. I had good questions which made me think about my project, I was calm (helped by no caffeine intake all day and especially by large, blue-inked scrawls of "calm" written on my hand…the combination with the "gypsy" shirt was probably unwise but no one commented on it, probably because I had written the words out in Nepali so I wouldn't seem to be in need of tranquilisers but more of a reminder to myself not to call anybody's remarks "absolute rubbish" like I did the last time. That sort of stuff does not go down too well).

Also, for long moments, I had the undivided attention of people on what I was saying. This was rather unnerving and I am unused to that (okay, unless the undivided attention is provided by a group of kids at the Zoo where I am getting ready to launch a criket (alive) into the spider’s web…I have never been sure whether the undivided attention then is for what I am saying or in anticipation of the moment when the struggling cricket lands on the web and is pounced upon by the 2-inch wide spider. Always v dramatic. I had nothing like that on hand for my talk yesterday and it still went well. Yes, so it rocked)

Anyway, the seminar was for two hours. Two hours (I may have mentioned this before). For the first 40 minutes, I presented my stuff and, after that, the floor (well, table) was open for discussion. I got some good questions, some I could not answer very well (and admitted I was still thinking of the issues raised). As I said, things were going well. Then, I had a RandomExpert raise his hand and say, "You are wrong. You are wrong to say terrorism is a concern in US-Nepal relations these days…" The conversation which followed went like this:

RandomExpert: You are wrong. You are misrepresenting the situation.
Me: OK. How?
RExpert: Everybody knows that the King is idiotic. He is like a feudal king. All the international community laughs at his actions. They think he is ridiculous.
Me: Who is this international community you are talking about? As I showed in my presentation, in public, in the international arena (which is what I am concerned with, for now) the US is supporting the King, as are India, China, Pakistan. Britain has suspended military arms but there was not much of British aid to start off with. And, since my paper is about US-Nepal relations and the US is publicly saying that Nepal has terrorists and even that ordinary Nepalis support the King's actions…
RExpert: You can't base your paper on lies. Everybody knows that the King is lying.
Me: You have still not clarified who everybody is [DanishSupervisor intervenes by saying to leave him out of the “everyone” since he does not have access to knowledge which tells him Nepalese King is lying].
RExpert: Talk to the security elite, talk to the middle-class Nepalis. You can't sit here and write about Nepal (ohhh…now I am not Nepali enough. It is that gypsy shirt, perhaps)
Me: True, that is why I focused on things I could write about. Public statements by the leaders and high-ranking officials of the countries (US and Nepal) in the international arena and in international media. I did not write about what the elites in Nepal think because I don't know what they think. They have not told me. I have not done any research with them. Unlike a lot of other work, I prefer to talk about things I know (slight dig which passed him by, I think)
RExpert: Well, what do you think? Do you think the King really thinks the Maoists are terrorists? You must know he is lying. What do Nepalese people you know think?
Me: (after the usual comment about my paper was to show Nepal was now positioning itself as an ally of the US on the war on terror, which it had not in the past, especially during the Cold War and not about what people thought)…I actually don't know if he is lying because he has not come and told me that. And the Nepalese people I know are not people whose opinions can be generalised from. They do not represent Nepal in the international arena. Neither do I. The people who is are the King, the ministers, Army officials. Same for the US: The US President, high-ranking officials in the international arena. The Nepalese King has not claimed in public that he is lying.
RExpert: You are doing a PR for the King.
Me: I reckon he is doing the job on his own
RExpert: But, by not talking about what the international community really thinks of the King, you are supporting his actions
Me: As I said, I don’t know how the international community thinks. Actually, I don't even know who these people you are talking about are.
RExpert: Well, if you want to do your PhD in such a way. Only looking at some part of a whole complex situation and making it seem so Black and White, terrorist and anti-terrorist…
Me: I agree the situation is complex but talking about things I have not researched or saying somebody is wrong because they did not look at the aspects of the problem which interest you is hardly scientific is it ? (in TUWSNBN setting, calling someone unscientific would probably mean they were using "qualitative" methodology. Here, it is refreshing that everybody (well, most of them) are using "qualitative" methodology and it is called science too. So, calling somebody unscientific is saying their work is pretty much at the muckracking tabloid journalism level :-)) Right now, you have said the international community thinks the King is ridiculous and a murderer without specifying where they said this or who they even are, you have said I did not represent the complete picture of the events in Nepal without saying how we, as social scientists, can ever show a complete picture of anything; You said everyone also knows the King is lying without telling me where this has been said (or, again, by whom). So, I am not sure how you did your PhD.

[at this point, the professors intervened. I have to admit, since I had prepared for questions of theory and causality and stuff, which did come up too, this part was ridiculously easy. Arguing with RandomExpert was like shooting fish in a barrel (though why do you shoot fish instead of using a fishing line?)]

The surprising thing here is the RandomExpert's refusal to even listen to what I said in the entire talk. I would have found it more useful if he had said something along the lines of "Look, dodgy rites and the passing on of the ceremonial sword (from previously murdered King) is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive authority derives from a mandate of the masses, not from some farcical takeover. I mean, if I went around saying I was king because some old geezer chucked some heavenly powers at me, they would have put me away " (with apologies to the MP team and using the Nepalese King's recent comments about the monarchy being linked to the Gods). But RandomExpert did not do that and by using "everyone knows", he pretty much ended up sounding disgruntled and annoyed :-)

The other professors, most of whom do not share my methodological orientation, were keen on pushing me on my standpoint. It was a bit of a challenge and it was also good fun and I enjoyed having to think over some of the issues in my paper. They listened. They might not have agreed but they listened, asked questions and helped me out with what needed to be clarified. So, yes, the seminar rocked.

Now back to panelling. Where the problems are many and varied but that is not a topic for today.



One hour to go till the scary presentation here at OOD. I am going to talk about how the events of 1 February, 2005 in Nepal (King dismisses parliament and takes over as Emperor, ragtag groups of rebels fight the Empire…wait, wrong text…King dismisses parliament and joins the war on terror) leads to a different construction of insecurity (basically that Nepal didn’t have terrorists before around 2002 and now it does) than before and what this means to US-Nepal relations.

To "fit in" with my presentation, I am dressed “Nepalese”. No, no saris, or bakkhus, or any other exotic gear but just jeans and a regular Nepalese shirt (well, made in Nepal). Or so I thought. Instead, my colleagues told me that the shirt is not “professional” since it “looks like a gypsy” (apparently that is not a look to go for, especially when conducting a seminar).

So, angst. Too late to run home and change now. How come there are all these subtexts to daily academic activities that no one warns us about? I miss TUWSNBN. Really. Not that I am implying there are any fewer rules there but, at least, the rules are more familiar (I think)


QG Lecture

QG Lecture
Originally uploaded by omphale23.
Remember the dinner posts? Well, here's the lecture from that day. Among the audience are several of our regular cast of characters. But not Priya--she couldn't make it. What with the trans-oceanic flight and all.

My mom is NOT happy

My sister printed out my Mother's Day post for my parents. And I'm
okay with that.

I got IM notes from the sister as she read it. Which went, roughly:

N: Mom's going down the list. She says 'That's Beth. And that. And I
remember that one. What about this? Is that her?' She's laughing. I
don't think she realizes that you wrote it. And she's harassing me
about my spelling.

E: So the multitasking thing comes from her side of the family. How
bad's your spelling?

N: It's just some words.

E: Well, at least you don't have my problem with comma overuse.

N: Run-on sentences.

E: Yeah, those suck. [Swear to god. My sister and I talk about
grammar. What can I say, we're in grad school. Occupational hazard.]

N: I have to go to Walmart. We're out of catfood.

E: Um, yeah, okay. Have fun with that.

See, it was fine.

Except that then I got a phone call. Which went something like:

Mom: I know which of those were you. Were they all you? I blame this
on your father. Do you hear that, D? It's all your fault! This comes
from your side of the family! He's smiling at me. And giving a
thumb's up. I had no idea you were such a bad influence.

And to think I left you to take care of your brother and sister. Who
knows what you did to them. I mean, look how your sister turned out.
And your brother. Well, no, I don't know what caused that. But she's
definitely been influenced by your behavior.

E: They weren't all me. Just some of them. Some of them were other
people. One of them was S, and a couple were A, and they really
weren't all me.

Mom: But how do I know you're telling the truth? They could all be
you! Was the library thing you? I want to know!

E: No, I don't know binary. That was someone else. I did rearrange
the section, but it was by the second letter of author's last name.
[So it wasn't that hard to figure out.] Plus, I didn't get caught, so
that part's not right.

Mom: Which one was S? Does his mother know? Did he send this to her?

E: The table. And the lyrics. Well, that was a group effort. And no,
I don't think he told her. But it was supposed to be funny. Did you
think it was funny?

Mom: Too bad I didn't have this yesterday. I think I'll take it in to
work with me.

[That's right, folks. My MOTHER was yanking my chain. Wonder who I
get that twisted sense of humor from.]

All you need is...blogs

I love the web. It provides me with things like this guide to the philosophical underpinnings of the Beatles.

Why? Why not?

Ordinarily I’d leave the dramatic soul searching to Priya. But someone asked me a while ago why I was doing this. This RandomProf specifically meant my dissertation topic, which is a bit odd in the discipline we inhabit. But it could apply equally well to the methodology I’m using (also not quite kosher), the way I got here (let’s call it the “trial and error” method), or, you know, my decision to try and be an academic instead of something useful.

So, in an effort to keep this blog somewhere near the topic with which we began, my reasons for being here. Tongue firmly in cheek, of course. If you want all the angsty stuff, you’ll just have to figure out what my personal blog is. If you find it, let me know. I can’t for the life of me remember the address. But I know there was angst involved. And probably cake. In that order.

1) Why grad school?

a) I didn’t want to be a lawyer. Mind you, I didn’t figure that out until my third year of law school. But I did figure it out eventually, and so should get some sort of partial credit (maybe the government could knock a few grand off my sizeable student loan debt?)

Not that I didn’t love my internships (okay, when you’re talking about habeas corpus and death penalty cases, love is probably not the right word.) and think that lawyers are important. I just can’t picture wanting to spend the rest of my life in a courtroom or a law library. A classroom and the campus library, now that’s different. Seriously, it is. Totally different.

b) I like to teach. It’s sad, but true. It’s really cool when you see the light bulb go on and suddenly there’s something new that a student can take with them. Plus, one thing I figured out in law school is that I’m awfully enamored of the sound of my own voice. And a classroom provides a captive audience. They’re REQUIRED to listen. Or, at least, to pretend to listen.

c) There’s a lot of thinking going on in grad school. Thinking about the way the world works, and how we think, and whether it matters. Combine this with the beer and the constant discussion (see 1b), and it’s the perfect place to spend a few years in your twenties. It’d be better if there weren’t exams and that pesky dissertation requirement, but I don’t expect to have everything.


a) It seemed like a good idea at the time. In retrospect, law school profs may not have been the best source for information on IR programs.

b) I’m all about the multiple methodologies. Oh, wait, we don’t do that here. We’re all social scientists and stuff. Back to stats class for me.

c) I thought I liked living in cities. Turns out it was just particular cities, and this is not one of them. But hey, there’s an ocean nearby, and it’s only temporary.

And when I’m done, I can try to find a job in a city that I like. Chicago, maybe, or Detroit. Or, given the current political climate, maybe Toronto. Geneva. Sydney. London. Somewhere people speak English and believe in socialized medicine.

d) The people. I didn’t know about the great people I’d meet when I signed on, but they’re a necessary resource when I’m ready to chuck it and go back to the real world. Smart, funny people make up for a lot of shortcomings in physical location.

3) Why IR?

a) The original plan was a PhD in history, but it turns out everybody important is dead.

b) I actually thought there was such a thing as international law. And that it would be fun to study it. Now I’m not so sure, but there’s some interesting research going on with rules and security that I wouldn’t get to see if I weren’t an IR student.

c) IR is about the whole world, and what happens in it. Anything else would be just details.

4) Why system dynamics?

a) Because not many other people are doing it. Makes for a short lit review.

b) I started out as a physics major in college, and never really got over quantum mechanics. Non-linear causality is my idea of a good time. No, really, it is. Just ask Priya.

c) I’m a sucker for a pretty picture and a good user interface.

d) The real reason: I haven’t found anything else that I think will work to answer the questions I want to ask. I’m trying to believe in the there and the social construction of reality at the same time. It’s an uncomfortable place, because mainstream quant and constructivism are not the bestest of friends with hearts and butterflies and smiley faces forever.

5) Why infectious disease? (Correlated question: why not HIV/AIDS?)

a) I’m not a really real realist. I don’t have to talk about states if I don’t want to. I can talk about NGOs, and individuals, and patterns of infection to my heart’s content. I plan to do just that. “The effects of epidemics on political cooperation” is right up my alley. “States as unitary actors in the creation of public health systems,” not so much.

b) I started out in history and hard science and English (see above). So I’m drawn to topics which involve all three—for instance, the interactions of disease and the social world and how we talk about scientific questions. Voila. Disease and IR.

c) Everybody talks about HIV/AIDS when they light on the subject of IR and disease. So I’d like to start somewhere else. Just to be contrary. Plus, in IR HIV/AIDS is considered a special case (for some strange reasons, and a few that I agree with) and I’m not interested in special cases. I want to think about what we do with the not-so-special cases. Influenza, for instance. Or typhoid, cholera, malaria, dengue fever, pneumonia. All the ones that kill people without being noticed. The ones that aren’t retroviruses or immediately linked to questions of morality in the actions of politicians.

d) My mom’s a nurse. So discussions of growths and phlegm at the dinner table don’t really bother me. I think it's fun to dissect the public response to H5N1. And I think it's important to figure out how we approach health emergencies. It's a little scary that for the first three episodes I thought "Medical Investigation" was a comedy. Not surprising, but disturbing on several levels.

Poetry and Conflict, Take One.

When in doubt, read poetry. Works for me. Besides, I'm going for a Mother's Day theme this week.

Attila Joszef

I really love you,
believe me. It is something I inherited
from my mother.
She was a good woman. After all,
she was the one who brought me
into this world.

We may compare life
to a shoe, or a Laundromat,
or whatever.
Nonetheless, we love it
for reasons of our own.

Saviours, there are
enough of them to save the world
three time a day and still nobody knows
how to light a match. I’ll have to give up
on them.

It would be nice
to buy tickets for a trip to the
self. It must be somewhere inside us.

Every morning I wash
my thoughts
in cold water.
That way they come out fresh as a daisy.

Diamonds can sprout
good warm songs,
if you plant them under your heart.

Some people will stay
pedestrians no matter what they ride,
horse, car, or airplane.

Me, I just lie around
in the morning song of larks
and still make it over the abyss.

Let us carefully save our
true souls
like our best suit of clothes
to keep them spotless for the days of

(Non) Intelligent Design

Sometimes, I miss the USA. Esp, when I read about the new H2G2 movie (which didn't open here) or miss the uncertainty of waiting for a bus which might never arrive (here, bus stops all have electronic schedules with precise times about when the bus will arrive (and it does arrive on time). No uncertainty, really)

And, sometimes, I don't miss the USA. Especially after reading this over at Crooked Timber. Yes, I am being lazy by linking to other posts but I meet a lot of people who don't think evolution ever happened over in my "other" (non-TUWSNBN related) work, when volunteering at the Invertebrate House at the National Zoo (when I am not in OOD, that is).

Now, I will probably have even more people going "ohhh...look at the Octopus. I wonder what God was thinking when he made it?" (and, when asked how do we know what God was thinking, the response I got was "look at all these strange and beautiful animals"). So, we wonder what God was thinking when he made the Octopus and yet the Octopus also proves that we know God was thinking. Go figure.

And, since when did all this start getting called "Intelligent Design"?

Al-Libby or al-Liby? Or, as Shakespeare would write, What is in a name?

Obviously a lot, really, especially if it is the difference between "al-Qaeda chief" and "middle-level leader" How come we heard so much about the arrest and not as much about whether it is even clear who was arrested? Or, is al-Liby/al-Libbi the same person?

And, if this news story is fairly accurate, am I the only one who finds the FBI bloke's response (sending information on al-Liby instead of al-Libbi) extremely worrying? Aren't these people supposed to be protecting us?


VE Day

It is Mothers’ day (which I forgot about, as usual) but it is also the 60th anniversary of VE (Victory in Europe) Day. And, being in Europe, where the past is constantly evoked in public discourse, even among my fellow PhDs and other younger people, has been…different, shall we say. Usually, I wouldn’t even know that it was VE day. This year, it is difficult to avoid since history, for some reason, however you define it, is a constant topic in conversations here.


When Hell Freezes Over

I don't remember seeing this question on any of my chem exams. I
totally went to the wrong school.

Happy Mother's Day

Have you called your mother? No? Then go tell her that you’re sorry you
put her through 18 hours of labor, jelly beans up the nose, and all
those infomercials she had to watch while waiting for your teenage self
to get home from a party. Go on, go buy her some flowers or something.
Make her a popsicle stick wallet, or write her a poem. While you’re
at it, put down a deposit for a place in Boca that she can retire to.
You owe her.

How do I know this? Because if we’ve given you the url for this blog
(and you aren’t actually Priya’s mum or my mom), then chances are you
are the sort of person we like to talk to.

And that category includes an awful lot of people who were not very
good children. The sort of children who lit things on fire to see if
anyone would notice. The ones who sat in the back of the classroom and
melted crayons on the radiator because the lecture was boring, and
mutated crayons were more fun than spelling, and then got caught when
the fire alarm went off and everyone had to stand outside for twenty
minutes in the snow. The preschool angels who told the Sunday School
teacher that her story was bullshit. The sort of people who
reorganized the science books in the school library using an obscure
binary code knowing that it would give the poor librarian a breakdown
when it happened the third time. Went through 18 goldfish while
working on a science project entitled "The effects of acid rain on
Freshwater Lakes" and then got harassed by the ASPCA at the fair. Got
caught tagging the high school gym with quotations from the Tractatus.
Reprogrammed everyone’s permanent record to include a mandatory class
in “Disaster Preparedness and S’more Construction.” Stole a Taco Bell
table just to see what would happen, made up rude lyrics to every song
in Carousel and then sang them during the production (“This was a real
nice sperm bank”? That’s not nearly as funny as you thought it was),
refused to join in during camp singalongs because they were an example
of the imposition of European culture on native spaces, snuck into
bars, not to get drunk, but to attend POETRY READINGS. And got kicked
out of the girl scouts and the church youth group for very good reasons.

You all know who you are. And boy, do you owe your mother an apology.
She’s the one who had to explain to the principal that you weren’t a
communist, you were just an instigator. Or that you weren’t an
instigator, you were just misunderstood. And that no, you did not
think that it was okay to make a mockery of the educational system,
that in fact you were simply trying to improve the system by drawing
attention to its limitations. And the principal didn’t believe it
either, but somebody had to keep you out of detention long enough to

And you know what? When you have kids, and the apple doesn’t fall far
from the tree, it's your own fault that she laughs until she snorts
because your kid is the one who drew an anatomically correct
self-portrait for the kindergarten Open House display. To her, it’s a
case of poetic justice that your kid is the one singing “what shall we
do with a drunken sailor” during the Christmas pageant. So get over
it. If that’s all that goes wrong in the next eighteen years, you’ll
have gotten off very lightly indeed.

It’s the one day each year when we try to be nice to the person who
worries about us every day and only wants us to be happy, even when she
really wishes she could, just once, sit down and watch a movie without
needing to bail someone out of a lockup in Poland.

Go buy your mom something pretty. And would it kill you to call home
once in a while? You know, when you don’t need money? And when are
you going to give her grandchildren? She wants to be young enough to
enjoy them, you know.

The beach

I did run away to the beach yesterday.

Add 30 mph winds on top of that :-)


Mission Impossible?

Well, no, not really. If you fancy giving up your current job and joining the CIA, you can. Check out which position suits you.

Apparently I am an excellent match for an "Analytical position". But then I'd have to be a US Citizen to join the CIA.

It's the French Foreign Legion for me then.


NPM continues...

And you thought that National Poetry Month was over. Well, technically, it is. But not around here. And not just because May is National Bike, Military Appreciation, Electrical Safety, Mental Health, and Asian-Pacific Heritage Month. Sorry, but none of those make for terribly fun blogging. Maybe Mental Health Month, but there're plenty of days left for that.

Today, though, I offer an homage to the institution...whether it be educational or otherwise. So maybe I'm talking about mental health after all. That, or two weeks of grading papers is too much, and now everything looks like a run-on sentence. Either way, enjoy!

Theodore Roethke (1948)


I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils,
Neat in their boxes, dolor of pad and paper-weight,
All the misery of manilla folders and mucilage,
Desolation in immaculate public places,
Lonely reception room, lavatory, switchboard,
The unalterable pathos of basin and pitcher,
Ritual of multigraph, paper-clip, comma,
Endless duplication of lives and objects.
And I have seen dust from the walls of institutions,
Finer than flour, alive, more dangerous than silica,
Sift, almost invisible, through long afternoons of tedium,
Dropping a fine film on nails and delicate eyebrows,
Glazing the pale hair, the duplicate grey standard faces.


Gender and class and movin’ on up

At this rate, I won't ever need to sit down and write about my own experiences of class and gender. I can just keep linking to War on Error every time she writes about it.

I disagree, though, that much has changed in a generation. I still didn't know any lawyers, or professors, or executives; the only doctors I knew were my pediatrician and the one my mom worked for. So getting from there to here was mostly a hit or miss proposition and I still haven't figured out exactly what happened.

But I'm here now, and that's more than most people expected of me. What I haven't managed to reconcile is my general understanding of the difficulties of class movement and my own experiences. I'd like to think it doesn't matter, but when it comes to having working class kids in my (future) courses or faculty with very different backgrounds, I feel like where I came from makes a big difference. Not only because it makes me uncomfortable with some of the basic assumptions of the power of education, but also because I simply don't know the rules of the game.

The angst over the academic dinner this semester is a case in point--I wasn't raised going to dinner parties. We had cookouts and potlucks, which have their own rules and assumptions. We had family get-togethers and every once in a while my dad's friends from the old neighborhood would bring their kids around and play cards. Not exactly preparation for what I find myself doing now. I'm not complaining about where I am or what I do, but I wonder if things might be easier if I came from a place where the sentence "I'm having a cocktail party" isn't met with a burst of laughter and invitations to grab a beer and shut up because the football game is starting.

So I guess that what I'm saying is that I'm uncomfortable complaining about the lack of class mobility from a position that basically argues the opposite: if I can change who I am (and a substantial number of my siblings and cousins are doing the same), then what effect does the class you're born into have on achievement?

Mind you, if I'd known how much I'd hate grading papers, I might have gone ahead and taken that job at the Kmart. But that's not related to class--it's a question of grammar.

Geekiness defined

Well, it's official. I'm a geek. Actually, I'm several kinds of geek. Guess it wasn't a self-defining concept after all.


Your Geek Profile:

Academic Geekiness: Highest

Music Geekiness: Highest

Movie Geekiness: High

SciFi Geekiness: High

Fashion Geekiness: Moderate

Geekiness in Love: Moderate

Internet Geekiness: Moderate

General Geekiness: Low

Gamer Geekiness: None

How Geeky Are You?


I have a seminar to give next week. For two hours. I have to give a talk and answer questions, all by myself, for two whole hours. My paper for it is nowhere near finished (comes from writing a new thing instead of just talking about what I had already written). I am starting to have nightmares about forgetting my English (fairly common before stressful situations. Before the Oral Qualifying Exam for my PhD, I was sure I had forgotten all the English I knew). My draft PhD proposal, which I was supposed to have sent to Weberman ages ago, is getting progressively worse as I chop, change and repeat the process (and he still has not seen it yet).

But, right now, I don't care. Liverpool are in the Champions League final for the first-time ever in my memory (I would say lifetime but they were there 20 years ago. I am definitely older than that). For those uninterested in football, this is like (actually I can’t compare it to anything). It is perfect. It is brilliant. It makes me want to run around and sing (though obviously won’t since my singing prowess is non existent as is my running capability). I have been reading the methodology and other discussions at TUWSNBN. I have been wondering how it is possible to communicate across academic disciplines when people usually don’t even acknowledge they have methodological orientations. I have been worrying about having to return to the US in July and not having money or a home to live in.

But, all that seems far far away now. Who cares about methodologies and money when Liverpool are in the finals of the Champions League? Yes, they will probably lose (we fans are not noted for our optimism. Ask IntLaw for confirmation) but they are there. Did I mention I have an (almost uncontrollable) urge to sing? Though, as Elizabeth told me once, being a fan of a team which has an old Rodgers and Hammerstein song as its anthem probably does not help (though it makes it easier to remember).

All I can say is that I am looking forward to a day off tomorrow (holiday for the day when Christ went up to heaven. I had thought this was it but apparently not. I learn new things all the time here in OOD). Maybe I will run away to the beach (and try to contain that urge to sing)…


Mind the gap (or ford it, or jump into it, or block it)

A few years back, I was in London. This was the first time in my life that I ever used underground transport (or the Tube, as they called it in London). I have to admit that spending time underground is not a favourite pastime (even after two years in Washington) and, at that time, I was rather wary of the massive crowds which pushed towards each train as it arrived at the station. However, my fears were groundless and I was charmed at how the driver usually found time to announce, “Mind the gap…please mind the gap between the train and the station” as train stopped at various stations. Now, this just seemed like concern for the fellow human being which is usually not seen in big cities (especially among public transport operators) and the recommendation to mind the gap has remained in my memory of a glorious (the sun shone every day) week in London.

I thought of the gap when I heard Gerry Adams’s recent speech to the IRA. For Adams, the gap was not a (small) space to be mindful of but as “the Bearna Baoil, the gap of danger”, it represented an opportunity, a chance for IRA members to give up arms and work for peace (in Adams’ representation). Here, the gap is an opportunity. It is not to be blocked but to be jumped into. To climb into the gap of danger is to show courage. Adams’ gap has to be (bravely) walked into. But, Adams’ gap has can change through time. It has shifted from being a place for IRA “volunteers” to “risk life and limb” to a place where “activists in a national movement [can step] towards independence and unity.” As an example of shifting positions, the gap (and its purpose) is illustrative of how Adams wants the IRA to act. What the IRA will do is open to question.

I was reviewing a book for StructureMan some time ago when the gap made its reappearance. This time, in a different way as the author described countries resistant to globalization (and “plagued” by oppressive regimes, poverty and diseases) as “the Gap”. He linked them as potential terrorists and added American’s role should be to use its military to shrink the Gap. “Shrinking the Gap is possible only by stopping the ability of terrorist networks to access the Core via the "seam states" that lie along the Gap's bloody boundaries” (my emphasis)

Yes, there it is. The Gap is an area of terror, of potential global instability and is major threat to America. But, it also has bloody boundaries. America’s role is to reduce it and stop it spreading. Is it only me or does this imply a feminisation of the Gap? But then that would mean America’s role in the global war on terror is that of a feminine hygiene product (thanks Elizabeth, for that image) as it plugs the gap. Probably not the image the author was aiming for.

(FYI, the author describes himself as “I work for the finest government in history, in the greatest country in the world. I am proud to be associated with the best military on the planet. I get up every morning convinced that my job is to change the world, and I remain wholly optimistic that it can be done”. This really has nothing to do with any of the gaps I have talked about but I just thought I would put that to show how refreshing it is to find someone who loves his job so much).

So, there you have it. The Gap. It’s up to you what to do with it


Unitarian Name generator

I'm just blogging up a storm today. A few weeks ago, I linked to Jon Carroll's Unitarian Jihad article. It's proved popular with the email group. And now there's a blogthing that assigns names, a great innovation because that's exactly the part we were having problems with.

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Sister Sword of Warm Humanitarianism.

When I asked for a new name, I got Sister Sabre of Courteous Debate.

Get yours.

The Politics of Conferences

Stay tuned for an (edited) version of my conference notes--there were some interesting things that went on in the two days. There were also several "WTF?" moments, the biggest of which came right at the end, when (as far as I could tell) the majority of the participants decided that they wanted to go ahead and give a big raspberry to the dominant strains of IR theory. Now, I may not be entirely clear on my ontological foundations, but I'm positive that I wouldn't describe them as "Down with all liberalism!" Down with bad liberalism, down with using liberal principles to bludgeon all those who disagree into Alternatives, down with liberal theorists who claim to be realists, maybe. But is it really okay to make a categorical assumption that everyone who deals with universals is against the r-c agenda (whatever that agenda turns out to be?) I'm thinking no.

So for the moment, I'm choosing avoidance as my strategy. I'll get back to the realist-constructivist stuff in a few days when I've had a chance to process what I saw and think about how best to describe it to people who weren't sitting in the room. My reluctance to follow the usual policy around here (blog first, think later, in my case) comes from a long conversation I had immediately after the conference (workshop, whatever) with a rotating series of people. Over that six hours (and with the addition of another brief discussion on Sunday), I tried to put my finger on what, exactly, bothered me about the whole thing. And it eventually comes down to three points. (Everything in academia comes in threes; why should this be any different?)

1) The proper place of politics (defined in a number of very different ways) in the academic sphere [had to use sphere--just for Priya]

2) My visceral reactions to moves that I consider to be in furtherance of private agendas, and whether it's okay to have them.

3) The question I got from a very smart person who's known me long enough to be surprised by the person I'm becoming: "you do realize that you're living in a very small place, and that there's a much bigger world out there?"

I've deliberately left the language vague, because this is stuff that is important to me on several levels. All three of these things came up as overt issues in this really exciting conversation. But not all of them got answers, or even acknowledgement as legitimate questions. Now, while I'm glad that sitting in the room for two days got me thinking about the questions and considering my own reasons for having them, I haven't yet decided if I'm willing to set aside my annoyance and disappointment in order to think about the topic of realist-constructivism as a serious theoretical location.

So, in answer to my brother's question, "how was your conference thing?" I'd have to say it was fun, but weird because it's hard to predict the results of a paradigm shift.

Gender inclusive poetry blogging

What's that you say? It's time for another woman in our cavalcade of poetry? Well, you're in luck, then, because today we have a poem which applies to the heated discussions which were part of the Realist-Constructivist Conference last weekend. What's a realist-constructivist, you ask? They're gonna have to get back to you on that one.

And now, to the poem:

Stevie Smith (1962)

Was He Married?

Was he married, did he try
To support as he grew less fond of them
wife and family?

He never suffered such a blow.

Did he feel pointless, feeble and distrait,
Unwanted by everyone and in the way?

From his cradle he was purposeful,
His bent strong and his mind full.

Did he love people very much
Yet find them die one day?

He did not love in the human way.

Did he ask how long it would go on,
Wonder if Death could be counted on for an end?

He did not feel like this,
He had a future of bliss.

Did he ever feel strong
Pain for being wrong?

He was not wrong he was right,
He suffered from others', not his own spite.

But there is no suffering like having made a mistake
Because of being of an inferior make.

He was not inferior,
He was superior.

He knew then that power corrupts but some must govern?

His thoughts were different.

Did he lack friends? Worse,
Think it was for his fault, not theirs?

He did not lack friends,
He had disciples he moulded to his ends.

Did he feel over-handicapped sometimes, yet must draw even?

How could he feel like this? He was the King of Heaven.

...find a sudden brightness one day in everything
Because a mood had been conquered, or a sin?

I tell you, he did not sin.

Do only human beings suffer from the irritation
I have mentioned? learn too that being comical
Does not ameliorate the desperation?

Only human beings feel this,
It is because they are so mixed.

All humans should carry a medal,
A god cannot carry it, he is not able.

A god is a Man's doll, you ass,
He makes him up like this on purpose.

He might have made him up worse.

He often has, in the past.

To choose a god of love, as he did and does,
Is a little move then?

Yes, it is.

A larger one will be when men
Love love and hate hate but do not deify them?

It will be a larger one.


Bugger it. Was working on my talk for the seminar yesterday. The computer totally buggered it up and after I went and talked to my supervisor he told me to write it again. He could barely talk since he had toothache and his mouth had swollen up. The poor bugger! Apparently he couldn’t get an appointment at the dentist’s till next week, which is a bit of a bugger. Now, I have to write all that stuff again though I just want to say bugger it and run off to the beach. But this is what my colleague did last week and he ended up stuck there since it was Sunday and public transport wasn’t working. The silly bugger. Turns out that I have done bugger all today anyway and, if this goes on, my discussant will feel entitled to say he’s totally buggered after having to read a 20-page paper at the last minute.

Okay, this is not an attempt to show off my limited (and rather old fashioned) swearing skills but to point out how difficult it is to explain how bugger is used to a group of people whose first language is not English. As I had to try to do yesterday. And, yes, the irony of me, with English as a third language, trying to explain bugger does not escape me. Reckon it all went downhill from when I tried to explain the meaning of the word does not affect its use today since, after hearing the meaning, they were rather unconvinced about the rest of the explanation.

(All this came about because I had a T-shirt on with Common Road Signs written on it and one of them depicted a car in the midst of a flock of sheep with “bugger” written below. Draw your own conclusions)