Random points of very little interest

1. When I signed up for the washingtondc feed from flickr, I did not expect to get hundreds of photos of cherry blossoms. Seriously, they're flowers. I don't care how expertly you frame the tidal basin, the shot has still been done a million times before.

Cherry blossoms and the WWII Memorial. And random portraits of tourists. I should have guessed that nobody else would label their photos with the name of the city.

2. How cool is it that I get to have conversations with people who write books for a living? Published books? On interesting topics?

Really, this is very exciting. Much better than celebrity sightings. Well, most celebrity sightings. I'd make an exception for people like Bradley Whitford and Roy Dupuis.

3. For someone who isn't religious, I own an awful lot of books about (or by) god. Or gods of various stripes. Should I classify them as fiction, or nonfiction?

4. Someone please tell me that this March Madness crap will be over soon. I miss the hockey games. Yes, it's nice that a local team is in the Final Four. No, I don't really want to buy a t-shirt.

5. The Bethesda Writer's Center is having another book sale at the end of April. I'm thinking I'll need more shelves before then. I can find a lot of stuff I want to read for $0.50/lb.

6. I just bought a great new outfit, and nobody got to see it outside of work because we're all a bunch of slackers who don't like to meet on nice days. Not that I'm complaining. It just seems like a waste of my efforts to iron my shirt into something resembling professional.

Did I mention that I'm allowed to wear heels again? Not real ones, no strappy sandals, and nothing higher than an inch, but still. After shopping for the alternative, I'll take what I can get.

7. Christopher Eccleston is very, very pretty. And he wears black. And has an accent.

The closest I ever got to a time machine was dating a dj.

No, I don't really understand that segue either. I'd better go watch television for a while. There's a new Numb3rs on at ten, and a Doctor Who episode that I haven't seen on television yet.

More random crap later, if I get bored with cataloguing our home library.

Look, a poem!

But first, I'd like to formally request that any of my committee members who may read this blog refrain from ever calling me quirky in a recommendation letter. Even if it might be just a tiny bit accurate, it would appear to be the kiss of death to outside funding, and I'd like to avoid paying for my still-hypothetical dissertation research by working at Wendy's.

If you feel you cannot be honest about a) my academic ambitions, b) my dissertation topic, or c) my classroom teaching style without calling me quirky, please let me know so that I can find someone else who thinks I'm normal.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Friday slacking:


John Fletcher

Orpheus with his lute made trees,
And the mountain-tops that freeze,
Bow themselves when he did sing.
To his music plants and flowers
Ever sprung: as sun and showers
There had made a lasting spring.
Everything that heard him play,
Even the billows of the sea,
Hung their heads, and then lay by.
In sweet music is such art,
Killing care and grief of heart
Fall asleep, or, hearing, die.


Waiting for the Revolution*

I am still on a BNC high so forgive me if I'm even more incoherent than usual. Unlike E, who seems to have chosen sucky panels to go to, I had excellent luck with mine to the extent that my panel (not helped by the fact that one of my recurring nightmares did come true and I did forget my English-speaking abilities for a while during my talk) was probably the least fun one. I tried to muster up interest in Zebra mussels and United States science policy but it just wasn't happening. E, as usual, was good and she got to meet one of her "peeps" so it worked out well for half of PTSD. The other half had heaps more fun with her poster (which wasn't actually a poster but bignamesecurity person liked it! yay! I just wish I hadn't been tongue-tied and unable to talk).

But, I said I wouldn't blog about the BNC any more (well, I said I would but would wait till later). This is actually more about some things that happened in the past day or two. First, I found out that I did get a summer job. As a foreigner in the Land of the Free, options for work are highly limited so I was (am) extremely well-pleased especially as summer is the only time I can work full-time. It works out well since I can now pay my tuition and the exhorbitant health insurance costs that TUWSNBN charges its students and maybe even save enough to send Mum and Dad off to visit LilSisNo1.

The slightly odd part (for me anyway) is that I will be working with (for?) other postgraduate students, including E (who gets to be a teacher). So, E is going to have part of me (or is that vice versa?) as her TA. This is rather amusing in that I always saw E as being ruthlessly efficient. In our past days as Research Assistants, she'd be running around copying gazillions of stuff while the rest of us whinged when we had to do any copying (I was extremely fortunate in that the person I worked for had very little administrative stuff for me to do and it was mostly all research). That's a lot to live up to. I'm warning you, E, that I do best with deadlines. And structure. And a timeline. In any case, it's going to be fun in that E is going to be lording (lady-ing it?) over me. I will be running around being oppressed in a typical Third World/postcolonial fashion.

All I have to say is that expect this summer to be the beginning of a revolution when the masses take over (well, if it's only me, then is it called "a mass"? Can a mass revolt?). I'd have to figure out the effects of power and coopt/resist it but in a very localised fashion. That just sounds like a bit too much work to me but do keep tuned to PTSD for more Summer action.

*For those who, like me, are keen on films, there's a good one called Children of the Revolution about how Stalin might have had a half-Aussie illegitimate child.

It's all about priorities

I flinch at the idea of spending $5 on a t-shirt for work (maybe because I needed four of them?), but have no problem at all with a $7.50 polo shirt for my ipod.

Yes, my ipod is now very nicely dressed. Sporty, even. I'm thinking of popping the collar on it.

In my defense, the polo shirt has little green and blue stripes on it, so it coordinates with my bag and my spring coat that looks like a couch.


The stick and carrot approach to knowledge acquisition

I've promised myself that if I finish Thing A by Friday (Thing A being rather important in the general scheme of things), then I can reward myself by going to watch Inside Man.

Why a slick Hollywood thriller, yous ask? Why not, I answer and then add that it has a cast that I did dream up but someone else turned into Reality.

Denzel Washington, Chiwetel Ejiofor, AND Clive Owen (and yous all know how much this half of PTSD is keen on the latter two). Add Jodie Foster, William Dafoe and Christopher Plummer and it should be entertaining, right?

Oh, and the director's Spike Lee. After a rather disappointing V for Vendetta (which is more Phantom of the Opera than 1984 in its movie incarnation), I am due for a good film soon. Not that I care much since the casting alone is enough to make me happy.

The (extremely belated) March issue of WWHS?

What would Hobbes say, that is.

I promised E I'd write on something else for the March issue of WWHS but, as with many promises, it remains unfulfilled. Maybe for the April edition. In the meantime, this is what Hobbes did say:

"So the secret to good self-esteem is to lower your expectations to the point where they're already met?"

The Days are Just Packed p23

I usually manage to do that quite easily.


One more day for discounts

Just a reminder that Borders still has 25% for educators through tomorrow. So now's your chance to get all your books for cheap, plus a coupon for 25% next week on a book, a cd, and a dvd. S. got the last installment of the LOTR boxed editions, and is planning to go back for x-files season one.

I'm not sure when he thinks he's going to watch x-files, since I only watch the episode with Bradley Whitford in it.

I got a new atlas, two books of short stories, Holland's 1996 book on emergence theory, and a shiny new book on STS that looks like lots of fun. Plus a graphic novel that we didn't have yet (I didn't think it possible that we could be missing anything by Neil Gaiman, but we were.)

If my defense, I did try to send him to the bookstore by himself.

Now I just have to figure out where I'm going to put this stuff.

Megaphoning pub-speak in Germany

Moving away from the BNC (maybe forever since I doubt folks are keen on hearing what the panels were on, though I still want to talk about the last panel I was at. I'll spring that upon yous, like a roaring lion, some day when yous least expect it) and back to that subject close to my heart. No, not arteries but Germany 2006.

The latest news is: "German police are planning to calm nerves among fans at this year's World Cup by using officers specially trained in pub-speak to communicate through megaphones."

This means scenarios like: "We are taking your beer bottle away from you. Slowly" followed by undignified tussles for the bottles will probably be common.

Unfortunately a very small proportion of the fans will understand this since the police plan to do their explaining over a loudspeaker "using colloquial language and humour, albeit mostly in German".

German humour (do I hear cries of "what's that?"), police loudspeakers and drunken footy fans. Even without football, I can already predict success for Germany 2006.

Things I should have thought about sooner than yesterday morning

Random notes on things I ought to have done last week:

1. Given the number of blogs I read, the likelihood that not checking the feed reader for a week was a bad idea was high. But 4,500 new posts seems a bit excessive.

2. Checking my email only once was also a bad idea. Luckily nothing was urgent, and the people who really needed to get in touch with me also had the cell phone number. For the rest of you, oops. My bad. Won't happen again.

3. In DC they don't wait until May to plant the garden. There's a reason for this, and I should have gone to the nursery *before* I left town. Or at least watered the plants I did have.

4. Library overdue notices and ILL deliveries fall into the category of "make sure these things are taken care of so that you don't owe money to TUWSNBN." Again, checking email is important. Perhaps even more important than blogging.


5. Laundry. It would have been good to do laundry before the week began. Say, on Sunday. Since just buying new clothes isn't really an option, and neither is wearing sweatpants to the office.

Right, I'm off to catch up on the stacks of things I didn't get done. Except the laundry, which is going to have to wait until tonight.


BNC and its aftermath

I promise that this post will contain no lists. I do not promise that it will be coherent, funny, informative, or even mildly entertaining. I never do. Today, I can't even promise proper grammar and spelling.

We almost went to Las Vegas for the day when our flight was overbooked, but it didn't turn out that way. Instead, we flew back to Dulles and waited an hour for our luggage and a half hour for the bus. I broke two pieces of luggage, but S says this doesn't mean I get to go shopping. This was before we spent $150 at Target and bought nothing on our shopping list. Not even catfood.

I'm guessing the "no shopping, because you already own 17 bags and three suitcases" thing still applies, even if I manage to return the two bags that self-destructed.

Vegas would have been more fun than a bus to Rosslyn. And warmer.

Once we finally got home I opened iphoto and started looking for pictures to share with you, our Loyal Reader, that would somehow capture the atmosphere that is the BNC. And I found out that I took over five hundred photos during the trip. Two of them were conference related.

Both were photos of people who have been mentioned on this blog, and are therefore not eligible for posting.

I have no images of the conference hotel, the hotel we stayed in, panels or events related to the conference, the places we ate on the days I attended conference sessions, famous scholars in our field, or even the road between the conference hotel and our hotel. None at all.

I do, however, have many examples of the touristy stuff we did on Tuesday and Thursday. So I'm going to post a few of those over on my flickr account. As my boss called on Friday to let me know that he's been busy while I was gone, and could I come in on Monday morning, and the evil PT had six days to come up with new ways to make my life miserable, it's safe to say this might take a few days.

You can get to the photos by way of the following image:


This is the restaurant S, Serena, Cris, and I ate at on Thursday. Many of the characters you know and love (including Priya, who told me about it the next day) were drinking beer down the street, but none of them called to invite us. And yet people wonder why I seem so anti-social. It's because I can't be relied upon to invite myself to things, even when I do manage to remember the phone numbers of people I should call.

In non-alcoholic conference news, I saw six panels. I was part of (not as presenter, unfortunately) two panels. Five of the six panels I attended were awful, and all four of the papers I was interested in (the ones that led me to attend most of the aforementioned panels) were not presented.

When I say awful, I mean it in the "brain trying to crawl out my ear and escape to the beach" kind of way.

I did get to see the qual/quant debate rehashed in a discussion of case methodology and violent conflict.

Conclusions? There must be some key terms that that mean "systems theory spoken here, rather than rat choice and econometrics." Those terms are not systems, modeling, complexity, dynamics, cybernetics, or feedback. Or any combination thereof.

I think I need to figure out how to put a systems panel together for next year's BNC. That way, I know there will be at least a few other people there who don't raise a confused eyebrow at the names Forrester or Meadows.

To add to my general discomfort, I also had a long conversation with someone about the comps from hell. S/he was, as promised by a CM in a conversation on the same subject, understanding and helpful. I again got the response of "I thought you knew that, and just didn't want to talk about it."

I'm growing very tired of that reaction. I'm wondering why no one saw fit to share this belief with me. Say, three years ago? But that's a different post.

The generally positive result does not mean that the conversation was not awkward and exhausting. It also does not mean that I no longer need to deal with the comps from hell. Like taxes and death, those comps.

The presenters on one panel I chaired were great, even though I had little prior interest in either the topic or the methodology employed.

Through the constant shifting of panel membership, I also ended up on a panel with a scholar whose work I admire and to whom I should have introduced myself a long time ago. This was good, as he does work in two of the areas I am interested in.

The very last panel on the last day I was there made up for a great deal of annoyance with both people and the conference format as a whole. I thought I was at a panel on teaching, but it turned out to be mostly about complexity theory and its role in political science and IR theory. Two scholars whose work I've read and admired presented, I got to ask that question that gets noticed (by the presenters and the discussant, actually, which was pretty cool) and another professor in the audience wants to see the syllabus I've started putting together and suggestions of readings for a class he's teaching.

I even got to put in a plug for the importance of grad students in expanding the concerns of IR to include things like complexity, systems, network theory, and technology. Hubris, maybe, but it did seem like a good thing to mention that, as we're generally computer literate and comfortable with things like non-linear causality, as well as actively searching for new ideas, anyone who wanted to push those things might want to ask their friendly neighborhood grad student for help.

Also, I'm at a school with faculty who encourage the work I want to do, and I still spend a lot of time trying to teach myself the theory behind it. I'm all for establishing networks in IR for sharing resources, ideas, and panel abstracts with people who aren't so lucky. The number of IR people who are interested in complex systems isn't large enough for people to work in isolation.

Have no fear that my comment was of the "annoying and the source of a bad reputation that will bite you in the ass later" type. I was amazingly deferential (and not only with deference as measured against my usual standards) and the reaction was one of interest and business-card-exchange. Those are good things, right?

The third presenter is putting together a textbook for IR theory that sounds like it will be exciting and useful. If nothing else, his decision to categorize constructivism as "realist-constructivism," "liberal-constructivism," and other hyphenated categories was comforting and familiar. And he invoked Quantum Guy, a much beloved subject here at PTSD.*

So a good time all around, even if I did see GS right afterwards and fail to rescue her from a conversation because I was talking to complexity theory guy #3. That's three people who are potential members of my academic peeps.**

Another was at the TUWSNBN reception that night, but despite the signalling of another systems-loving grad student I was far too busy scaring someone to join the conversation. Probably for the best, as I'm never at my most sparkling when surrounded by too much noise and too many people.

In other news, I finally snapped over the age-old "why are you doing IR instead of ..." question. The one that always means "You don't belong here" even when it sounds perfectly polite.

In fact, those are the worse times, because the person asking generally thinks that they're doing a favor, by pointing out things like your bad fit with a department or your limited career prospects, as if those weren't things that have already been considered in the decision. Or as if they had a better idea of the answer than you. Or as if, and this one is the most irritating, they have a lock on what counts as real IR and what you do isn't included.

I'm not claiming that this was the case in this particular situation. Just that this was the very last occurance in a very long line of my responses that never quite convey the "screw you, in a polite and non-threatening way" attitude that I aim to project.

Unfortunately, this wasn't any of the times that the question was aimed at me. Instead, it was asked of someone else, immediately after the subject had explained why the work s/he wanted to do was a good fit within IR, rather than the ... discipline. And it pissed me off, and rather than walking away (as I try very hard to do) I said what I thought of the question. And then I apologized, even though I'm still a little ticked about it.

Because that is what people who do not say things without thinking and then forget why they shouldn't have said them do. And I am trying very hard to act like one of those people, especially in things like receptions and panels at the BNC.

And when I can't, because I'm tired or nervous or both, I stick to conversations with people who already know me and continue to talk to me anyway.

Can't be any more specific than that, because I also (perhaps foolishly, but I don't think so) gave the blog address to someone who requested it. And while I have no problem sounding like an idiot online, I'm guessing no one else in our pantheon of characters wants that privilege.

Final thought? I'm trying not to think too hard about the average cost-per-business card of the BNC. It's a very high number. Let's leave it at that.

* Did you know that Quantum Guy is one of the most cited scholars currently breathing and publishing in our field?*** See, there's some useful info for you.

** This would be the group of scholars with whom I need to acquaint myself and vice versa.**** It was not made clear to us at the advising sessions whether this was a good thing for our careers in general, or just a chance to add some new people with whom to drink beer when the panels are over. I'm guessing it's both.

*** Should that be "publishing and breathing"? I'm not sure.

**** Why are none of these scholars female? Are they all hiding? Are we too afraid to be both outside the mainstream and women to introduce ourselves?

Down and out in BNC city

Since both E and I are fond of lists and since I paid an exhorbitant amount for Internet access, here's another one:

1. Evening of last day started well--managed to get noticed as the postgraduate student who suggested a book to Lord of Constructivists at the last BNC session. He actually wrote down the name of the book, took on my comments about the books he was using (which I'm not too fond of) and seemed like a generally lovely person. For the last panel of the day, it was extremely well-attended and I realised (a bit too late in the BNC) that BigNameFolks aren't as scary as they appear.

2. Since TUWSNBN crowd had left, managed to inveigle my way into hanging out with other postgrad students and went and had Afghan food for the first time in my life.
Better than fish tacos, for sure. Actually, they didn't have much fish in the Afghan restaurant. As is usual in postgrad student guff, discussed Carl Schmitt, poverty, potential jobs, The Constructivist Manifesto (which was apparently written in between sessions at a past BNC by this lot), poverty and Foucault. Yes, poverty was a recurring topic. I guess Schmitt was the odd one out?

3. Got excellent comments about second presentation. Was complimented on the execution of said presentation and am now contemplating trying to turn it into part of the dissertation. Have to think about that. Good comments made up for the two hours spent traipsing around suburban areas of BNC city on Friday morning, looking for Kinko's to print presentation stuff. BNC hotel didn't have a colour printer. Or, if they did, it was inaccessible to BNC attendees. Kinko's person was partly Irish so managed to get colour copies printed for very cheap (yes, the Irish mafia apparently has connections).

4. That takes me to my final point for now and to the title of this post: For some reason, my bank card has stopped working. So, no place to stay tonight (am planning on staking a corner at the local airport since my flight leaves at 6.45am tomorrow). No idea why bank card is not working. Did I do the sensible thing, you ask and save money? No, I spent $3 out of my remaining cash in getting Internet access for 30 mins and then going online to blog and check out footy and other news. Figured I can get something to eat and spend the rest of my cash in taking the bus to the airport.

Overall, very happy about BNC. Now, back to dissertating--assuming I survive today and the flight(s) to DC.


Big name conference

Blogging about BNC will have to wait until I am back in DC (all going well--there's a long flight in between after all) since there is no wireless in the BNC hotel. None.

Let me tell yous though that it's been brilliant so far. My equivalent of seeing Robbie Fowler, Clive Owen, Ewan McGregor and the All-Blacks rugby team in one place.
Brilliant stuff.

Oh, and I bumped into BigNameAcademicBlogger yesterday. Rather excited about that too.


A week at the Big Name Conference


Live blogging is out; next time they plan one of these shindigs, someone should check and make sure that the hotel has free wireless. There’s nothing sadder than a line of academics all twitching because they’re going into internet withdrawal and the email access is through a public kiosk.

Also, since we don’t have the ability to use IM in the panel sessions, everyone’s being forced to actually listen to the papers. I give it another day and a half, and someone’s going to snap.

Already the rat choice folks are refusing to speak to the cybernetics guys; chaos is sure to follow.

Some quick points on the week so far:

1. A 7:00am flight out of National is very, very early. When the flight then sits on the runway for two hours while the maintenance staff plays fax-tag with headquarters, the passengers get restless. And cranky.

2. The Pacific Ocean is very, very cold. Very cold. Even if the weather is warm. Don’t be fooled by the Minnesotans on vacation. They don’t know any better.

3. At 8:00am, how the coffee tastes isn’t an issue. As long as it’s strong, all is right with the world. And it’s very nice when someone else makes the coffee for you.

4. Walking and drinking coffee at the same time? Not such a good idea. Good thing I wore a patterned sweater. And a jacket.

5. I don’t get the concept of the fried fish taco. Why are they selling them on every corner?

6. Fried cheese on a stick, though, I do understand. They sell it in the malls here, instead of just at the fair.

7. The grad students from TUWSNBN are remarkably consistent. Get to the bar early, stake out a table, and keep ordering beer and fried food until people start dozing off in their glasses.

8. Flamingos smell funny.

You’ll have to rely on Priya for today’s conference highlights; I’m taking the day off to go sightseeing.


Malaria Action Day

Is today, and I almost missed it. I meant to put up a more substantial post, but things (packing, updating stuff, and the download from hell) got in the way. So think of this as a placeholder for the much better post that I'll be adding (late, as usual) sometime tomorrow.


Checklist of things (not) to do before BNC

10. Have a b'day (that can't be helped, unfortunately. Leads to people taking one out for dinner. Leads to lots of time wasted, time which should have been spent working on various papers but, on the plus side, lots of free food)
9. Realise one's rucksack is with Lil Sis up in Maine. Realise there's no time to get it back. Wonder if US airplanes (not having flown in any yet as all my other travelling within the US was done on land-based transport, to great amusement of the rest of my fellow PhD-ers) will allow passengers to get on them carrying large carryout bags.
8. Wonder if one has any large carry out bags to take on the plane.
7. Contemplate writing paper no. 2 (for Friday) in the time between presenting paper no. 1 and Friday. Wonder where to do that since...
6. Realise that place-to-stay is full. Decide to worry about that when in BNC city.
5. Decide to give up drinking.
4. Watch sports which involve Irish folk winning a trophy with a last-minute try against former colonial masters. Makes following no. 5 impossible as entire pub is up in arms and (free) alcohol is flowing. Realise one might not want to talk about Irish history when not PhD-ing, but one can talk of Irish sports, especially sports with blokes wearing short shorts and looking like this and this.
3. Worry about flying (again, can't be helped. Have reached fatalistic stage now and will be making a will tomorrow. Now that I own a set of used dishes, someone has to have them)
2. Realise a "poster" at BNC actually means double the work: a poster with pictures and all AND a paper. Wonder why one accepted it instead of just going for the panel-ing.
1. Learn that stepping on glasses will lead to a bad end for said glasses and mangled glasses with broken lenses are not conducive to being worn (though I tried). This means ending up with a choice of having to wear either pink or blue glasses for BNC.

Meme meme meme meme meme

Via Kinesthesis Breakthrough.

Go to your music player of choice and put it on shuffle. Say the following questions aloud, and press play. Use the song title as the answer to the question. NO CHEATING.

How does the world see you?
“Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” by The Smiths [Any song by The Smiths is a good omen, as far as I’m concerned.]

Will I have a happy life?
“Desire” by U2 [This is going well. I love a meme I can dance to.]

What do my friends really think of me?
“Come Rain or Come Shine” by Billie Holiday

Do people secretly lust after me?
“Nothing’s Real” by Rose Chronicles [Is this a yes, or a no? I can’t tell.]

How can I make myself happy?
“I Should Be Allowed to Think” by They Might Be Giants [Moving right along. Nothing to see here, folks.]

What should I do with my life?
“Voodoo City” by Black 47 [Um. No thanks, even if it is a good song. Nothing like Irish reggae rock.]

Will I ever have children?
“Silently” by that dog [Another one that doesn’t seem to say either way. S. suggested that it meant we could have quiet children, but given my family I doubt it. Then again, we did see the band at my sister’s first concert, and she has the Genius Nephew. Who is not a quiet child. So maybe?]

What is some good advice for me?
“Forgiveness” by Patti Griffin [I can think of a few people who would agree with this.]

How will I be remembered?
“Busted” by Matchbox Twenty [That’s rather depressing. I haven't even done anything worth getting busted for in far too long.]

What is my signature dancing song?
“Stir it Up” by Bob Marley and the Whalers [Unfortunately, I don’t like Marley. S. laughed at me when it started playing.]

What do I think my current theme song is?
“Turn and Run” by Neil Finn [I’m not sure I’d have picked this song, but it is pretty accurate.]

What does everyone else think my current theme song is?
“Don’t Wanna Be Here” by Cool for August [Again, sounds about right.]

What song will play at my funeral?
“Witches’ Rune” by Unto Ashes [One last chance to piss off my grandmother. Woohoo!]

What type of men/women do I like?
Men: “What If” by Coldplay [Accent? Check. Moody? Check. Sings? Check. Interesting hair? Check. Leather pants? Check.]
Women: “Here with Me” by Dido [Hmm. A little more co-dependent than I expected, but it does have the “I am what I am, I do what I want” lyric.]

What is my day going to be like?
“Where Is My Mind” by the Pixies, Live cut. [Not very encouraging. Maybe a good idea to clean the house instead of working.]

You may be wondering, Loyal Reader, how my itunes shuffle could possibly run through this many songs without playing MMB. Have no fear. The next song was “Lights Out” by Dicky and the gang. Suggestions for the question it could have answered are always welcome.

Just in time for the BNC

Someone has created a graduate student drinking game! I plan to use it as my strategy for next week; don't be surprised if I can't remember anyone's name by Friday. Or Wednesday night, if there are enough economists at the conference.


1. If the professor opens the floor for discussion and absolutely no one wants to go first drink +1.
2. If the Professor rephrases the question in order to get someone to speak drink +1.
3. If the professor finally has to call on someone who is trying to hide to get the discussion started drink +3 (because you know it is going to be a long 3 hours at that point)
4. If the kiss ass student who loves every book or article raves about the assigned readings drink +1.
5. If the discussion centers around the trendy theory of the day drink +2. (If the discussion is based on Rational Choice Theory drink until you pass out.)
6. If the discussion is centered on a method stolen from another discipline drink +2 If the method makes no sense in your discipline drink +4.
7. If the topic of discussion is a formal model that has never been empirically tested and appears to have no basis in reality drink +2. (Political Science addendum: If the discussion is over an article by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita drink once for each letter in his name)
8. If an area studies or identity theory specialist attempts to reframe the entire discussion in terms of their region of interest or through the prism of their theory of gender, race or whatever roll your eyes and drink +4. If there is no possible way that their direction of discussion could make sense (for example gender theory of Newtonian physics) drink until you pass out.
9. If the discussion uses game theory in a way that even Nash would not have imagined in his wildest hallucinations drink +2 and have sexual thoughts about Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly and or Ron Howard.
10. If the professor uses the word heuristic drink +1. If a student uses it drink +3 and throw something at the student.
11. If you are in a gender, race or orientation theory class and you are not a member of the group represented by the theory or professor you might as well just drink until you pass out.
12. If anyone argues that anything that cannot be measured should be disregarded drink +2.
13. If anyone argues that the real life applicability of a theory should be left to an applied discipline drink +3. (If they say leave it to the sociologists drink +4, light up a joint and consider changing disciplines)
14. If it takes more than an hour for the class to agree on the semantics of the discussion drink +6.
15. If someone goes off on a tangent that makes it obvious that he or she did not do the readings drink +1. If the prof lets them get away with it drink +2 and salute the student. If the prof nails them to the wall for it laugh and drink +3. If the prof makes the student cry in the process cringe and drink +4.
16. Language abuse. If anyone uses words that are the bane of your discipline drink as many drinks as are decided by the players before class starts.
17. Foreign language abuse. If anyone uses phrases in a foreign language (excluding courses in the topic) drink +1. If they misuse the phrase drink +2. If they use Latin in anything but legal studies references and terms drink +4 and set their toga on fire.
18. Name dropping. If anyone relates a story or bit of wisdom they were allegedly told by a famous name in the field drink +1. If said person is dead and cannot refute it drink +2. If the person in question died before the name dropping student was born drink +3 and whip out a Ouija board and demand confirmation.
19. If it is a statistics lecture just drink until you are hammered. It will probably make more sense then anyway.
20. If the prof offers to cut the discussion short drink in his or her honor and pick up the first round of drinks for the prof.

Now go, add some more suggestions in the comments. You've all been in this class.

We need a day for all seasons

On my way back home from a sedate St Patrick's day (Excellent Indonesian food and beers, nothing green anywhere), I sat next to a particularly garrulous lady on the train. As our train carriage was full of young kids back from various alcohol-imbibing activities, it was rather amusing. Almost like OOD, where kids used to wander about the town square on weekends, drinking, singing and chatting with passersby. Anyway, said lady insisted on telling me the "spirit" of St Patrick (what? chasing away snakes? messing up the Pagans?) had been ruined by "drunkenness".

I thought that was the point of St. Patrick's day? Not that I care too much since, after hanging out in Scotland last year, I've decided PTSD's going to promote Tartan day instead.

And, oh when's Nepali day going to happen? When we can all sit around, drink raksi and fry lettuce while slagging off India and China?

By the way, what is it with people talking to me this year? I feel that Washingtonians have suddenly become much chattier this year. I need to practice my look of intimidation some more so I can look serious and scholarly at BigNameMeeting next week.


The Swiss make hay while the Germans (try to) smile

Following up on an earlier PTSD post on Berliners being taught (or, gently reminded) to smile during the upcoming World Cup, here's a video made by the Swiss Government to attract (female) tourists to Switzerland during the World Cup.

A bit harsh, assuming that women would give up watching this, this and this and oh, especially, this to go wander off to hang out with what seems like a bunch of scrawny blokes doing outdoorsy stuff and riding on trains.

I spent an entire day shopping for clothes

PTSD doesn't just keep you up to date with happenings in the cartoon world, football stuff, the trials of going to physical therapy or the dearth of British actors but also goes off and does mundane things like shopping. Or, part of it did so today.

I had a busy day today, shopping for baby clothes. I realised what a scary world it is out there for baby clothes-shopping. It's not like I am new at this: Due to various friends having progeny in the past few years, I have shopped for baby clothes exactly three times in the past but this time, it was a lot more difficult.

The first time I had to shop for baby clothing was in Nepal. I got the baby (a boy) a T-shirt with “Proud to be Nepali” written on it. The way it works in Nepal is that you can buy a T-shirt and ask the tailor (usually resident in the T-shirt shop--we are nothing if not efficient) to draw/write specific things. This one was a pretty "cool" T-shirt since the words circled a picture of the Himalayas (sorry, I just couldn't resist that). I figured it's never too early to start increasing the Nepali community. After all, with India and China on either side and with heaps of locals departing overseas, Nepal needs all the help it can get. I'm not sure whether the families of the parents (Australian and Indian) were too amused.

The second and third times were when I was in Thailand. On the first of these occasions, I bought a Chinese dress (trousers, top and a little hat. Upon retrospect, I have to admit that the hat was probably a bit too much but babies don't care, do they?). This was for a girl, who lives partly in the Maldives and partly in Australia. When I sent off the gear, I hoped that she would not get beaten up by other babies for being different since I doubt many Maldivian kids run about in Chinese gear. The parents, in this case, were amused.

I was also in Thailand for the third baby. This kid, the child of an anthropologist who spent a year in PNG and sent infrequent postcards detailing the time that had passed without access to bathing facilities, received a tiny Liverpool jersey with her name inscribed on the back. I don't think the Liverpool Football Club got any royalties from the sale of this jersey since the bloke who sold it to me assured me that he could “put any word you like” on the back. The kid is now five years old and has graduated to a larger Liverpool jersey. Her dad, a full on Manchester United fan, remains convinced that I corrupted his child from birth. In this case, I am amused (and can't wait to experiment upon other kids in the future).

This brings me back to today and my shopping trip to get clothes for another baby. It was the first time I had actually gone to stores which had baby-only sections or even baby clothes-only stores. One thing I found was that baby clothes seem to be very much divided according to the colours (blue/grey/white versus pink/yellow/awful pastel colours) and images (baseball/football/pictures of deer and tigers versus princess/darling/pictures of princesses). Since I hadn't had to actually go to baby stores or the baby sections of stores in any of my past shopping, I was rather surprised. Adults have a wider range of colours or so I reckoned (though this might well be a misconception based on how little I do shop).

The way space was organised in all the stores (seven. Yes, count it—seven. I went to practically all stores within the Metro-accessible area in search of baby clothes) was such that pink and fluffy clothes (I presume for girls) occupied about three-fourths of the space and the rest (blue, grey, etc) was for boys' clothes. Within that logic, one would assume girls need/use up more clothes than boys do and that can't really be right since both sexes would probably use up the same amount of clothes, depending on where they are growing up. In any case, after giving up on the 7th store, I ended up buying a too large T-shirt with “Washington, DC” written on it. It will work as an old-fashioned night shirt (though, based on reports from its parents, the baby is refusing to acknowledge anything similar to night, a time to sleep, actually exists now that he's managed to escape from the womb). The T-shirt is fine but it wasn't as much fun finding it as it had been with my earlier quests for baby clothing. If gender roles are inscribed in children's clothing in the design of the stores and in the colours used, then parents will probably have a fairly tough time helping their kids figure out that pink or red does not automatically equal girl (or navy blue is not only a boy's colour). Personally, I'd recommend a few months in South-east Asia (well, Thailand actually), where blokes were (and are) metrosexual before David Beckham swanned about in a sarong and made it socially-acceptable to be one.

In the end, I don't think clothes (or the colours thereof) make much difference to how kids perceive the world. I grew up wearing a wide range of colours from pink and green to mauve and black and so did my brothers and sisters. It's more about us adults and how our notions of difference are inscribed in the society we live in. Kids' clothing seem to be divided into conventional notions of gender-specific colours and pictures with little option for anything else. I would say that such divisions reinforce the differences we are used to seeing and describing about gender roles but I am well aware that this is a generalisation based upon my not-very-fun experience of trying to find clothes on a day when I already had loads of other work to do. As academics, when faced with stuff we need to do, we find ways of analysing other stuff (at least I do). Spending an entire day looking for kids' clothing and then blogging about it is probably an avoidance tactic. E, I owe you a paper. You shall, hopefully, have it by tomorrow :-)


For those who don't know how to, we'll show you

not how to make an Origami tank or even play chess but how to smile. It's to do with our (well, half of PTSD's) theme of keeping yous up to date with events going on in the run up to the (football/soccer) World Cup in Germany.

Here's a lovely article about nearly 2000 billboards in Berlin will now have "the smiling faces of 11 Berliners" on them. The tagline reads "The nicest smiles for our guests." (Implying said Berliners are keeping their not-so-nice smiles for whom?)

I'll add some pictures later, if I can find them, of the smiling Berliners.

Isaac Hayes' sacred cow is...scientology?

Chef quits South Park over Scientology?

He is okay with talking poop, statues of established religion bleeding from areas usually unmentioned on public TV, repeated deaths of a main character, extensive sexual references, homophobia, "ethnic" slurs and so on but leaves over a parody of his religion/cult? (parts of Europe, including Germany, consider Scientology a cult).

Where is Monty Python when you need them? At least they were quite willing to make fun of all and sundry.

Absurdity, it appears, is the name of this game. Can I use it as my theme for BigNameMeeting?

ETA: Replying to Hayes' comments about quitting because he, as a "civil rights activist of the past 40 years" (how convenient that just came up now when Scientology is the issue being satirised) is not able to support "a show that disrespects [religious] beliefs and practices", Matt Stone, one of the creators of South Park, replied thus:

“This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology... He has no problem — and he’s cashed plenty of checks — with our show making fun of Christians.”

“We never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin.”

Spot on, Matt Stone!


How can you tell that someone's an optimist?

When he says at the end of a party, "It could have been worse. My mouth could've been open when he threw up."

I'm just saying, it wouldn't have been the first thing I thought of. And tough luck about Serena's dining room chair.

Flying deadlines

Thought for the week ahead:

"I love deadlines. I especially like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by."
-- Douglas Adams

Nicked from Oxblog.


Contextual differences over V is for Vendetta

TheoryGuy, today, while talking about the upcoming film V is for Vendetta, mentioned he was well-pleased that it had a bunch of unknown Brits (I paraphrase here but yous get the pov) as the main characters (apart from Natalie Portman as Evey) since that would not detract attention from the story.

After I got home, I checked on IMDB who these "unknown Brits" were only to find they were all too familiar. For those readers who follow cricket, one of the earliest times I saw Hugo Weaving (who plays "V") was on this show, where he played the legendary English cricketer Douglas Jardine. I was about 6 years old so my first-ever memories of him are vague (but fear not readers, being utter sports junkies my family owns the series on VHS and I've seen it since). Since then, he's been in heaps of films, including Bangkok Hilton (which I watched as part of my Australian politics class in undergrad--brilliant example of constructing the other as objects to be feared!), Priscilla Queen of the Desert (a drag queen), the Matrix films (Agent Smith)and LOTR (the elf king). I'd count him as one of the most recognisable faces on film (which probably says a lot about the films I watch)

Stephen Fry ("Deitrich") has also always been around from his marvellous turn as Lord Melchett (and others) in Blackadder (see Beer for a classic example), his excellent Jeeves in Jeeves and Wooster to Mirrormask, H2G2 and most recently, Tristram Shandy. Stephen Rea ("Finch") is one of those actors who pops up in major (the Crying Game, which remains one of the best films I've seen) and minor (Michael Collins) roles all the time. John Hurt ("Adam Sutler"), I've seen in films since I was in high school (starting with Playboy of the Western World as part of a high school English class to 1984, where he played Winston Smith).

My sister (the one in Maine) is convinced there're not too many British/Irish/non American actors so you end up knowing/seeing them in numerous films which adds to the recognition process (This was after we both immediately identified the Lion in the recent Narnia film, as soon as he started speaking).

Oh, I think both Stephen Rea (Northern Irish) and Hugo Weaving (born in Nigeria but an Aussie) would be rather miffed as being described as
"British" :-)

Formula for understanding: multiply thickness factor by X and add alcohol

Not a recipe for making Easter pudding or anything but basically an outlook on life--hey, it's worked for me in my over a quarter of a century of time on Earth.

After today's TS session on Richard Rorty (who, despite my attempt to kill him off, is apparently still alive), I felt like maybe I should learn to articulate better what I reckon. Or, maybe, other people would be better off blogging (actually, everyone would be better off blogging).

What led to this conclusion on my part was a good session (sitting out in the open, enjoying this unseasonably warm weather) of discussion on U.S. pragmatism. There were numerous tangents (as there always are) and it was rather enjoyable though the aspects of Rorty that I enjoyed (his subtle putting down of Asish Nandy being one of them--notice his qualifications on his understanding of Nandy's work, qualifications which are missing when he discusses other philosophers like Derrida and Heidegger) were not a big part of the discussion. At times, the discussion felt like we were all agreeing with Rorty (which, I think most of us were) but that there were some differences which got talked over/through/around.

As usual, there was a discussion of power and the commment that Rorty didn't have a theory of power. But, he did (more on this perhaps some other time. Or, more on why I thought he did have a theory of power, based on the bits and pieces of his we read).

It was his move of denying words have intrinsic meanings to them was what resonated with me. As one of "my" folk says, "...I am not trying to resolve classic philosophical disputes between, say, advocates of realism and anti-realism. And I am certainly not trying to answer ontological questions about what sorts of things exist. The focus is on the way people construct descriptions as factual, and how other [use and] undermine those constructions. This does not require an answer to the philosophical question of what factuality is. Nevertheless, this approach cannot fail to have implications for broader debates about the status of realism and relativism, and about the appropriate ontology for social sciences (Potter, 1996: 6)." The interlinkages with (the little) what I've read about U.S. pragmatism are fairly clear here.

The point being that observable stuff are what is important, what makes us able to talk about the metaphysical questions that have plagued philosophers for eons. We do it through telling stories and acting out in social relations. Nothing more. Nothing less. There's no stuff-ness in stuff (I told yous I had little articulatory skills) but, instead, stuff becomes stuff through involvement in various activities and processes and through descriptions in language. People matter and what they say and do matter--rather than trying to figure out whether there is such a thing called reality (or freedom) and what is means (and what it is), we'd be better off looking at processes through which institutions and people account for freedom (and lack thereof) in their daily activities and talks.

In other words, take on the tropes used in the attacks on your position rather than getting bogged down in details about ontology, epistemology and a whole bunch of dead white blokes that, frankly, I've not read. Take on the foundations and question the assumptions of the positionings of the questioner(s) and, usually, that's enough to get you (me) through and start a debate (possibly even a fight).

As some of my other folks put it, "...constructionist arguments are not aimed at denying the existence of tables (a very realist idea!) but at exploring the various ways in which their reality is constructed and undermined (Potter, 1996: 7)".

So, no table-thumpings please. Especially not that BigNameConference is coming up. Or, if you have to thump tables, be prepared to explain how that justifies your position.

Hey, didn't they make a movie out of this already?

Since I'm swamped with having to review the proofs for my first ever book chapter (yes, this is shameless self promotion at its height), write two papers for BigNameConference, work at my new job and amend my dissertation proposal, you'd have thought I'd have had little time to do much else.

Well, yous are wrong. I managed to write the plot to a Sci-Fi novel today. With a little help from my (online) friends, of course.

Here it is:

"A crafty psychic is gambling in an unhealthy spaceport. His workplace is destroyed by a monstrous singularity. With the help of a crafty android, he must cross into another galaxy in order to avert disaster and save his children."

Seems a bit boring to me--Dr. Who writers can sleep easy but maybe yous can do better? Go make up your own story here.


A(nother) wee bit of nationalism

For those who do not know me in RL (Real Life), I spend most of my Friday afternoons, when not engrossed in debating world shaking issues at the Theory Salon, at the local animal shelter.

Unlike folks who work with "cute" animals (see Site of the Month for examples), I hang around with invertebrates and entertain kids by imparting mind-numbing details about the mating habits of the slipper lobster. I've been told my description of the habits of pond scum remains unchallenged in the history of Invertebrate Interpreters (Our motto: "We speak for those without a voice (or a backbone)". Almost like my Third-Worldian self is supposed to do, on behalf of the oppressed over there. Wait, or is that the repressed?)

Apart from treading a path straight to hell for my role in spearing (alive) crawfish babies and feeding them to cuttlefish (I pretty much ensure survival of the fittest happens in this context), I spend most of my time reading up on odd habits of invertebrates so I can astound the next screaming child (and its parents) with my knowledge. So, imagine my pleasure when I found out today about the "Yeti Crab", newly-discovered in the South Pacific.

Yes, the "Yeti Crab"--Nepali nationalism to the fore. I love it that they named the invert after a mythical being that is reputed to hang about in the Himalayas and has never been seen. After all, if it makes sense to name an animal after a myth then next up: the Basilisk baboon or the Acromantula anemone.


International Women's Day

Is today. It's also Blogging Against Sexism Day, but I figure that we do that every day. It's late, I'm tired, Santino was robbed on Project Runway, and at Books a Million National Women's Month* coincides with Dummies month, when there are special discounts on books in the _____ for Dummies series.

I don't really need to say anything about that last part, do I? It speaks for itself? Because our loyal reader is one smart cookie, and can guess both my irritation and slight bemusement at that particular marketing decision?

I thought so.

Maybe I'll feel more like talking about this stuff tomorrow. Maybe I don't have it in me for another rant this week. Maybe the fact that I've been singing

They used to tie you up

It's a living

I didn't recognize you
Without the handcuffs

under my breath all week has finally driven me round the bend. Or the loss of the one stupid thing I never leave the house without is making it a little hard to care about mundane things like food and bills and the evils of my physical therapist.

For tonight, why don't you go over to Journey to Ithaca and read the Male Privilege Checklist that Jenny posted. Take a look at the comments section over at Ampersand's, too. It's, shall we say, enlightening.

*Yes, I know it's Women's History Month. I like my version better, because it doesn't assume that the important stuff to think about already happened.

Schrödinger's influenza

Here at Effect Measure.

Like Schrödinger's cat, the vital status of a case of feline H5N1 infection seems to be a matter of probability. If you are a German-speaking cat in Rügen you are dead. If you are a German-speaking cat in Graz, Austria, you are alive.

So, why isn't dirty water a national security issue?

The Guardian reports on how "In the next 24 hours diarrhoea caused by unclean water and poor sanitation will claim the lives of 4,000 children."

24 hours. I doubt there'll be a TV show on this though.

The news story adds, "Dirty water poses a greater threat to human life than war or terrorism. Yet it barely registers on the radar of public debate in rich countries."

Umm...that's because diarrhoea is so unsexy. Not like dead birds or terrorists. One can't deploy one's economic and military might against diarrohea, for heaven's sake. The US' reputation would be ruined. Unless, somehow, diarrhoea could be turned into a communicable disease that is likely to affect security. Then, there could be a National Strategy to combat the diarrhoea pandemic with dirty water as the enemy.

Some more: "The statistics behind the crisis make for grim reading. In the midst of an increasingly prosperous global economy, 2.6 billion people still have no access to even the most rudimentary latrine. Over one billion have no source of drinking water."

Yes, well. If yous visit Nepal and leave Kathmandu to go elsewhere, I'd recommend going "into the bushes" rather than using a "rudimentary latrine". Horror films could be made about RLs and the contents therein. Some folks probably enter RLs never to be seen again. Actually, Dr. Who's TARDIS always rather reminded me of a RL. Maybe unused/retired British Telecom telephone booths go to make RLs in other countries.

And: "Over 90% lack access to a latrine [in a slum visited by Weisz's character in the film The Constant Gardener], giving rise to a phenomenon that didn't figure in the movie: the "flying toilet". Lacking any alternative, people defecate into plastic bags that are thrown into the street, with terrifying consequences for public health."

I'd have liked to have seen that. Just in the film. Not in Reality.


Doesn't everybody feel like this?

And people wonder why I sometimes wanted to throw Deep Fried FPP out the window during meetings. It's because this is what it felt like. Every time. Every single meeting. For two years.

Same goes for almost all my classes. Sorry, WeberMan. I tried, I really did.
The millisecond we encounter boredom our brain races, leaps, bounds, or flies in a totally new direction. Sometimes it tries to do all of them at once. It pursues any event it can seize upon that sparks interest and staves off boredom.

We want to focus. We need to focus. But our brain is constantly trying to stay entertained. It's as if our brain is coated with boredom repellant teflon. I disagree with Hallowell and Ratey. I am constantly bored, even when surrounded by things that I love to do, but it is worst in public. For me, trying to pay attention when I am bored is physically uncomfortable. My brain feels like it's trying to escape out my ear.
From The Splintered Mind

This is going somewhere, actually. Back to that guest lecture I gave last week, the one with the chalkboards. I realized at the end of it (after the prof asked me if I was a global thinker, but before I showed him my modified version of the IRAC casenote format, the one with the feedback loops and the attempts to track pragmatist legal thinking) that I had only seen one other lecturer act like I do in front of a class.

Remember, I'm in the 24th grade, so I've seen a lot of teachers.

But only one of them spent the class following something like this structure:

1. talk (introduction)
2. chalkboard #1 diagram of stocks and flows
3. class activity with handout
4. chalkboard #2 diagram of feedback loops
5. powerpoint lecture #1
6. chalkboard # 3 diagram of model factors
7. powerpoint
8. talk
9. chalkboard #1a diagram of feedback loops (revised)
10. class activity with model building
11. chalkboard #4 diagram of stocks and flows
12. powerpoint
13. class activity with model building
14. chalkboard #5 system model with class input
15. powerpoint lecture #2
16. talk
17. handout on modeling, with highlights
18. talk

If you're keeping score, that means that in an hour (fifty-five minutes, really, because I was a couple of minutes late, and there was a bit of introductory stuff from the prof), I spent an average of 3.3 minutes on each method of teaching, before moving on to a different one. And in reality, the system model exercise (#14) took about 15 minutes, and the initial class activity (#3) took about ten. Each of the little "talk" segments represent time spent talking about things that weren't part of the powerpoint lecture. I've left out any mentions of things totally unrelated to the subject at hand. There were several.

So did the students look confused because of the difficult subject matter? Or because I was giving them some form of academic whiplash?

In my defense, I was late arriving, which made me nervous and more jittery than normal. And I'd drank a couple of cups of coffee earlier while prepping the lecture, but then forgot to keep drinking coffee long enough to concentrate until after the lecture. So this is worse than usual.

I have been known to hold it together for up to 22.5 minutes at a time. As long as it was a hot bench. And I've given paper presentations that lasted as long as 30 minutes in classes. I think I even once gave a 45 minute introduction to the work of some theorist or other here at TUWSNBN.

But again, the coffee is important in those situations. Or No Doz. Whatever's handy. And the ability to stay on task means that I tend to err in the opposite direction, babbling on until people's eyes roll back in their heads.

I've got no setting for "interested, but not obsessive." It's either a fugue state or out-to-lunch.

The moral of the story? Under no circumstances should I be given a room with six chalkboards in which to speak. I have a hard enough time staying focused without the ability to roam freely while scribbling on the walls.

[I think it's fair to say that Priya and I have decided to agree to disagree about RENT. The rest of you should feel free to continue the discussion, though. Since I don't know where you live, you should be pretty safe.]

Handbook on German Friendliness

In order to prepare for the World Cup, the German folk have been given training manuals to help them become friendlier.

I like how they've focused on Australians and how they should be greeted with "G'day" but I thought the victory sign being an offensive signal when performed with palms facing inwards ("up yours!") was fairly universal and not just for Aussies?

In my admittedly limited experience, I reckoned Germans were a rather friendly lot--not like the Welsh and the Scots (no free alcohol!) but very good at giving detailed directions about places to go and how to find them. Perfect for a directionally-challenged person like me.

The Roman Empire Slowly Crumbles...

Moving away from fights about Rent (for now), some excellent news today: Chelsea, financed by Roman Abramovich's billions, lost to Barcelona in the Champions League.

Maybe money can't buy you everything (well, not Champions League wins) after all. Yay.

Yes, this is a blatant attempt to write about a topic that my fellow blogger doesn't care about in hopes of moving on from Rent :-)

Pulled up from the comments again (RENT)

I just can't seem to keep my sentences from spilling over those little boxes blogger gives me to write in. I don't know if the problem is me, or the boxes.

First, the tangential observation: RENT was literally the very first time I heard of Heidegger. Sad, even a little frightening, but true.

I was not, in fact, raised on Monty Python. I watched a lot of Flying Circus, but it was hit and miss because the show was on during the day, so I only saw it when I was home sick. Somehow I wasn't exposed to the Philosophers Song until college.

Right, and with that taken care of:

On why Priya should stop talking shit about RENT before I blow a gasket:


I should preface this with the observation that I never seem to be quite financially stable enough to do what I want when it comes to theater. It was true in 1996, and it's true now, when I don't have the $1000 that the upcoming Anniversary concert requires, or the time and good luck to get one of the $20 lottery tickets for the show. They keep moving the goalposts.

Maybe it depends on when you first heard it--in 1996, when everything else was Les Mis and Cats and utter crap? Fun crap, entertaining crap, but crap nonetheless?

Later, when every other show in the late 1990s was some sort of copy of it?

In college, fresh from four years of working on R&H musicals
and not fitting in anywhere,
when people you know are suddenly sick
and nobody wants to talk about it,
because you're in Ohio and
they're always a bit behind there,
and you get the chance to see
this thing that you've heard about,
and that people are passing around bootlegs from
with unusual enthusiasm,
and you can't because $80 is way too much
money to throw away on a trip to NYC
when it could be enough to buy third-hand books for classes
if you can't find the readings in the library
and the idea that you might be able to use a computer
to get the readings
is laughable because you're lucky that you got
to take a typewriter to school,

and you realize that you really are poor now,
not just because you choose to be
but because you can't help it
and RENT is about people who don't have anything either
but each other?

In grad school, when *of course* the world sucks
and you hate the people who created the rules
and there isn't anything so exciting about a musical
that says these things
and anyway, isn't the point to feel superior
to the masses of people who love pop culture
and just happen to be the people you came from?

After listening to the Clash when your friends loved NKOTB?

After growing up in the Midwest,
where there were two possible dreams:
growing up to be your parents,
or going to New York?

When you wanted to be Mimi
but were always going to be Mark?

When you wanted to be in love with Roger,
but, again, you were always going to be Mark?

Or maybe you never fell in love with La Boheme in the first place, so you never had to think about what happens when something that isn't supposed to be that wonderful happens (and let's face it, La Boheme was not the greatest opera ever, but it was fresh and pushy and about the kind of people only talked about in whispers and the Victorian equivalent of edgy) at the right time and speaks to the right people and becomes more than it should be according to the people who know these things? Twice?

Seriously, I'm all for griping about pop culture and most of my sacred cows are fair game, but this was a big deal to me. So, while I'm happy to go along with a large amount of good-natured bemusement, I also am not going to change my mind about this. I suspect that you either connect with it or you don't, and in this particular case I'm not that interested in hearing about why people don't. I'm really not, for a bunch of personal reasons and a few aesthetic ones, because I do know just a bit about American musical theater and RENT was, in fact, important to that history, despite its musical flaws.

And there are people I've misplaced, and this show is tied to how I feel about that, and about them.

It's bad enough that I can't stand to watch Phantom of the Opera. I'm keeping this one thing. This is what I have left from that day that I realized that there was a difference between where I came from and where I was going.

So, P, you're fabulous, don't ever change, and you can talk all the shit you want about Farscape and LFN and Anne Rice and West Wing and fanfic and all the other cheesy stuff I find fascinating, but in this one case, Back. the fuck. off.


Come over to the dark side, the water's fine

Go. Read teh funny.
Basically, I’m the Archie Bunker of computers.

I think a lot of this comes from the annoying iPod commercials, and just the interior of the Apple store itself—it’s all brightly-lit and full of right angles, and free of clutter or any human involvement, like an IKEA catalog fucked Annette Bening. I do not feel comfortable in the Apple store; I feel like I should lint-brush my clothes.


I think I'm in love

And I'm going to have to start reading Oxblog again.


Pretty good b'day pressie

Especially for me. Yes, I did watch quite a few of the episodes online already (the means shall remain quiet). Yes, I don't have regular access to a TV (I'm planning on begging/bribing E to tape the episodes for me) but how could I miss the new series of (well, newish since there's another Doctor this season as Christopher Eccleston's left the show) Dr Who?

If we are having a regular series on posts about TV shows and linking them to our research, Dr. Who's a brilliant candidate--lots of othering/making of differences/what to do with other people/bad science and just loads of fun.

Sci-Fi channel, starting 17 March at 9pm EST. Can't wait.

Cricket never used to be this funny...

But when the Leader of the Free World is involved, it is.

Click to the second picture. Actually, all of them are rather amusing, if only to watch Bush's reactions.



I can blog about work and television, because tonight Numb3rs* gave a little mini-lecture on Social Network Analysis. Two, actually. One as an introduction, and one as an application of the theory. Cool stuff, and there was also some fun discussion that turned into an example of policy resistance and the law of unintended consequences.

Not that anyone called it that in the episode. "A person doesn't become violent because you talk to them..." Well, not intentionally.

Clearly, the television FBI people haven't had a lot of contact with systems theorists. That's too bad, because Charlie would be cute trying to build a system dynamics model of, well, anything. David Krumholtz could give the chickens, eggs, and roads lecture,** and I'd still watch.

But back to the fun theory bits. It wasn't a bad description of SNT, for a thirty-second blurb. It was certainly more organized and to the point than my recent foray into guest lecturing (more on that later, and on why I must never again be allowed free rein in a classroom with six chalkboards and a projector.)

Agent Colby Granger is somehow able to be both uber-buff and a nerd. Why don't I know anyone like that? Am I hanging out with the wrong crowds? The actor has an environmental engineering degree from MIT, so clearly such Supermen exist. Maybe they all live in California.

Where was I? Oh, right.

Most "Hey, I could show this episode in a class" moment:*** seeing Charlie Eppes try to explain the use of SNA to the old codger cranky former FBI agent who came back to help with the case. Followed closely by a thing with a rubik's cube that didn't sound much like standard network analysis, but was still nifty as all get out. It was all sort of like watching WeberMan in action.

Only David Krumholtz has better hair.

(Let's be honest, he's got better hair than almost anyone I've ever seen. I've certainly never met a real academic with that kind of fantastic lockage. With the publishing and teaching requirements most professors have, I'm impressed that most many a few of them manage to match their socks, let alone get a haircut.)

Yeah, I think that's all the theory you're going to get for a Friday night. I'm supposed to be at a party at dc9, after all. And I would be, but every time I turn my head in my new glasses, I feel dizzy. And I've still got that unfortunate tendency to fall down at random moments. I'm a bit of a chaotic oscillation at the moment.

A final point:**** one of the characters went to find Charlie after she looked on the internet and found out that sometimes he worked with his brother. Wonder which site she went to?)

* What? You say you've never heard of Numb3rs? Well, read this and then go buy yourself a tv.

** It's a simple way to explain reinforcing and balancing feedback loops. One of my favorite parts of Business Dynamics, actually.

*** I could make this a whole class, because there's an episode from the first season about influenza, and one from earlier this season about complexity theory. Not that I've been looking for connections or anything.

**** Hey, we could turn this into a regular series, so that we can talk about pop culture and still sound like geeks by linking every reference to something that we also sit at a conference and argue about. Or not.