Because everyone needs a resolution...

I found a website that makes one up for me. Takes away all the hassle, and seems strangely appropriate.

That's it for this year--I'm off to spend a nice quiet New Year's Eve with S (our first one since we met. Usually we're out with family or friends, but we thought this might be a nice break) and then the rest of the weekend with friends. Which reminds me: Priya, did you want to come over and watch football tomorrow?

I probably won't be on the blog again until after the results of the OSU game on Monday, so who knows what kind of mood we'll start 2006 with? Just for luck, we'll stick with the football color theme until then.

Right, I promised a resolution. This is in addition to my efforts to spend less time shopping on the Levenger website, of course.

In the year 2006 I resolve to:

To be a bitch.

Get your resolution here

Via Russian Violets.


Still not really blogging

but it turns out that throwing up links takes very little time at all. So go read about being an academic vs. being an activist. And then decide whether you agree with the conclusions.

to the original Salon article, which requires a silly day pass.

Not the cast list for the Philosopher Movie

Because I don't have time today to post that (it's three pages long! What were we thinking?)

But I do want to post a link to some Overheard in NY stuff that's about Avian Influenza.


Another reading list

E, as an experienced end-of-semester grader, has informed me that my grading skills will be improved by consumption of copious amounts of alcohol (let me tell yous though that I'm resisting).

In the meantime, there's a great discussion going on over at Crooked Timber about the "most embarrassing" books their readers read when younger.

Seems to me that I've read most of the "embarrassing books" listed and found a lot of them heaps of fun. Piers Anthony was crap but fun crap if one managed to slog through. Biggles provided many hours of entertainment as he and Algy and Ginger (sad, eh, when you even remember the names of sidekicks) flew around the world doing whatever it was they did (saving the world from those leftover Nazi types and postcolonial nasties) and I was especially fond of Enid Blyton's the Five Find-outers and wanted to be Fatty when I grew up. Some would say I managed that.

Louis L'Amour was another author whose books I read when younger. To this day, I have a strange fascination for the mythical American west of his stories where blokes randomly wandered about and there were bad guys performing evil deeds and women and children-waiting-to-be-rescued scattered about the place.


Holiday checklist

Mum and Dad: fine, despite this happening fairly close by. Why do nutters get to run around with guns? I'm blaming whoever it was that decided arming the military with newfangled weapons was a good idea. Until a few years ago, all they had was khukuris and bayonets.

Two grandparents (who live with parents, or vice versa): fine

A dog (who lives on his own in a little house with a new mattress he got for winter): fine but refusing to have his yearly vaccination (he bit the vet, apparently)

A sister (in Kiwiland and, therefore, enjoying the lovely sunny weather): fine

Another sister (soon to be in town but right now freezing various parts off in Northern USA): fine but whingeing about exams

A cousin (lucky enough to live in one of the nicest cities I've visited in the USA): fine

Various friends (scattered throughout): all fine. I guess all yous are concerned about is E and S (both okay-ish though I'll be able to determine empirically, in the Humean sense, this evening), Anomie (who fed me dinner last night, so fine as of then. Again, in the Humean sense), IntLaw (ditto as for E and S) and various other people who won't be empirically verified as being fine but I'm assuming, based on emails and letters, that they are.

I could go on about how the "fine-ness" or otherwise of these people has been verified/determined but that shall the subject of some other post.


I know I said I was taking a break from blogging, but I just wanted to post a welcome to Liam Harrison J****n, who weighs in at seven pounds ten ounces and is twenty-one and a half inches long. His mother is grateful, I'm sure, that he was two weeks early.

I'm thinking my Christmas gift to her isn't going to top this.


I don't post when it snows

Well, not exactly. But it seems as good a reason as any. Sorry, loyal internet reader, my heart's just not in this blogging thing right now. And I have approximately twelve gazillion things to do before the holiday season hits full swing next week. So I'm going to take a short break, and come back even more witty and distracted. Or something. But before I go, I thought I'd give you two things: a list of the things you should be glad you don't have to do this week, and a link to another post about the holidays. Sort of. It may be about sporks.

The list:

Finish two surprise gifts for people who read this blog

Finish three scarves for people back home

Start and finish four more scarves for sending out as gifts, after going back to the yarn store for a variety of colors that I want to use but for some inexplicable reason don't already own

Make five other cool gifts for various people, which first requires a trip to the craft store and to the flea market

Buy a gift for the husband, since the original gift I planned is sold out

Buy a gift for my dad, which means a trip to the auto store, where the clerks will call me "little lady" and attempt to sell me a bunch of crap I don't want or need because my lack of a Y chromosome obviously makes me incapable of understanding anything mechanical

Address and send 43 holiday cards

Buy stamps (have you seen the post office the week before Christmas? I'm dreading this more than anything else, I think.)

Email 15 more cards

Receive all the other gifts I ordered this week and wrap them (I may leave this until after we go home for the holiday, as one of my favorite things is sitting with my mom and sister and showing them what all I got for people, and seeing what they're giving as gifts)

This would be even more work, but Sephora, Land's End, ThinkGeek and Amazon.com are my friends.

Finish the shopping--I'm thinking Levenger, the Smithsonian, and Solutions. But who knows, maybe everyone will get Barnes and Noble gift cards. Again.

Change my email address, as the .mac account has expired and I don't want to renew it because we never use anything but the email anyway and I get a free homepage through the university that I've never bothered to use

Draft memos and complete two bibliographies for work

Add footnotes for the first two chapters of the draft at work

Finish a draft of my prospectus and send it out

FInd out if I still work for one of my committee members, who sent me an assignment in July but never sent me the assignment after it, leading me to believe that either they didn't like my work or they've decided not to do the project I was hired to help with, but don't want to tell me.

The link:

Broken Black Button


The Hume movie: The cast

Since E mentioned this, I've not been able to get it out of my head. So, here, for your edification, is my take on the cast for a film on Hume:

David Hume
when young: James McAvoy (the Faun in the Chronicles of Narnia)
when older: Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies: big and looks good in robes)

Hume's mum: Tilda Swinton (the witch in the Chronicles of Narnia: tough and scary at times but efficient)

Hume's sister: Shirley Henderson (Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter films)

Adam Smith (who published Hume's works after Hume died): Ewan McGregor

James St Clair (who Hume worked for and went on expedition to Vienna and Brittany with): Robert Carlyle (one of the Full Monty and also Begbie in Trainspotting)

Andrew Millar (Hume's publisher. Threatened with legal action many times by Hume's detractors): Peter Mullan (from My Name is Joe)

Lord Hertford (Ambassador to France. Hume worked for him for 3 years): Dougray Scott (The codebreaker guy in Enigma)

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (who corresponded with Hume. Hume arranged for him to become a refugee in England and also secured a pension. Later, though, Rousseau accussed Hume of being part of a plot to discredit his (Rousseau's) name): Vincent Cassel (the guy from Derailed since my knowledge of French actors is limited to him, Gerard Depardieu (too old), and Alain Delon)

The villain of the piece, John Beattie, a professor at the University of Aberdeen, who saw Hume's work as anti-religious and as a threat to morals and religion: David Tennant (the new Doctor Who)

Also, in true revisionist style:

Jimi Mistry as Hume's "native" friend who encourages him to follow new fashion trends and dress like this (I love the turban and can just imagine Hume at intellectual gatherings in Edinburgh, dressed in this rather unusual (for that time) gear)

since I'm doing the casting, him as a friend of Hume (rather like the new version of Little John in that Robin Hood film) who debates theology and causation.

Yes, I'm well aware I left out the most famous of the Scottish actors. I'm not too keen on him though he may be perfect as William Wishart, an official of the University of Edinburgh who disliked Hume and circulated pamphlets, with excerpts from Hume's work, around Edinburgh saying they were anti-religious (but thus popularising Hume's views). However, I also fancy Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine from the Star Wars films) in that role.

I wonder if the film would work better as a musical. I can already see the billboard:

Hume the musical: featuring the top-100 hit "Causation in action"

Both E and I are swamped with end of semester stuff: grading and flunkie-ing (me) and research (her) so yous will have to amuse yourselves with this until we can think coherently again. Though, based on past posts, I'm not sure if coherent thinking is our strong point at any time.


Deconstructing a lunch

No, no, this is nothing like one of those Peter Greenaway films. Really. It's more of an overview of a lunch I was at today. But let me start at the beginning, which is where all good stories start. Nicking the format from E again, I'll go chronologically

About three weeks ago:
Am asked to a lunch where there'll be heaps of TUWSNBN bigshots. I accept and then promptly forget about it.

Mid last week:
Arrangement of lift to get to lunch place.
Me: slight feeling of apprehension considering my inarticulateness in public situations. Wonder if any other postgrads are going to be about so I can hide in a crowd.

Yesterday: full-blown panic
What does one wear to these things? Jeans? Should I dust off skirts? And, I was asked to "bring nothing". Does that really mean nothing? Back home, people tell you what to bring (for some reason, fruit is popular. Visitors used to bring us mangoes when I was growing up. I've no idea why). In Australia, you'd better turn up with alcohol. The door would most likely be barred if you showed up empty-handed. As a poverty-stricken postgrad, I decided not to take anything.

Person giving me a lift is late. I wonder if that means I don't have to go. Wonder if it's too late to try find the one proper pair of shoes I have. Wonder if I should make sure my newly-shorn hair would behave by chucking gloop at it. Remind myself of E's advice to ask people what their research is on. That way, there'd be fewer silences. Hopefully.

The actual lunch:
Turned out to be fantastic. Yes, I realise one of these days yous are going to think: Oh, she panics before conferences, before visits to professors, before lunches and then...voila (well, you probably won't think "voila" unless you are thinking in rather pretentious French but you get what I mean)...all turns out well. Umm...well, it did. It was a great spread. I stuffed myself. The people were fantastic though there was only one other postgrad. Well, one bigshot didn't recognise me at first but that's usual. No one recognises me at TUWSNBN.

A rather odd moment occurred when a person asked me who my father was. I was rather surprised. Did they know my father (unlikely since he's a farmer in one of the smallest countries in the world)? I had a slight Gosford Park/Star Wars moment (Get that image of "Priya...I am your father" out of your minds right now, please) and am still not sure what that question was about. But, yes, the food was yummy, and the people were unfailingly kind and interested in what I was working on and had some suggestions as to what to do. Oh, and I met people who were in Paris during the 1968 riots and also one who'd studied with Big F. Very cool.

But, as is usually the case with my stories, there was a fly in the ointment (I think I'm laying on the cliches in this week's posts). I realised that while Big F's student immediately got "I'm doing social construction of terrorism, looking at terrorist groups in Nepal and Northern Ireland" (the comment was: Good, you've got your theoretical outlook and your comparative approach down). Others weren't as keen. One critique was "Well, I think your project is flawed since Maoists aren't terrorists so you can't compare them with the IRA". I think I did a fairly good job (considering this was Sunday lunch and, really, one can't be expected to talk shop at Sunday lunch!) of explaining that I wasn't particularly interested in whether they WERE actual, proper terrorists (who run around with big Ts on their foreheads) but more about how they are represented and also how they themselves describe themselves and others. It didn't go down too well though and we kept going back to the whole "but the IRA WERE terrorists. Maoists are just poor people who are oppressed".

I guess my thing here is (and I don't even know why I'm posting this since I'm sure msot of yous aren't much bothered): how come people just "know" things? That's not proper research. While there's no way my research will tell yous whether the IRA were terrorists and the Maoists aren't, it will show you (assuming you read it. Yous should, since my writing, unlike Zizek's, is very accessible) how these groups have been framed as terrorists, what that says about the construction of threats in the international system and how the IRA and the Maoists themselves describe threats. Just "knowing" is not enough.

If this is the future, there must be a way of expressing what I mean since it seems like I was writing this same post (well, not the same obviously but a version thereof) from Denmark months back.

I still can't get over meeting people who were in Paris in 1968. Actually there. And the person who studied with Big F. It doesn't compare to meeting him though.


But, I'd rather see one on Hobbes

Does this mean philosophers are becoming "cool"? Slavoj Zizek, the "leftish intellectual" (his words) has had a film made about him. A warning: the trailer has rather disturbing images. Let me just say I prefer to think of my philosophers fully-clothed and maybe even playing football. Not lounging about in bed or in a room in between two toilets (No, I don't get it either). Such images should come with a warning to overworked postgraduate students.

The film will be showing in DC sometime early next year. Zizek has built up quite a following in the "leftist intellectual" circles for his work on "the real" (I'd summarise but I'll spare yous. Let me just say a stiff drink before and after any reading is highly recommended and will assist in any interpretation of his writing) and also his comments on the war on terror/Iraq.

As for me, I'll give it a pass and wait for a film on Hobbes.


Wales: a retirement home for world leaders?

Things retired leaders do...

Hey, he doesn't look like he's learning English in that picture!

Kicking a man when he's down...or flogging a dead horse

Yes, well, the Hume post is coming up soon but I just want to point out that, so far, this has been a week from Hell. And not the fun, happy, Hell populated by witty writers and artists but the fire and brimstone version that is likely to give you nightmares. Why? you ask (well, you probably don't but let's say you did). Mainly because my supervisor at LS is in some sort of a frenzy and has been constantly yelling at me (latest being to tell me to do my ticks in the "correct" way i.e. the non-lefthanded way. I think that's pretty much bullying and am refusing)

However, this happened too this week. My team, in efficient, v un-Liverpool-like fashion, crafted out a 0-0 draw the day before and went through to the next stage as the leaders of the group. I'm still getting used to this new version of my team who don't cock up at the last minute and let a goal through. Who knows how long this will last but as long as it does, I'm loving it. So, Liverpool went through. Man U, despite facing an opposition hobbled by injuries, crashed out.

A few years ago, I'd have probably been in high heaven at the result. Now, it's not even lifting my spirits much. I rather feel like it's like stealing money off a blind man. Or, shooting fish in a barrell. Or...yes, well, the cliches could go on.

It's just not fun hating them anymore. I even felt slightly sorry for them. Shocking.


Neoliberalism Good?

We promise a more substantial post (about Hume and causation, no less!) in the near future. But to hold you over, I offer this quote from Savage Minds:

The job market was not particularly exciting this year, and it was hard to find exciting panels. Even particularly popular panels, like ‘the neoliberalism one’ were not as heavily attended as it could be since, as one grad student put it, “the spy museum was cooler.” I am not sure whether this says more about the spy museum or neoliberalism.

I have to confess that I’ve never really enjoyed DC as a town and, with the exception of an exceptional Long French Dinner, I didn’t stray very far from the hotel—I suspect that this is true of most people. DC is really not the kind of city that, say, San Francisco or New York is, where you are too busy getting out and seeing the place to actually bother going to any of the panels. Regardless of one’s opinion of DC you have to admit that next year’s location, San Jose, will offer neoliberalism even less competition than did DC.


American Genius

It's official. America wants me. Check this out. What more can I add, really?

American Genius
You scored 85 US IQ Points
You are it! American Genius is the title you should go by. You have a strong sense of patriotism and feel it your duty to support your country in what ever way you can. You are smart enought to know that living in America is a God given priviledge, not a right.

Physicists summarise things better

Especially if the IR lot (well, this one anyway) is feeling lazy.

A brief overview of the United States policy of rendition. Recently acknowledged, hugely dodgy and yet still going on. Makes me wonder how all this talk of freedom and saving people's lives and all that can be legitimised if you go about holding (and allegedly torturing) people in secret prisons in remote locations and not admit to doing so. PR-wise, a hugely dreadful move.

The more I read all this, the more I think I should give up my PhD, become American and work for the PR department (is there one?) for the US Government. They need some help there.
(okay, E, I'm just joking. I think. Though if they pay well...)


Of States and Breakfast Foods

Kansas is flatter than a pancake. No, seriously, these folks did a test.

I love the Annals of Improbable Research. They take the time to explain things like:

Barring the acquisition of either a Kansas-sized pancake or a pancake-sized Kansas, mathematical techniques are needed to do a proper comparison. Some readers may find the comparing of a pancake and Kansas to be analogous to the comparing of apples and oranges; we refer those readers to a 1995 publication by NASA’s Scott Sandford, who used spectrographic techniques to do a comparison of apples and oranges.

Via Letters of Marque

ETA: As long as I'm creating a link post, might as well link to a post about why you should never leave your office.

MY STUDENT: What's going on?

ME: (still holding door) Some people are trying to have sex in my office. I keep interrupting them.


David Hume, Part I

I think E and I agreed that we'd do a series here on various scholars. I was supposed to start off with David Hume.

Why Hume, you ask? Because earlier this year, I spent a memorable and highly enjoyable day traipsing about Edinburgh and finding Hume at the Edinburgh Uni, on the various shop in and around the Royal Mile and having a picture taken with him outside the old Scottish Parliament building. Well, yes, we know he's dead but he's fairly popular in that city. Though, the Hume statue (yes, the pics are all from Google. I never figured out how to get the photos off my camera) could do with a bit of cover-up since Edinburgh is rather chilly for him to be standing out in the cold partially naked.

I did realise though that we should have started off with someone obscure and not-very-prolific in terms of writing. Do yous know how much Hume has written? Well, the answer's heaps. He's written heaps. He has not only written loads of stuff but has also contradicted himself often and is rather difficult to read. Especially if, like me, you're not too keen on Old English (well, Old Scots, perhaps) . So, who knows if and when the Hume post will actually happen.

In the meantime, here's a few things I've found out so far. I'm avoiding the issue of what he said for now since that needs more contemplation. Or as much contemplation as I can afford to give Hume in between bouts of trying to finish an article and working on my never-ending PhD proposal.

Overall, Hume sounds like a right nice bloke.

I think those of us who have watched MP already knew that Hume was a good eater. He could out consume Schopenhauer and Hegel after all (though no mention is made in the song about S and H's eating capacities). On his appearance, the Earl of Charlemont said of Hume,

"His face was broad and fat, his mouth wide, and without any other expression than that of imbecility. His eyes vacant and spiritless; and the corpulence of his whole person was far better fitted to communicate the idea of a turtle-eating alderman than of a refined philosopher."

So, not like Witty then. Or even SuperN. I presume that calling someone a "turtle-eating alderman" was an insult in those days though it seems fairly posh to me. Normal folk don't eat turtles nowadays.

Hume also had a broad Scottish accent (fairly uncommon since most learned Scotspeople would sound like learned Englishpeople). Despite years spent living and writing in France, his French was also terrible. This gives hope to people like me who, despite studying IR, can't actually speak many useful languages. The market for Nepali/Sanskrit/some Thai-speaking academics is very limited.

But, Hume was well aware of the important aspects of life. He ate well, had good relations with his friends and family and realised there was no point in whingeing about lack of money (he was fired from quite a few jobs and didn't get some academic posts because of his philosophical stance), or not having a job but he (in his own words) "felt an insurmountable aversion to everything but the pursuits of philosophy and general learning". In those days, it was possible to pursue philosophy and general learning and yet manage to live a comfortable life doing so. I'm not sure that is possible these days though academia is probably where you'd go about doing such things.

Best of all, when his first book was published, he wrote a favourable review for it and published it anonymously. I'm definitely planning on doing that if I ever get a book out.

I guess that's about it for now. Wait for Part II to read what he wrote about. Did I mention his works are rather difficult to read? I need the Reduced version of Hume. Or Hume in Two and a Half Chapters.


Expectations about public transport and what to do when you have them

A few listed in random order:

- If in Bangkok, you expect buses not to stop at bus stops but to slow down slightly. You get rather good at running alongside the bus, usually with other people around you and hopping on to the bus. Conductors are rather willing to help, especially if you're a girl (yes, well). Some of my earliest childhood memories are of my dad (who was at Uni at the time and so was not part of the car-owning contingent) pushing/throwing me on to various buses.

- If in Northern Denmark, you expect buses to arrive on time. Well, you don't expect this when you first get there but then you realise they are almost always on time. If you get to a bus stop a minute or so later than the expected time and get on the bus waiting there, you are likely to end up at some other city instead of the place you were planning to go.

- The USA, or TCOTFW at least, is thankfully rather like Nepal. Buses are quite unexpected in their timings and may arrive on time or not arrive at all. I once waited at a bus stop in the wilds of VA (well, about 30 mins from G'town but pretty much the outback in terms of regular public transport) and a bus never arrived. Being quite patient about these things and having the latest Nick Hornby to read meant I waited for nearly an hour and a half for the bus. It never came.

Why all this rambling about expectations about public transport, you ask? Well, because this morning, I went to my usual underground station. For those unacquainted with TCOTFW's underground transport system, the trains usually arrive at either side of a single platform, depending on which direction they are going to. I got to the station, picked up my newspaper, took the escalator down, arrived at the platform, waited for the train on the right side, and got on it. I live two stations away from TUWSNBN. But, before we got to the second station, I realised I had gotten on the wrong train (E, you understand how I figured this out, eh?).

I was quite early for an appointment so I had heaps of time left to make it to TUWSNBN. I got out at this station, waited for the train that would take me back in the right direction, got on it and got immersed in reading my newspaper again. Two stations later, I got off, passed through the turnstiles, got on the escalator and ended up at the top. I then realised I was back where I started. I'd travelled two stations in the wrong direction, then two stations back and had gotten off there. Both TUWSNBN station and this station had similar escalators and all that so I had not even noticed where I was until I reached the top.

I finally got on a train going to TUWSNBN and got there. But, during all this, I thought about expectations. I expected my train to be on the right side of the platform, I expected my station to be two stops after I got on the train and I expected my destination station to have a long escalator. And, I acted accordingly. We orient ourselves to something based on our actions in the past and what has happened before. That's pretty much what I did this morning.

Or, maybe I am just a bit daft. And, massively unobservant. Sherlock Holmes would have been appalled.

At least I can now say I've got the absent-minded part of the "absent minded professor" stereotype down. I just need to work on the professor part.

Reason #438 that I should not work from home:

Howie Mandel, the dad from 7th Heaven, Meatloaf, the dad from Malcolm in the Middle, and a little person (I think he's on Threshold) are playing celebrity poker, and I CAN'T LOOK AWAY.

Meatloaf does a gollum impression. That guy from Kids in the Hall who is supposed to provide comic relief is completely unnecessary for this episode.

I really need to start watching more reality television.

ETA: Howie is wearing surgical gloves. Why don't any of them think this is strange?

Everyone's talking about academic blogging, but...

This is more fun:

Suit #1: That was a pretty good meeting...
Suit #2: Yeah, we got a lot done.
Hobo: Was Liam Neeson in it?

New Bloglinks

Let's all go visit the newest blogroll members: brightstar, endgame, and the LJ community for grad students!

[P, this is codification in action, right here. If I were a rat choice person, I'd be unable to model my own decision-making process.]