Sports and Barbies

Who'd have thought a post on clothing (of all things) would actually get comments from lurkers, eh? At least it's confirmed that more than one person reads PTSD. Right now, though, I'm wondering what I'll do after next weekend when the World Cup is over. I won't have a reason to spend all day in pubs anymore (though I suppose I could write my dissertation/joint papers there).

If like me you are suffering from World Cup withdrawal, fear not: Germany versus Argentina awaits tomorrow morning. Again, for the first time in my life, I want Germany to do well. I like the way this German team plays--open, attacking football without much thought for defence and even Kahn is now fairly happy about being sidelined. Or so he said. I like the French too despite them having ridiculous politicians who make comments about how the national team is not reflective of French society. Thuram, probably playing in his last World Cup, has an excellent response.

In the meantime, read this about female supporters (of England but, based on my observations of local pubgoers, there're a lot of female supporters of France and Brazil as well). Usually, I don't like this sort of article which rather patronisingly goes on about "ooh, look how lovely, the lasses are joining in!" type of reporting but this one picks up on two common themes about female football (and perhaps other sports too) fans: the implication that, because of their femaleness, they know less of the sport than men do and that they are mostly there for watching the men (rather than the game).

Both these themes, while true to certain extents, aren't gender-specific but it is usually female fans that are framed in these ways. I find both those attitudes puzzling and also, to a certain extent, a geographically-distinct phenomenon. In the parts of South and South-east Asia I lived in and in Australia and New Zealand too you are expected to know sports, no matter what gender you are. If you don't, your conversation topics are limited and you're pretty much reduced to silence at most barbeques* (and there're loads of them so you're reduced to being silent most of the time). It's like knowing about World War Two (or the one with the Germans in it) if you are PTSD's age and grew up in Europe--something that's part of the socialisation process. Besides, unless you have a family where each member (quite fanatically) supports one team or the other, then what is there to fight about? And, really, what is life without fights?**

* Talking of barbeques, E's having one on Sunday. I'm sure she'd love for PTSD readers to attend. See, E, that's what happens when you disappear from blogging. I invite random strangers to your party.

** That is what is called (or so I'm told) a "rhetorical question". Apparently, it's a question that doesn't require an answer. Yous are most welcome to answer it if you want. Go on, give it a shot. You know you want to.

What not to wear

I guess most of yous remember the BBC programme What Not To Wear* where Trinny and Susannah mercilessly took apart people's wardrobes and ensured they were ready for whatever it is that they were up to. I always thought it was quite harsh that the person's family and friends were the ones who put up the person as a candidate for what is commonly termed a makeover. Yesterday, I realised that my family and friends would most likely put me up for a candidate, especially if I am supposed to dress as a Teacher.

What brought this fascinating insight on, you ask? Well, a severe withdrawal symptom from not having any World Cup matches to watch meant there was far too much time to do other things. Such as brood about joint papers and Nazis (more on that at a later date). And, get advice on clothing.

What advice? Well, I was told yesterday that dressing in a suit is likely to get students to respect my authority (I just had a picture of myself as Cartman there).

A major problem with following that advice is that I don't have a suit. Suits, as anyone who has wandered around shops in town can tell you, are expensive. As someone who is having problems paying my rent (and buying books for dissertating), I hardly think buying a suit is going to top my list of things to spend money on. So, no suit.

Also, suits are bloody uncomfortable. In my younger days, I used to work in a place where wearing suits was (implicitly) required, especially during the annual Commission meetings. Let me tell yous, it was not fun. If I'm supposed to be engaging students and imparting my wisdom to them, I'd rather do it in something I am comfortable in and wearing something I am feeling self-conscious about is not going to help that teaching experience.**

But, is my usual stuff okay then? I don't know. In the summer, I tend to wander about in what could be considered fairly usual summer gear of skirts/cut-offs and t-shirts. Nothing unprofessional but nothing terribly formal either. Anomie, who taught for a year at TUWSNBN, never had a problem with appearance and she and I don't dress much different (as far as I can tell). As for age, I'm older than Anomie so should have that on my side. But, Anomie also doesn't have a lamentable tendency to levity (and I do).

I can't help feeling that a bit too much is being made of appearances here (and I'm not even getting into the whole "it's different if you're a woman" issue). Yes, I realise I need to assert my authority at the start of the class but, hey, these students have paid their fees and if they don't want to listen or study, then they don't have to. My task, as I see it, is to teach students how to recognise various ways of knowing and to communicate these ways in an understandable manner, as well as to learn how to do research themselves. I'm presuming I'll be learning along with them since it's a subject I'm interested in and want to see how different students react to what we'll be grappling with. Wearing a suit and imposing authority implies that I know most of the answers and, really, I don't. I can give students tools to figure out stuff, help them think things through and communicate their views to others and that's it. Idealistic? Yes; Achievable without a suit? I hope so; After all, I'm already giving up my beloved flip-flops and that should be enough.

* Even if you've not watched the actual show, DW-watchers probably remember Captain Jack being a candidate with gynoid versions of Trinny and Susanna in WNTW in the episode Bad Wolf.

** I shall do my best not to turn up in flip-flops, my only footwear for the summer. I guess I'll have to take E and go shoe-shopping and add a pair of sandals to my shoe wardrobe.


And that is why...

I like France. No idea why but it appears that I do. They do have fantastic fans overseas and that is as good a reason as any to like them.

1998: World Cup final: France versus Brazil. Having spent the entire World Cup period living in Sydney, I am visiting a friend in Melbourne. The University of Melbourne, where my friend lives, is right by Lygon Street, the Italian section of Melbourne and possibly one of the few places where one could watch football in those days in Australia. But, we couldn't find anywhere showing the final. And, it was raining. We ended up going back to Uni, sneaking into the Faculty lounge (through a window) and joining a hardy bunch of folks who had gotten up in the middle of the night (and didn't realise we weren't faculty? I don't know. No one said anything and we had been early so had settled down by the time everyone else got there) to watch the final. Everyone was supporting Brazil. Except me. I had no reason not to support Brazil but I wanted France to win. And, they did. Zidane became a hero.

2006, Second Round of the World Cup: France versus Spain. Having spent (most) of the first round in SmallTown Virginia watching the matches at quite possibly the only pub showing it, I have been watching the second round matches (or, most of it, as yous know from my previous posts) at the Harp and Fiddle in Bethesda. The waitpeople know me now (I'm not sure this is a good thing but it's something that has happened) and I watched Brazil-Ghana there this morning. There were about 10 Brazil supporters, one guy supporting Ghana and me, in the morning. I really need write nothing more about that except Why couldn't Ghana finish their moves? They played so well in midfield and their final touch let them down. It was incredibly frustrating notwithstanding the fact (yes, it's a fact) that two of Brazil's three goals were most likely offside.

Anyway, France versus Spain 2006: After a walk around the block after the first match (in wet and miserable conditions), I came back to find the place was now packed with French supporters. About 40 people were there, including about 8 Spanish supporters. I found a table, sat and waited for the match to start. I was then joined by Robert, a Swedish musician with an Irish accent, who then proceeded to talk through most of the important parts of the match.* As for me, it's France all the way--I rather like their fans (especially those in the pub who kept on yelling and singing throughout). The best moment was when Zidane scored and someone yelled "Je t'aime, Zizou!"** In the last ten minutes, the French supporters were chanting, singing and thumping tables. For a rainy Tuesday afternoon in Washington, watching the World Cup was as good as it gets ***.

* For the record, I'd like to write that if I ever joined someone else's table during a football match, I wouldn't then start talking...and talking...and talking some more. I'd just keep quiet, watch football and then, during breaks and all, maybe (quite possibly not though since I'm not social at all and had The Concept of the Political to wade through today) talk about tactics. I would not talk about life in general and the concept of religion in Balinese society (no, I'm not joking). Really, I couldn't give a toss about either of those right then.

** No, it wasn't me. I was too busy recovering from being high fived (high-fiven? Not sure what the past tense is) by a complete stranger, who then proceeded to apologise. Have yous realised how difficult it is to refuse to high-five? It's one of those social conventions which, when someone raises their palm at you, you hit it back. Or, you sort of tap it and look incredibly furtive since you realise what an utter prat you must look (which is what I do).

*** And, I'll be back there Friday morning, PTSD readers, if anyone fancies keeping me company and thus helping me avoid chatty Swedes and high-fiving strangers. Though considering Friday's Germany-Argentina, it'll probably be a quiet crowd. Still, come one, come all!


And that is why...

I don't like Italy.

Anyone watching the Italy-Australia match just now could not have missed the way the penalty was gained by the Italian bloke who dove over the Australian defender at the last minute of extra time. Oh, why did Lucas Neill have to fall over right then? Why? When he (and all of us watching) knew the Italians are good at getting penalties?* Australia missed Kewell and played too tentatively or else they'd have won. In any case, an amazingly good job and they would/should have won today.

Didn't think Australia losing would feel this bad but it does. I guess it's a good thing that Nepal will never make it in any sporting competition during my lifetime or else I'd be an utter wreck.

Off to drown my sorrows with coffee. I would like to promise some non-football blogging soon but since tomorrow's Ghana-Brazil and France-Spain, I wouldn't hold your breaths.

* All right, I'll probably delete this soon since PTSD is probably not the site for it but the Italians are a bunch of shameless diving cheats who fall over or try find people to fall over at the slightest waft of a breeze. And, all who talk of "oh, strong/better teams should go through" have not been watching them play. I'm far far more annoyed right now than I remember being in a long, long time (probably means I should get annoyed more often). If there were a punching bag (or a rifle range), I'd probably shoot a few things. Or break them. It's just so bloody annoying.


A tale of four matches (and very little else)

I still want to write a paper on the ethnography of football-watching in pubs in the Washington, DC area during World Cup 2006 (watch football and call it research, that is) but since I have been banned from writing anything that is not my dissertation, I'm subjecting PTSD readers to my random musings of events over the weekend.

Saturday, Match 1: Germany vs Sweden
Expectations: fairly high; thought this would be a good, competitive match; wanted Sweden to do well but Germany to win
People: two, to start off with; joined by one another person (boyfriend of my friend--I've been noticing all my non-academic friends are couples who enjoy watching footy) and then by about 7 others by the end of the match.
Place: Harp and Fiddle, Bethesda. Excellent place to watch football and lounge around. Big screen. Good place to watch because of a lack of presence of FYF (Also known as "Four year fans"--those people who only get "into" football once every four years but insist on telling whoever's around about what is going wrong. Exemplified by a guy who kept on telling his mates why Freddie Adu would have made a difference to the US team during the USA-Ghana match).
New people: Some German bloke who works at NIH ended up joining us (when it was just the two girls) and trying to explain various facets of the game. When Germany scored their first goal, he jumped up and broke a lamp fitting. Then apologised. I don't think the lamp fitting has forgiven him yet.
Also, a randomGermanGuy who was dressed in German kit and had a (rather large) German flag which he kept on waving at moments when other people wanted to watch the match, thus blocking their views.
The match itself: rather dull. The Germans scored twice, Sweden gave up, the end.

Match 2: Argentina versus Mexico
Place: Same (I walked around for about an hour and came back to watch the second match).
Cast of characters: Same group, on my part but with the addition of NIH German Guy, who decided to join us.
The match: Mexico put up a great fight. There were loads of neutral folks during this match while there were hardly any neutrals (based on people wearing team kits) during the Germany-Sweden one. Addition of Spanish-speaking folks who yelled things in Spanish (which I kept on asking my friends to translate, to their increasing annoyance).

Sunday: Match 1 England versus Ecuador
Place: Lucky Bar
Cast of characters: five of us (including one English person)
Other people: Loads. We got there at 955am and the place was already packed. As with the USA-Ghana match, we had to stand up for the entire match. Realised that I'm getting on in age and can't be expected to stay on my feet for so long, especially to watch the Bloody English.
Atmosphere: Apart from about 3 Ecuador supporters, the place was packed with English fans, singing along to the cheesy football songs that was being blasted over the tannoy and yelling "Engurland...Engurland" at frequent intervals. If it had been just me, I'd probably not have entered the place since singing English people can never be a good sign (remember Take That? Or even Elton John?).
The match: Pretty dreadful. England would not put the ball on the ground, Wayne Rooney was isolated up front and half the midfield (Joe Cole and Frank Lampard and, except for his free kick, David Beckham) were oddly missing in action. Typical England play, in other words.

Match 2: Portugal vs the Netherlands
People: Just me since friends were "doing the Mother-in-Law thing). But, at Harp and Fiddle (since I needed to sit).
Other people: a lot of the same people from Saturday, including the German Guy with Flag who was now dressed in a singlet and shorts. I sat with a Man Utd supporter who, when Ronaldo went down, yelled out "Get up you p...fter!". I didn't mention I supported Liverpool and we got along famously.
The atmosphere: The place was packed but not as much as the Lucky Bar. There were a lot of neutrals (including most of the Germans and the Argentinian supporters from Saturday), a group of about 20 Netherlands supporters sitting right in front of the big screen and about a dozen Portugal supporters sitting to their left.
The match: Utter chaos with the ref going a bit nuts and handing out cards left, right and centre. Oh, and Portugal won so they'll play England.

Tomorrow, it's Italy versus Australia in the morning and then off to Uni for me. I suppose I should really do some work on this joint paper (which is not really a joint paper so I've lost much of my enthusiasm for it. But, it's a paper and it'll get published so it's all for the best, I reckon).



by Serena with the Eight Things meme. So here goes, even though lots of people know totally bizarre things about me from regular conversations and I really had to think about stuff that would fit. This is difficult when I don't quite grasp the concept of randomness.

Eight random things about me:

1. At the moment, my favorite song is "Left and Leaving" by The Weakerthans. It makes me want to curl into a ball and cry. That might be a good enough reason. Given that I tend to treat the music I choose as a personal soundtrack, I'm trying to ignore any psychological implications of this.

2. I don't know how to whistle.

3. I can tie a knot in a cherry stem with my tongue. You'd be surprised how often it comes in handy as a party trick.

4. I'm terrified of army ants, the big black ones. I have good reasons for it.

5. I'm saving up for a B flat French Horn to replace my current instrument. I don't think my neighbors will appreciate it.

6. I only really relax when I'm surrounded by trees and lakes and not a road in sight or sound. Given the chance, I'd move northwest without looking back, without even blinking. I'll take snow over summer every time.

7. I can't read books I don't love.

8. I'm addicted to philosophy Lemon Custard lip gloss.

I'm not tagging anyone in particular, so if you want to do the list, consider yourself tagged.


Setting goals (and measuring them)

My tombstone (if I had one--not that we, Nepali folks, do since we get burnt to a crisp and then have ashes chucked away in the nearest river but if I did have a tombstone) would definitely not have the words "Brilliant organiser" on it. My idea of getting things done is to wander around and hope stuff happens which fixes things somehow. Usually, it does (but not before I annoy all and sundry--remember trip to Wisconsin, E?).

However, I am about to change, starting from today.

Inspired by this, I have made my 90-day Goals list. The site includes a helpful "Goals setting worksheet" to keep you going.

But what if my goals are far beyond what may be expected in 90 days? E.g. for the "travel" goals, I would ideally like to travel and meet up with friends and family overseas. The chances of this happening in 90 days: none. I have no spiritual goals at all and nor do I have family goals since I don't have family here (the ones I do have, I just go to for the home-cooked food. "Bludge more" is probably not the type of goal the Goal-setters were hoping for). And what's a "personal environment" goal when it's around anyway? I'd love my personal environment to be nice and green and have a beach nearby but I know it's not going to happen.

I hate making goals. They just make me realise how depressing this summer's going to be. Scoring goals, on the other hand, I could (and do) go for: Kewell for a few more against the blasted Italians, please, but before that, Portugal on Sunday. C'mon Ronaldo!!


A tale of two matches

I feel a bit guilty about even putting this up (considering I have a long overdue response to an article to write and another paper to finish up) but here goes:

Four things I did for the first (and possibly last) time in my life:

1. Support the big ugly Superpower over a tiny "developing" (or, as the bloody patronising commentators kept on calling it, "third world") team. But, for those in the know, the BUS is actually a fairly terrible team and quite possibly the underdogs in this match.

2. Stand for two hours to watch footy. Really. In a pub. Not even in a proper football field. The reason is that by the time we got to the place, it was packed (and stopped letting people in right after I got there) so we had to stand.

3. Support Italy. Seriously. That is so never going to happen again. I must admit I'm not that too disappointed that the USA didn't make it through (since it was Ghana who did, after all) but Italy? I'll admit it was only a bit of support, not much. Still, it's seriously disturbing since, in general, I think they are cynical whingers.

4. Yell out "Oy Oy Oy" in response to the (fairly small) Aussie contingent's call of "Aussie Aussie Aussie". I can only claim a reversion back to teenage years, when the call was fairly common during rugby season. Actually, the Australia-Croatia match made me realise why I won't ever need to shoot guns (or do some other nefarious activity) for "getting a rush" (the feeling that some of the people, who had never held or shot a gun before, gave after shooting automatic rifles at DarkLiquid) is that I can get a similar feeling from a football match. Until Kewell scored, I was sure Australia would not make it through. When Kewell scored, I was oy oy-ing with the best of them.

I have to admit that I like living in Washington because it's one of the few places in the world where you can walk into a pub and have people from each of the countries watching the matches--during the Australia-Croatia match (at a different place to the first one since my mates and I decided we really needed to sit), there was a group of Aussies on our left, a group of Croats on the right and us in the middle. Oh, and one of my friends was the only person in that place watching the Brazil match (on a small TV).

Teaching high school students, the short version

1. Not a good idea to call them kids. I'll have to stop doing that.

2. I talk too much. In general, and when I'm nervous. And apparently, when I'm not getting enough sleep.

3. DC in the summer is not a good place to wear long sleeves.

4. These are the most polite high school students I have ever seen. Somebody called them Stepford students, and that's not the worst description I've heard.

5. They're also very determined to do well, and smart, so this first class looks like it'll be a good one.

6. On a totally unrelated note, it's possible to miss people and not know it until I talk to them. Sort of like not remembering why I like due South until I watch it again. Strange, but true.


The many faces of Chi

Random thoughts from this afternoon:

1. I will never understand baseball (which isn't necessarily a bad thing): why have a team sport where individual play is (supposedly) prized? On a sports-related theme, LilSis1 and LilSis2 are planning an outing to the New Zealand-Australia rugby match in early July. I'm (as yous might expect) extremely envious. Rugby matches, especially NZ-Oz ones, are fantastic spectacles (I generalise based on a small sample of two).

2. This is my first summer without going anywhere overseas in a long while. I already feel slight nuttiness coming up, especially now that LilSis2 (the one who was here) is now in New Zealand with LilSis1 (the one named after a South American country which no one in my family's ever been to) and apparently having a marvellous time, planning trips to LOTR sites. It's a good thing I need a visa to go anywhere (and don't have a credit card) or else I'd be flying off to whenever by early August.

3. Chi is pronounced "kai" not "chee". Unless you are talking of the Chinese concept of life energy. I think that one is pronounced as "chee".

4. Imagine going to a dark building in the middle of the day. All doors are locked and there are signs saying the building is shut down for the summer. You find an open door and walk in to see many bodies (small and larger) lying about on the floor, covered with blankets. It's rather chilly (especially after the sweltering day outside) and there's no movement.*

5. Catching up with an old friend and making plans is always fun. Regular meetings planned over the summer when we can both whinge about writing (sure to be dreadful) and housemates (bloody nitwits, all of them) over tall schooners of beer.

6. Preparing for the big match tomorrow and trying to see if I can reconcile my (usual) football-watching friends who happen to support opposing teams. I wonder if it's too late to pull a sickie and watch the match at home by myself?

7. On the "if I tell myself it will happen, it will" list: Write drafts of various things (but not the chi-squared analysis of whether democratisation contributes to World Cup success. Doesn't that sound like fun, though?) including dissertation over the next 2-3 months of the summer.

8. I miss DW-watching now that E's off on a Due South kick. I do.

Yous will have to wait for E to get back from her first teaching gig today and (hopefully) write about it. Don't worry, despite my DarkLiquid experience (about which yous shall hear of continuously from now on), I am not planning an insurgency to overthrow (well, sideline) E and take over PTSD. Not yet, anyway.

* It turns out I'd walked into the childcare centre where the kids were having their afternoon nap. A helpful woman directed me to where I needed to go (and even took me there). It was a bit of a shock to see the inert bodies in a seemingly-abandoned residence hall though. Too much Terrorism workshopping, I reckon.

Proposing a bit of dressing-room research

As both E and I run about-- not literally, of course, considering the temperature here is nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit and E wears nifty heels and I don't run unless something large and scary and bear-like is chasing me (and I don't have my Darkliquid-ian M4 Rifle) getting things ready for summer sessions and watching football (me) and teaching (her), it appears PTSD has been a bit neglected. I would love to tell yous this is going to be a well-thought out academic post but, no, it's actually going to be a bit of a filler while I wrestle with ideas about a paper (jointly-written) that's slowly being eroded of its joint action-ness and reverting to a dominant single self. I guess I'd be all right if I'd been the dominant single self but since I'm not, it's rather annoying. Or, as annoying as I can get in this heat--even mustering up annoyance is far too much effort.

So, where's the filler, yous ask? Here it is: it's an article on what type of government seems suited for World Cup victory.

The thing is that I'm not sure an adequate statistical comparison can be made, throughout the years, without adding one important (to me, anyway) factor: most of the top players of almost all the teams in the 2006 World Cup play in the European leagues. Most of them play in the top teams of the European leagues. Yous could probably say most play or will play for Chelsea (Essien, Robben, Ballack, Shevchenko, Cech, Cole, Terry, Crespo, Drogba, and so on). This was not the case even a decade ago and it is bound to impact, if not the result, then the way in which teams train and play among themselves.

Or, does it not? I don't know. That's why I'm proposing a research project (preferably to be done after I finish dissertating--perhaps during the next World Cup). If most of the top players are playing in leagues in Europe, it would be a great study (apart from leading to loads of free football-watching in the name of "research") to see how the various teams' dressing rooms and training arenas are organised, what types of groupings form, who allies with whom, and so on.

Also, statistical analysis of World Cup winners/government types would be fairly useless as the data set is fairly small (the Cup only started in 1930 and is held every four years with a 12-year break during World War Two*) and the "government type" variable (with sub variables of the different types of government) is not likely to have many examples as the Cup is played fairly infrequently. Therefore, you'll get something like the throwaway result that the blog post noted above has--the best type of government to have if you want to win the World Cup is to be Brazil. Fun but useless information in case Nepal (to give one example) wants to have a five (or fifty)-step plan to win the Cup in the future.

Therefore, other types of research, especially my proposed research on how teams form groupings and coalitions among each other would be more useful in describing boundary-formation and identity-constructions. Do European-based players hang out together? How about age? Or language?** How do various groups represent each other (or the management)? I propose this research would be far more useful to International Relations and research on self/other boundary-makings than an analysis of regime types. Regime types are just so old these days. Besides, who wouldn't want to hang out with players during the World Cup, watch trainings and matches and get to call it work. Now, I just need to find funding.

* I wasn't sure how many Cups had been missed during WWII so I went to check on the FIFA site where I found this useful bit of news:

"Throughout the Second World War the Italian Vice-President of FIFA, Dr. Ottorino Barassi, hid the World Cup trophy in a shoe-box under his bed and thus saved it from falling into the hands of occupying troops."

I'd love to make a "one useful Italian" comment about that but that might offend PTSD readers.

** As an example, listen to Spain's Xabi Alonso speak when giving interviews in English. After a couple of years in Liverpool, he drops into Scouse-speak at times.


And now for something completely different

Back to regularly-scheduled programming.

It's Australia-Brazil today (at noon) but I'll be on the train on my way back to Washington. The Guardian recommends a "sumo face off" between Mark Viduka and Ronaldo.


And then it's all over (or, what to do when you're outed)

Went to bed at 5am (yes, academics live demanding lives, full of research and writing, toiling away into the early hours of the morning). When waking up, was confronted by the detritus of wine and beer containers, empty glasses and remnants of foie gras still on the picnic tables outside my flat. For your reference, I'm definitely searching for these folks at future conferences. They know how to enjoy the good life in addition to having the best Mother-in-law stories. Anyway, walked in late to class to find that I'd been outed as a blogger. Suffered pangs of panic in case I'd slagged off anyone. Realise my usual style is to slag off all and sundry. Hope people still talk to me after that. Get increasingly worried in case they sic Darkliquid Private Security Operators on me. Decide not to open my flat door this evening in case black-clad blokes with rifles burst in and take me away to a secret location. PTSD readers, if you don't hear from me by tomorrow, call E. Wait, on second thoughts (considering E's incommunicado), call my Mum.

Dinner last night was at the marvellous Wren Building at the college, designed by Christopher Wren. Someone took the time to explain this to me so I am sharing. I hear the beef was good but since I don't eat meat, I can't comment on that. The after dinner speaker was Cofer Black. He did mention something but that's off the record (or so we were told) so there yous go. The food was good, the company fun (some of the same people who ended up at the late night story-telling/drinking session at the picnic tables.) and I only wish "qualitative" folks did a gig as nice. Though if they did, I'm not sure I'd go since it'd mean having to participate more instead of just sitting, eating, drinking and telling stories.

Today was weird. Going to bed at 5am and waking up at 9am is not conducive to terrorising (especially if it's not real terrorising where you presumably have an adrenaline rush going before you do anything). Turned up for the "Game Theory and Terrorism" section, which made rational choice modelling seem like shiny, happy, methodology. Was (almost) convinced that I should start formal modelling and realised I may be slowly losing my mind (which is what Game Theory probably does to one). That's what 8 days of free food and alcohol does to you.

Sneaked off in the afternoon (and hence missed what seemed like a potentially fun session on simulating terrorism--what did they do, I wonder? Pretend to be terrorists and Governments? Shoot each other for real now that we've practiced at Darkliquid?) to watch the best match of the World Cup so far. I do not often say these words but here I go: I love (the) America(n) football (soccer) team. I do. Despite having a public seemingly-indifferent to the sport, the team's always played hard and run fast and they always keep trying. Technically, they are not sound; aesthetically, they are not Brazil (though did anyone else watching see Brian McBride take his top off at every op? The man has a fantastic upper body*) but they run and pass well. If only they'd not been so crap versus the Czechs. Now, my two favourite teams in the group--Ghana (on 3 points) and the USA (on 1 point) play each other. If Italy beat the Czechs and the USA win, I think the USA will still go through to the second round but Ghana won't. It's bloody unfair one of them is not in Spain's group. Or Portugal's. Or England's.

In any case, the match was great. I don't much like the Italians (did yous notice their sideburns? Even their sideburns were shaved and perfectly shaped) but they usually manage to get the job done. This time, though, if they'd had a bit of luck, the USA should have easily won. Oh, I also think I got macked on (a new word in my vocabulary from last night. Not sure if that's how it's used) at the football-watching. Surprisingly, the bar was packed (easily around 50 people in the bar). Some bloke, who I thought was just surprisingly friendly (and people do start talking during these matches, as you know, especially if the match is as heated as the USA-Italy one) and his mates (including--and I do know how to pick them--the one Italian supporter in the pub) were sitting at my table. At the end, he was asking if I wanted to go out "have a drink later".**

Went back to the Workshop, said goodbye and am now holed up in my flat with my computer. Got a lovely green Workshop T-shirt out of this--I'll get E to take a pic of me in it and put it up when I get back to Washington. In the end, the thing was fantastic. I am definitely searching these people (well, the ones I actually did talk to) out at future conferences. Though I may have been disappeared by then.

* IntLaw's probably going to refuse to ever watch football with me after that comment. But, did yous see McBride take his kit off (well, not all his kit, of course). He's been about ever since I've watched the USA play and I'll miss him when he retires. What's up with Christiano Ronaldo though? Is his sunscreen orange or has he been wearing fake tan (if so, why?)? The kid looked like a tangerine in this morning's match (but his penalty was lovely).

** In case yous think I'm bragging about my pulling power in a space reserved for academic conversations, let me tell yous (and PTSD folks who know me in RL already know this) this is an extremely rare event and hence worth writing about. Probably even worth taping and replaying every once in a while, when I'm dissertating, so I know there's a whole world out there somewhere away from my computer.

Oh and I said no. I've got loads of TUWSNBN work to do tonight as I've spent the past three days, sitting on the picnic benches with a bunch of folks, telling and listening to (what may politely be called "extremely indelicate") stories till the wee hours of the morning. Besides, remember what your mum told you about going off with strange blokes in pubs (in case you are wondering, she probably said not to do it. It's apparently never a good idea).


Notes on a Fieldtrip, Part II (or, Academics with Guns)

And here's the second part

The lunch: it's in a mess—reminds me of MASH (which is, sadly, my only reference of a Mess). Lunch includes lots of fried food with salt and cheese. This can't be good for the health of the Darkliquid operators. I mean, there wasn't even any water (the choice was between Gatorade and Iced Tea. Did even Coke and Pepsi refuse to be associated with mercenaries?). That is most likely why their turnover rate is very high.

To round-off the “active part” of the day, there's the shooting. I will disappoint my PTSD readers by saying I was one of two people (out of 50 or so) who didn't shoot. I did learn how to load and unload a Beretta, a Glock, an M4 and another big Gun whose name starts with “S” and which I have forgotten but I didn't shoot. I think (and LilSis picked up on this as, in between all this Darkliquid-ing, I was frantically calling her to learn whether Trinidad and Tobago had managed to draw with England. Sadly, they didn't though two Liverpool players scored for England). In any case, I didn't shoot because everyone else was shooting. The reaction of DB to this refusal to shoot was rather amusing too. He said, “Can I persuade you? Do you think it's just bad? Can I change your mind?”. I don't think shooting is “bad” but I just didn't want to do it then. Again, not many academics can say they have been "peer pressured" by a Private Security Operator.

Others did shoot so imagine 50 academics, each shooting rounds, with only 3 instructors about. Nothing occurred—we had a rather dodgy moment when DB yelled (in his best parade ground voice) at someone who used “the wrong gun” to shoot the wrong target (he used the BigS gun to shoot at a steel target, which were apparently limited to pistols). But, it all went well, including the Group Photo at the end (where the women—about 7 in total—were given the guns to carry and to stand in front of the group. I'm trying to get this picture so I can put it up for you, PTSD readers, to enjoy)

Then, it was off to the Gift Shop (and the story of the big black bear which was shot on Darkliquid grounds for allegedly almost attacking an Operator and which is now stuffed and holds pride of place by the entryway to the Gift Shop). The Gift Shop has Darkliquid T-shirts, Darkliquid magnets, Darkliquid other stuff and also the M4 for sale (a bargain at $1,999).

During the course of the day, we often hear of "Mr. King"* whose “passion” it was to start up Darkliquid. Parallels between Mr. King (of whom no pictures are ever seen and who is apparently the only shareholder of Darkliquid) and Dr. Evil are made by my fellow participants (well, by my dinner-mates. The reactions of people to Darkliquid is a different story).

Overall, a fantastic day. Darkliquid (and DB) were the highlights of the Workshop so far. Today, it's back to footy though the matches today are fairly boring (as are the presentations). I think Argentina might win the Cup, at this rate. But, then, one can't tell since in the knockout stages, anyone can have a good day and oust a better-playing team. So, Go Germany! Go Spain!!

* ETA: A quick bit of Googling reveals that Mr King is a right-wing Christian, whose father invented some gizmo for cars (visors, I think?). So, Mr King is a multimillionaire right-wing Christian. In charge of a large plot of land. With loads of weapons and highly-trained people (and the facility to quickly train more). If I were in charge of the two states Mr King has his training facilities in, I'd be a bit disturbed.

Notes from a Field-Trip (or, why Lumberjacks and Mercenaries are Similar)

This was just too long so I had to turn it into two posts. Here's the first one.

Got up at 7am. Had been told to wear “pants” (which, let me tell yous, I always do) and shoes. Hadn't brought shoes so ended up in cropped trousers and flipflops. Wandered outside the flat (remember that I had spent a major proportion of the night before had been the “Long Walk Home” and getting lost and calling Emergency). Thankfully, found some other folks headed towards where the bus was going to be and joined them. Realised that, without a posse of people around me, I'd have gotten lost on my way to the bus (and missed Darkliquid. Which, let me tell yous, would have been tragic).

The bus: The bus is fairly full. Ignore the person in the seat next to me by reading a book I discovered at the back of the sofa in the flat/dorm room I'm staying in (I also found four bottles of beer in the fridge). Since it's about a racecar driver apparently losing his nerve (while dressing in black and scoping out other companies' cars), it's a gripping read. Too bad the 2-hour drive is not enough time to allow me to finish it. So far, I'm not sure if Johnny (the driver) has lost his nerve or if he is faking it.

The bus winds its way along a narrow road and, suddenly, a big sign crops up. It has a Pawprint of a big mammal (with target lines drawn around it) and is fairly unmissable. This sign is ubiquitous around the compound.

We arrive at the main building of the facility. It's big, it's glossy and it's located near a lake. The lake has two ship structures on one end and we see some figures (clad in black, obviously) doing various training exercises and running up and down and jumping off ladders.

The Darkliquid bloke (DB from now on) joins the bus: his first words are about how he testified in front of Congress the day before and “popped his cherry in front of Congress.” Gasps are heard on the bus. Later, the participants discuss how this phrase (pretty much his first words) was received.

We get a tour of the facility: the best part was the driving track where apparently one can do things like deliberately skid your car, go up and down ramps, jump off “elevations” and so on. There are other facilities—the bloody place is 7500 acres and growing—target shooting, training dogs, etc. Most of the people training (dressed in black and looking what one may imagine a “private security operator” to look like) are men. The important part of this tour was DB telling us the bunkhouses had satellite TV. I plan to ask about the England-Trinidad match when we get off the bus.

Forget this in the rush to find a workable loo (loos are scarce on Darkliquid territory) and get back in time for DB's presentation. We have been warned (at the beginning of the trip) not to wander off by ourselves. We are shown a video of some Darkliquid operations, set to Van Halen (a song which I should really recognise but don't--it's whiny and very 1980s). It appears Darkliquid is a humanitarian, just, law-abiding, altruistic organisation which helps out “our brave men and women in uniform” worldwide (which is apparently one long word. It's replaced antidisestablishmentarianism as the longest word in the English language). Who knew? I am fairly keen on joining Darkliquid, especially after DB mentions how he has a plan to "save the Darfurians" and how Darkliquid could get involved in "humanitarian operations" since (as we all know) the UN was "Operationally useless". DB should talk to Bono.

During DB's talk, Loud gunshots punctuate the talk—often and get louder towards the end. Imagine us, about 50 folks, sitting in an office with single gunshots and machine gun shots routinely going on in the background.

DB then gets miffed when someone asks about Darkliquid people as “mercenaries” and says that under United Nations laws, Darkliquid folks are not mercenaries but private security operators (or something like that).

But, once he, in the middle of his talk, said “imagine you are a lumberjack” at the “breeching station” and in the “danger zone”, then he lost me. Apparently the tasks of lumberjacks and “private security operators” are similar. Insert your own Monty Python images here with the Darkliquid folks as lumberjacks. It's difficult to take any black-clad blokes seriously when you're imagining them.

DB also talks about how "Mr King" (the Creator of Darkliquid) has just finished building an airship which "can be used to patrol the border and thus free our brave men and women for other important tasks". A participant mentions why not use satellites and, this being a bunch of academics, wonder whether anyone's told Mr. King about the Hindenburg (oh, and about the instability of Helium).

More in Part II of the post.


Half-way through (or, how I learnt to stop worrying and love the Quant folks)

It's the halfway point in the Workshop and here're the highlights. This is a two-parter since I didn't update yous on yesterday. So, what did happen then? Well, it rained (poured) and I didn't get to take my computer in and had to rely on my neighbour for World Cup updates. It was hellish (though fostered cross-participant interaction). Some highlights:

1. Feminist terrorism researcher (her term, not mine), makes the comment "All Europeans are racist" and elaborates this by comparing the USA (not very racist, apparently) to Europe. Minor uproar and debates but surprisingly (to me, since I disagree with her) a lot of agreement.

2. Bloke in white Polo shirt with "USA" inscribed on it and white running shorts* gives us a talk on the "Legal aspects of Terrorism". The presentation is mostly about how he used to prosecute terrorists in "his day". The relevancy of using this to teach any future students of mine remain unknown. Do I tell them of my glory days when I used to prosecute terrorists? How did he know they were terrorists anyway?

Being told that schools operated by "Muslim charities" overseas "are not Disney--they are Madrassas" and having one of those moments where you imagine a Disney-like Madrassa film, where all ends happily, with "happy" being open to definition.

3. Free dinner. Getting lost after dinner and having to call Emergency (after walking around campus for 40 minutes in search of the main road, after having taken a short cut) to get me home. Getting a lift back to the flat in a police car. It's been a while since that happened.

4. The surreal experience of having British Islamic rap recited to to us, at 9 in the morning, in a German accent by a steretypically "sweet old lady" in a pink sweater.Yes, my English was terrible in the sentence but please just try imagine that. I wish I had a camera at times like those.

5. Listening to fellow dinner person talk of why she could not understand why (male) suicide bombers got rewarded with 72 virgins when "72 whores who knew what they were doing" would be a more rational reward.

6. Being the "smartarse" person in the workshop by pointing out simulation exercises asking about justice and injustice require an ethnographic analysis, not a statistical one. Having a rather interesting discussion on the topic with the presenter (who, like all Evil Quant People) turned out to be hugely nice. It's always difficult (for me anyway) to fight with people who are nice. If he'd turned out to be a mean little bugger, I'd have had more fun in messing up the simulation and telling him off about why he (and Game Theory) was wrong.

Oh, also playing the "Hobbes simulation" (with the same presenter), one that I hope to try out on any future students I have. Fantastic fun, especially if it's an introductory IR class. With us, people just made alliances (without the Leviathan).

That was yesterday. Today was the highlight of the workshop so far. A visit to DarkLiquid, "the most comprehensive professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations company in the world."

And, E and the rest of you who read this and know me in RL, I'm actually being social. Or, as social as I can be. I'm hanging out with some blokes and having dinner/walking about town instead of (as is my wont) playing on my computer. So, you'll have to wait till later to read of DarkLiquid as I'm about to be late for my appointment.

* Not a good costume at the best of times. Definitely not a good costume for a workshop/conference when you're likely to be standing up and walking around a lot. Okay, I'll say it: Blokes should really not wear white athletic shorts with t-shirts tucked in. They just shouldn't.

Ten reasons that meetings are not my natural environment

1. On a sunny day, the absolute last place I ever want to be is the third floor conference room of anywhere at all. I'd rather not know what I'm missing, thanks.

2. I can't ever decide if I'm more irritated by conversations that have nothing to do with the topic at hand, or the efforts of others to stay on task. Yes, I'm a control freak. No, a discussion with colleagues is not a good place to display this quality.

3. I learn by doing. My default approach to all tasks is "figure it out along the way." When someone asks me how to do something, I can demonstrate but not explain in words the process that is required. So it's five minutes to fuck up the explanation, then forty-five seconds to sit down and run through the task, then another five minutes to lead someone else through the task that I can recall with my hands but not my head. This makes meetings much longer than they need to be.

4. If I'm uncomfortable with someone, it makes my skin feel twitchy to be in the same room with them. This shows on my face, I think.

5. If I'm not, I have a tendency to completely forget that whole "personal space" thing. So I sometimes only remember afterwards that leaning past a person to the other end of a table is not the solution to a keyboard button that needs pressing. My sister would tell me to use words to get what I want, but that doesn't generally work as quickly.

6. Sitting and talking is not comfortable. Sitting, yes, and talking, sure thing. But the two together make me trip over my brain and say stupid things. I don't know how people manage to have conversations where they aren't moving and doing something else at the same time.

7. My law school poker face has gone completely to hell in the past four years. There was a time when I could sit for two hours and make no visible indication of what I was thinking. These days, I'm lucky if I make it two minutes.

8. Pizza + pop + laptop + meeting = accident waiting to happen. Even when I manage to make it through without spilling something, I spend the whole time waiting for the other shoe to drop.

9. Anyone who knows me is aware of my difficulties with the whole "don't interrupt" rule. This is a rule which is ruthlessly applied during things like meetings. The application of this rule is guaranteed to make me miserable. So miserable that I spend the rest of the day cranky and snappish with people who haven't the faintest idea why.

10. I leave meetings with a list of things to do, but my relief at being out of the meeting and my annoyance with anything related to it means that I avoid doing those things until the urge to throw something subsides.

And this is when the meeting itself goes as well as can be expected, and I like the people I'm meeting with, and it's about a topic that I enjoy talking about. In other words, I feel like crawling under a rock after a *good* meeting.

I want to punch walls and scream after bad ones. Most of them are somewhere in between, so things could be worse.


Why the Dark Side is Always More Fun (or, Etiquette Lessons to a Postgrad)

Now, yous already know that I am unlikely to get a proper job in academia here--after all, I have no social skills, I don't hang out with people at conferences and I have a distressing tendency to pick holes in other folks' arguments (latest transgression--telling this "Hotshot" terrorism guy Game Theoretical models of the study of Terrorism are just plain wrong and a complete waste of time).

However (and this was the case with BigNameConference earlier this year when I found the Realist bunch far more entertaining and nice than the people I was supposed to know/hang out with. Realists were also less clique-ish than the Constructivists, if that were possible), I have decided over tonight's dinner that these Terrorism people are surprisingly full of helpful advice.

Why do I say that, yous ask? Well, we all went to dinner. Over the course of dinner, my fellow dinner folks (4 tenure-track professors or tenured professors and one NYC police officer; 4 blokes, one woman) came up with a checklist of "Things postgrad students should be aware of at Conferences". Since I too am a helpful sort of person (mostly), let me share them:

1. Network, network, network: This was emphasised later by my Friend from BigNameUni (who is chauffeuring me about Williamsburg since I am too much of a slacker to walk about and because today's restaurant was not within walking distance unless you were prepared to walk for an hour) on the way back to the flat. Apparently at DNU, they are given advice about how to get along with people and what type of questions/comments to ask at Conferences and stuff. In other words, the socialisation process is inculcated into postgrads. I'm a bit envious at that and miffed that TUWSNBN does not have anything similar. Or, maybe I am just not socialised enough to be aware of it? DNU folks (and the other people at this Workshop) have been marvellous in introducing each other and introducing people to the speakers who are about. The speakers end up staying a few days so one gets loads of chances to interact and argue with them, which is all quite good.

If I were a quant-girl (hey, how's that for a superhero name? QuantGirl), I'd be in heaven. Since I am the odd outlier who does discourse analysis and identity stuff, there's little mention of how I do what I do but plenty of mentions of how I should get together with the others, make contacts, hang out. It's nice to have this openly-said and facilitated. I like that.

2. Join the others: This came about when one of them noticed I had lunch by myself though a whole bunch of others were sitting at a nearby table. In my defence, the second half of the France-Switzerland match was on the big screen TV (visible from my table but not from theirs) and I have waited FOUR years for this event. Not specifically for France vs. Switzerland since that was dreadfully dull but for the World Cup. I'm already missing loads of matches due to this Workshop and I didn't want to spend my lunch hour talking to people I would easily see again, in the course of the next few days. This was difficult to get across since the folks who were at my dinner table didn't appreciate the wonders of football (or my overwhelming interest in it). Still, a good point, I suppose.

3. Journals: Dinner talk was also about which journals to submit things to, which journals people had submitted things to, how long journals took in getting back to you (and which were quick and which took ages), which journals had better reputations, how many journal articles were likely needed for potential tenure, etc. It was fantastic--why don't we have such sessions at TUWNSNBN?

I think it helped that these people were not at the same level as me i.e. they were not dissertating. The cop is going to be writing what seems to be a great article on how mental/psychological profiling of terrorists is useless (yay, cop guy!) but that behavioural profiling is and can be very helpful. I pointed out that what he was calling "behavioural profiling" was discourse analysis--looking at what people were wearing and how they were acting to make sense. Of course, that it could lead to events like that Brazilian guy being shot in London. But, still. I managed to sneak in what I did into the cop's work and make it understandable, I think. I also tried to point out the P-word* (which no one has mentioned all week, though it's a workshop on teaching about Terrorism) was involved in much of our discussions. Not much headway there but, just like missionaries of yore, I'll keep trying (to communicate and provide choices, not to convert).

* Power. Or, more specifically, power relations.

Because GS will find it amusing

Yesterday's dictionary.com word of the day:

billingsgate: foul language.

More later, when I'm caught back up again. And have that whole not-sleeping thing fixed. Which should be any day now, right?

Workshopping, Day 3 (or, this is why nobody is likely to hire me)

When discussing syllabi (Things to put in were listed as: definitions, history, causes, motivations, typologies, effects, strategies, and tactics of terrorism with the role of International Organisations and the role of women), I wanted to point out that I'd end my syllabus with some SuperN/BigF/Weldes, et al's COFI introductory chapter/Neumann's Uses of the Other but I got distracted by commenting on another blog and by the South Korea-Togo match. By the time I got back to the workshop, the discussion had moved on. I'm saving my comments for the group dinner later today.

Walked around Colonial Williamsburg yesterday evening. Got involved in a "reenactment" where folks in "Colonial" (I presume--tall hats and tight trousers?) were walking around blowing things up with cannons. It was good fun but Vikings are still more fun--there was more hands-on involvement with the Vikings (local volunteers/"Viking period" food and craft-making, etc).

So far, I've learnt a lot about the "mainstream" but not enough to make me want to join it. There're still sessions on "Using Game Theory" and on "Formal Modelling of Terrorists" coming up. Can't wait, really.

ETA: I just won (in a daily raffle) Mia Bloom's Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror. Yesterday's books were Bruce Hoffman's Inside Terrorism and John Horgan's The Psychology of Terrorism, neither of which I won.


Day 2 (Or, how I'm all terroristed-out so yous get a quiz)

It was actually a rather good day. I met a bloke who'd been in one of my postgrad classes (not at TUWSNBN but at BigNameUni) and we hung out and whinged about academia. Typical! Also, the speakers today were much better, including a BigNameExpert who does stuff on the Irish Republican Army and turned out to be very easy to talk to. Oh, there was also An Army Bloke who talked so fast that I barely understood one word in three. He also had loads of slides on "the Logic of War" (apparently there's a "Structural way of looking at war") and on the Logic of Terrorism and Terrorists. I dozed off, enjoyed various football matches (though all the teams I was supporting, except the Aussies of course, lost) and wondered whether I could come up with a Logic of the Illogical Accounts of Causes of Terrorism or whether that would sound too much like taking the piss.

Onwards to the Quiz.

You Are Sunset

Even though you still may be young, you already feel like you've accomplished a lot in life.
And you feel free to pave your own path now, and you're not even sure where it will take you.
Maybe you'll pursue higher education in a subject you enjoy - or travel the world for a few years.
Either way, you approach life with a relaxed, open attitude. And that will take you far!
What Time Of Day Are You?

Via Kartography.

Let's all have fun with the Aussies (or, a break from workshopping news)

It's just before the Australia-Japan match and also just before the first session of the second day here ("The History of Terrorism" in 1.5 hours). Skimming through the various web sites, I see the Guardian is enjoying itself. In its pre-match "things you don't know about Australians" it has:

"In London you are never further than 10 metres from a rat or an Australian (most of my undergrad and postgrad classmates are in London right now)

There are 8,628,599 Australians currently living in London, all of them working in pubs and sleeping on the floor of the same house in Earl's Court (umm..I shared a one-BR flat with about 6 other folks, not all Aussies, during my 2002 visit there. Last year, I stayed in a hostel)

The last recorded instance of an Australian bartender in London remembering an order consisting of more than two drinks and handing over the right change after serving it occurred on May 8, 1994 in the Walkabout pub in Shepherd’s Bush. There is a plaque on the wall in memory of this historical event (You just take what you get)"

Off to watch the match (online) and listen to the man describe the "History of Terrorism".

ETA: OMG! I definitely made a loud noise as the Aussies (rather improbably and in the last few minutes) equalised and then took the lead. Some of the audience nearby (and, today, I'm sitting right in front of one of the Directors of the Workshop) turned to see what I was doing. It's a good thing I'm on the quiet and anti-social setting.


Day 1: The Full Report (or, A Question of Identities)

Yous have already read bits and pieces of what happened on Day 1. Since I can't sleep (though have to be up at the awful hour of 7am tomorrow so I can avoid the others and walk to the Conference Centre), I'll jot down a few thoughts about the rest of the day.

1. The people: I've already mentioned this but the group is rather diverse. There're people working for the US Government, there're retired Army/Navy/some form of military folks, there's a New York State Police officer who's a big fan of Charles Tilly (and hence my favourite person there so far), there're postgraduate students (only five of us, counting an English bloke who just finished his PhD and got a job right away--see? It can be done) and loads of people who teach courses on terrorism/security/politics in general. In terms of age, too, the group is diverse--loads of older, heads of departments in small colleges-types, the PhD-ers, a couple of younger teachers and, of course, the seven assistants (six girls and a boy--the boy handles the photography). Gender-wise, loads of blokes (already said) both young and old; Of the women, around 90% being older than 40-ish.

2. The clothes: I think I've mentioned already that we were told we could wear "casual" clothes in the conference itself. People took this in different ways and we had folks with flip-flops and T-shirts to those with shirts/ties/jackets (and it's bloody warm here, let me tell yous). Later, during the "formal" dinner, the dress code was specified as "business casual". Again, blokes ranged from tie-wearing to suits as did women. I (unsurprisingly to yous who know me, especially to E who was horrified that I owned fewer shoes than her brother) wore the same thing all day/to dinner.

3. The actual talks: Too much to write of here (and probably hugely boring to those of you who are not into this thing) but they all included repeating phrases such as "making sure facts approach the Truth" (yes, you could see the capital letter T); the need to understand "them" (terrorists, that is); lots of talk of "us" as rational creatures; democracies as "rational"; metaphor of how we study the plague virus (under a microscope to learn all its details, apparently) is similar to how we should study terrorists; using "motivation as a control variable to get at appropriate methods of counterrorism"; talk of "socialisation patterns". All in all, I feel that I'll learn loads from this thing, if I survive the next few days without pissing everyone off/running away to hitch a lift back to Washington.

Amazingly enough (for me anyway), there was also loads of talk of eco-terrorists. Apparently they are the cool terrorists these days but no one had told me. Lots of discussions (from all three speakers) about the terrorist operations of eco-terrorits. I must admit I learnt a lot about ELF, ALF, etc and find it utterly fascinating that this lot and Al-Qaeda are talked of together. Brilliant stuff, this terrorism thing. Not sure how exactly I'm supposed to be teaching students about Typologies of Terror or Causes of Terror when no one seems sure WHAT those are. I did manage to piss off one of the people later on, during dinner, when asking him how he measured motivations of people and what the empirical evidence for motivations were (and why were they valid). Following on from that,

I realise that I have two settings:

1. Quiet and anti-social (playing on my computer/standing against the wall at formal dinners) OR
2. Asking questions about ontology/epistemology disguised as general questions about acquisition/validity of knowledge. When the stakes aren't high (i.e. when I'm not defending my own work), I fear I'm rather argumentative and annoying. Need to hide that better, eh? I guess it's not too bad since I usually operate on Setting No. 1.

4. So, what about the question of identities, then? Apart from reflecting upon my settings, and after a day of talking of what terrorists did and who they were and how they were caused and their typologies, I can honestly say I'm even less convinced by this way of doing things (finding causes for terrorist actions and making policies based on those). I still have no clue about terrorist identities, despite all this time spent talking about various types of terrorists.

Personally, though, I found that I confused people since I didn't mention my own (Nepali) identity when introducing myself. This lack of clear identification of identity coupled with the obsession about football (I sneaked off during the lunch break to watch Iran-Mexico, as I told yous earlier) made the English (two of them) decide I was "one of them".* This led to a rather amusing conversation where one of them asked what I thought "our chances" were. I (not knowing he was under the impression I was a bloody English-type) answered that when Ballack returned, my team'd do rather well (Yes, I'm sort of supporting Germany based on 3 days' evidence so far. I rather like their manager and, right now, that's as good a reason as any). After a bit of confusion, we cleared up the issue (me by pointing out my Nepali-ness and lack of any ties to any and all English types).

Also, during the dinner, all the younger people sat at a table (not me though). I ended up at a table with some older folks, including an Army bloke who'd worked in Afghanistan and a woman who is apparently a leading expert on terrorism (and whose works I'd not read, which shows how little I know about the topic I'm supposed to be dissertating on. Or, maybe, it just shows I read different stuff as no one I talked to about my work had heard of the Copenhagen School). We had an excellent talk about Austin, Texas (see? I like these folks as long as we don't discuss research methodologies). The longest conversation I had during dinner was not about research but about cricket. One of the people present was from Jamaica. We discussed cricketing techniques, the lack of good West Indian fast bowlers these days (compared to past greats like Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh) and the current West Indian team (pretty shite compared to what they used to be). I have decided my best conversations at these gigs (Conferences) occur when talking (of) sports, not IR. I wonder why that is so?

I shall keep my future daily posts to a shorter length. I think I'm doing a good job of representing TUWSNBN so far as I've given their PhD programme a "two thumbs-up" when asked about it (Well, I like the programme and, especially, the people I hang around and do my stuff with) and have kept snarky comments to an absolute minimum (having the World Cup on helps since I just watch that). I've also picked up some good teaching tips for next semester (and the future). I'm still not sure I'll last the next 7 days...yous will have to wait and see.

* I would have thought my outrageous accent would have identified me as foreign (if not French).

Lunchtime blogging (or why I'll never get a job, Part N)

People milled together, paired and grouped off, and then wandered off to find places they could discuss their connections. The three Europeans walked off together, a group of military folk left separately and other professor-types walked off. I, with my trusty computer (I am thinking of naming it something), walked off alone and managed to find the nearest bar showing the World Cup (Iran versus Mexico, 1-1 at half time).

Made friends with the bartender, promised to come in every day (and even sneak off early from the Workshop tomorrow to watch the noontime USA-Czech Republic match) and got a free beer.

Overall, I think I ended up on the positive side. After all, there'll be plenty of time to argue* with those Workshop types, eh?

* I am sure there'll be arguments since the guy who gave this morning's talk kept on insisting "democracies will not act unreasonably" and slagged off "those linguistic types in the field who fix like a laser on the word 'terrorism' to their detriment". There was also a lot of talk of "academic chatter" being useless to "real world applications". I'm not sure I'll survive the next 8 days.

Blogging the Workshop, Day 1

A more comprehensive post will follow later on today, all going well, as I seem to have picked the worst place in the room for sitting. All the major blokes (yes, they are all blokes) are sitting in the row right behind me (and can thus easily see what I'm up to on my computer). The set-up is a room with about 40-50 people, 90% blokes* (at a rough count), sitting in a lecture hall-type room. We've just been provided brekkie and I'm (sneakily) trying to catch the Holland-Serbia match on the Guardian podcast. The clothing is a mix of "summer casual" (as we were told) and "business casual" (which we were only told to wear during the two "formal dinners").

Wish me luck! More later. I need to concentrate since I have not read many of the required readings. Yes, I'm planning on being the "quiet one playing on her computer at the back of the room"**.

* The assistants, on the other hand, are all female.

** I'm a bit miffed that I didn't stick to that seating position today. I'm stuck in the middle of the classroom (it's one of those concentric circle-type rooms) with, as I mentioned, all the "big blokes" behind me. I hope the Holland match isn't too exciting or they'll start wondering how come "typologies of terrorism" (our topic this morning) could be so interesting enough to lead to squeeing.


After four years' wait

The World Cup finally started today. Expect to hear very little non-footy related blogging from me in the next four weeks. Initial thoughts? The opening ceremony seemed extravagantly wasteful--who knew that Claudia Schiffer was a brilliant footy player, eh? They didn't have much for the female viewers watching--probably thought all those muscles and shorts on display would be enough. Personally, I could have done with a bit of shirt-swapping pictures at the end of the matches but ESPN, in its wisdom, cut off the programme right before players started doffing their kits*.
In actual football news, Germany won easily and I realised I actually rather like the German team, a sentiment I wouldn't have expressed at previous World Cups. Tomorrow: England versus Paraguay (and England has three Liverpool/former Liverpool players) and also me leaving on my trip to that terrorism thing.

* No, I'm not one of those female viewers/journos that Alistair Campbell** derided in his blog (everyone and their dog has a blog these days) for suddenly, once every four years, thinking their views on football are of import to the world. I think my views on football are of import, if not to the entire world then to the PTSD-reading world, pretty much every day of every year.

** And, if that post wasn't a blatant attempt to get a reaction (which, so far, it has gotten a lot of), then I don't know what is. I wonder what E and I could do to get a similar reaction? Unfortunately, as neither of us are former press secretaries to Prime Ministers, whatever we do probably won't be enough.


The haircut

Said I'd post this, and so here it is. For the record, I *hate* going to the salon, because I have very bad luck with hairdressers. Spiral perm and blonde highlights bad luck. Jersey bangs and cornrows bad luck. Truly horrendous hairstyles that eventually made me swear never to let anyone but my mother apply scissors to my hair.

But I love this cut. I even like the color again, and it was much less expensive than I expected, plus they had a cancellation so I didn't have to make an appointment or wait. So I overtipped.

I caved and went to the place on campus, so I'm definitely going back.

Did I mention that it is exactly the right length to spike? And that I found my glow-in-the-dark hair gel this morning? This almost makes up for the evils of FedEx.

For a limited time only

Told you it was temporary. I'm leaving up the policy recs, while removing the theoretical justification. Just like I'm supposed to.

Get a haircut that takes advantage of my two-toned hair.
Shoe shopping for combat boots and something totally impractical
Find a decent club in this town. (Any suggestions?)
Participate in something that doesn't make me want to tear my hair out. Oh, and it's a doozy of an event. Completely inappropriate and unrelated to academia. But I'm not telling what it is, because that sucks some of the fun out of it.
Go on a serious diet so that I can fit into a red dress that’s hanging neglected in the back of my closet. [Does not being hungry count? I think it does.]
Start dancing around the house when the music is good, instead of surfing the internet.
Put some better music on my ipod. Much better. Loud and fast and just the sort of thing that makes you want to get up and move around, even if it is like walking through wet wool around this town.
And I guess I should also remember to do some work.


Of Beasts and Battles

6/6/06 was not only the (utterly non-exciting as the world has not yet ended unless it has ended and we just don't know about it in which case it doesn't much matter as life, as far as I can see it, is going on as usual. Anyway...) day that dreadful things (and I'm not talking of the remake of the Omen) could occur but also the 62nd anniversary of D-Day.

As an IR student, I guess I feel the need to point this out on PTSD. Also, (and I'm not above flogging a bit of family history at all times, as yous know), my great-granddad was sort of involved in WWII over in Europe. He (rather like the Doctor) was in London during the Blitz and bludged around Europe doing something or the other until the end of the War. He survived all that, lived to become one of those rather crusty old men of whom much is written about in literature and hardly ever mentioned what he actually did in those years. Hemingway would have been proud to call him mate, I reckon (except, perhaps, for the not-speaking-much aspect).

In my part of the world too, one of the major turning points of the same War was fought. The Battle of Midway ended on 7 June, 1942 and was vastly important in the defeat of the Japanese later on*. Though, as we all know, it helped a lot when those bombs were tossed down.

* In many ways, the Japanese, like the Germans, managed to sabotage most of their own plans for world/Asia-Pacific domination since they always picked the most ridiculous battles. Fiji and Samoa? Oh, why?


Here's this week's one*

Doctor Who, that is. Here's the screencap recap for The Impossible Planet, which I've yet to get off E since she's hugely busy. But, fear not, I shall manage to get it off her before I leave DC. I hope.

This week's screencaps provide much-needed advice to this half of PTSD:

"...if you love a man and want to keep him, you have to make sure he is physically incapable of leaving you. Otherwise he'll care about you and stuff, but will sod off into time and space and leave you to mope around for the rest of your life. The alternative is apparently to have your humanity slowly eroded as you travel around with him and lose all sense of reality, being moulded into his madcap lifestyle and slowly losing everyone else you love."

I rather like the humanity being eroded bit--what's wrong with that,eh? Sounds perfect to me--no worries about PhD-ing or making up bloody panels or days filled with data-entrying or worrying about workshops but just travelling around space and time and hanging out with omnisexual aliens. Bliss.

* Hurrah! The last post was PTSD's 500th. Celebratory peanuts await all those who mention that to either one of us in RL. Who'd have thought, eh?


It's a month of football

This means that non-football-loving PTSD readers (yes, all of yous) will most likely be hugely bored by the time I am done with this month. I will write on the hellish few days preceeding last week's BNC and SmallRegionalConference deadlines in my next post. Suffice it to say that I am never leaving things this late again. Never. Yes, I know both PTSD members said pretty much the same thing last year but this time I mean it. Really. I do.

I was on the bus on my way to New York, frantically trying to see if any of the other panellists had sent amended versions (or even titles--are titles too much to ask for?) of papers so I could send it off when I got there.* Oh, and try carrying around a fairly large notebook computer about with you in the cold and the rain and the wet of the past few days. I'm actually hugely surprised my computer's still alive.**

New York was excellent as ever, especially since it was LilSis's first time there. We did the usual walking around and the (usual, when my family's involved) arguments and the (usual, again, since none of us has any sense of direction) getting lost.*** We also saw Sweeney Todd, which was fantastic. Who knew murderous barbers singing songs about their nefarious deeds could be so much fun?

This week involves much work. Getting things ready for various classes that folks (including me, but I'm mostly a TA) are teaching over the summer, amending a draft of a paper I finished a couple of weeks ago, wondering what to do with LilSis if her visa to Kiwiland does not come through by Friday, starting on the reading list to prepare for the first day of the Workshop in SmallTownVA (starts this weekend) and, of course, the World Cup (starts Friday).

To whet your appetites for Friday, read this. Now, I just need the names of a few Chinese pirate web sites so I, too, can watch footy matches while in the midst of workshopping about terrorists.

* E had sent an amended abstract though I never got it. I also made up titles for most of the papers on the panel. The strange similarity in titles will hopefuly be ignored by the BNC panel-pickers. The upshot of this tale is that I shouldn't be the one submitting panels for any Conferences from now on. Ever. I'll leave this part of the job to other people who do it better (and who don't accidentally press the "Enter" button so that the submission gets sent off without the contact details of one of the panellists. Thankfully, that was an easy one to correct).

** A shout out to Acer right here from me. My first-ever computer, the one I saved up by picking fruit--lychees, mangoes (mostly), grapes (payment included free bottles of wine), bananas (requiring machetes--better not to ask) and tomatoes--from Northern Australia to Southern Australia, in over 40 degrees (Celcius) weather, was also an Acer. It's still working, despite having been through many mishaps, including being thrown down a mountainside in Wales.

*** Umm...yes, getting lost in NYC is rather difficult, what with its well-planned city centre. Needless to add, we still managed it with ease.


Speaking of in-jokes

How did I not run across this earlier?

some changes around here

First, the new tag cloud. Turns out we talk about Priya a lot. Who knew? Clicking on the words (eventually) takes you to the most recent post about that subject. Fun *and* functional, that is.

Second, this month's Site of the Month. For something new and different, we're linking to a site that has a tangential relationship to research and methodology. Remember those? They're what we talk about when we aren't discussing television shows.

Do yourself a favor, click on over to Harvard's Complexity and Social Networks Blog. Enjoy its status as part of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science. Think about how exciting complexity is.

I'll be over in the corner, muttering at the Abstract that Won't Die. And trying to figure out how to update the sci fi and teaching panel with the right proposal. The one that actually talks about teaching.